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Friday 29 September 2023

Harvest 'Super Moon'

A few photos of the last 'super Moon' of the year: decidedly orangey, even through my office window!

Photographing sunspots

I've just sent off an article for a magazine about how to photograph sunspots: although you can use an expensive H-alpha solarscope, I get my best results using a Baader filter. This silver-coated plastic membrane lets just the right amount of light through to the camera sensor: here are some photos from today (and of the Solarscope!)

Thursday 28 September 2023

David Bryant: radio star!

Well: not quite, perhaps! I've just been interviewed live on air by the delightful Jules Button of Suffolk Sound Radio. I answered questions from Jules and her listeners about the International Space Station and other space-related topics. At the end of our chat I was delighted to be invited to contribute a regular monthly spot! Watch this space!

Meanwhile, click

for today's interview:

The Moon and Saturn

A couple of hours after sunset the waxing gibbous Moon rises in the east: the yellowish 'star' to the south of it is the second largest planet in the Solar System, Saturn.

As well as its famous ring system (a feature shared by all the gas giants) Saturn's moon Titan is the second largest, being just a little smaller than Jupiter's moon Ganymede but bigger than the planet Mercury!

The striking crater right on the Moon's terminator is Hevelius

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Incredibly ancient plants on my patio!

You'll recall that Linda and I 'sort of' collect prehistoric plant species - both living and also fossil examples. We have Cycads, Gingkos, Horsetails, Tree Ferns, Wollemis and so on. It's very easy, however, to overlook the most ancient of all: the Liverworts that grow under our patio table!

These curious little plants don't produce seeds: instead, like mosses, they reproduce by means of spores. They are similar enough in anatomical details to be grouped with mosses as bryophytes, evolving from freshwater algae around 450 million years ago. This makes them among the most ancient land plants!

Monday 25 September 2023

Final passes by the ISS for a few weeks...

These are the remaining bright passes by the International Space Station: after October 1st it won't be visible from the UK until November. (Reminder: the Sun is incredibly active at the moment: aurorae are occurring almost nightly between 22.00 and 01.00.)

Getting it in the neck from the old man!

This afternoon friend Sue rang the doorbell to tell Linda and me that a pair of Migrant Hawkers were disporting on her Buddleia! I popped round with a camera and photographed this intimate moment: really, it's a bit of a peculiar way to go about things!

Buckenham Marsh: no Yellowlegs

Feeling decidely rough after my recent Covid booster, I hoped a walk might improve things. Since a Lesser 'legs had been reported at Buckenham last evening I thought that might be a suitable 'short walk target'.

In the event the only waders I managed to find (distantly!) were Ruff and Dunlin. These were on the 'main pool': the Mill Pool was empty apart from three Mallard. A few raptors (Kestrels and Buzzards) were loitering on the gateposts, while a distant ringtail flew eastwards on the other side of the river. Two Pinkfooted Geese dropped onto the Marsh: the first of many...

Saturday 23 September 2023

Everything's 'out west': less birds, more Astronomy!

Back in the day, as they say, I was part of a crew - Linda, Bob Walker, Martin Read and Pete Bewick - that would tear off at the weekend to try and catch up with the previous week's rarities. These days, with diesel nearly £2 / litre, all that's in the past: nowadays I restrict my outings to once or twice a week in Norfolk and Suffolk. This is why I'm not on my way west to add half a dozen new birds to my stagnating 450-ish life list.

However, there are still things to point a camera at even from the back garden: the current incredible crop of sunspots being a good example! (Don't forget: you need special filters to look at or photograph the Sun!)

Friday 22 September 2023

Two gas giants and three galaxies!

Last night just before midnight the skies were pretty clear for a change, so I thought I'd try out various camera settings on the fanous Andromeda Galaxy, M31. (All the various fuzzy objects in the night sky were catalogued by Messier, a French comet-hunter who wanted to be sure what he'd found was a new comet and noit a galaxy or nebula. Such objects were assigned an 'M' number) I couldn't quite get things 100%, but below are the better efforts: you can see two other galaxies close by M31.

Jupiter was conveniently placed for photography of its moons, although the triangle of three bright stars close by were confusing! Nearby the greenish gas giant planet Uranus was easy to pick out...

Thursday 21 September 2023

September passes by the International Space Station

Assuming the sky ever clears this month, here are the times you can expect to see the ISS passing over the UK. If you've never looked for it before, it resembles a fast-moving, very bright star that generally rises in the south west and travels across the sky to the east.

This is the last time I'll give the apparent brightness of the ISS in terms of astronomical magnitude: people seem unfamiliar with the scale! In future I'll give word descriptions.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

SYNERGY at Heathlands Social Club

 Possibly our last gig of the year: a charity fundraiser at Heathlands: two hours of rock and blues - bar at club prices!

Tuesday 19 September 2023

The Aurora: a missed chance....

I was briefly up and about at 03.30 this morning (as many gents of my age tend to be) and happened to glance at my PC monitor: it was - as usual - displaying the 'Aurora Watch UK' activity screen. To my amazement, it was lit up red and orange - indication of strong auroral activity. 

I grabbed my camera and went out onto the patio: as you might have predicted, the sky was covered by a veil of thin hazy cloud. Looking to the north, I could, however, see a few stars. I took a couple of long exposures (no tripod, I'm afraid!) at high ISO: you can just make out some green and purplish patches. 

I did try again an hour or so later, but the sky was completely covered by then...

Monday 18 September 2023

Desperately waiting for some snow!

We haven't had any snow worth mentioning since 'Snowie' first appeared: he really is looking a little worse for wear! Nevertheless, it was time for a photo-call before the scheduled rain starts!

Longest interval between sightings?

Looking back through the 'hard copy' diaries I kept for thirty-odd years, I found that the first Buff-breasted Sandpiper I'd seen was at Cley, back in 1986: last week's Minsmere bird was, therefore, nearly forty years later! I can't bring to mind a species that took so long to repeat: the closest possible future challengers I can think of would be Naumann's Thrush (1990) and Nutcracker (1991)