Monday, 17 May 2010

Found the Sombrero galaxy last night. Could even see the dust lane.

Last night was the first time it has been properly clear and dark for a long while. I only had a short time out though, and set about finding the Sombrero galaxy before it dips too low for another year. I found it easily enough in the binoculars, hopping down from Virgo (gamma to chi, then finding the rectangle with the Sombrero to the upper-right corner). Was easy enough to repeat that with the 'scope then.

Like most galaxies viewed by eye, it is basically an elongated grey smudge. This one had one very hard long edge though, which is probably the prominent dust lane on the photos. Rather pleasing, and more hat-like than the pictures.

Also went on to re-find a few objects from last summer, as Hercules and Lyra are visible again: the ring nebula, M13 and M92. And a quick look at Saturn too. It would be impolite to do otherwise.

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Clouds were kind, so managed to see the Werner X formation on the moon last night

There is a formation of four craters that when illuminated "just so" forms a fairly distinctive X on the moon's terminator. I'm trying to find out how often it's visible, don't think it's every month.

Anyway, it was pretty cool seeing it appear. I started looking about 19:15GMT and could see two of the legs of the X, at 19:45 the others were barely visible. After tea, it was very clear, although the dew had come down and fogged up my eyepiece somewhat. What was most cool was the undeniable fact that I was watching the effect of the sun rising on the moon, at about 1/28th the rate on earth. Not quite as impressive as the time I saw the dark edge of the moon suddenly blot out a star as it passed in front. That really gave me a sense of how things are moving up there.

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Good haul of fuzzies spotted tonight

Reasonably clear night. Managed to spot a good load of new galaxies. Decided to concentrate on Leo and Virgo. Easily found M65,M66 and NGC3628 in a very nice triplet. Never as pretty as the pictures, of course, but in cleaner skies I suspect not too far off. I must go and find a better site. Then swung the scope westward to find M95 M96 and another unidentified fuzzy.

Further East, I thought I'd take my first real look into the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Too many to pick out an individual to aim at, so scanned a line from ε-virgo to ν-virgo. Found eight clear fuzzies along that line (with a ~1degree field of view.) Clearly lots more to find in there.

Also had to have a look at Saturn and it's myriad moons. Very pretty. Spotted Hercules has popped back into view. A welcome return as it was one of the first new constellations I learnt last summer. 

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Fighting importing existing data from Google Picasa on Windows to Ubuntu

So I have a duel boot Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.10 machine. I have painstakingly identified faces on thousands of photos in Windows, so the prospect of losing all that in Ubuntu wasn't too pleasing.

I had installed Picasa 3.5 roughtly following this how-to. Great, that worked, but none of the meta data was there. Firstly have your windows partitions mounted. Mine are mounted to /media

  • Add a link from the Google Wine sub directory to your windows data:
$ cd "~/.google/picasa/3.0/drive_c/Documents and Settings/<user name>/Local Settings/Application Data"
$ mv Google Google.real_dir
$ ln -s "/media/WindowsXP/Documents and Settings/Graham/Local Settings/Application Data/Google"

So far, so good. I tried this, though, and although my people gallery was populated, none of the photos they contained could be found. I guess this is because the links in the meta data pointed to non-existent folders. So, step 2
  • Add a link to recreate the drives to match your windows ones. On mine, I had photos on E:\photos, mounted on Ubuntu as /media/data
$ cd ~/.google/picasa/3.0/dosdevices
$ ln -s /media/data 'e:'

This should then mean the existing Picasa meta data points to an existent path. Make sure that you re-import your photos using the new mapped drive though.

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Thursday, 4 March 2010

First clear night for weeks. Found a few galaxies.

Seems to have been the first clear night in weeks, so I forced myself out into the cold for a bit. Glad I did as I easily found the Whirlpool Galaxyand also M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, which I've hunted for a few times before, to no avail. Probably found it tonight as they were good and high in the sky, so little atmosphere in the way. The Whirlpool is interesting, as I was expecting another fuzzy blob, but actually found two. Turns out that it is two interacting galaxies, M51A and M51B. Could see no detail, but the sky wasn't particularly dark.

Also had a gander at the receding Mars. Could see the polar cap still, but is definitely smaller now than last month. Saturn was up too, so had a to have a look at it too. Still looking awesome, even with the rings nearly edge on. I need to dedicate a night to staring at Saturn, like I did in the Summer with Jupiter. Lots of easily visible moon to watch for transits and occlusions.

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Clouds held off, so saw Mars, M36, 37 and 38

Probably the best views of Mars yet. Didn't bother with filters, just kept staring and occasionally the air would hold steady enough to see not only the polar cap, but a dark area toward the other pole, shaped like Africa. Also darker halo around the ice cap. Colour was pretty too.

While I was waiting for the scope to cool and the wind to die down I had a good look around Auriga, and a good long stare at M36, M38 and M37, the latter being by far the most impressive. A rich cluster of evenly bright stars. Also found the very variable Epsilon Auriga, at about mag 4.

Finished the night with a quick look at Saturn. Although low in the sky, the rings looked great and could see their shadow cast on the planet surface. Nice.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Got a good view of Mars last night, could see the polar cap and a few dark patches.

Despite the clouds, I managed to get a good few glimpses of Mars last
night. The polar cap was pretty obvious and some of the darker surface
features easily visible, bizarrely better when looking through the
clouds. Don't know if that means my scope need stopping down a bit -
filters didn't seem to help. The colours were also pleasingly
distinct. No pictures though, I couldn't be bothered with setting up
the webcam.

I was pleased to have caught this glimpse now, as it has been cloudy
for weeks on end, it seems, and in couple of days Mars will be at its
closest until 2014 (see

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