29 April 2011 (Friday) - What Bank Holiday...?

On the eve of the Millennium (December 31, 1999) my employers had been formally warned about an event that was taking place on Dover’s White Cliffs. One hundred thousand people were expected to descend on the White Cliffs that evening to see in the New Year and the new Millennium.  And it is a statistical certainty that given one hundred thousand people, there will be a certain number of them having strokes, heart attacks, and the like. To say nothing of the fact that with that many people travelling to and from the area, the amount of people injured in traffic accidents will escalate rapidly. Consequently staff would be required to be available in a hospital to deal with such clearly predictable emergencies. And so whilst the world partied on the evening of December 31 1999, I was at work. Bored senseless. The predicted hundred thousand people never came to Dover’s White Cliffs; the actual number was somewhat less. Twelve, to be precise. That’s not twelve thousand, that’s just twelve (!) -  The police went and counted them. But I didn’t mind giving up my evening: it really goes with the territory when one works in a hospital.
Today was much the same. With the rest of the world enjoying an extra Bank Holiday, I got to miss the champagne breakfasts and Royal Wedding parties that I had hoped to be at. Instead I had a very quiet day at work, with the promise of a day off at some other time of my own choosing.

Seeing how it was the last Friday of the month, it was astro club. Despite there being a Royal Wedding today, and a lot of people having cried off because of the wedding, we still had over sixty people along tonight. I’ve been given a name badge to wear. It’s probably a good idea – I seem to have set myself up as the face of the club when people arrive, and so having a name badge goes well with that role. Mind you, setting myself up in that position isn’t without problems. One of our newer members sought me out tonight to ask my advice on his problematical Barlow. His F-stop and 3.4 wasn’t what he was hoping and he wondered if he would have been better off with a 2.5 but with a x2 as well. Fortunately it was at that point that Stevey wandered into the hall, and I immediately introduced Stevey as being a professor of optics, and left them both to it.

Tonight’s talk was on the history of manned space exploration. Given by someone who was both enthusiastic and knowledgeable on the subject, the talk was one of the best we’ve had. I was amazed to find that when the speaker finished, he’d spoken for nearly an hour and a half.
After I’d hawked the raffle we had a tour around the Spring sky. There was something in that talk that piqued my interest – the great cluster in Hercules is probably the brightest cluster in the northern hemisphere. But its designation is M13 (also designated NGC 6205, depending on your choice of catalogue). I wonder how those numbers are assigned…?


  1. Charles Messier was a comet hunter, he got fed up with finding things that weren't comets so he catalogued, with the help os a chap called Pierre Méchain, the objects that he mistook to be comets. They were numbered in the order he observed them.