Attendees: Garry Keenor, Nick Smith, Mark Radice, Mike and Carolyn White
Equipment: 4″ binos on p-mount (Mark), 10×50 binos on tripod (Garry), small binos (Mike & Carolyn), Skywatcher 10″ dob (Garry), Skywatcher 8″ newt on EQ6 with DSLR (Nick)
Weather: perfectly clear apart from the odd contrail, no wind, dropping to about -2°C by midnight
Darkness/Seeing: darkness marred by the onset of summer (solar glow evident at midnight to north, west and east) but otherwise good – it is Tilshead after all! Seeing not great, some doubt about transparency – no milky way evident even at midnight, views of Saturn at low elevation particularly poor
Mark had put the call out after a good session with Nick the previous night – two concurrent clear nights being a rarity round here! The stated aims were to catch comet PANSTARRS as it passes by the Andromeda galaxy, take a look at the many many galaxies in the Virgo cluster, and get an early view of Saturn.
Attendees: Mark Radice, Garry Keenor, Will Petty, Frank Bryant, Neil Burton, Kevin Morgan, others (apologies, didn’t get all the names!)
Equipment: 10″ dob, 11″ dob, large binos, others
Weather: cold and clear to start, clouding over later
Darkness/Seeing: darkness marred somewhat by first quarter moon, several apache gunships on exercise, flares and plenty of vehicles passing by! Seeing not great; Jupiter at 125x mag was wobbling in and out of focus. Dewing also a major problem!
What joy! Finally after 7 months of rubbish skies, at least when I was free, a chance to go out observing. A small group of us from SPOG had arranged to meet at Alton Hill car park for an observing session and wonder of wonders the skies were clear as I packed Sidney (my telescope now 2 years old) into the car. Having dressed for the cold and with a thermos of hot chocolate I set off for our rendezvous at 7pm. On arriving I found Jon and Owen already there and looking at cloud on the horizon. We decided to set up in the hopes the forecast for clear skies would prove correct. As we were doing so Mark, Hilary and Robin also arrived and we began the nights viewing.
Saturday brought a hat trick of clear SPOG observing sessions with wonderfully transparent skies. It didn’t start that way as, to our surprise, it was raining when we met at the pub. Thankfully it was only a passing shower and it soon left a crystal clear sky. Venus was shining like a beacon in the western sky while fiery Mars hung high overhead. It was one of those brilliantly clear skies that allow a myriad of fainter stars to shine through making the constellations almost hard to recognise.
We had a fantastic time exploring the spring sky. Particular highlights include:
The interacting Siamese galaxies NGC5426 and NGC5427 clearly visible as two elongated features touching at one end
Getting lost around the Virgo galaxy cluster while having multiple galaxies in the field of view (I counted 9 around the M84, 86, 87 “core” through Dave’s 10” scope)
M104 Sombrero Galaxy
Saturn with the dark Cassini division and several moons
Surface features on Mars
Numerous bright Lyrid meteors
A low level ISS pass
All in all a fun night enjoyed by new and old members alike. It seems a different world with the current driving rain and howling rain.
With Mercury reaching its greatest elongation from the Sun, I was keen to see this elusive little planet, which is the closest to the Sun and therefore very hard to see. But where to go to get a good look? The horizon where I live is cluttered with buildings, and there are no significant hills nearby. After spending a little time on Google Earth I settled on Tog Hill viewpoint, which I knew had an excellent West horizon, allowing you to see all the way to Wales on a clear day. However, I had been warned by a couple of people that it is also a notorious cruising site. Well, I thought, it won’t even be dark so I’m unlikely to be bothered.