Saturday's forecast for the evening looked promising, at least on the TV, with clear skies and a strengthening breeze. The internet forecasts were though somewhat less straight forward. Mark and Keith had already set out the theatre presentation room at the Moors Centre during the early afternoon, depositing several scopes on site at the same time. Already then it was clear that the wind was going to be an observational factor that evening, as well as encroaching light cloud. At least equipment choices were 'on site’ for the evening. 

Given clear skies in most areas - this is the scene we had been expecting to offer the public
(click for full image)

Setting off from Whitby in two cars at 17:45hrs, Mark was joined by Keith, John L and Mark Gratton. The journey over was not straight forward. Stationary flashing blue lights on a road are never a welcome sight, and as we reached the junction to the coast road, near Scaling Dam we were diverted down it and off the A171 by a police officer. Turning around, we rerouted, taking the Lealholme - Houlsyke road to Danby, still reaching the Moors Centre in time for the 18:45 start.  

But what sort of set up was it to be and where? It was evident on the way over having witnessed a glorious golden cloud skyscape, skies above the moors were not clear. Clear skies were apparent further to the west above the horizon, but right where we were heading was under a torn pancake of thin, but very irritating cloud. An unhelpful breeze was also present.

Paul Wood had already unsuccessfully tried to star align his Goto scope, but cloud and scope shake prevented him. After consultations with Paul and Gallery Supervisor Sally Anne Smith, who had greeted us on arrival, it was decided to deliver an indoor presentation first, hopefully allowing time for cloud to disperse. 

"Yes you, would you like to be the Moon or Earth" (click for full image)

Cue lecture room, and having sorted out connectivity teething issues with the laptop and screen, we were ready for action. The event was fully booked with the Fox and Hound guest contingent also present and so the room was full to capacity. Also present was Emily Watson: Visitor Development and Marketing Assistant who was supervising photographer Steve Bell. Mark illustrated the scale Earth-Moon system first with help from the audience - who were a little shy in putting hands in the air. This was followed by a presentation on some of the winter sky jewels not currently visible outside.

Careful monitoring of conditions by Paul and Sally allowed an assessment as to whether we would decamp outside after a tea break. Those who stayed in the room - not wanting tea (nearly half) were treated to another quick talk by Mark on various topics, including the JWST. Meteorites were also passed around. The room filled once more, before on the verge of yet another indoor presentation, news came through that skies were perhaps clearing, enough for a laser pointer tour and perhaps a telescope or two. 

Mark about to start a presentation (click for full image)

On venturing outside - and having adapted to the dark conditions, suggestions of observing through a scope were palpably not viable, stars were visible, but through a gossamer veil with an annoyingly bothersome breeze chilling all too!

With amped-up Mic in one hand and laser pointer in the other, Mark ploughed on regardless, picking out faintly visible stars and constellations, trying to thread together a viable sky ramble to reach the event curtain call at 20:45hrs.

It's never easy hosting star parties on set dates, but just for once (given that much of England enjoyed clear skies that evening), you would have thought (as i assume most of those attending did) that views of the magnificent winter sky framed by the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors would be enjoyed by all. Sadly, lady luck had other ideas, most of which was bad.  

More bad luck befell on packing up. Deciding to leave the main two dobsonian scopes for 'pick up' the following day, only the smaller items were reloaded into the cars, during which several of the inflatable planets - wind assisted, decided to make a break for it. Jupiter globe, was sadly lost to sight and disappeared - perhaps it became airborne and is now rounding up sheep on the moors - a first for sheep kind and jeopardising the job of Shep. On that vision we shall hope for milder, calmer, clearer conditions next October. Pigs might fly, certainly Jupiter did!

Lost - Jupiter Globe - last seen Danby Moors Centre heading for the moors, by Jove!

Again, many thanks to all who assisted, Paul, Keith, John L and Mark G, and those at the Visitor's Centre for making the evening work.

Looking forward to the next event in October. 

All images by Keith Deason - (not Jupiter)