Double Star Adventure

Since I bought my go-to Skywatcher-102 in April (which is brilliant by the way) I have been having issues with actually getting a really good alignment during the set up process. This was purely down to the issue of having to guess where the centre of the eyepiece was.

I was out with the Well’s & Mendip Astronomers last Friday and my friend Hugh was using an illuminated cross-hair eyepiece to get his Mead perfectly centred. Why had I not thought about this?! So, out I went to the local telescope shop (MC2 in Frome) and acquired myself one. Boy did this make things much easier! Giving 2 red cross-hairs within which you can get a perfectly centred object, and therefore a great alignment. So after I had completed the alignment protocol I decided to have a look at some double stars.

As I am not familiar with double stars, I decided to use the feature in the go-to handset, and started working my way down the list.

ALMACH was my first port of call. Situated at 056°00′ +29°05′ it was in fairly good position, rising just above the end of my garden. Located in the constellation of Andromeda Almach is actually a quadruple star system located some 350 light years from Earth. However, only a double star can be resolved through a small telescope. I was viewing at 86x magnification.

Almach(Image from

The second object of the night was ALBIREO located at 188°07′ +66°37′ in the constellation of Cygnus and located approximately 430 light years from Earth. This was one that was recommended to me as a great double star, and it did not fail to impress. The pair are another great example of colour, where one is a very bright blue and the other yellow. A very nice contrast between the pair.

NewAlbireo(Image from

Targets number three and four were DABIH & ηCASS. Target number five was Mizar in the constellation Ursa Major. Located at 314°34′ +36°38′ At a distance of 82 light years, they are relatively close, in astronomical terms. They are by far my favorite double stars so far. They have a very clear bright blue colour even in the fairly light polluted surroundings of my house. Both Mizar and Alcor its companion are spectral type A.Mizar

(Image from

The last two objects on my double star viewing adventure for that night was Polaris (yes, a double star, though the companion was very faint, it was still visible) and Rasalgthi in the constellation of Hercules. This view was very interesting, as both stars were clearly red. Its always nice to be able to see colour, and from that we can determine so many physical parameters of the star.

ras-alg(Image from

By this time, the mist was starting to roll in, and the temperature was rapidly dropping. So I decided to push the scope, and try and view the ice giants Neptune and Uranus. I had written in the last two editions of the OAS Magazine ( about where to find Neptune and Uranus, so decided to use the go-to and see what I could see.

Once the scope had finished slewing, I peered into the eyepiece. There it was, Neptune. A tiny blue disc set against a backdrop of stars. It was exceptionally small, but clearly disc shaped. I was now viewing at 130x magnification. Next stop, Uranus. Waited for the beep, and took a look. There it was. A yellowing tiny disc. The rings were not visible, but it could clearly be differentiated from the stars behind. This was the first time I had ever seen any of the ice giants through my own kit. A very impressive way to finish a successful but brief viewing session.

Cooperation is the key!

I was reading my latest copy of Nature, and in it, there is an article on ESO’s VLT.  This revolutionary land based telescope will have a mirror that is 38 meters in diameter. It is an unprecedented piece of equipment. Or at least it would be, if it were under construction.

The article reads that Brazil had signed an agreement with ESO as the first non European country to be involved in the group. Its contribution (some 1.1 billion euros) would allow for the construction of the telescope, high in the Atacama desert. Some of the best possible skies that can be achieved on Earth. The project has now stalled, because Brazil now feels that its contribution (the same figure as the UK and France) is too high, as they have less astronomers than those countries. They should either pay less, or have more telescope time.

Where I agree that perhaps a financial reduction could be considered by ESO due to Brazil’s lesser number of astronomers, I think that Brazil is being very short sighted here. Perhaps they should consider that people might be interested in becoming astronomers if they knew there was such a wonderful scope right on the door step.

I feel that the astronomy community has become far too revolved around rivalry and competition, and forgotten how to work together. We are one race, one people on one planet in a universe of billions. The only way humanity will progress, is if we learn to work together. Especially in the field of astronomy. Why bother constructing larger and larger solo scopes, collaborate. Work together. Many hands, many eyes. Scientists from all over the world, working as one unit. To advance science. To advance knowledge.

Money will only last as long as it lasts, knowledge will last forever!


The Nature article & Image –