The Beacons Beckon

Students and staff under Orion 

It was an absolutely glorious night! The stars were pin sharp and visible to magnitude 6 with hardly any scintillation in the air. A beautiful slim crescent Moon was setting just below Venus whilst Saturn rode high in the eastern sky. Not a breath of wind gave perfect conditions for astrophotography.

On the third attempt our annual Messier marathon got under way just as the first day of spring arrived. Not that it was very spring-like at the National Park visitor centre in the hills above Brecon; the temperature dipped to -6 Celsius by 2:00am but we intrepid astronomers battled on nonetheless.

Allan Trow had arrived ahead of everyone and was beating the Losmandy mount into operation. After an hour or so of frantic screaming, the mount suddenly started to work properly and we could all take advantage of its fantastic tracking. Graham had also joined us with his Meade telescope, I had the 20cm Dobsonian for visual observing whilst students Terry Maxwell and Adrian Herod brought their scopes and giant binoculars too. Students Edwin Archer and Sade Green were well armed with cameras whilst Mark Drummond faced the elements with his new refractor and digital SLR.

We took picture after picture of deep sky wonders interspersed with long searching looks through the 20cm at as many of the Messier objects we could find. It amounted to an impressive tally of 79 objects out of a potential 110 and we felt very pleased with the night’s work. We decided to decamp around 2:30am as fingers and toes were things which refused to work and the thawing process may take some time. Most of the objects in Sagittarius I caught around 4:30am with giant binoculars when I got home.

NGC4565, discovered in 1785 by Wiliam Herschel, a cool 31 million light years from Ponty

The great thing about being in the Brecon Beacons was the distinct lack of light pollution. A faint orange haze blanketed the horizon, but most of the time it was a distant intrusion. What a difference to observing in Pontypridd. If we’d have tried it, we wouldn’t have obtained many quality pictures and certainly seen a lot less of the night sky. Coming on a day when CASE had an article on light pollution printed in the south Wales Echo, it brought home the beauty of a universe tragically lost to many because of street lighting.

written by Martin Griffiths 

One comment


    March 21, 2007

    Thank heavens light pollution isn’t as bad in Wales as elsewhere

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