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Where possible, components are sourced from within the UK, including some bespoke parts. The optical tube itself is completely hand-made in England.
Because this fine telescope is hand assembled and in the case of some elements, hand-made, each example is individual and indeed, completely unique.
Situated near the Bentley automobile factory, the region obviously has no shortage of skilled labour. That might also have something to do with the great success story of company founder Barry Pemberton.
Sensing a change in the wind, the company invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology as well as some of the finest optical technicians anywhere in the world.
To give you an idea of the attention to detail the company go to, each optical surface is tested up to 29 times as it passes through its many processes of being turned from a blank piece of glass to a highly accurate figured mirror or lens.
In addition, their products have found their way into universities and private businesses the length and breadth of the country.
The key to their collective success is a mixture of perseverance, innovation and an erudite reading of market trends. Image credit: Neil English.
From to Accurist enjoyed a unique association with the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, starting with the provision of an atomic clock that recorded the time for the world.
In , Accurist supplied the official Millennium Countdown clock. Accurist has now released this Limited Edition Celestial timepiece which has been inspired by more than years of astronomical heritage at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
The Celestial Timepiece is a precisely designed analogue quartz watch that displays the correct positions of the constellations as they move across the sky.
It is beautifully constructed out of stainless steel, with a scratch resistant sapphire glass and elegant butterfly clasp, on a genuine calf leather strap, and has all the high quality hallmarks you would expect from the master watchmakers Accurist.
Valid from Expiry Date CSC No Last 3 digits on signature strip Each watch comes in a beautiful wooden presentation box together with a magnifying glass so you can read the incredible information contained on the watch face.
In perfect detail, the dial shows the positions of fixed stars with a brightness of at least 4. In addition to displaying the time, date and month, the Celestial watch shows the azimuth bearing and altitude of the major fixed stars, nebulae, galaxies and star clusters, and displays local sidereal star time and stellar spectral type.
It also assists in the calculation of the position of the sun, the time of sunrise and sunset, and thus the hours of darkness when astronomical observations may be made.
Each watch is individually numbered and comes with a certificate of authenticity. Daytime tel. How to order 1 Directly from our website www.
Trying to visualise this mythical animal amongst the dismal fourth magnitude stars that make up the constellation pattern is, to say the least, a challenge.
Monoceros would be a vague constellation even away from the Milky Way, but superimposed on top of scores of fainter naked eye stars it can be an almost invisible pattern!
Use a small telescope with a decent magnification and it reveals itself as that splendid triple star. William Herschel thought it was one of the finest examples in the sky.
All three stars magnitudes 4. The stars reside some light years from our Solar System. Epsilon lies just half a degree east of the border with Orion and two degrees west of the famous Rosette Nebula and star cluster.
The fourth magnitude star that lives roughly at the centre of Monoceros carries the designation delta d and is an unremarkable object light years distant.
Thirteen degrees to its south-east you will find alpha a Mon. Immediately to the north-east of Monoceros lies the tiny constellation of Canis Minor, whose two principle stars put those of the Unicorn firmly in the shade.
These stars are Procyon and Gomeisa. At only Image: Olly Penrice. Located in south-western Pisces, Jupiter is approaching the end of what has been a rather memorable apparition, an evening object well worth viewing and imaging.
Appearing late in this apparition, the SEB revival has produced a notable darkening of the belt that can be followed through relatively small telescopes, as darker clouds have flowed westward in longitude from the point of revival.
At the time of writing, the SEB has revived along degrees of its length, and may extend fully around the globe by the time this report is published.
The young crescent moon glides a few degrees north of the giant planet on 10 January, and passes by it again in the evening skies of 6 and 7 February.
By the end of January Jupiter sets in the south-west, around four-and-a-half hours after the Sun. The shadow of the globe on the rings is broad and obvious, and the shadow of the rings on the globe falls north of the rings.
By the end of January Saturn rises at 11pm and transits the meridian at am, 35 degrees high; this gives around a five-hour window to view Saturn at a good height in dark skies.
Jupiter slowly moves east of Uranus, but during the first ten days of January the two planets are separated by less than one degree.
The Moon and inner planets The brightest lunar occultation visible from the UK this month is the disappearance at the dark limb of the waxing gibbous moon aged From London the disappearance takes place at am; from Edinburgh the star disappears at am.
Mercury is a morning object during January. A slender waning crescent moon, Mercury reaches greatest elongation on 9 January, some Throughout January and February, Venus is a morning object.
The planet reaches its greatest elongation west on 8 January, some 47 degrees from the Sun, rising at am.
On this morning the Does the disc of Venus look at dichotomy half-phase at this time? The shower is in favourable skies this year, as the Quadrantid radiant can be observed under Moon-free conditions.
Quadrantid observing is practical from about midnight onwards; although their Zenithal Hourly Rates ZHRs vary from year to year, with recent highs of around , maximum usually takes place over a short, sharp, time period, so observers need to be alert and vigilant.
Remember, if spending any time outside to observe meteors, you need to wrap up warm. A deck chair can provide the most pleasurable viewing angle but be careful not to fall asleep in the cold, and bring a flask out with you to avoid having to go back inside and ruining your dark adapted eyes.
S unrise on 4 January will appear rather special from the UK, when the crescent of a partially eclipsed Sun will emerge through the wintry haze near the south-eastern horizon.
The eclipse begins at am, more than an hour before sunrise over the UK. Maximum is reached at am, just as the Sun rises in the south-east, when around 75 percent of the left side of the Sun will be hidden by the Moon from London.
The further north and west the viewing point from the UK, the later the rising time and less the magnitude of the eclipsed Sun will be.
From Birmingham, for example, the eclipsed Sun rises at am and is 73 percent eclipsed; from Glasgow the Sun rises at am and the coverage of the Sun will be 50 percent.
Maximum is reached at am, and the eclipse ends at am. From London, the eclipse ends at am when the Sun has climbed to around eight degrees above the horizon.
The shadow moves eastward, producing a partial eclipse over Western Europe. From Madrid, 58 percent of the Sun will be covered at maximum; from Paris, 73 percent, London 75 percent and from Copenhagen 83 percent of the Sun is obscured.
Further south, the extent of coverage will be less pronounced. From Cairo, 55 percent of the Sun will be covered at maximum, Jerusalem sees 57 percent and Tehran experiences 51 percent coverage.
Central Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northwest China will see the setting of a partially eclipsed Sun. Many unsuspecting viewers on their way to school, college or work that morning may glimpse the spectacle through a misty sky and possibly perceive that they are viewing a rising crescent moon.
Such misperceptions have often been reported. Many years ago I once received in my capacity as SPA Lunar Section Director a naked eye observation of the crescent moon; I had the sad task of informing the young observer that they had observed the partial phases of a total lunar eclipse, and that they had missed out on seeing a particularly lovely totality!
Safe observing Under normal circumstances, the Sun is a million times too bright to view directly with the unaided eye, so extreme care must be taken when observing the Sun.
One need only think of the burning power of a magnifying glass to realise what concentrated, focused sunlight might do to an unprotected eye.
Special solar viewing shades using aluminised Mylar filters can be used for viewing partial solar eclipses. Additionally, the shades should never be taken apart and their filters used for makeshift whole aperture filters for very small telescopes such as finderscopes.
Whole aperture solar filters that cover the lens or corrector plate of the telescope allow the observer to view the Sun safely through the telescope eyepiece, enabling those with camera equipment to image using the prime focus, eyepiece projection or afocal methods.
There are two main types of solar filter: aluminised Mylar filters and glass Inconel filters. One useful tip when producing a wide-angle image is to place the eclipsed Sun to one side of the frame, rather than at the centre; it looks more picturesque this way.
The Moon will cover the Sun by a similar extent this January. Image: Richard Best. Image: Brian Beesley. But even with quite normal equipment, these events which typically last for a second or two at most, so you have to be ready and imaging with a high frame rate camera can be caught.
Ideally set up and practice a while before the transit event, and make sure your focus is good on any solar surface The solar disc in hydrogen-alpha showing several prominences, imaged on 27 October with a Lunt 60 double stacked and a Skynyx 2.
Image: Sheri Lynn Karl. During late October and early November, our nearest star was throwing off a few medium sized flares B-Class in some of the active regions observed, and some dramatic prominences scattered around the limb meant that hydrogen-alpha and Calcium K-line observers had a good month.
White light is still not back up to speed though, with only a few smallish sunspots gracing the disc. However, all is not lost for the white light aficionado, with some fleeting visitors making for interesting targets of opportunity as they fly across the Sun.
What do I mean? If you visit a website like www. Some truly remarkable images of this have NEVER look directly at the Sun with your naked eye, and especially not through the eyepiece of an unfiltered telescope, or you risk instant and permanent blindness.
The safest method by far is the projection method, or else use specialist solar telescopes like the Coronado Personal Solar Telescope PST or filters bought only from reputable dealers.
In white light, the contrast of the ISS will be clear as it crosses the disc, and whilst the same is true in hydrogenalpha and Calcium K, at these wavelengths you may be lucky enough to capture the ISS as it crosses over a large prominence, pre-contact with the solar limb.
If you do manage to capture this uncommon event, then be sure to send your images in to our Picture gallery!
Marius itself 41 kilometres across is a flooded crater, rather unremarkable in appearance. Low magnification on a small telescope will show the area as an ill-defined dusky area, but a high magnification view through a mm aperture reveals a stunning collection of at least a hundred domes and remarkable elongated dome-like ridges spread among wrinkle ridges covering an area of about 40, square kilometres.
In late , an entirely new kind of lunar feature was discovered. What could have caused it? Well, the Marius Hills area is known to have been a major centre of late lunar volcanic activity in which lava-formed structures abound.
Lava tubes are formed when fast-flowing lava cools at the surface and solidifies, leaving a sub-surface river of lava that creates a cavity once it has flowed along onto the surface.
Scientists had long speculated that such features might exist on the Moon, but this was the first proof of their existence.
Since then, more lunar holes have been identified, including one in Mare Ingenii Sea of Cleverness measuring metres across; oddly enough, this particular hole appears in a relatively smooth tract of mare and on the face of it is unconnected with any lava tube or mare ridge.
Because the sunlight makes a narrow angle with the edge of the ridge the cavern is in deep shadow. It is essential to explore this feature, as nothing like it has been seen before.
This feature could have been formed when a river of fast-flowing molten lava cooled and solidified on the outer surface yet remained hot and fluid underneath.
As the source of molten lava dried up a long tubular cavity was left behind. The interior walls appear to be tightly striated.
But no stalactites hang down from this cave, for such features are the result of thousands of years of fluid water depositing minerals, and the Moon is an entirely dry world.
As an experiment the main lights are switched off and the ultraviolet UV light turned on. The cameras record signs of fluorescence as certain minerals in the rocks convert UV light to visible light.
Through a tiny crack in the roof, the cavern is acting as a natural camera obscura! The chances are that such a scene exists and awaits discovery.
The moons will also pass behind Jupiter an occultation. Dates are marked at midnight at the start of each day.
All times are GMT. Yes, aperture fever existed even then! However, there were a few nagging exceptions such as the Orion Nebula, in which changes were believed to have been seen.
Here he saw a nebulous object surrounding a star and he had no doubt they were associated. This object, which was later catalogued as NGC , was placed into his category of class IV objects, or planetary nebulae.
In physical terms NGC is a moderately high excitation planetary nebula and the central star seen in images is not the one that formed the nebula.
The true source of the nebula must be a companion to the observed central star and hence the system must be a binary.
The planetary itself consists of a number of bubbles and recent infrared observations from the WISE satellite have shown a completely unexpected pair of rings around the object visible only in infrared light.
To the visual observer with a medium-sized telescope this is quite a faint object and views will be enhanced by using a UHC or O III filter.
Owners of a large telescope will be able to see quite a lot of structure in the nebula using an O III filter.
The faintness and size of this object does mean that clear dark skies are required to bring the best of it out. Image: Jim Misti.
For imagers the challenge is to bring out the faint outer halo around this object and the internal structure. Venus reaches greatest elongation west 47 degrees on 8 January and is a brilliant sight in the morning sky.
Mars is too close to the Sun to be seen. Jupiter is an early evening object setting by pm at the end of January.
Saturn is an improving morning object, rising by midnight mid-month. Uranus is close to Jupiter all month, with a very close conjunction on 2 January.
Neptune is an early evening object that becomes a difficult proposition in the second half of the month.
Dwarf planet Pluto technically reappears in the morning sky but is really too close to the Sun to be easily seen.
Dwarf planet Ceres is in conjunction with the Sun on 31 January. January phenomena 2 2pm Jupiter is 0. Small telescopes will easily show the small, bright nucleus of this tenth magnitude galaxy but large apertures will be needed to see spiral structure.
Finding your way around Find a place to stargaze, preferably away from bright, artificial lights. Look south the Sun will set approximately on your right.
By holding the star map with north at the top in front of you, the lower half of the map will represent the part of the sky you are facing.
Looking north, turn the map upside down, so that south is at the top; again, the lower half of the map will represent the part of the sky you are facing.
The centre of the map is the zenith directly overhead. W hile the brilliant winter constellations sparkle overhead, the lights of our cities, highways and neighbourhoods compete from below.
The unfortunate reality of deep sky observing is that most observers need to travel long distances from home to enjoy rich views of these delicate, distant wonders.
Photographs of the night sky comparing the dark countryside to bright urban settings can also do much to dramatically depict the effects of light pollution.
Since our eyes respond to these sights differently than a camera records them, sketching also becomes an excellent way to show how seriously our views are compromised.
Drawing the same field from a dark site and again from a light polluted site, can clearly demonstrate the effect a bright sky has on these objects.
Not only will such an exercise generate a reference of views from dark and light polluted sites for your own records, but you can also use those sketches to easily describe the effects to others.
Use a blending stump to apply graphite to the brighter portions of the nebula, and then add the fainter structures.
Use the star field as a guide when positioning these features. Optionally use the blending stump to lightly apply a halo of glare around the brightest stars.
However, this intricacy and the great dynamic range it possesses make it an excellent gauge of sky brightness.
In this example, we will start with a sketch of M42 and M43 as observed from a dark observing site.
Under dark, clear conditions, the Orion Nebula is a beautifully complex, mottled bowl, punctuated along its north-eastern hemisphere by bold, arching wings emerging from the brilliant box of nebulosity surrounding the Trapezium.
Sketching this magnificent sight is no small task, but well worth the effort. Field stars first Begin by plotting the star field with HB and 2H pencils.
Start with the brightest stars HD lead , and then use these stars to estimate the position of fainter ones 2H lead. As usual, working from wider arrangements of stars to closer arrangements will help place them more accurately.
Scribble a dark patch of graphite with your HB pencil on an unused stretch of paper. Now that the large, soft form of the nebula is in place, switch to your blending stump.
Load it with graphite from the scribbled patch you just made and begin shading some of the more crisply defined sections of the nebula.
Use the field stars to guide your placement of these features. Finish defining the brighter features, including the comma-like shape of M Then work your way systematically around the nebula lightly adding the more delicate, softly defined features you encounter.
Try to pick out as many details as possible so that your sketch captures all the wealth a dark sky has to offer.
If necessary, apply more shading to the wings and M The box-like nebulosity surrounding the Trapezium is not only bright, but also possesses some very hard edges that a blending stump may not handle well.
Try using your 2H pencil to darken it further. By using light, short strokes, you can darken it and give it more crisply defined edges. Look for irregularities in brightness as you do this so you can give a sense of its crumpled complexity.
Look around the star field and adjust the brightness of any stars that were dulled during the shading process. Some of the stars here are very bright.
Applying a light halo around them with your blending stump can help portray that brilliance in your finished sketch. At some point during your observation, take a moment to estimate or measure the local sky brightness and include that information in your observing notes.
Use a blending stump to shade the nebula as it appears under more light polluted conditions. Making a comparison Before heading out to make your comparison sketch, take advantage of all the hard work you put into the star field of your original drawing.
Use transfer tracing paper to trace the brighter stars from your original sketch onto a new sheet of paper and take this template with you when you make your next sketch under a brighter setting.
Stars that appeared brilliant under a dark sky may now seem stifled by the brighter background. When your star field is ready, take your blending stump and use the same shading process as before to create the nebula.
Be sure to estimate or measure the sky quality and describe it in your notes. If you plan to scan and invert your sketches to be displayed as positives, you can take things a step further.
As enlightening as this process is on a personal level, your sketches can also become a helpful resource for others to see the enormous effect light pollution has on our ability to examine and enjoy the remarkable universe that surrounds us.
If you create a set of comparative sketches under dark and light polluted conditions, please consider sharing them at gallery astronomynow.
Visit www. Visit his website at www. All images: Jeremy Perez. Martin Mobberley recommends some splendid deep sky objects that are well placed this month and, because of their northerly declinations, are also observable all year around from UK latitudes.
A circumpolar jaunt S trangely, many of the far northern deep sky objects that are well above the UK horizon for the whole year so-called circumpolar objects are the least viewed.
Maybe this is because many British amateurs make a good south-facing observatory their top priority and find a tall tree always blocking their north horizon?
One seriously neglected circumpolar object is the first one on our tour, NGC 1 in Cepheus. Unfortunately it contains mainly thirteenth and fourteenth magnitude stars which will only reveal themselves well in apertures of mm and larger.
However, the cluster does have a certain attraction, if only because it is so ancient. It is here that we will find the large and bright galaxy IC 3 , which transits around 8pm in mid-January and spans more than 20 arcminutes.
The earliest known reference to it appears to be by the British comet discoverer W F Denning, in the early s. Now for a much more impressive object: the magnificent galaxy NGC 4.
Being a further four hours east in right ascension than IC , NGC will transit close to midnight by mid-month. Seven years ago the eleventh magnitude supernova dj, discovered by the tireless Japanese hunter Koichi Itagaki, became one of the brightest in recorded history.
Its light curve in decline is one of the best recorded by amateur astronomers. In colour CCD images a steely blue spiral structure is visible with subtle pink hydrogen regions signifying the star forming H II regions.
Lynx is not the most exciting constellation and you might regard 19 Lyncis as its high point! However, as the constellation pattern is so vague you may need setting circles or experienced star-hopping to pin it down.
Staying in Lynx, but plunging more than 16 degrees south, will get you to the next object in this tour, the globular cluster NGC 6.
M13 is a hundred times brighter! NGC is a huge intergalactic freak: a massive globular more distant than the Magellanic Clouds!
We will round off this tour with a few more Messier objects. First, let us dig out that famous galaxy duo of M81 and M82 7.
Spanning 25 arcminutes M81 is a real treat, with spiral arms obvious in any modest telescope. Smaller M82 looks more of a ghostly splinter to the visual observer, but that violent active galactic centre, brought out in deep CCD images, is impressive and a bit spooky too.
The Owl is one of the fainter Messier objects and for telescopes smaller than mm in aperture an O III filter will make the difference between it being elusive and being easy.
At slightly more than three arcminutes across M97 is quite a large planetary nebula and the two dark patches give it the distinctive owl-like face.
Star hopping the two degrees from Merak to M97 is easy, but no sane visual observer will fail to pause two-thirds of the way to the Owl where the fine Messier galaxy M also lives!
Circumpolar highlights NGC 40 A planetary nebula listed second in the Caldwell catalogue, the central dying star has a surface temperature of 50, degrees Celsius.
The core often takes on a fairly star-like appearance to visual observers. Image: Robert Gendler. Messier 81 Visible in binoculars as a smudge of light, and in small telescopes with a granular core and mottled spiral arms, M81 is one of the best galaxies of the night sky.
Image: Mark Shelley. Martin Mobberley is a regular contributor to Astronomy Now. His latest book Hunting and Imaging Comets has just been published.
The most northerly of this group is epsilon Hydrae, the duplicity of which was noted by Wilhelm Struve in The companion C was four magnitudes fainter than epsilon at a distance of about 3.
This pair is easily accessible today to apertures of mm or so, although the rather low declination means that the stars need a reasonably clear and steady air to be seen well.
The period of this pair is years and at the time of writing C is 2. In Otto Struve suspected an elongation in the primary star itself and in Giovanni Schiaparelli confirmed this close companion to A at a distance of 0.
This pair turns out to have a period of only 15 years and is currently approaching widest separation 0. Star A is also a BY Draconis-type variable star with a period of 71 days and an amplitude of 0.
Variable star scene UU Aurigae: carbon star Last month I described how the variable star naming system can be confusing to newcomers.
Another source of confusion can be the brightness ranges quoted for variable stars. For some stars you can expect to regularly see brightness changes over the whole quoted range; for others the quoted range merely shows the extreme limits seen over many decades.
There are many stars listed as semiregular variables with sizable brightness ranges. Once you start observing them however, you find that some will go for years without showing much change in their brightness.
The sub-division of the semi-regular class into SRa, SRb, SRc and SRd is only of limited help, as this tends to be based more on the spectral type of the stars involved rather than on their individual brightness variations.
UU Aurigae is classified as a SRb variable with an extreme magnitude range of 5. Some sources give the period as days, whilst others quote a period around double this.
My experience has shown that it is one of the more reliable semi-regular variables, often showing an amplitude of around a magnitude in individual cycles of variation.
UU Aurigae is a carbon star. U Cephei Duration 9 hours : Jan 2d 1. Beta Lyrae primary : 2, 15, 28 January. Beta Lyrae secondary : 8, 21 January.
Beta Persei Duration 10 hours : Jan 3d RW Tau Duration 9 hours : Jan 9d Image: Gianni Tumino and Melania Pluchinotta.
F or observers with a good western horizon, Betelgeuse and Aldebaran can be seen setting around 5am at the start of January, with Castor and Pollux still 40 degrees up.
Turning further around to the south, Leo has crossed the meridian and the great galaxy fields of Virgo and Coma Berenices are just about to transit.
If you have a good northern horizon and dark skies then it should be possible to see the summer Milky Way streaming almost parallel to the horizon through Cygnus.
But there is a globular that is hardly inferior to M13 but suffers in comparison somewhat only because of its poorer altitude.
Scanning the sky with binoculars in the direction of Serpens, close to the border with Virgo, you may come across a hazy spot, like an out of focus star.
Messier 5 can be found with the naked eye by eagle-eyed observers at dark sites some 25 degrees southeast of Arcturus and eight degrees west of alpha a Serpentis.
Small telescopes reveal a distinctly elliptical shape with a bright core and resolution of the outlying stars. This gives it an actual size of light years across at its distance of 26, light years and M5 could contain as many as half a million stars and weighs in at , solar masses.
Just less than 25 degrees east of M5 lies a nice pair of globular clusters, M10 and M12, in Ophiuchus. Towards the end of January at 6am they are well up in the south-eastern sky.
Both clusters are easy binocular objects with M10 being the superior cluster physically and in terms of apparent size and magnitude.
It is only a modest globular of , solar masses contained in a sphere light years across. It lies at a distance of 20, lights years, about 3, light years closer than M10, and has an actual diameter of 85 light years.
Before packing up your gear or heading off to work, cast a final glance to the east at around am.
The last of the Summer Triangle stars, Altair in Aquila, has cleared the horizon and will surely stir up thoughts of the summer delights to come.
Applications are invited for the Gresham Professor of Astronomy. The post is part-time from September and normally for three years.
Gresham Professors must offer six public lectures each year. The lectures attract large audiences and are also available through the internet, so candidates should have an interest in reaching a wide audience.
More information about Gresham College is available at www. It was our first, and only, visit to this enigmatic turquoise world, and we cannot expect to return for another quarter of a century.
Fifty years between visits is a long time to wait to answer some of our most urgent questions about the planet, but it is the cost of being so far away from Uranus.
Closer worlds such as Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are always going to get more attention. Many of the planets that we are finding are similar in mass to Uranus, and are possibly composed from the same materials.
These cold worlds possess atmospheres filled with icy crystals, and their interior structure are a mystery.
We think they could possess a small rocky core, surrounded by layers of icy materials, topped off by a smog of hydrogen and helium laced with methane.
Sir Patrick Moore begins our Focus this month with a look back at the history of Uranus, and the epic Voyager 2 fly-by in Finally, Keith Cooper explores the scientific mysteries of the ice giant, its ring and its moons, and looks to the future of Uranian exploration.
Ten of its moons are visible, as are four of its rings. The bright southern collar can be seen, as can several bright clouds in the northern hemisphere.
Celestial oddity W ithout Voyager 2, we would still know very little about Uranus, and we are not likely to learn much more until a new probe is sent there, which may not be for a long time yet.
On 24 January , twenty-five years ago this month, our eyes were at last opened to this remote planet whose nature had remained largely hidden to us for the years since it was first discovered.
On 13 March an amateur astronomer, William Herschel, discovered the planet we now call Uranus. He was not looking for a planet, and did not even recognise its nature; he believed it to be a comet.
The discovery came as a shock to astronomers. Seven is the magical number of ancient peoples, and it was right to have seven bodies in the Solar System: the Sun, the Moon, and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Preliminary attempts were made to put it into a different category, but these soon had to be abandoned. Uranus is visible with the naked eye from a dark site just!
Altogether there were over twenty pre-Herschel observations, but Uranus had always been mistaken for a star. Image: Patrick Moore.
It worked fairly well out to Saturn, and Uranus fitted in neatly. Was it an important scientific relationship, or was it due to mere coincidence?
Astronomers did not know, but Uranus seemed to go a long way toward disproving the coincidence idea.
Little over half a century later the whole picture changed. It was named Neptune, and was an ice giant, almost a twin of Uranus in size and mass.
Two facts were of obvious and immediate importance. Secondly, there are ways in which Uranus differs markedly from the other giant planets.
Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune radiate considerably more heat than they would do if they depended solely upon what they receive from the Sun, so that each must have a strong internal heat-source.
Uranus does not. This is not all in our list of oddities. The axial inclination is 98 degrees, so that the rotation is technically retrograde, though not generally regarded as such.
The axial rotation period is 17 hours and 14 minutes, and obviously any Uranian calendar will be most peculiar would any of our readers care to work one out?
The reason for this extreme axial tilt is unclear. It used to be thought the planet was hit by a large impactor and literally tipped over, but this does not sound very plausible, and it is more probable that the tilt was caused by interactions with the other giant planets.
Uranus does have a magnetic field, but the magnetic axis is inclined to the rotational axis by 59 degrees, and does not pass through the centre of the globe; it is offset by 5, miles 8, kilometres.
If you are taking a holiday on Uranus and want too see some aurorae, go to the equator rather than the darkened pole!
Uranus has five satellites of reasonable size, all identified pre-Voyager, but they are not easy objects.
Encounter day Telescopes used by amateurs show little on the pale green disc of Uranus, which was why the close encounter by Voyager was so keenly anticipated.
In every way Voyager 2 was an outstanding success. It gave us our first proper views of the wraithlike rings, and found there ten altogether in subsequent years the Hubble Space Telescope has found a further three, bringing the tally to 13 rings ; they are not all alike, but as they are no more than one kilometre thick their mass is very small, and they cannot be compared with the glorious icy rings of Saturn.
Voyager also gave us our first detailed views of the satellites. In addition Voyager discovered numerous small satellites, most of which must be captured bodies.
Compared with Jupiter, Saturn or even Neptune it seems strangely bland. Image: Nick Howes. The feat was even more remarkable in that he was using a homemade seven-foot telescope with a 6.
The stage is set Early observations raised even more questions as Herschel noted that the Milky Way converged and forked in different areas of the sky giving way to an abundance of stars in clusters in one direction and then a more diffuse distribution in another.
So the stage was set and discoveries awaited this very amateur but diligent astronomer. On 13 March his telescope was set up but unusually his sister would not be at his side to record any observations that night.
Herschel duly noted his observations and subsequently published a paper with the assistance of his friend Dr William Watson entitled Account of a Comet, which was read on 26 April at the Royal Society.
The mirrors were of a metal named speculum, a hard alloy of copper and tin. Image: Royal Astronomical Society. Herschel was persuaded to resolve all stars and commence counting of stars in the field-of-view referred to as star-gauging and as larger, 66 Astronomy Now January that when concerting in Bath he was known to run through the streets to his telescope in order not to waste a single observing moment!
By he was an incredibly skilled observer. In March , after several months of domestic inconvenience at 5 Rivers Street, Herschel decided I perceived one that appeared visibly larger than the rest; being struck with its uncommon magnitude, I compared it to H Geminorum and the small star in the quartile between Auriga and Gemini, and finding it so much larger than either of them, suspected it to be a comet.
Herschel continued his work on fixed stars knowing that his comet was being investigated elsewhere.
The Royal Society received two papers on the parallax of fixed stars and double stars read 6 December and 10 January respectively. On 15 November however, Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, not wishing to allow any deflection away from Herschel regarding his is a replica of the sort of mold Herschel would have as a cast.
Image: Robin Rees. Herschel was by birth a Hanoverian. But Uranus had been seen before. Herschel continued to observe Uranus right up to his death on 25 August Astronomical objects were usually named in honour of gods, heroes and heroines.
Ian Welland is an astronomical historian. January Astronomy Now 67 Uranus The ice giant Voyager taught us a lot about Uranus, but new missions are needed before we can truly understand this enigmatic planet, says Keith Cooper.
The giant valleys seen on its surface are thought to be formed over depressed blocks of land called graben.
Hummocky terrain is sandwiched in between grooved regions. Part of the problem is that Uranus is so far away. At over three billion kilometres from the Sun during aphelion, and just under 2.
Yet, despite the length of time since our last visit, our fascination with the enigmatic ice giant is undergoing something of a renaissance.
And if the mission that he is co-proposing, named Uranus Pathfinder, is chosen and launched, its aims are clearly defined.
Voyager 2 found another five rings in , and the Hubble Space Telescope a further three rings in It is effectively tipped on its side and rolling around the Sun!
Whatever happened to Uranus, happened afterwards. One of our best guesses is that the young Uranus got whacked by a smaller, possibly Earth-sized protoplanet in a collision with enough force to knock Uranus on its side.
It could also explain another mystery belonging to this blue-green world: why it produces so little internal heat. At its equinoxes the north and south poles take turns to point directly at the Sun, whilst light is more evenly spread over the planet at the solstices.
So how to prove it? Additionally, it is thought that Uranus may have jostled for position with the other gas giants during the early days of the Solar System, eventually migrating outwards to its current location.
As such, its composition may simply reflect where it has been in the Solar System during its travels, and its obliquity may be a result of gravitational interactions with the likes of Jupiter and Saturn, but at the moment this is just guesswork.
It found that the magnetic field is offset from the centre of the planet by over 8, kilometres. Furthermore the solar wind, although weaker at the distance of Uranus, buffets against the magnetosphere so that at the time of the Uranian northern summer solstice, the magnetic field extended only , kilometres from the planet on the day side the northern hemisphere at the time and reached out six million kilometres on the night side the southern hemisphere , where it is dragged into a tail by the solar wind.
Many of the minor moons of Uranus are named in this diagram. Methane gas, which accounts for just 2.
Part of the reason the upper atmosphere looks so bland is that ultraviolet light from the Sun reacts with the methane in the upper atmosphere, producing hazy particles that block visibility to much of the activity below.
However, as Uranus reached equinox in to give us the best look at the planet since the Voyager fly-by, near-infrared observations made by the tenmetre Keck II telescope in Hawaii penetrated the haze to tease out atmospheric details, such as bands and white clouds zipping around the planet on winds of kilometres per hour, and a giant, swirling vortex in the southern hemisphere between 30 and 36 degrees south.
Forcing the weather The equinox was a big event for Uranus watchers, for it showed that much had changed. What it did find, visible in ultraviolet light, was a dark polar hood surrounded by concentric bright zones, possibly caused by atmospheric circulation arranging the methane haze into dense bands.
The southern collar had virtually vanished to be succeeded by a new, faint northern collar. Rolling around the Sun on its side has a powerful effect on Uranus, on average making the poles the warmest parts of the planet and the equator the coldest also see our Exoclimes conference report in the November issue of Astronomy Now for more on tilted planets.
The greatest amount of forcing occurs at equinox. The narrow, faint rings in this image include from top to bottom the delta, gamma, eta, beta and alpha rings.
Hilly, rugged terrain is visible on the left, and striated lowlands on the right. There certainly seem to be unique circulation patterns on Uranus that are produced by this extreme tilt.
Nine images were combined to obtain this full-disc, south-polar view. Observatories around the world, including Keck, the Very Large Telescope, Palomar Observatory and the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, took advantage of the viewing angle to make several major new discoveries.
Back in , the inner rings had been darker, but now, suddenly, they appeared much more prominent.
Professor Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, led observations of the rings with the Keck telescope. Moon system Uranus has 13 known rings, which are dense and distinctive, rather than being like the broad rings of Saturn.
The Hubble Space Telescope discovered three new dusty rings in and , as well as several new moonlets, including one diminutive satellite called Mab that may be the key to understanding how some of the rings are evolving.
Mab was discovered with its associated ring, the mu-ring, by Hubble in While Mab, which is a measly 19 kilometres wide, is too small to have dramatic geysers like Enceladus, it does seem to be the source of particles for the mu-ring.
Moving away from Mab, there is a menagerie of other moons well worth exploring. As evidenced by Mab, they are all named after characters in the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope, adding a literary flavour to the outer Solar System.
The first of the five is Miranda, a patchwork quilt of a moon, bizarre beyond belief. Three thousand kilometres across, it displays a hodge-podge of different types of terrain.
One area appears ancient and cratered, another sports extensive grooves and fractures, while a third terrain appears dark and rectangular nicknamed the Chevron.
On all terrains are cliffs, ridges, fault lines and scarps, and frankly the moon is a mess. What happened to it?
It appears to have partially melted, and refrozen, in different areas at different times. Computer simulations of the orbits of the moons suggest that Miranda was once trapped in a orbital resonance with fellow moon Umbriel, which created gravitational tides that stirred up its insides, generating heat that resulted in cryovolcanism basically volcanoes of ice rather than molten lava.
Perhaps, once upon a time, Miranda had geysers just like Enceladus does today. Does this moon hide an underground ocean? Fellow moons Ariel and Umbriel, at , kilometres and , kilometres respectively, could also easily fit inside the span of space between Earth and our Moon.
Titania , kilometres distant and Oberon , kilometres round off the large moons. Titania hosts a rather impressive fault system known as Messina Chasmata and is 1, kilometres long.
A giant mountain, six kilometres high, was caught on camera on the limb of the moon by Voyager, and may well be the central peak of a giant crater.
Plans to launch a mission to Jupiter to study its moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, which may all possess underground oceans, are already in the works, whilst Cassini is already at Saturn and inspecting its moons.
It depends, says Arridge. Pathfinder will take a more direct route, and the use of a smaller launch vehicle will slow it down, making the journey last fifteen years.
Keith Cooper is the Editor of Astronomy Now. Order your wallchart NOW! We accept Matercard, Visa or Switch. Wallcharts are delivered rolled in a cardboard tube.
TN10 4ZY. UK Read up on Patrick Moore! The Complete History of the Universe, co-written by Brian May and Chris Lintott, takes the reader on a journey from the big bang to the formation of the first stars, galaxies and planets and the evolution of life, to predictions of our destiny and is available from the Astronomy Now store.
Includes a pair of 3D glasses! It's a must-have in this, Hubble's 20th anniversary year. Please send me Card Number Over re!
Please include your full name along with your address, phone number or email. What shape is the Universe? Can we see the other side of it?
Douglas McKenzie Aberdeen T here are two ways to think about this. First, what is the curvature of space locally; i.
The other is to think about the global geometry of the entire Universe. Cosmologists are fairly convinced now that locally the Universe is flat; it has the geometry we learnt as schoolchildren: parallel lines meet at infinity, internal angles of a triangle sum to degrees, the circumference of a circle divided by the diameter is pi, and so on.
Evidence for this comes from studying the cosmic microwave background CMB radiation. If the Universe is indeed flat then we need dark matter and dark energy or some equivalent alterations to our theory of gravity to account for the critical density of gravitating matter and energy that makes it so.
The global geometry is much harder. Now we have to ask whether the Universe is simply connected or nonsimply connected, and whether it is infinite or finite this boils down to whether it is unbounded or bounded.
To think about connectedness imagine a sphere. This is a simply connected shape because you can place a loop anywhere on it and make the loop shrink to a point.
Lay the loop on top of the torus and as it shrinks it falls into the hole. Hence a torus is non-simply connected. A space is infinite unbounded if it can contain points arbitrarily far apart.
A finite universe is a bounded space in the same sense that a triangle is bounded by three sides. For most bounded universes it is possible to define a scale, a diameter or a volume; imagine the Universe as a sphere, for example.
Unfortunately, for a flat universe the scale is not well defined and may or may not be detectable. Some flat geometries are infinite the Euclidian plane, which is simply connected , whereas others e.
That a torus is finite seems intuitively fine, but that it is flat may sound surprising. A cylinder is flat because you can make it from a 2D sheet of paper curled up in the third dimension.
Any triangle on the paper would be undistorted by this operation; its internal angles would still add to degrees. Now, the torus is just one of ten finite, flat, 3D spaces.
Some of the ten potential shapes but not the Euclidian plane have closed geodesics, which means that there is a shortest possible path that gets you back to where you started.
This is analogous to starting at the north pole and travelling along a great circle. Eventually you end up back at the north pole.
Cosmologists are examining the CMB to see if there are multiple images of the same region, since this would mean that the light it emitted has had sufficient time to make a complete circuit of a bounded Universe.
Such multiple images have been searched for, but not found so far. If we are wrong about the Universe being flat and instead it has a locally spherical geometry then its global geometry could be like that of a football.
If it has a local hyperbolic saddle-shape geometry then globally it is probably horn-shaped. If the Universe has more than three spatial dimensions I give up!
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One day Donald told Frank that he owned a primary and secondary mirror suitable for making a mm Dobsonian telescope. Unfortunately Don did not survive his illness, but he bequeathed the mirrors and his astronomy books to Frank, who was determined to see the project through to the end.
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