Jenkins-Of-Ewelme Web Site

Ewelme Observatory

This page is intended to discuss aspects of astronomy with respect to this particular location. Although some content has been around for sometime now, it has only been recently (2012) that an observatory dome has been installed here. The aim is to automate the internal reflecting telescope and associated controls remotely. It will always be  under review when I've managed to discover another fact or achieved a photograph of something interesting. An ambition is to obtain some sort of image of each of the major planets, and a few 'deep sky' objects from what's called the Messier catalogue. However, this may take some considerable time! One immediate general use of this section is as a means of identifying the current position of the planets, including the Moon and the Sun, calculated from our garden in EWELME (Lat: 51.623 N, Long: 1.077 W)

Watch this 'space' for more information about the heavens. In the meantime, I wish you "Clear Skies!".

Position of the Planets 1 & Position of the Planets 2
These pages display the result of a complex set of real time calculations, showing the position of the objects within the solar system at a given moment in time. It has been written in JavaScript, which is software your browser can interpret if enabled.

Illustrates the 'Transit of Venus', a rare event where the planet Venus passes across the face of the sun.

Some images of this planet and its moons.

Video and pictures of this iconic astronomical object.

Images of the nearest star, using special filters to see sun spots and prominences.

Images taken through my telescope to highlight the craterous moonscape of our nearest neighbour.

2013 could prove to be a good year for comets. This page reserved for any captured images.

This section discusses the type of telescopes I have, and relates a software development project to control and XY stepper motor system to produce a 'GoTo' telescope.

Astronomical Distance and Time
Illustrations of how the vast distances of astronomical objects can be related to looking back in time

Draft Gallery
This section provides an overview of recently acquired images, yet to be finally processed or itemised. Unless stated, these were acquired using a SkyWatcher 8" Newtonion Telescope and Canon 750 DSLR camera, with Orion guide camera.
Click on the thumbnails to display a higher resolution image. The field of view of each image is the same, equivalent to about 2 x full moons. Zoom in to see more detail.

Orion Nebula M42

An iconic astro image found just below 'Orion's Belt', but requiring some post processing to highlight both the central 'trapezium' stars to include the extensive nebulosity. The first image was merely exposed for 10 secs. at 1600 iso, whereas the second needed 180 secs at 400 iso to bring out the surrounding luminousity.
The Orion Nebula is the continuing birthplace of young stars. It is about 1800 light years distance and some 30 light years across.

Pleiades Cluster M45

In the constellation of Taurus, the 'Seven Sisters' cluster of young stars can be seen with the naked eye. However, to see the associated nebulosity requires a long exposure image to be taken. This frame was exposed for 5 minutes at iso 400. It is situated at a distance of 410 light years.

Andromeda Galaxy  M31

This is the nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way at 2.2 million light years distance. It is vast and consists of more than 300 billion stars and is 150,000 light years across. The image also includes the smaller galaxies M32 and M110.

Great Hercules Cluster M13

This spectacular globular cluster is some 25,000 light years distance and 100 light years across. It contains around 1 million stars. The image is made up of a stack of 60 sec. exposures.

Black-eye Galaxy M64
The nickname comes from the partially obscuring cloud of dust. This spiral galaxy is about 12 million light years distant. So what we see here is the galaxy at a time when the great apes were evolving towards our own Homo sapiens species appearing only some 0.2 million years ago! See Time-line graphic. This was the first galaxy I ever saw. This image was produced from 10 x 45 sec. exposures at 1600 iso.

The Cigar Galaxy M82

About 12 million light years away in Ursa Major, this descriptive image has been produced from an individual frame exposured for  300 sec at 400 iso.

Spiral Galaxies in Leo M65 & M66

The view of these two distant galaxies at 30 million light years away, means the light left around the time that cats began to evolve, and millions of years in time before even a hint that human beings would ever evolve in time to see this image! See Time-line graphic. Currently, this is the furthest object/s I have ever seen.


Our own star is 8 light minutes away. This 'white light' filter image shows some of the major sunspot activity captured in late October 2014. The area covered by the largest group would swallow up the earth many fold!


Various images illustrating  the phasing nature of our own moon.

Globular Cluster M92

Another example of a globular cluster within the Summer constellation of Hercules but about 25% further away than M13.


This image of the fourth planet from the Sun was taken with a 'web cam' attached to a x4 Barlow lens through the 8" Newtonian telescope, as a video clip of 600 frames in a file of 0.6 GB over 25 seconds. Selected frames were then 'stacked' to produce this image. The rotation of Mars is very similar to that of Earth, so the light /dark surface terrain only changes very slowly on a daily basis. Note the ice cap.

COMET Lovejoy

This is the first comet imaged at the Ewelme Observatory. It was discovered by  Australian Terry Lovejoy in August 2014 using an 8" reflector telescope like the type we have here! It became closest to the Earth on 7th January 2015 and will be closest to the Sun on 30th January. It's travelling at 82,000 miles/hour and is estimated that it will take another 8000 years to return! It probably originated from the Oort Cloud, way beyond the bounds of our Solar System. The green glow is due to the fluorescence of diatomic C2 gas in sunlight. The hard to see tail in the first image is because the exposure was only made for 60 seconds. With the second image, light had to be exposed to the camera sensor for 5 minutes in order to see the four 'streamers' within the ion tail. During this period of tracking the comet, it had moved with respect to the background stars, hence the star elongation effect.

On another infrequent clear night in January (16th), another attempt was made to enhance the ion tail. First, more room was made to extend whatever was to be seen of the streamers. Next, notwithstanding the extended star trails that would be present, the exposure time was doubled to 600 seconds (10 mins.). Finally, to attempt to improve comet image, a form of manual guiding was done by issuing a 'SLEW TO command every 30 secs,. using the comet ephemeris data within the Stellarium planetarium display. Three images are displayed to show  the extent of travel of the comet compared against groups of stars in the background. Finally, the 'manual' guiding does seem to produce a slightly clearer image, but it can be seen that corrections in both RA and DEC were applied from the data provided. Click here to see a pseudo animation, which is  attempting to show how fast the comet is moving across a 'static' star background during the couple of hours of observation.

However, it seems that the most successful way of taking an image of a comet, is to stack many individual images, say 30 x 60 secs. If the proven procedures are followed, you should get a nice focused comet with teased out tail. Unless removed, it will overlay a neat, but promanent pattern of star trails. On 18th January, attempts were made to gather many 'short' exposures, but in the event only 9 x 60 secs frames were possible before permanent cloud cover arrived. All that a standard DSS stack produced was an egg shaped comet. By experiment, the image above was produced, which although includes some 'false' colour, showed that the camera had actually captured both the comet nucleus itself but also recorded the whole tail within the 1.5 degree frame. The main 'unfalse' feature of this image, is that there are no star trails, and for me, is pleasant enough to look at, to be a contender for this year's Christmas card!

Galaxy M96

Another spiral galaxy in Leo. On the current scale of images, this is not very large or bright. However, this beats the record for the most distant galaxy seen at 31 million light years. What might have evolved on Earth during the space of time of 1 million years between receiving light from this one and  observing M65 and M66 above? The image consists of 12 stacked frames with a total exposure time of 1 hour 12 minutes.

M101 Spiral Galaxy - The Pinwheel

I think my favourite to date, but is just a single 300 sec image with no stacking as yet, I think this will be improved. Situated within Ursa Major, this lies some 21 million light years distant. See Time-line graphic. It's diameter is about as large as our own Milky Way, but is only about 8% of our mass.

M56 Globular Cluster in Lyra

Not an exotic image of one of Messier's catalogue objects, but fascinating to notice how many stars are involved in this picture within the same field of view as others above. This particular image is an un-stacked  (as yet) 2 minute exposure at 800 iso.

M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici
This fascinating galaxy is really a large one amalgamating with a smaller one due to gravitational  attraction. It is 23 million ight years distant from Earth. Perhaps it is just a single object now, but thought can't travel faster than the speed of light either? A 4 minute exposure at 800 iso.

Globular Cluster Collection  - M10, M12 & M14

This group of star clusters are found in the same region of sky around the constellation of Ophiuchus. It may seem that these images, with similar fields of view of around 1 degree of arc and exposure times  of 150 secs. at 800 iso, is just an attempt to increase this observatory's album of 110 Messier catalogue objects. In many ways this is true, although the 'M' cat does contain many of the worthwhile astronomical wonders to both just observe and record.  We are looking back in time some 20,000 light years towards the centre of our galaxy, at which time our ancestors were not themselves able to write down that they were also able to see these faint fuzzies.

Double or Binary Stars

Not such glamorous images, but interesting all the same in terms of the multiple faceted structure of the universe. Double stars are those which are closely associated by gravity. In other words they orbit each other. There are many well known examples, and often the challenge is to be able to observe (or resolve) both objects. Whether an observer can or cannot resolve both can be a good indicator of the quality of the telescope system. The first image is that of the Albireo double, the main star of which represents the head of the summer constellation Cygnus - The Swan. If you zoom in on the image, you will better see the difference in colour between these two stars indicating they are of different types and age. They are 430 light years from us and may take 100,000 years to orbit each other!
The second image shows what is known as the double double in Lyra. Although the two main stars can easily be resolved in binoculars or small telescope, each of these two stars is also a binary. However, my first effort has not yet been able to resolve these into individual objects. Oh well, something to strive for later!

M27 Dumbbell Nebula in Valpecula

This planetary nebula was first seen by human eyes by Charles Messier in 1764. This light emitting object, mainly caused by ionized  oxygen, is the typical result of a hydrogen fusion spent star, which collapses under its own gravity and heats up to an extent that the outer shell is expelled out from the central core. This nebula is about 2000 light years distant.

NGC 5907 Splinter Galaxy in Draco

This is an edge-on spiral galaxy, which one might imagine could be the side view of the Pin Wheel Galaxy shown earlier. By zooming in, one can see dust lanes partially obscuring one narrow side of the galaxy. It is some 40 million light years distant, or looking back to a time to when cats began to evolve.

M57 Ring Nebula in Lyra (with IC1296)

This nebula is also about 2000 light years distant as is the Dumbbell Nebula, but is visually smaller on the same scale. It was first seen by William Herschel, the discoverer of Uranus, 200 years ago. However, let me share my new world distance record and include galaxy IC 1296, enhanced and arrowed in the zoomed and brightened image adjacent. The light from this dim and distant galaxy is seen and recorded here in Ewelme as it was 200 million years ago, at a time at the beginning of the Jurassic period when mammals had just started to evolve, and 50 million years before even the first birds flew on Earth!! See Time-line graphic.

Total Eclipse of the Moon 2015

On the early morning of 28th September 2015, a session of 4 hours was spent in the 'control room' of Ewelme Observatory taking 100's of images of the complete cycle of the total eclipse of the Moon. The intention was/is to produce either a montage of images or an animation of the event. The problem with taking such images is that the difference between a fully light full moon, requiring an exposure time of 1/2000 sec, and a fully eclipsed one needing in the region of 20 secs. of open shutter, is to choose the best exposure times in between. So for a particular point during the eclipse, a selection of variable exposure times need to be taken in order to achieve reasonable contrast between light and dark. .An animation can be seen by clicking here, compiled from some of the images  as an dynamic illustration of the various phases including totality . Margaret first saw this actual eclipse picture after switching on BBC Breakfast while I was still asleep in bed! You may like to compare this with the one I took in 2008, where the equipment consisted of an outside telescope and a compact camera, with heavy dew and cloud and only a few minutes of the Moon poking through. The next total lunar eclipse will be in the 2019, so watch this space!

M81 Bode's Galaxy

Some 12 million light years distant, this spiral galaxy can be seen in the same region of the sky as M82 - the Cigar galaxy (see above). The first picture, having been centred using 'plate solving', is the result of a single 5 minute noise reduced but unprocessed guided exposure downloaded from the camera sensor. Note that above the brightest star, a 'double star' has been resolved into two. This could be likened to what one might perhaps see directly through an eyepiece in terms of detail, although with a darker less noisy background. The second  image is still a single exposure, but the range of light has been 'stretched' using Photoshop 'levels' to bring out the lighter wispy arms. Further guided images for stacking were also taken, and the result of stacking the best 9x5 = 45 minute exposures using Deep Sky Stacker, and then processing with Photoshop and Picture Manager, has yielded  a final less noisy enhanced image of this galaxy for an evenings work. It would just be impossible to see such an image directly through a telescope eyepiece.

Comet Catalina 2013 US10

This is a 3.5 hour time lapse video of Comet Catalina 2013 US10 observed between 20:30 and 00:15 on the 19th January 2016, showing how surprisingly fast a comet can move within our Solar System over a short period of time. This one is travelling at approximately 35 Km/s, and during this record has travelled between  the constellations of Draco (left) and Ursa Major (right) some 460,000 Kms while rising in altitude about 20 degrees. A.YouTube entry can also be seen at