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EAS Meeting report – March 09

Tonight’s meeting of the Eddington Astronomical Society was one of our most enjoyable in a long time, thanks to our excellent visiting guest speaker, Lancaster University’s Dr. Jim Wild, who treated us to a wonderfully entertaining lecture entitled “It Shouldn’t Happen To A Scientist”.


There was a great turn-out for the meeting – which, in the absence of our Chairman, Ken, was chaired by Ian Bradley – and after our usual News Round-Up Jim took the floor to tell us all about his trips to see and study the northern lights. Covering such diverse subjects as how to tackle a polar bear, Joanna Lumley’s recent tearful witnessing of an aurora and the fashion sense of his colleagues, Jim’s talk – often hilarious, occasionally awe-inspiring but always entertaining – was illustrated with stunning pictures and even video of the aurora, as well as fascinating “behind the scenes” images which revealed what life is like for the scientists who travel to Norway and Antarctica and other such godforsaken places to study the northern lights. I must admit that some of Jim’s images showing the research bases in Antarctica reminded me of his place…


After a well-deserved round of applause from his appreciative audience, Jim was happy to take questions, and several EAS members grabbed the opportunity to quiz him further about the aurora and his work as a scientist.

All in all it was a very enjoyable and successful evening, and I’m sure that everyone went away very pleased that they’d braved the worsening weather to come and listen to a great guest speaker. So, thanks to everyone who came along, and thanks again to Jim for travelling up to see us from Lancaster. We look forward to seeing him here in Kendal again! 🙂

BTW, here’s a link to the “Aurora Watch” website Jim mentioned during his talk. http://www.dcs.lancs.ac.uk/iono/aurorawatch I’ve also put it on my “Links” list over there on the right.

At last – a clear night!!!

FINALLY, after almost two weeks of cloudy nights, the sky cleared this evening here in Kendal and I FINALLY had a chance to track down Comet Lulin with my newly repaired 4.5″… ! 🙂

There’s NO way the comet is naked eye now, not from here anyway, but it was easy to find in my pair of binocs – just up and to the right of Regulus – and looked like an elongated smudge of greyish light, not really any hint of green about it, although, to be fair, it was close to a knot of faint stars so its own light and hue might have been rather diminished. However, it was easy in the telescope at 25x, and looking at it I thought it looked rather like a larger version of the Crab Nebula, definitely elongated.

So, hurrah, I finally managed to see Lulin through my telescope! 🙂

But after all that build-up the star of the night was Saturn… Once my ‘scope had cooled down and I’d collimated it properly,  Saturn was a joy to behold. It looks sooo strange seeing the rings as essentially a “bar” cutting through it, just… wrong… Titan was bright as ever, and I think I saw another moon to the planet’s eyepiece-right, have to check-out what that was later. For now, here’s a rough version of what the planet looked like through my telescope at approx 120x – not pin-sharp, I know, but I was looking at Saturn as it hovered over the roof of the house opposite, so the air wasn’t exactly still and the seeing wasn’t exactly perfect!