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.
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.
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.
As the summer equinox approaches, it brings with it the onset of long daylight hours, and short, hazy, night-time summer skies. Many amateur astronomers screw their lens caps on tightly, and their telescopes go into hibernation till the winter. I’ve always thought this a bit of a shame; the summertime night sky can deliver some lovely astronomical sights. With this in mind, I thought I’d write a little about my own observations over the 2016 summer for Lyra, some of which will hopefully be of interest to society members.
First, a bit of background about my observation sessions & equipment. I live in Chapel Ash, which unfortunately suffers from quite severe light pollution from the nearby city. Realising I needed to get away from the city lights to do any decent deep-sky astronomy, three years ago my dad and I renovated an old shabby ten-foot caravan, which I now use primarily for music festivals and astronomy (picture 1). It’s become an invaluable companion for my observing sessions. In it, I fitted a cooker, a heater, and the dining table folds down into a comfortable bed. It’s an ideal all-year round base. In the winter, if I get cold observing, I can nip in the caravan to get warm, and have a coffee or a wee dram whilst poring over my star charts.