Cog Icon signifying link to Admin page

Highlands Astronomical Society

"It wasn't a party, it was a work event"!

Added on 22 March 2023



"It wasn't a 'party', it was a 'work event' " !

No, I'm not going to be a politician and blame everyone else; I got it wrong and cancelled the star-party (planned for Wed 22nd March) and I am very sorry about that.


The day began with the wind trying its best to dislodge the bedroom window from its hinges and the rain hammering on the glass like Cathy attempting to get the attention of Heathcliff!

Not a great start to the day selected to hold a star-party but 'hey-ho', ever the optimist I got up and made plans anyway and after some coffee and a bit of toast I did the most sensible thing and checked the weather forecast which at the time looked fine for later on, especially after tea and at least until late in the evening. So I spent the morning gathering all my astronomy bits together, charged up the batteries for the camera, and stuck a huge bag of cocktail sausage rolls in the oven all in anticipation of the promised 'night to remember'.

I looked into the future and pictured the evening ahead; cool but not cold, the clearing sky darkening into a rich, star-filled dome of royal blue, the moon a wafer-thin crescent just below Jupiter crowned with the dazzling light from Venus, galaxies in profusion all high in contrast and begging to be discovered with even the merest instrument.

This vision faded however as I looked out of the kitchen window to see nothing but black clouds and rain driven by a persistant wind and so the seeds of doubt were sown. I went back to the weather maps on the computer to find some reassurance but their dismal outlook was all too evident. Where earlier there had been little moon icons there were now little clouds hiding them and little blue tear-drops falling from them to indicate showers well into the night. Well, I thought, the weather guys have been known to be wrong sometimes so I will procrastinate until late afternoon before doing anything rash like calling it off.

4 o'clock in the afternoon and things were no better and all models for the weather looked grim. I spoke to Eric Walker and he said that he had just seen the weather on the TV and that the weatherman was saying - Quote: " continuing mixed conditions " ahead. That kind of clinched it and I decided to ask Eric to put the word out that the star-party was cancelled. Even then I was doubtful about this but in the face of all the evidence it seemed the right thing to do. WELL !..........   the weather guy must have defective pine-cones or sea-weed well past its sell by date because that is not what happened to the weather after tea!!

Now if you are easily offended don't read the next bit of this narrative. Paul Moffat had sent me a text to say that he was going to the observatory anyway to measure up a 'shroud' for the 12 inch Dobbin telescope and I was duty-bound to go up there just in case someone had not seen the cancellation notice so off I went, minus telescopes and sausage rolls of course. I still needed wind-screen wipers on the short journey to the observatory but when I got there, well, I refer you back to earlier in the story when I mentioned "cool but not cold, the clearing sky .....etc etc "! Yes, you guessed it, the most favourable conditions for star watching! As it turned out there was a guy who had not seen the notice and he had brought a wee celestron power-seeker telescope to get some advice on how to work the thing. Astonishingly, he had been the owner of this telescope for several years but had been unable to make sense of the instructions that came with it so we set to work to steer him in the right direction. Paul had his 8 inch reflector with him so that was assembled and we set about looking for some elusive Messier objects.

To give you some idea of how good the seeing conditions were, the stars were so bright that you felt that you could reach out and touch them. Paul rattled off his bronze target list for the Messier challenge within the following hour! In addition to that we managed to find lots of NGC objects which are usually denied to small telescopes. Things like Marcarians chain, the needle galaxy in Coma Berenices, and even the ring nebula which was so low in the North that there were the tops of pine trees in the field of view of his eye-piece! We could see the spiral shape of the whirlpool galaxy, the eyes in the owl nebula and I could go on but I suspect that you have heard enough and are already cursing my folly and thus denying you the experience of this quite magical night. Some thin cloud did show up about nine o'clock and the air was getting cold so we locked up and headed for home.

If I still have any friends out there after this then I promise not to be so swayed by weather forecasts or doubting Thomases on TV in the future and next time will be for people to make up their own minds about going.    I still hope to do the star-party before the weekend is out and if that fails then, as soon as is practicable, to replace the star-party with a Sun-Party. Our Solar telescope to see the spots and prominences, white-light filters and solar projections, cameras to take photos, and all done under the warm umbrella of a sunny, Spring Saturday or Sunday with the larks singing in the sky and the bees bumbling past on their way to the newly blossomed flowers. So if that sounds appealing and you can forgive tonight then I look forward to seeing you there.

Now, what to do with all these sausage rolls! 

Add a Comment
Site Search