Stargazing, well if they weren’t obscured by flippin’ cloud I would’ve been!
I have two hobbies that are somewhat weather dependant, the first is fossil hunting, as long as it’s not throwing rain down in torrents it’s not too bad. Although I’d rather be breaking rocks in the hot sun… there’s a song on there somewhere! However if the weather is a bit unpleasant at least I can put on a waterproof coat and get on with it if I have to. Astronomy, however, is a different story altogether, for half of the year you NEED a warm coat, thick socks, thermals, a woolly hat, gloves, scarf and insulated footwear and that’s if it’s not raining. If it’s raining, give up go inside make a cuppa and settle down with either a good, non astronomy related, book or something on the telly. If there’s so much as a hint of cloud you should give up before you waste a couple of hours getting the scope put together, feeding a power cable to the back garden, at least four trips between the house and the garden carrying various bits of kit out. Then spend another hour ensuring the scope’s level and aligned. Another hour carrying out the alignment process, only to find that the star you used as your first alignment point wasn’t Kocab but was, in fact, Pherkad. This means that although your GoTo system says it’s successfully aligned, it lied! So you have to reset everything and start again. By the time you’re actually ready to do any real observing the clouds have rolled over or the Sun just went nova writing off your plans for the trip to beach to do a spot of fossil collecting the following weekend. Not only do I have two hobbies that are weather dependant, they’re also best shared with friends, collecting fossils with friends allows for conversation that doesn’t involve swearing at a lump of rock every time you whack your thumb, plus you can discuss your finds as and when they happen. If you happen to be collecting fossils with friends that also do astronomy you can also both have a moan about how rubbish the weather’s been recently. With astronomy the best you can do with a non event session is head to the pub or retire to the house for tea and cake, I never said that there wasn’t benefits to cloudy skies, if you’re lucky enough to get a good sky and not needing to spend half a century aligning your scope you can share the wonders of the universe with your like minded mates, who won’t beat you up because you saw Jupiter first or get into a heated argument about which make of scope is better.
In an effort to indulge my more nocturnally based hobby, fossil collecting’s not particularly easy in the dark, I headed off, with young sir Luke, to Woodchurch for the astronomy clubs Stargazing Live event. I’ve been a member of the society for about four years now and it’s gone from strength to strength. I’m a very proud and active member of the club and really enjoy my Friday nights, plus I have some cool mates through it too.
A lot of work went in to this years event, our chairman pulled out all the stops with an introductory talk on astronomy and the society, resurrecting old favourites like the Solar System on a string and the chocolate covered moon, Mankey took us through something called the Fermi something or other which basically explains how many planets there are with life on them in our galaxy. Because of the numbers involved I found it a bit confusing but it showed that there is a good chance that we’re not alone in the universe.
Drew then went through what we would have been looking at had the clouds been a bit more cooperative. It was then mentioned that Orion and Jupiter had come into view so I rushed out with my scope, connected to the power tank, dropped in an eyepiece, aimed it at Jupiter only to see it vanish behind the clouds. By this time I decided to give up on the evenings observing and packed the scope away.
I joined in with the final section of the evening, an open question and answer segment, I was introduced as the Sci-Fi guru, a title I quite like, particularly as I managed to answer a question about parallel universes using an episode of Doctor Who as a reference, I think my new titled sort of demanded it really.
All too soon the evening came to an end with the possibility of an evening at another Stargazing Live event at the Wye Downs, my attendance at this one will be dependant on whether or not Lukey boy goes.
So although the evening was a bit of a let down where the sky was concerned, I’m sure it did wonders for increasing the astronomy clubs numbers, I have also realised that all of my main hobbies, astronomy, fossils and gaming are all governed in some way by randomness, I also suspect that no one took my suggestion of burying a bottle of wine in the field near tonights venue seriously.