The weather looked against us, then the crowds seemed thin, but against the odds another startling victory was pulled off in style by the Eddington Society, Kendal’s astronomical society.
As the start time of six-thirty approached, the end of a weather system hung over Kendal, with violent looking clouds sheathing north-south, covering one horizon while bluer skies and bands of wispy cloud populated the other. As the moment struck, I could see the Moon in a patch of blue, so made preparations to join others at the Brewery Arts Centre.
By the time I arrived, so had thicker clouds. It looked almost hopeless. A forlon group of Stuart Atkinson, our Secretary, Graham Clark, our chairman held their faithful Newtonians before them, searching for every gap in the clouds. Next to them, the society Dobsonian telescope stood guard.
I had seen the clouds pile in on the way down, but decided to persevere in the hope of getting some shots of telescopes in the light, a rarity at these events, which normally take place a little later on. As well as getting a couple of people shots, I also started off getting shots of the clouds and branches my telescope was initially positioned under.
A few people petered into view. Some including small children, who I could then collect as customers for Space Explorers, the group for ages 9-16 running at Kendal Museum, the third Saturday afternoon of each month. Older kids (and younger) can of course still join our own monthly meetings at the Museum too.
Along with people started coming the cloud breaks. View of the Moon started to get better and more frequent, so I set up the telescope. Mars even became visible, but for me it was behind a branch, so I decided it was time for a move to another path. Around the same time, the Brewery’s path lights also came on.
Then it all started to settle down and bed in. With the youth theatre, a movie and the bars all providing steady streams of people, over one hundred pairs of eyes came to the eyepieces to get views of the Moon at magnification and be amazed.
The society Dobsonian moved to one side to let people down the path, but still catered for the masses from its new position. Ian Bradley’s refracting telescope, with a small tripod suitable for those of smaller stature, also turned up to relieve the pressure.
The weather continued to be contrary, with bands of thick, black clouds appearing to settle in for the night only to clear to a crystal sky, with Orion proudly standing out and Mars glowing happily to one side.
I made one or two efforts to get at Mars, sadly the lights from the building reflected strongly off the eyepiece when I tried to move the telescope anything further than perpendicular to them. There was to be no Mars – and no comets, despite me jotting down the locations of three possibly visible ones.
In the crowds that then swelled towards us were my next door neighbour (who had failed to get to several of our events he’d gone so far as to set off for), my old form teacher (who’d just been discussing a book on Herschell with the man who turned out to be my next door neighbour) as well as my Cousin plus one of her daughters. The other three newts were behind a hedge, so people sometimes needed some reminders that they didn’t need to queue for a view of the Moon.
When eight thirty came, people started to pack away, with the very few most dedicated observers persuaded by their families that some home time could be desirable. A cloud band had set in again, it seemed for the night, or at least the advertised time, so everything was dismantled. Sadly including the hopes of a lone barman, who had waited until that moment to run out following the end of his shift for a look. We would’ve been happy to oblige, but sadly, the clouds had other ideas.
Always next time!