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  • Writer's pictureMike Meynell

A Fairground of Stars: Our Fourth Consecutive Blackheath Observing Event - 22 October 2023

A Stellar Sequence

It's not every day we can say we've held four consecutive uncancelled Blackheath observing events, and to think it's probably unprecedented only adds to the thrill! Each one has brought its own charm, and the latest evening on Sunday 22 October was no exception.

The Celestial Stage

We were greeted with skies as clear as crystal, providing a breath-taking backdrop for our celestial rendezvous. And speaking of backdrops, the bustling Blackheath Fair and the circus in the vicinity only added to the ambience! Yes, they might have contributed a tad to the light pollution, but we're choosing to see the glass half full – or should we say, the sky half lit! After all, these luminous entertainments undoubtedly played their part in drawing some of our 70+ attendees to the fold.

The start of our session, with Blackheath Fair as a backdrop - picture by Mark Seaton

Telescopic Tales

With roughly a dozen telescopes strategically placed around the area, the evening promised an array of astral attractions. Yours truly was swamped for the better part of the evening. The throngs of enthusiastic observers around my telescopes left me with little time for a chat with our wonderful volunteers. But true to the spirit of Flamsteed, everyone just got on with the job, immersed in interactions with our attendees.

Celestial Highlights

The Moon, at 57% illumination, stole the show. The shadows across craters, especially on the terminator where lunar day meets night, held everyone's attention. Jupiter and Saturn, not ones to be overshadowed, drew their usual crowds, captivating attendees with their celestial beauty.

The Moon over Blackheath - picture by Mike Meynell

Then, cue an unexpected treat… the appearance of a Starlink “constellation”. This line of 15-20 satellites, parading across the night sky, was fascinating to see.

Phil, with his Takahashi refractor in tow, led attendees on a fly-by tour of the Moon. The addition of a joystick-controlled telescope mount only amplified the excitement! Meanwhile, Richard's EVScope showcased the Triangulum Galaxy, M33, in all its splendour.

M33 Triangulum Galaxy - picture by Richard Summerfield

I also had a little telescopic triumph of my own – capturing the exquisite M13 Hercules Globular Cluster. This led to detailed discussions about these objects and their association with our Milky Way.

M13 Hercules Globular Cluster - picture by Mike Meynell

Future Astronomers in the Making

The proximity of half-term might explain the surge of young, bright-eyed attendees. It's always heartening to see the younger generation taking an interest, and some were impressively knowledgeable! One young lad regaled me with tales of the supermassive black hole sitting at our galaxy's heart.

Wrapping Up Under a Dewy Cloak

By 10 pm, a dewy blanket had begun to settle, prompting us to pack up. Our equipment, slick and wet from the atmospheric moisture, was carefully stowed away, marking the end of another successful evening.

A heartfelt thanks to our dedicated volunteers who, without fail, bring their expertise and enthusiasm to every event, making these nights memorable for all.

The Skyward Journey Continues

For those who've caught the stargazing bug or for seasoned skywatchers looking for another evening of astral adventures, mark your calendars for 11 November. With “back-up” dates set for the 12th, 18th, and 19th, you're in for another celestial treat. Check out our event page for all the details and to sign up for updates.

Till then, keep looking up and let the universe surprise you!

All Pictures from the Event (by Mark Seaton, Mike Meynell and Richard Summerfield):


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