Fox and Hounds - 'Evening amongst the Stars'

Initially proposed by Mark D to the Fox & Hounds at Ainthorpe, Danby, proprietors Colin and Vicky were only too keen to host and publicise the event at the hotel. Judging by the attendance they obviously did a great job. The forecast had changed constantly throughout the week - even on the Saturday (Oct 22nd) it was anyone's guess as to whether it would be clear, cloudy, breezy or calm, but at least rain was off the menu. The evening turned out mild and calm, with varying amounts of cloud, but nevertheless was viable with regard to observing.

Logistics i.e. moving equipment and personnel from A to B is always an issue for us - but we managed to organise matters satisfactory without the need of an extra journey to the venue earlier in the day. Setting off from Whitby in 3 vehicles; Brian, Keith and John L in one, Barbara and Mark in another and Mark with a car load of equipment, we headed for Danby in good time for once.

The crowd begins to assemble, anxiously surveying the skies. image by Keith Deason
(click for larger)

Arriving at 18:45hrs and met by Colin, we joined society members Paul Woods and John Randles, already present and setting up. Only a few stars were visible, so initially matters didn’t look too promising. Plan B was on standby, although aspects of this were slowing deflating in the car (Jupiter globe) The observing site, the side Beer Garden, proved quite useful with tables and benches handy for miscellaneous items of equipment, and for people to sit at whilst waiting. The lighting around the garden perimeter was initially helpful during the setting up phase; however a nearby stable sensor light definitely overstayed its welcome, being activated all too frequently. Eventually it was turned off altogether. Because it was busy, time (and light) was at a premium so Keith managed just to capture a few shots for the website. 

People begin to spot stars emerging - excitement builds. Image by Keith D (click for larger)

The observing suite consisted of Mark D's 10" dobsonian as well as the 8" dob and 100mm TAL refractor; Keith's 12" dob, John Lamb's 90mm SCT, and Paul woods 8" Skywatcher SCT- although this refused to play ball in acquiring a Wi-Fi signal and had to used manually. Given the attendance a few more telescopes wouldn't have gone amiss...and members to man them. People were happy though to wait their turn. With all the scopes erected targets were initially scarce; skies to the north were passable, as too were a few places overhead. To the south and east high cloud veiled all - including frustratingly Jupiter and Saturn. 

Mark pointed out any visible stars and constellation, playing for time in the hope skies would clear further. For once good fortune prevailed, tantalisingly a soft glow from Jupiter, revealed its location, though not quite clear enough to view. Then Saturn shook off its heavy veil, and became the evening's first 'wow' object, people delighted, amazed and obviously quite surprised to view the ring system. Jupiter finally emerged becoming the second 'wow' object, the sight of cloud belts and four Galilean moons causing great excitement.  

With the event in full swing, staff from the Fox and Hounds brought out warm snacks for those who had ordered something to help stave off the autumnal chill ... although to be honest conditions were unseasonably warm and perhaps a barbecue would have been more apt!  People queued at the scopes waiting to glimpse Jupiter and Saturn, Mizar and Alcor, Vega, the Ring Nebula, Andromeda galaxy, even the rising Pleiades, informed on these objects and aspects of the sky while they did so.

By 21:00hrs the event began to wind down, although Jupiter and Saturn were then at their best. Packing away the equipment, all agreed the evening had been an unqualified success, even though skies had not been crystal clear - or anything like, but good enough nevertheless. Thanks go to Colin and Vicky and their staff, to society members for their essential assistance, and to the public for turning up in such large numbers. We look forward to many more events in the future at the Fox and Hounds.