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PAST EVENTS - 2014

WORK IN PROGRESS - We're a relatively small Group, but undertake lots of activities, so please bear with us while we try to keep these details up to date.


Stargazing Live 2014

SGL event photos were taken by Gordon Mackie (unless otherwise stated).

Friday 10th of January saw CAG hold it's event in conjunction with the BBC Stargazing Live series of TV programmes which were aired on the three previous evenings. It was good to see 4 Caithness images make an appearance on the programmes (there were two each by Stewart Watt and Gordon Mackie).

The event was held at the Dark Sky Discovery Site of Castlehill Heritage Centre. Once again it was very well attended, with around 80 people of all ages turning up to enjoy a night of stargazing.

Chairman Gordon Mackie kicked off the evening with a brief introduction after which everyone headed outside for a naked eye tour of the clear star filled skies led by CAG member Mike Lunan…..

After the whistlestop tour around the prominent objects on view there was the chance to get close up views of the Moon and Jupiter through telescopes….

Photo by Karen Munro

The cloud belts of Jupiter were clearly visible through the telescopes as were its largest moons……

On Earth's Moon the distinctive crater Copernicus was obvious at the end of the Montes Apenninus mountain range….

Many also tried out imaging the Moon through CAG’s 10” reflector using the camera on their phones. It turned out to be quite tricky, but with some perseverance decent images could be obtained…..


Cameraphone image by John Hilton

After the observing session CAG member Maciej Winiarczyk who is well known for his superb timelapses gave a beginners guide to photographing the Northern Lights……


Photo by Karen Munro

Gordon Mackie then finished the evening with the answers to the quiz and a short talk highlighting how space exploration has given humans enhanced views of our Earth, the Solar System and the Universe as a whole….


Photo by Karen Munro

An excellent start to 2014 - here's hoping for more clear skies at events during the rest of the year.

 

Members Workshop - Feb 8th

Beautiful clear skies and no wind made for a delightful session under the stars for CAG members.They got to observe the Moon...


 

... a transit of Jupiters moon Io, followed by its shadow....


 

... and the supernova in nearby galaxy M82...

 

Epic Auroral Display - Feb 27th

Not a scheduled CAG event, but most members and many others in Caithness got to enjoy the best display of the northern lights for some time thanks to clear moonless skies. The show lasted all evening and into the early hours of the morning.

Here is a small selection of the images and timelapses captured by members....

Stunning production by Maciej Winiarczyk that has been viewed on Youtube over a million times...

Fab footage captured by Karen Munro....

See Stewart Watt conducting the aurora.....

Let there be light.Holborn Head,Caithness - StewartWatt - Flickr

the scene witnessed by Stephen Anderson from near Westerdale.....

and the view from Dunnet Head as captured by Gordon Mackie...

Towering Overhead - Gordon Mackie - Flickr

 

Caithness Science Festival - Family Fun Day

This event saw a good turnout with plenty of visitors to the CAG table. There was plenty of interest in night time photography, seeing the northern lights & telescopes......

Learning about magnetism and launching rocket ballons proved to be a big hit with the children......

 

Famous Comet Discoverer Robert McNaught Visits CAG

March saw our first guest speaker of 2014 and CAG were honoured to have prolific asteroid and comet discoverer Robert McNaught give a talk on the "Great Comets of the Past 50 Years".

To help make up for the fact that the clouds prevented any observing on the night Robert was good enough to sign photos of the spectacular comet he discovered in 2006 (C/2006 P1 (McNaught)).

Whilst in the area he also had time to take in some of the stunning coastal scenery.....

 

Comets and the Amateur Astronomer

The beginning of May saw reknowned amateur astronomer Denis Buczynski (Secretary for the British Astronomical Association Comet Section) give a public talk on "Comets and the Amateur Astronomer in the Digital Age" at Castlehill Heritage Centre.

Before the talk there was time to venture into the courtyard at the Heritage Centre and have a look at the first quarter moon.....

Having a keen interest in telescopes, Denis was quite taken with an old 10" reflector from Fullerscopes which was very kindly donated to CAG a few years ago by Mr & Mrs Mellor......

He couldn't resist a closer look at the mirror and inner workings...

The talk itself saw Denis talk passionately and with infectious enthusiasm about comets and observations of them over the years. CAG members now await the arrival of the next great comet to grace our skies....

 

Aurora and Noctilucent Clouds

Ken Kennedy (Aurora Section Director at the BAA) paid CAG a return visit at the end of May to give talks on "The Sun & the Aurora" which looked at the mechanisms by which activity on the Sun produces the beautiful displays of the northern lights that are often visible from the north of Scotland....

....and "NLCs and the Aurora - An Unlikely Double Act" which examined the potential interaction between these two phenomenon high up in the Earth's atmosphere...

At the events there was time to chat to CAG members who often provide aurora sighting reports to the BAA....

And there was even the opportunity to compare photos of motorbikes.....

Before heading back south there was time to do some sightseeing, which included a visit to a popular local aurora viewing spot at Castles Sinclair and Girnigoe...

 

Astronomy Adventures

The members event in June saw presentations by 2 CAG members who recently went to Iceland to enjoy the local sights and do some aurora spotting.

Maciej Winiarczyk visited in the autumn.....

& Karen Munro took a trip there in early spring....

.....returning just in time to see an epic aurora display from her back garden in Caithness.....

On the night CAG Chairman Gordon Mackie also gave a summary of some of the astronomical related activities undertaken by himself over recent months, with the aim of providing some inspiration to others looking for astronomical topics to explore for themselves.

 

Summer Nights

Summer nights in Caithness do not afford much opportunity for observing celestial objects, but some CAG members kept a lookout for noctilucent clouds, and were treated to some beautiful displays.....

Then as the darker nights returned, some of the more familiar sights reappeared in our skies....

....and 6 months from the epic auroral display on 27th February members were treated to the first good display of the autumn/winter season.....

Above photo was taken by Stephen Anderson

 

Stargazing Tour of the Southern Skies

After the usual summer break, and with darker nights returning, CAG started off the new season with a talk by Tania Johnston, Senior Public Engagement Officer at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, which was held in conjunction with the Wild North Festival. Tania had recently visited the major observatories in the Atacama Desert in Chile and treated event attendees to a Stargazing Tour of the Southern Skies and the Giant Telescopes she visited during her time there....

Whilst in Caithness she also spent a day in Wick High School covering a range of astronomical topics with pupils. A whislestop tour of some of the north coast sights was also squeezed in to her short visit.....

 

CAG Open Day

Our annual open day saw the Sun make a few fleeting appearances allowing observation through our solar telescope......


Despite the cloud there was other astronomical content including the chance to see some videos on current missions......

.........and try out some hands on activities including the chance to have a look through a telescope.....

 

CAG at Orkney International Science Festival 2014

Highlights at our stand were 'Cratering the Moon' and 'Progress on the Rosetta Mission'.  There was the usual array of scopes though only one was focussed on the 'Star' of the show - Buzz Lightyear.

For the 'Cratering' there were 89 enthusiastic participants and all impacts were duly recorded.

Much interest was made on the scopes on view or in use and to the display of members photos and information on the Rosetta Mission

 

Members Stargazing Workshop (September 2014)

The return of darker evenings saw CAG members gather at the end of September to find out about the apps available for smartphones & tablets, that are useful to amateur astronomers. Pamela Taylor demonstrated use of a number of apps, and how they could enhance observing the night sky.....

After a brief talk the skies cleared allowing a few hours to be spent observing with electronic devices to hand for easy reference.......

The above two images were taken by Maciej Winiarczyk.

The clear dark skies at the Castlehill Dark Skies Discovery Site allowed viewing of many celestial objects, such as star clusters, planetary nebulae, globular clusters and distant galaxies....

...and our own galaxy, the Milky Way, was clearly visible stretching across the night sky....

 

Impromptu Stargazing Sessions

In between organised events, some CAG members took advantage of periods of clear skies to venture out under the stars....

Convoy of CAG aurora spotters

Stewart Watt and John Hilton imaging the moonlit Stacks of Duncansby.

 

"An Even Briefer History of Time"

CAG members were treated to a talk on Hallowe'en night covering the lifetime of the universe. In under an hour, Mike Lunan impressively covered the evolution of the universe from 10-43 seconds right through to its expeceted "end" at >1080 seconds!

To aid the understanding of such incomprehensible timescales he utilised a prop showing the times involved. A logarithmic scale was used so it would (just about) fit inside the venue!

It's hard to believe that on this scale our solar system will only be present for a tiny part of it........

 

"The Quantum World Through A Telescope"

In November, attendees at the Castlehill Dark Sky Discovery Site were treated to a free public talk by Maarten de Vries of the Highlands Astronomical Society, that described how the big picture of distant objects obtained through telescopes tells us what's happening at the smallest scales.

 

Astronomy Session at Watten Primary School (late Nov)

Although the weather prevented observing of the night sky other activities carried out by members of CAG, ensured the pupils had fun whilst learning in an interactive way about space & astronomy. The main topics covered included why the phases of the Moon occur, how telescopes work, the planets of the solar system, and rockets & gravity.

 

Meteors & Mince Pies Event

Unfortunately clouds once again prevented viewing of Geminid meteors at the event. However, a plentiful supply of mince pies and some indoor content kept members amused.

 

 

 




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