26.5.17 -- Friday

Friday and a fully clear sky after the hottest day of the year so far. Opened up at 10:00pm, still quite light but gradually darkening. Attending were Rhys and the Bookers. The sky was also hazy and didn't look well, but improved as time passed. We started with Jupiter and on to others round the sky. The Bookers left at 11:00pm leaving Rhys and me on our own.
The haziness precluded nebulae so we concentrated on clusters, but tried and failed with M57 the Ring and M27 the Dumbell. Not enough contrast. Then went on to M51, seen, then M101, failed, then M13, M108, M97, M63, NGC4631 the Whale, M3, M81, M82, M53, M64 and others in the Coma Cluster, then on to Jupiter again and Saturn, followed by M11, M20, M16 and M17. M71 and M56, and a think so attempt at the Veil, and NGC6888. The sky was gradually improving as time went on. Not all in that order though, and there were others that I don't remember.
All in all a very good night indeed, the best for some time. As one says, wish you were there.

There was a problem, two in fact. The first was that the dome's lower shutter panel has a twist in it so the right hand closes to the flush position but the left is left a bit high, so the upper part closed down to the edge of the lower's left part, allowing rain potentially to enter. It just needs the shutter twisting the other way.
The other is more of a problem. The council has changed the street lights to the new LED type. They emit largely white light. We can't filter it out and they have left us with 3 outside that shine very strongly into the domes. All the others seem to be well directed. We'll have to talk to them about them. So unless we can get them to improve these lights we'll have 2 new Moons all night in summer and 3 in winter.

1.5.17 -- Monday

We were asked to open the domes for this the Centre's May Day celebration. They had games and things for children mostly and food and drinks too. So we set up both domes with solar telescopes, the Meade with a white light filter on the 80ED and the PST on the mount in the big dome. The sky was mostly cloudy but gradually cleared to let us have a look at the Sun. Only one spot and a couple of small prominences but still worth the effort for the many people who came in, not as many as last year, but that had the Tour de Yorkshire going past the gate on the same day.
Our helpers were Dave and Lesley, Paul and Elaine, Sue came as a visitor and Max brought Wendy and his mother too. Lesley went and collected Sandra and her Planets game because I'd forgotten her.

30.4.17 -- Sunday

A reasonable day for weather, dry at least. We met at the observatory to Spring Clean the domes, an annual event in Spring of all times. Done this time as for last year, because the Centre's May Day party was to be the next day and we planned to open the domes for visitors, in case the Sun shone upon us. We started at 10:00am and were done by about noon I think, using buckets, mops cloths, washing up liquid and all such cleaning chemicals. All very labour intensive but aided strongly by Mark who brought his power washer. Three of us said we should have brought ours too, so should remember to do just that next year. They looked very well when done.
Lots of washing on the outsides and vacuuming inside. Finishing up with a cup of tea in the building.
We were Dave and Leslie, Paul and Elaine, Mark, Rhys, Peter, Phil and Sue. I spent most of my time supervising from the bench, and keeping an eye on the blue tits in house number 1, though I couldn't see a number 2 or 3.

31.3.17 - Friday

Encouraging forecasts for several days leading up to Friday, but after setting up the occasion, following on from a page on the BBC website encouraging visitors to go to certain observatories, including ours, the weather did the expected and turned cloudy. This was partly because of the BBC's Stargazing Live conducted over the three days before the Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. So after getting other members to come with telescopes too, they were greeted by full cloud. And plenty came too, Rhys brought his sister Rhiane, and his Celestron, Max and Wendy, Mark brought his Celestron, Paul and Elaine, Sandra and Sue came too.
It did begin to clear up after 10:00pm when most had tired of it. We did see the Moon, very good too, and Jupiter and a couple of stars, Betalgeuse, Mizar. We also chased Comet C/41P but failed that too, helped by the cloud. Finally closed down about 11.

24.3.17 - Friday

For a change a clear Friday night, so I opened up at 7:30pm and was soon inundated by others, about a dozen in all came for a look round the sky. I was so overwhelmed by the numbers that I don't remember all who came, but they included Phil and Richard, Richard for the first time in ages. Also there was Max, and Wendy came too with her son and his girlfriend, two others who had called Dave for a visit previously, Dave of course, Rhys, but he left soon, to work with his cameras. Two more visiting couples, Paul and Elaine, and a father and son from Pudsey! He'd come for a look at the sky too and had brought his 4" Celestron. He visits different societies in the area, and to ours this Friday. He was certainly one I'd like to see here again, too far to be a permanent member though.
They all seemed to be enjoying themselves too. They'd mostly left by 10pm, so I closed down and left for some late night shopping.


Opened up 7.00pm for a group of guides to heavy rain so started the usual talk.
After that we split the group into two and went to the observatory to a clear sky both groups had a look at M42,Sirius, Pollux and Castor then a trawl across the sky looking at various stars and clusters.
They all said what a great night .Helped by Lesley and Max closed down 9.30.

14.03.17 - Tuesday

A group of 22 mixed ages from 8 to 16 for stargazing started with a reasonable sky but to many to get into the observatory all at once so decided to do the talk then split into groups.
A good sky to start with but clouded towards the end but every one at least managed to see something.Maybe I should grab a clear sky when I get one and leave the talk to later.Closed down 9.00pm.

24.02.17 - Friday

Opened up 6.00pm for a new group of cubs they missed a clear sky by 10 minutes. Mars and Venus clearly visible till they turned up and the clouds rolled in so they got the usual talk then a look around the dome.
Closed down 8.30pm    Dave

14.02.17 - Tuesday

Second night of a large group of scouts 28 last night and 25 tonight opened up 6.00pm helped by Lesley and yet again a cloud filled the usual talk,hot dogs and hot chocolate then into the observatory.
Divided into two groups but with the helpers far to little room all crowding around the pc wanting to have a go controlling the scope and dome it felt like mayhem.Closed the dome 8.00pm
Dave and Lesley

13.02.17 - Monday

When will this dreadful weather end.Max and I had another group of scouts for stargazing who didn't see a thing so the usual talk helped by copious supplies of hot dogs and hot chocolate (this group came prepared) then into the observatory to look at the telescopes.
Then they had a swearing ceremony as it was a new group due to excessive demand for membership.
Closed down 8.00pm Dave

08.02.17 - Wednesday

Opened 7.00pm Stargazing for a group of scouts only to find the usual rain and cloud cover.
The scout leader decided to cut the session short  due to the weather.
Showed them the telescopes and gave usual talk.
Closed down 8.00pm.

06.02.17 - Monday

6.00 to 8.30pm a group of Brownies booked in for stargazing unfortunately to torrential rain so the usual talk then into the observatory to look at the telescopes and a play with the p.c.
A good group some very good questions invited back first clear Friday.

04.02.17 - Saturday

A promise of a clear sky early in the evening so I opened up 6.00pm Lesley and I trawled the sky starting with Venus,Mars and Uranus.
Later we were joined by a couple of visitors who called on the off chance someone might be there.
We then moved onto M42,M45,M31.Lesley then gave the visitors a tour around the constellations out in the field.
The clouds started to roll in around 8.30 the visitors had gone so I closed down 8.45pm.   Dave

31.01.17 - Tuesday

6.00 till 7.30 a group of  20 Brownies for stargazing and yet again cloud and heavy rain so the usual talk then into the observatory to look at the telescopes and a play with the pc .
They seem to forget the stars when they operate the dome and telescope, they seem to enjoy that most.
Closed down 7.30   Dave

20.01.17 - Friday

Opened up 7.15 to a clear sky soon joined by Max and Brian, had a run through of the start up and close down procedure then had a look at Venus before it set then onto Mars.A good sky so we decided to test it and had a look at M1 did we see it or not ? I don't know ,very faint next lets try something silly and try to see the horse head and the flame nebulae definitely no success there, so back to the old favourite M42 with a UHC filter looked superb.
Suddenly got very cold and a fog rolled in so called it a night 9.00pm.

18.01.17- Wednesday

Stargazing for a group of 23 cubs opened up 6.30 to a cloudy sky so gave usual talk then into the dome for a play with the pc controlling the observatory closed down 8.30.

13.01.17- Friday

Called at the observatory to mod the cam locks fitted earlier in the week, keys now turn 180 degree and are able to withdraw the key in both positions.

Opened the domes 7.30 to a clear sky soon joined by Lesley,Max,Rhys and Brian.
A good night generally browsing around the sky Mars,Venus Rigel M42 amongst several others.Had a break for tea then into the small dome to re acquaint ourselves with the big Meade.
Closed down 10.30


9.01.17 - Monday

Went down to the observatories to check on the dehumidifier, the reservoir was only half full so I emptied that and then fitted two security cam locks on the large dome,
Fired up the pc all working OK the dome was nice and dry inside no sign of condensation.

1.12.16 - Thursday

An unexpected phone call from Austerfield staff they have a school in tonight and forgot to book stargazing could we cover at short notice. I'm glad I did, it was the best sky I've seen for months. Opened up 6.30.
A group of 21 pupils had 90 minutes of stargazing why bother giving talks with a sky like this. They must have been talking about Polaris or the North star as they called it as they all asked where is it, and could we see it. We then moved onto Mars, Albireo, Deneb, M45, M31 and finally even a decent view of Uranus.
A great night for the pupils all bouncing around with excitement.
Closed down 8.30.

24.11.16 - Thursday

Stargazing for a group of 12 cubs/beavers opened up 6.00pm to heavy cloud. Assisted by Max, I gave the usual talk and Max showed them around the dome.Very interested group lots of questions from both beavers and parents.
But nothing seen when are we going to get some clear skies?
Closed down 8.00pm. Dave.

22.11.16 - Tuesday

6.00 to 8.00.Max and Brian and I had a group of 19 cubs for stargazing. I arrived at 5.30 to set up only to find a group waiting for us.We had to use the flower hut as a dance group were in the main class room.
Weather stopped any star gazing with complete cloud cover but they all seem to like controlling the dome and telescope with the pc we then finished the evening with a questions and answers session.
Closed down to heavy rain.  Dave

14.11.12 - Monday

6.30 - 7.30 a group of 21 brownies came for a look at the super moon,heavy fleeting clouds spoilt the evening but most managed to at least see the moon.I cut the usual talk short when Brian said the clouds were thinning so we all dashed out to the dome, a bit of a crush when they all came in at once.

12.11.16 - Saturday

From 9:00pm to 11:00pm. Not as clear as the forecast led me to hope. Slow moving extensive thin clouds and an almost full moon, and fatter than usual too. Add that to a gang of scouts from Rotherham, though a good friendly group, spending the weekend there. Not that this was bad, but they had two fires burning, one on the field and the other the northern side of the nearest fence to us almost directly upwind of the dome.
This part of the gang had lots of good fireworks to let off. So, we gave the night over to the scouts and had tea and cakes with them. The firewood came from pulling down the old barbecue place near the building. You can burn all this timber if you return the area to what it was before, was the authority they'd been given. No likelihood of that, but the big fire was in the reserve rather than the centre's field. Dave and Rhys were there too, we saw the Moon (!) and a couple of other items through the thin cloud, only one of the scouts came in to take a look, though Dave had invited them all. A good campfire and lots of fireworks clearly a greater attraction. M42 looked well though between clouds, unfortunately the close-by Moon spoiled it somewhat.

1.11.16 - Tuesday

Down at 8:00pm or so till 1:30am, working on re-polar aligning the AP 900GTO mount. It hadn't moved at all in Azimuth and only a tiny amount in Altitude so it didn't take long to re-set. The only trouble was the illuminated eyepiece had lost all power in the light's battery so I had to do it by shining a torch into the hole.
I spent the rest of the time on photographing the Orion nebula though it hadn't risen much so the seeing was poor so low in the murk, still worth the effort. Visually the nebula looked immense in the ODK, striking, filled the 32mm eyepiece.

28.10.16 -- Friday

Brian and I opened the domes at 7.00pm for group of 23 cubs for stargazing, I gave the usual talk then into the large dome in two groups unfortunately complete cloud cover prevented any observing but they all seemed to enjoy operating the dome and telescope with the pc. Closed down 9.00pm.

21.10.16 - Friday

At 8:00pm Dave, Rhys, Elaine and Paul and I were ready to start, under a cloudless sky. Dave did much with binoculars too, while Elaine, Rhys and I used the ODK to observe clusters mostly. Dave Elaine and Paul left soon after we'd had a cup of tea, but Rhys and I stayed to seek out nebulae, with some success in the east, but not in the west. We left at midnight with the beginning of cloud patches in the east, and the Moon rising.

16.10.16 - Sunday

Cloudless sky all the time I was there OMO, 8:00pm to 1:15am. But with a maximum size full Moon, a Hunter's Moon. Re-collimated the ODK and took the focuser off and adjusted the 3 element corrector lens system, by moving it IN half a turn. Put it back and re-checked the collimation with my 4mm eyepiece, which gave a 505x magnification. Took a couple of shots of star clusters and M27. The sky was hazy as well as being full of Moonlight.
I checked the filter wheel and the 17mm Baader eyepiece in the small dome and took them home to clean, they haven't been used since Peter died. I think I'll keep the 17mm EP with the ODK when cleaned.

5.10.16 - Wednesday

OMO. Clear sky at 10:00pm when I got there. A visiting group was there too. I began to set up and noticed a group of people in the field, in the dark, so I went over. They said they were supervising the visiting group, 8 of them! They explained they were looking after a group of handicapped children, and they were also doing their Duke of Edinburgh award. So I took them over for a look at the stars, and noted that the clouds began to roll in. When thy left I continued to set up, and the clouds continued to roll in in greater masses. So I closed down and left at 11:30pm.

2.10.16 - Sunday

OMO. 8:30pm to 2:00am. Clear sky all night. Final collimation of the ODK, looks good too. Took a few series of frames of open clusters for test purposes. Will see the results tomorrow. Cold - down to 3° in the dome, frost on the grass verges on the way home and some mist sat in the roads near the airport.

29.9.16 - Thursday

OMO. Clear to start but hazed over then clouded over too, till I got home where it was clear again. I was there for 90mins to 11:30pm, working on the ODK and getting the Tak to be parallel with the ODK. Reasonable progress on that.

25.9.16 - Sunday

The Village Fair was held at Austerfield this year, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. I opened up to show the Sun to visitors and it was in good form too large prominences top left and bottom right with many others all round, granulations easy to see and a large facula to the top left. This was using the PST mounted on the ODK. Though the show wasn't well advertised and had not many visitors in total, I had several, some trying to take photos with smart phones.

 Later that night.
OMO. Working on the ODK, then taking the odd photograph. Clear all night from 10:00pm to 3:00am when I left. Having difficulty getting the DSLR to focus because I couldn't get the right combination of extension tubes, similarly with the M25C. I'll have to get more though I did have enough to do the job.

23- 9-16 - Friday

Earlier in the afternoon Brian and I spent some time fitting new led lighting in the dome,it works far better than the old bulk head lights .

Seems like first clear night in months so I opened up 8.00pm ,soon joined by Paul,Elaine and Rhys.
Quick look at Mars before it set then onto M11,M13,M31 double cluster all to a rapidly clearing sky then to Alberio and the garnet star,clouds appeared by 10.15 so retired for a hot drink when we came out the sky had gone so closed down 10.40.
The dome worked flawlessly and all like the new red led lighting.

22.9.16 - Thursday

OMO from 10:30pm to 6:00am collimating the ODK and taking photos in a clear sky with some haze. ODK much better since having the refurbishment, collimation is delicate, some coma to the right, but this might be as a result of dropping the camera twice from the cupboard top. I'll test with the DSLR next.

21.9.16 - Wednesday

I've never felt happy after changing the upper slot limit switches,people kept reporting strange behaviour such as opening in wrong order or only opening partially so after the latest series of malfunctions its time to fettle it.
Two new upper limit switches fitted and more care taken with the clearances to the actuating cams and then we adjusted the lower switches so the lower shutter now stops when fully open.

It now preforms as intended, its 8 years since we built it so there's bound to be a bit of wear and tear and apart from paint wearing off the rotation sensor its been reasonably problem free, lets hope it carries on to be so.

17.9.16 - Saturday

Down to the Observatory to fit a heater, in the form of a 1.5w bulb in the ODK's tube as advocated by Barry Pemberton of Orion Optics. Instructions in its use will be on the appropriate page of the website. Unfortunately there will be no photo to show how it sits, as my camera died immediately after I switched it on and the lens cover came off!

14.9.16 - Wednesday

Paul and I took the ODK12 to Orion Optics in Newcastle upon Tyme to be refurbished, we arrived there at 10:00am and it was ready by 2:00pm, the time between was spent looking for a place to have lunch.
We were 'dealt with' by Barry Pemberton, founder, who let me look through it in their test bay. He also told me the setting dimension I should use was 210mm and not 209mm as appeared in their instruction data sheet.
We brought her home and loaded her to the mount quite easily, rebalanced and hoped for a clear sky that night, but it was not to be.

11.9.16 - Sunday

OMO, I went down at 10:00pm intending to use my DSLR on both telescopes, but the dome shutter wouldn't work. The sky was clear, though the Moon was high in the south. I went home at 11:00pm.

29.8.16 - Monday

August Bank Holiday, and a clear sky too. OMO. Got there for 10:30pm and worked on clusters and a planetary till 3:00am, though stopped a couple of times through the PC cutting out. Reasonable sky with some haze and a few odd thin cloud banks, not much trouble.

16.8.16 - Wednesday

Clear sky again, but fatter Moon than last night. Not suitable for photography, unless it's narrow band. From 10:00pm to 3:00am working on the telescope. One of those things, trying to get a little bit more out of it. Though I did have a short session on Uranus.

15.8.16 - Monday

Another clear night, hazy too. Down from 10:30pm to 3:15am, under the fattening Moon, working on Uranus, M38, M34, and testing the ODK with my DSLR. Re testing the collimation too.

14.8.16 - Sunday

The forecast suggested cloud, but it was clear so I went down at 11:00pm to a hazy but cloudless sky, with a 3/4 Moon near setting. The plan was to test the ODK as I'd fiddled with it earlier when I shouldn't have. Can't keep my fingers off things. I think I've got things back to normal again. I had a try at a couple of targets but was interrupted repeatedly by cloud banks which cleared as quickly as they came over. The targets were half the double cluster and NGC457, keeping well away from the Moon. Left at 3:30am. Quite like old times.

12.8.16 - Friday

Lots of hope but with not much conviction, following a forecast of full cloud, we went down to Austerfield for 9:30pm, for the Perseids, and put up our loungers to began staring at the clouds. It started with half cloud but soon progressed to full cloud with no prospects, so we gave in and went home at 11:30pm. I saw 1, Sandra saw 3 and a couple of others saw 2.
We were Sandra, Elaine and Paul, Tony, Sue, Bev and Vic.

8.8.16 - Monday

Rhys and I were at the observatory from 10:00pm to 2:00am, under largely clear skies, though with some haze. The Milky Way was directly overhead and easy to see in the mid-grey sky.
The plan was to photograph the Eagle nebula with both telescopes at the same time till I remembered they weren't parallel, so we proceeded with Rhys's Mono camera and the Ha filtered Tak guided by his off axis guider. The preliminary results looked good but we'll have to wait for Rhys to process his frames.
The telescopes can only be made parallel through the use of a set of rings for the smaller instrument, which will introduce the distinct possibility of flexure between them which will show up in guiding, or by shimming which will be a long job but retain the current very solid relationship between the two and the mount. Another job to do.

5.8.16 - Friday

Down as promised for 9:30pm, very heavy black cloud cover to start, but it cleared to fully clear by 11:00pm. The Milky Way was easily seen right across the sky. On my own again, worked on M71, M17 and NGC7293. M71 was reasonably high but the others were in the murk, and skirting the treetops.
The clouds began to gradually congregate overhead from 1:30am and were back in possession of the whole sky by 2:30am, not too bad as it would be getting light again soon after that. Rabbits everywhere on the roads and a couple of hedgehogs too, to add variety, rarely seen these days.