Welcome to my webpages. I am Mark Radice, an amateur astronomer based near Salisbury in southern England. I enjoy almost aspect of observational astronomy from the bright moon to the dimmest deep sky objects. If it’s in the night sky, I want to see it!
I hope that my enthusiasm for astronomy comes across on this site. It is regularly updated to keep it fresh and includes a number of different areas. The main section is the Journal where I record my latest project or observations. I have also included a gallery of recent sketches as well as articles on equipment that I have made.
Ireally enjoy visual astronomy and sketching what I see. Although I have dabbled in the astroimaging and astrophotography world, I much prefer the challenge and joy of observing and replicating it on paper. The idea of staring at a computer monitor while the sky is clear simply does not appeal to me – coupled with the extensive post-imagining processing necessary to produce a final image. That being said, the images that people are gathering today are simply staggering – whether planetary, lunar or deep sky. Even so there is still considerable value (both scientific and personal) in having ancient photons from the distant universe striking your eye and conveying that image with simple pencil and paper.
I use a small garden observatory that I converted from an existing wooden shed into a roll-off-roof. It is far from ideal, not only does it face north – my southern sky is limited as my house is in the way – it is located in the small town of Amesbury and is therefore polluted with light from streetlamps and house lights. Luckily, as Amesbury is only a small town, I am far better off than those observing from the big towns and cities.
I have a great visual set up. On the right is a 100mm APM binoscope and on the right a second hand C8. This means I can switch from a high powered view through the telescope to a wide angle, low power binocular view. To be honest, I prefer using the binoscope especially as I prefer two eyed observing. I have a pair of19mm panoptics (second hand) which gives me x30 and can also use TAL x2 barlows to give x60. The binoscope provides lovely wide field of views with enough aperture and magnification to undertake serious deep sky observing. Furthermore, using two eyes to observe gives a very comfortable, bright and 3D image with the advantage of being able to better observe faint and tenuous details. I can then switch over to the C8 for close up views and for detailed lunar and planetary observing. This set up has proved to be a boone with comets as I can sweep with the binos and then use the C8 for a more detailed view.
I am only a short drive away from the comparatively dark skies of Salisbury Plain. I make a number of observations around new moon time (if the weather cooperates) from public areas away from the villages and barracks. This is often with fellow members of the Salisbury Plain Observing Group. It can be quite surreal observing under a dark sky while listening to helicopters clattering overhead, tanks manoeuvring in the far distance or the rumble of artillery. The Salisbury Plain Observing Group came about when at the Salisbury Star Party in the village of Six Penny Handley in 2008. A group of us realised that we lived within a short distance of each other so, having swapped contact details, we make contact to observe as and when the weather and diaries allow.
I usually take either the binoscope on a homemade parallelogram mount or a homemade 8.5” reflector on a dob-style mount to the dark skies. The improvement in what can be seen away from town is quite striking. The usual suspects of M31, the Beehive and the Double Cluster are easily seen with the naked but I have also seen the open cluster within the Rosette Nebula and NGC752 in Andromeda. The challenge I have set myself is finding M33 and M13 with the naked eye.
Have fun browsing and wishing you clear skies.
I am an active member of the Salisbury Plain Observing Group, an informal bunch who meet in the pub before heading out to observe or image under the dark skies away from all the light pollution. Further details are on the SPOG pages.