Plain Astronomy – the new SPOG Magazine

We’ve just published the first issue of Plain Astronomy, the new SPOG quarterly magazine.  This issue  features observing reports, Do It Yourself astronomy, book reviews, lunar notes and some deep sky notes.  Thanks are due to the contributors and those imagers who allowed us to use images.  The striking cover image of Stonehenge and Hale Bopp is used by very kind permission of Mr Philip Perkins of Astrocruise.

The magazine is available as a PDF (download here) or through Issuu where it can be read online.  Issuu is currently developing an Iphone/IPad reader so by the next issue we should be available on these too.

The next issue will be out around the end of June so do please send any observations, images, amateur telescope making ideas or just plain interesting things to do with astronomy.

Astro Basics – Part 1

Astronomy, the Earth’s Rotation and the Seasons

All of the stars and planets in the night sky appear to move as the night progresses, but they don’t. In fact, this apparent movement is due to the rotation of the earth on its axis – the same rotation that causes the sun to move in the daytime sky. Over the course of one hour the earth rotates 15 degrees on its axis, and so the stars appear to move 15 degrees. For comparison, the full moon occupies about ½ a degree.

So the stars and planets rise in the East, and set in the West. They all rotate in an anti-clockwise direction about a point known as the celestial pole – an imaginary point directly above the earth’s north pole. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, there is a star which happens to be almost exactly at this point. Polaris or the Pole Star is in Ursa Minor – the Little Bear – and all other objects appear to rotate around this one.

Continue reading

Location, Location, Location

One of the main joys of belonging to a group like SPOG is that it provides access to great stargazing locations which, as individuals, we don’t normally enjoy. Most of us live in populated areas, and sadly these days population = light pollution.

The most important thing to have when stargazing isn’t a fancy telescope, eyepiece or camera: it’s the same one you use for house-hunting: Location, Location, Location. The ideal stargazing location will:

  • Be free of light pollution, i.e. no street lighting or skyglow
  • Have a flat, unobstructed southern horizon (1)
  • Have a good level of personal security
  • Have hard standing
  • Have no vehicle traffic (2)
  • Be on public land
  • Have good vehicle access Continue reading

Scope Buyers Guide

What’s the most common question we are asked at SPOG? You guessed it, tis this one:

“I want to buy a telescope. Which one is the best?

This is a very common question, and with good reason: most first-time buyers find the vast array of telescope types, models and price points daunting. Now let me flip it around: what if someone asked you:

“I want to buy a car. Which one is the best?”

You’d reply “That depends – what is your budget and what do you want to use it for?” It’s the same with telescopes – so this is our cut-out and keep guide to buying a first scope.

Continue reading