Wolvas Observing Weekend WOW7 – September 2023

13th to 21st September 2023

Our final WOW event of 2023 followed the now familiar format of being held over a week rather than just a long weekend. The dates are booked at the beginning of the year, so we are committed to turning up and hope for good weather and cloudless nights.

The extra days increase the chances of more clear skies. In fact, a few stayed over for one extra night as the forecast looked good, and we weren’t disappointed.

Arrival day was lovely and sunny giving us a chance to put up tents and caravan awnings in the dry. Clouds rolled in later, so the only astronomy done was catching fleeting glimpses of the prominent stars in Cygnus, plus Vega in Lyra. Thursday night was much the same although we managed to see Jupiter with a few stars.

Friday held the much-anticipated opportunity to see Comet Nishimura, low on the horizon just after sunset.

The daytime cloud was variable with many clear patches, so every optimistic, we headed to the top of the Long Mynd at dusk.

Sadly, a large bank of cloud formed right where the comet would be, although in consolation we did see a sun-dog with splendid rainbow colours.

Back at the site we could see a few stars here and there and there was a good possibility of some clear skies a little later, so the site was full of the sounds of 13 optimistic astronomers preparing kit. And wow, we were rewarded with crystal clear skies! The Milky Way was amazing, naked-eye visible, stretching overhead, with awesome seeing conditions. One short lived patch of cloud passed through very quickly around 10pm, then it was gin clear for the remainder of the night.

An assortment of binoculars, telescopes and cameras were put to good use, picking out a wide range of planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies.

By the time the final stragglers turned in at 3:30am, Orion had risen to join Jupiter, Saturn, The Milky Way and a whole host of constellations.

It was breath taking sight which more than made up for previous cloudy nights and rainy days.

M13 Hercules Globular Cluster
Skywatcher 200mm/8″ Newtonian
Canon 70D
300 seconds ISO-800

Such a great night made up for the remaining nights being cloudy, including Tuesday our last night.

However, as mentioned at the beginning, 3 of us stayed on for an extra night, ever optimistic. We weren’t disappointed, another brilliantly clear night with good seeing conditions. It was a little breezy at times making the larger scopes wobble, but not enough to stop us observing.

Planets, galaxies, nebulae and the Milky Way were all visually observed and photographed, using DSLRs on tracking mounts, 10″ SCT telescope on a manual mount and my 8″ Newtonian scope on a GoTo mount.

I stayed up until 3:30am to take full advantage of the clear skies, before finally succumbing to tiredness. Still getting to grips with my astrophotography rig, I spent between 30and 60 minutes on each target to get a reasonable spread of different objects, including:

  • NCG 6888 Crescent Nebula
  • NCG 1524 Crystal Ball Nebula
  • NCG 869 Double Cluster Persei
  • M51 Whirlpool Galaxy
  • NCG 6946 Fireworks Galaxy
  • M33 Triangulum Galaxy
  • M110 Galaxy
  • Neptune
  • Saturn

M27 Dumbbell nebula

Skywatcher 200mm/8″ Newtonian
Canon 70D
300 seconds ISO-800

M57 Ring Nebula

Skywatcher 200mm/8″ Newtonian
Canon 70D
300 seconds ISO-1600

In the daytime we went on various trips out to explore the local area, these included:

Bishops Castle for the Michaelmas Fare, featuring amongst other things; traction engines, a vintage car procession and street stalls.

Carding Mill Valley is close by and offers an assortment of walks and features a mid-sized waterfall, plus an amazing ice-cream shop, which itself  is worthy of a visit.

A trip to Gigrin Farm near Rhayader to see the Red Kite feeding session where up to 300 wild birds gather daily to pick up a boost to their normal food source. It’s an amazing spectacle watching them swoop down to grab a morsel of meat, then fly up to eat on the wing.

Another day out took us through Knockin, which does have the ‘Knockin Shop’, plus a radio telescope that is part of the Jodrell Bank MERLIN (Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network) radio telescope array.

Our destination was the waterfall at Pistyll Rhaeadr, which after all the rain was in full flow. The thunderous sound and misty spray provided an amazing spectacle. Well worth the trip.

To summarise, it was a great week away and we were yet again graced with clear nights to enjoy the darker skies of rural Shropshire and experience those ‘oh wow!’ moments.