It hasn’t been a great year for the telescope, the weather has been pretty cloudy since the Summer, and when it has been clear, the pollution has been horrible. Let me be clear, not light pollution, but regular pollution. It has been really visibly worse than in previous years as has been noticed recently, even by politicians . So I went in last night with a student who has been helping me out called Imogen and she’d basically never been able to see anything in the three or so times she has been up, so we took pictures of the moon (literally the only thing visible, even bright stars were virtually invisible even through the finderscope, Deneb for example) and made them into a big photo. I have a 6 megabyte version but I don’t think the atmosphere was clear enough really for that to be worthwhile.
So that’s a nice picture and something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. It’s actually about 20 pictures stitched together, each taken through a hydrogen alpha filter with an exposure of 0.2 seconds. It also gives me an indication of what it would take if I ever decided to get a nice picture of andromeda. Quite a lot of work!
I don’t know what will become of things telescope related if the pollution gets worse. I can only hope for a few heavy rainfalls followed by super cold spells which might clear things up. Anyway, if it carries on like this, people in London will start dropping like flies, so hopefully things will change and we can get some nice images of stuff in space again.
My main concern about the pollution is not actually telescope related! I have a four year old child growing up in this city, we are currently looking at which primary school to send him to. One on our list is Earlsmead primary school close to where we live in Tottenham. Nitrogen Dioxide measurements have been made there recently, it is site HR3o in this list. They show that the yearly average value of nitrogen dioxide is 50 micrograms per cubic metre. Meanwhile the European Union state that the legal maximum level of this gas is 40 micrograms per cubic metre. That’s not good, and its only one indicator of the problem. I don’t suppose any of the other schools in the vicinity close to roads (Risley Avenue, Harris Tottenham, Wellbourne) are much better, its just Earlsmead has a NO2 detector outside. I didn’t think I would be choosing schools on the basis of how to poison my child slightly less at one rather than another but apparently this is the world we live in.
I think people need to be aware that London really is now reaching a limit of pollution which is untenable. At the very least, we need to reduce the number of diesel cars onto the street and of course ultimately the move to electric will improve things a lot.
On that cheery note, I wish you a super solstice and a cloud free new year!