With our Tuesday Trysull observing sessions clouded out for much of the winter, we’ve tried to find an alternative observation site that’s available on other nights of the week. To this end, we visited a new site in Bobbington on Friday 20th April, and I’m pleased to report it was a most successful evening.
Members started assembling at 8pm, (picture 1), just as the sky was darkening and Venus began shining in the west. There was a five day old Moon also quite high in the west, which made an excellent target for us to align our finder-scopes.
After what seemed like years of cloudy skies, we were finally able to hold another society observing session at Trysull on the 13th March. Despite a slight misty haze in the sky, we were lucky enough to see some true celestial wonders once again.
The society’s Tom Collier 12-inch reflecting telescope had been collimated by society member Dave Wilson at a recent Monday Highfields meeting, so we were looking forward to putting the newly aligned optics to the test. This was the telescope’s second trip to the observing site, although its first visit was scuppered by clouds, (on that occasion, two weeks previously, society members Cath, Linda, Dave, John, Doug and I were forced to abandon thoughts of observing and abscond to the nearby pub).
Last week we had to say goodbye to one of our long term members, David Towers, who is moving away from the area. David has been a dedicated member of the society for 14 years, and during that time he has barely missed a meeting!
Many of you who were with us when we met at Beckminster will fondly remember David entertaining us on the piano at the start of meetings, as well as his excellent knowledge of amateur radio, and great sense of humour. Behind the scenes, he also gave up his time to help us set up many of the Paul Pope lecture events at St Peter’s, for which we are very grateful.
We are sad to see him go, but we wish David all the best for the future.
It was a case of ‘third time lucky’ for our new Trysull Observation Sessions. Two consecutive Tuesdays were postponed due to 100% cloud cover, but at last, the forecast was promising on Tuesday 28th November, and at 11am that morning, the text notification system informed everyone ‘it’s on!’
People started arriving at the Village Hall at 8pm. It was very encouraging to see such a good turnout. Around twenty astronomers of all ages and experience braved the crisp November night, and soon there was a row of telescopes set up, scanning the near-cloudless Trysull sky. Not everyone bought a telescope, but they didn’t need to. The telescopes there were used by everyone, and people drifted from scope to scope, looking at various cosmic sights, chatting about what they were looking at. It was a very friendly, convivial evening. At one point, as many as eight different telescopes of various sizes were in use on the large expanse of hard-standing behind the village hall.
Simon has produced some amazingly detailed and thorough sky guides for us over the years, but sadly this will be his last one. We are incredibly grateful for all his hard work, and I hope that many of you have found them useful during your observing.
The solar eclipse on the 21st August 2017 was the first eclipse on mainland America since 1979, and the first eclipse since 1918 to travel completely across the American continent. Given the increases in population and the land mass concerned, (it crossed fourteen states, and the path of totality covered 14% of US soil), it’s been estimated that it was the most viewed eclipse in human history. It’s little wonder then that it was called ‘The Great American Eclipse’. (picture 0)
My eclipse trip started at Heathrow on the 18th August. At 6am that morning there was a beautiful clear sky that presented a thin crescent waning moon by Venus, (my camera was packed away, so I didn’t get a photo). With only three days to go before the eclipse, as I watched the moon rise outside the airport I pondered on how the crescent would get even thinner over the next few days, till the moon would seemingly vanish from the sky and be completely ‘backlit’. It does this every lunar month of course, but this particular month, the moon’s position in the sky meant that it would move directly in front of the sun at 1.34pm on Monday, and weather permitting, grant us one of the finest astronomical treats.
David Harris, who passed away on 1 July this year, is very fondly remembered as a founder member and long-standing supporter of Wolverhampton Astronomical Society. David will be lovingly remembered by his wife Mary, son Christopher and daughter Libby. On 12 July, several members of the Society attended David’s funeral at Bushbury Crematorium and his memorial service held at Beckminster Church.
The Society was formed officially in September 1952, from a pre-existing informal group of enthusiasts, initially as the Wolverhampton Amateur Astronomy Group. David would celebrate his 19th birthday in the following month. Meetings were held in a classroom at the old Walsall Street Institute. Even in those early days I recall David giving presentations on practical astronomy, both with telescope and binoculars, which was his forte. One item remembered from that time is a planetarium, shown by David and his father, made by poking holes in the desired places in an opened black umbrella, to represent the constellations. A simple but effective way to teach the geography of the night sky, in a room under artificial light or outside in daylight.
This PDF guide, produced by Simon, gives details of what’s visible in the Wolverhampton night sky this summer, along with details of the moon, the planets, and full details of the upcoming solar eclipse!
If you want more information on what is visible, or you want it for an observing location other than Wolverhampton, why not look at our Links page which has details of useful resources, such as Stellarium, the free planetarium software.
After a very cloudy 2016 winter, we’ve at last been afforded a handful of clear skies for the first few months of 2017. For some reason, Wednesdays seem to be the night we’ve had the most clear skies, with the weekends typically clouded over. This is most irritating for those for astronomers with 9-5 weekday jobs, it seems we’re always at the whims of nature!
Venus has been putting on a superb show in the early evening sky, rising very high through February, and presently, (I’m writing this on 17th March), is heading lower in the Western sky. When it’s so visible, most amateur astronomers often get friends asking “what was that bright star I saw last night?” I’ve been asked several times over the past couple of months.
I took some photos of Venus through my 8” Skywatcher in January and February, and was pleased to be able to capture the both the changes in the apparent size and phases of the planet, as it gets nearer to us on its journey round the sun, (photo 1). On the 5th January it was approx 111,000,000 km away from the Earth, and on 26th February approx 54,000,000km away. It always fascinates me that Mercury and the Venus are the only planets that show Moon-like ‘phases’, being closer to the Sun than us.