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  • Writer's picturePoly Philippou

Tantalising clear skies, and wind - Great Equatorial Telescope Viewing – 9th January 2024

Updated: Jan 10

About 20 members ventured into the cold and joined us for our latest GET night last night. And about half of the guests were members for whom this was their first time visiting the telescope.

It was a lovely clear night – tantalisingly clear! – but we knew the wind was a bit strong and there was a risk we would not be able to view. Then it was confirmed that with the anemometer reading 12 – 14 mph with gusts up to 20, it would not be possible to open the dome that night. There were loud sad deflated sighs all round! But we wrapped up warm and put on a smile and went up to the dome, where our regular ROG Astronomer and host Greg Brown entertained us with stories of the history of the telescope, with the help of astronomers Ayesha and Patricia. We learnt how incredibly clever the Victorians were – from finely balancing 28 tons of metal so that it could be turned manually so easily to using ice melting in a pit to regulate the telescope moving at just the right speed to track its object!

Greg talks about the history of the Great Equatorial Telescope

Then we headed to the warmth of the Planetarium for a tour and talk by Greg of what is in the night sky at the moment. We saw beautiful images and heard stories about Saturn, Jupiter, Orion and Pleiades, and more! Did you know that Saturn is currently topping the leaderboard as the planet (in our solar system and also of all known planets) with the most moons – latest count is 146 – having only recently taken the lead over Jupiter (currently 95) due to recent discoveries of new moons in 2023. The solar system now has nearly 300 recorded moons! Did you also know that the Romans selected their archers using the Pleiades – if the soldier said they could see 7 or 8 stars with the naked eye they were accepted, and if they said 5 or 6 they were rejected! We also saw a stunning image of Saturn eclipsing the Sun, with the rings beautifully backlit and with Earth as a tiny dot in the distance.

Flamsteed members gather in the ROG Planetarium

Many thanks to the ROG Astronomers Greg, Ayesha and Patricia for their time and energy on the night, and for making the high wind back-up plan almost as enjoyable as viewing through our great Great Equatorial Telescope! The Flamsteed hosts for tonight were Barry, Richard and Poly.

There are two more GET nights scheduled this season in February and March, please do join us!

Pictures from the Evening (by Barry Cassels):


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