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Monday, 25 January 2021

Getting the full set!

A birding friend posted some delightful photos of the various owls she's seen in the UK. This caused me to reflect upon the fact that I only need four really rare species for the full UK set: Pigmy, Scops, Tengmalm's and Hawk. I should think the chances of me seeing any of these is virtually non-existent!

Then I started to think about the other 'sets': I've seen all six Grebes, all three Pratincoles, all four Skuas, all ten Crows and so on... I wonder if anyone among the top 'listers' has seen every bird on the BOU / UK400 lists? (Excluding extinct birds, of course!)

Sunday, 24 January 2021

January passes of the International Space Station

If it's clear any time between tonight and the start of February, there are some terrifically bright passes of the ISS: well worth wrapping up and taking a look!

Mystery stone post...

Ever since I started taking therapeutic walks around Blofield Heath - nearly ten years, now - I've been puzzled by a curious stone post by the side of Woodbastwick Road. It's obviously pretty old, is carved from a honey-coloured limestone and bears a 'benchmark': its most curious feature, however, is the remains of a rusty hinge pintle. This faces outward into the road and seems once to have supported a gate or barrier. The post seems too old to have been erected during WW2: could there once have been a toll route through here? I do know that cattle drovers used to pass through the village, watering their herds at the pond.

Any ideas?

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Some decent starshots with my GPS unit!

The sky was finally clear enough to try out my newest gizmo: the GPS 'Astrotracer' on my Pentax KS2. The 'precise calibration' procedure isn't as straight forward as I was hoping, but once the camera is set up it really does track objects by moving the sensor! As you can see from the photos below (which were taken with a 20 second exposure) there's little if any 'trailing'. This feature (which I think is only found on modern Pentax DSLRs) would have been fantastic for last year's comet.

The images include Orion, 'his' belt, sword and nebula, some better shots of Mars and Uranus and a few of the Moon. You can see the large crater-complex Clavius, as well as the dark-floored crater Plato, with the Alpine Valley close by.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Mars and Uranus

Uranus is the seventh planet of the Solar System: it's around 1,784,000,000 miles from the Sun, four times the diameter of the Earth and was the first planet to be discovered by telescope: it's just too faint to be visible with the naked eye.

Last night Uranus was close to Mars and the Moon and I was able to take some photos when the sky finally cleared at 10.00pm. The stars and two planets appear as discs, but with the exception of Mars and possibly Uranus, that's a photographic effect.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

First Red Kite of the year

As Linda and I were coming back from food shopping, a beautiful Red Kite circled over the road in the 'usual' spot, just before the Brick Kilns pub. We've seen the bird here so frequently that it seems highly likely it is resident in the narrow belt of woodland that runs north from the road.

A colourful giant in the dawn sky!

For some reason, I've never really looked through a telescope at Arcturus, the leading star of the constellation Bootes. The 3rd brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, Arcturus is a red giant: it's 'burned' off much of its core hydrogen and has expanded until it is 25 times larger than the Sun and many times more luminous. 

Looking at this beautiful orangey-red star early this morning, I was struck by its pairing with a blue star just below: if you thought stars are all white, it's worth having a look!

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

A good opportunity to see Uranus

Yes, thank you: we can do without the schoolboy jokes!
At the moment (when it's clear) Mars is still a bright orange-red object in the constellation of Aries: at 7.00pm it's just west of straight up. Through binoculars or a birding scope the gas giant planet Uranus is visible as a faint greenish 'star' below and to the east. At magnitude 5.8, you might be better off taking a photo with a DSLR and enlarging the image! However, there won't be a better chance of seeing this, the seventh planet out from the Sun for a long time!

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Big birds and little birds!

Since my office looks out in two directions, it's unusual that I'm not interrupted during my 'Spacerocks' work by something or other! Today the suet blocks proved irresistible to a pair of Long-tailed Tits, while a flock of Greenfinches were momentarily disturbed by a very low-flying A400 Atlas. I assume this was going in to land at Norwich Airport.

Monday, 18 January 2021

UFO artwork

Back in 2010 I met retired detective, author and UFO investigator John Hanson at a lecture at Woodbridge. Over the years we've become good friends and have collaborated in the organisation of several public events. John's  company 'Haunted Skies' was the original publisher of my first two books and, in return, I generated numerous pieces of artwork that were used in John's ongoing UFO encyclopedia. Here are a few examples, as well as a photo of the pair of us at Woodbridge.