Sunday, May 27, 2012

Clear Skies and a Gaze at the Stars

At last the spell of dull weather has broken we've enjoyed a week of clear weather and summer sun. It's been ideal for climbing and its a pity we've not found the time to get out. However looking skywards has brought great rewards.

I am viewing with a small Newtonian reflector telescope which has a mirror diameter of 130mm and focal length 900mm.

With the first evenings view I observed Saturn in the constellation Vega just above the star known as Spica. Its wonderful to see the rings of Saturn, my view was not dissimilar to the one shown below.

With sufficient light gathering power and dark skies one might be able to view the surrounding satellites, labelled in the image below. This image shows the positions for the satellites on 27th May 2012.

The next object I looked for was the ring nebulae M57 in the constellation Lyra. The Hubble image of this star which has exhausted its supply of hydrogen and is in a state of gravitational collapse to form a White dwarf. The expanding ring nebulosity is the outer envelope of the star.

Careful viewing with a 10mm eyepiece and a 2x Barlow lens provided an image resembling that shown below.

It was very pleasing to discern the ring nature of this "fuzzy object".

A couple of nights later on the 25th May 2012 a friend from work said he might be viewing the night sky. I drove out to Hathersage late in the evening and enjoyed some fantastic views of Saturn and Messier objects in the Ursa Major. As well as the Cassini division in the rings we were able to observe the satellites Iapetus, Rhea and Titan. It may also have been possible to view Tethys which was closer in.

We were viewing the sky using a telescope with 350mm diameter objective mirror and 1610mm focal length i.e. f/4.6. I was quite amazed at how Chris was able to locate a marvellous collection of faint fuzzy objects. He didn't even need to resort to something like Stellarium!

We viewed a fine collection of Messier objects. I was able to make out the fuzzy structure comprising the owl nebula M97 but had difficulty discerning the owls eyes. It was great to view the Bode galaxies M81 and M82 simultaneously M82 has the appearance of a side on galaxy. Viewing the pinwheel galaxy M101 you could seemingly make out structure indicative of the spiral arms... awesome... Galaxy zoo is great but it is so much better to "classify galaxies" in this raw state.

Some notes and the full list of objects that we observed as provided by Chris are shown below. Particularly useful are the magnitudes which provide me with an idea of what objects can be observed in our light polluted garden in Chesterfield.

Horse and Rider (Mizar which is itself a double and Alcor)
M101 (possibly) (7.9)
M81 & M82 (6.9, 8.4)
M109 (9.8)
M108 (10.0)
M97 (Owl Nebula) (9.9)
Cor Caroli
M63 (8.6)
M94 (8.2)
NGC4242 (or some other!)
M106 (8.3)
M51 (8.4)

Surface brightness is surprising low for some of these - for example M109 has an SB of 13.5. It is perhaps worth noting that I had looked at M81 and M82 in my 70mm refractor, earlier in the week. In all cases, I found them with with the Telrad, using the finder scope only when the object is near a recognisible star. The only occasion I really used a star hop was to find M101, where there is a line of 4 stars to follow from Mizar.

So two doubles (one with an extra outlier)
1 planetary nebula
and between 8 and 10 galaxies.
Plus of course Saturn (and three moons) and Mars - not too bad!

My final evenings viewing consisted of another look at Saturn and a search for the great globular cluster in M13. It was with this final evenings viewing that I was better able to appreciate the conditions and optical characteristics required to observe the Ursa major Messier's. After locating the star eta-hercules I shifted the telescope 3 half fields up and 3 half fields to the left (the image through the telescope is reversed) this formula enabled me to easily locate the Fuzzy a quick check with stellarium confirmed I'd hit the right area. The image I could make out with the 2xBarlow and the Super 10mm eyepiece looked somewhat like the one shown below.

I was just about able to resolve individual stars within the globular cluster, I found this amazing. The hubble image of the core of this cluster is shown below

The final object a viewed was the beautiful star pair in Cygnus known as Albireo. As shown the picture below one star is blue and the other yellow.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rock Hoppers of Crowden Brook

Really proud of my two young adventurers, they've had a long day. We parked just past Barber Booth near Edale and on a blustery day, with the weather forecast indicating a rather low chill factor. Additionally the forecast predicted an arrival of rain for the early evening. Undeterred we packed our bags and made a lunch and headed into Crowden Clough. They both enjoyed the scrambles and stream crossings hopping from rock to rock. Keisha has a good pair of boots, well they didn't leak when she slipped off a rock and with a foot sinking into the stream!

With a minimal amount of coaxing and a shoulder carry for Louis they both made the final pull up to Crowden tower.

Tempted by the possibility of a camp at the top near Crowden tower we headed out of the stream bed and arrived at the top after the final steep pull. Since Louis likes to play most of the way he had a shoulder carry up to the top. We had fun playing with the shelter tent but ended up using it as a picnic rug.

They both enjoyed messing around in the peat, I noticed that Louis seemed to enjoy bouncing up and down on the springy peat.

We headed east through the wool packs imagining animal shapes from the boulders and walking through the little passage ways. We happily passed onto Swines back and finally descended via Jacobs ladder and then onto Upper Booth.

After the steep walk down the Jacobs ladder path. The games continued right until the end of our walk as we played trip-trap trip-trap who's that walking over my bridge!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sunny Escape to Glen Coe and Glen Etive

At rather short notice I found that I had a few "free" days near the May day bank holiday, also, after a rather dull and bleak interlude of weather the forecast indicated that things might look up! I decided to jump in the car and head up to Glen Coe to attempt a few of those Scottish mountains which I have not climbed.

My luck was in! The first morning I was there parked near the helipad in Glen Coe. There is a fine view of the sisters of Glen Coe but this morning was special. The high peaks of Glen Coe were holding back a bank of mist which was rolling in from the east. With the sun already burning I headed up the path into Coire nan Lochain to climb Bidean Nam Bian.

Black dots on the map above show my route.

The day was glorious I really enjoyed the ascent up to Stob Coire Nan Lochain it just doesn't get better than this. The main path gets quite steep and scrambly as one heads into Coire Nan Lochain. At this point it levels off and I aimed for the col between Gearr Aonach and Stob Coire Nan Lochain. The ridge was followed south west and eventually turns west and leads to the summit of stob coire nan lochain. This final westerly section of ridge was a most enjoyable scramble.

The views from the summit of Stob Coire Nan Lochain ( Grid Ref. NN148548 ) were fantastic it was great to be back in the mountains!
A view of of Ben Nevis with its characteristic Whales back.

The fun continued with some fairly straightforward scrambling leading to the summit of
Bidean Nam Bian Grid Ref. NN143542. As I carried on towards the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach I felt my legs becoming weaker and started reciting the mantra "I must start cycling to work again".

View back towards Bidean nam Bian
Grid Ref. NN151537

Stob Coire Nan Lochain

The descent from Bidean was interesting my route guide had indicated a suitable descent route from the Beinn Fhada ridge into Coire Gabhail, this looked very steep and I was unsure. The alternative was to descend from the col between Stob Coire Sgreamhach and Bidean Nam Bian. There was a a lot of snow on the col but I managed to find a path through the crags to the left of the col. I picked my way carefully and eventually made it to the snow connecting with the col and slid on my bum to the main path.

The remainder of the walk returned me via the well known Hidden valley route... I was very sun burnt but I had and excellent first day in the mountains.

There was significantly more cloud on the following day I had 3 peaks in mind Ben Starav, Beinn nan Aighenan and Glas Bheinn Mhor. This fairly long day started from Glen Etive near a cottage called Coileitir. There is a very long ridge ascending the northern flank of Ben Starav Grid Ref NN126428. But it's well worth the effort its a lovely mountain with excellent ridges.

Glen Etive near Coileitir Grid Ref. NN139136 (looking north towards Stob Coire Sgreamhach)

Ridge leading to Stob Coire Dheirg Grid ref. NN131428

From Stob Coire Dheirg the route proceeds to the remote peak known as Beinn nan Aighenan Grid ref. NN149404. The visibility was good but I realised that in poorer conditions good navigation would be required to negotiate the contours which lead you to the col between Beinn nan Aighenan and Glas Bheinn Mhor Grid ref. NN152429

The view west from the campsite at Inver Coe, a good campsite which is comfortable and well kept. When I arrived at the campsite this evening there were more arrivals for the Bank holiday weekend. One group of people were from a filming crew for the newly opened Stevenson way. Based on the tale told in his book "kidnapped" the walker goes from Mull to Edinburgh following the adventures of David Balfour and his aquaintance Alan Breck. Filming for the opening of this new footpath included a redcoats chasing after David Balfour.

My final day in the hills for this trip was an ascent of Stob Coir an Albannaich Grid. ref. NN169442 and Meall nan Eun Grid ref. 192449. This route once again started from Glen Etive and the cottage called Coileitir. There is a path proceeding directly up the hill side to Beinn Chaorach its quite a steep pull up the side of a burn but quite well defined and OK.

I reached the top of Stob Coir an Albannaich at precisely 1030 with gentle flurries of snow blowing in the air, a pleasant and atmospheric experience. Making the summit of Stob Coir an Albannaich didn't pose any difficulties to reach Meall nan Eun Grid ref. 192449 from this summit provides an interesting problem. Descending the east ridge of Stob Coir an Albannaich we had to identify a gentle shoulder which has the most gentle descent to the col leading to Meall Tarsuinn. This is quite a steep route and in bad visibility would be difficult to identify. Once on the col the route leads up to Meall Tarsuinn and then onto Meall nan Eun.

Looking south towards Ben Starav.
A final view looking west from Inver Coe.