Blog Friday 14th- Sunday 16th September inclusive
I hadn’t intended to go to Kelling Heath Star Party this autumn that would have been a first not attending but well the spring one was a rotter with the poor weather, I’m also booked into visit Kelling again along with a smaller group of friends for a visual only weekend in October. Having said this just a few weeks ago I started to regret not booking and happened to mention this to my pal Andrew Robertson who organises the Norwich Society attendance and luckily he had a pitch still untaken!
That worked out perfectly and just attending for the Friday evening, Saturday main day and leaving Sunday morning allowed my sons Tudor & Aubrey to accompany me.
The journey up takes 2 1/2hrs pulling the caravan (clear road in front, 2 mile tailback, behind ;¬)
We arrived at Kelling at 4pm and soon had camp established, it was quite windy but as the evening drew on that abated, it was cloudy but that was forecast to clear out around midnight. After cooking dinner the boys settled down to watch television and I went up to the bar for an hour or so with Mike Atkins and Tom Moss- Davies. It was good to catch up with these chaps, we have very similar astronomical interests and observatories and techniques.
On returning to the caravan I arranged with Andrew to get a wakeup call when the sky cleared out which was due around midnight. I got my head down for a while, falling asleep while the boys watched the TV. The call from Andrew actually came at 23.30, the sky outside was very nice. I observed with the big 6” binoculars for a while concentrating in Ursa Major, a favourite constellation that is very difficult to explore from my observatory at home. I started off with M81 & M82 framed generously and delightfully in the binoculars FOV, I then began to radiate my search out picking up fainter and smaller neighbouring galaxies, I then spent another hour or so scanning the sky in a random and relaxed way stopping at numerous vistas all very pleasing in a way only such large binoculars can delivery, it really is a rather different view to a telescope. It was probably M42 that a finished on, a truly magical scene with 4 pin sharp stars of the Trapezium at the centre diamonds nestled in gossamer silk.
I walked across and joined Andrew Robertson at his 18” Dobsonian and here I stayed until dawn benefitting from Andrew’s outstanding locating abilities, something I have lost, or mostly so, for it is a skill that if you don’t use it you will lose it! The mirror in this scope was imported from the US and offers quite unbelievable contrast, which coupled with the customised motions of the scope tweaked to Andrew’s exacting standards and the finest wide field eyepieces available, leaves the observer wanting for nothing but more time at the eyepiece. We were joined by other friends through the course of the early morning, but at a gentle pace and not with the queues that he was to experience the following night.
When 5.30am arrived and as we split Theta Orionis into 6 components, Andrew declared that “astronomical dark” was over and we put the scope onto Jupiter, with irises speeding to cut down the dazzling light our brains began to discern exquisite detail, although without transit or red spot there was a bewildering level of detail. Others who were lucky enough to be close by were equally amazed when they took a look!
I quietly slipped back to my caravan and grabbed a short doze before breakfast duties began for my boys and the excitement, socialising and shopping of the main day did commence.
Saturday was a lot of fun meeting up with friends, I spent money that I didn’t have and now rather regret but I doubt that I was the only astronomer there at Kelling to do such a thing! The trade stands can be all too tempting when you see the goods in the flesh and get carried away.
The day went too quickly and before I knew it I was meeting up with Graham Sparrow a good friend from the Norwich Society who had long promised to share his hot 28 clove of Garlic Chickpea curry with me, supposed to be good for night vision he said ;¬) Let me say it was a well prepared and interesting meal! Incidentally I prepared my sons something a little more sedate by comparison. Oh and while I remember Aubrey gave a blast of Henry Mancini’s ‘Pink Panther’ on his Alto Sax which appeared to go down well
- Graham ‘Spadger Curry’ Sparrow and Aubrey with Alto Sax
As evening drew on the sky remain clear and by 9ish there was a buzz about the place as observing and imaging commenced, a few people called over having seen my binoculars during the day and wanted to have a view through the, my boys were out with me which is unusual as the TV was working and there was food remaining in the caravan? I guess they were enjoying the ‘vibe too’
My very good friend, indeed a bit of a kindred spirit Adrian Orr joined us and we spent until gone 1am Sunday morning chatting on a multitude of shared interests, including astronomy of course. The views through the binoculars kept us entertained too, I remember M97 the Owl nebula and the cigar shaped galaxy M108 looking particularly fantastic in the large field of view. Tudor my eldest son commented on how “3D” the view of the glitter box Perseus Double cluster was.
Adrian departed in the region of 01.15 for home; he hadn’t brought his caravan on this occasion attending as a day tripper. I too took to my bed, despite the fact that I was sure Andrew would barrack me for being a “light weight” I was tired, we had enjoyed a good dose of dark sky and I needed to be up in good time in the morning to strike camp.
I’m so glad that I changed my mind at the last moment and stayed a couple of nights; it turned out to be a vintage Kelling and was great to spend time with Tudor & Aubrey
Take a look at more pictures from this and other Star Parties in the Star Party file on the website