26 November 2010 (Friday) - Astro Club

I had a wonderful sleep last night, and awoke feeling really refreshed and raring to go. As I rolled over I checked the time. It was five past two – I’d only slept for three hours. I then dozed intermittently for the rest of the night, seeing every hour as it passed. At half past five I gave up laying awake, got up and did the ironing whilst watching Star Trek.

To work, where I heard a malicious rumour that wombles are now actually extinct. Surely that can’t be true? Endangered, maybe. But extinct?

And then to the astro club. Again I was proud to be a part of the astro club – despite a shaky start three years ago, the thing is now really good. We started off with a talk about the sun from one of our youngest members. Katie is seven (I think), but her talk was excellent. I learned something. Twice each year the sun lines up with household satellite dishes, and using the Sky Plus box’s diagnostics you can see how the signal to noise ratio changes for fifteen minutes as the sun comes across.

There was then a five minute interlude on the so-called “Goldilocks Zone” – with extra solar planets being found so rapidly, science is now looking for planets in the “Goldilocks Zone” – that area round a star where a planet will be neither too cold or too warm to support life. The hypothesis was ventured that life is so tenacious that it can occur pretty much anywhere, and various “extremophile” animals were quoted as examples. It was suggested that the idea of a “Goldilocks Zone” is perhaps wrong. There then followed a discussion on the issue. I agreed with some of the ideas being proposed, and not with others. Realistically until the concept of “life” can be defined to the agreement of all, such discussions will be somewhat open-ended.

The main talk of the evening was something that (in all honesty) I didn’t think was going to interest me. But in the event, “The Trials and Tribulations of an Amateur Astronomer” was a fascinating insight into the speaker’s hobby and life.

We then had the raffle – arguably the best part of the evening. Most people seem to join in when I get hawking the thing, and we took over thirty quid for the club. I’m always pleased with the success of the raffle and constellation game. A silly bit of fun pays to keep the club going. And then with raffle hawked and coffee drunk we went outside for some stargazing. The night was very clear, and we saw Andromeda, the nebula in Orion, and Jupiter’s moons.  We even used the club’s very own wobblyprop to hold the binoculars still. I spent a little while watching Stevey take a photo of the moon, which is today’s photo. And then I spent some time watching the club’s resident expert on astro-photography photographing the Orion nebula. I’m feeling the urge to have a go at astro-photographing stuff myself. If only it wasn’t so cold!!

As the evening went on, I was approached by a couple of people who wondered if I would go back to scouting. It would seem that the leader of a local cub pack is giving up, and a leader is needed. Would I take up the reins once again? For a moment I was tempted. But realistically I’m not keen. I originally went along because the local group needed help, and my son was a cub in that pack. I originally went along with my eight year old. He’s now twenty three. I was a leader there for thirteen years. I’ve done my bit….

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