Welcome to the WDAS monthly newsletter for August 2018: a digest of the month's latest contributions to our website.  Below you'll find Society News, Sky Notes, the latest in Mark's monthly Crossing the Line series, as well as coming events.

Society News

With the continuing good weather we have hosted a number of unscheduled star parties – and probably could have done more – but even Mark needs a break sometimes.  Ironically the scheduled event on the 21st was almost called off with cloud cover during the day forecast to persist well into the night.  It didn’t...  well not enough to hamper our observations.

The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn all provided splendid views for people to enjoy, and enjoy they did, many staying until almost the end... most greatful for interrupting their planned walkabouts etc.  Even Mars made a (very) brief appearance as it rose – ominously above the SE horizon.  In fact the only planet to miss out was Venus: obscured by cloud, poor Venus.

This was our second Park Fest event, a family fun day organised by North York Moors – Parks authority and held at the Danby Moors centre.

Keith and Mark made the journey over to Danby, Mark’s car packed with equipment and paraphernalia both necessary and in the ‘just in case’ bracket.  Having made good time over and then unloaded pretty pronto too, allowed everything to be erected, laid out, hung up and arranged at a leisurely pace.

We had been allotted a couple of tables in the corner of the main marquee – a good position, as it afforded shelter from direct sunlight and allowed the scopes to be set up just outside the tent.  Four instruments were selected, the two 2 Tal refractors, the 70mm Meade ETX refractor and the 6 “ Dobsonian.  The table tops were dressed with magazines, books, maps and charts, whilst hanging from the Marquee structure was the inflatable solar system, Sun, Moon, Pluto and all.

After attaching the solar filters to the scopes it was crunch time.  What would the Sun have to offer?  A perfectly clean, blemish free round disk was the answer, not even a sun pimple let alone a spot.  Oh well, at least the sun was visible unlike 2016 when we last attended Park Fest.  The event officially opened at 11pm, and for a good while the public seemed a little thin on the ground.  By midday however people began to flock onto the field, desperate to get a look at a clear white disk....

By 1pm Mark decided to seek out the MC and highjack the wandering mike, so that we could announce a set time for the scale solar system demonstration.  So at 1:15pm Mark became MC for a while, asking for ‘planet’ hosts to come forward and participate.  It took a little while, but eventually we had a dozen guinea pigs, much to the amusement of their parents.

The demonstration played rather well with more and more people looking on to see if the outer planets reached the extremities of the field.  Utilising a flock of penned sheep to illustrate comets in the Oort cloud caused some mirth, but mostly bemusement with onlookers.

The demonstration did however stoke up interest in viewing our nearest star...  still a blemish free disk, but being able to handle the building blocks of the solar system: our collection of meteorites, did prove popular.

The afternoon was dogged by more cloud, with the sun hiding for many short periods.  These interludes did however allow time for an ice cream break as well as purchase some liquid produce from a stall in the back of the marquee.  With the event finishing at 4pm, we had already moved back to the car items not required and by 4:15 we had completely reloaded.

A rather enjoyable day then, with further events on the horizon, the Moors Centre committing to star parties in October and next February, and the possibility of others too.

Well, the fireworks were quite good, but too early and it wasn’t dark enough.  The  cloud rolled in off the sea, so we hardly saw anything, but the evening was enjoyable and we may have gained some new members.

Image Credit: thesciencepie.com

AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh. Yep, the only evening required clear – or even partly clear; July 27th, turned out apocalyptic. Mark did venture up to the West Cliff for 20:45h, sat in the car, headlights on, peering through hell unleashed, along with a few other hardy and optimistic souls.

To paint the scene, you couldn’t even be creative and photograph the lightning strikes, because the rain was so heavy, which to add insult to injury grew even heavier around the time of the eclipse moonrise. Balrogs and demons, definitely the work of a wizard bent on ruining our chances of observing. 

In the early hours of the morning – sometime, Mark did briefly see a veiled moon, but then again it may have been a dream, the nightmare already experienced earlier on. Still being reflective our disappointment pales into insignificance compared to the trials of Jean Baptiste Le Gentil. Look him up on the internet for the full story. 

The following evening skies cleared after earlier showers, leaving just interesting cloud formations to watch carefully.

Mark, Keith, Phil and John met up on the cliff and after deciding no more rain was forthcoming, set up the scopes hoping to entice people over. It turned out to be a decent observation session, with Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all on show.

Mars was telescopically a dancing red splodge, the others though were excellent and much appreciated by the public. Then the moon rose, looking almost full and attracting much attention with photographers, Mark took some through the ETX. If only, if only...

Moon and Mars (photo by Keith). larger picture (and others taken the same evening) in The Gallery

Then to off cap a great evening the ISS made a spectacular apparition, tracking high across the sky from SW to NE, much to the delight of all present. If only!

Not long before we hit the peak season (we hope) as regards star parties.

The Regatta events follow the usual route – afternoon solar viewing, on the Saturday (11th) and Sunday (12h), with evening star parties on both dates.  The location of the solar viewing will i assume be as per last year ie – the grassy area adjacent to the small Go carts and Royal Crescent on the West Cliff.  Time wise, we are looking at 14:00–16:30h.

The Star parties will be held on the pitch and put area, above the archery green – like last year.  Parking is adjacent to this area - down the side of pitch and put, accessed over the parking area behind the bowling green.  It is actually quite convenient.  We shall be setting up around 20:30h.  If the weather is good and you can make it, assistance would be most welcome.

As for the remainder of August – we have Folk week and the Bank holiday events to look forward to.  In recent years (anything AD) August dates seem to be very susceptible to the weather, so quite a few are scheduled.  Expect half to be called off.  Again if it is a fine night on a scheduled date and you can make it please do come along.

RHB: The timing of this year’s event is somewhat easier to set than last year, when various factors hindered suitable dates.  So, ink in September 1st (Saturday) from 20:00h.  As twilight deepens we should hopefully be able to observe Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, with a waning moon not rising until 22:30h allowing plenty of time for deep sky observations.  The site is just off the B1447 (RHS) on the way down into Robin Hood Bay.  If the weather is fine it promises to be a cracking evening.

Westerdale: Although yet to confirm, we have pencilled in September 14th or 15th (more likely) for our visit to Westerdale village.  Again this will be firmed up in the September newsletter.

Events

A public Star Party, weather permitting, near the Captain Cook monument on West Cliff  (setting-up from 20:45h).  Lunar and Planetary observations.

Solar and planetary observations.

Mark notes:

  • Various parties may well be interested in this date, nothing is set in stone, but there are various options. 
  • Mark will email members, if all goes to plan, otherwise it will be the West Cliff venue as usual.
Date:
18 August, 2018 - 21:00
Address:
Captain Cook Headland
West Cliff
near YO21 3HA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

A public Star Party, weather permitting, near the Captain Cook monument on West Cliff.  Lunar and Planetary observations.

Solar and planetary observations.

Date:
24 August, 2018 - 20:30
Address:
Captain Cook Headland
West Cliff
near YO21 3HA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

A public Star Party, weather permitting, near the Captain Cook monument on West Cliff.  Lunar and Planetary observations.

Solar and planetary observations.

Date:
26 August, 2018 - 20:30
Address:
Captain Cook Headland
West Cliff
near YO21 3HA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

Certainly one of the observing highlights on the W.D.A.S calendar.

Hook’s House is an excellent dark site location situated on the B1447 overlooking Robin Hood’s Bay. If the weather is fine the campsite should be full and as long as skies are clear, or clear enough, we should have a cracking evening.

We shall be setting up scopes around 20:00h - weather permitting. A map of the location can be found on the web site.

Date:
1 September, 2018 - 20:00
Address:
Hooks House Farm
Whitby Road
YO22 4PE Robin Hood's Bay
United Kingdom
GB