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  • Writer's pictureMike Meynell

Rolling the Dice with British Weather: Blackheath Observing Report - 16th September 2023

When it comes to stargazing in the UK, we're often left to the whims of the ever-unpredictable weather. Clouds threatened, but we saw a window and made the call to go ahead with the night's observing. The verdict? Worth it, even though the clouds joined in as uninvited guests.

Star Players of the Night Sky

As usual, Saturn and Jupiter didn't disappoint. The various scopes available for attendees to use served as a gateway to the gas giants, and let's just say, the crowd was not displeased. Tej was being kept particularly busy with a queue of people waiting to look through his SCT scope. It's one thing to see these planets in a book or on a screen, but through a telescope? The excitement was noticeable as people took turns at the telescopes.

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men...

The weather threw a few curveballs our way. Richard, armed with his EVscope, was all set for an automated sky tour. Alas, the clouds were not on board with that plan, as we couldn’t see enough stars for the scope to get alignment. Undeterred, he switched to a trusty refractor. A prime example that, sometimes, low-tech trumps high-tech.

Whether the tools are cutting-edge or classic, it’s the willingness to adapt that ensures the show must go on.

When the Clouds Give You Lemons

Aligning my own Stellina robotic telescope was a bit like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle while riding a unicycle, thanks to the high clouds. Even so, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Dumbbell Nebula did make guest appearances. Certainly not HD-quality... in fact, possibly the worst images of these objects you'll ever see!, but still a sight to remember, and provided a good talking point.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Mark’s Newtonian scope gave us a detour through Lyra, with its famed "double-double" star, reminding us that the night sky isn't just about big, bright planets.

Mark and his scope

More than Just a Sky Show

The heart of any public observing event isn't just what you can see in the sky, but the community that forms underneath it. We were thrilled to have around 40 attendees. For many, this was their inaugural telescope experience, and you could see the fascination lighting up their faces—although, to be fair, they were already partially lit thanks to our ever-present light pollution!

Mike struggles to align the Stellina

Chilly Winds Do Blow

Yes, we had a breeze, which kindly kept the dew at bay. But as the hours ticked by, the chill started to set in. No one was sipping tea at 11 PM, but perhaps next time we'll remember to pack an extra layer or two.

Shout-Out to Our Stalwart Volunteers

Where would we be without over wonderful volunteers: Alec, Helena, Les, Mark, Matthew, Mike, Richard and Tony. Despite some technical difficulties and stubborn clouds, they guided us through the night with their expertise and enthusiasm.

The Plot Thickens

If you’re left wanting more, pencil in the weekend of the 23rd or 24th September for our next stargazing session. You can get all the details here: .

Wrapping Up

As we began packing up around 11 PM, there was a general sense of contentment, mixed with that slight British disappointment at the weather's refusal to fully cooperate. Still, the night was marked a success in everyone’s books. Our deepest thanks go out to everyone who joined us, and especially to our invaluable volunteers. Until next time, clear skies!

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