The Leviathan of Parsonstown

31st October 2016

rosse-in-his-telescope2Halloween night being all about monsters, I spent it out in the dark thinking of a telescope big enough to be named after a monster – the Leviathan of Parsonstown – built in 1845 by Irish nobleman William Parsons, the third Earl of Rosse, who died 149 years ago, on this day.

With a 72-inch metal mirror weighing 3 tons and a tube 58 feet long, Lord Rosse’s Leviathan was the largest telescope in the world, a title it proudly

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Hickson 90 in the Southern Fish

25th October 2016

hcg90_hst_One of the joys of astronomy is taking a journey into the depths of space that pushes your eyes and equipment to their limits. An exceedingly faint galaxy may be just that, exceedingly faint – a mere wisp of light – and it may be exceedingly not-much-to-look at, but actually seeing it is exceedingly satisfying. But, because detecting something doesn’t mean you’ve seen all of it, pushing the other observing limits – patience, perseverance and the time needed to study

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Hornbills and Tucana

21st October 2016

tucana

I find little can beat the first twenty minutes of an observing session for pure enjoyment… sitting out in the dark with a cup of tea waiting for my eyes to adapt, and tracing out the patterns of the constellations as they materialise… at first only the bright anchor stars visible, then minute by minute the increasingly fainter stars popping into view, bringing the familiar outlines to life. I love the constellations dearly for the sheer beauty of their

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47 Tuc and a Fossil Riverbed

7th October 2016

Astronomy is colossal – the size of stars, their ages, the distances between them, the power of supernovae, the nature of black holes, the size of galaxies, superclusters, and the universe itself. But to me, most colossal of all is time. The enormities of time, the complexities of time past, present and future boggle my brain. At one end of the scale, I look at my dear little dog, Waldo, and think of the handful of time 

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Stargazing with Antonín Bečvář

1st October 2016

atlas-coeli-1Just when I thought that observing under these amazing Kalahari skies couldn’t get any better, it did.

Last night I got to use the most elegant star atlas of all – Antonín Bečvář’s Atlas Coeli 1950.0. It is simultaneously a work of art, a painstaking presentation of voluminous astronomical knowledge and a magnificent paean to the skies.

I’ve wanted this atlas for a long, long time, and it arrived yesterday in the mail

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