National Astronomy Week 2003 23rd - 30th August

National Astronomy Week 2003 23rd - 30th August

The Week will start with a major TV programme on BBC2 devoted to Mars, with live links from La Palma and Jodrell Bank, and there will also be radio programmes about Mars during the week

Everyone on our planet will be close to Mars... but somewhere, someone will be the closest of all. Where? Click here to find out!

The Association of Falkirk Astronomers are organising public viewing sessions during the week (weather permitting). This will take place at the car park at the Wallacestone Monument at, where else but Wallacestone near Falkirk. Zoom out to get the bigger picture.

Update on the Viewing nights...

Saturday and Sunday evenings were almost perfect for observing and between 30 and 40 visitors each evening had good views of Mars through the various telescopes. Another popular object was the Andromeda galaxy, almost everybody found the Coathanger, or to give it's proper name, Brocchi's Cluster in Vulpecula through binoculars, several satellites were seen and on Sunday a couple of meteors got a few 'did you see that'.

Monday, unfortunately was clouded out and no observing took place.

Tuesday evening looked promising but clouded over completely about 10.45pm. but before that Mars was observable although the seeing was not good as it was still low down. The laptop was put to good use and images of Mars taken on Saturday along with previous views of Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon and aurora shots were shown to a very interested group.

Image of Mars taken on Saturday evening by Walter
Scott through his 8" Meade LX10 telescope

Wednesday evening unfortunately had 100% cloud cover but three of the committee turned up in case anyone arrived. Between 9.30 and 10.30 about 25-30 persons turned up hoping that the cloud would clear, it didn't! Apart from the cloud it was a pleasant mild night and some interesting discussions took place. Everybody was made aware that we would be there until Saturday and that hopefully they would return if the skies were clear.

Thursday has been the busiest so far with about 60 interested observers. Mars however didn't appear until about 10.30 when the cloud in the south dispersed but there was plenty to see in other parts of the sky. At one stage there were queues at all four telescopes which were pointing at different objects. Photographs will follow on this page later.

Friday is now the busiest night with about 100 visitors and Mars visible for most of the evening. The Coathanger is still a popular object through binoculars and everybody recognises it immediately. No school tomorrow so there were lots of enthusiastic and well behaved kids. A couple of meteors and several satellites were seen by some and later in the evening the Pleiades was observed through one of the 'scopes.

Saturday and it took a while for Mars to show above low lying cloud to the south but there was still plenty to see overhead. The ring nebula was quite prominent and again the Coathanger was popular. When Mars did appear it was quite high but the seeing wasn't too good at times. About 30 people turned up for the last evenings viewing.

Visitors silhouetted against the lights of Falkirk and Grangemouth. Martins 16" Dobsonian
mounted reflector can be seen in the middle of the picture. Picture by Martin Russell

In total we estimate that there has been about 350 visitors with some of them spending up to a couple of hours and asking some very good questions. We were only too happy that so many people have been interested enough to come along and enjoy looking through the telescopes and binoculars or just looking at the sky and some of the beautiful objects in it. It is our hope that some will have been inspired to take up the fascinating hobby of astronomy or at least to look at the night sky with a renewed interest.

Many thanks to all those who attended and we will be organising more viewing sessions later this year when the winter sky becomes really interesting. This will be advertised in the Falkirk Herald In Town Column.

All visitors are receiving a souvenir poster, if you don't get one please ask. FRIDAY AND ALL 200 PLUS POSTERS ARE FINISHED, SORRY!!!

See also: A review of the week by Dr. Russell Cockman, the AFA Director of Observing.

Mars Links

The Beagle 2 project is the British led effort to land on Mars as part of the European Space Agency's Mars Express Mission to be launched in June 2003. Click here to go to the Beagle 2 Homepage.

Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter in August. The red planet is already an appealing target for sky watchers. Find out more from the NASA site Approaching Mars

It appears that there may be liquid water on Mars after all! Find out more at this Mars site.

For lots more information on Mars take this road to the Mars Global Surveyor homepage, 'Welcome to Mars'

Visit the National Astronomy Week homepage.