Archive for April, 2014

A Mars Day

Blog 15th of April 2014 

Got in from band practice at 22.15, watched the remained of Jules Holland and then out into the observatory to spy Mars. I was inspired by friend Simon Kidd’s stunning Mars image that he had taken the previous evening.

Simon's stunning image from 14-4-2014


I set the binoviewer up on the 6“ refractor and aligned on Mars by eye initially as once again the AWR goto is on the blink! Once I got the magnification right and my eye in detail was quite good, certainly my best view this opposition so far. I used a cloth to cover my head and improve the contrast under the bright Moon.

I made a painting I guess you could say rather than a sketch, this is an impression rather than a scientifically detailed sketch. I’m not sure how it would compare with a detailed photographic image made at the same time? I understand that Simon was out again at roughly the same time as me so hopefully there may be a comparative image to add in due course.


My Mars painting

Whilst I’m writting this blog I think I should share my good friend Frank McCabe’s colour drawing of the total lunar eclipse that he made the same evening from his home in freezing and snowy Chicago, USA. Thanks for sharing this with me Frankie 🙂

A lovely drawing by very talented Frank McCabe

Clear Skies, Dale

Catching up!

Well I have been something of a bad man recently; I haven’t posted here on my blog for way to long!

So now I have a catch up to do, luckily I haven’t missed putting any serious observing sessions on, just a few trip out and bits and pieces!

Let me start with the BAA Deep Sky Section meeting way back on Sat 15th of March. I had a great day there in Northampton, with many friends from all over the UK, there were some great talks, a good lunch in a very nice Art Deco, ex-cinema building, called ‘The Deco’. I was delighted to have been asked to give a presentation, on observing the Hickson compact galaxy groups using a video camera. It was just a 30 minute slot so I didn’t need to bore anyone too much and being the first guest speaker after the Directors review of the year I didn’t notice anybody ‘nodding’ off.


Here is the programme and a few pictures taken by Adrian Orr


9:45 – Doors open – tea and coffee 

10:30 – Review of the year – Callum Potter

11:00 – Dale Holt – “Using a deep sky video camera to observe the Hickson Compact Galaxy groups”

11:30 – Stewart Moore – “Great Balls of Fire – The Glory of Globulars”

12:30 – Lunch

14:00 – Section observing programmes – Callum Potter, Paul Curtis, & Grant Privett

14:30 – Grant Privett – “Digging in the Dirt: Adventures with image noise”

15:00 – Ian Sharp – “Remote imaging the deep sky”

16:00 – Tea

16:30 – Prof. Albert Zijlstra (University of Manchester) – “Latest developments in planetary nebulae research”

17:30 – Close

Me presenting


Group picture by Callum

On Friday 21st of March I gave my annual talk to year 5 school children at the ‘Ralph Sadlier’ Middle School in Puckeridge, Hertfordshire to coincide with the National Science and Engineering week. Always fun, the audience of 9 year olds are approximately 100 strong and after my talk, each have the chance to ask me a question individually, some ask more than 1! This year the whole business took me about 21/2 hrs, I was shattered when I came away, those children keep you on your toes, you know!

I asked the school to send me on a picture of me presenting so I could share it hear but they failed to do so, therefore you will have to make do with one taken a few years back at the same event.

From a previous talk at Ralph Sadlier School


The Spring Equinox Star Party at Kelling Heath is always great fun, quieter and more relaxed than the autumn one and attended by the perhaps more ‘hardcore’ observers and imagers it is a great place to catch up with friends and enjoy some serious astronomy of the weather plays ball, this year it didn’t! However socially this was a classic for me, laughing, playing music with pals in the evening, chatting about astronomy I really enjoyed it. Those of you who know my very good friend Es Reid who comes with me will know that there is never a dull moment in his company and what with it coinciding with my 53rd birthday this year for me it was extra special.

Music Jam on a cloudy night, Steve Loveday on Guitar, me on Harmonica, Mike Atkins excited, Rodney relaxed 🙂

There was a little observing on Friday evening, when early on Jupiter looked quite good through a good number of scopes, and Mars showed hints of detail later when it rose in Gemini. I had taken along my big binoculars but also a fine Georgian 3” Mertz refractor, once owned by Will Hay the great comedy actor from the 20’s 30’s & 40’s who used it as his ‘travel scope’ a relatively fast doublet it gave incredibly colour free images on brighter objects and during moments of good seeing some very decent views under the conditions, the scope caused considerable interest.

Patrick Lindfield checks out the historic Hay Mertz refractor with Es Reid and Sue Napper in the background

On Saturday I got a wonderful lesson in watercolour painting from my very dear friend, and seriously talented artist and astronomer Sally Russell, a highlight from the 4 days for sure.

A highlight, my art lesson with Sally Russell

 Saturday evening saw a little poor observing, but this improved during the early hours of Sunday morning when I enjoyed some great observations under much clearer and transparent skies through my Pal Andrew Robertson’s outstanding 18” dobsonian scope.

The daytime weather was excellent on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, with just Thursday being wet and chilly upon our arrival, such a good time, I was really sad to leave.

Hope the pictures below taken by great friend Graham ‘Spadger’ Sparrow paint a vivid picture J


Best, Dale

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