Saturday, 28 July 2012

My favourite astronomy apps

Almost everybody has either a mobile or tablet running on the android operating system or some gadget that is running on IOS, these operating systems both have app markets, and that is what my post is about today. I decided to tell everybody about in my opinion the best 2 apps for astronomy ( these apps are both in the IOS app store but I'm sure the same apps or a very similar alternative are available in the android app market).

Go Sky Watch Planetarium (free)
This app is by far my favourite astronomy app you can either point your device at an object in the sky to find Out about it or you can tap on it with your finger, once you have done this you are given great usefull information about it, magnitude (brightness), elevation, right ascension and declination ( to find it with your telescope if you have setting circles ) and the compass direction of it. You can also find objects by using the search bar, with this you can find constellations, deep sky objects, planets and stars, also it has a great options menu where you can set the minimum magnitude of stars, wether or not you won't it to be displayed in red so that you don't lose your night vision, wether or not it show deep sky objects e.t.c Finally my favourite feature of it once you have selected and object you can click a button to take you to a wikepedia page all about the object. To sum up this is a really great app which I think that anyone interested in astronomy should get.

Moon globe (free)
This app is my second favourite astronomy app, and I use it almost every time I observe the moon. Using this app you can either look at the moon either as a globe so you can see its features on the dark side which you can't see from earth or you can view it from the view point of an earth telescope where you can only see what you will be able to see from a telescope ( I find this mode the most useful ). You can also select what day you want to see it on, so depending on the day it shows it in different phases, once you are looking at it you can select what labels you want to have on it ( menu in the top left corner ) terrain spacecraft or distance from the earth on that particular day. My favourite mode is spacecraft because then using my telescope I can try and get as good a view of the landing sites as possible. This is a great app for use while observing the moon, it is also great for explaining to tiger people your knowledge on our only natural satellite.

So I hope that you are able to get both these amazing apps and have as good an experience with them as I have had, if you have any comments on either of these apps or wish to suggest any other apps that I should add to this post, feel free to leave comment below.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How to get into the hobby of amateur astronomy

One of the questions I was recently asked was what is the best way to get into the hobby of amateur astronomy, I thought that the answer to this might be useful to some other people to so I decided to make a post on it. The best way in my opinion to get into amateur astronomy is to begin by looking at the night sky with just your eyes and learning the names of the constellations and learning how to navigate the night sky. While doing this make sure you give yourself about 20 minutes outside to let your eyes dark adapt to give you the best views, looking at the sky with just your eyes at first is the best way to begin and one of the most common mistakes for people starting the hobby is that they go out and buy a big and expensive telescope when they don't know anything about the constellations and how to navigate the night sky. The other thing that is useful for beginning amateur astronomy is to talk to other people about it this can be done in one of two ways either on forums or by joining an astronomy club in your local area. If possible join an astronomy club as you can learn a lot about astronomy, you get to look through other peoples telescopes and you can make some great friends but if thee isn't a club near you the next best option is to join an astronomy forum. I personally am a member of both and and they both have nice friendly members who have taught me a lot of what I know about astronomy. I hope you find this post helpful if you have any questions feel free to contact me at or leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Skywatcher explorer 130 review

I thought that now would be a good time to write a review on the skywatcher explorer which I got for my birthday, it cost me £155 and I bought it from first light optics ( ) . Firstly I thought that I would say that I decided to buy the non motor driven one because I dont feel like I require a motor at this point in time and I can always buy the motor seperatly and attach it afterwords if I wanted to. When I decided I wanted to buy a small telescope to begin with I couldn't decide between the skywatcher explorer 130 or the celestron power seeker 127 eq, in lots of aspects they were both the same for instance primary mirror size e.t.c but I decided to get the skywatcher because of the fact that a lot of the celestron is plastic and most of the skywatcher is metal so I decided that it would probably be the more sturdy of the two.

Firstly, I found it relatively easy to set up out the box and it only took about 30 minutes to build it.The eyepieces that came with it aren't to bad considering that they come free with the telescope but after a while it is worth upgrading your eyepieces as you will get much improved views by upgrading them, both the 10mm and 25mm are ok but the 2x Barlow isn't very good at all in my opinion and I would probably upgrade that as soon as possible because if anything it justs makes the view worse. The equatorial mount that it comes in is good for the money and I found that when I was hand tracking the accuracy was very good. The telescope uses a dovetail attachment to attach to the telescope which makes it easy to transport as they can be easily took apart. The finder that comes with it is a red dot finder this is ok if you mainly do planet observing but if you are planning on observing dim stars e.t.c then it is worth upgrading the finder to one which has a low magnification. The telescope comes with an accessory tray which is very useful but you should be aware that to fold up the legs of the telescope you have to remove the accessory tray. The focuser on the telescope is good as it doesn't suffer very much from slipping when you let go of it.Overall I have the found the optics of the telescope very crisp across almost all of the field of view and I found that they provided good views of both planets and stars, also the mirrors came well aligned which meaning that I didn't have the hassle of collimating them. I am yet to use it to look at deep sky objects. Overall the telescope is very good value for money and great for beginners, if you have any questions regarding this telescope I will be happy to answer them either leave a comment below or email me at