Preparing for the Solar Eclipse

Eclipse data for Leeds, UK.

Eclipse data for Leeds, UK.

With less than a month to go until the much anticipated partial Solar Eclipse, visible throughout the UK, we would advise you to start turning your attention towards how you will safely observe this rare event.  A useful guide has been produced by the Society for Popular Astronomy.  The guide can be downloaded as a PDF here.

By far the easiest and cheapest way to safely observe the Sun during the Eclipse is to purchase a set of approved Solar Eclipse glasses.  With the glasses protecting your eyes, you will be able to look at the Sun safely throughout the Eclipse.  Glasses can typically cost around £1.50-£2.00 a pair but can be used again and again (although care should always be taken to check the glasses for damage prior to use).

The Eclipse will  be 90.3% at maximum from our location, and an Eclipse of this magnitude will not be visible again from here until 2026.  To avoid disappointment at missing this spectacular event, we advise you to purchase your Eclipse glasses now as they will be in high demand across the UK.  Our closest and preferred retailer is Grovers of Northallerton, who are selling Baader Solar Eclipse glasses for £1.95 a pair.  Other astronomical retailers are selling similar items.  The British Astronomical Association is also selling an alternative type of Solar viewer from £1 (depending on quantity).  If you are a regular BBC Sky at Night Magazine reader then you will find a free pair of Solar Eclipse glasses on the front cover of the March edition.

Society members should contact Secretary Andy Exton for more information about how the society plans to observe the Eclipse and what equipment is available for use.

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February Ayton Village Hall Meeting

The Moon.  Image credit: Mark Tissington

The Moon. Image credit: Mark Tissington

Unfortunately due to illness, society founder and honorary president John Harper was unable to give the second installment of his talk on the Moon at the February meeting at Ayton Village Hall.  Don’t worry though, we will reschedule John for later in the year to give this much anticipated follow up.  As an alternative for the evening, several other society members were able to give short presentations of their own.

The evening started with Andy Exton giving a brief demo on producing a star trail image using a DSLR camera, tripod and software.  A series of short exposures are taken from a static viewpoint and software cleverly automates the production of the star trails.

Howard Watson followed with a short talk on the Scottish telescope maker James Gregory.  Inventor of the Gregorian reflector that predated the Newtonian design of Newton, Gregory was also a leading mathematician in the use of Calculus.

Concluding the evening was Mell Jeffery.  Mell showed an entertaining video that catalogued the construction of her observatory, known as the JLO (the Jeffery’s Little Observatory).

As usual, the evening concluded with  refreshments and an opportunity to chat and seek advice from members present.

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Members group nights prove popular during a period of good conditions

Comet Lovejoy imaged by Andy Exton from Ravenscar on 24th January 2015

Comet Lovejoy imaged by Andy Exton from Ravenscar on 24th January 2015

Members of the society have been very busy in the recent couple of weeks with some great opportunities for group observing around the local area.  We were very fortunate to have the opportunity for observing from our Ravenscar site two nights over the weekend of 24-26 January.  Member and Secretary Andy Exton managed to capture some images of Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), and many Messier objects were observed.

On Monday 9th February following the outreach session with Pickering Brownies and Guides, some members gathered in Low Dalby to take advantage of the crystal clear dark skies.  This allowed members to search for many deep sky objects through the society 16″ Meade Lightbridge.  Lovejoy looked very bright against the background stars through the 16″ telescope, but no tail was visible.  However, a motion sensitive security light which we could not turn off hampered the effort to observe and image low in the Western sky.

Members have a increasing number of events to look forward to in the coming months.  Later this month members will visit Humble Bee Farm for the annual members winter star camp.  This has been a great relaxed experience for the last couple of years, so we are very much looking forward to our weekend.

The next scheduled observing event on the calendar for members is the annual Messier Marathon from Ravenscar.  Fingers crossed for a clear night!  Further observing nights will hopefully be possible, so keep an eye on your emails, the society forum and our members Facebook group for notice of these.  Obviously we cannot always plan these far in advance due to weather forecasts changing.  As the winter months draw to a close, the society starts to turn its attention away from the night sky and towards the Sun, with our summer meet ups for solar observing due to start in May.

Don’t forget to submit notes and reports of your observing sessions to Skynotes for other members to read.  It’s always interesting to hear what other people have been doing and see images other members have produced.

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Pickering Brownies and Guides Enjoy Clear Dalby Skies

brownie_stargazerOver 40 girls from the Brownies and Guides in Pickering along with several parents and leaders visited Dalby Forest on the evening of Monday 9th February.  Society members Andy Exton FRAS and Mell Jeffery FRAS assisted the girls with work for their stargazing and Space Go For It badges under a clear starry sky.

The girls learnt how to find the pole star Polaris, identify a number of the recognisable constellations and observed a number of deep sky objects and the planet Jupiter.  Also observed was a pass of the International Space Station that coincided with a bright meteor!

Many thanks to the group for the kind donation to the society.  Hopefully the girls will all complete their badges in the coming weeks.

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Starfest 2015 Details Announced

M45 The Pleiades imaged by Juergen Schmoll

We are pleased to announce that details have been finalised for our 15th Annual Starfest in Dalby Forest.  Society members and regular attendees will receive an email shortly along with a booking form.  For anyone who has not been to our Starfest before and would like to know more, full details are on our Starfest 2015 page.

The weekend is 14th – 16th August (Friday, Saturday and Sunday night camping) with early arrivals possible from 12pm on Thursday 13th (full details and additional fee on the booking form  and on the Starfest webpage).

This event is well attended by over 100 serious amateur astronomers and astrophotographers from around the country who make the journey to Dalby to take advantage of our “Milky Way” class dark sky.  Please book early to avoid disappointment as places are limited and the event is popular.

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