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Highlands Astronomical Society

Barbeque of the Sun

Added on 15 May 2024

Barbeque of the Sun. 3rd of May 2024

The daffodils are over and the fields and verges are bright with the golden glow of a million dandelions; their heads turned skyward, tracking the late afternoon Sun as it falls away to the West. The air is mild and carries with it the faint scent of wild flowers drifting on a tiny breeze and from a nearby tree a blackbird is singing with that inimitable, melodious voice which only prevails in the late Spring. Just a few clouds hang motionless near the Western horizon and the Sun shines a dazzling white from the pale blue sky, still some 20 degrees above its resting place later in the night beyond the distant mountains. It is the evening of the Astronomy Club's star party and barbeque at the Observatory and the 'star' of the party will be our nearest and dearest one; the Sun itself.



To anyone familiar with amateur astronomy it hardly needs saying that planning an event like this in Northern Scotland at a particular time and place is a risky business, yet here we are with all the cogs of the cosmos meshing in unison to give us the perfect conditions and we could not have asked for a better night. Yes, it is hard to believe I know!
It has just gone six o'clock and members, guests and visitors are arriving; the telescopes have been set up, the fires lit and the kettle boiled. We are using two types of telescope to look at the Sun tonight; one is a 'Starfield 102' with a 'white-light' solar filter to see the sunspots and the other is the 'Lunt' solar telescope to see the surface details and the prominences that reach out from the limb, arching up and hanging with awesome splendour like fiery cobwebs against the blackness of outer space.


Like the infinite patterns on snowflakes, the activity of the Sun changes its appearance hour by hour and sometimes minute by minute even, so that what you see is never the same twice.
We all take turns to use the telescopes and especially the solar one, which for those that have never seen the prominences and surface granulation elicits a familiar response .....  "WOW!". Yes, hackneyed though it might be as an exclamation, "WOW" is just instinctive. The Sun is really active tonight and is covered in spots, flares and filaments and makes for fascinating viewing.
Kristina, meanwhile, has been busy at the barbeque fires and has already cooked some sausages and burgers; all done with care and close attention so that not a single thing has been reduced to the charred and blackened things often associated with BBQs!


( The talented Mrs. Petkova ! )


I had previously made a promise to Kristina, which was to greet her in Spanish when we next met so I say to her      "OK, Dije que intentaría contaros algo en español, así que ¡aquí va.  Hola Kristina, mi amiga, que bueno verte de nuevo. ¡Mis disculpas por el acento! ¡Todavía parezco un turista! Qué dices acerca de esto?"      She thinks this is hilarious! Emoji. Perhaps a bit too Invernessian, 'right enuff'!
So some work to do there I think.


The barbeque is a great success and credit where credit is due, everyone did their bit to make it so. Great food and great company!

Paul has set up his telescope at the back of the Observatory with a 'white light' filter so we can see the sunspots and they are just amazing. We are close to the time of solar maximum this year and so far in 2024 there has not been a single day that the Sun has been free of spots.








You can see in the photo below that the evening's activities were filmed by our new friend George who is making a documentary about the Sun and he will be at the Club meeting on Tuesday to follow and film the talk by Prof. Lyndsay Fletcher which is all about 'Solar activity' so hopefully one day we might be able to see the results of George's work.











So the evening passes and it is now nearly nine thirty and some cloud is forming and the temperature has fallen dramatically. Looks like a haar is moving up from the coast too and so it is time to pack up for home and say " Buenas noches " to all our friends who made it to the party. It was a great night and we hope to have more like this during the summer months along with other events and workshops so keep an eye on the website, Facebook and WhatsApp for details coming up soon. See you at the meeting on Tuesday night for more 'Sun stuff'.


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