Babe Among the Stars: Cleethorpes Astronomy Society

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Cleethorpes Astronomy Society

Cleethorpes, a seaside town on the east coast of Lincolnshire, UK, boasts one of the UK's leading astronomical groups. The observatory stands on a plot of land rented from Cleethorpes Borough Council in the middle of the allotments on Beacon Hill. The project to begin building commenced in 1969 and took some 18 months to complete. To build the meeting room and dome, fundraising via sponsored walks and selling raffle tickets was undertaken by the original members. Their first telescope, donated by the British Astronomical Association, was built around 1860. Once the society got going, a more powerful, 16 inch refracting telescope replaced the original gift. This enables close-up images of the craters on the Moon, the distant moons of the outer solar system and as far as other galaxies. The cost of a CCD camera for the telescope was raised by members between 1999-2000. Celestial photographs taken by members decorate the internal walls of the meeting room.

Up to 80 regular attendees, mostly enthusiastic amateur astronomers, meet at the observatory on the first Wednesday each month (except August1) to hear a guest speaker give a talk on a specialist subject, watch slides, ask questions, laugh at president and founder Barrie Watts' jokes and share thoughts over a cup of tea. There is no age barrier, children are welcome. Members pay £20 per annum. For guests the entrance fee is £3 with £1 for students and children. In 2010 the committee voted to host some lessons in astronomy for beginners, which proved popular with around 20 regular attendees. The classes are held on a different night to the monthly meetings and anyone can join.

Report on the Venus Transit 2012

The weather, as always, is an important factor in ground astronomy. Thousands of enthusiastic people turned out pre-dawn in the UK, even though the weather forecast was dire. Five members of the Cleethorpes Astronomy Club (including myself, the only female), shivered in the constant drizzle but stuck out the last hour of the transit hoping for a break in the thick dark clouds. Technology had advanced somewhat since the 2004 Venus transit, and one of the diehards logged into the NASA live feed on his mobile phone, so we could actually see what we were missing. I wonder what technology there will be available in 2117 [the year of the next Venus transit]? Or maybe people will be booking their holidays aboard solar rockets just to witness transits at any time they desire! Not everyone in the UK was clouded out, I'm pleased to report. On Saturday 9 June I had a nice chat on the telephone with my good friend Sir Patrick Moore who always sounds delighted to hear from me. He told me that he'd managed to view the transit and was sorry to hear that my group was disappointed. What a delightful man he is.

Across the Atlantic, there were many happy people, including:

I used my welder's filter to sneak peeks at it throughout the afternoon and evening. Venus made a very small neat black circle in the surface of the sun, a penny on a serving platter.

–  Happy Nerd

and there was a delightful cartoon in The Post.

Images of the Venus transit of 2012:

July 2012 Diary Dates

  • 01: Mercury at greatest eastern elongation from the Sun (26°) - best time to view
  • 03: Full Moon - the Buck Moon (also the Hay Moon, the Crane Moon or the Summer Moon)
  • 04: Anniversary of the ancient Chinese discovery of the supernova (catalogued SN 1054) now known as the Crab Nebula
  • 07: Moon passes 6° north of Neptune
  • 09: Venus and Aldebaran are within one degree of each other
  • 10: Moon passes 5° north of Uranus
  • 14/15: Moon and Jupiter just half a degree apart (in some areas there will be an occultation)
  • 15: (pre-dawn) Venus passes close to the Hyades open star cluster in Taurus
  • 19: New Moon
  • 24: Moon passes 4° south of Mars
  • 25: Moon passes 6° south of Saturn
  • 28/29/30/31: Delta Aquarids meteor shower

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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1There is no monthly meeting at the observatory during August. Instead, Barrie Watts kindly invites all members to his home for a 'Star Party' on the night of the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.2This image was also chosen for APOD's pick on 9 June.

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