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
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 Joolz..to 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