* A very good turn out for the event with visitors of all ages attending the AC. True to the weather forecast the sky conditions did not allow any observation  of the astronomical events predicted ( a very brief 10 seconds moon glow appeared through the clouds well after the lunar eclipse).Observations of Mars were certainly out of the question. We hope someone somewhere got a view?

For the rest of the evening visitors and members had informal discussions about general astronomy and future events at the AC.

Thanks to all for turning up inspite of the unhelpful weather. Maybe better luck at the 2018 Perseid Meteor shower in August... we plan to be open Saturday and Sunday evening/mornings.

 

The Astronomy Centre will be open to visitors on the night of the 27th July 2018 after 21.00.

The main feature should be the observation of the planet Mars which will be the brightest its been since Mars 2016. The approach will be only the second closest since the Stone age at about 35.7 million miles. In 2012 it was ~60 million miles from us at magnitude +1.2, on the 27th it will be -2.8 ( more than 40 times brighter). A very special event indeed.

As well as "Mars calling" we have some other events during the same night. At about 21.31 the moon will rise in eclipse ( the moon will be in the shadow of the earth), we should  see the second half of the event, cloud permitting.

Also throughout the night Venus, Saturn, Jupiter join the party , if we are lucky also Mercury just after sunset.

Join us for some planetary and lunar observing , the show starts at 21.30.

 

 

 

Well done to AC members for braving the bitterly cold Sunday morning weather in persuit of an early start for the planetary conjunction. Two observatories were in operation throughout the night making use of the clear sky conditions. Rising at 0412 from the AC a thin band of cloud on the SE horizon delayed observations briefly. By 0450 the pair of planets commanded the view well above the clouds and gave both members and visitors a well earned spectacle. Even by eye the pair were easily discernable as a bright pair of objects in the, now clear, sky.

Sky conditions were fairly favourable but the freezing moisture in the air put a limit of the observable detail. Jupiter , the upper planet of the two, appeared with two pairs of its moons appearing like quotation marks in the plane of their parent planet.

Mars, though the fainter of the two, showed its distincive red colouration both visually and especially when imaged.

As a brief diversion, visitors requested a view of the 67% moon in the 16",  a tour and discussion of the surface features ensued using a camera and large screen display.

Next on the agenda was an opportunity to observe Mercury ahead of a rapidly brightening sky. Again, a thin bank of cloud threatened to spoil the early appearance above our 3 degree horizon. Success, Mercury appeared alone at nearly 4 degrees elevation just above the thin cloud. Inspite of looking like a small coloured disc due to a thicker atmosphere at this low altitude, Mercury was a instant hit for visitors.

A long shot observation was of Saturn just after Mercury. The observing team were beaten , understandably, by a bright pre-dawn sky, no matter , main observing objectives done.

Team dispersed at 0846 for a well earned breakfast and bed.

See below for a sample of images taken- hope for more to follow.

Jupiter, Mars, Mercury composite. Dawn at the AC. Meade 16", NEX5R camera.

AC Stargazing week.

After a week of varied wintry weather we welcomed a range of hardy souls to the AC.

Visitors braving the conditions were able to engage with AC members who gave guided tours, sky tours and  illustrated talks. Junior visitors operated the `large ` AC telescopes and the main dome, also gaining an insight into basic astonomy using planetarium software. Our youngest visitor was about 18 months old and delighted in driving a 16" Meade telescope using the remote control.

Tuesday evening was blessed with fairly clear skies allowing visitors to observe a range of astronomical phenomena. Very cold conditions did not put off some enthuisiasts who engaged in imaging on the outside observing plateau ( - 6 C ! )

Wednesday weather was wet and windy all evening, junior visitors engaged in some Astro theory and basic telescope operation.

Thursday- scattered cloud with the odd break. Very good visitor turnout attending all talks. A practical intoduction to Astro Imaging was well received as well as help with equipment setup and operation.

Thanks to all members and visitors for turning up and helping inspite of the challenging conditions.

**This Saturday ( 17th) we have an additional opportunity for visitors to visit the Imaging facility operated by Bob and Matthew. They welcome `drop in` visitors to receive an outline of this interesting aspect of Astronomy. **

We hope to see some of our newer visitors again on our regular Saturday openings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some early images from the total eclipse across the USA. Commentary below.....

 

Members of the AC travelled to the United States of America to observe and image the Great Eclipse of 2017.

After numerous projected traffic jam reports it was decided to get close to the observing site to avoid problems on the day. The chosen location was the town of Paducah in Kentucky , the eclipse duration in this area would be about 2 minutes 20 seconds. The day before the eclipse an observing site was evaluated and permission to `setup`next day obtained from the site owners. We set up our equipment an hour or so before first contact. The equipment comprised of a 70 mm William Optics Refractor , Ioptron cube mount, Celestron lightweight tripod, Bader filter, 2" extension tube, 2 " right angle adaptor and a Sony NEX5 camera.

A mostly clear sky and air temperatures in the 90`s suggested a clear view of the eclipse, but, as first contact arrived a small group of clouds arrived just in time to steal the arrival of the moon onto the suns disc. Fingers crossed by the crowd for about 15 minutes and the cloud cleared to reveal a partial eclipse and continuous clear sky. Through the telescope sunspots were seen just right of centre and some more that had emerged from the left of the disc in the last few days. After plenty of partial eclipse images a gradually deacreasing solar disc transformed into a broken thin crescent then the long awaited totality. The surroundings darkened rapidly and a spectacular corona was witnessed by all present who cheered and clapped. An erie grey twilight surrounded us all , rarely seen except at times of eclipse. Surrounding street lights came on and a stream of birds flew into their nightime roosting space - a tall factory chimney! Cameras clicked and mobile phones were all directed to the sky. Most observed the event with the Mk1 eyes leaving the more entusiastic to image the event with a variety of lensed equipment. A spectacular diamond ring marked the end of totality and the brightening sky again prompted rousing applause and cheering. The sunlight had returned and air temperatures went up again, a few last images of the brightening diamond ring and we were into the finale- a gradually increasing solar surface.

A few stalwarts remained as the crowd headed for refreshments and a late lunch. Some time later the event was over , equipment packed away , cameras with their precious memory cards carefully stowed for the journey home. If there was one downside to the whole day it was the 4 hour traffic jam on the freeway heading north to St Louis- a small price to pay for the amazing trans- North American eclipse. See you all again in 2024 for the next big one. More images  available on the AC Activity Web pages.

Special thanks to the `Mellow Mushroom` in Paducah for supporting the natural event with superb refreshment, great food and brilliant live music.

AndyS