November Observing Evening

About a dozen enthusiasts assembled in the Boundary Bank Lane car park last night, enjoying a couple of hours of very clear dark skies.  We ran through the constellations as usual, noting how the positions had changed again from the previous meeting, then spent a most rewarding session chasing down a series of double stars.

The temptation with an observing evening is always to go for the better known galaxies and nebulae, so to ring the changes I had drawn up a list of double stars suitable for November viewing through binoculars and small telescopes.  This was a novelty for me – and pretty much everyone else in the group – and it was a revelation: double stars present a completely different set of challenges and rewards for small telescope astronomy, balancing magnification against resolution and demanding very careful examination of the images.  Each target also had a commentary, courtesy of Sky Safari (which uses several references from Jim Kaler’s works), so there was some technical astronomy discussion too.

We studied:

  • Albireo (Beta Cygni),
  • Alpheratz (Alpha Andromedae),
  • The Double Double (Epsilon Lyrae),
  • Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris),
  • Mizar & Alcor (Zeta Ursae Majoris & 80 Ursae Majoris),
  • Archird (Eta Cassiopeiae) and
  • Mintaka (Delta Orionis).

A big “thank you” from me to everyone who attended with such enthusiasm – I really do enjoy putting in the preparation for these sessions, and it is tremendously rewarding when members turn up, join in and so clearly appreciate the effort made.


October Observing evening

The October observing evening crept into November, when about fifteen (it’s hard to tell in the dark) EAS members, plus one rather surprised lorry driver, spent a couple of hours looking around the late autumn / early winter sky.

We found lots to see naked eye, reviewing the constellations of the season with the Milky Way clearly dividing the sky in two, then dived into the telescopes.  I was delighted that we had such a variety of scopes – two 8″ Schmidt Cassegrains on GOTO mounts, an 8″ reflector on a Dobsonian, my 115mm refractor, Stuart’s 130mm Newtonian, a couple of others I couldn’t identify in the dark and plenty of binoculars.

Ian took on the role of Messier-safari as usual, and he and David turned their scopes to Uranus and Neptune too.  My favourite of the night was the yellow-and-blue double star Albireo, showing clear and distinct colours enhanced by their proximity to one another.  Jim Kaler describes them in detail here.

Thanks to all those who came and contributed to a most enjoyable evening!