2020 – how was it for you?

Forums General Discussion 2020 – how was it for you?

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    Jeremy Shears

    Happy New Year to everyone! 

    There are some aspects of 2020 that are best forgotten, but how was it for you observationally? 

    Each year I share my observing stats which I started in 2005. When I work out my observing stats, I count the number of nights that I obtained any CCD photometry from my observatory in Cheshire and divide by the total nights in the year (365 or 366). This year was a bit different as I was working in India until March, so for 2020 I only counted the nights in UK. I also missed a few nights when I was elsewhere in UK, but there weren’t many of those for obvious reasons (a highlight was a few days spent in Northumberland, near the Kielder Forest, when I was able to observe visually under very good skies) 

    My records show that I observed on 100 nights, or 35% of possible nights. This is above my long term average for 2005 to 2020 which was 30% of nights.

    The best month was Dec when I observed on 16 nights. Followed by Apr & May with each with 15 nights. Then Sep, Oct & Nov each with 11 nights. The worst month was June with 2 nights

    My main observational programme is patrolling for outbursts of dwarf novae and other cataclysmic variables. I patrolled 5955 individual stars this year. 

    I also recorded 2802 meteors on my 2 video cameras and the astrometry sent to the NEMETODE network for further analysis. 

    Had some pretty good views of the Sun in H_alpha, observing on 86 days. The best month by far was May during which I observed 29 times. This is a personal record, by a long shot and is an indication of how pleasant the wx was during Spring. 

    So, all-in-all, 2020 was a pretty good year observationally. 

    How was it for you? Do share your observing experiences! 

    Go well!


    Daryl Dobbs

    I live in Risca a small town in the beginning of a valley in South Wales, our local council has whole heartedly embraced the ‘cost savings’ of LED street lights which has deteriorated the skies noticeably. Cloud as been a problem but at least the Sun is waking up. Usually clear when I’m at work and cloudy when I have spare time at home Or treed out.

    Ive managed to get a ZWO camera and an ASIAIR so the next task for 2021 is to get it working with my phone and iPad, then I aim to be more useful in the Lunar section. 

    Paul G. Abel

    Interesting post Jeremy! Well observationally it was very good for me.  We had a splendid Venus elongation and I got over 60 drawings (and the Section elongation report is waiting a slot in the Journal!)  Comet Neowise was a joy, quite wonderful to see that visually in the skies with the naked eye.  I have now 102 drawings of Mars- the spring months were exceptionally clear and although we’ve had a lot of cloud and rain in October and November, when it was clear the seeing has been excellent.  

    Finally there have been my variables I have been following- SS Cygni as you know has been behaving very strangely.  Now we have the nova in Perseus which I have been following.  Two days ago I got a drawing of Einstein crater on the western limb of the Moon- my first view of the formation. So all in, as I’ve been at home more I’ve done a lot more observing this year! I feel I have done much more astronomy than I would normally do and the 12” Newtonian which I got last year for my 40th birthday has greatly extended what I can do!

    Let us hope for a healthier 2021 and I’m sure we all look forward to going to live BAA events again and having a drink in the pub afterwards!

    Best wishes,


    David Boyd

    Happy New Year!

    My statistics for the year show it to have been an average year as far as observing is concerned. Because of the virus, apart from a few nights early in the year I was at home and available to observe every night if conditions permitted. My results show that I actually observed and obtained photometry on 40.1% of available nights (137 out of 342) with the best months being April, May and September (as usual) and the worst February and October. I also obtained spectroscopy on 114 nights.


    Gary Poyner

    Happy New Year everyone.

    Observing statistics for 2020, with 2019 in parentheses.  Birmingham!

    2020 proved to be my clearest year since my records began in 1978, beating the previous best in 1995 by 3 nights. 1995 had many more totally clear nights than 2020 however.  The excellent Spring helped, with 50 observable nights in March, April and May alone!

    Clear nights (less than 50% cloud) 44 (29)

    Partially clear nights (50% or more cloud) 95 (61)

    Total observable nights 139 (90) with 67 of these nights having Moonlight interference. I made observations on 134 nights.

    Total hours at the telescope 296.92 hrs (189.8)
    Best month May with 24 nights (12 partially clear and 12 clear). (August 12)
    Worst month February with 6 nights (5 partially clear and 1 clear) (November 4)

    Birmingham Met office gave incorrect information on cloud cover for 79 nights during 2020

    Total visual VS observations for 2020 is 10,717, an increase by 3,897 on 2019. CCD single measures using remote telescopes COAST, SLOOH and the AAVSO SRO-50 are 1,909 for 2020 against 1,903 for the previous year.

    Mike Harlow

    A modest 56 nights of imaging from home in 2020 with a hand full of remote telescope sessions.  My main targets are variable nebulae with the majority of images being of Gyulbudaghian’s nebula which had a dramatic fade.  A remote image of McNeil’s nebula showed that it was still invisible and Hind’s nebula showed little change in shape.

    Two novae appeared that were initially bright enough for both imaging and low resolution spectroscopy. Nova Cas 2020 has now undergone a deep dust fade but may well brighten again in the next few months.  Nova Persei remains bright enough for spectroscopy and should be interesting to watch as it fades in the next few months.

    And there was that comet…NEOWISE.  I don’t have the technology or skill to get stunning images but a simple set-up did reveal the sodium tail early in the apparition.

    Looking forward to seeing how some of these objects change in 2021.


    Alan Thomas

    My AstroDiary records observations on 48 occasions, but there must have been many more naked-eye observations unrecorded as I walk out early every morning (except weekends). My focus has chiefly been on the Moon, planets and the Sun.

    I noted January 5th as the 60th anniversary of my first recorded observation.

    The highlight of my astronomical year must be the award of ‘Picture of the Week’ for an image of the Mercury-Venus conjunction in May taken with a Sony RX-100 in high winds! Most unexpected.

    I was also pleased to get an image of Mars with some detail using a mobile phone camera on a 200mm Dob.

    Various upgrades in mind for 2021 – and learning how to use a Canon 1100D!

    Happy observing in 2021!


    Tracey Snelus

    Wonderful post and great to see how everyone is making a recordings of their astronomical year. I certainly need to up my game on the record keeping and would be interesting to know how many clear nights we actually get here in North Wales. From my observation notebook it would appear that, like many. the summer months were the best for observations. I haven’t managed to image as often as I would have liked and this is both a combination of working too hard being tired at night and also time setting up and perfecting the setup. Comet NeoWise and my image of the veil nebula have been my highlights. I’ve just been through the meteor detector radio data and have 61995 detections for the year. 

    Into 2021 I need to keep a record of this and see how this pans out come the same time next year. 


    Peter Meadows

    Surprisingly I managed to observe the Sun on 240 days in 2020, this being an extra 60 days compared to 2019 (and previous years) due to a fine and sunny spring, being able to work flexible hours from home which especially helped in November and December and not going away on holiday!

    Nevertheless there was a bit of frustration due to lack of activity – for example during May I observed on 30 days without a single sunspot seen!  It is good now that activity has improved since mid-October albeit only mainly in the southern hemisphere. 

    So looking forward to observing many more sunspot groups in 2021 (and for northern hemisphere activity to start in earnest).

    Mr Andrew Jeffries

    Lockdown brought about some benefits in my observing as I had conquered some of the software and hardware I had invested in and so was able to turn my attention to improving my technique of astrophotography.  

    2020 was the first year I had kept records of my observing and it totalled 38 nights in all.  Looking back over my notes it has been interesting to see what has been done in the last twelve months.  Certainly note keeping is something I will be continuing perhaps extending it to the casual look up I often do when there is a break in the clouds.

    Well here’s looking forward to 2021 and hopefully the vaccination programme will be what we would like and we can all meet in person once again.

    Best wishes to all

    Denis Buczynski

    Hello all, My main observing programme is astometry and monitoring of comets. The year is divided into 3 parts for me here in Tarbatness Highland Scotland at 59d N latitude. The fisrt is the months from Jan-May when observing is possible ina dark sky. The second is frOm mid May-mid August when no observing is possible due to all night bright twilight, Then third from mid August-December when observing is possible in a dark sky. During the second period of the year only observations of NLC are possible. Vitually no observations were made of the bright naked eye comet C/2020F3 NEOWISE in June/July due to the twlight conditions. Contrary to other parts of the UK which saw good spring and summer conditions that allowed pleasant observing, here in Highland Scotland the weather was fairly grey, overcast and cool. However I was able to observe on 106 nights when comet imaging took place and I included 87 reports of photometry of comet 29p a target for the 29P MISSION progamme run by Richard Miles for the BAA Comet Section. My two meteor cameras were operating through the year apart form the summer shutdown months and around 2000 meteors were captured on each camera and reported to NEMOTODE. The year was comparable to previous years for observing.

    Bill Ward

    Hi all,

    Despite the usual cloudy, wet and windy weather throughout the year a few brief spells gave me some excellent results.

    My use of the ZWO 174 cameras has proved very successful inasmuch as they have produced some of the best meteor spectra ever recorded (either amateur or professional). Both surprising and pleasing!!!

    As meteor astronomy is fairly dynamic most of my results have been posted here then summarised in The Astronomer.

    2021 has already got off to a super start, I even received a very complementary response to a tweet about the spectrum from just yesterday. Josep M Trigo, one of the worlds leading meteor astronomy experts said that my spectrum was better that what he had in his books!

    Clear skies.



    Nick James

    COVID meant that I was at home a lot more than I would normally have been, particularly in the Spring and early summer when the weather was excellent. I managed to do some imaging on 170 nights in 2020 (compared to 90 in 2019). Some of this was due to the better weather but most was due to the fact that I was around to use the telescope! Less subjectively the number of sporadic meteors picked up by my two meteor cameras remained similar to previous years (see the graph below).

    There were many observing highlights in 2020. Sitting out in wonderful weather each evening in the spring and early summer watching Venus gradually sink into a contrail-free twilight, capturing an outburst of comet 29P just a few minutes after it had started, watching the breakup of C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) in night after night of clear skies and then, of course, there was the wonderful C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) in July. One of my most memorable nights was on July 11/12 when that beautiful comet was joined by bright NLCs on a perfect summer evening. Sadly, the following week I should have been on La Palma and I wonder what comet images I would have got from there but COVID put paid to that.

    Finally, at the end of the year, I was amazingly privileged to see the December 14 Total Solar Eclipse from Argentina as one of less than 100 foreigners let into the country. Many thanks to AstroTrails for managing to arrange that despite the international travel situation.

    All-in-all a very memorable year from an astronomical viewpoint but I do hope that things start to get back to normal in 2021. I do miss travel and pubs and all the things of normal daily life that we used to take for granted.

    John Cook

    I managed a total of 182 visual observations of the sun, a little lower than my record of 198 set in 2014. Due to surrounding obstacles, I have only a couple of solar observing ‘windows’ each days, particularly in the winter. I do however have 366 days of radio data for detecting solar flares. A slow start earlier in the year, but cycle 25 has started to become more active in the autumn.

    I did watch the Saturn-Jupiter conjunction getting closer, but then the clouds stopped play on the final day!

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