It has been a long time since we could see a comet with the naked eye. Comet Neowise could be seen easily in the Northwest when the sky is clear. Unfortunately, the weather is pretty awful at the moment, but we did have a night when it became clear. Here is Comet Neowise from my back garden with just a DSLR camera and tripod.
Fifty years ago tonight I was sat in front of our black and white television watching the Moon Landing. I was 14 years old and stayed up all night watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon. It was a Sunday morning and at 6.00am I went to the Post Office on Ainsworth Lane, Tonge Moor to start my paper round. I can remember sitting in the morning sunshine reading the newspapers before I delivered them. To celebrate I am wearing my NASA t-shirt!
To re-live the day I also took a photo of myself stood outside what was the Post Office where I did my paper round.
Some nice BIG reflections last night at the peak of the Geminids with my own Radio Astronomy set up!
This was in the early morning for about four hours.
Live Meteor Monitoring can be seen at at
A bit of Radio Astronomy last night monitoring the Orionids meteor shower. If you listen on 143.049Mhz (upper sideband)you should be able to hear ‘pings’ from the GRAVES transmitter in France reflected from incoming meteors. The ‘pings’ can be seen visually on a computer by downloading ‘SpectrumLab’ and taking the audio from your receiver into the soundcard.
The picture shows ‘pings’ from last night on SpectrumLab using my Yaesu Ft857D and VHF collinear.
It has been a while now since taking my telescope outside to do some imaging. I looked in the sky at for the Perseids meteor shower but didn’t see much… then I watched ‘Sky at Night’.
Sky at Night was all about meteorites and how to find and detect them especially during the Perseids meteor shower. In the program was a section that showed some Radio Astronomy which detected incoming meteorites. This involved listening to a powerful VHF radio station out of range normally, in this case France. When a meteorite enters the atmosphere it leaves an ionised trail which reflects radio waves back down to the ground. This is heard as a ‘ping’ and can be viewed on a computer. Impressive, but I thought it looked complicated.
Then the following night I went to a meeting of the Bolton Wireless Club and Ross (G6GVI) told me how he had re-created the set up on Sky at Night by using a piece of software called ‘FutureLab’ and a receiver tuned to 143.050Mhz to monitor the GRAVES VHF station in Dijon, France. I decided to have a go myself with some amazing results!
The first image shows a larger ‘ping’ along with some smaller ones recorded over about half an hour just after midnight shortly after the Perseids peak.
The second image was recorded over a longer period from about midnight to 9.00am the day after.
The peaks show meteorites entering the atmosphere reflecting the radio waves from the GRAVES transmitter.
Todays Sun looks like it is having a bad day! Lots of Sunspots in an organised line as well as others on the edges. A real Solar Storm.
A few weeks ago I read an article in ‘Practical Wireless’ about the school contacts with Tim Peake on the ISS, I thought I might share some of my own experiences. My letter was printed in Practical Wireless the following month!
I have been a teacher for 23 years at SS Osmund and Andrews RC Primary School in Bolton, I am now semi-retired and teach part-time to children throughout the school. As part of my lessons this year I have used Tim Peake as a role model for the children, particularly with the older children. We watched the launch live in the classroom and talked about the technology involved, explaining to the children how difficult it was to communicate by radio with spaceships that are traveling very fast. When Tim Peake established communications with Sandringham School, I brought into school my Baofeng UV5R to show a class how Radio Amateurs can make contacts using repeaters as well as simplex on 144Mhz. The first reaction from the children when I asked them what they thought it was came “it’s a mobile phone”, “it’s a Walkie-Talkie” When I told them that I could use the Baofeng to listen directly to Tim Peake from the ISS talking using his own callsign on a certain frequency the children were quite impressed!
We watched a video of the contact with Sandringham School and were really impressed with the way Jessica used her callsign and was able to talk with Tim. I explained to the children how the school had set up Amateur Radio equipment, with quite big aerials to track the ISS in order to make the link with Tim.
The final school link with Ashfield Primary School fell at a perfect time for me to really demonstrate the power of Amateur Radio. It was 9.00am on a Thursday morning and I was teaching a class of 8 year olds. I first set up a live feed from the school which was displayed on the large Interactive Whiteboard. I brought in my Baofeng again. The children at the school were very similar to our school and the questions being asked were by young children. During the build up to the QSO, the children were able to see the equipment that they were using at the school and I was able to tell them more about Amateur Radio and how Tim Peake was a ‘Radio Ham’ traveling at 17000 MPH above our heads. As we approached acquisition the atmosphere in the classroom was electric, I switched on my Baofeng to 145.800Mhz so that a group of children would be able to stand outside and listen live to Tim Peake answering the questions.
When communication was established, it was fascinating watching the children’s faces and listening to their reactions, even more so when Tim started to come through on the Baofeng and could hear him directly. The children were amazed! At the end I was asked lots of questions about Amateur Radio and the ISS, they were very keen.
On another note…
In February I was experimenting with Packet and UISS Software in order to make a Packet link with the ISS for the first time. After making my first ever contact with ISS, I told my granddaughter, Melissa, about how I did it. She was eleven years old and has been quite interested in Tim Peake’s links with some schools. I decided to show her how to make a Packet link and waited for a high pass of the ISS.
Melissa wanted to send a message to Tim Peake at the ISS using Packet Radio. The ISS was due to make a very high pass that we could see from my shack window while operating my radio equipment. I explained to Melissa how it works and showed her the screens on the computer with UISS, we tried a few practice packets to check that everything was working, then waited for the ISS to appear from my window. Wow! an extremely bright pass…now we can see the ISS and set about sending a packet message. Melissa wrote “Hello to Tim Peake from Melissa” in the message window and as soon we heard the sound of packets arriving on my FT857D she started to send her message along with the APRS info. After a couple of attempts we heard the acknowledgements from the ISS and other stations in the UK and Europe. Melissa was amazed that we had contacted the ISS and at the same time she could see it moving like a bright star heading Eastwards.
Melissa pointing to the contact with the ISS.
My Solar Filter design got Message of the Month in Sky at Night Magazine!
A beautiful sunny day on 9th May for the long awaited Mercury transit of the sun. I set up my equipment at 12.00 ready to start imaging from my garden, not a cloud in the sky! It is amazing how hard it is to find the Sun with the filter fitted to the scope. Took a while to eventually find it. Also the Sun was VERY bright and I needed to put a black cloth over my head to be able to see the computer screen. The neighbours must have thought I was crazy!
Took lots of images using the Skywatcher 80ED Pro and Altair-Astro GP-Cam with a 0.6 focal reducer fitted. I tried with different colour filters, White light, Yellow, Blue, Green and Orange. After the first hour I put the equipment away and then set up later in the afternoon to image the final hours of the transit.
First contact of Mercury with the Sun. (Top Left)
Yellow filter fitted.
For the first time in months we had a beautiful, clear sunny day!
I took the Skywatcher 80ED with the Baader filter to capture some images of the sun using my Altair GP-Cam. I took some photos direct and then tried using a 0.6 reducer and yellow colour filter. On the face of the Sun was a single sunspot which imaged quite well with the camera.
Next are some images of the Sunspot without the reducer and colour filter.