Here in Cornwall we are often rainy and even more cloudy. So observational astronomy is a bit of a waiting game. Last night a gap in the cloud didn’t materialise until in the early hours, so I went to bed and set the alarm for early o’clock. My plan was to photograph Catalina. It was certainly cold outside for here. There was the first frost I had seen in two winters on the ground. But the sky was crystal clear. Setting up the scope I realised Catalina was going to be near the zenith, making it harder to look through the scope as I would be bending down. Scope aligned I sclew to the plough and Catalina’s location and guess what I couldn’t find it. I looked and looked and catalina was certainly playing a hiding game with me. Feeling decidedly out of practice and a little foolish I went inside to warm up and look for the gps locations of the comet. Back out in the cold with information to hand I started aligning the scope again and that is when the owl swooped. I felt a swoosh near my head and glancing up this huge wingspan of a owl had nearly knocked my hat flying off my head.
I had heard the tawny owls distinctive hoot in the trees behind our house all night but that is nothing unusual. I had never seen one of the birds up close and personal before. I know this was stupid but I was now feeling decidedly spooked. I don’t know if it had been trying to land on me or just dive-bombing me but now I certainly must have looked a sight crouching even lower looking every few seconds over my shoulder.
Image credit Renaud Visage/Getty Images
Anyhow I managed to get a quick one shot long exposure of Catalina – not my best shot ever but least I got one. I then packed away my scope and watched the ISS make its pass just after 6am. As dawn was upon us there was a lovely line of planets rising from the south east Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Mars. Jupiter had dropped behind the tree line for me. But 4 was great to see anyhow.