Sunday, January 02, 2011


By Ken Harrison

For those folk with stars in their eye, may I remind you of the BBC 2's programme, 'Stargazing Live' starting Monday 3rd - then on the 4th and 5th at 8pm.
To get a few light-years start, so to speak, and to do a bit of basic groundwork before the programme starts, the first few days of January give local folk a fantastic chance to spot the 5.8th magnitude planet Uranus.
Allow your eyes time to adjust to the darkness, ideally away from street lamps and other light sources. In the darkness, be careful of black holes!
Uranus will lie just above the planet Jupiter which is dominating the south-western sky - visible with the naked eye after sunset, just below the square of Pegasus in Pisces. Uranus stays within half a degree of Jupiter over the first 3 days of January so will be easily spotted with binoculars.
Focus on Jupiter in the centre of the field of view and Uranus will be seen just above.
If you have a small telescope with a magnification of around 100 it should sufficient to show you that it has a turquoise disc.

Jupiter: Named after Roman God - 5th planet from Sun - largest planet in Solar System

Uranus: Named after Greek deity - 7th planet from the Sun - 3rd largest in Solar System

1 comment:

Ken Harrison said...

It's a pity that there's been some cloud cover over the last few days.
It would be nice to have a clear sky to see the heavens, but cloud cover does give us some insulation from the cold and perhaps these last few nights would have been comparatively colder without it.

Any road up, Nige, I've mentioned binoculars in me article....every household should have binoculars.
Very useful for sailors, train-spotters (nudge, nudge, Scribs)....and for spotting whether a tile has moved on your roof, or if the flaunching around the chimney has crumbled away.

Size varies - depending on use - ie 7x25, 8x60, 10x20 etc.

The first figure represents the degree of magification. So 10x = that the image will be 10 tens bigger that the naked eye image.

The second number indicates the size of the front lens in mm. The diameter of the front lens is important as it governs the amount of light that can enter the binoculars. (Look at opera glasses - simple, but with relatively big front lenses to allow the viewer to see the stage in bright colours)

Small compact binoculars have their uses - I have a pair 10x20 - very useful for carrying about in pocket, but useful only when light conditions are good. Obviously images become dark when light has faded.

Unfortunately, very few people understand how to correctly use centre focus binoculars -

Apart from the most simple binoculars - most have a cenral adjusting wheel, or ferrule...and while (normally) the left eye-piece is fixed, the righT eye-piece is able to rotate to allow fine adjustments.

Aim your binoculars at something in the distance.

Close the right eye (or cover the front of the right tube), and focus the left side of the binocular to your left eye using the centre focusing wheel.

Next, close your left eye (or cover the front of the left tube), and focus the right eye-piece to your right eye. DO NOT touch the centre focus control while you are finely focusing the right eye-piece to your right eye.

Now you are finished.

What you have just done is adjust the binoculars for your individual eyes. (Practically everybody's left and right eyes are different.)

From now on, you only need to adjust the centre focus wheel when you look at things at different distances.

No need to spend a fortune on binoculars - if they haven't been abused and have been kept in case -very little can/will go wrong. One can snap up second-hand binoculars from charity shops, or even Brown's auctions in Brigg by waving a few pound notes about!

Wonder if the cloud will go tonight?