Public Outreach

Transit of Mercury – RAG event at Rosliston Forestry Centre 11/11/2019

Many members of RAG turned up with scopes and filters to watch the planet Mercury transit the sun today.

The Met Office predicted variable weather and there was even an icon on their website showing simultaneous sun, cloud, rain and and rainbow – never seen that before! However, they were absolutely right because at one point we did indeed see all those things in the sky at the same time.

Due to cloud, we missed those few minutes when Mercury crossed onto the sun, but at various points in the afternoon were able to view it on the solar disc together with a solar prominence through gaps in the cloud. The sky improved towards the end of the afternoon but Mercury dropped behind trees at about 15:45 which meant further observations were not possible. Of course, it was followed by a clear night…..why couldn’t that have been 8 hours earlier?

Andy

              

First public open day at the new Peter Bolas Observatory at Rosliston Forestry Centre

Today we held our first public open day for the Peter Bolas Observatory – over 250 people came down to visit the observatory during a sunny science event at the forestry centre.

Photos below show the team with the public at the observatory, RAG members on the grass in front of the cafe, and Bob and Andrew with their radio meteor observing kit and the best radio meteor observations from the day.

Andy

         

Nick Rufo (left) with Andrew Thornett (right) – Nick did sterling work directing members of the public towards the observatory:   The Sun through Paul Bertenshaw’s telescope:                                 

Picture below is of Ann Bolas (Peter Bolas’ wife) and her son outside the new observatory:

Best radio meteor observations from today:

                              Screenshots meteors RAG open day forestry centre 191019

Nightworld at Rosliston Forestry Centre 26/7/2019

Many members of RAG attended Nightworld tonight at Rosliston Forestry Centre. This annual event is open to the public and involves astronomy, bat walls, moths, and a variety of other night time science and conversation activities.

Thanks to Damian who provided transport for me following my operation, I was also able to attend and had a great time!

Many members of the public also learnt about telescopes and astronomy c/o RAG, also cloud and drizzle prevented any actual observing of the night sky. I wonder if a subscription to an online telescope service would be a good idea to give us some access to the night sky during these events even when it is cloudy or rains? One for the future to consider.

Andy

Science Day @ Rosliston Forestry Centre 4/5/2019

Thanks to all members who turned up for another great outreach event at the forestry centre! A great team of people working hard to make the event a success – you were all brilliant!

Poor forecasts kept the crowd numbers down to below last year’s turnout, but there were still many families and the rocketry and dot-to-dot activities went flat out most of the day.

At the telescopes, we saw a series of four solar prominences develop and change in sequence at the solar limb next to the current sunspot – some great views in clear spots between cloud! Both white light and hydrogen alpha filters were used to show the public these phenomena. Many folks had never viewed the sun or seen a sunspot before. I was also able to view the sunspot in calcium-H filtered light on my scope, although the view was not as spectacular as through the hydrogen alpha filter.

Bob and I set up an aerial to detect meteors by radio scatter – initially unsuccessful until we found a broken wire! Once fixed in a rather Heath Robinson way, we detected a fair number of meteors (a few screenshots below).

Next outreach event is the 7th Lichfield Scouts summer camp next month – see you there!

Andy

Meteors detected by radio scatter today:

 

Rocket launching next to the Peter Bolas Observatory:

     

Telescope field and Training Room:

           

Making a hole to insert bottom of meteor radio scatter aerial:

 

An ‘Astronomy’ related day – plus… I met an astronaut!

I started my working day photographing ceramics at Richard Winterton Auctioneers (you might have seen him on daytime telly – Bargain Hunt and David Dickinson’s Real Deal), ready for the next sale later in the month.

One of the early lots was this pair of Lorna Bailey limited edition ‘Celestial’ vases…. very much a space theme in evidence:

Later in the day I found Jon, our resident toy expert looking through some old newspapers, he’s here, hiding behind this one!

and..

I left work early as Julie had got us both tickets to Lichfield’s Guild Hall to see a talk by retired NASA astronaut, Winston Scott.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_E._Scott

It was a 5.30 opening for a 6.00pm start. We arrived just after the doors opened and I was surprised to see the back of a man in a blue jump-suit… the main man himself !

Considering Winston and his wife had only just flown into the UK and had been travelling most of the day, he had a big smile and seemed genuinely happy to meet and greet us (and everyone else) on our arrival. Julie and I had chance to talk with him before his presentation and I said I was a member of a local astronomy group. He asked about us and I told him about the new observatory. He didn’t just politely listen (as you might expect), but asked what sort of scope we were going to put in it, etc.

His talk lasted about half an hour. He told us about his childhood, education and how he finally joined the US Navy – becoming a fighter pilot, flying F14 Tomcats. As he explained for those that didn’t know their planes, that was the one made famous by Tom Cruise in TopGun – although he quipped that he had actually ‘flown’ the things! The picture below was taken after he had received notification that he was off to NASA for astronaut training…

He explained that he trained to become a helicopter pilot flying anti-submarine machines in the Vietnam war, before applying to NASA.

His talk continued about the training involved to become an astronaut and his two missions, which included early experiments for construction in space – what would become the ISS. One of the most important things he did (yet hadn’t practised for), was after the Shuttle had released a SPARTAN solar observation satellite that malfunctioned. It was decided that he (and his Japanese colleague) should try and manually rescue said satellite (because it was slowly spinning out of control, the Shuttle crew could not use the robotic arm). Instead the two astronauts strapped their feet into position and over a 3.5 hr EVA, Winston guided the Shuttle pilot ever closer to the satellite so the two astronauts could physically grab it and load it back into the Shuttle cargo bay!

 

The satellite in question:

A link to him talking about catching the satellite:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tcA8GnPCj_xzMDYiKJ4X82BPtfpUyuUh/view?usp=sharing

He then explained the re-entry and landing procedure for the unpowered Shuttle and the extraction of the crew. He made an interesting comment… that you never see the crew leave the Shuttle as that is always done in isolation, “because some don’t cope with the return to Earth too well”, which is unlike the footage we see when they are being pulled / carried out of the Soyuz craft… had never occurred to me, that fact.

After concluding the main talk, the floor was opened for a half hour question and answer session which covered questions relating to travel to Mars, his training, pre-flight feelings and expectations, the private sector and space tourism, the future direction of space travel… and even his Navy ‘Call-Sign’… no, it wasn’t Maverick.. or Ice Man!

At the end Julie and I both went up separately to thank him. J got chance to ask a few more questions (!), one was about languages (as you might expect from a modern languages teacher!!!) and the other was about how they decide which way is ‘up’ in space – he’s answering that question below… (it depends on the craft).

We left with a signed photograph having had an absolutely super evening. We couldn’t have met a nicer and more down to earth guy. If intelligent life ever visited Earth, he would make a great ‘First Contact’ ambassador !

Damian and Julie

 

New base for mobile radio meteor scatter operations

Last time I bought my mobile meatiest scatter radio equipment to an outreach event at Rosliston forestry Centre, children were dipping and diving around pegs and ropes holding the ex-military Klansman aerial up. This was identified as a health and safety risk. I have just received the item below – recommended by Ed – it is a wonderfully well-designed piece of kit sold as a mobile stand for garden parasols – it locks both up and down using a spring-loaded mechanism and a metal bit which fits into a slot at the top or the bottom so that it is very solidly held in place in either the open or closed position. It is quite robust be made of solid metal construction, and its ability to fold up makes it easy to transport – bank said for a brilliant idea!

Andy

My Clansman radio mast that I am hoping to erect using this base:

Message from George – Greek astronomer from Skopelos

Hi Folks

I had a reply from George Mihail that I met in greece. It’s worth having a look at his website. Very interesting setup, a great view. The last photo is the latest live feed from his webcam at 1711 15th september. If you read further down, the english translation of my message is at the bottom

 

I

Dear friend
We manage to communicate and to take pictures of every activity of the stargate we have a very interesting winter here in Skopelos.Thanks with the best wishesGeorge Michail

https://www.facebook.com/george.michail.16

http://volnet.gr/home/index.html

——-Original Message——-

From: ed.mann@btinternet.com

Date: 12/9/2018 9:18:21 μμ

To: george@volnet.gr

Subject: Αστρονομία στη Σκόπελο (Astronomy in Skopelos)

Γεια Σας  Γεώργιος , το όνομά μου είναι Ed, σας μίλησα στη Σκόπελο πριν από λίγες εβδομάδες στο φεστιβάλ. Είμαι ο αστρονόμος από την Αγγλία.

Μου άρεσε να μιλάω μαζί σας και με ενδιέφερε πολύ να μάθω ότι έχετε ένα παρατηρητήριο στο νησί. Θα ήθελα να έρθω και να το δω την επόμενη φορά που θα είμαι εκε

Είμαι μέλος της Ομάδας Αστρονομίας Rosliston που συναντάει κοντά στο Burton on Trent στην Αγγλία (http://www.roslistonastronomy.org.uk/)

Αν κοιτάξετε την Αρχική σελίδα, εγώ είμαι στην πρώτη φωτογραφία (μπλε παλτό) και την 5η φωτογραφία (λευκό πουλόβερ). Μάλλον θα με αναγνωρίσεις από αυτό

Έχω επισυνάψει ορισμένες φωτογραφίες που πήρα. Ήταν τόσο ωραίο να βλέπετε κάποιον άλλον να κάνει δημόσια εκδηλώσεις προβολής. Κάνουμε αρκετά στο κλαμπ μας

Είπα σε άλλα μέλη για το γεγονός της Σκοπέλου και ήταν πολύ ζηλιάρης για το πόσο καθαρός ήταν ο ουρανός

Θα ήταν καλό να μοιράζεστε μαζί σας πληροφορίες και φωτογραφίες, αν θέλετε, και αν έρχεστε ποτέ στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο, θα ήσαστε πολύ ευπρόσδεκτοι να έρθετε στις συναντήσεις του συλλόγου μας

Θα σας δούμε το επόμενο έτος το 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My Greek is not very good so I have written it again in English just in case

Hi George, My name is Ed, I spoke to you in Skopelos a few weeks ago at the festival. I am the astronomer from England

It was great talking to you and I was very interested to know you have an observatory on the island. I woiuld like to come and see it next time I’m there

I’m a member of the Rosliston Astronomy Group that meets near Burton on Trent in the UK   (http://www.roslistonastronomy.org.uk/)

If you look at the Home page, that’s me in the 1st  photo (blue coat) and the 5th photo (white jumper). You’ll probably recognise me from that

I have attached some photos that I took . It was so nice to see someone else doing public outreach events. We do quite a few in our club

I told the other members about the Skopelos event and they were very jealous of how clear the sky was

It would be good to share information and pictures with you if you’d like, and if you ever come to the UK, you’d be very welcome to come to our club meetings

Bye for now

 

Stargazing in Skopelos, Greece in August 2018

Hi folks,

 

We’ve just got back from a holiday in Greece, and as part of a local festival of music, dance and culture, I met a really nice chap George (Giorgiu),who had set up a viewing area for the public to see the Moon (Selene in Greek), Mars (Aris), Jupiter (DIas) and Saturn (Kronos). That’s George checking the view of Saturn in the second photo

He has the first, and only, observatory on the island and it’s in a great location away from the town lights (the lat long coordinates are on the poster in the first picture)

He was interested in what we are doing too so I’ll drop him a line and hopefully get to see his obsy next time

Taken with NightCap. Long Exposure mode, 7.12 second exposure, 1/3s shutter speed.This was the night of the full moon (Sun 26th August 2018). Mars can be seen above the right hand set of masts although the photo doesn’t show very well here and I don’t know how to make it zoomable

Nightwatch event 27/7/2018 & successful detection of start of Perseid meteor shower at Rosliston Forestry Centre

On paper, the Nightwatch event was going to be particularly amazing this year. This annual event is an outreach activity organised by Rosliston Forestry Centre, where the astronomy group always has a presence. Many members of the public come to look through our telescopes, watch owl and bird or prey displays, go on a bat walk and join the moth group to explore the world of moths.

Last night stool out in that it coincided with the date of one of our usual meetings, and at the start there was going to be a total lunar eclipse and many planets were on display.

In addition, the sky had been amazingly clear for weeks beforehand.

…….Until the day when it clouded over and we could not see a thing in the night sky during the event!

Good job I bought my mobile meteor radio kit along (telescope at the ready to go in car at home – replaced last minute when I looked at the sky) – worked well (thanks to Bob Williams in particular for his help here) – plenty of meteors detected – we are the start of the Perseid meteor show with the keep coming up in a couple of weeks. The kit includes small portable aerial, Yaesu FT-817 radio, audio cable connection to my windows laptop, Spectrum Lab software, all powered very successfully by Ed Mann’s power pack – the inclusion of in-built inverter and 240V sockets on the side is a real boon. The radio is 12V and currently I am running it through a power supply that plugs into 240V socket which is a bit ridiculous – must make a 12V socket version.

Nevertheless, quite a few people turned up from the club to meet members of the public. Plenty of scopes were on display. It stayed dry and we all had great fun.

This is what it means to observe in the UK. You’ve got to be interested in clouds.

Particular thanks are due to Damian who made the effort to attend in spite of needing to get up really early the following morning to catch the plane for his holiday.

Look at how dry the grass is! We have had a particularly dry summer this year.

Andy

 

Meteor detection screenshots from Spectrum Lab: