Mercury and Maximum Elongation

I hope you enjoy this short video about the planet Mercury, which you can currently see during late evening, low on the NW horizon. Mercury is also approaching its maximum evening elongation on the 17th May.

Joining me once again is Steve Owens, astronomer at Glasgow Science Centre and author of Stargazing For Dummies.

In this video podcast we discuss:

1. Tips for observing Mercury safely.

2. Mercury’s phases.

3. The surface geology of Mercury and how this reveals tantalising hints about its history and formation.

Binoculars for Astronomy

Here’s a look at some of the binoculars I use for stargazing and astronomy, both hand held and tripod mounted.  

I’d say 90% of my observing is done with binoculars over telescopes due to their versatility and speed of use. This is especially relevant if you live anywhere with changeable weather, when sometimes brief openings appear in the sky.

If you enjoyed this video and found it useful please let me known and if you feel like buying me a coffee I’d really appreciate that too (link below).

Look out for a future video on telescopes.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/modulouniverse

Please note this video is not sponsored by Olympus, these just happen to be the binoculars I use. Any pair of 8×40 or 10×50 binoculars should serve you very well.

Binocular Moon

Here’s a short video I edited together celebrating binocular views of our Moon. All footage was shot using a simple tripod mounted binocular setup and captured via mobile phone (so pretty low resolution). I especially love observing the Moon emerging from layers of clouds – something we’re in no short supply of here in Scotland.I hope you enjoy it. Music kindly provided by Rising Galaxy at Cosmicleaf Records

Beginners Guide to Buying a Telescope

Join me on Facebook live on Sunday 29th November at 7pm for a talk and presentation on choosing and buying your first telescope.

Buying a telescope can be daunting and you’ll want to make the best choice possible for your budget and needs.

During the talk I’ll aim to answer several common questions, including:

1. How much should I spend?

2. How large is practical for my requirements?

3. What can I expect to see through different sizes of scope?

4. Can you recommend a good starter kit & some good telescopes to choose from?

PLUS an introduction to Stargazing, Binocular Observing and a What’s Up guide for December skies, including Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and more..

This talk is hosted as part of the the Inverness Nature Reserve Astronomy evenings but is open to all. We would kindly ask you to purchase an online ticket from Eventbrite by way of a donation to the astronomy programme and the Nature Reserve. I’m sure you’ll understand that times are tough for outreach at the moment so your help will be greatly appreciated. Please purchase your ticket in advance here.

Comet SWAN Update

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Comet SWAN update! ☄️ Comet SWAN is just starting to become viable for observation at northern European latitudes as it sails through the constellation Perseus. This one will be very tough to see due to its low altitude and lack of darkness 🌅 . In fact it may not be visible at all if you live too far north. However, if you’re up for a real challenge, grab your binoculars and read on.

Just like this week’s Venus and Mercury planetary conjunction 🪐 , SWAN will be visible towards the north 🧭. As the week progresses it will rise higher and higher in the sky so theoretically should become easier and easier to observe (see attached guide images). Unfortunately this will be countered by less and less darkness as May advances.

The absolute best instrument for spotting a comet is a pair of binoculars, or the widest possible eyepiece you have on a telescope. Scan the sky using my pictures and bright stars for reference. Don’t expect a huge streaking object like you’ll see in astronomy magazines (or the front image I’ve attached 😆 ) – If you’re very lucky you might detect a tiny and faint smudge.

The darker your surroundings and more dark adapted your vision the better 🌑 👀 , so stay away from bright street lights and mobile phone screens for at least 15 minutes. If you live under street lights 🌃 your chances of sighting the comet are far lower but don’t let that put you off. Comets can vary in brightness dramatically and can very occasionally brighten enough to be detected naked eye.

What’s great about this challenge is you can also look out for Mercury and Venus at the same time, as all the action takes place towards the same cardinal direction – North.

Good luck and clear skies.

 

Venus and Mercury Conjunction

A rare opportunity to observe a Venus  and Mercury conjunction over the next few days.

From tonight (Monday) Mercury will appear progressively closer to Venus in the NW sky after sunset, leading to conjunction on Thursday and Friday night. An excellent chance to see Mercury in binoculars or observe the phase of both planets in a garden telescope.

Mercury is much dimmer and more challenging to see than Venus so my advice is to use Venus as a reference for finding Mercury in your binoculars or telescope. Those, like myself, living in the north of Scotland might need to wait a little longer after sunset to see the planets (due to pervading daylight).  This makes it more of a challenge as both planets will be closer to the horizon by then.

Moreover, as both planets will only be around 10 degrees above the horizon at conjunction you’ll need to get away from tall trees or buildings that might obscure your view NW. Hopefully those pesky clouds stay away too.

Clear skies and good luck.

Beginners Astronomy Kit

Yesterday I presented my beginners guide to observing and buying a first telescope at the Inverness Urban Astronomy gathering.  Here is my 2020 recommendations for good starter equipment.

1. Binoculars: 8x40s or 10x50s. Prices from £50 for decent ones. I personally use Olympus DSP1s and we’ve purchased these for both the Abriachan and Merkinch outreach programmes.

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2. Telescope: Skywatcher 150mm or 200mm dobsonian. Simple to use with great performance. Prices from £175. Get the 200mm if you have the space and extra cash to spend.

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3. Books: Left Turn at Orion and Stargazing for Dummies. From £15 each.

 

4. A red light LED headtorch. From £6 if you go to Tesco’s. Up to £30 for a good quality one.

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5. A planisphere. They cost around £10 and can be found in good book stores.

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Of all the items above I’d say binoculars are the most important.  People are often surprised to discover I do over 90% of my observing with a simple pair of 8x40s.  You can read an earlier post on the merits of hand held astronomy here.