Shock, horror! The planned 'Mars party' observation evenings at the Bruce Observatory on the 23rd and 30th actually went ahead, beating both the weather and Covid restrictions. Although sky conditions were less than ideal, they were good enough to allow some decent viewing with a window of opportunity (as forecast correctly by the Met Office -not BBC) falling just right. The event, organized by Mark, was 'bookable only' with half hour time slots for a maximum of five people per slot. On paper (excel spreadsheet to be precise) the system looked to be workable. In practice, it just about proved to be so, with only a few small teething issues encountered.  Not least of these was the position of Mars as seen from the observatory, which as Keith and Mark found out to their dismay and annoyance just a few days before the first event, was still  hidden by the tree line.  Each time slot period therefore had to be delayed by 20 minutes to accommodate the growth of flora over the summer!  

Friday was very much a mixed bag weather wise, but by late afternoon skies cleared somewhat, and having picked Keith up with Eviscope, we opened up the observatory and deployed Keith's Eviscope and Mark's 10 inch dobsonian outside. In total seven groups were booked in, starting from roughly 20:00h until 22:30h.  Proceedings progressed fairly smoothly, everyone turned up more or less on time, face masks were worn by all and the two scopes outside manned by Keith, allowed people to view before and after they had been in the observatory with Mark. Views of Jupiter and Saturn setting in the SW were possible for the initial groups, but Mars was the main focus of our attention. 'Seeing' was a little turbulent, but improved somewhat as the evening wore on with some high thin cloud appearing.

Nearly all present had never been in, (or even seen) the Bruce Observatory before, so it came as a bit of a revelation that a 140 year old telescope could yield such good views, the long f ratio of the 5 inch Cooke refractor coming into its own. Everyone seemed to think the comparatively short period spent in the Observatory had been worth the (in quite a few cases) not inconsiderable journey time, and were appreciative of the effort we had made.

The following night (24th) was an overspill night, but had to be postponed due to bad weather, however as we had rearranged events for the Sunday evening, matters turned out well again with better 'seeing' and clearer skies.

The event on the 30th actually proved to be the best with regards to observing Mars itself. The forecast had been very tricky to read, but we correctly guessed a window of opportunity would allow observations for the duration of our time slots. The intermittent high cloud actually aided matters, acting as a natural filter, just dimming the image of Mars sufficiently to allow surface detail to be better resolved. Certainly the groups who attended were very pleased they had chanced it, with some exceptional views possible, which Keith thought were up there with the best he'd seen through the scope. 

The event on the 31st we thought prudent to cancel due to forecast high winds, which can exert to much force on the observatory flaps and hinges. But as it turneed out cloud would have prevented observations anyway.  All in all, our gamble had paid off. What lies ahead Covid restriction wise is even more difficult to forecast than the weather!

25_11_20 Image taken by member Richard Randle with i phone
thru' Cooke refractor using adaptor (click for larger image)


Suitably masked, people look thru' the eyepiece of the
Cooke refractor at Mars (click for full image)



Member Richard takes images of Mars thru' Cooke refractor
as Keith looks on (click for full image)