Moon, Fox and Fire at Abriachan Forest!

Thanks to everyone who came up to Abriachan Forest on Saturday evening for our Moon, Fox & Fire event.

We had lovely clear skies for close up telescopic views of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn through our big 200m reflector. Plus naked naked eye views of Mars and many bright stars. The clear conditions also allowed me to setup my video telescope for ultra close up views of the lunar surface projected onto an outdoor screen.

Abriachan headed up the campfire storytelling section afterwards, with some stealthy stealing games with the young fire guardians! As every my wife Judith prepared the home bakes with some very popular sticky toffee pudding cakes.

Our next event is ‘Dark Sky December’ on Dec 17th. Eventbrite links will go up soon.

November Star Stories at Abriachan Forest

Waxing crescent Moon at Abriachan Forest

Join us up at Abriachan Forest on November 4th for our first event of the 2022 Stargazing season – ‘Moon, Planets and Fox & Fire!’

To kick off the winter series our first event will be a Moon and Planet special with the waxing gibbous Moon, Jupiter and Saturn on display for live binoculor and telescope observing guided by astronomer Stephen Mackintosh. If skies are poor Stephen will instead present an indoor talk in the forest classroom on the history of lunar and planetary observing, going back to the earliest ideas our ancestors had about the Moon and Wandering Stars.

In addition the Abriachan team will present ‘Fox and Fire’ storytelling around the campfire with refreshments provided.

Due to site and classroom capacity, booking via Eventbrite is essential. Admission is free for under 16s with accompanying adults but please inform Abriachan of any large booking requests.

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite HERE.

Guide to September Skies

What’s Up in September 2022 Night Sky Guide.

I hope you enjoy my short guide to September skies. Everything in this guide is calibrated to views around 11pm. Highlights include:

– Jupiter, Saturn and Mars

The Pleiades and Hyades open star clusters

– The Winter Triangle

– The Milky Way

– Lyra with the double double and ring nebula

– The Plough and its famous double star

Clear skies.

Great Conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn can be seen setting low in the SW during early evenings and you might have noticed they’ve been steadily appearing closer together in the sky. This will continue in the weeks ahead, culminating in a great conjunction in the run up to Christmas.

On December 21st, at their closest, they’ll be just 0.1 degrees apart. That’s only 1/5 of a full moon diameter! With the gas giants appearing this close together you’ll be able to view them under high magnification in the same field of view with your telescope.

Saturn’s Rings

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One of the most stunning images ever take of Saturn by the Cassini space probe – the planet backlit by the distant Sun, with the normally faint E ring glowing in a blue halo of light.

At the kick off for the new Merkinch Nature Reserve astronomy programme tonight, I got to talk about one of my favourite planets of all time – Saturn and its mind blowing ring system.

The dynamics of the rings are so subtle and complex. Some of the gaps in the rings are made by moonlets clearing paths, whilst other moons are actually replenishing the rings.

The small moon Enceladus is a fascinating example. It’s spewing out frozen ice from its south pole due to tidal heating, effectively generating Saturn’s faint E ring (the faint blue outer ring pictured above).

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Enceladus, a small icy Moon with a salty internal ocean.  Tidal stresses imparted by Saturn produce great jets of water from the southern pole of Enceladus, which instantly freeze, adding icy material to Saturn’s E ring.

You could sit on a moonlet of Saturn and watch the rings forming little wavelets in real time around you. Some of the larger rings actually wash back and forth like waves on a giant ocean.

Many of the smaller moonlets orbiting Saturn have a polished or smooth aspect to them. This is due to fine particulates from the rings being drawn towards them due to gravity, effectively power coating the surface and covering over any craters or blemishes.  This accretion of material onto the moons has been imaged by Cassini.

We had great turnout for the kickoff.  The next event is a Moon special on Nov 7th.  Look out for eventbrite links here on on my Facebook page.

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The tiny moon Pan, clearing a path through Saturn’s rings.  Its gravity is strong enough to produce beautiful ripples within the rings.  As it orbits, Pan receives a fine power coating of frozen dust from the rings lending the moonlet a smooth, polished appearance.