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Finally – a decent NLC display!

It’s been a rough and frustrating NLC season so far – a combination of nights of bad weather, and nights of good weather but without any sign of NLC, has meant my hunting has been mostly in vain. But last Thursday evening, the 11th, an NLC display worth staying up late for poked its wispy silvery head above the northern horizon, and I managed to get some half-decent photographs.

I actually missed the very start of the display because we were through at the Langdale Hotel, showing some visiting bankers from Manchester the night sky and some of my meteorites. But as we drive home it was clear that something was brewing in the northern part of the sky; the light in that direction just looked… wrong… and through gaps in the trees I caught glimpses of grey-white mistiness on either side of Capella, the “guide star” for NLC. So, once back in Kendal I grabbed my gear and raced up to the castle. Halfway up the hill I saw that there was indeed an NLC display in progress, and as quickly as possible I set up my gear and started taking pictures. Here’s my very first one…

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After that I just kept snapping away as the display grew in both dimensions and brightness. It didn’t achieve the spectacular appearance of last year’s major storms, but it was still worth watching, and photographing, and I’m very pleased with the  pictures I took. Hopefully it was just a warm up act for much more dramatic storms… we’ll see!

Anyway, here are my best pics…

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PHILAE is AWAKE!!!!

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Look at that picture! That wonderful image has been splashed all over Facebook, Twitter and space news sites for the past hour, accompanying the ESA press release we’ve all been waiting for…

PHILAE HAS WOKEN UP!!!!!

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This is just the best news for ages, at least for followers of ESA’s ROSETTA  mission. For the past 6 months, ever since little Philae landed on Comet 67P… er, several times… and then fell silent shortly after (I still remember sitting here at my laptop on that awful night, feeling my heart sink through the floor as Philae’s power levels dropped off a cliff…) we’ve been hoping against hope that the lander would wake up from its hibernation, and it has! This means that Philae can resume doing science on the surface of the comet – taking measurements, studying its surroundings, and maybe even taking and sending back new photos too! And the icing on the cake is that this is happening while the comet itself is really starting to wake up as it screams in towards its closest encounter with the Sun, and things are getting beyond exciting out there. Oh, the pictures we might see now… 🙂

You can read the full ESA press release here

Ok, take a deep breath…. So… what a morning, and what a fantastic time for anyone interested in astronomy and space exploration! New Horizons is closing in on Pluto… DAWN is taking spectacular images of Ceres… and now Philae has woken up! Huge congratulations to everyone on the ROSETTA team, who must be feeling absolutely fanTASTIC at the moment!

Now, bring on the science!

First Cumbrian NLC of 2015 Season..?

VERY frustrating start to the 2015 NLC season… the weather has been mostly poor, so it was no surprise that on the night when much of the north of the UK saw the season’s opening display we were clouded out. We have had a couple of fantastically clear nights… without even a hint of a whiff of a single streak of NLC!

Last night looked very promising for NLC – by 11.15, as I set off for Kendal Castle, the sky was beautifully clear – but nothing popped out. I did enjoy a lovely view of Jupiter (L) and Venus (R) low in the west, shining close together…

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..and going into the castle ruins meant I was able to grab some lovely pictures like this…

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…but I was there to look for NLC, and I *think* I managed to see some but to be perfectly honest I’m not sure. I photographed these light clouds just after half past midnight or so…

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There’s *something* there, but NLC? Not 100% sure, so fingers crossed we get a major display soon, then I can say “NLC Spotted!” with certainty 🙂

Thank you, ROSETTA OSIRIS Team…

I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so it’s only fair to thank the Rosetta mission OSIRIS team for releasing one of their images yesterday, and it’s a beauty…

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That’s a really striking image, because it shows activity – jets – coming out of an in-shadow area of the nucleus…

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Full story and links to hi-res pics here

You see, OSIRIS team, you see? You released one of your images and the world didn’t end… a wormhole didn’t open up and suck the Earth into it! A kraken wasn’t summoned up from the inky depths to wrap its tentacles around the Golden Gate Bridge and drag it down to the deep! The Moon didn’t fall out of the sky! A horde of armchair wannabe comet scientists didn’t Save your picture, paste it into a scientific paper and beat you to the discovery of the century!

More, please… just… come on, a few more. It really wouldn’t hurt. You might even enjoy joining in with this fantastic warm fuzzy feeling everyone out here is enjoying as we see new images of Ceres and Pluto coming in. Go on, put on a clean shirt, grab a bottle, and join the party. We’d love to see you. 🙂