Previous Events

On the 3rd and the 10th of March 2017 Pete and Nigel attended an Astronomy outreach event at Elvaston Castle Country Park entitled The Skies the Limit. We have attended this event before and attendance was good despite the weather being torrential for the first event this year. Nigel presented a talk entitled from SpaceX to Aurora looking at Astro Tourism with a great description of the Aurora flight he co-hosts with Pete Lawrence. After the event there was allot of interest with numbers and websites take on several pieces of paper!

Nigel with a member of Derby club and his scope



Derby AS had a good display board and handouts


Ilkeston AS brought their club scope


The Lecture room was capacity for Nigel’s talk, try not to be put off by the animals looking over your shoulder!


Sky's the Limit 3 & 10 March 2017

On Monday the 12th of December 2016 MADDOG’s held their 2016 Christmas meal at the Boat Inn at Cromford. As you can see a really good turn out and an enjoyable evening was had by all. Pete produced an Astro picture quiz and Karen and Matt jointly won a bottle of wine each. The food at the Boat was really good and it now firmly on our list of local hostelries!

On Tuesday the 6th of December MADDOG’s held their first local event at the Pavilion in Matlock Bath. Local Astronomer Nigel Bradbury presented a talk entitled From Asia to Aurora…the Secrets of the Northern Lights. The talk was very well attended and enjoyed by all, hopefully this is the first of many more events hosted by our group.

The April 2016 Maddog’s meeting was a presentation by Nigel Bradbury covering astronomy events for the coming month plus a description of the last season of Aurora flights. Nigel does around 25 flights over the winter season from most major airports in the UK. He and Pete Lawrence (of Sky at Night fame) provide the commentary during the flights and guide their guests on how to get the most from the flight. Some of the aircraft will hold up to 150 passengers and each flight heads north of Scotland towards the Faroe Islands where a holding pattern is maintained giving passenger the best possible view towards the North and the Auroral Oval. Fourteen people attending the meeting including some new and young faces which was great. There was also general agreement that Astronomers feel more in their natural habitat in close proximity to a bar! The Plough is certainly fully recognised as Maddog’s adopted home. Some pictures below thanks to Chris.



On March the 6th 2016 a major solar flare reaching Kp 6.5 caused auroral displays as far south as Oxfordshire. Several of the group were out taking pictures. Joolz got some superb pictures on her Flickr page here

Taken by Leigh-Ann Mitchell at Slains Castle NE Scotland


Taken by Nigel Bradbury on an Aurora spotting flight from Humberside, Orion is behind there somewhere


On Monday the 2nd of March the group met in surprisingly good viewing conditions for our monthly observing session. The venue was Whitworth Park in Darley Dale and we thank Nigel Bradbury for these superb pictures of the evening.







Some pictures from our first meeting, our guest speaker was the very popular Nigel Bradbury who gave a talk entitled Astro Adventures. We also proved at the first meeting that an Astronomy group works best fed on cookies and muffins!


The Sky’s the Limit – Elvaston Castle Country Park

On Friday the 20th of February three members of MADDOG’s plus members from Derby and District Astronomical Society and Ilkeston and District Astronomical Society attended an Astronomy outreach event called “The Sky’s the Limit” at the house and grounds of Elvaston Castle Country Park, just south of Derby. The skies were not kind to us on the night with only the higher magnitude objects being visible and of course comet Ryanair making a frequent appearance due to the proximity to East Midlands Airport.  Because of this the hosts opened two training rooms where presentations could be held and telescopes brought by the different groups could be described to the visitors. The event was attended by around fifty people who were split into two groups each visiting the rooms hosted by Derby and MADDOG’s and then onto the scopes that had been setup up by Ilkeston in the grounds of the house. Derby did a presentation entitled “What you would have seen if the skies had been clear” and we went through an ESA video which is a guide to the Solar System stopping at various points to discuss a wide range of topics such as SKA/MERLIN, Drake equation, Rosetta and Beagle2, Kuiper belt, Tunguska/Chelyabinsk, gravity and leap seconds. Initial feedback from the staff and visitors seemed to be positive, feedback forms were distributed and the staff at the castle will send us any relevant feedback once they have had chance to review them.

Talking to the staff after the guests had left, the future of stately homes such as Elvaston are often in doubt. The running and maintenance costs are huge and whilst the people of Derby and the wider county have allot of affection for them as a place to spend time during the warmer months finding a role for them that generates income that will contribute to their future can be difficult. Events like this contribute in a small way to the future of these historic sites by generating some funds but maybe more importantly raising their profile as a resource that can be used for many different purposes. The site is owned by Derbyshire County Council who are now working with consultants from the National Trust to submit a Heritage lottery fund bid in 2018 for funding that will safeguard the future of the site.

The location was perfect for the event we attended and I look forward to being invited to attend again in the future. My thanks to Tim and Diane for their help during the event.

A really good room to work in although the stuffed badger starring at me all evening was a little off putting!



Sky's the Limit Phase 2 20 Feb 2015

During the early hours of Monday the 28st of September a very rare event happened in the Astronomy Calendar, the last time it happened was 1982, the time will be 2033. A total lunar eclipse happens when the earth fully obscures the light reaching the moon from the soon, this also coincides with the moon being at full perigee or its closest point in its elliptical orbit of the earth, a trivial 226,000 miles! Whilst light is blocked from the reaching the moon by the earth the effects of the earths atmosphere some light reaches the moon but is deep red in colour. As you probably already know the earth tides are driven by the rotation of the moon and sure enough there were reports of the highest tides for 19 years in some places aligned to the lunar eclipse


Beautiful picture of the Blood Red moon taken by Joolz and featured in the local press


Very clever montage by James Seaman

A great time lapse condensing the whole event in 30 seconds by Stan Williams


Over the weekend of the 19th and 20th of September the Autumn Astro Camp took place at its usual venue of the Cwmdu campsite in the beautiful dark sky site of the Breacon Breacons. Four maddog’s were there alongside a large group of Amateur and Professional astronomers from all around the country. This is the second of these events I have been to and really can’t recommend it enough. Huge amount of knowledge with people who are very willing to share it. A few pictures of the site and skies append below. The next camp is over the weekend of the 7th of May and bookings open at the end of October here!


Picture of the site and surrounding countryside taking by me just before the main event


Great picture of the night sky taken by Joolz

12032826_10206656981636194_4582852640044796545_oThe Witches Broom taken by Teudor Acton-Page


A really superb shot taken by Mark Charles

On Tuesday the 30th of June a large group of MADDOGs gathered at the Whitworth Institute in Darley Dale to observe the closest point of the Venus / Jupiter conjunction. The event was joined by members from other groups and as the Whitworth Park is often busy at the time on a sunny summer evening we even had some interest from the passing public which was great. A few of pictures of the event included below but with the permission of the photographers I will post some much better ones when they are published. This was without doubt the largest turn out we have had for an observing event and really great to see such enthusiasm for this astronomical event.




On Friday the 20th of March a partial total eclipse passed over the UK reaching around 90% of totality at 9:28am in the morning. I group of Maddog’s observers met at Minninglow carpark near Pikehall to view the event. Unfortunately the weather was not kind to us and cloud covered most of the event but none the less a number of got some great pictures of the event. The shots below are from Chris and console ourselves those of of who could retired to Darley Dale for a hearty breakfast afterwards. If anyone has any more pictures they took during the event then please send them to me and I will add to the news page.





On the 17th of March 2015 a solar storm impacted the Earths atmosphere triggering Aurora at many locations across the world. The solar storm was triggered by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) and at its peak (so far) reached what is referred to as a class G4 storm of magnitude Kp=8. The Kp index is a good indicator of the latitude that the Aurora can be viewed from, in the Darley Dale area a level of 5 is probably about minimum so as you can see 8 should give the conditions for a visible aurora in our area…if thats is the cloud clears…which is didn’t! Two of your intrepid dogs bodies headed for the hills in the hope of viewing the event, Chris is still out there as I type…all I found was dense fog and someone flying a rather impressive drone in the dark at surprise view carpark. So whilst I didn’t see an Aurora I did appear briefly on a thermal image camera!

To view the aurora you need a dark sky site and clear and low aspect to the north, it is also true that viewing through a camera can produce better results than by eye simply because a lense can pick out more detail and colour than the naked eye. In 1859 a similar but much stronger event was named the Carrington event after Richard Carrington who first recognised and record this as a solar flare. This event is still recognised as the strongest flare in recorded science.

Solar activity rises and falls in cycles of approximately 11 years, the Carrington event happened during cycle 10, we are currently in cycle 24 which was estimated to have started in January 2008 and to have peaked in June 2014 but these dates are always estimates, each cycle varies slightly from its predicted path.

Solar storms have the potential to cause significant and wide spread damage. From the days that Samuel Morse established his network of telegraphy station connected by wires his operators couldn’t understand why they saw sparks across the contacts of their morse keys. This was later understood to be likely to be the result of solar storm activity, right through to the modern day when on March the 13th 1989 the province of Quebec in Canada suffered widespread blackouts directly as the result of current induced  in the electricity grid from a Solar Storm.  If we suffered a Carrington event today with our reliance on satellites and ground based electronics the impact could be huge. To understand more about the behaviour of the sun in 1995 a European consortium launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)  which is has been making observations of the detail of the activity of the sun ever since.

As a final comment about Aurora, the northern and southern lights can have a significant affect on radio propagation. Radio Amateurs point directional antenna’s north, in the northern hemisphere, even if the station they wish to talk to is south of them, and use the auroral curtain as a reflector. This in itself seems straight forward enough but what is strange is received signals always have the tone taken away from them…and no one knows why! Morse sounds just like keyed noise and voice takes on a ghostly quality when the tone is removed from it.

I find Aurora a fascinating subject, I hope you also found some of this information of interest.

Project Helium tears is a project to photograph the Earth from the edge of Space then retrieve the camera and data – more info here

NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars – article here

Is Rosetta’s comet an alien from another solar system? It’s quite possible. – article here

NASA Voyager: ‘Tsunami Wave’ Still Flies Through Interstellar Space – article here