Mirador Astir Lasham, 10th July 2020

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE – Esprit 120

21:00 – 02:30

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Faint Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE as the sun sets at Lasham

I had seen a photo about a comet that had brightened and since tonight was the first clear night in a few weeks, it was a Friday and I was free, I thought I would venture out. The comet was C/2020 F3 NEOWISE and was very low, around +6.8 degrees altitude in the North at sunset, dipping down to +3.0 degrees around 1:30am and then starting to rise again.

I asked on the BASEG WhatsApp group where people would go locally with a good horizon and JBS (John Barrie-Smith) came back and said, come on over to my place at Lasham Gliding Club and see the comet from there. A flurry of messages and Lawrence, Gingergeek, Shane, Bob and I were now on for a night out!

We arrived about 9:20pm and all gathered at the gate to the airfield, we then followed John in convey around the airfield to the observing site for the night on one of the airfield pads. We then proceeded to setup and see if we could see the comet above the trees…..

To our surprise the trees looked high but due to the distance the comet was high above them. What follows are a selection of images from the nights observing, taken by myself (Dave Shave-Wall) unless otherwise stated. The comet can be seen in most of them.

Bob and Lawrence observing
Bob observing
Selection of equipment and cars
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE
My Esprit 120ED on Paramount MyT imaging comet almost horizontal
Glider with Milkyway just to left
Glider and Milkyway
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE by Gingergeek – 10s Exp no calibration FSQ85 & Atik460
Lawrence observing
Gingergeek imaging
Gingergeek imaging
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE and Noctilucent Clouds by John Barrie-Smith

Packed for Tenerife9 2018 Trip

July  2018 sees another trip to Tenerife with friends from the Basingstoke Astronomy Society Exped Group.  I had such a great time last year I can not wait to return again….Super excited.

From Tenerife, the planets will be high in the sky, the summer milky way will be glorious and there are a reasonable hours of darkness (unlike home where it isn’t getting dark at all!).  Not only is the site perfect for observing (assuming it is dust free) we also get use of a 20” f15 cassegrain and facilities such as a warm room (table, chairs, kettle), outside electricity to power equipment and access to a toilet.  A pleasant change from being in a layby on the hillside.

A solar system full house

I am really excited to be able to observe the planets.  Being located in the far southern sky for some years to come the major planets are out of sight from my observatory, hidden behind nearby trees. The major 3 will be well placed: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars*.  In the evening sky, Venus and Mercury are visible and in the morning sky Uranus and Neptune are returning.

I am wondering if it will be possible to observe all major bodies of the solar system in one go?  The planets are all well placed – plus there is the minor planet Ceres, asteroid Vesta, the crescent Moon, solar observing during the day, zodiacal light, the moons of the outer planets – and in the foreground we have earth’s Mt Teide (the highest mountain in Spain).  Faint Pluto is possible but at mag 14 it will be a challenge.  I have observed it with the 20” dobsonian at Les Grange in France so assuming I can star hop (which is a challenge as the telescope can be rather ungainly) it should be visible.  There are is also a relatively bright (mag 10 or so) Comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner that we can track from night to night.


A key question is what equipment to take.  We have access to a telescope which is fantastic for observing the planets but it is always well utilised by the group.  While I would love to fill my boots it wouldn’t be fair to use it exclusively so I am taking my 6” Maksutov and a tracking mount (all second hand) along with my binoculars, camera, eyepieces, sketching equipment etc.  I paid extra for my flight so I can take a hand-carry suitcase.  This means I can take all my delicate optics with my in the cabin while the heavier, more robust tripods, extension cable etc can go in the hold.

This means I can be:

  • Observing inside the dome when it is free
  • Using my 6” telescope in the meantime
  • Chilling out with my binoculars in the summer milky way
  • Taking wide field shots and timelapses

I made a video of the set up I am taking and how it all fits into 2 suitcases below :

A report and video of the amazing sights we saw last year is also below

* Jupiter is just past opposition (it was at opposition on 10 June) with Saturn only a week past opposition and Mars nearly at opposition (it reaches opposition on 27 July just after we return).

Preparing for my first Tenerife trip

So since I don’t have a mobile setup like the veterans of the group I’m resigned to fact that I need to take most of my UK setup with me abroad. This means some serious weight to transport, so basically I have the following to pack and carry :

  • Hold bag1 (~18Kg)
    • Skywatcher NEQ6 mount
  • Hold bag2 (~18Kg)
    • Skywatcher Tripod (7Kg)
    • Counterweight (5Kg)
    • Box of accessories (~6Kg)
      • PSU, cables etc
    • Clothes …. I guess
  • Cabin bag1 (~7Kg)
    • Tak FSQ85
    • Tak focal reducer
    • Atik 460 CCD imaging camera
    • Lodestar guide camera
    • PoleMaster camera
    • Lakeside focuser control unit
    • Unihedron SQM
    • ADM Scope plate
  • Cabin bag2 (~6Kg)
    • Atik EFW2 and filters
    • Laptop & NUC
    • Various digital items (GPS, USB hard disk etc)
    • ADM mount puck and scope rings

Hopefully the scope bag will in in the overhead with it’s precious contents….don’t drop it ! The laptop bag should fit under the seat….hopefully.

I won’t be sure on the final weights until the digital handheld scales I’ve ordered arrive tomorrow.

At the moment I’m just finishing the calibration and setup of the Lakeside focuser and it’s configuration in SGPro.

Update : The digital scales arrived so now I have weights for a few items and move things around a bit –

  • Hold Bag1 = 19.3kg
  • Hold Bag2 = 22.5Kg
  • Cabin Bag1 = 8kg
  • Cabin Bag2 = 8.85Kg