Dale Holt on Film!

Back on August 20th I was visited by 2 gentlemen Steve Goodwin & Tom Marshall with a view to making a short documentary about Will Hay the astronomer. As the custodian of the Hay, Steavenson Telescope (HST) Calver telescope, and another small Merz refracting  telescope that Will Hay used on his travels along with books and signed photographs all of interest to Tom & Steve and of course to the Hay family and wider public with appreciation of the comic genius.

The filming and interviewing took over 4hrs and resulted in an 8min documentary film that was first screened in Birmingham on November 5th 2016, following the premier it was posted to You tube where it can be enjoyed by all, so do take a look here


Back out there


30th November 2016

Tonight I went for rather brighter targets that I had on Monday night. My Messier file showed my one and only sketch of glorious M74 had been made back in 2010 using the old 14″ telescope, so tonight was going to be an opportunity to point the scope into Pisces revisit and re-sketch M74.

I was very impressed by the numerous bright Ha star forming regions which I endeavoured to capture in my sketch below



I pushed on singling out NGC 515 intense observation, this is a mag 13 galaxy forming part of the overwhelming NGC 507 galaxy cluster.

What a lovely view the 20″reflector and Watec video camera gave me!

NGC 515

NGC 515


Clear Skies, Dale


Going Deep

Monday 28th November 2016

A hazy but clear sky saw me fire the 20″ up for some action. My wife had handed me a tight roll of A4 sheets that on unfurling turned out to be some S&T pages that my good friend Frank McCabe had sent me from Chicago back in Sept 2014! The Steve Gottlieb going deep article featured some obscure interacting galaxies in my favourite hunting grounds, in and around the great square of Pegasus. Now the software that drives my telescope is Carte du ciel, I’m not very good at using it, or maybe the ancient laptop that runs it is not up to the job? Anyhow most of the galaxies in the article were UGC’s and these only seem to be ‘here and there’ on my display, anyhow enough of that. I managed to find by star hoping UGC’s 12914 & 12915, called interestingly Taffy galaxies, it has been suggested to me that the Americans term toffee as Taffy and that these galaxies were seen to resemble the thin strip of stretched toffee that we can remember playing with before we chewed it as children. I of course captured my view in a sketch

Taffy Galaxies

Taffy Galaxies

I moved on seeking another pair of interacting galaxies to the left of the square below the magnificent NGC891 but unfortunately C du Ciel didn’t offer me the same stars as the finder chart gave or recognise UGC ‘S 1810 & 1813 so I failed to locate this duo 🙁

Hubbles view of UGC1810 & 1813

Hubbles view of UGC1810 & 1813

On adding the above illustrative image I find this duo are also catalogued as Arp 273, so I certainly need to return and have another go!

Moving on I looked at what my software offering locally and sent the scope there to take a look, NGC 305 turned out to be a diminutive but rather attractive barred spiral, well worth seeing and sketching 🙂 Note the 2 super faint smudges either side of a star directly above the main galaxy, these are of course distant galaxies 🙂



A couple of good ones from Frank in Arizona

These are great, thanks Frank 🙂

Harbinger Mountains with Prinz & Kreiger

Harbinger Mountains with Prinz & Kreiger

Prinz, Kreiger, Harbinger Mountain Region

The kilometer high rim of Prinz (47 km.) crater was casting a shadow across its own lava flooded floor. The uplifted Harbinger mountains were also casting fine shadows in this region with its large magma ponds pushing up and freezing in the distant past. The uplifting doming in the region created many fissures for lava escape and flooding to occur. Several fissures could be seen clearly on this night of steady seeing conditions. From the crater Krieger (22 km.) north and somewhat east of Aristarchus (not in this sketch) four distinct long shadows could be seen crossing the edge of the Aristarchus plateau where the terminator was located during the rendering of this sketch. In addition to these features the following are included in the sketch: Angstrom (9.8 km.), Wollaston (10 km.), Artsimovich (9 km.), Van Biesbroeck (10 km.), Dorsa Argand and the Prinz rilles.


Sketching was somewhat challenging for me without my drive platform for the scope.




For this sketch I used: black Canson paper, white and black Conte’

pastel pencils and blending stumps, white Pearl eraser

Telescope: 16 inch f/ 4.4 Dobsonian and 9 mm eyepiece 199x

Date: 11-11-2016, 01:00 – 02:35 UT

Temperature: 22° C (72° F)


Seeing: Antoniadi I-II (very good)


Frank McCabe


Crater Gassendi

Crater Gassendi

Gassendi Crater,


Protruding inside the northern rim of the Mare Humorum is the large floor

fractured crater Gassendi. If you close your eyes and try to picture in your mind

a large lunar crater, the image may look something like Gassendi. The 114 km.

walled plain crater is shallow as a result of lava upwellings beneath the floor,

especially toward the east side where the highest concentrations of floor fractures are located

and crisscrossing.  The shallow south end is tipped facing the center of Mare Humorum.

The northern end of the crater floor is rubble strewn and hummocky. The eastern

floor sports ridges and small craters in addition to rilles which were clearly

visible in the good seeing of this night. The southern floor has an irregular

ridge that is parallel to the low rim. The large central peaks (1.2 km. high) and

several smaller ones were seen in good relief with sharp black shadows. The deep

crater Gassendi A (32 km.) on the north rim of the larger Gassendi contrasted nicely with

respect to depth.

Shallower and smaller Gassendi B (25 km.) is just north-north-west of A.  Mare

Humorum is estimated to be 3.9 billion years old and Gassendi perhaps 100 million

years younger. If Apollo 17 planners had chosen Gassendi as the last lunar landing

site we would likely know the ages more accurately today.





For this sketch I used: black Canson paper, 9”x12”, white and

black Conte’ pastel pencils and a blending stump and White pearl eraser.


Telescope: 16 inch f/ 4.4 Dobsonian 6mm eyepiece 298 x

Date: 11-11-2016 3:05-4:45 UT

Temperature: 18°C (66°F)

Clear, calm

Seeing:  Antoniadi II


Frank McCabe



Nice Lunar photograph

photo from 6:30 am this morning 23-10-16. Clear sky, twilight Chicago USA

photo from 6:30 am this morning 23-10-16. Clear sky, twilight Chicago USA

Frank McCabe

More from Frank McCabe

A great low power sketch from Frank made with a small scope

Furnerius to Langrenus on the terminator

Furnerius to Langrenus on the terminator

60 Degrees East Longitude

Just two days past full Moon the four walled plain craters along the 60° E longitudinal line were just about to experience sunset.  I was hoping to sketch crater Langrenus but the seeing was terrible and the wind was gusting over 40mph. I returned indoors to get my 4.25 inch f/5 Dobsonian and put away the larger telescope. It is not my best effort but the warm air and clear skies were calling.




For this sketch I used: black Strathmore 400 Artagain paper, 9”x12”, white and

black Conte’pastel pencils and a blending stump.


Telescope: 4.25 inch f/ 5 Dobsonian and 9mm eyepiece 60x

Date: 10-18-2016 4:45-5:15 UT

Temperature: 21°C (70°F)

Clear, very windy

Seeing:  Antoniadi  IV poor

Co longitude: 113.8°

Lunation:  17 days

Illumination:  95 %


Frank McCabe J

Good work from Frank

I have just had the pleasure of receiving this in my in-box from Frank in Chicagoland, well worth sharing I think 🙂

Northern Crater J Herschel and surrounding area

Northern Crater J Herschel and surrounding area

Northern Lunar Crater J Herschel


The sun was rising across the 165 km wide irregular floor of this walled plain

crater at the time of this observation. J Herschel is a pre-Nectarian crater and

in the observing light was showing off its rubbly, slightly convex floor. With the Imbrium basin formation taking place a couple of hundred million years after the J Herschel forming impact; it is easy to see why this crater looks so old and battered. The well-defined outer rim to the south (up in

this sketch) has its rampart buried under the lavas of Mare Frigoris.



For this sketch I used: Black Canson sketching paper, Black and White Conte’ pastel pencils, a white Pearl eraser, blending stumps and a small brush.

Telescope: 10 inch f/ 5.7 Dobsonian and 6 mm eyepiece 241X

Date: 10-12-2016, 01:45-02:40 UT

Temperature: 18° C (64° F)

Clear, calm

Seeing: Antoniadi III

Colongitude 39.3 °

Lunation 10.9 days

Illumination 76.4 %


Frank McCabe


I hope to be back with some of my own stuff soon 🙂  Dale

Inspired by Kelling

Arriving home from Kelling Heath on Monday 3rd of October I was obviously fired up with this astronomy business so when the Sun set leaving a cool clear evening I fired up my observatory and made a few sketches. The Webb Deep Sky Society’s web page showed Wolfgang Steinicke’s object of the summer season to be the Saturn nebula NGC 7009 in Aquarius and so I went to this object first. The view on the monitor was interesting rather than striking as this planetary nebula is a bright object and the longer exposure time required to show the ansae thus over exposing the central region making it impossible to detect structure and the central star.

NGC 7009 The Saturn nebula

NGC 7009 The Saturn nebula

I made a drawing and then moved onto some of the other local attractions, M72 a stunning globular looked spectacular on the monitors through both the 20” mirror and the 6” refractor displaying simultaneously. I started a white on black sketch but soon made a proportional error and abandoned it and moved onto the very much simpler M73 an asterism that Charles Messier mistook for a comet in his small optically poor telescope on October 4th 1780, so here I was observing this wedge of stars just one day before the anniversary of its discovery, I like that 🙂  Thinking that I had not sketched this before, I did so, finding out upon filing in the Messier folder that I had sketched it already, well at least it was easy.

M73 an asterism of stars

M73 an asterism of stars


I noted that close to the Saturn nebula there was a galaxy indicated so I took a look, the video camera showed NGC 7010 readily with a bright core extending one end looking rather square compared to the other a tiny faint galaxy was noted off to the left and was captured in my sketch. I doubt this galaxy is observed very often, being passed over for it more glamorous neighbours.

NGC 7010 a galaxy close to the Saturn Nebula in Aquarius

NGC 7010 a galaxy close to the Saturn Nebula in Aquarius


Until next time, Dale

A great time at Kelling Heath

My close friend Es Reid and I spent 4 nights at the Autumn Equinox ‘Star Party’ at Kelling Heath, North Norfolk in the comfort of my aging touring caravan.

We enjoyed observing on 3 of the 4 nights with some memorable views using my 14” Darkstar Dob, Andrew Robertson’s 24” Dob, Rod Greening’s 22” Dob, Mike Atkin’s & Tom Moss Davies 16” Dob’s and last but far from least, Steve Loveday’s amazing 8” binoculars.


The views that stand out in my mind are everything that I looked at through Steve’s binoculars, 2 eyefuls certainly exceed mono observing by quite a margin, and detail in the huge 8” binoculars appeared very similar to that shown in my 14”, especially of the Veil nebula in Cygnus which got lots of attention over the 3 nights.


Andrew’s mighty 24” with its ultra precise goto and super steady tracking blew me away with easy sightings of the central stars in M57 ‘The Ring nebula’ in Lyra and NGC 7662 aka the ‘Blue Snowball’ in Andromeda.


Other interesting observations were made in the seemingly numerous pairs of the low power Vixen 2.1×42 Constellation binoculars http://www.vixenoptics.com/Vixen-2-1×42-Super-Wide-Binocular-p/19172.htm  that were floating around, Harvey Scoot let me try his out. The views through which were just what you wished your unaided eyes could show you under a dark clear sky, namely, M13 easy, M33, the North American neb etc. It would be great to be able to wear these binoculars like glasses as terrestrial vision was undistorted and not overly magnified too so you could safely walk around with them on, perhaps such a development will happen in the near future? If they do we can all walk around at Kelling looking like ‘Minions’



For me a chance to brush up on my totally rust encrusted star hoping skills from the past to locate objects was great if somewhat frustrating fun! Night one I was pretty useless but night by night I improved finding objects such as NGC6229 the 3rd globular cluster in Hercules with ease, the beautiful Crescent nebula in Cygnus and NGC6207 a faint galaxy close to star central M13.


Star gazing forms only part of the joy of Kelling, the laughter, banter and pranks are endless, day & night they continue with friends, making it such a precious time  🙂


Curry night with Spadge (Graham Sparrow) cooking up another superhot veggie curry in my caravan will go down in ‘hedgerow history’ I will say no more but others who were there or close and read this will know what I mean. I must mention an early morning visit from Jack Martin the ultra passionate Londoner Spectroscopist totally bent on demonstrating to Es and I the Suns spectrum via a Victorian grating and using the reflection of the Suns rays from the handle of his tin opener! All the time Jack was protesting about the fact, or possibly his fact that only 1% of astronomers understood and appreciated the importance of spectroscopy in understanding the Universe and its formation and composition.


Unfortunately I took few pictures being too busy sampling fine Malt Whisky and home made beer, but I did catch one of Gain Lee’s incredible scope display on his pitch, proving that one just can’t have enough telescopes 🙂

Gain Lee's many telescopes

Gain Lee’s many telescopes

Looking forward to Spring Kelling next April 2017 with perhaps a visit inbetween to the Haw Wood star party!


Bye for now, Dale

A couple of planetaries in Aquila

Back in August using the 6″ refractor fitted with a flip mirror and Watec camera I picked up planetary nebula NGC 6772 this was a new object for me. The PN appeared as a round featureless smudge on the monitor via the small aperture, it was unfortunate that the 20″ wasn’t operational due to focusing issues! Kepple & Sanner list this object as being of mag 12.7 with a mag 18.2 central star, all I was able to see is shown in the sketch below made on the evening of Aug 6th 2016 N is up.

NGC 6772

NGC 6772

I have been struggling with the 20″ mirror cell since it was put into the existing open tube, it simply would not hold the mirror in collimation as we moved around the sky, Es Reid to whom I’m eternally grateful to for his great technical ability and endless patience has modded the cell a few times try to eliminate the problem each time improving it substantially, the last modification certainly stiffened the whole set up keeping the 20″ and piggy backed 6″ refractor pointing at the same piece of sky. The modification however pushed the mirror forward which mean’t the camera a prime focus was no longer focused on the starry firmament correctly, I tried using the Moon and bright stars on a number of occasions to get this rectified,, however it became plain that to do so was beyond my agricultural skills and one pair of hands! Fortunately Es came to rescue on Sept 7th determined to rectify the issue and get the scope operational once more.

Well he did it but it wasn’t easy taking him a good few hours and plenty of head scratching, the issue was that focus fell just between camera location positions and max in and out motor focuser settings! Es over came this by shifting the mirror in the cell to a position were focus on the camera chip could be made with the camera locked into one of the variable positions, allowing the focus motor to bring the image into focus, through focus and back into focus, hoorah! and thank you Esmo my friendly boffin 🙂

Es clowning around during adjustments to the 20"

Es clowning around during adjustments to the 20″

With the 20″ now operational again I was delighted that the next evening was clear giving me a chance to get back to business. I ‘zeroed’ the scope on Altair then looked for something interesting close by to look at and sketch. The object I chose happened to be a Planetary Neb NGC 6804, there was nice detail on the monitor, the central mag 14.4 star was very obvious, some regions of the disc showed darker mottling and there was a hint of extended nebulosity to the South, it was great to be back in business again and starting with a new object, after sketching in pencil on white sketch paper it was shut down and bed, these days work is physical and sleep is more precious than when I was a dosy office boy 😉

NGC 6804 a planetary nebula in Aquila

NGC 6804 a planetary nebula in Aquila




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