The forecast of clear skies for Tuesday 20th February had been consistent for about three days, but within an hour of announcing the observing evening at around 4pm it had completely clouded over. Such are the frustrations of organising events in Kendal.
So it was an act of complete denial to go and set up at Boundary Bank, and I was delighted to see that I was not alone. At about ten past seven, the security lights switched off, the clouds lifted and we had horizon-to-horizon clear dark skies. The cold dry air brought a clarity and transparency rarely seen in Cumbria.
A relatively small turnout of about a dozen members, but with three good telescopes to share there was plenty of eyepiece time for everyone. Special thanks go to David Glass for giving so much attention to the new members and making them feel very welcome. One commented how delighted she was that people were willing to share the views through such amazing kit – I had never really thought of it in that way.
What did we see and do? A round up of the constellations – with mythology from Moira – emphasising the difference between the rotating northern horizon and the ever-changing southern horizon, some double stars from David, star clusters including The Pleiades and the Perseus Double cluster, a long look at The Orion Nebula (below, my photo from 14 February) at various magnifications, a fruitless search for Uranus very close to the Moon.
We finished with the Moon itself, an outrageously clear waxing crescent with fabulous detail around the terminator. All in all, a very relaxed session with everyone just happy to be out.
A successful Moonwatch tonight. Coordinated by Richard, there were 4 scopes and several EAS members present. The Moon was covered by high haze and a nice halo round it but it was clear though the scopes although lacking some contrast. Virtually no stars were visible! The 110km diameter crater Gassendi was showing really well. Initially very quiet but very busy at times later on.
The cloudy halo round the Moon
A quick telephoto shot at the end of the event.
We have a moonwatch next Saturday, January 27th from 1830 – 2100, where anyone passing can view the Moon through our telescopes, weather permitting. The Kendal Brewery Arts Centre garden gives good view southwards and has coffee and toilets as well! Let’s hope for some good cloud-free skies. The Moon should look a bit like this.
About a dozen EAS members met at our regular Observing Evening spot on Sunday night, where the very kind staff at Boundary Bank had left the car park gate unlatched so that we could gain access. There was a bit of a scare when the security lights failed to switch off at 7pm, but all was well when they went out at about ten past.
We managed a review of the constellations, with mythological references from Moira, and picked out some less-easy asterisms such as parts of Pisces. Triangulum is now locked into my memory too.
Many thanks to David Glass for picking off some of the more difficult targets, M27 (The Dumbbell Nebula) and Uranus in particular. I found M57 (The Ring Nebula) and we marvelled at the clarity of M31 (The Andromeda Galaxy) in Ian Bradley’s generously lent 10″ reflector zinging around on my AZ-EQ6 mount. We caught M32 nestled next to M31, and also M110 as an independent and clearly visible smudge in the same field of view.
Jane and Steve got their new Celestron working, yippee!
Ian Bradley left his camera running for the session, pointed at the North America Nebula in Cygnus.
David and I set a hare running with some ideas for short talks based on the objects we viewed. Watch this space!
Two favourite moments for me were seeing M110 distinctly in the eyepiece, and identifying the star on the southern horizon pointed out by Wendy, as Formalhaut. Now there’s a short lecture on astronomy history begging to be put together – here are the first and last slides of the talk, who’d like to fill in the gaps?
Statue in Rome
Fomalhaut by Hubble
See you next time
Friends of the Lake District are hosting a FREE Dark Sky event at https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/Event/dark-skies-star-gazing for more details.
Mazonwath near Orton, this Saturday (11th November) at 1830. See
Created from Cassini images over 20 years, apparently:
Click here for menu of solar system objects
We have the “Telescope Night” meeting on Monday. Anyone with a (portable) telescope, please bring it along to the meeting. The second half of the meeting will be a chance for members to see all the different types, and discuss their merits and drawbacks with the proud/frustrated owners. Don’t be shy if your telescope is of the cheap and cheerful variety – people thinking of buying a first telescope will be thinking of getting one like yours, and be keen to see what is available. Complicated ones are also welcome if you can get them down the stairs.
Plan for the meeting:
• Quick news round-up – Richard Rae
• Short talk on telescope design – Ian Bradley
• Observing Evenings – Simon White
• Constellation of the month – Moira Greenhalgh
• Tea/coffee break
• General telescope admiration session
Hope to see you all there on Monday!
NASA’s Cassini probe has now burned up in the atmosphere of Saturn sending data as it went. Its legacy of fantastic science and stunning photographs will continue. There is a fantastic ebook on the mission on their website https://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/index.html
Following the excellent meeting last Monday with the talk on Women Astronomers by Martin Lunn, the Institute of Physics magazine has just published an article on Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell. She was recently awarded the IoP’s President’s Medal for her outstandish work in physics, much of which recently has been on encouraging women to go into science. Of course, she is [sadly] known as the women who didn’t get a [deserved] Nobel Prize for the discovery of pulsars [and I don’t think they do retrospective awards]. But she has many other strings to her bow, so I hope you will enjoy the read and learn at bit more about her.
PhysicsWorld Article Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Members might be interested in this article, from the Institute of Physics magazine physicsworld, on Cassini. The mission will end next Friday [15th September] when Cassini dives into Saturn’s atmosphere to avoid possible future contamination of Saturn’s moons.