Update on crashing Chinese spacecraft

Tiangong-1 is coming down but no one knows quite when or quite where. Might you get to see it as it burns up on re-entry? Full EarthSky story here.



The Ghost of Jupiter!

Saw this small, planetary nebula last night from our balcony whilst tuning the 200p Newtonian so grabbed a quick image. It’s the first time I’ve actually seen this and I am impressed, the colour is very strong and unusually green/blue. I will have a proper go at this another time.


NGC 3242
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Designations: Ghost of Jupiter, Jupiter’s Ghost, Eye Nebula, Caldwell 59

NGC 3242, commonly known as the Ghost of Jupiter, is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Hydra.
William Herschel discovered the nebula on February 7, 1785, and cataloged it as H IV.27.
This planetary nebula is most frequently called the Ghost of Jupiter, or Jupiter’s Ghost due to its similar size to the planet, but it is also sometimes referred to as the Eye Nebula.The nebula measures around two light years long from end to end, and contains a central white dwarf with an apparent magnitude of eleven. The inner layers of the nebula were formed some 1,500 years ago. The two ends of the nebula are marked by FLIERs, lobes of fast moving gas often tinted red in false-color pictures. NGC 3242 can easily be observed with amateur telescopes, and appears bluish-green to most observers. Larger telescopes can distinguish the outer halo as well.

NASA’s latest exoplanet-hunter

NASA’s newest exoplanet hunter, called TESS, is due to launch 16th April 2018. It has a field of view 400 times larger than the Kepler telescope. Full article here


Focuser upgrade

Today I did some work on our venerable but superb Skywatcher 200ps Newtonian telescope, adding a motorised focus control unit to make it easier to get a really good focus. I took the opportunity to attach the Canon 1100D DSLR to the focuser with a t2 spacer and tested it to make sure we had enough back focus for it. It’s all ready for imaging now. Happy stargazing!

HEQ5 Hypertune power up

So, we picked up the astro gear today from our lock up and powered up the HEQ5 Pro to see what it’s like since it had its Hypertune. It was very smooth and very quiet. Both axes are tight with no slop even when fully loaded and settling time is a few short seconds. Dark Frame Optics recommend these mounts are run at 13.8v for optimal performance so I made a voltage booster to be able to run it from a 12v source. It’s working nicely. I will get a first look at its tracking performance tonight but so far so very good!

Tenerife skies

credit: Stellarium

I still can’t get used to how different the night sky looks from Tenerife. At 28 degreees north of the equator, everything in the southern sky is higher than it would be back in the UK. Conversely, everything in the northern sky is lower than I’m used to and particularly in the case of Polaris, this looks quite odd. Indeed, Polaris is so low that it is easily obscured if you’re not in the open, often making polar alignment a challenge. The southern sky is a huge bonus though with more objects visible at decent elevations than at home including the galactic core which rises high in the sky. My favourite object that I don’t get to see at home is the constellation Scorpius, with its curved tail and bright red star, Antares at the head. It’s very prominent here and one of the few constellations that to me at least, actually looks like its namesake.

Given the clarity of the air here and low (although inescapable) light pollution, objects are visible and steady down to the horizon. The famous sea of clouds helps here by trapping pollutants and thermals at lower altitudes and diminishing the effect of the bright coastal resort lights. The stars don’t dance anything like they do at home and it’s great to see the great star Sirius, still and steady.

The sheer number of stars that are visible overhead makes it difficult to recognise my usual landmarks in the sky for the first couple of nights. The bright stars of the major constellations are lost in the brightness of the myriad stars on show and I need to work hard to orientate myself. There are so many more constellations to see too and one or two southern hemisphere targets can be glimpsed such as the fabulous Omega Centauri globular cluster and the Southern Cross constellation.

Being further south, the ecliptic is higher in the sky and therefore so are the planetary bodies of our solar system. Jupiter, Saturn and especially Mars, which is especially close to Earth this year, will present well and I’m planning on doing a lot of planetary imaging throughout the year.

Clear skies and happy stargazing everyone!

To boldly go…….

The voyage these probes have been on is really quite staggering and they’re still going! Who knows where they’ll end up but what a journey and what an engineering triumph for space exploration!

Click here for the full story.

Get live weather reports and forecasts for the mountain

We’ve just added a new tab to our menu that links to a mountain weather forecast. It also includes live data so it’s easy to check on the conditions before making a trip. Happy stargazing everyone!

Astro season starts!

Weather permitting we’ll be heading to Tenerife tomorrow for the start of our Astro Season. First on the agenda is to collect our new 4×4 and equip it for luxury trips into the Teide National Park in time for our first guests of the season later this month. We’re so excited to be able to be able to get off the normal tourist roads to some new and exciting locations. This year promises some excellent stargazing nights; Jupiter, Saturn and Mars especially will put on a show and most of the major meteor showers are unaffected by the Moon and as always the majestic Milky Way will be high in the sky throughout. Happy stargazing and clear skies!

What’s up in March?

Telescope House’s excellent sky guide for March is here

Soyuz With Expedition 54 Trio Aboard Returns to Earth

Click for NASA article

Meteor Shower guide for 2018

Click here for EarthSky’s excellent guide

Perseid meteor over Los Roques de Garcia


Ever wondered why the Moon is different every night or why you can sometimes see it during the day?

How the moon phases work (click here)

Crescent moon with earthshine

High performance equipment

Our HEQ5 Pro mount has been in for maintenance and has been professionally Hypertuned to give accurate unguided sub-arcsecond tracking of up to 10 minutes at a focal length of 500mm. Guided tracking will be even more impressive with exposures of beyond 30 minutes possible!

We’re looking forward to seeing what it can do, why not book an imaging trip with us and try it out for yourself?

This week’s weather on the mountain (2000m)

Very high winds and very cold temperatures ease towards the end of the week accompanied by some clear skies.



The Milky Way is back

We’re now into the time of year when the centre of the Milky Way, the Galactic Core is visible. You can catch it before dawn in the southern sky and each night it will rise earlier until it’s high in the sky just after sunset in the summer. Choose a moon-less night and get away from bright lights of the coast to enjoy this at its best.

Lucky, lucky, lucky!!!

Amateur astronomer captures a supernova’s 1st light

BEST OF MARCH SPECIAL EVENT stargazing with a large telescope at the Parador Hotel March 21st

Perseid meteor over Los Roques de Garcia
Perseid meteor over Los Roques de Garcia

BEST OF MARCH SPECIAL EVENT stargazing with a large telescope at the Parador Hotel on the morning of March 21st, only two tickets remaining. Just £75pp including transport from south coast resorts.


Jupiter Opposition 8th May 2018

Majestic Jupiter, king of the planets reaches opposition on the night of the 8th May this year and will be at its closest to Earth on May 10th. We’ll be running Jupiter watch sessions with our big telescopes throughout May which also sees a number of moon transits like the one pictured when you can watch one of the Galilean moons and its shadow cross the face of Jupiter.  Saturn and Mars are also up making this a great month for planetary observations and imaging!

Top 8 events to watch for this year