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Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal “Skywatch” for BBC Stargazing Live

Sooooo…. how did our Skywatch go last night?

Well, happy to be able to report that it was a *fantastic* success! The weather held for us – little bit of mist crept in, but not enough to spoil things – and thanks to brilliant publicity support from our friends at The Westmorland Gazette (thanks Adrian!) and BBC Radio Cumbria (thanks Kev and Caroline!), a large crowd of people descended on us at the Brewery Arts Centre to take part in our “Skywatch”.

I arrived at the Brewery very early – half past five – to a) check out the gardens, see if anything had changed, b) grab some pictues of Venus, shining in the twilight, and c) check with the Brewery staff about the level of outside lighting we would have to deal with later in the evening. I was happy to find that as far as “a” was concerned, the garden hadn’t changed – no huge sculptures or new tables and chairs had appeared in our observing area! – and “b” was a success too, as I managed to get some really nice pictures of Earth’s so-called “twin” blazing away in a gap in the trees to the west. And my fears about the lighting outside the popular arts centre were allayed when the House Manager came out to chat to me, and told me that he would be keeping the light to an absolute minimum to support our event. Result!! There are some big, bad floodlights outside the Brewery, and I had been really quite worried that if they came on during our event they would blind everyone, but with those lights left switched off, and only a few vital lights left on to, rightly, ensure the safety of BAC visitors, the garden was left dark enough for us to hold our event, only one bright car park loght preventing the site from being truly dark (but we can work on that next time!).

Here’s one of the pics I took of Venus with just my phone… I’ll post others taken with my proper camera later…

So, back home fora  while to wrap up warm, send out a last flurry of emails, and then grab several cups of hot tea before braving the biting cold and setting up for the Skywatch!

When I got back to the Brewery at 6.15 there were already people milling about, obviously waiting for the Skywatch to begin, which was a very encouraging start to the evening, but I had to ask them to be patient and at least give us time to set up some telescopes! 🙂 But soon there were several telescopes set up on the garden, and skywatchers began to arrive, then more, then more…

As the evening went on, we saw a LOT of people, and I don’t think I’m too far out when I say that I reckon we saw over 200 people at our Skywatch, which was fantastic! And with half a dozen different telescopes brought by members of the EAS, those people didn’t have to wait *too* long to look into an eyepiee and see something thrilling.

Because of the slight mist, and just the directions of sky which can be seen from the Brewery, our “Skywatch” turned into something of a “Jupiterwatch”, but that was ok, because the giant gas planet looked gorgeous through every one of the telescopes, complete with prominent cloud belts and several Galilean satellites.

As I said, 200 or so people came along to enjoy our event, and it was great that so many of them were families, with young kids. Those kids were fascinated by what they saw, and lots of shouts and cries of “Wow!” and “Cool!” rang out through the chilly night as they peered into eyepieces and saw Jupiter blazing there. 🙂 And they loved seeing, and holding, one of my meteorites too (as did many of the adults, who had bigger grins on their faces than their kids did, truth be told!).

Everyone who came along – or at least, every family – went away with one of the BBC Stargazing Live booklet guides, and a full set of the info cards the Beeb had also provided. They were appreciated greatly, which was a relief for me after I’d spent the best part of three hours sorting out all the individual bundles into packs for people to take home! And I have to congratulate the Beeb on the quality of their Outreach resource material this year: the booklet is really, really well written and will be a very useful beginners guide for many people. The info cards are very useful and informative too. And the kids LOVED the sheet of spacey stickers they went home with! So, well done to everyone involved in producing those.

By 9pm, our finish time, we were starting to lose Jupiter behind some nearby trees, so we had to shift some of our telescopes to keep it in view, but still more people came along to join in the stargazing fun, and then more, and it was 9.30 before the last telescope was finally packed up and the event finished.

So, again, another brilliant night at the Brewery! All the members of the EAS who came down to the BAC with their telescopes had to work really, really hard, there were so many people wanting to see Jupiter. But it was worth it, and I’m sure that we’re going to have a LOT of new members at our next meeting! And a special big Thank You to the Brewery Arts Centre for allowing us to hold another of our events there. Looking forward to more Skywatch nights at the Brewery during 2012!

Here are a few pictures from the event (all but one taken with my phone, so a bit rubbish, sorry!). A lot more to follow, as people who attended the Skywatch send me their pictures, but these will give you an idea of what a fun and enjoyable night it was…

Update: some more pix (thanks Carol!)

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2 Responses

  1. Congrats from down under. Balmy nights here in Brisbane.

  2. Hello friend. I’m from J-Land. Lost ya for awhile but glad to found you. Always looking up. Tammy (memes121)

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