Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)
Public Outreach Events
Ipswich Museum hosted the exhibition "The Moon: Meet Our Nearest Neighbour" in late July and early August 2021. Exhibits included a giant inflatable lunar globe, historical instruments used to observe the Moon, an original Moon map dating from 1707, items illustrating the place of the Moon in popular culture, and material concerning the Apollo missions, including a large model of the Saturn V rocket.
The final day of the exhibition, 15 August 2021, took the form of a Lunar Festival, with members of OASI providing telescopes and other equipment and material to complement the exhibits and being on hand to answer questions from visitors and explain various aspects of astronomy. In the afternoon, Paul Whiting presented an illustrated talk on "Wonders of the Solar System". Approximately 21 families attended.
Members of OASI present were Roy Gooding, John Wainwright and Paul Whiting, FRAS.
This is the second year that OASI has supported Norwich Science Festival, which has been running since 2016. The Festival is aimed at children in junior schools and is held during the half-term holiday in October. The principal location is at The Forum, but there are numerous other venues around the city. This year the event ran during the period Friday 18 - Saturday 26 October, with events in The Forum running from 10.00am to 4.00pm.
I attended on three days, Monday 18, Tuesday 19 and Saturday 23 October, each of which had a different ambiance. On Monday, there were many families with lots of children all day. On Tuesday, there were more adults and I spent more time talking to the visitors than on Monday. On Saturday, the event started more slowly than earlier in the week and it was mid-morning before the marquee looked full. In fact, Saturday was Astronomy Day, and I was joined by four other members of OASI: Andy Gibbs, Paul Whiting, FRAS and Pete and Nicky Richards. DASH Astro and Norwich Astronomy Society also had stands. In 2018, the OASI stand was in The Forum, but this year all astronomy societies were accommodated in a large marquee nearby.
On Saturday morning, Paul presented a lecture on the Solar System. We also presented the following hands-on activities and demonstrations:
At peak time, we had five tables in use, backed by several boards displaying astronomical posters. It was a very busy day! I estimate that a few thousand people passed through the marquee throughout the day. The organisers estimated a staggering 137,000+ visits during the 9-day main programme!, but I think that is an over-estimate.
Photo by Bill Barton, FRAS.
After OASI's successful appearance at Latitude in 2018, Trent Burton of Trunkman Productions again asked the Society to provide some star gazing to support a talk by Professor Chris Lintott at Latitude in 2019. Six members of OASI volunteered to support the event: me (Andy Gibbs), Pete and Nicky Richards, Bill Barton, Mike Whybray and Jennie Dunn. Our tickets duly arrived ten days before the event: three "performers" tickets and three "performers guest". More on that later!
On the day, I picked up Pete and Nicky and we then met Bill and Jennie at the Martlesham Heath park & ride, (arriving, as usual, seven minutes late!) We then travelled in convoy up the A12 to the festival site. We intended to meet Mike, who was staying nearby, during the evening. We enjoyed a relatively smooth journey, although there was a two-mile queue from Blythburgh for festival-goers. We entered the festival site via the production entrance and proceeded to the "old oak cabin" to exchange our tickets for wristbands. This year, we received two backstage car park passes rather than one, making it easier to unload our equipment.
In 2018, Pete discovered the power of the "performers" wristband, and this year we were keen to find out where it could take us! Unfortunately, it did not grant access to the music performers' green room, but it did provide full access to the speakeasy green room and toilets. Well, the speakeasy green room was a green tent to be precise, but complimentary snacks and drinks were available (including alcohol during the evening).
As we arrived just after midday and Chris’s show didn't start until 22:45, we had most of the day to enjoy the festival. Pete, Nicky, Jennie and I went to the comedy arena, where we watched performances from Jayde Adams, (no Nessun Dorma this year!), Maise Adam and Nish Kumar. Nish gave a very funny performance but there is, however, no "watershed" at the festival, so bear this in mind if you visit with youngsters. We then went our separate ways, Jennie to enjoy the Prosecco tent, Pete and Nicky to "Laughter Yoga" I to meet a friend, attending his first festival at the age of 71, bringing his grandsons! Later on, I saw the end of Neneh Cherry’s show and had my annual dose of headbanging, courtesy of Indoor Pets.
The OASI contingent had agreed to rendezvous at the speakeasy tent at 21:00. The weather forecast had not been promising, however, the forecast heavy showers didn’t arrive until 20:00. At the speakeasy we met with Trent and Chris Lintot and decided, as the weather meant that there was little hope of stargazing, to resort to plan B, which was to set up a couple of small telescopes at the back of the tent for people to look at after Chris’s show.
At 22:45, Chris’s show started. He was joined by Steve Pretty, a musician, and together they showed some fantastic NASA images interspersed with musical interludes. They did, however, suffer competition from George Ezra, the headline act at the Obelisk Arena. At the end of the show, although it had stopped raining, it was still completely cloudy so there was no chance of any observing, but several members of the audience came to talk to us about telescopes and astronomy. Chris Lintott joined us for a chat, and he offered to come and give OASI a talk.
Around midnight, we packed up our equipment and headed back to our cars. There was one last mini drama... Bill discovered that his truck had a flat battery. Fortunately, because we hadn’t used our power tanks, they retained enough charge to jump start Bill’s truck and we were all able to set off for home. En route, as forecast, the heavens opened. We arrived back at Pete and Nicky’s at 01.00am.
The day was long, but enjoyable. It was a shame that we were not so fortunate with the weather this year as last. The next day, Pete and Nicky returned to the Festival, further exploiting the power of their wristbands, to see the Stereophonics!
Images below by Bill Barton and Mike Whybray.
OASI's stand at the Nacton Village Fun Day proved popular and it was good to see many members of OASI supporting the event. Those present enjoyed glimpses of the solar disk during a few gaps in the clouds but there were no sunspots in evidence. Nacton Community Council extended its thanks to members of OASI who helped at the event.
For more information on ESWR see http://www.eswr.org.uk/.
The weather was good, with long sunny spells and some high cloud. Unfortunately, the Sun was quiet with no sunspots and little to observe in Hα. Rally-goers were much interested in our stand and observed the Sun and were keen to talk about astronomy and OASI.
OASI members who assisted at the event were: Andy Gibbs, Tina Hammond, Pete & Nicky Richards, Martin Richmond-Hardy and John Wainwright. Photos below are by Barry Rayner (L; not OASI member) and Tina Hammond (R).
After a quiet start, a steady stream of visitors arrived at OASI's Bentley star party on 13 April 2019. Many were also attending an event in the nearby Case is Altered pub. The visitors enjoyed excellent views of the first quarter Moon through a variety of telescopes.
Photo shows members of OASI setting-up before the event.
Unexpectedly, I received a request for OASI to provide telescopes and observers for the Latitude Festival at Henham to support a talk by Professor Chris Lintott, presenter of the Sky at Night. Not having been to Latitude before, I wasn't sure what to expect and immediately thought of drug-fuelled hippies and ageing rockers trying to recapture their youth. I was quite wrong! The festival had a very pleasant, family-friendly atmosphere – albeit loud and at times “blue”. In fact, it has been called the thinking person’s festival.
Members of OASI quickly stepped forward to volunteer: Bill Barton, FRAS, Andy Gibbs, Pete Richards, Mike Whybray and me (Paul Whiting). We then had to arrange logistics to transport the five observers, four telescopes and three cars to site, but with only one vehicle pass! We managed to reduce the number of cars to two and, luckily, at the last minute, the festival organisers relented and provided a second vehicle pass. So we were good to go! The convoy formed at Martlesham Park and Ride and, during the journey up the A12, kept in contact by amateur radio. The much-anticipated traffic jams that usually slow progress up the A12 around Blythburgh at this time of year had evaporated and we drove directly to Henham without interruption. We headed for the performer's entrance rather than the public one and, after a mile of driving through undergrowth and sand tracks on site, arrived at the backstage car park, where one of the cars could park and unload, while the other had to unload and then drive to the public car park, 45 minutes’ walk distant.
By the time we had unloaded, it was 11.30am. We were on at 10.00pm. Only ten and a half hours to wait! Mike and Pete enthusiastically grasped the opportunity and found lots of things to do. Andy also found attractions to visit. Meanwhile Bill and I sat in the car most of the time! I did manage to see the very end of a recording of QI (that blasted klaxon is still ringing in my ears), almost asked a question at a recording of Gardeners Question Time and nearly bought a glass of prosecco (until I saw the price!) I watched several performers on the Comedy Stage: all were B-list and not very entertaining, with one exception, Jayde Adams from Bristol, who finished her act with a very funny yet professional performance of Nessun Dorma, singing both tenor and soprano parts superbly. I also visited the Speak Easy, which held panel discussions and round-table debates, and sat in for one. The conversation followed the lines of "What do we think of the dichotomy between market forces and actual customer requirements?" "Well I think the changing paradigm in Silicon Valley.....". It was rather heavy so I wandered off; this proved to be a mistake. I had been allocated a "performer" wrist band and the other four members of OASI "performer’s friend" wrist bands. Pete discovered that the latter provided access to the green room at the Speak Easy, with free booze and food all day. If I had stayed longer at the stage I would have met Pete and discovered the power of the wristband. Alas all I found were the VIP loos!
While we were waiting in the car park a swarm of film cameras and sound people suddenly appeared. They were filming someone but we couldn’t work out who it was. Then we noticed Richard Curtis (of Blackadder etc). Andy suggested that it might be the new popstar biopic film currently being filmed in Suffolk. If so, Danny Boyle should be present – ah, there he is! For over an hour the crew filmed the scene of a couple walking down the dirt track past the car park, lugging a large amount of kit. Each time, after the shout of "cut", an assistant appeared with a sack barrow and shifted the kit back up the path ready for the "talent" to repeat the take, to be filmed from a different camera angle. At one point a runner came to us and said we were about to be in shot: we could either move out of the way or give permission to be filmed. I’m not sure whether or not we were filmed - but look for us when the film is released next year!
We were due to meet at Dylan’s book-mobile at 9.45pm ready to start moving the telescopes to the observing location in front of the tent protecting the Speak Easy stage. Where was Danny Boyle’s sack barrow operative when you needed him? A lady from the production company who had invited us to the festival came and asked the usual question: "Are you the astrological society?" After some patient explanations, we were assigned a couple of roadies to help transport our kit. Chris started his talk at 10.00pm and we aimed to be ready to show visitors the night sky by the time his talk finished, at 11.00pm. I had hoped to attend his talk but, unfortunately, there was much passing traffic asking questions, distracting the observers from setting up the telescopes. So I tried to head off the distractions. At this time too, the book-mobile people were recording a movie about being on tour and asked to include footage of our telescopes. I obliged with five minutes to camera, which they followed by recording us for 30 minutes setting up and showing the public the night sky.
Chris had adjusted his talk to fit with us. He started his tour of the universe far out and moved closer to home over the course of the hour, ending with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – which were our objects of observation. By time Chris had finished, the sky was largely cloud-free (earlier in the day there had been solid cloud, but it slowly dispersed through the afternoon and evening) and we had excellent views of Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter occasionally disappeared behind some largely-invisible patchy cloud. There was a lot of dust above the site and a low mist formed, and may have caused some smog effects. Later, Mars appeared incredibly bright. Chris asked me why it was so bright. I suggested that a combination of being at its closest to Earth together with a sandstorm raging on the surface, which may have increased the albedo of the planet.
After showing Chris, Robin Ince and around 200 members of the public the planets, we aimed to pack up around around midnight, so that we could avail ourselves of the roadies for assistance once more. Alas they clocked off at midnight so, by the time we had finished, we were left to transport the kit ourselves. Luckily we were joined by OASI member Adam Honeybell and his wife who helped us take the equipment back to the car park. We were getting tired by this time, so Bill managed to pack all the telescopes in the back of his van and arranged to return them to their owners at the Society BBQ the following day. Bill and I drove straight off site and arrived back in Ipswich by 1.15am. The others had the 45 minute walk back to the other car, so returned home rather later!
All in all, it was a good day, albeit rather long. Chris told me that it was good to work with us and that he hoped to do it again, so perhaps next year?
Photo by Adam Honeybell.
Paul Whiting, FRAS
OASI was invited by the National Trust to host a solar observing event at Sutton Hoo visitor centre on 16 June 2018. Members present were:
Bill Barton took the image below before visitors arrived.
For more information on ESWR see http://www.eswr.org.uk/.
Bill Barton took the image below before visitors arrived.
Although the Sun was not in evidence, many visitors took an interest in the OASI stand at the Kirton & Falkenham Fete. Members of OASI in attendance were: Andy Gibbs, Mike O'Mahony, Mike Norris, Martin Richmond-Hardy, Joe Startin and John Wainwright and Paul Whiting, FRAS.
Image below by Andy Gibbs.
Persistent rain in the days prior to the 2018 Framlingham Country Show led to the usual site, at Framlingham College, becoming waterlogged. With three days notice, therefore, the show was re-located to Trinity Park, Ipswich (Suffolk Showground). This conveniently placed the event right on the doorstep of OASI.
Exhibitors at the Show had to be on-site and set-up by 8.30am, even though the public wasn't admitted until 10.00am. When the OASI exhibitors arrived, the weather was damp and grey. After 11.00am conditions started to brighten up and we enjoyed some spells of sunshine. After a quiet start, a good number of show-goers visited the OASI stand where they viewed the Sun in Hα and white light and chatted about Astronomy and OASI’s activities. Unfortunately, there was not much to observe on the Sun: no sunspots, prominences or filaments were visible in Hα. We are, of course, approaching solar minimum.
OASI operated two Coronado PSTs in Hα plus Roy’s 90 mm Maksutov with white light filter.
We did not attend the second day of the show, due to a poor weather forecast.
Despite a biting easterly wind, there was a good turn out of villagers and other visitors. Four telescopes were in operation and, although hampered by high clouds from time to time, we were able to observe various objects including, M42, M31, M45, NGC457 and, of course, the Moon.
After the event, some members of OASI decided to warm-up in the nearby pub where, by coincidence, a quiz was being held. Team OASI came within four points of victory!
This was the second solar observing event of the weekend 09-10 September 2017. Unfortunately, skies were more cloudy than on the previous day, and we saw only fleeting glimpses of the Sun before lunchtime. By 13:00, skies had completely clouded over, so we took to sheltering under the gazebo and packed up by 14:00.
Telescopes in use:
Roy Gooding and Andy Gibbs
The weather proved problematic for our 2017 solar observing event at Christchurch Park. However, after cancelling two dates in August due to cloud, on 09 September the weather finally cooperated and delivered a day largely sunny with only patchy cloud! We had hoped to use our usual site above the Reg Driver centre. However, since we had last visited the position, it had become overgrown, so we decided instead to set up in front of the Protestant Martyrs Monument. Our choice was a good one, as it placed us at the intersection of two main footpaths through the Park, making us easily visible to members of the public. Roy recorded 98 visitors to our event.
We were able to observe the Sun throughout most of the morning with only the occasional disappearance behind cloud. The Sun was fairly active, considering we are heading towards solar minimum, with two large sunspot groups, AR 2673 and AR 2674, visible towards the western limb. There was also a medium-size prominence visible on the southern limb; it shrank as the day progressed. By 14:30, it had become overcast, and, with some black clouds approaching, we decided to pack up. At 15:00, as we were leaving the Park, the forecast showers duly arrived.
Telescopes in use:
Roy Gooding and Andy Gibbs
East Suffolk Wireless Revival on 11 June 2017 was a gathering of the geeks so there were both optical (white light and Hα telescopes) and radio astronomy equipment on display. The latter was used for VHF detection of meteors using the Graves radar on 143.05 MHz and monitoring of VLF stations on 23.4 kHz to observe SIDs (Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances). Paul Whiting, FRAS, G4YQC and Treasurer of OASI was, on this occasion, wearing his radio "hat" as Honorary Secretary of FDARS (Felixstowe & District Amateur Radio Society).
The OASI stand attracted much interest, from beginners (with telescopes that had been lurking unused in attics) through to people looking to upgrade telescopes or explore new fields of astronomy.
The event followed Kirton & Falkenham Fete on Saturday eight days previously; the Fete had been a typical family day with interest in astronomy from young and old alike. A huge thanks to all who helped over the two weekends: Bill Barton, FRAS, David Murton, Pete and Nicky Richards and Paul Whiting, FRAS.
The weather during the 2017 Mid and West Suffolk Show, held Sunday 30 April - Monday 01 May, was not good. On the Sunday, there was initially patchy visibility of the Sun, enabling fleeting solar observations, but the sky soon became overcast and there was a chilly east wind. On Monday, skies were mainly leaden and the wind was again cold, but a few clear breaks allowed observation of the Sun in Hα and white light and the planet Venus.
Members who attended were as follows. Sunday: Roy Gooding, Adam Honeybell, David Murton, Mike O’Mahoney, Martin Richmond-Hardy, Alan Smith, John Wainwright, Joe Walsh, Paul Whiting and Mike Whybray. Monday: Andy Gibbs, Roy Gooding, David Murton, Pete and Nicky Richards, Martin Richmond-Hardy, Joe Starting and Paul Whiting. There were four telescopes in operation and the new gazebo proved proved popular with visitors during the rain! Photos below are by David Murton.
Framlingham Country Show, Saturday 08 and Sunday 09 April 2017 was a great success with wonderful weather and huge crowds, especially on the Sunday. At the OASI stand, we had telescopes showing the Sun in both Hα and white light, together with Bill Barton's 100 mm refractor showing a lovely crescent Venus, plus display boards, photo boards, information sheets and games for the kids. Martin Cook provided a highlight in the form of a large magnifying glass focussing the Suns's rays onto a thermocouple - he recorded a peak temperature of almost 440°C. (A modern interpretation of the age-old pastime of focussing the heat of the Sun to burn holes in a sheet of paper).
We received many appreciative comments from visitors and from the organisers of the show who asked us to attend again next year. We made some good contacts and several visitors expressed interest in attending Newbourne Observing Group. Plus we all made friends with an owl!
Thanks are due to all members who helped: Bill Barton, Martin Cook, Andy Gibbs, Roy Gooding, Matthew Leeks, David Murton, Pete & Nicky Richards, Alan Smith, Joe Startin and John Wainwright.
Photos below by David Murton and Matthew Leeks.
OASI held a public access event at Capel St Mary library on 10 September 2016. Unfortunately, a cloudy sky meant that the planned observing session could not go ahead and those present had to content themselves instead with hot dogs and hot drinks, followed by a talk by David Murton on "A Beginner's Guide to the Night Sky". OASI members attending were Stewart Dedman, Mike Nicholls, David Murton and Mike Norris.
Unfortunately, overcast skies throughout the entirety of Bentley Village Families Day on 04 September 2016 meant that the intended solar observing could not go ahead. The number of visitors to the OASI stand was understandably low.
We enjoyed great weather and many visitors. The management of the Priory was very appreciative of the entertainment and education that we provided, and has requested that we return to run an evening observing event. Thanks are due to all OASI members who supported the event.
Images below are by Mike O'Mahony and the management of the Priory.
We attended Holywells Park Families Day on 03 August 2016 to introduce the public to solar observing. The photograph below by Martin Richmond-Hardy shows Bill Barton and Roy Gooding with their equipment set up, waiting for members of the public to arrive.
Great weather during the weekend of 23-24 July 2016 meant that the Jimmy's Farm event was very well attended and the OASI stand received many visitors. Members of OASI who supported the event were: Bill Barton, Pete & Nicky Richards, John Wainwright and Paul Whiting.
Images below are by John Wainwright.
Alas, a cold and damp 10 July 2016 meant that our solar observing event outside Felixstowe Spa Pavilion was not a success. Few visitors called to see us and observing was not possible. In fact, stoicism was the order of the day! Photograph below by Martin Richmond-Hardy. Other members of OASI brave enough to attend were: Bill Barton, Roy Gooding, David Murton, Pete and Nicky Richards, John Wainwright and Paul Whiting FRAS.
Despite an unpromising forecast and some rain, our solar observing event outside University Campus Suffolk (by the giant question mark) was well attended.
Images below are by David Murton.
We held our 2016 Christchurch Park "Astronomy in the Park" event on 28-29 May. This was the second weekend reserved for the event, the first being wet and windy. This year we changed our observing location to the lawn in front of Christchurch Mansion. The general consensus was this was an improvement, as we were positioned close to one of the main pedestrian routes through the Park.
The weather on Saturday was dry, although the Sun did disappear frequently behind cloud, and there was a steady flow of visitors. On Sunday, weather forecasts were conflicting and, indeed, conditions were, at first, uncertain. However, a late decision to proceed with the event was correct, as it was sunny and clear from 11.30am onwards. Over 280 visitors attended on Sunday, the numbers swelled by many people attending a Colour Dash event held in the Park concurrently. Although pink and blue clouds of smoke blew in our direction more than once, our equipment survived unscathed!
On Sunday evening, the sky clouded over and, as I write this report on the following Friday, the Sun hasn’t been seen since!
Equipment in use over the weekend was:
Other members who assisted over the weekend were:
Images below are by David Murton, Tina Hammond and Mike Nicholls.
Unfortunately, our star party at Nowton Park on 19 March 2016 was spoiled by total cloud cover. But, on the plus side, at least we were greeted on entering the park by a beautiful carpet of daffodils. We assembled in one of the greenhouses and David Murton gave a talk on What to See in the Night Sky. After a break (and a welcome hot beverage), Paul Whiting gave a talk on Pluto and NASA’s New Horizons mission.
Members of OASI present were Bill Barton, Andy Gibbs, Roy Gooding, David Murton, Mike Whybray and Martin Richmond-Hardy. Thanks to our Nowton Park host, Will Hardy (no relation!)
OASI hosted an unbelievable evening in Holywells Park on 12 March 2016. At least 500 people attended, with queues 50-deep all evening for each telescope. The crowd in fact was the largest of any event since the time of Halley's Comet, back in 1985-86! Many thanks to everyone who helped. Thanks also to our visitors, and sorry about the queues!
The following members were present with equipment as follows:
West Suffolk council organised a star party to mark International Observe the Moon Night and invited OASI to run the astronomical aspects of the event. The venue was the award-winning Nowton Park (East Anglia in Bloom best park).
We enjoyed a clear night and a full house of approximately 60 visitors.
OASI members and instruments were:
Through the wide variety of optical equipment, we showed visitors the Moon and deep sky objects. Unfortunately the Moon set behind some trees early in the event, and Saturn was at too low an altitude to observe. Nevertheless, the clear skies provided spectacular views of the Ring Nebula M57, Andromeda Galaxy M31, double stars Albireo and Alcor/Mizar and sundry other objects.
Eventually, optics became dewed in the damp air, giving rise to a few uncharted fuzzy objects!
Press reports of the event: East Anglian Daily Times, Bury Free Press.
Pictures below illustrate the event. (Moon by Martin Richmond-Hardy, remainder by David Murton. The ghosting in the images of people taken at night is caused by the longish exposures required.)
Fine weather enabled the many visitors to the annual Bentley Village Families Day to observe the Sun through a range of solar telescopes brought by members of OASI. Instruments in use included:
Also present were David Murton and Mike Nicholls, who took the photos below.
On 16 August 2015, OASI showed visitors at Landguard Fort, Felixstowe, the Sun with a variety of solar telescopes. Society members present were: Martin Cook, Roy Gooding, Matthew Leeks, David Murton, Mike O'Mahony, Pete and Nicky Richards, Martin Richmond-Hardy and John Wainwright.
Panorama below by Mike O'Mahony; other images by John Wainwright.
OASI members Roy Gooding, Mike Nicholls, Pete Richards, Joe Startin and Paul Whiting attended Holywells Park Family Fun Day on 05 August 2015 and showed the many visitors the Sun in white light.
The photos below, by Mike Nicholls, show setting up shortly before the start of the event.
There was much interest in the OASI presence at the Bawdsey Radar Trust Ltd open day on 02 August 2015. OASI members supporting solar observing activities were Andy and Mandy Gibbs, Martin Richmond-Hardy, David Murton and John Wainwright; meanwhile OASI member Paul Whiting, FRAS, was working the airwaves on behalf of the Trust.
The photos below are by Bawdsey Radar Trust Ltd and David Murton.
A generally sunny day meant that the many visitors attending Nowton Park had an exceptional opportunity to view the Sun in Hα and white light via a variety of telescopes operated by members of OASI.
Thanks to OASI members Kev Fulcher, Roy Gooding, Mike Nicholls, Martin Richmond-Hardy, John Wainwright and Paul Whiting, FRAS for supporting the event.
The photos below are by John Wainwright, Martin Richmond-Hardy and Mike Nicholls.
We were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day at Sproughton Village Primary School, where OASI had been invited to provide a display of solar observing. Visitors both young and old took an interest in observing the Sun in Hα light via two Coronado PSTs (Personal Solar Telescopes) and in an excellent diagram of the Sun and planets at correct relative sizes.
A big thank you to Mike and Ann Norris for preparing the diagram. Thanks also to Mike and, in addition, Pete and Nicky Richards for helping on the day. The photograph below shows us waiting for visitors to arrive.
In 2015, the annual Debenham Street Fair was held on 28 June. OASI was invited to attend (our second invitation). The weather was not good, with much cloud and some heavy rain, but there was a little sunshine during which we managed to glimpse the Sun.
Members who attended were: Bill Barton, FRAS, Andy Gibbs, Roy Gooding, Abi Lee, David Murton, Pete and Nicky Richards, Martin Richmond-Hardy, John Wainwright, and Paul Whiting, FRAS. Thanks to all!
The photos below are by David Murton and John Wainwright.
OASI, DASH, LYRA and Breckland astronomy societies, under the leadership of David Gwynn, Chairman of DASH, jointly hosted a public observing event at the RSPB Minsmere visitor centre, 10.00am - 5.00pm on 21 June 2015 to mark International SUNDay. The guest speaker was Dr Helen Mason, OBE, FRAS, St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge.
Members of OASI arrived at the visitor centre at 09.30am in time to set up their equipment. Doors opened to the public at 10.00am with the first and most important event being a quick safety briefing, to ensure that all understood how to observe the Sun safely, and never to look at the Sun directly except through an instrument specifically designed for the purpose. The programme of talks then began, with four talks throughout the day covering a variety of topics about the Sun at beginner and intermediate levels. Speakers were Dr Helen Mason, Dr Paul Whiting, FRAS, from OASI and a member of Breckland AS.
Throughout the day there were activities for children, and sources of further information were available (covering courses, books, local astronomy societies, etc.)
Weather throughout the day was mixed, with some cloud, but it was possible to do some solar observing during periods of clear sky. A variety of telescopes and equipment were in use, in both white light and Hα, and there was a continuous, real-time feed of the solar image onto a large projection screen for all to see.
Members of OASI who attended were: Bill Barton, Andy Gibbs, Roy Gooding, David Murton, Mike O'Mahony, Pete and Nicky Richards, Martin and Jen Richmond-Hardy and Paul Whiting.
At the end of the day, just as all the exhibitors had finished packing up and were preparing to leave, the RSPB education manager commented: I've been involved in many events with the RSPB over the years and it is sometimes very hard work trying to get the public engaged with the exhibitors. I needn't have worried about this today, as it was very clear that the astronomers were excellent at engaging with the public! A welcome encomium.
2015 was our 7th year of hosting a late-spring solar observing event open to the public in Christchurch Park. We planned to host the event on Saturday-Sunday 16-17 May. Unfortunately, on Saturday morning, the weather was variable with much cloud and, as a result, few visitors attended. As the forecast for Sunday was not good, we took a decision late late on Saturday evening to cancel the planned second day of the event.
Photographs of the event taken by Martin Richmond-Hardy on Saturday 16 May are below.
Jimmy's Farm was a new venue for OASI for 2015. We exhibited there at the Science and Nature Festival, 21-22 March 2015. We generated much interest among visitors to the Festival and were able to publicise our forthcoming open weekend (27-28 March 2015). Unfortunately, the sky was too cloudy for solar observing.
Photographs of the event taken by David Murton and Matthew Leeks are below.
Although cloud cover prevented observing the eclipse, the public interest in the event was amazing. Ipswich waterfront was crowded and everyone enjoyed a fantastic morning. BBC Radio Suffolk was present all morning, interviewing just about everyone! Presenter Lesley Dolphin expressed interest in covering future OASI events. The press attended too, with the EADT sending a reporter who filed some marvellous copy! Isaacs were delighted and have asked OASI to host more events on their premises.
Looking forward to the eclipse: press report in the Evening Star.
Press report of the day itself in the EADT.
A big thank you to all members of OASI who attended and assisted at the event.
Observations of the eclipse by OASI members who travelled to more favourable locations.
Photos below by Mike Nicholls and David Murton.
Thanks to all members of OASI who supported our star party at Bentley on 04 October 2014. The event was a great success with a lot of interest from the village; indeed, we could have used a few more telescopes to deal with the numbers of people who attended! The site is excellent with good horizons and less light pollution than anywhere else we have tried around Ipswich and all present agreed that we should use it again. The locals are also keen for us to use the site.
We propose to hold another star party at Bentley soon, next time coinciding with a new moon, which will enable us to assess the quality of the sky there and to decide whether to schedule regular observing evenings. The site holds great potential for OASI. Please come and check it out when we get another visit organised.
Photos below are by Mike Nicholls.
Members of OASI present with their instruments were:
Objects observed included Saturn, M13, M31, Albireo, Alcor and Mizar. Paul Whiting delivered a presentation in the library.
Members of OASI present with their instruments were:
Overcast weather meant that opportunities for solar observing at Priory Park this year were limited. Nevertheless, some visitors did turn up and we were able to explain to them how to observe the Sun safely, together with what can usually be seen (weather permitting!) Photos below are by Mike Norris.
Good weather meant that over 400 people visited our event just outside Felixstowe Leisure Centre.
The photos below are by David Murton, Martin Richmond-Hardy and Kevin Fulcher.
The weather at Debenham Street Fair on 29 June 2014 was less than perfect but we nevertheless managed to glimpse the Sun between clouds and rain. Our presence at the Fair created much interest among the many visitors who attended the event. Thanks to all members who supported our presence.
The images below are by David Murton and Mike Nicholls.
We once more enjoyed near-perfect weather. In excess of 250 visitors came to look through our telescopes (fitted with special solar filters) at the Sun. Thanks to all members who supported the event.
The images below are by David Murton, John Wainwright, Martin Cook, Mike Nicholls and Mike Norris.
2014 was the 6th year in which we've hosted a solar observing event open to the public in Christchurch Park. We were blessed with perfect weather on our first choice of dates, Saturday - Sunday 17-18 May, so that is when we ran the event. (Indeed, with the exception of 2013, our solar observing sessions in Christchurch Park have generally benefited from good summer weather.) This year, although our visit to Christchurch Park was our principle public solar event, we are hosting many similar events in other locations throughout the summer.
This year, our event benefited from a more professional appearance. David Murton had purchased a gazebo and display banner for use at outreach meetings and we pressed my wallpaper pasting table into service as the reception desk where we greeted interested visitors and dispensed informative handouts.
David arrived first and was in the process of setting up the gazebo, just outside the Reg Driver centre (where the land is relatively flat), when I arrived with Eric Sims. Others then arrived and we proceeded to set up the solar telescopes in our usual spot up the hill from the centre. After about 40 minutes, more members arrived and proceeded to set up their equipment. As ever, our members supported the event well and we had an impressive selection of equipment in use:
4 Coronado Hα telescopes,
3 white light telescopes,
3 solar projection telescopes,
1 Coronado pair of solar binoculars,
Unfortunately, the sun was again not very active, showing only a few sun spots. However, the Hα telescopes did show a selection of prominences and filaments.
In previous years, we've always guesstimated the number of visitors. This year, in order to improve the accuracy of our estimate, I'd purchased a tally counter. But my efforts were thwarted: many visitors stayed at the gazebo and did not ascend the hill to the telescopes and so were lost to the count. So we estimated the number of such visitors and added it to the tally of those who came to see the telescopes. By this method, we estimated that, over the two days, at least 500 people came to look at the Sun and talk to us.
Members of OASI who attended included: Martin Cook, Kevin Fulcher, Andy Gibbs, Abigail Lee, Matthew Leeks, Mike O’Mahony, Mike Nicholls, Pete & Nicky Richards, John Wainwright, Paul Whiting, Jennie Wood and several others who I do not recall. As ever I would like to thank all members who supported the event.
First image below by David Murton, next three by Martin Cook, next two by Mike Nicholls, next one by Matthew Leeks, final one by John Wainwright.
Unfortunately, skies were cloudy for our solar observing event at Woodbridge Tide Mill on 11 May 2014. Unsurprisingly, visitor numbers were low. Members of OASI attending were: Roy Gooding, David Murton, Pete and Nicky Richards, Martin Richmond-Hardy.
Our second Astronomy In The Park event of 2014 was scheduled for Landseer Park on Friday 07 March. The event began in Gainsborough Library with a talk by OASI member Paul Whiting, FRAS. We intended, after the talk, to hold an observing session in Landseer Park. However, the proposed observing site turned out to be too far from the library.
The solution turned out to be just outside the library's front door. Our outreach meetings are intended to enable members of the public to look at the night sky so, for the first time ever, we became pavement astronomers and, in a very small area, set up five telescopes. This is probably the first time the streets of Ipswich have hosted pavement astronomers! Many passers-by joined the audience from the library to see what we were up to and to observe the night sky.
Members present at this event included Bill Barton, FRAS, David Murton, Mike Norris, Pete and Nicky Richards, Martin Richmond-Hardy, Steve Shapland and Paul Whiting, FRAS. I would like to thank all members who supported this event.
National Astronomy Week (NAW) is held every few years. In 2014, the event was held 01-08 March, with the theme of observing Jupiter. We decided several months in advance of NAW to organise a star party in Christchurch Park, on either Saturday 01 March or one week later, depending on the weather. We advertised the event with posters and handouts in tourist information offices in Ipswich and Felixstowe and in the Reg Driver centre in Christchurch Park. Our new Chairman, David Murton, was interviewed about the event on BBC Radio Suffolk at 09:30 on 01 March.
Skies on the evening of 01 March were clear so we opted to go ahead with the event on that date, rather than delay to the following week. The event was very well supported by members and there were about a dozen telescopes in use on the Park. The Society's Millennium Telescope, our 480 mm reflector, had its second outing at a star party. Martin Cook and Matt Leeks again looked after the instrument, and located it so that it was the first telescope that visitors would see on entering the Park. All other telescopes that night were smaller, but John Wainwright's 410 mm Dobsonian ran a close second! In total, there were four different designs of telescope in use during the evening. Here is a list of the larger telescopes:
An estimated 90 to 100 visitors arrived during the two hours that we were open. I would like to thank all members who supported the event.
We were blessed with the most amazing weather and a continuous flow of "would be astronomers" keen to use the telescopes. We had great fun with our "name that planet" game aimed at the children but mainly played by the adults all of whom accepted their Smarties prize when they got the right answer! A big thank you to all members of OASI who attended and supported this successful event.
First three images below by Steve Shapland, middle three by John Wainwright, last three by Mike Norris.
Images by Mike Norris.
After weeks of bad weather, luck was finally with us on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 May for our solar observing event in Christchurch Park. Photographs below are by Mike Norris, Martin Cook, Neil Morley and Matthew Leeks.
After four failed attempts at holding a star party, all of which had to be cancelled because of bad weather, luck was finally with us on Saturday 20 April for an event in Chantry Park. The day was blessed with gloriously sunny weather and during the evening there was barely a cloud in the sky. The event was well supported by members of OASI, both old and new. Unfortunately, fewer than 30 visitors arrived; we could easily have catered for several times this number.
The event saw a ground breaking innovation! After some eight years since it saw first light, the Millennium Telescope, our 480 mm Dobsonian reflector, made its inaugural appearance at a public event. We have to thank Martin Cook and Matthew Leeks for transporting, assembling and demonstrating the instrument to the public. The large size of the telescope attracted much attention, and it performed well. Its shroud, a relatively recent addition, completely protected its mirror from stray light and inquisitive fingers! We hope that this will be the first of many future appearances of the instrument at public-access events.
As usual, members present did not disappoint, and brought a large number of telescopes of various sizes and designs to show visitors the night sky. In fact, visitors were spoilt for choice, the equipment present including (the list is incomplete):
The photographs below (by James Appleton) show members of OASI setting up equipment at the beginning of the evening. Once the equipment was assembled, visitors were treated to views of the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, M36, Castor, Comet Panstarrs and a passage of the International Space Station.
Other members present who are not listed above included Eric Sims, Andy Gibbs and Mike Whybray.
The venue for our 2013 Stargazing Live event was once again the Reg Driver Centre in Christchurch Park. Approximately 80 visitors attended. Unfortunately, the weather was not favourable and the sky remained cloudy for the entire evening. Paul Whiting entertained the visitors with a series of lectures.
The entrance foyer to the Centre rapidly filled up with telescopes brought by members of OASI. Although the visitors were unable to use the telescopes due to the cloudy skies, they were nonetheless able to inspect them and discuss with their owners how they performed in practice.
More-than-a-dozen members of OASI attended. I'd like to thank them all.
After two attempts at holding a star party in Chantry Park in April were thwarted by bad weather, the forecast finally promised a clear evening in September and we decided to proceed. About 40 members of the public attended and the event was well supported by members of OASI, including many who had recently joined.
Some of the members' equipment in use included:
Unfortunately, despite the weather forecast, there was a a thick haze over the whole sky which reduced the limiting magnitude to about three and persisted for the entire evening. (Indeed, sky conditions were so unsatisfactory that John Wainwright decided against assembling his 400 mm Dobsonian.) The only object which could be seen with ease was the Moon, low down in the western sky.
I'd like to thank all members who assisted on the night.
This was our first visit to Priory Park and it proved to be a great success. We operated six telescopes in all, and demonstrated solar astronomy to more than 60 visitors including several interested youngsters who wanted to be involved, which was great. Although the Sun deserted us a few times, taking into account the very uncertain weather this summer, our luck held out. Several visitors inquired whether we were coming back at a future date.
2012 was our fourth year of running public solar observing outreach meetings in Christchurch Park. Our first choice date for the event was the weekend of 19-20 May, with the following weekend as reserve date. In previous years, we had the good fortune to select weekends with good sunny weather. This year, however, the weather was more mixed. Despite the weather, several members of OASI assembled from around 10.30am onwards on 19 May at the Reg Driver Centre in Christchurch Park, hoping that good weather would prevail. Unfortunately, the day was to remain predominately cloudy: clear patches were few in number and amounted to less than approximately 5% of the sky at any one moment. Nevertheless, OASI was able to show the disk of the sun fleetingly to a few members of the public.
Equipment in use on 19 May included:
Members of OASI present included:
The weather forecast for Sunday was even more unsettled than on Saturday, so we decided to postpone the second day of the event until the following weekend. We resumed on Saturday 26 May when, fortunately, the weather proved to be more like summer. The sky was largely clear, boding well for a busy day, and so it proved. Over the two days together, we attracted approximately 175 members of the public.
Equipment in use on 26 May included:
Members of OASI present included
Photos of the event by Matthew Leeks:
The twenty-eighth of January 2012 was the date of our second star party in Christchurch Park in two weeks. The weather during the day had been in constant flux, completely clear skies one minute followed by 100% cloud cover only an hour later. At 3.00pm it was time to make the go/no-go decision... and the sky was completely cloudy. However, after several phone calls between members of OASI and frantic consultation of meteorological web sites, the decision was made to proceed with the event. The decision turned out to be correct, as the sky remained clear during the evening until just after 8.30pm.
Several members of OASI supported the event, with a variety of equipment as follows:
Some visitors brought a 100 mm refractor.
Many members of OASI now possess green laser pointers for indicating objects in the night sky, and there was much competition to determine which worked best in the prevailing conditions (lasers do not work well in the cold).
Unfortunately, we did not benefit from nearly as many visitors as on 16 January; I estimated approximately 50, rather than the 300 or so on the earlier date. We observed the following objects: the Moon, Jupiter, Venus, M45, M42, M31. The last visitor left shortly after 20:30, when freezing fog started to roll in. It was time to call it a night, and pack up!
I'd like to thank all members of OASI who attended, making this another very successful event.
2012 was the second year that the BBC ran a series of live programs under the banner of Stargazing Live, transmission this year being on three consecutive evenings 16-18 January. The principle aim of Stargazing Live was to encourage members of the public to take a look at the night sky under the guidance of experts in local astronomy societies and, in order to generate public awareness, the BBC provided publicity via TV trailers and their web site. A few weeks before Christmas 2011, the BBC approached me to host a regional event in support of the series; it would be one of many similar events nationwide. The BBC wanted to hold a live event at Orwell Park School. However, quite understandably, the School was not very keen on this idea, and instead we opted to stage the event in Christchurch Park. I met on 24 November with Sam Pollard, Park Manager, and Madeline Forrester, from the BBC, to put the arrangements in place. As at earlier events in Ipswich parks, OASI would host the event while the Park Ranger team would look after the public and show visitors to our observing site. Being an official BBC Stargazing Live accredited observing site, we were presented with a selection of various observing packs for distribution to the visitors. The publicity material included a large display banner.
The event was scheduled to start at 6.00pm and finish at 9.00pm. Paul Whiting and Bill Barton arrived early, at around 5.00pm, to set up OASI exhibition material and arrange the room in the Reg Driver Centre for talks later in the evening. Soon after, other members of OASI began arriving and setting up telescopes. Among them were Mike Whybray and Ben Jarvis. Mike set up a telescope outside the Reg Driver Centre, while Ben and Bill assembled their telescopes about 200 m away, close to the Park's original refreshment hut, an area that was unfortunately floodlit by lights in the toilet block. I arrived with Eric Sims at about 6.40pm, by which time the Park was bustling with many visitors. A short time later Jenny Woods arrived and followed Eric and me up the hill to our chosen observing site. We set up our equipment at the top of the hill (our usual site for Star Parties at Christchurch Park). This location gives the best uninterrupted view of the sky and is also the furthest point from the surrounding street lights.
The Park Rangers had organised many activities to entertain children, including a simulation of meteors hitting the Moon, star patterns on umbrellas, and a candle model of Orion. Paul Whiting began his talk in the Reg Driver Centre at 8.00pm.
Many members of OASI supported the event, with a variety of binoculars and telescopes:
Members of OASI were split over three locations. The group near the refreshment hut was the busiest, with several hundred visitors queuing to have a view through an impressive selection of telescopes. Not so many visitors knew of the telescopes at the top of the hill, about 150 m away from the main group, but between 30 and 40 did find us. We estimated that altogether over 300 visitors attended the event, and Sam Pollard mentioned that he was very satisfied with the numbers.
We were very lucky with the weather, and skies remained clear throughout the entire event. The principle objects that we showed visitors were Jupiter, M42 and M45. Visitors who arrived early were also able to see Venus.
Our star parties have now become a regular part of the annual calendar of events in Christchurch Park, and they seem to be appreciated by the park staff as much as by the visiting public. Sam Pollard mentioned that be was looking forward to our next event there on 28 January.
The following image, captured by Ben Jarvis during the event, shows the Rosette Nebula in Monoceros.
We held our fourth public outreach meeting in 2011 in Holywells Park, as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Park. Having enjoyed good weather for our previous three meetings, we hoped for the same on this occasion. The day began with rain, but this cleared by breakfast time, leaving scattered cloud. I had arranged for John Wainwright to collect me and my equipment, and we arrived at the Park at about 6.00pm. On arriving, we met park ranger Nick Wilcox, who informed us that a member of OASI had already arrived and set up his telescope. We were somewhat surprised at this as there was no one in our designated area. It transpired that Bill Barton had arrived earlier and that Nick had inadvertently directed him to an alternative site. We all made our way to where Bill had set up and, after a short discussion, decided to move to our designated area, where we proceeded to assemble our equipment. Nick provided three steel stakes from which we could hang the Society's banner. After deploying the banner, we declared our site open for business!
A few campers wandered over to see us, but it proved to be a game of patience as the patches of clear sky were very few and far between. One large black cloud blotted out the sun for over 20 minutes. On the rare occasions when we could see the solar disc, a few prominences were visible, but sunspots were absent. Our usual demonstration of the power of the Sun is to use a magnifying glass to focus its rays onto a sheet of card causing the latter to smoulder and sometimes burst into flames. On this occasion, the Sun was so low in the sky that its weakened rays would not even produce smoke from the card.
Approximately 70 visitors came to see us. One visitor was interested enough to take away an application form, so we may have a new member join shortly. Although only eight members of OASI supported the event (including Matt Leeks, who joined just three weeks previously at the Christchurch Park event in May), there were fewer people camping in the park than expected, so we were able to cope with the visitors and were not overwhelmed.
By about 8.00pm, the Moon had appeared between the trees. As the Sun was by this time getting low down and disappearing behind trees, we turned our attention to the Moon. Observing the Moon in a bright sky does not give a very good image, but the visitors seemed happy enough to observe lunar craters at apparently close range. A little after 9.00pm the sky became more overcast. We would have liked to stayed long enough to observe Saturn, but by 9.30pm we decided to end proceedings and packed up. Nick Wilcox was appreciative of our participation in the Park's 75th anniversary event.
Equipment in use was:
Photographs of the event by Roy Gooding.
2011 marked our third consecutive year of Astronomy in the Park events in Christchurch Park, providing an opportunity to demonstrate safe viewing of the Sun to the public.
Eric Sims and I arrived at the Park about 10:30am to find Bill Barton already waiting in the car park. We proceeded to take our equipment to our customary observing site at the back of the Reg Drive centre. Martin Cook and other members of OASI arrived while we were setting up our equipment. The kit itself was much the same as in previous years:
Other members of OASI who called in during the morning included Jenny Wood and Claire Verlander, passing on her way into town. Tina Hammond and Nicky and Pete Richards arrived in the afternoon.
Around 1.00pm a photographer from the Evening Star arrived. He stayed for about 20 minutes, taking many pictures. An article about the event was published in the paper the following Tuesday. During the afternoon, a wedding ceremony was celebrated in Christchurch Mansion. For a time many wedding guests came up to take a look at the Sun. At one stage we witnessed four bridesmaids hurrying down the hill to the Mansion.
As in previous years, we had several magnifying glasses on hand to demonstrate, by focussing the Sun's rays onto a sheet of cardboard causing it to smoulder, the power of the Sun and the danger of looking at it without correct equipment. At one point, while Tina was demonstrating the power of the Sun, a steady breeze helped to fan the smouldering spot on the cardboard into full flame, to the great amusement of onlookers. Fortunately, health and safety triumphed and the fire was quickly extinguished.
In previous years of Astronomy in the Park, there has always been a large number of people walking past our site, to and from town. By contrast, it was noticeable this year how few people were in the Park. Sunday was even quieter than Saturday, likely due to the strong wind. At one point we had to move the telescopes under the trees to stop them being blown over!
Over the two days, we entertained somewhere between 150 and 200 visitors, recruited one new member to OASI, sold one history of Orwell Park Observatory and distributed three membership application forms. Members in attendance on Sunday were: Eric Sims, John Wainwright, Bill Barton, Martin Cook, Nicky and Pete Richards, Tina Hammond and Mike Whybray.
I'd like to thank all members who supported the event.
General views of the event by Roy Gooding.
On Saturday 09 April 2011, OASI held a public outreach meeting at a new venue, Chantry Park. The first scheduled date for the event was 12 March but, unfortunately, dense cloud cover meant that we had to postpone the event to the standby date, 09 April. The weather during the first week of April was very good, with days of almost cloudless skies. Would the good weather last until Saturday 09 April? Luckily, it did!
Our observing site was near the middle of the park, slightly closer to Hadleigh Road than to London Road. I had not been to Chantry Park at night before, so did not know in advance how much light pollution there would be; fortunately, it proved to be no worse than at Christchurch Park. The nearby sodium street lights did not cause any major problems, especially when using a light pollution filter.
Equipment in use included:
Members of OASI started arriving at the Park at around 7:30pm. This gave about 30 minutes to set up equipment before visitors started arriving. As with all previous star parties in the town's parks, we hosted the event and the park rangers organised the visitors and bookings. We were joined by approximately 40 visitors. The Moon and Saturn were the principle objects of observation. The best of the winter deep sky objects were disappearing into the western sky. M42 was at low altitude, but I was able to show visitors M45 before it was lost in the murk near the horizon.
I received some feedback by email from Richard Garland, one OASI's newer members:
I just wanted to drop you a quick line to say how much we enjoyed the "star party" in Chantry Park last weekend. My wife Sue, son William and I are brand new OASI members and this was the first event we have attended - apart from the taster session at Orwell Park. The established members (too numerous to mention) made us feel very welcome and were extremely informative. The clear sky was obviously a bonus and we were able to see some fantastic images. We are looking forward to the next event!
I'd like to thank all members of OASI who attended, helping to making this yet another successful event!
Our first public outreach meeting in 2011 was a star party on Saturday 08 January in Christchurch Park. I had arranged the event with Sam Pollard in autumn 2010, and the date turned out to be serendipitous as, during the previous week, the BBC had run a series of three Stargazing Live programmes, which encouraged people to attend local astronomical events. This short series attracted many people to search for public observing events in the Ipswich area, generating many emails to OASI asking for information about our star party. As with last year's event, OASI were the evening's hosts and the booking arrangements were organised by the Park Ranger service.
The weather during the week preceding Saturday had been mostly cloudy with rain, mist and fog. The weather forecast in mid-week promised clear skies on the Saturday evening. Although Saturday began with cloud and rain, by 2:30pm the skies had cleared and we enjoyed clear skies for the rest of the day, and a good observing evening.
Last year I had concluded that the best site in the Park for observing was on top of the hill, so this is where we set up our equipment again in 2011. The 2011 event saw the largest selection of members' equipment we have ever amassed. There were more telescopes and binoculars in use than at some of our annual Open Weekends. Equipment in use was as follows:
The large amount of equipment in use impressed the visitors and meant that no long queues built up to look through telescopes. We observed the Moon, Jupiter, M42, M45 and M31. We also saw several bright meteors during the evening.
In total we hosted 53 visitors, more than twice the number in 2010. Towards the end of the evening a few visitors mentioned that the site was getting brighter. It was not, and we explained to them that this effect was due to their eyes becoming fully dark adapted.
Other members of OASI present in addition to those listed above were: Roy & Merlyn Adams, Lorraine Goward and sons, Tina Hammond, Eric Sims and Paul Whiting.
On Monday morning following the event, Paul Whiting called in the Reg Driver Visitor Centre in the Park. The rangers mentioned that they were very pleased with the event and looked forward to repeating it next year.
Thanks are due to all members of OASI who made this a very successful and enjoyable event.
After our successful observing event in April at Orwell Country Park, we awaited our second spring Astronomy in the Park event, scheduled for May 2010, with eager anticipation. The event would be our third public outreach meeting of the year. With five days to go to the event, the weather forecast was encouraging and, as the weekend of 22-23 May drew ever nearer, we became increasingly confident of warm and sunny conditions. Saturday began overcast and murky, but once the Sun had been up for a few hours the clouds started to disperse and, by mid-morning, the sky was mostly clear! Not to be outdone, Sunday was also hot and sunny. During our 2009 solar observing event, we also enjoyed two gloriously hot summer days. Arrangements for observational events in the UK are always at the mercy of our unpredictable weather and the chances of enjoying good weather for two consecutive solar observing events must be slim indeed!
On Saturday morning Eric Sims and I arrived at Christchurch Park car park at approximately10:15am. There we wet met by Joe Startin, who had arrived a little earlier. We proceeded to take our equipment to the agreed location above the Reg Driver Centre:
In an effort to drum up interest in the event, we fastened a large OASI banner to the fence just above the Centre. Equally importantly, we placed the safety display board next to the path leading to the Centre. Although 11.00am was our official opening time, by about 10.30am we had set up all our equipment, and people passing began walking over to see what was going on. A short time later Bill Barton arrived with his 100 mm refractor. Pete and Nicky Richards, Tina Hammond and son Lindsay arrived soon after. Having gained five, we promptly lost one, as Joe had arranged to meet his wife in town. However, we now had sufficient staff to man the equipment and meet and greet any passers by on their way to or from the town centre.
Last year the Sun was in very a quiet state, its surface completely bland, without any significant sunspots. We had even resorted to sketching a sunspot on the projection card, to illustrate to visitors what the phenomenon looked like! This year, however, there was some activity on the solar disk. A small sunspot group was visible and there were several prominences around the limb. One prominence in particular showed changing structure over the two days: it started as a single spike on Saturday morning, and by late afternoon had developed a loop, which remained visible on Sunday.
Although our main interest was in the Sun, Bill alternated between viewing the Sun and Venus, impressing visitors by his ability to find the planet in broad daylight!
We guesstimated that we entertained about 250 visitors during the day. A little after 4.00pm, we decide to call time for the day, and proceeded to pack up our equipment and take it to the Reg Driver Centre for storage overnight. On Sunday, again the weather did not disappoint. At about 10.30am the Saturday crowd reconvened in the Park: me, Eric, Bill, Nicky, Pete and Tina. On this occasion we were joined by Martin Cook. Several other members of OASI dropped in during the day to assist for an hour or so: Andy Leggett and family; Hubert Miciula and Ben Powis. The location we had chosen on Saturday for the OASI banner had proved less than ideal as the banner had to wrap around a corner. On Sunday, we found a better position on the iron railing fence of the nearby war memorial, providing a flat surface without a corner.
We used two methods of enticing passing visitors to spend some time with us. Our initial method was to approach a prospective visitor with a polite introduction, Hello would you like to see the Sun? Martin pioneered an alternative approach, demonstrating the power of the Sun by focussing its rays through a magnifying glass to burn a hole in a sheet of cardboard, and then asking the passer by if he/she would like to see the Sun. Both approaches were successful and we soon became very busy with lots of visitors.
The first thing we did with visitors was to brief them about safe ways to observe the Sun. As part of the briefing, Martin repeated his demonstration of the power of the Sun's rays, when focussed, to burn a hole in a sheet of black card. Some visitors took this to heart and would not accept our assurances that we had deployed appropriate safety equipment and solar filters on our telescopes, and refused to look at the Sun through our instruments; however, these people were in the minority.
On Sunday afternoon several interesting people dropped by. Tina started taking to one lady, who she noticed did not have a local accent. It transpired that she came from Zimbabwe and, amazingly, knew one of Tina's cousins who had also lived there. A little later Tina recognised another acquaintance, Inga Lockington, a former Mayor of Ipswich, and her husband Tim. It has long been a tradition for the Borough Council to dedicate a tree in Christchurch Park to each mayor's years in office. Inga was checking whether a plaque in memory of her years had been erected beneath a sweet chestnut tree close to where we were operating; unfortunately she was to be disappointed. Tina also met a member of the Gobi Desert Lifeboats quiz team against whom she and Paul Whiting regularly play. Nicky was amazed when Tina introduced her to the member of the lifeboat crew, a Mr Gillard [Nicky's maiden name was Gillard]. It transpired that they both hailed from the same part of England!
Another unexpected visitor, who Martin and I knew, was Mike Stowe. He was OASI's secretary in the 1970s. It was the first time I had seen him in over 25 years. The three of us - together with some of the newer OASI members - spent about 30 minutes reminiscing about the Society's old days, until his wife came to rescue him. About half an hour later I went to buy an ice cream and met Mike's wife again, still looking for him, Mike having wandered off once more! We gave Mike an open invitation to visit the Observatory.
Several visitors were interested in joining OASI and we distributed 25 information sheets and membership forms to potential new members.
We guesstimated that we had more than 250 visitors on the Sunday, giving a grand total for the two days of over 500 visitors. During both days Tina had enthusiastically taken many dozens of photographs, the best of which can be seen below.
As always, I would like to thank all members who gave up their time to make this another successful event.
Images of the Sun taken through the PST, showing a major prominence on the limb.
General views of the event, by Tina Hammond.
Our 2010 Orwell Country Park Star Party was held under the auspices of the Ipswich Borough Council Park Ranger Service and, although in all correspondence with the Rangers, I referred to the event as a Star Party, they much preferred the terminology Shooting Stars, which therefore appeared on all the publicity literature! We originally organised the event for the evening of Saturday 20 March, but bad weather on the day forced us to postpone it to Saturday 24 April. The event formed part of our public outreach programme for 2010.
Our first event in Orwell Country Park was held on 20 March 2009. On that occasion, the Rangers had transported all our equipment the 750 m or so from the car park to the foreshore of the River Orwell. The foreshore proved to be a dark sky location, but members of OASI present expressed serious misgivings about having their equipment, some of it expensive, transported down a rough track in the back of a pickup truck! As a result, this year we set up our equipment in the car park. There was some light pollution, but as the sky was hazy anyway, this did not cause significant additional problems.
I arrived at the car park with John Wainwright at about 9.15pm to be greeted by Paul Whiting, Joe Walsh and Stuart Dedman. After a short discussion to choose the best location, we proceeded to assemble our equipment. A short time later Richard Sharp, the Ranger responsible for the event, arrived together with a colleague. They proceeded to set up a reception point for visitors. In the meantime, more members of OASI arrived.
By 9.00pm, some 45 visitors had assembled (a few bringing binoculars.) Paul Whiting began the event by giving a brief introduction, then the visitors came over to meet our members and look through the telescopes and binoculars. Unfortunately the weather during the day had been cloudy with a layer of dense haze, and conditions had not improved significantly by evening. As a result of the haze and moonlight, the limiting magnitude was approximately three (!!) and only the brighter stars, Venus, Mars, Saturn and the Moon were visible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, we showed the visitors the planets, the Moon, stars and the star cluster M44 through the binoculars and telescopes. For the majority of the meeting, we were serenaded by a nearby nightingale in Bridge Wood!
It was past 10.30pm before the last visitor left. Everyone agreed that the evening had been a success, achieving everything we had planned in terms of public outreach. Thanks are due to all members, both past and present, who were able to to attend.
Members of OASI who attended and their equipment were:
In 2009, as part of IYA2009, we held two events in Christchurch Park, during daylight hours, to observe the Sun. Following the 31 October 2009 event, which had been clouded out, Sam Pollard, manager of the Park, asked if an evening observing session could be arranged. Due to the vagaries of the English climate, I selected three potential dates in 2010 for an evening observing event, one in January and two in February. The event would comprise two firsts:
Poor weather caused us to abandon the January date; so we looked forward to the next scheduled date, Saturday 20 February, with much anticipation. The day began with clear blue skies. By midday, a few fluffy cumulus clouds made an appearance; these are fine weather clouds and caused little concern. Unfortunately, cloud cover continued to increase until early evening, when more than 90% of the sky was obscured. However, the forecast was for frost before midnight, so we expected the sky to clear shortly.
Members of OASI began to arrive at the Westerfield Road entrance to the Park shortly after 6.00pm. A short time later, Sam Pollard arrived and opened the gates. We made our way to the top of the hill in the Park, parking under the trees near the fountain. Although at this time the sky was still very cloudy, we commenced setting up our equipment. Three members of OASI brought observing equipment as follows:
Other members of OASI who attended in order to talk to the visitors and point out objects in the night sky visible to the naked eye were: Paul Whiting, Neil Morley, Eric Sims, Pete & Nicky Richards and Tina Hammond. Sam Pollard and his staff looked after the registration of visitors. A little after 7.00pm, Sam, having collected approximately 40 visitors at the entrance gate, led them to our observing site. Luckily, by this time, the sky was clearing and the Moon and Mars were visible in gaps between the clouds. An hour or so later the sky was completely free of cloud.
Undertaking visual observing from the centre of a town does severely limit what can be seen, and moonlight compounded the problems of light pollution: we found the limiting magnitude was approximately 3.0. However, the brighter Messier objects were visible and we were able to show the visitors the Moon, Mars, M42 (Orion Nebula), M45 (Pleiades) and M44 (Beehive Cluster). We also witnessed the International Space Station, followed by an undocked Space Shuttle, pass overhead. There will be few future opportunities to see these two vehicles together, as the Space Shuttle fleet will shortly be decommissioned. We had hoped also to show the visitors Saturn but, unfortunately, it did not rise in time above the tree-tops in the Park.
One of the visitors brought along a 100 mm terrestrial telescope, which he used mostly for bird watching. He mentioned that he had never pointed it at the Moon. We encouraged him to do just that, and he was surprised and impressed with what he was able to see. A little later he attached a digital camera to the instrument and proceeded to take pictures!
The last of the visitors left a little before 9.00pm, after which we packed up. When I arrived home, with a clear eastern horizon, Saturn was well placed to observe.
On Saturday 31 October 2009, OASI staged an Astronomy in the Park event in Christchurch Park, Ipswich. This was our final event for IYA2009. Unfortunately, the weather was not remotely as good as for our May event. The day started overcast with intermittent drizzling rain. However, the Sun did appear for about 30 minutes at 3.20pm, giving us the opportunity to improvise, outside the Reg Driver Centre, a brief observing session for Society members and visitors to view the Sun safely.
Unfortunately, a very uncertain weather forecast for Sunday 01 November forced us to cancel the intended event on that day.
The following photographs are by Pete Richards.
On Saturday - Sunday, 30 - 31 May 2009, in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, from 11.00am to about 4.30pm on both days, OASI staged Astronomy in the Park, one of many events organised to mark IYA2009. The event was our final spring event marking IYA 2009, and our first event in recent years to take observational astronomy to such a potentially large public in Ipswich.
The event was the culmination of many months of planning with park manager, Sam Pollard. When, in July 2008, I first approached him with proposals for the event, he was very supportive of staging it in the Park. Part of his responsibility is to host as many diverse public events as possible, and our event filled his criteria perfectly; in fact, as far as is known it is the first public astronomy event ever held in the Park. Previously, we have always concentrated on showing the public the night sky. In contrast, Astronomy in the Park aimed to show the public the daytime sky: thanks to recent advances in solar telescopes and solar filters, the Sun is now a worthy subject of observation by the amateur.
The site for the event was at the top of the hill immediately behind the Reg Driver Centre, between the two cafes in the Park; the park rangers had erected a picket fence to reserve part of the hilltop for us. Our area was on the main entrance route into the Park, at the prime location for attracting passing customers.
Our first job was to set up a visitor display in the Reg Driver Centre. To this end, I met Paul Whiting at about 5.00pm on the evening of Friday 29 May to help him manhandle our display boards into position.On Saturday 30 May, I arrived at about 10.20am with Eric Sims to find that Paul Whiting and Bill Barton had arrived previously and had already set up their equipment. Paul had brought a table to display various Society information sheets and to provide a platform for his solar projection box. One week previously, Martin Cook had taken delivery of a 2.5 m long banner to advertise OASI: we fastened this to the picket fence to alert visitors to the Park to our presence.
members and equipment on Saturday comprised:
Christchurch Park had never before seen seen such a collection of solar observing equipment - with all our equipment set up the site looked very impressive!
The weather was nothing less than excellent, probably the best weather for any event we have ever held! We enjoyed the first heat wave of the summer, and the skies were completely cloudless for the entire weekend. Everyone sported summer dress, and there was the occasional appearance of shorts and floppy hats together with the fragrance of high-factor sun cream.
As always with solar observing, we had a duty to inform the public about the dangers of looking at the Sun. I had prepared a special notice board for this purpose, which I hung on the picket fence. Many people passing stopped to read it. On the table I placed a large magnifying glass and a sheet of black card enabling safe experimentation with the dangers of focusing the Sun's light onto a small area; the effect of concentrating the Sun's rays onto the card was to cause it to smoulder and catch fire. This proved to be a revelation! We were amazed at the number of people from school age to someone who admitted to being in her 40s who had never seen this demonstration before! What does the modern youth do with his/her free time? Does he/she never play with a magnifying glass? Oh yes, I know, never go out into the midday Sun....
One of the key factors not under our control was the state of the Sun's photosphere. For many months now the Sun's face has been virtually barren of sunspots or any other features. Although we observed several prominences with the PSTs, and noticed them change significantly during the course of the afternoon, the solar disk displayed few features and it was clear that the Sun has not yet woken from its last minimum. Bill had the foresight to leave his solar telescope at home, and had instead brought his 100 mm refractor to follow Venus. Many of our visitors were intrigued by his ability to find the planet in the bright daylight sky. Bill developed a running joke that he had arrived in the park before sunrise and had been tracking the planet ever since! By mid-afternoon, Venus became obscured by a nearby tree, and after this, Bill turned his attention to the Moon. We had provisionally planned to find Saturn in the afternoon, but our hopes were thwarted by a large tree to the east of our observing site which obscured it!
In the late morning Neil Morley and Dee McLeavy arrived. Finding that there enough members manning telescopes they adopted the role of meeters and greeters. They took up positions about 100 m away from the picket fence and approached passing groups of people, directing them to our area. This proved to be very successful! By about 4.20pm, we decided it was time to call it a day, and began dismantling our kit.
By 10:30am on Sunday everyone had returned to the park for a repeat performance. John brought along a spectroscope based on a design in Sky at Night magazine. It was a classic Blue Peter type construction (well it did come from the BBC!) using cardboard tubes and a CD to split sunlight into its component colours. In the afternoon, one of our newer members, Neal Daley, arrived with his PST telescope, making a total of three PSTs in use.
No one attempted to keep a tally of the numbers of people who called in to have a chat and to look at the Sun and Venus, but we estimated approximately 200 during each day. Two people decided to join OASI on the day, and many others took away information leaflets. At the end of Sunday afternoon, all members of OASI present agreed that our first event taking astronomy to a public site in town had been a complete success! We may try to make it a regular entry in our calendar of events.
Thanks are due to the following members of OASI who attended this event and worked to make it a success:
The following photographs are by Pete Richards and Eric Sims.
In early 2009, Ipswich Borough Council Parks Department approached OASI with a view to staging an astronomical event open to the public at Orwell Country Park, on the banks of the River Orwell between Orwell Park Observatory and the Orwell Bridge. We agreed to stage an event, and the Rangers billed it Shooting Stars.
On the evening of the event, approximately a dozen members of OASI attended, bringing assorted telescopes and binoculars, meeting at the Orwell Country Park car park at 6.30pm. The weather forecast was favourable: it was forecast to be clear until about midnight, when a front was due to cross over from the east. However, unfortunately, as darkness fell, an unforecast murky mistiness rose obscuring everything below an altitude of about 40°, all around the horizon.
Not to be put off, members of OASI present duly loaded our equipment in the back of a 4x4 pickup truck, which zoomed off towards the foreshore of the River Orwell, leaving us to walk the several hundred metres to its destination. When we arrived on the foreshore, the Park Rangers together with the local constabulary were remonstrating with some local bikers who had been creating a disturbance, but this was quickly dealt with. We expected the majority of visitors to arrive around 7.00pm to 7.30pm in order to witness an Iridium satellite flare and a spectacular passage of the International Space Station (ISS) plus its support shuttle at around 7.20pm. However, as time crept on beyond 7.20pm, there was no sign of the visitors! The members of OASI present on the foreshore enjoyed the passage of the ISS (I didn't actually see the flare) and the time crept on. At 7.45pm it was confirmed that there were approximately 45 visitors waiting in the car park to visit us, but it was another 10 minutes or so before they arrived on the foreshore. I welcomed the visitors and briefed them about not using torches and then ushered them towards the observers who had set up their equipment at various places along the shore.
Green lasers blazed and, according to feedback, a good time was had by all! We saw all the old seasonal favourites that the bad seeing allowed: Saturn, M42, M45, Alcor/Mizar, the bright spring stars and constellations. We were presented with a few intelligent questions, such as, If the universe is expanding and all galaxies are receding from each other, why are the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies on a path to collide? Some visitors also asked a few inane questions about horoscopes! The last, keenest visitors departed at about 9.45pm and we then trudged our way back up the hill to the car park and left for home at 10.00pm.
The following images, by James Appleton, show members of OASI preparing their equipment (brightness is boosted to overcome the nighttime lighting conditions).
Paul Whiting, FRAS
Ipswich Museum hosted its third Open Day on 17 October 1992. At Open Days, the Museum invites local groups and societies to put on displays highlighting the activities that they undertake. This was the second such event to which an invitation had been extended to OASI and, this time, we were allocated a space in the bird gallery. Eric Sims and I manned the OASI stand, supervising a display that included a continuously-running slideshow, a large notice-board with several eye-catching posters and a table with information about OASI. A large poster of the Solar System proved to be very popular: throughout the day, groups of people stood alongside, discussing it, and several people asked if I had copies for sale. Alas, I had to disappoint them, and refer them instead to Armagh Observatory, who produced it.
During the morning, I began to demonstrate solar observation on the steps of the museum by projecting an image of the Sun. However, there were no large sunspots visible, and the disk looked rather uninteresting, so I quickly abandoned the enterprise and returned to the OASI stand. Visitors showed much interest in our stand, and many entered into lengthy conversations about astronomical matters. Leaflets about Orwell Park Observatory were in constant demand and Eric and I distributed a considerable quantity of membership information.
Over 1000 visitors were counted between 10.00am and 1.00pm, and the afternoon session was every bit as busy as the morning, so there must have been approximately 2000 attendees throughout the day. I have attended all three Museum Open Days to date, and attendance is always high: indeed, the contrast with a typical Saturday, when the museum can be positively peaceful, is most pronounced!