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Looking back at Dalby Starfest 2015

team1bsmHaven’t had a chance to write up this brilliant weekend because I’ve been so busy, but glad to have a chance to now.

Back in the middle of August, seven members of the Eddington Astronomical Society, including myself and Stella, travelled over to Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire to attend the 2015 Scarborough and Ryedale AS “Starfest”. The event was held over four days, just after the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower, so we were even more keen than usual to have clear night skies at the dark sky site of Dalby Forest so we would have a chance of seeing some bright shooting stars.

pan2With almost one whole “avenue” of the campsite all to ourselves, (“Eddington Street”, see above), we set up in our camper vans, tents, caravans and folding campers and enjoyed four days of astronomy fun.

group1Unlike other star-camps, which are more serious and attended by the more experienced amateurs who are there to do serious observing or astro-photography, the Scarborough and Ryedale AS “Starfest” is a real family event, so there were lots of kids rampaging around, not just weather- and world-weary amateur astronomers like ourselves, and everyone had a great time.

r2The event organisers, Mell and Andy, work ridiculously hard to ensure that the event is welcoming for everyone, with something for everyone to do and enjoy, and that the case again this year. There were illustrated talks in the evenings, on a variety of subjects, and through the day lots of mingling and astro-chatter with friends old and new.

r21On the Sunday the popular “Rocket Competition” was as fiercely competitive as ever, and an appreciative audience clapped, cheered and whooped as one home-built rocket (built out of a fizzy drinks bottle and decorated individually) after another whooshed into the beautiful blue sky, some going higher and further than others, but everyone who took part had great fun, which was the most important thing.

r11r12r13As for the night sky… well, I always go to star-camps without my hopes or expectations too high – thinking that if I get one night clear enough for some observing and photography I’ll be happy, and after a bad start on the Thursday and Friday nights the Saturday night was gloriously clear, and I was outside until almost 2am taking photos of the sky with my iOptron tracker and wandering around the campsite, enjoying stunning views of galaxies, star clusters and nebulae through the telescopes of others.

plough1The Milky Way looked beautiful, airbrushed across the sky, and I was very pleased with the photos I took. Here are some of the best ones…

m way best fM31 BEST 3

pano mw1spano mw2bsun1Saturday was a very dewy night tho, and by the time I eventually went to bed everything – my coat, my camera, its lenses – was wringing wet, and that left the sky rather hazy too, but I was very pleased with the photos I took.

darn2The next night, the Sunday, had clear spells, clear enough to allow me to take some more photos, but Saturday was by far the best.

It was a fantastic weekend, and just to drape a deep, heavy layer of icing over the cake, to our delight and surprise, and the surprise of others too, I think, our astro society’s team won the Astronomy Pub Quiz! Again this year the Pub Quiz had a very friendly, inclusive feel, with something for everyone, not just experts and specialists, and after all the laughter and cheering during the rounds even the lowest-scoring team managed to get points on the scoreboard, so no-one went away feeling humiliated or inadequate, which was certainly the case a couple of years ago. Well done to the organisers!

stella trailer 1So, another excellent Starfest at Dalby forest, and a huge THANK YOU to the organisers for working so hard to ensure everyone who attended had a good time, again. We’re already looking forward to next year!

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