2017 Retrospective

2017 was not a good year for me, either on-field or off-field. Before writing this, I had a look at both 2015 and 2016. A common factor of both preceding years was bad weather for observing. 2017 was no different, so the question is whether the weather was worse for these three years or was it merely my perception of it. Missing the peak of major meteor showers does not leave a good impression of the year but this happens quite a lot. It was a shame that my widefield camera lens packed up, as I had managed to capture quite a few metors on camera, both shower and sporadic. That was the highlight of the year, at least in an astronomical sense. The Sun was quiet in normal and narrowband hydrogen alpha light. With the exception of Venus at the start of the year, the planets were not well-placed, so I took few photos but managed some shots of Jupiter's moons. I did not take many Moon photos, compared to preceding years but was pleased with the close-ups I took using my Bresser Electronic Eyepiece. I took some deep sky and constellation photos but not as many as previous years. This summary is part of Phil's Scribblings.


It sounds repetitive mentioning cloud and rain. Yes, there were some days where I could not observe at all because of weather and others where work and life, in general, intervened. It was also a month where I could not get proper focus with my wide angle camera lens and my attempts to repair it made it worse and unusable! However, there were some clear spells and I was able to catch meteors with a more narrow field of view.

The most interesting shot was a Geminid meteor travelling through Perseus on December 18th. I missed the peak due to weather.

The Sun was very quiet for all of the month and I neither saw nor photographed anything remotely interesting.

Like October and November, I did not manage any planetary observations or photos. Some of my Moon shots were worth a shout, though. The best shots were my close-ups with my Mak and Bresser Electronic Eyepiece on 27th.

I did not manage any good constellation shots.

The best deep sky shot was quite a wide field showing the clusters M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga.

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


November, like most preceding months had its share of cloud but also had some clear spells. too.

I caught several meteors on camera, this one on November 12th being the best. The rest were faint or had short trails.

The Sun was rather quiet for most of the month, although I had plenty of opportunities to see it.

Like October, I did not manage any planetary observations or photos. Although the Moon was poorly placed, I managed some shots, well really quite a few.

I took some constellation shots but only my Cassiopeia one was memorable.

Unlike October, I managed two nice deep sky shots of the Pleaides (M45) and M35.

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


Yes, it was yet another month ruined by cloud, especially for the peak of the Orionid meteor shower. Due to a change of work, I was more available for sun gazing and less able to view in the evenings.

I caught just one meteor on camera.

The Sun was rather quiet for most of the month but there were occasional sunspots and prominences.

I did not manage any planetary observations or photos in October. Although the Moon was poorly placed, I managed some shots.

Mostly, as a by-product of meteor searches, I caught Cassiopeia and Perseus, these being the highlights of my constellation shots.

I did not manage any deep sky shots for October.

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


South West England is certainly not the best place to live if you are an astronomer. I hate sounding repetitive but the weather was poor, even for September. It is usually one of my favourite times of year, as it is usually warm enough to observe in shorts and a T-shirt, with the summer stars in the west and the winter stars becoming more prominent in the east. Unfortunately, the sky was simply not clear enough, often enough.

Even though there were no major meteor showers in September, I saw the odd meteor and captured three on camera, this one being the best.

The Sun was active for most of the month, with sunspots visible in white and hydrogen alpha light. However, there was none of what us solar observers like to see, like prominences, flares and filaments.

I did not manage any planetary observations or photos in September. The Moon was poorly placed, as is usual for September, so took some unremarkable photos, not worth sharing.

The "best of the rest" was a stack of Summer Triangle shots, with a final flourish from the Seven Sisters.

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


From a global perspective,the month would be remembered for the total solar eclipse that crossed the USA. Many people travelled for it but most of us had to be content with what we could see from our own countries. Strictly speaking, a very small partial phase was potentially visible from the UK but was clouded out.
The enduring memory for me was the Perseid meteor shower. From the UK, much of it was affected by poor weather and most observers found rates steady, rather than spectacular. Higher rates were observed from central Europe. I'm not saying that I cracked the issue entirely but I caught more meteors on camera than before. The best of them are here.

The Sun was active for most of the month, with sunspots visible in white and hydrogen alpha light.

With Jupiter approaching conjunction and Saturn low in the sky, I did not manage any planetary observations or photos in August.

The Moon was poorly placed for most of the month and I only managed a few full disc photos.

On some of the clearer, moonless nights I snapped some constellations, this one of Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor being the best.

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


Typical for an English summer, most of my observations and photos were solar. The weather was rather mixed and unusually cloudy and wet for July. There were some clear periods and I managed some nice lunar shots. Unfortunately, when the Moon was in the evening sky at the end of the month, I missed it completely. I also managed a few shots of Jupiter's main moons, knowing that the planet would not be back in the evening sky for a while. I also managed a successful shot of the planet itself. As one might expect, I did very little in the way of constellation and deep sky shots but did find the odd one worth sharing.

The Sun was active at the start of the month but became quiet towards the end. Here is a selection of hydrogen alpha shots from early in the month.

This was the pick of the jovian moon shots, taken with my Maksutov and DSLR.

Here is the planet on its own.

I managed a few lunar shots with my Bresser Electronic Eyepiece and this was the pick.

AquilaDelphinusSagittaY17JulD22.JPG Finally, I caught Aquila, Delphinus and Sagitta in the same widefield view.

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


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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