From Bill Leslie
Well… we’ve had better, but it was all worth it. Friday’s session was cancelled due to too much cloud but we went ahead on Saturday. There turned out to be a bit more cloud than we had hoped for as well as some persistent haze.
Sixteen SIGMA members turned up with eight telescopes. Another fourteen friends, family and non-members joined us, some after coming across SIGMA at school visits, some at the Moray Winter Festival and some who came back to see us because they had enjoyed our night at the lunar eclipse so much. We must be doing something right!
Everyone had a good look around the sky with quite a few people catching their first glimpse of some night sky objects which can only be appreciated through a decent sized telescope.
Geminid meteors were not much in evidence, perhaps ten total, none of them particularly spectacular.
Mars shone brightly most of the night but we had to wait until quite late before any detail could be made out on its surface.
Comet Holmes was seen by most people without any optical aid and it actually looked more impressive through binoculars or a finder scope than through a telescope. Many people also had a chance to see the glory that is the Seven Sisters through a finder scope, giving a much steadier view than a pair of binoculars.
The star clusters in Auriga and Gemini were popular targets and with the Andromeda Galaxy in haze most of the night, M81 and M82 in Ursa Major gave us the best views of galaxies.
Highlight of the night was probably the Orion Nebula. Four stars could be seen in the Trapezium, one quite faint but the nebulosity in M42 was quite striking with a large loop extending to the south of the main part really standing out. The nearby smaller nebula, M43 was much more obvious than usual.
Around 9.30pm, the whole sky began to haze over. Surprisingly, some extended objects such as Comet Holmes and the Beehive Cluster could be seen through the haze. Stan managed to pick out M67 in Cancer while Ian and Pete struggled to see even the rings of Saturn as it rose above the trees.
I left about 10pm and amazingly, the sky was clear and frosty by the time I got back to Forres.
In Spey Bay, Stradders, who had been unable to make the observing session, reported that around 11.15pm,“…the sky was amazingly clear. Best night I have seen for ages.” He saw 5 Geminids in 25 minutes.
A good number of telescopes, guests almost outnumbering members and surprises for everyone. I think that can be put down as another successful public observing session in spite of the haze and the lack of meteors.
And thank you Stan, for providing refreshments once again.
Looking forward to the next one already.