By Jove, it's Jupiter!
What have the Victorians ever done for us? Well obviously quite a lot. They also built this incredible Great Equatorial Telescope, the largest operational refractor in the UK with a 28 inch lens aperture, 28 foot focal length and a weight in excess of 25 tons! Incredibly it still works perfectly, and with little wind and clear skies we were ready to try it out.
Our host astronomer for the evening was Jake Foster ably assisted by Josh, Patricia and Andrew. Jake introduced us to the GET with many interesting facts and amusing anecdotes. The telescope was imaging Jupiter with Io, Europa and Ganymede in the field of view and the fourth Galilean moon Callisto was visible through the 6 inch finderscope. Whilst we expectantly lined up in turn to view beautiful and detailed images of the gas giant, Jake continued to regale us with the telescopes chequered history. This included the V2 war damage to the dome, the move to Herstmonceux and it's welcome return to Greenwich.
Wrestling with the GET
It's a fabulous instrument, but was not designed for user-friendliness! Watching Jake and his colleagues manoeuvre the telescope for viewing the moon, relatively low in the sky, was nail-biting entertainment. Did I mention that the telescope doesn't completely fit inside the dome at low altitudes and therefore synchronising the telescope movement to the dome movement is critical! Jake's workout over, we were rewarded by an incredibly detailed view of the limb of the moon with craters highlighted by shadows.
Very many thanks to Jake and his colleagues for providing such an enjoyable evening for Flamsteed members. We were a full complement with over 30 people present in the dome. Three more Flamsteed viewing opportunities take place in the New Year.