Amazingly, after what seemed like ages of solid cloud blanketing the town, Stuart Atkinson arranged a clear night for the latest International Year of Astronomy, 2009 event, the Eddington Society (who tweet here) JupiterWatch in Abbot Hall park, Kendal.
The event consisted of several hopeful astronomers standing in a park in central Kendal by the church, hugging their telescopes and showing some of the easier to find but more instantly spectacular sights of the night sky to all and sundry.
Stu estimates we were joined by 40+ members of the public as a total of four telescopes (mine, Stuart Atkinson’s, Graham Fell’s and Liz Hodgson’s) roved the skies between 7-9pm. These included a few dog walkers, some society members, passing youngsters and even a policeman complete with van. Sadly they didn’t include two of my neighbours who headed down for a peek but ended up in the nearby church car park…
Fortunately, Jupiter was a little easier to find, a bright white star fairly low on the horizon but high enough for a look. Three reflectors and one refractor of varying sizes and tripod heights took a view of this (once mine had arrived a bit late due to the eyepieces not travelling with me to begin with…).
Jupiter presented a nice clear disc with four moons all one one side (as it happens, there was an eclipse of one of the moons by another at 22:10, but that was long after the watch). The bands were nice and clear. The other three scopes remained on Jupiter, but mine was soon on the move to the galaxy Andromeda, as requested by a member of the public. This provided a view mostly of the galactic nucleus, the mist, nearby lights and cars coming down a badly positioned lane across the river all worked in concert with the clouds to occasionally cleave away better contrasts.
Other things were happening in the sky. The satellite Iridium 67 caught the Sun at 20:40, providing a magnitude -7 flare, only slightly out of the constellation we were assured it would appear the other side of. I caught a couple of snaps, but zoom would’ve helped bring out the trail over the second long exposures. Another satellite flared up shortly after and many satellites turned out to pass over us during the time we were out.
A fast meteor streaked through about fifteen degrees of the sky with a slender, silver trail. I saw another similar effort later in the night from a darker sky area.
The final target for my scope for the night was another request – the Pleiades (there was a request for Uranus, but it was in an awkward spot). I got the scope onto it for a lovely view of that bright blue jewel box above the Hyades. I didn’t expect the colours to come out as well as they seemed to do.
After we’d all packed up and gone home, it was a cup of tea and twitter for me, before venturing back out into the broken cloud for a quick sortie into darker skies. Orion, the Hyades, the Pleiades, the band of the Milky Way, Andromeda – it is a busy, busy naked eye sky out there and there’s even more to be seen with even a small scope or binoculars. And thanks to Stu’s efforts, there’s a few more people that have seen it.
My photos of this event are in the Eddington AS set on my flickr account. The next observing event is a week on Tuesday, 27th of October, same place, same time – MoonWatch, part of the SPA‘s Autumn Moonwatch.