Monday, 21 March 2011

Aren’t telescopes brilliant

Yesterday I was lurking around t’interweb catching up and gaming news and general faffing when I received a text from Manky asking if I’d be up for a spot of telescoping on Monday night, I enjoy astronomy, but it is definitely a hobby that is shared with friends, and if the friends that you share it with are also interested in it that’s even better. So not wanting to turn down the chance of getting together with some brilliant mates and stand in the middle of a field on a rather cold night I readily accepted. I put together a list of targets and spent the day looking forward to seeing friends and some fantastic sights. When I got home after a rather good day at work I walked the pups, they were very pleased to see me, and set about gathering my chattels that would be needed for the session. I also managed to fit the flexible focuser that I bought for the Meade a few weeks ago. Just after six i made my way to the field we had arranged to meet in and made use of the last of the daylight to set the scope up. By the time the Manky and the rear admiral arrived I had set up the scope and had managed to pour a cup of coffee. Manky and I set about getting his scope set up and all that was left to do was wait for it to get suitably dark so that those of us with GoTo facilities on our scopes would have something we could use to align our scopes. This was actually quite cool as we watched various stars blink into existence as the sky darkened.

Once there were a sufficient amount of bright stars available we aligned our scopes and turned our eyes to the wonder of the night sky. The Great Nebula in Orion was first light for me, but I had a problem. My swanky new flexible focusing rod is weighted at one end and this made it difficult to maintain the scopes focus, just as I’d focused an object into a crisp clear image as soon as I let go of the rod the thing would slip down and cause the image to go a bit fuzzy. Not having any tools or the original focussing knob I couldn’t swap them round, although I think it may have been a bit of a fools errand in the dark, I settled for having to physically hold the rod to keep any objects from blurring. I must admit it was a bit of a pain but I wasn’t going to let it ruin the evening for me. Steve and Andy arrived a bit later, last time he came down Andy mentioned that he had found something that he thought might be a Mammoth tooth but he wasn’t sure so I offered to take a look at it. He bought it along with him tonight, sure enough it is a Mammoth tooth, and a beautiful specimen at that. Although I was examining it in torch light I could clearly see the tell tale grooves that are typical of the tooth and there was even root visible. The tooth also had remains of enamel and was considerably worn. It is remarkable that I was holding something that was part of an animal that disappeared about ten thousand years ago.

There was a total of nine chaps on the field, including a friend that I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. But for me the highlight of the evenings observing had to be the Moon, Just off full and as it rose across the channel it was orange and as it passed behind cloud there was a very thin band that gave the impression that the Moon had a ring system. the colour and the cloud also gave it an other worldly appearance, making it look more like a gas giant rather than our familiar Moon. As it rose higher it started to lose the orange tinge and was soon becoming the familiar silvery white colour that is so easily recognised.

All too soon the evening came to an end the cold and  fatigue getting the better of us, plus we all have to get up for work in the morning. so we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed home.

the first thing I did when I got home was fuss my adorable pups, Trudes would be cross with me if I didn’t say hello to them first, I don’t think Ronnii was to happy at the thought of me going out and not taking her. then once I’d said hello to Trudes i changed the focusing knob on the Meade back to the original one, it may be fiddly and in an awkward position but at least the image will stay sharp. I’m not sure what to do with the flexi-rod, I could try shortening  it so that there’s not as much weight on the end or I could pass it on to someone who may be able to make use of it. If it’s new owner finds it causes the same problem I may shorten it and give it another go.

All in all I had a fantastic evening, it wasn’t as cold as last time we went to the East Cliff and the Moon was well worth the wait. Pictures from tonight are available to view on Picasa and Farce-book o take a look. Maybe next time I’ll take the webcam and laptop and get some decent pictures with that. I hope that we get another evening out soon, all we need is to find a place with a little less light pollution and we’ll be sorted.

Thank you to everyone that came along tonight, it was a brilliant evening and I look forward to doing it all again.