Star Parties

Solarsphere Online 2020

Hi Folks

Because of the Covid 19 pandemic, Solarsphere was cancelled this year, which is a real shame as it’s en excellent event. The organisers managed to put on an online event, with many of the original speakers doing a Zoom talk. Most of the talks are now available on Youtube along with many of the bands that play at the event.

Pete Williamson (one of the organiser) gave the audience figures for Paul Money’s talk:-

Zoom – 40 viewers

Youtube (live)) –  20 viewers

Astro Radio (worldwide) – 137210 !!!

Obviously the live links below are not active any more but the Youtube talks should work:-

SOLARSPHERE 2020 ON-LINE SCHEDULE: 15th & 16th August 2020
Solarsphere 2020 On-Line will be a Mix of Astro Radio Live Shows ( Audio ) and Zoom / YouTube Streamed Talks.
To listen to Astro Radio goto or ask Alexa / Google / Siri for Astro Radio from
Tune In. All links for Zoom talks are listed under the speaker’s name, Zoom allows 100 interactive
users. If Zoom is full then click and watch on the YouTube channel.
12:00 – 12: 05 : Opening chat with Pete Williamson
12:05 – 14:00 : JD Quenzer (music and chat) ASTRO RADIO
14:00-19:00 : Pete Williamson (music/talks/interviews) ASTRO RADIO
Within Pete’s show
14:30: Mark McCaughrean ESA – Radio Interview
chatting about Bepi Columbo mission to Mercury.
15:00 – 16:00 : Steve Tonkin BBC Sky at Night Magazine
(zoom / YouTube talk)
Two Eyes are Better Than One – Observing Deep Sky Objects with Binoculars
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 954 8071 3369
Audio broadcast on the radio
16:15 : Dr Helen Mason OBE Solar Scientist – Radio Chat about latest missions to The Sun
17:00 – 18:00 : Mary McIntyre Astronomer (zoom / You Tube talk)
Astronomy Sketching & Artwork – Mary will show her favourite sketches and how she created
them plus astronomy & space related artwork she has created.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 997 5519 3755
Audio broadcast on the radio
18:00 – 19:00 – Music and Band interviews – Radio chat with Bands that have played Solarsphere
and their music. ASTRO RADIO
19:00 – 20:00 – ‘Ask an Astronomer’, with Solarsphere Astronomy experts: Interactive Zoom /
Passive YouTube Session
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 934 4308 3062
Audio broadcast on the radio
Resident Experts: Jonathen Harty, Tracey Snelus, Paul Money, Emma Wride, Dr Julian Onions, Dave
Galvin, Steve Tonkin, Mary McIntyre, Stuart Atkinson, Dr Megan Argo, JD Quenzer, Gary Palmer,
Steve and James (from Cosmos Planetarium)
20:00 – 22:00 – John Graves (Solarsphere Lighting & Projections Engineer): Music, to include from
bands who have played at Solarsphere Festival. Radio Show. ASTRO RADIO
22:00 – 1am – Jon Wisby ( Alien Stash Tin ) Live Stage Music Show
10:00-Midday – Rock Reaper Music Picks ASTRO RADIO
12:00-14:00 : JD Quenzer (music and chat) ASTRO RADIO
14:00-19:00 : Pete Williamson (music/talks/interviews) ASTRO RADIO
Within Pete’s show:
14:30 : Chris Lintott BBC Sky at Night Radio interview
Chatting about the last year in astronomy & space research
15:15 : Paul Money Astronomer : Zoom / YouTube Talk
What’s on in the Night Sky
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 919 4747 0123
16:30 : Dr Tim Gregory Cosmochemist researcher , TV Presenter : Radio interview
Talking about his new book
Solarsphere Sunday Zoom Sessions (Access to ALL Zoom / YouTube Talks from 17:00
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 973 5205 5953
17:00 -18:00 : Dr Julian Onions Zoom / YouTube Talk
The Far Side of The moon – Is it full of Aliens.
18:00 – 19:00 : Emma Wride from AstroCymru : Zoom / YouTube Talk
Space Activities for Kids
19:00 – 20:00 – ‘Ask an Astronomer’, with Solarsphere Astronomy experts: Interactive Zoom /
Passive YouTube Session
Resident Experts: Jonathen Harty, Tracey Snelus, Paul Money, Emma Wride, Dr Julian Onions,
Dave Galvin, Steve Tonkin, Mary McIntyre, Stuart Atkinson, Dr Megan Argo, JD Quenzer, Gary
Palmer, Steve and James (from Cosmos Planetarium)
20:00 – 22:00 – ‘Snake’ (Music picks from Solarsphere Stage Manager)
22:00 – 23:00 : Zoom fun and chat ‘think tank’
Midnight – 3am – Jon Wisby ( Alien Stash Tin ) Live Stage Music Show

Brow Farm weekend – October 4th, 5th, 6th – CANCELLED

Hi Folks
After looking at numerous weather forecasts, they actually all agree (for a change) about the likely weather of the weekend around Brow Farm. Unfortunately they all agree it’s going to be wet and horrible.
I think the best thing to do is to cancel it, and to rearrange it for another date. There seems to be quite a bit of interest in the event, from RAG, and other groups, so it should be a go’er
Sorry that the weather seems to have beaten us on this occasion

Informal star weekend at Brow Farm 4th,5th,6th October 2019

Hi Folks,
As I said at the RAG meeting on Friday, I am looking to arrange a Star Weekend at Brow Farm on these dates. When we were at Solarsphere, the Shrophire Astro Group were interested in meeting up with some of our members for the weekend. I think Walsall Astro might also get involved
*** PLEASE NOTE – This is not an official event organised by RAG, so you’d be going as individuals ***
The idea is to just have an informal weekend with hopefully some clear skies and lots of useful advice from friendly chaps. Possibly we can set up some workshops for the less knowledgable (i.e. me ). There used to be some portacabins on site that we can use
For those who don’t know it, Brow Farm is on the edge of  the Long Mynd near Church Stretton, so the skies are pretty dark. These dates are the start of the first lunar quarter They have hard standing, camping fields and numerous camping pods for the non-campers
I’ve spoken to Brow Farm and provisionally booked the flat field so we can all be in the same sort of area.
Can you please reply direct to me if you are interested so I can get an idea of numbers?


SGL Star Party 2018

Ken and I, plus RAG junior members Ben and Sam decided to brave the wild weather of Storm Callum this weekend and attended the Stargazers Lounge star party at Lucksall in Herefordshire. The weather gods co-operated in the standard way for pre-organised astro events and laid on some gale force winds, torrential rain and almost complete cloud cover, but this didn’t stop the whole thing being a lot of fun.
A marquee was set up for the event and some excellent talks were provided, including a very interesting one on sub millimetre astronomy, the limits of our current knowledge and how we’re pushing against them.
In addition there were a few practical activities laid on including rocket making and virtual reality exploration of the ISS and Comet 67p, plus some unofficial events:
– Welsh whiskey sampling (It’s a thing, apparently, and very nice too!)
– Watching ever larger pieces of debris glide past on a very swollen River Wye. We thought the mature Oak tree would be the largest, but then a pontoon with several large canoes still attached went flowing past.
– Speculating on whether the campsite would actually flood- the water was only a foot or so beneath the top of the defences when we left this morning.

There was also around an hour last night where the weather gods were clearly distracted and the cover broke a little and we played a game of pointing the dob at the gaps in the cloud as some of the easier to spot objects made an appearance. Altogether we managed to share views of the double-double, Bodes & Cigar, Andromeda, the Ring, the Double Cluster (easily the best sight, given the conditions), Albireo and Mars- albeit on a now you see it, now you don’t basis. Despite this, it was a great craic doing it with like-minded folks.

Fingers crossed next year there won’t be the same clash with the IAS- it would be great if more of us could enjoy both events.


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

Rosliston March Star Party . 16th of March ( Fri and Sat main days ) at the Beehive campsite at Rosliston. Please book direct. You can verify your booking on the contact form and mention that you wish to meet on the Glade.

Please ensure that you are booked into the Glade , those of us who do ,will be setting up from E ( my pitch) . There are warm pods with double beds on the Glade. You will no doubt be aware of the potential of these skies and great company,


First National Forest Star Party ,report, 17-19/11/2017

Beehive woodland lakes campsite , Rosliston.

Splendid weekend at the first of these events. We were very lucky with the weather and wonderful Rosliston campsite.

Friday night we had an all nighter , but transparency was poor , Sunday night and gaps in the cloud showed a lot of black sky. This morning from 1.30 until 5.30 we had glorious sky and made the most of it. Using goto and a Dob (Steve) we wound our way around the sights. There were a number that Paul and Sean had never seen. It was a delight to get the right field of view / filter so that we could enjoy the views.

Paul got M33 in his TAL 100, well pleased. The Milky Way was evident and we started off with a lovely Eastern Veil. Moving to get the binary 52 Cygnus and then up to the fast moving “Piazzi’s flying double” of 61 Cygni.

Friday. Globular clusters, a sparkling M5 in Serpens Caput. M15 off Enif and a lovely M2 in Aquarius. Steve was busy resolving this in a 2″ep. We revisited NGC 2419 few times over the weekend to get the glimmer.

Planetary nebulae. NGC 7662, the blue snowball in Andromeda. A surprise for Paul and a bright NGC 40, the “Bow tie “. NGC 6543 ,The “Cats eye” of Draco, we returned to Draco for some spectacular binaries. The “Eskimo” blasted up to x200 to give the hood and the central white dwarf.

We could see Cancer by eye and later the many stars between constellations. Open clusters, Steve was pleased with NGC 2301 , “Hagrids Dragon”, we stayed in Monoceros for the Xmas tree and the cluster (NGC 2244) to the rosette ( filtered)NGC 2237. Orion gave NGC 1981 and the “37 ” cluster, NGC 2169. Sigma Orionis was good , but better on Sunday morning , as was splitting the elusive Tegmine.

The view of M50 in Monoceros was just awesome. A real jewel.

We were treated to Sean’s pineapple Ethos in the C6r, we felt dwarfed by the set up,but the view of Bodes was remarkable.Lepus was just above the trees behind us, Hind’s Crimson just about there.

The site is open with near 360 views if you sit on your own in the middle ! We returned to Draco to get 39 Draconis,16-17 Draconis, μ (Αrakis), Psi and 40-41. Three of us frac devotees were in agreement over the contrast given compared to the Dob. A lot of banter ensued.

There much much much more, it was a long session , hopping between scopes and a lot was learnt . There was either ” what would you like see ?” Or ” wow, you must see this !” Room 101 got filled with non desirable celebrities, we ended up creased up , hardly being able to put forward the likes of Russell Brand (winner) and Craig David( close second). Seb Coe was a late runner, pipped at the post by Gary Barlow.

Saturday night. Set up and watched the clouds flow set up/ upset. Room 101 expanded, Titchmarsh and Milliband being allowed in.

Sunday morning in the tent and temperatures plummeted, frostio ! Sticking my head out , there was Steve nudging his Dob under a very dark impressive sky, hurrah ! Leo was high and we had a fair show of the Leonid aftershower including a trail and two that followed each other.we got 2 of the Triplet in the Dob, managing M105, 95 and 96 in the belly hugging group.

We spent a lot of time just looking at the sky,star hopping was quite easy. M38 showed up by eye. I searched for NGC 2169 , near five minutes in the Dob,then took Steve over and pressed goto. It was a tad faster , but without the thrill of the hunt ( plus frustration) . Dobs nearly went in room 101, beaten by Anne Robinson.

Taurus was full of stars, a sleep walking Sean passed us pointing out the number of stars above the Hyades.Paul slept on in the pod , we didn’t think that Karen would like us knocking the door at 1.30 ( that’s am!) he did say that he looked out at 4.30 and it was very dark, come on down that man !

We did a tour of some of Caroline Herschel’s findings , the “Rose” and the beautiful NGC 225 ( “sail boat”) . One that I recalled was the “Dancing Man ” cluster ,its in two halves, the runner being NGC 1528. NGC 1502 looked like it’s name (“Jolly Roger”) at that end of Kemble’s cascade, NGC 1502, the “Blue Oyster” popped in and out of direct vision.

M1 looked cracking , Steve the hopper found it straight away .NGC 1647and 1746 were pleasing.

Oh my goodness, UMa and a super view of the eyed M97. With a dull M108 ( we compared that to the non Messier contender. NGC 2903). Steve found Bodes in his 82 degree ES and we agreed it was one of the best of views.

Getting into CNv,M51, M94,M63 and M106. Steve was pleased to easily find M3 and resolve it in 2″ grenades. Vega was up and I got M13 in the Keystone along the line to Arcturus.Mars surprised us with a clean red disc in the frac, very cool.
We swept into Virgo ,catching a few brighter galaxies from Denebola, a spring preview. Again, there was so much more, with surprises and views to linger over.A very worthwhile and fascinating star party .

Special thanks to Lee arrived to expertly adjust and fix things ( not mentioning one mount here !) If you feel like a star party ,holding it or going,don’t hesitate.
Clear skies !

Solarsphere 2017 August 11th-14th

Hi Folks

Just a reminder that Solarsphere is on again in August

Dave and I went last year, and we’re going again this year. It’s a great weekend of music and hopefully dark, clear skies (ideal for an All Sky Camera)

Penmaenau Farm is located next door to The Royal Welsh Show Ground on A470 approx 2 miles out of Builth Wells on the opposite side of the river to the town of Builth. Site address is:-

Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, UK


Here’s the website