Scottish Dark Skies Observatory Visits

March 26th, 2015Comments Off on Scottish Dark Skies Observatory Visits

Scottish Dark Skies Observatory
On two evenings in late March intrepid volunteer drivers took a full minibus north into the Galloway Park hills to the UK’s only ‘gold tier’ dark sky observatory near Loch Doon. This is a rare facility where members of the public can star gaze using research quality telescopes and, with the resident astronomer, learn more about the universe and how to discover it.

Built in 2012, this impressive observatory has a 5m electronically controlled dome over a research quality 20″ telescope which is linked to software that can home in on and track stars and planets. A second, 14″ telescope is used to focus in on the moon and planets in greater detail.

Monday’s group were able to use the telescopes in periods when the clouds parted and were able to see a great view of Jupiter’s stripes and some of its moons.. The Wednesday group briefly spied an obscured moon, but had a fine appreciation from the viewing platform of the impact of light pollution, the sky to the north tinged with a pink-orange glow from the central belt. Both groups learned more about what can be seen on a clear night at the moment and how to make the most of our dark skies location. The next astronomical event to watch out for is the Lyrid meteor shower. The Lyrids offers 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak on a moonless night, which is the morning of April 22 or 23 in the western sky.

Despite the disappointing cloud conditions the groups enjoyed the evening and many will return when the weather looksDSC_29191
more promising, as booking at short notice is usually possible. Top tips: wrap up well and take a flask and a pair of binoculars to use while waiting your turn on the telescopes. Oh, and mind the track! Thanks to Helen our event organiser, our wonderful drivers Colin and John, and David and Fi at the observatory.

Eileen Johnson

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