Happy Winter Solstice 2017!

So, today is again the day when the day is at it’s shortest and night at it’s longest in Northern hemisphere, but now the sunlight will be increasing slowly but surely!

We even got some snow here in Ulvila, Western Finland!

Happy Winter Solstice for you all!



Partial Lunar Eclipse 7.8.2017

Observed phenomena: Lunar eclipse
Type of eclipse: Partial Lunar eclipse
Type of observation: Positive
Date and time: 07.08.2017, 18:44-20:22 UT
Observing place: Turku, Finland
Observing conditions: Clear sky (1/8)
Observing instruments: Camera: Canon EOS 1100D, Telescope L80/400mm (3” refractor)

Finally I was lucky with observing a Lunar eclipse! The eclipse of 7th of August 2017 was well visible in Turku, Finland.

Only the last phases of the eclipse were visible. The Moon was below horizon during the early eclipse and during maximum eclipse. Soon after maximum eclipse the Moon rose above horizon also in Turku. The Moon rose as it was partially in the umbra, and it was quite an exotic sight to witness! As the Moon rose higher, it was leaving the umbra. The 4th contact of the eclipse happened around 19.18 UT. The penumbra was still visible until about 19.45 UT.

This was a very enjoyable and memorable event to observe! I’m very glad and thankful that I was able to observe this eclipse!

Here are some photos from the eclipse:

Beyond Herschel 400 – Open road ahead

foogy sunrise at highway

Right now the status of my visual deep sky observing program is like this:

  • Caldwell -catalogue (82/109 observed, 3 objects observable from Finland still to be observed)
  • Hidden treasures -catalogue by Stephen O’Meara (93/109 observed, 3 objects observable from Finland still to be observed)
  • Herschel 400 I (256/400 observed, 116 objects observable from Finland still to be observed)

This means, that I still have 122 objects of these catalogues that I can observe from Finnish latitudes and 65 such objects, that I have to observe them from some southern location.

My dream is, that I could complete observing these catalogues some day, including the southern objects!

But I’m already planning what to do after having completed this observing program, at least to the extent it is possible in Finland. So there are two steps in this mission: 1. observe all objects that are observable in Finland, 2. observe those objects, that can be observed from a southern location. I will now consider only the first step of this mission, and what to do after having completed it. The second step is going to be another sub-mission, and I will deal with it later.

I have been thinking about at least following possibilities to go beyond Herschel 400:

  • Herschel 400 II (obviously)
  • Observing some challenging deep sky objects (perhaps more irregularly but trying to observe in best possible conditions)
  • Observing bright nebulas with H Beta filter (trying to observe all such objects, that are best viewed with H Beta filter)
  • Sketching some impressive and famous deep sky objects on black cardboard (with white pencils)
  • Buying even larger telescope, and observing some challenging objects (for example Hickson galaxy groups, etc.)
  • Observing comets visually in more systematic way
  • Observing variable stars
  • Writing a book about deep sky observing

It would take me about 2 observing seasons to complete the first part of the mission. During season 2017-2018 I would observe Caldwell, Hidden Treasures and Herschel 400, and I would most likely complete Caldwell and Hidden treasures. During season 2018-2019 I would still have Herschel 400 objects to be observed, but those would all be in the Spring of 2019, and then I could complete Herschel 400 by the end of that observing season. Then I would need to find something to be observed in Autumn 2018. That could be a suitable position to launch my next endeavor, whatever it would be.

I feel that after having completed my current deep sky observing program (Caldwell, Hidden Treasures and Herschel 400, part I: objects observable in Finland), I have climbed to a top of one mountain, or at least to a side peak of a higher mountain!

When I’m at that point, I feel that I can start climbing another mountain, and leaving the highest peak of the first mountain (Caldwell, Hidden Treasures and Herschel 400, part II: objects observable from a southern location) to be conquered at some other time, when the time is right. Now I have plenty of options where to choose from! All of them are familiar at some level, but I would just go deeper into them. Most of these options have something to do with observing, one of them is something that would seriously test my skills as a writer.

For now, I will leave this open question. Time will tell, to which direction my intuition is leading me from where I’m now!


Happy 9th birthday, Celestial Sphere!


So, this is the 9th birthday of Celestial Sphere!

I started blogging about my amateur astronomy hobby on 29th of June 2008, since then, I have been running this blog almost continuously! The first incarnation of this blog was on Blogspot, and it was called Taivaanpallo. Back then I was still writing in Finnish, but I changed to English in 2010. In 2011, I moved my blog to WordPress, and I have been blogging in here since then!

Big thank you for all of you who have supported me by comments, likes and other forms of interaction, I appreciate it very much!


Observing season 2016-2017

So, observing season 2016-2017 is now finally over! During the season, I was mostly working on my visual deep sky observing/sketching program. Besides this, I was also doing some visual variable star observing during Autumn 2016, but I had to give that up because of too much workload and other things that were demanding my time and energy. Since that, my variable star observing program has been on hold.

But I was able to do quite many visual deep sky observations! When I’m observing, I’m using a cardboard form made by deep sky section of Finnish Ursa astronomical association for sketching and recording the observation. During the season, I completed 86 of cardboard forms like these, though not all of them were unique deep sky object observations. One of these was a comet observation and 2 were unplanned duplicate observations. So I was able to complete 83 cardboard forms with at least one new object! The number of new objects observed for this season is larger than that, but I haven’t been counting objects, but instead of that the number of completed cardboard forms. Each cardboard form counts as one ‘observation’, which may consist of several objects in the field, typically 1 to 4. So when counting like this, the number of new, unique deep sky observations for me last season was 83.

My pile of completed deep sky observation cardboard forms from season 2016-2017

Here you can see some statistics:

  • Number of new, unique observations: 83
  • Number of observing sessions: 25
  • Number of observations per observing session on average: 3,32
  • Total observing time: 59h 00min 00s
  • Best NELM recorder: 6.6
  • Best SQM meter reading recorder: 21.36

Number of observing sessions in my observing sites:

  1. Ulvila observatory, 11 sessions
  2. Stormälö, Parainen, 6 sessions
  3. Leistilänjärvi, Nakkila, 4 sessions
  4. Friitala, Ulvila, 1 session
  5. Koski, Kullaa, 1 session
  6. Saarijärvi, Lavia, 1 session
  7. Tähtikallio observatory, 1 session

Number of sessions with my instruments:

  1. 10” Newton, 15 ½ sessions
  2. 11” Catadioptric in Ulvila observatory, 9 sessions
  3. 36” Folded-Newton (Astrofox) in Tähtikallio observatory, ½ sessions

half sessions: ½ because during one session I used half of the time 10” Newton and other half of the time 36” Folded-Newton of Tähtikallio observatory

So, that was the statistics for this season. Next season will be beginning in the later half of August 2017. Then I will carry on observing my visual deep sky program, especially Herschel 400 list. I hope, that I could also finish Caldwell- and Hidden treasures -lists, at least to the extent it is possible from Finnish latitudes.

Thank you for staying with me during this season, see you again in August 2017!


Observing 29./30.3.2017 in Ulvila Observatory

Date: 29./30.3.2017
Time: 22:00-00:30
Observing site: Ulvila Observatory, Finland
Instrument: C280/2750 mm (11” Catadioptric)

NELM: 6.2
SQM: 20.61-20.80
Darkness of the background sky: 3
Seeing: –
Transparency: –
Weather: Clear sky, calm, no Moon, no snow, 0 – -2C, aurora belt/arc in northern sky

Objects observed: NGC 3640, 3641, 3810, 3655, 3900 and 3912

This night was my last observing session in March 2017 and in observing season 2016-2017. During this night, I observed several galaxies in Leo, and I was able to finish Leo constellation in Herschel 400 observing list. During the night, I was observing in Ulvila observatory, and conditions were relatively good in terms of the site.

NGC 3640, 3641

My first stop at my journey in the starry sky during this night was pair of galaxies NGC 3640 and 3641. Of these two, my main target was NGC 3640, an elliptical galaxy located in southern part of Leo. This galaxy can be found when moving ~degrees south from sigma Leo. NGC 3641 is located only 2,5′ SE from 3640. This galaxy is rather faint and small, and it is classified also as an elliptical galaxy. Of these two I wrote following notes:

@165x: two galaxies in the field, NGC 3640 and 3641. NGC 3640 is the brightest and more dominant of these two. NGC 3640 appears as a bright, oval-shaped, diffuse glow of light with bright non-stellar core, long axis in W-E orientation. NGC 3641 appears as a small, roundish, featureless and faint nebulous patch slightly SE from NGC 3640.

170329-30_NGC 3640-3641
NGC 3640 and 3641 observed with 11” Catadioptric

NGC 3810

My next object for this night was NGC 3810, a galaxy located in southern Leo close to Virgo boundary. This galaxy can be located when moving ~4 degrees ENE from iota Leo. This galaxy with beautiful spiral structure has also been photographed by Hubble space telescope. This galaxy is classified as an Sc -type spiral galaxy, and the galaxy has a really nice spiral structure, see for your self! Unfortunately I couldn’t see the spiral structure with my modest instrument. About this galaxy, I wrote as follows:

@165x: this galaxy appeared as a rather faint, roundish and diffuse patch of light, the galaxy has a faint core, which doesn’t stand out much.

170329-30_NGC 3810
NGC 3810 observed with 11” Catadioptric

NGC 3655

My third object for this session was NGC 3655, an Sc -spiral in the rear end of Leo. This galaxy can be located for example by moving ~2,5 degrees NE from theta Leo. About this galaxy, I wrote following notes:

@165x: this galaxy appeared as an elongated, oval-shaped glow, the galaxy has a rather bright core, long axis in N-S orientation.

170329-30_NGC 3655
NGC 3655 observed with 11” Catadioptric

NGC 3900

My fourth object for this night was NGC 3900, a spiral galaxy of type S0-a R, located in north-easternmost corner of Leo, close to Coma Berenices boundary. It can be located for example by moving ~8,5 degrees roughly to west from gamma Com. About this galaxy I write as follows:

@165x: rather bright, oval-shaped, elongated galaxy, rather bright core, long axis in N-S orientation.

170329-30_NGC 3900
NGC 3900 observed with 11” Catadioptric

NGC 3912

My fifth and last object for this session was NGC 3912, a barred spiral galaxy of type SBb, located only ~30′ SSE from NGC 3900. About this galaxy, I wrote as follows:

@165x: this galaxy appears as a faint, diffuse, nebulous and featureless patch of light. This galaxy is elongated and thin, long axis in N-S direction.

170329-30_NGC 3912
NGC 3912 observed with 11” Catadioptric

So, that was it! My last observing session in March 2017 and last in observing season 2016-2017. Now I had finished Leo constellation on Herschel 400, and I could tick off that constellation from the list!

This observing season had been also quite productive, I was able to more than 80 observations during the season! In late season during spring of 2017, I was having quite busy and hectic season again in my life, and that hindered my observing to some extent. I had to terminate the observing season prematurely partially because of that. But all in all, I was quite satisfied with my observing season! I might later publish a more detailed insight to my observing season statistics.

But at least I’m going to keep some time off from observing because of the mandatory summer break that we northern deep sky observers have. The skies are already very light, and it’s only about 3 weeks to summer solstice! Enjoy the summer, and have good time! See you again in Autumn of 2017!