Swindon Stargazers Star Party September 2023












































Damian Ohara, Star Party organiser (standing)- Photo: Rob Slack
Background illustration: Hot Blue Stars at the Core of Globular Cluster M15 - Hubble Space Telescope
Star Party Report by Rob Slack
Swindon Stargazers Star Party 2023 took place this year at Rouselands Farm Campsite, near Brinkworth, over two nights - Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd of September.

Rob and Pete were first to arrive and set up their sleeping quarters, shortly joined by new member Adrian and chairman Damian. Later the team were joined by Paul and his wife and John, only staying for the evening.

Unlike last years event, we were blessed with clear skies on the Friday evening, into Saturday morning. The only negative was having to contend with a very heavy dew and unusually cool temperatures. The dew made all the equipment quite damp by about 10 pm and anyone not organised enough to come with waterproof footwear, would have ended up with wet feet! For those without dew shields, or heaters, views became hampered by having to constantly wipe lenses dry! However were quite exhilarating. Rob spent

most of his evening giving attention to some of our nearer neighbours, the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter. The seeing for these however was not that good, the planets still quite low for high resolution views at the moment.

Richard Salt (centre) with new members - Photo Rob Slack

Sun activity - Photo: Damian Ohara

During Saturday some of the team stayed on for the second night and were treated an almost spring like sunny day. Damian took advantage of this, imaging the very active Sun.

Later that evening we were joined by Richard Salt with new members, who stayed for the evening. Sadly there was more cloud than on the Friday, but breaks did allow for some more observing - Saturn, Jupiter and Rob managing to get his unwieldly EQ5 mount point towards the zenith and getting good views of the Ring Nebular in Lyra. Thankfully this evening was a bit warmer and lot less in the way of dew. However by about 10.30 pm the clouds had thickened and rain was forecast. So equipment was then packed up and safely stowed away. Rob, Damian and Adrian sat around a red lit table consuming a few beers - well rude not to! Those of us who stayed on the second night packed up and left for home by lunchtime Sunday, thankful that the weather had given us a good opportunity to see more than the inside of a tent this year

Viewing Log for 22nd September by Peter Chappell

Damian, the chair of the club arranged for a star party to be held at Rouselands farm campsite. He did the same last year but all see saw was cloud with more cloud coming in, going home that night I got a puncture for my efforts! This year it would be a two night affair, the first night look good but the second was a maybe?

I left home around 16:30 with camp gear (which had not seen daylight in four years) and food in tow plus telescope equipment, the car was pretty full! After driving for around 10 minutes I had remembered I had left a few things at home which might be needed during my stay, so turned around went home and collected said objects. Arriving back at the campsite, I was the first to arrive, so I would be setting up my tent with no help, lucky the wind was slight so my tent would not be blown away while trying to put pegs in the ground. It took a while to set the tent up, forgot how to put it up, after around 90 minutes everything was set up and time for a cup of tea and my sandwiches for the evening.

The lovely dark sky at Rouselands Farm - Photo: Damian Ohara

Over the next few hours another two tents were set up plus one caravan, another three people would attend that evening but would not stay. While setting up my tent there was a lot of cloud in the sky but as the evening went by it broke up nicely. I had my Meade LX90 set up and ready by 20:12, at 9 ° it would feel a bit cold but no wind should help later on?

The guild stars were Arcturus and Altair. As the moon would set within the next hour I thought I would look at this object first, if the moon is in the sky I would normal view this object last as my night vision would get destroyed! It was just over half phase (50.2% lit or 7.74 days old), near the terminator is a chain of three craters, namely Arazchel, Alphonsus and Ptolemaeus, looked great to view. With the moon too low now, I started with Saturn, could make out Titan but no other moons in this system, tried for Neptune but no luck, yet again! By now the ISS was due over, I had set up my Canon 60 Da camera with a Samyang lens earlier in the evening ready for the fly over but the lens had dewed over! A quick cleaning of the lens and I could start (pictures in magazine with the moon as well). With the ISS over, I thought I would try ‘Tonight’s Best’ from the hand controller.

Peter setting up for a night's viewing - Photo: Rob Slack

First object was the Double Cluster or Caldwell (C) 14, both of these open clusters (OC) were good to look at, also go the name of NGC 884 and 869. On to Vega, an A class star at mag 0.0, the fifth brightest star in the night sky, followed by Albireo in Cygnus, probably the best double star in the whole sky, the stars are a yellow and a blue. First globular cluster (GC) was Messier (M) 13, an excellent object to look at, could make out some stars close to the edge of this cluster. Into Pegasus and the star Enif at the head of the winged horse, this is a red star at mag 2.3, already been to Altair while setting up which is another white star and 12th brightest in the sky. M34, this an OC, small and very loose with not many stars in it? M 15 and M 2 are GC’s which are fairly similar, small with a bright core. On to Deneb, the head of the swan, a blue white star. Back to Hercules and M 92, the often overlooked GC in this constellation, it is a lot smaller than M 13 but has a bright core to look at. In to Ursa Major and M 82, the Cigar galaxy, this irregular galaxy is long and thin, a faint blob (FB) to look at. In the other direction was M 11, the Wild Duck cluster, a compact and dim OC with some bright stars within its boundary, as for ducks, I could not make out any! M 57, the Ring Nebula is always good to see.

The Andromeda galaxy, M 31 is a large grey blob. In to Cassiopeia and M 52 a small OC with not many stars in it. In to Canes Venatici and M 51, the Whirlpool galaxy, this spiral galaxy was a FB to look at, think the sky had high thin cloud or something worst in it? Turns out the eye piece had dewed up, as for the finder scope it was totally dewed up! Cleaned the lens and started again, now back to the area of M 31 but M 32 this time (why not go from one to the next as they are next door to each other, strange!) M 32 is an elliptical galaxy, a FB with a bright core. Moving the scope slightly I could M 32 in the same field as M 31. Next object was the Helix nebula or Caldwell 63, a planetary nebula that was hard to find and look at. Back to the planets and Uranus which was in the finder scope, some slewing and I could view the seventh planet, a hint of colour this time. Off to Neptune which was also in the finder scope when I slewed to the eighth planet from the sun, no detail at all. Final object for the evening was Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system, I could see Calisto and Ganymede to the east of the planet and Io to the west, could not find Europa at all. In fact not long before it had started a shadow transit of the planet’s surface, the Great Red Spot was on the other side of the planet.

Peter (left) chatting to a new member - Photo: Damian Ohara
I was the final person to pack up for the night, the other three in Damian, Rob and new person Adrian and finished over an hour beforehand. I hope the noise of the Meade when slewing did not keep them awake? Pack up time was 23:37, there was a heavy dew on the equipment used that night which would need drying the in the morning (lucky for me it was a sunny morning at the camp site), no wind and 7 °. Sleeping in a tent at that temperature would be a bit cold as I found out during the night. I did not have a great sleep that night. I decided not to stay for the second night as I would have work in the afternoon and it might be a bit of a rush getting to work on time with all the gear that would need packing up that I used. At least I could have a relaxing time putting everything away for another day.

Clear skies!

Peter Chappell
Finally, the lovely early morning Autumn mist at Rouselands Farm - Photo: Damian Ohara