The Sculptor Group Of Galaxies

17th Oct 2017

Sculptor-GalaxyLast night I observed the Sculptor Group of Galaxies, the nearest to our own Local Group of Galaxies. It provides a lovely observing experience as it certainly does contain some beautifully bright and shapely galaxies (along with a number of dim to exceedingly-dim and less-shapely members). However, whenever I look at galaxies, beyond the beauty I am seeing when I centre an entire galaxy in the eyepiece, my brain always strives – and fails – to get the smallest glimmer

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Phoenix, Beautiful Firebird

20th Sep 2017


If ever there is a place to see the colours of the mythical Phoenix – the beautiful firebird that lived in the Arabian desert and whose plumage was the colours of fire – it is the Kalahari at sunset.

I walk my dog every evening at sunset, when the setting sun is carrying its aggressive desert heat beyond the horizon. They really are spectacular sunsets – the western sky bursting into flames as the great red ball of fire falls

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A Bevy of Galaxies in Pavo

23rd Aug 2017

ceb679a929b21a3e594b79a4fae506b8When the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman celebrated with stars the exotic animals that they encountered in faraway southern lands, they had no idea how apt the peacock with its spectacular tail filled with beautiful eyespots would be for us observers sitting at our telescopes… for Pavo is filled with galaxies floating in space like the eyespots in the peacock’s magnificent plumage.

Quite apart from being beautiful, the peacock’s spectacular feathers are an extraordinary

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Solar Eclipse… with Maria Mitchell

21st Aug 2017

The eclipse of July 29, 1878, by French-born astronomer-illustrator Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, who watched the event from from Creston, Wyo., west of Rawlins.You don’t see a total eclipse – you experience it. It is an exquisitely odd and wondrous experience that affects one profoundly, and is very difficult to describe, beyond saying there are changes above you, around you, and within you.

I have only experienced one total solar eclipse – on December 4, 2002, from the far northern Kruger National Park. And during the moment of totality when we experienced the strange and rare sensation of solar emissions, both visible and

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On the way to Polarissima Australis

15th Aug 2017

arly Hadley octant. This mahogany octant was made about 1760 by the famous London maker, George Adams.

Last night I set out to observe some of the southern hemisphere’s famous galaxies, and I decided to start with Polarissima Australis, the galaxy closest to the south celestial pole, but on my way to it, I was waylaid by the constellation in which it lies… Octans.

The inimitable Abbe Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, with his love of all things science, really got it right when he engraved an octant into the stars as our southern polar constellation. 

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Cygnus’ other SNR

26th Jul 2017

Sh2-91 60x60The Veil Nebula’s glorious tangle of gas and dust is arguably the most spectacular supernova remnant in our night skies, and one would be forgiven for thinking that after exploring its magnificent beauty, the few very faint filaments of the other SNR in Cygnus – the vast G 65.3+5.7 – must surely pale in comparison.

But not so.

Less impressive as the thin, faint, wispy Sharpless 2-91, 2-94 and 2-96 may be compared to the sheer opulence of the Veil

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