by Andrew Mowbray
Our first Astronomy Open Night of the year on Saturday 31st January was a success. Around 250 people braved the bitter East Wind to enjoy the heavens through our telescopes and we had lots of lovely comments. They also got the chance to view the Moon up close with our Moon Cams and even take a picture of it themselves. The weather was very lucky for us with that three hour break between high haze and heavy cloud with not bad transparency, considering, We also had a good pass of the International Space Station and it elicited much appreciation and amazement from the visitors! By the time we left the site it was thick cloud, so we were fortunate!
Some of our Club Members gave me their impressions of the evening. Firstly Dave Stratton:
What a splendid event we had. We enjoyed a window of amazing clarity in the midst of gloom. We must have done something to deserve it.
Terry was a hive of industry; I struggled to keep up as I went through the motions of helping. I personally did not get time to look through a single eyepiece. However I enjoyed it all. The public were great and very appreciative of our efforts.
I managed to be in the 'Gents' when I heard Mike's whistle to warn of the ISS pass at 18.32. I managed to exit under controlled conditions in time to see the whole event. I was also able to get the half dozen in the refreshments queue to pay attention as well - for which they were appreciative. They thought it particularly clever of us to arrange for the Moon and Venus to be so well positioned as to frame the event.
During my excursion to the far reaches of the venue I found time to enjoy Andrew's presentation of the moon in the Iron Age Hut. A valiant job he was doing. His height came in very useful as we were setting up the screen at the outset, he was able to secure the lashings to a cross beam to stop the screen blowing over.
It was a joy to see our two newest members Chris and Natasha (Tash) valiantly working with Bruce on the 'get a picture' scope. I was well assisted at the 'meet and greet' post by George and Harry.
Next from Aaron Townsend:
Not exactly a story as such, but I was supposed to be showing people the Crab Nebula, which proved to be rather persistently too faint to see, so I decided on a viewers choice kind of evening instead. Then just as everyone was just starting to pack up, a member of the public popped over for a chat. Between us we decided on one very last attempt to see whether the elusive crab had decided to show..... and there it was, very faint but there. Deciding to see whether I was seeing things through sheer optimism I mentioned to my guest to tell me where he could see it in the eye piece. To my joy we both agreed, the night's objective fulfilled. The moral being that it certainly pays to be persistent :)
Peter Carson reported:
Last night one little girl, about age 9, was looking through my telescope at the double cluster as I mentioned it was in the constellation of Perseus. The girl said "Perseus was the hero who killed Medusa and rescued Andromeda from a sea monster". "That's right" I said. ( I didn't really know) "Have you heard of Cassiopeia" I asked, "she's the Queen in the constellation next to Perseus". "Yes" the little girl said "her daughter was Andromeda". At this point her astounded mother said "I didn't know you knew all this stuff" and the little girl answered "There's a lots of things you don't know about me mummy". From someone so small I found this very amusing!!
George Harrison was stealing my lines:
I was tempted and told a lady that the ISS pass was by special arrangement with NASA...... I used a jokey voice but she took it as gospel........... Hope I stopped the story of the all powerful CPAC spreading???
From my own point of view, I was in the Iron Age Hut with Robin doing the Mon Cam. We had a TV Camera inserted in the eyepiece socket of an 8" telescope. This was attached via a very long lead to a video projector which was projecting the image of the Moon being picked up by the camera.
The Moon was a waxing crescent and we got some great images of craters along the terminator (the line that divides day and night) Robin was swiftly identifying them on his computer and given width, depth and age. For each bunch of visitors, I was given a quick description of what they were seeing and also how the Moon goes around the Earth and shows phases.
Finally our Chairman summed the whole event nicely: It always makes me really proud of the club when we have these events and share the skies with visitors and see so many people really enjoying their first view through a telescope.
Have a look at what we got up to in our Image Gallery.