2017 Retrospective

This takes a look back at 2017. During the course of the year, it will be updated monthly. It is part of Phil's Scribblings.


For those of you who have been unfortunate enough to follow my blogs, you will know that we don't get proper darkness in June and, during the week, when most of need to go to bed early enough for work the next day, we see no darkness at all in the UK. No points for guessing that most of my viewing and photography was solar. It is even said that some people give up astronomy completely during the summer months, which is a pity.

Fortunately, the evening skies were graced by Jupiter and it was possible to photograph its moons as early as 10PM (BST). I managed to photograph the planet, too.

This was the pick of the jovian moon shots.

Unfortunately, despite loads of photos, the Sun was rather quiet. I did manage to capture some prominences once in the month.

Moon photos were sparse. As the Moon never gets high in the sky in June, it is often obscured by haze. I managed a few shots with my Bresser Electronic Eyepiece and this was the pick.

Click here to see the full June report.
Click here to see a video of the June photos.


May continued in rather the same vein as the rest of the year. Work, weather and health all played their part in restricting my viewing and photography. On the other hand, there were two warm spells that enabled me to get out in the evening. Unfortunately, the Sun was quiet for most of the month, unlike April. Similarly, I did not manage to take any memorable Moon shots.

However, all was not bad. I was especially happy with a photograph of the constellation of Lyra.

With Jupiter back in the evening sky, I was rather pleased to be able to capture its moons on some occasions.

I have recently developed some advanced modelling software that can predict exactly when meteors will appear. OK, I'll 'fess up! I just happened to be pointing my DSLR at Deneb (in Cygnus) and got lucky.

Click here to see the full May report.
Click here to see a video of the May photos.


From a solar viewpoint, April started off brilliantly. Not only was there nice weather during the day but there were lots of sunspots around, too! I was still restricted by health (no gory details!) and had to avoid the colder evenings. The sunspots were visible in both hydrogen alpha and white light.

Finally, I managed to get the Bresser electronic eyepiece to fly but I only managed one proper lunar session with it. These samples show Copernicus and Plato.

Night and evening viewing was very restricted but I managed a nice shot of the Moon with Aldebaran.

Click here to see the full April report.
Click here to see a video of the April photos.


March was a big improvement on February. I was still suffering from a chest infection that had dragged on for ages, so late night viewing in the cold was out of the question. As a result and, unusually for March, the month was dominated by solar viewing and shots. The Sun was rather quiet for most of the month but, in the last few days, there were some sunspots and increased activity in hydrogen alpha light, including the first prominence that I had seen for a long time. The sunspot drawing is from March 27th and the hydrogen alpha photo is from 31st.

On March 31st, I also managed a close-up of some prominences on the opposite side of the solar disc that did not appear on the full disc shot. Sometimes this happens, as the photo processing techniques needed to extract and enhance prominence detail is different to those required for disc detail.

The other highlight was catching Venus on March 15th at the thinnest phase I ever had. I like to think that the irregularities in the crescent were due to cloud features on the planet (as I have sometimes caught "on film" before) and not poor focussing. In truth, I suspect it was a combination of both!

Click here to see the full March report.
Click here to see a video of the March photos.


February turned out to be even worse than January or, indeed, any month for about the last ten years.
The only activity was one solar hydrogen alpha shoot, one Moon photo and two solar drawings.

Click here to see the full February report.
Click here to see a video of the February photos.


If I thought 2017 would be much different to 2016, I would have been badly disappointed. The pattern of manflu and cloudy weather continued. Fortunately, I had a new weapon in my armoury - an intervalometer! This allowed me to leave my DSLR snapping away in the back garden while I was inside. I also had a Bresser "electronic eyepiece", in other words a new webcam. I only got to try it once under very unhelpful conditions with an image of Venus doing impressions of John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever".
On the days that it showed, the Sun was active, even in white light. I also managed some solar hydrogen alpha shots at weekends.

I did not neglect the Moon. I only took one with the telescope and Mak, a thin crescent. I managed a half decent shot of a gibbous moon with my DSLR alone.

My Venus shots were less than convincing but I managed some nice shots of Venus and Mars close together, joined by the Moon earlier in the month.

Although I was only able to use two light frames, I was pleased with my shot of Polaris, showing the Engagement Ring asterism.

Click here to see the full January report.
Click here to see a video of the January photos.

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