Spring MoonWatch star party

Tonight marks the second of the large, global events during the celebration of the Universe that is the 100 Hours of Astronomy. The 24-hour global star party kicked off in New Zealand some hours ago and as the terminator line moves around the world, star parties have been springing up all over the place.

At Jodrell Bank Observatory the star party was also part of the UK's Spring MoonWatch week so plenty of telescopes were set up by the Macclesfield Astronomical Society to give people amazing views of our celestial neighbour. I must say that the Moon is a brilliant object to look at especially as it is constantly changing. One lady had even brought along a phase of the Moon simulator that she had made out of a shoe box, a ping-pong ball and a torch. It showed the change of the phases surprisingly well. If you've never seen the Moon through a telescope before, give it a try.

As the early evening cloud cleared a little, we got to see Saturn looking like "an onion on a tooth pick" as one person described it. The "toothpick" was actually the rings of Saturn as we are now seeing them almost edge on. We also spotted a Moon halo briefly as some high altitude ice crystals moved by. I was able to point out constellations to a few people and generally chat to them about planets, constellations and cosmology. I also bumped into at least three people who'd listened to the Jodcast!

I had a great time chatting with people and sharing the excitement of glimpsing distant objects through telescopes. It seems many of the visitors had a great time too from the person who'd never looked through a telescope before to the serious amateur astronomers. I heard that one young person was so enthralled they decided that they want to pursue a career in astronomy as a result.

Our star party is now over but it isn't the end of the 100 Hours of Astronomy as we still have one day left. The Solar Physics Task Group of the International Year of Astronomy have set tomorrow aside as SunDay. It will be a chance to enjoy the wonders of our nearest star - the Sun. This can be anything from appreciating the dawn or sunset to looking through a solar telescope. I've borrowed a Coronado PST and am planning to head into the middle of Manchester with it tomorrow, if the weather is good, for a little guerilla astronomy.

Remember, the Universe is yours to discover.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 04th Apr 2009 (22:14 GMT) | Permalink
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