Clouded out at Abbott Hall

With it being the usual stunning mid summer in the ever dry English Lake District, we at the Eddington Society were to hold a public observing session at Abbott Hall park, where many had been held before (along with the Brewery, the Castle, the Helm, Bowling Fell and Kendal Cricket Club).

Sadly the clouds had other ideas. Ignoring our pleas, they must’ve read the July edition of the Sky At Night to know just when to turn up. As we gathered at ten pm, they held sway in the West, blocking our view of Saturn, Mars and Venus, all shining relatively close together next to the slender crescent Moon – or so we’re told, there was certainly no evidence from where we were.

The event still proved something of a success, a couple of dozen people turned up to chat astronomy in the light summer evening and it did stay dry. By eleven, when we were preparing to pack up, the clouds had begun to also break and revealed the occasional star, starting off with Vega and then Deneb, slowly revealing the Summer triangle and then the whole of Cygnus, while the east also started to show off pinpricks of light.

As well as the natural light show, there was something of a less natural one too. Chinese lanterns swooped low over us, coming from the West, borne by strong winds rippling over the town. The first one or two I saw in the distance over the castle, seemingly headed north east from somewhere south of us, but then there was a spate of the things from the West. As I get several emails complaining of strange lights, I’ve taken a photograph or two and even a video to give an idea of the colour (from the photos) and the speed (videos) of the thing – though the flickering and colour changing in the videos owes more to the compression software than the things themselves. All have been added to my 2010 public observing flickr album.

As well as those, we also had two naked eye satellites passing through gaps in the clouds, one of which was quite bright and vanished into the shadow of the Earth partway through the gap. Just two more ufos over Kendal to spook people. Incidentally, our next public event needs no clear skies and no late evenings. The Great Kendal Solar System Scale Model 2 will be along Waterside on Saturday August 14th from 12-4pm.

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