Pillaton WI Report - February 2015

Astronomy

It was a crisp clear evening on 9 February, just perfect weather for stargazing when we welcomed members of the Callington Amateur Astronomy Group to talk to us about Astronomy. John Durston did a sterling job of making a scientific subject comprehensible to ladies of a certain age – as well as the 3 gentlemen guests who took advantage of the Open Event offer to join us for the presentation.

John talked us through the history of the science, from the genius of Galileo and Newton through the problems of light pollution and on to the delights and mysteries of the solar system itself.

His enthusiasm was evident as he described to us – with some stunning images – the different types of Planet; Rocky, Gas Giants and Dwarf. He talked about solar eclipses. (I remember standing on the footpath in the middle of the field above Barton Meadows and feeling the skin on the nape of my neck prickle as I watched the 1999 eclipse. The birds were so confused by the sudden “nightfall” that they were colliding with each other in their anxiety to roost) It seems there will come a time when solar eclipses will no longer be visible as the moon is imperceptibly but steadily moving away from us…

And then, those so called “Harvest Moons” when the moon turns blood red! That’s the effect of pollution during a lunar eclipse – that’s not so romantic, is it?

Bringing us bang up to date, John talked about exploration with the Rosetta and Philae probes, and also the New Horizons probe, launched in 2006, which will reach Pluto this July. How exciting is that?

As to telescopes, Galileo would have been amazed by today’s technology. We think the Hubble is brilliant, but the next generation of telescopes make that look like old hat. First we have the ELT – Extra Large Telescope – and next to come will be the OWL – Overwhelmingly Large Telescope. Says it all in the name!

A brief presentation from fellow Astronomy Group member Louise gave hints on stargazing with binoculars – amazing!

Inspired? The Group extended an invitation to come along to their meetings at St Dominic Village Hall on the 1st Friday of each month, apart from Good Friday in April, when the meeting will move to the following week.

June Hutfield gave the Vote of Thanks, after which several members braved the cold to stargaze outside with John and the other 2 Group members giving guidance. As for myself, well, I shall view the Milky Way with new eyes in future.

(Pillaton WI is a friendly group and welcomes new members. Come along and meet us! If you would like to know more about Pillaton WI, please contact me on 351289.)

Ann Henderson

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Last updated: 16 February 2015 Contact Us