I arrived mid afternoon and already there was the rare sight of patches of blue sky overhead, a promising sign. After setting up the telescope and display equipment I had taken along, and the first of many cups of tea by the log fire, it was show time! A planetarium show that is, presented in the STFC inflatable StarLab, by Alan and Wendy. An entertaining tour of the solar system with some spectacular graphics followed by a guided tour of the night sky with the planetarium.
After that I presented my own tour of "The Ten Most Amazing Places in the Solar System". By then darkness was falling and better still most of the cloud had gone. We had clear skies in every direction.
|Setting up as Orion rises over Pillar|
Once the sky got truly dark, and the centre lights had been turned off, the sky really came to life. Red light torches were essential as without them you could easily walk into someone. The conversations about constellations, planets, telescopes and deep sky objects were frequently interrupted by apologies, "sorry I didn't see you there!"
|My small Skywatcher 130P Dobsonian saw plenty of use|
|The Lake District fells provided a fantastic 'frame' for the night sky.|
|I couldn't resist a self portrait!|
|There were plenty of telescopes on hand to show off the night sky objects|
As I drove the 35 minutes or so back to Cockermouth, I reflected on how lucky we are to have such a great facility virtually on our doorstep. As an official Dark Sky Discovery Site it is open to the public at any time to enjoy the night sky in the beautiful setting. The team of staff and volunteers could not have been more welcoming. And it was great to see so many people attend, both locally and much fiurther afield. We should really make best use of this facility.
If you're interested the event will be repeated on the weekend of 9th and 10th February. We'll post more details on the CAS website nearer the time.
Before that though, is our own 'Stargazing in Cockermouth' event. That is this Saturday, 19th January. Starting from 1pm at the United Reformed Church Hall in Cockermouth Main Street and moving to Memorial Gardens about 7.30pm for a public observing session. I hope the weather is as good to us as it was last night.