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Richie's Blog

2014-01-22 - Supernova in Galaxy Messier 82
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 21:14

This morning, I saw an interesting email come into my inbox.  It reads as follows:

Subject: [vsnet-alert 16812] Re: PSN J09554214+6940260: bright (11.7 mag) supernova in M82
At UT 2014 Jan 22.305, we obtained a spectrum of PSN_J09554214+6940260 (discoverer: S. J. Fossey) with the Dual Imaging Spectrograph on the ARC 3.5m telescope. We classify this as a Type Ia supernova with a Si II velocity of 20000 km/s. The best superfit match is SN2002bo at -14d. The supernova has a red continuum and deep Na D absorption.

A type 1a supernova is what happens when a binary star system starts to tear itself apart.  In essence, a very small dense white dwarf rips the material from the surface of its neighbouring star.  It appears to be relatively common when one of the stars in a binary star system inflates when it becomes a red giant.  The surface of the red giant is now much closer to the companion star, and so matter starts to transfer from the red giant to the smaller star.  As the smaller star accepts matter from the giant, the system becomes unstable, and the small white dwarf explodes violently.

The velocity quoted above shows that the shockwave of this star exploding is travelling at 20,000 km/s - thats almost 12,500 miles per second - pretty quick.

Type 1a supernovae are special because they allow astronomers to accurately gauge the distance from the Earth of the galaxy that spawned it.  Each one that is identified gives astronomers much more accurate data about the Universe around us.

I managed to gather a quick snap of Messier 82 tonight before the clouds rolled in.  This animation shows the difference between some Messier 82 images I took last year in February versus the 2 exposures I managed to capture tonight.


Nova in Delphinus
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Thursday, 22 August 2013 23:01

Discovered by Amateur Astronomer Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan on the 14th August, here is my picture of the Nova along with the Planetary Nebula NGC6905, which itself the result of a Supernova in the past.

You can use the picture featured on APOD to find it for yourself - it is still very bright in the sky!

Here is my picture - with a text overlay.  See the full-sized version in my gallery here

Running Your Own Astronomy in the Pub
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Friday, 31 August 2012 17:13


So you want to run your own Astronomy in the Pub event?  GREAT!

I run my events at my local pub, The Horns Lodge in South Chailey.  So far, I have run 2 events, one to coincide with BBC Stargazing Live in February 2012, and one in August 2012.  Both events were very well received, and we were lucky to have clear skies on both occasions.



What do you need to get started?

  • Some Amateur Astronomer volunteers
  • A dark site Pub with a willing publican
  • Some Speakers
  • Some Telescopes of different types/costs/aperatures
  • A projector/large television to show your Speakers presentations on
  • A laptop to show your Speakers presentations on
  • A projector/large television to show a Sky Chart on
  • A laptop to run Stellarium (or other suitably pretty Sky Chart on)
  • A Public Address System

What does your Publican get out of it?

Lots of people in their pub!  Our first event attracted approximately 350 people.  Our second event attracted about 120 people.  The pub did a roaring trade for food and drinks both times, so it is well worth the investment of time and money from the publicans point of view.

How much will it cost your Publican?

It depends on how extravagant you want to be.  If your publican is prepared to fund speakers, and provide free drinks for volunteers, then great!  In my events so far, the publican has provided free drinks and some food for the volunteers.  You might want to agree with your publican beforehand a certain number of drinks per volunteer, and how the volunteers can be identified!

How much will it cost me?

The aim of these events is to put on a free public event to promote Stargazing in your local area.  The only costs you should incur are some printing costs, and some time.  You should ask your publican to cover travel and speaker costs - its them making the money after all, not you!


When should I schedule an Astronomy in the Pub event?

Obviously, the best time will be during the BBC Stargazing Live period, when the BBC are promoting events across the country.  The BBC also run a series of television programmes around the same time which help stimulate the public interest in Astronomy.

You should also try to pick a date when the Moon is up, there is an International Space Station pass or Iridium flare, and ideally at least one bright planet.  You want to aim for targets which make the public go 'Wow!'.  Use CalSky in order to find out when is a good time for your location.

Printing for an Astronomy in the Pub event

  • Event Itinerary and Notes
    • A small leaflet detailing Lecture times and any events which are timed (such as when an object is visible, such as an ISS pass)
    • Remember to make sure that the leaflet instructs the public to be careful around telescopes, and cautions about Solar Observing
  • Volunteer Itinerary and Notes
    • Get a times list from calsky
    • Add any notes about rules for volunteers if appropriate
  • Information Sheets
    • I have produced a series of information sheets which I laminate and place around my pub.  You could do the same as well.

How many volunteers do I need?

You will need at least one willing volunteer per telescope onsite, preferably more to allow for volunteers to take a break and enjoy the event themselves.  A manned telescope will probably attract a queue, so make sure you get someone to take drinks orders directly to your volunteers!

What if its Cloudy/Wet?

Find an area to setup some different size and type of telescopes under cover.  Make sure that at least one knowledgeable person is on hand to explain about the telescopes to the public.  If you want, you can also run a Sky Chart to show what users would have seen if it was not cloudy.

What sort of talks should I have?

Its up to you!  Bear in mind that your audience is going to be non-astronomers though, so keep it simply.  You might want to have some talks aimed at Children earlier on in the event as well.

How do I advertise the event?

  • Publish your event on the BBC Things to Do Website
  • Contact your local radio station about the event
  • Contact your local paper about the event
  • Contact your local STEM group about the event - they will let local schools know
  • Invite the press to create an interest in future Astronomy in the Pub events


Don't Forget!

Enjoy your own event!  This is a hobby - if you don't enjoy promoting Astronomy, then why are you doing it?


Star Trails by Dr Darren Baskill - more images available on his photostream @

Porky's Party - Today!
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Saturday, 28 July 2012 09:41

What Happened?

Each year, Chailey Bonfire Society holds a fund raising event.  This year, we decided to have a hog roast.  The field was prepared, the marquee was up, everything was booked.  Then it rained solidly for a month before the event.

The event had to be postponed because the field was waterlogged, and we ended up incurring costs as a result.  Added to which, plenty of folks dropped out because they were unable to come on the new date.

How can you help?

As the weather has improved significantly over the last 2 weeks, we have got everything ready for a new Hog Roast today.  We are about 30 tickets short of our target though, and so if you are at a loose end tonight, and fancy a good time, please come and join us.

Event Details

Starting Time: 7pm
End Time: Midnight
Price: £20 per person

Please give Richie a call on 07702 705427 to get a ticket allocated which you can pickup on the door.  Each ticket costs £20, and will be held for you on the door.

Included in the ticket price is your meal (Hog Roast, Salad, Pudding) and entrance.  We have a live band (The Highlights) playing as well, and a fully stocked bar with Harveys Best Bitter on tap.

You can find us by heading to South Chailey on the A275.  There are signs on the main road telling you how to find us.  If you are using a Satnav, the postcode BN8 4AS will get you to Swan House, which is opposite the Balneath Manor turning.  Then head for the 'B' on the map below.

South Common Observatory - Phase 4
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Sunday, 15 April 2012 21:36

For a few years now, I have been thinking of ways to improve my observatory.  One of the problems with Astronomy is that everything comes in boxes, and those boxes are needed to transport the equipment.  Typically, my Star Party gear consists of:

  • Power/Wires box
  • Telescope Box
  • Mount Box
  • Camera Box
  • Accessories Box

All these boxes are not needed when my kit is setup, so what to do with it when it is not needed?  Well, a while back now, I raised my pier by 12 inches to see the southern horizon better.  It worked very well, but meant that I now needed a ladder to easily access the scopes.  Hmmm - could I kill two birds with one stone here?

The answer is yes.  I have now put a false floor into the observatory, 12 inches off the concrete.  I now have a virtually clear floor in the observatory, and a great storage space for all the boxes I've accumulated over the last few years.

Whilst I was at it, I also built myself a Mission Control Room in a third of Gini's shed - thanks darling! :)

You can see the latest photos here: Building of the South Common Observatory

Here are a couple of taster images:



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