Blog Archives

Solar Eclipse, 20th March 2015 at the Scottish Parliament

Large crowds gathered outside the Parliament to view the eclipse, with some help from ASE members.

Large crowds gathered outside the Parliament to view the eclipse in largely sunny skies, with some help from ASE members.  Photo credit: Rachel Thomas

We had a fantastic time at the Scottish Parliament this morning! A solar eclipse doesn’t come along all that often and it was great to share this one with members of the Society, local school children, members of staff and several hundred members of the public. My weather forecast from yesterday predicted 90% cloud cover, so I was delighted, when we set off at 7.00 am, that I had to put down the sun-visor in the car!

Various telescopes with the appropriate filters were set up to enable members of the public to share this fantastic experience with us.

Various telescopes with the appropriate filters were set up to enable members of the public to safely share this fantastic experience with us.  Photo credit: Rachel Thomas

I gave a talk to school-children from James Gillespie’s High School and members of staff, while Seán talked to Holyrood Primary School children. The Parliament staff were brilliant! Everything was laid on for us and they had large plasma screens set up inside streaming live images from the Faroes and the BBC’s airborne ‘observatory’, so the children missed nothing.

The public were very enthusiastic and most had solar viewers or pin hole projection systems to allow them to watch throughout the eclipse.

The public were very enthusiastic and most had solar viewers or pin hole projection systems to allow them to watch the progress of the moon throughout the eclipse.  Photo credit: Alan Ellis

Meanwhile outside, our band of around 14 volunteers manned the Society’s solar telescope, 6 ‘white-light’ telescopes, binoculars and a solar projection set up. As the crowds gathered, there was great excitement as the shadow bit into the Sun. Other members of the Society arrived during the morning to lend their support and enjoy the spectacle. Some cloud blew in as the maximum approached, but it didn’t dampen spirits at all.

A very happy band of ASE members post-eclipse, glad to have shared such a special experience with so many people.

A very happy band of ASE members post-eclipse, glad to have shared such a special experience with so many people.  Photo credit: Rachel Thomas

The Parliament put together a video record of the morning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8rNj9S2G_4 – which very nicely summed up the general feeling of excitement and enjoyment of what was a truly memorable day.

Ken Thomas

Ken is the Society’s current President and also leads the Imaging Group.  He can be seen being interviewed in the video above, explaining what made this such a special experience.
Our thanks go to the Scottish Parliament for hosting this event, and for all their assistance up to and during the event.  Thank you as well to all the ASE members who came along to support this event – we couldn’t do this without you!

Calton Hill Update, July 2014

A view through the aperture of the dome with the Cooke Telescope silhouetted.

A view through the aperture of the dome with the Cooke Telescope silhouetted.

I visited the City Observatory on Calton Hill on the 1st of July 2014. The Open Gallery and Edinburgh City Council had opened the site during the course of the day for stakeholders, in order to provide an update on the development of the observatory. It proved to be an excellent evening! It was rather like the old Doors Open days but, instead of concentrating on the past, this was looking to the future with great optimism. I met Kate Gray, Director of The Collective Gallery who run the site, and she said that they have secured the majority of the required funding for the next stage of the development. This will hopefully mean that there should be access to the dome and telescope by 2017.

David Williams, Edinburgh City Council, with the Cooke Telescope.

David Williams, Edinburgh City Council, with the Cooke Telescope.

I was pleased that the condition of the building hadn’t deteriorated as much as I had feared and it was a walk down memory lane as I looked round the Playfair building. I met David Williams and Frank Little from the City Council and was given the go-ahead to open up the dome! The door opened easily, after the usual climb to unlock the padlock, and the dome rotated quite smoothly. The Cooke telescope seems to be in perfectly good condition and I was able to unlock and move it.

Ken Thomas, President of the ASE, with the Cooke Telescope.

Ken Thomas, President of the ASE, with the Cooke Telescope.

There were a good number of visitors and they were fascinated with the telescope and the dome.  All in all, it was a great night and, hopefully, just the start of a long and fruitful collaboration with the Collective Gallery and the City.

Ken Thomas

Ken is the Society’s current President and also leads the Imaging Group.  He has, along with the rest of the ASE Council, endevoured to maintain good links with Edinburgh City Council in the hope that eventually the Society will once again be able to hold observing sessions at the City Observatory.

It’s Not Over Until The Fat Planet Shines!

Peter and I concluded this must be our fourth evening at the Royal Botanic Garden John Hope Gateway Centre. But this time it was not an astronomy event per se, but a coming together of art and science, and a preview of the Sea Change exhibition on 2013-11-07.

As on previous occasions, we would set up on the terrace outside the restaurant. Graham Rule had taken large binoculars and tripod on the bus, while Peter Mulholland and I brought very similar small refractors on identical mounts. And John Wood had just got hold of the ASE’s 250 mm Schmidt-Cassegrain that he still needed to get used to.

The day had been clear and sunny, but after dark it turned cloudy and rainy. While Graham was already checking the Balmoral Hotel clock through the binoculars, we reluctantly set up the scopes – under the roof where they would stay the whole three hours due to regular spells of rain. Some time into the event we could identify Auriga, Cygnus and Vega. Peter trained his goto computer and later kept tracking the clouds in front of the Pleiades. We did see the star cluster in binoculars and toward the end also as star map on an Android screen.

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Not many people therefore ventured out into the dark and cold; mostly we could only show some leaves on trees across the pond through two telescopes. Some interesting conversations were had, but the weather made this an almost complete washout. Having fulfilled our duty we packed up at 22:00. Last was the SCT with tripod and tube already detached. When Jupiter not only split the cloud but also found a gap between the trees. While John and Graham still tightened the bolts that keep the scope on the tripod I swung the tube to acquire the giant planet in the finder and in three minutes we were looking at the Galilean moons and Jovian cloud bands. A few of the guests and staff were also still around to get a view during gaps in the cloud.

It is of course common for planned observing meetings to be clouded out, whether that be ASE members meeting in a park or an outreach event like this. At least there is good company and the effort is appreciated by the hosts and budding observers.

Horst Meyerdierks