Mark Radice, Simon Barton, Jon Gale
Yet another observing session that begins in the Rose and Crown, our favourite meeting place. Suitably refreshed, we headed up to the observing site where a waxing moon dominated the sky with Mars, Saturn and only the brighter stars shining through.
Fortunately for us, Jon has managed to become a Vixen-tester. They send him some of their kit: a VC200 (a nice 8” Cass) on a Sphinx GEM. Jon kindly brought this along for our critique. Optically the telescope was very good (once it had been allowed to cool) and using the goto was wonderful. Even though the moon was only a few days from full, it was used to go straight to M3 and M87 – noting that it would have been tricky to star hop to these targets with the nearby moon. Unfortunately the tracking was not up to scratch resulting in the object slowly drifting out of the field of view. Hopefully this is something that is remiss in this one mount and that Vixen will quickly rectify.
It was rather pleasant to pick targets, type them into the computer and then look into the eyepiece. None of that star hopping nonsense here just a relaxed night’s observing: Mars, the Moon, Saturn (and 3 satellites), M3, M54, Cor Caroli (double star) and for a laugh M87 – readily visible despite the moon.
Simon also briefed us on some strategic plans he is working on. Firstly, SPOG may become part of the Salisbury Plain Conservation Group and thereby gain access to a dark sky site in the centre of the Plain and have bona fide access to the Tilshead site.
Secondly, Wiltshire County Council has allocated funding to replace the traditional street lights with modern, low power, shielded lights. Not only do these pay for themselves as they consume less power (good for council tax), they reduce the local light pollution (good for us) and consume less power (good for the environment). We await instructions on how to proceed with local applications in the near future.
So all in all a fun night, good observing and exciting prospects for the future.