Our good friends and near-neighbours Bob Ford and Deb Walker came round for dinner. This allowed me to combine my hobbies of eating good food and astronomy as Bob is a keen astronomer and photographer. I had the solar scope set up and tracking so we can catch the last of the sunspots while we left the important talking and wine to the ladies. Looking at the sun’s disc on the laptop screen with a blanket over our heads caused much merriment. It was really quite hot still so we needed a cold beer to keep cool and hydrated.
After an excellent dinner we used the big scope to catch the moon and Saturn. Now, all the rules about observing the moon and planets say that you should image under clear conditions, with good seeing and with a clear, unobstructed view. These pictures don’t look too bad for awful seeing; thick, hazy cirrus drifting past and Saturn being behind the branches of a nearby tree!
So if you want to get the very best then you need to follow the “rules” and make the most of good seeing, clear skies and clear views. Unfortunately we very rarely get such conditions and have to make the most of what we are given. In this case we managed to break all three!. The seeing was terrible making it hard to check focus as it mushed around. Secondly, I don’t think it ever cleared, there were always layers of thin cirrus drifting across all evening. Finally, Saturn was barely visible through a tree but occasionally the leaves would line up to leave a clear path for the light to reach the telescope! These less than ideal conditions, though, are a useful opportunity to practice techniques and try alternative approaches to see what works best. In this case, we had a great time, put the world to rights and got some pleasing pictures. I can’t say they are any good though!