Observing with the Bristol Astronomical Society
Members open the Society's Observatory on Clear Saturday Nights and visitors are welcome. For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to the variable nature of British weather we make the decision to run or cancel these meetings early on Saturday evening. Please check the status message at the top of the society's home page before coming, this will tell you when the observatory will be open. Please do not arrive before the stated start time as we need time to get the telescopes ready for use
Forthcoming Observing Sessions
|Sat 25th May||John Willis||Stephen Price||Toby Lumber|
|Sat 1st June||James Nelis||Stephen Price||Toby Lumber|
|Sat 8th June||Mike Cowles||James Nelis||Simon Perks|
|Sat 15th June||No Observing Session.|
We will be by the harbour as part of the Bristol Festival of Nature with solar telescopes on Saturday and Sunday
|Sat June 22nd||Andrew Hounsom||Neil Robson||John Willis|
|Sat 29th June||John Willis||Toby Lumber||Alison Camacho|
The Night Sky in May
The north pole of the galaxy in Coma Berenices is and the galaxies in the Coma and Virgo clusters are to the south this month, but the galaxies are faint and need a clear dark night to be seen.
The globular cluster M3 is nearby in Canes Venatici is well placed. and M13 in Hercules, the brightest globular cluster in the northern hemisphere will be easily visible later in the month.
Saturn is getting higher and is one of the most memorable sights you can see in a small telescope, but Jupiter is very low and its is getting difficult to see much detail.
The Coma Berenices star cluster ( Melotte 111 ) is a good target for binoculars. At a distance of 288 light years it is one of the nearest clusters of stars and appears quite large. You will have to pan the binoculars to see all of it.
This is a view of the night sky around 10:00pm around the middle of the month.
Observing Report Saturday 27th March
Openers: Toby Lumber (10" Newtonian), Roger Sykes (Cyril Swindin) and John Bishop (10" Meade Goto).
Arrival: 8:30pm to set up, 9pm for visitors.
Despite isolated rain showers throughout the afternoon, the evening sky became clearer and clearer until late on, when it finished almost cloudless.
We were delighted to welcome our visitors: two families (two mothers and two children each ranging from 4 to 14), one new, one returning, and a returning visitor, Graham. There were 7 visitors in total.
We started off with all telescopes pointed at Jupiter, the brightest object visible in the light evening sky. Two of the children helped with setting up the alignment stars on the goto scope. You can never start too early to train your future observatory openers! There were definitely four moons visible at the start of the evening but Io disappeared behind Jupiter shortly after 10pm. Also visible in the twilight were M81 and M82 and visitors got to see these before they left.
Roger managed to work some sorcery in the dome and got Cyril tracking Jupiter nicely, even though it has a blown logic chip in the motor driver.
Be prepared for next time! The children are getting cleverer and cleverer! I extracted myself from a conversation in order to set up the telescope, and left Roger fielding questions from one very bright young lady on an alternative theory of dinosaur extinction based on the changing tilt of the Earth's axis, and what might cause it.
This emphasises that we really could do with armchair astronomers at every session, as well as telescope operators, just to help answer questions from visitors. If any of you aren't happy using telescopes but could donate some time to talking to visitors then please come along - we need you!
Just after 10pm, Saturn became visible but low in the sky at around 15 deg. elevation. Families and kids had left us by this time so, unfortunately, they missed seeing Saturn this evening. Nevertheless, they all enjoyed their time and promised to come back to later sessions.
Graham was treated to a tour of the constellations by Toby. I'm certain that Toby now knows all of the constellations you can see, and more besides, which is testimony to what you need to know to find objects with the motorless Newtonian that he skilfully whips around the sky. But he poetically interrupted us all, exclaiming something you may never hear again, "Quick! Quick! Stop looking at Saturn and come and look at the Moon!"
At 11pm, the star of tonight was undoubtedly the Moon, 94% waning, and ascending from a 100% clear and cloudless horizon - literally 0.0 degrees elevation. The bare tree branches around half a mile distant cast a mesh-like silhouette that fully covered a the deep golden yellow face of the Moon, but which also let through visions of it's craters and furry edged mountains (to coin Toby's phrase). If only we'd had a decent camera amongst us.
In between all of this, we all saw a handful of brilliant meteors that appeared to radiate from the constellation of Leo. I'm not sure what shower these might be part of.
We left the site around midnight after a great evening's observing.
Observing Report Saturday 20th March
A rather hazy sky and bright moon ruled out galaxy observation but we saw
24 Com, a nice coloured double.
9 visitors and a couple of members came along and we had 3 telescopes in operation: Cyril Swindin 12", John Pedler 10" and the Clifford Martin 18".
One of the visitors owns an 8" Dobsonian and was asking about observing sites near Thornbury. I think we have persuaded him to come to a meeting to talk to other observers from the Thornbury area and several others seemed keen to come to meetings.
We also collimated the 18" and found a couple more snags for the list:
Cyril's motor is vibrating, it looks as if the driver has flipped from half step mode to full step.
Cyril's mirror isn't sitting on the mounting pads properly and it can't be fully collimated.
It looks like its going to be a busy maintenance season this year.
The opening team were Neil Robson, Toby Lumber who brought the John Pedlar 10", and me.
Observing Report - Saturday 2nd March
A good evening with a cloudless sky, very slightly misty at low
elevations and the cleanest, tidiest observatory I have seen (thanks to
Three club members, Dave, Alison and myself and 11 members of the public - mostly first-timers and three returning observers. Five youngsters, which Alison kept very entertained in the dome - which was probably the best place to be as it was freezing outside. It was down to 0degC when we left.
We viewed many of the usual, brighter objects: Jupiter and the Galilean moons, M42, M81, M82, Beehive cluster, Double cluster, Cone Nebula, M31, M32.
On searching for Vesta I managed to get Stellarium connected to the Meade LX200 and this was working quite well with only a very slight misalignment of half a field of view with a 40mm eyepiece. I think we did see Vesta, but this was difficult to identify with just half an hour's viewing. Ideally I should look this evening to see if what we saw last night has moved. Dave finished up with variable star measurements.
One thing I forgot to do was get everyone to count the stars that we could see in Orion.
All of the visitors were very grateful and I think we'll see them again on friday meetings, saturdays and Tyntesfield events.