Sometimes it's a real pleasure to be up on the West Cliff hosting a star Party event. Such was the case on the 17th, when weather conditions were as good as you will get, clear, warm and still, the only downside being the light skies and lack of planetary action.

Our location on the West Cliff - a very fine evening. Image by Keith Deason
(click for larger image)

The Moon was on show however, a splendid quarter phase which looked superb through the eyepiece. John, Keith and Mark were on hand with three scopes, the two dobsonians and the TAL refractor, and given the glorious conditions, there were plenty of people watching the sunset, generally enjoying the evening, and waiting for the event to start. Mark had been contacted earlier in the week by a family holidaying in the Whitby area hailing from the Glasgow area and keen to explore the night skies from North Yorkshire. It was nice therefore to meet up on the cliff and be able to show them something - even if skies were rather light! 

Getting set up on the moon with the 10" dobsonian. Image-John Lamb (click for larger)

As the sun went down into the sea, more people gathered, taking images and eyeing-up the scopes with interest, or bemusement! 

Taking in the view, people start to gather once the scopes are deployed. Image by Keith. 
(Click for larger)


The Sun goes down in spectacular fashion. Image by Keith 

Our main target, the Moon, was fortunately located well above the Royal Hotel roof, so we could observe without interruption from buildings. The view was spectacular with the lunar terrain; especially along the terminator edge, seen in sharp relief, shadows, mountains and craters - a revelation to many who peered through the eyepiece. It still makes us smile at how many people are astounded by lunar detail seen for the first time....  

The Qtr phase Moon above the Royal Hotel roof. Image by Keith 

.. many wanting to capture the image on their camera phones. 

The Moon being imaged on camera phone. Image by John Lamb (click for larger)

Having started around 21:30hrs, by 22:00hrs we began to scan the west horizon for Venus. Unusally, Mark spotted it first lurking low down in strands of haze not far above the tiny silhouette of Lythe church spire. Once pointed out, people were thrilled to spot the 'evening star' with the naked eye, although the image through the eyepiece was extremely 'jellybobbly', but in fleeting moments the nature of the phase could just about be ascertained.   

Venus lurking low in the west twilight sky. Image by Keith
(click for larger image)

By 22:20hrs a few stars started to emerge, Vega and Arcturus, followed by Altair, Deneb and eventually a few stars in the Plough. Polaris was pointed out and eventually low to the north and still in bright twilight, Capella. Vega was targeted in the eyepiece, its sparkling steely blue colour impressing many. By 22:45hrs we began to gradually pack away the boards and equipment, and as we surveyed the scene (still in 23 degrees heat) Jupiter, and then Saturn were noticed low to the east. Too late for us this time, but there will be plenty of opportunity to observe the two gas giants in the months to come. It has to be said that this star party was a highly enjoyable affair.  Rather predictably the event scheduled for Friday 23rd was cancelled due to cloud cover. Didn't even go up to the West Cliff - you can't win them all!  

The next star party is scheduled for Saturday Aug 7th from 21:00hrs and the 14th (same time) Again from the usual location on the West Cliff - Cook Headland.