Back in March my family were invited to attend a Stargazing event at Grizedale Forest to coincide with Earth Hour. The event was hosted by Robert Ince who has an impressive bio:
a well-known amateur astronomer and professional scientist. He was the resident astronomer and manager of the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory (SDSO) in the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park (GFDSP).
Robert is working with the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Forestry Commission to develop astronomy tourism, provide astronomy outreach events and to increase light pollution awareness in the North of England.
Robert also wrote a weekly column in the Scottish national newspaper the Daily Record and has had articles and astronomical images published in amateur astronomical magazines.
Robert is the lead astronomer, part of a wider group of amateur astronomers known as the "Starmakers"
My son is a keen scientist so I was pleased to be able to take him along and introduce him to astronomy. Unfortunately his big sister was not well enough to join us so it was just he and I that wrapped up warm and headed up to Grizedale at dusk:
Because the event took place at night I don't really have any decent photographs to share!
Robert started us off with a presentation indoors giving us an introductory talk on our own galaxy and its place in the wider universe. He pitched it really well so that both my son and I found it informative and interesting.
By now it was fully dark outside (although the moon was incredibly bright) so we all went out onto the terrace to see what we could see. Robert explained the various constellations that were visible to the naked eye and he was full of fascinating facts.
Then the most exciting part of the evening was to actually look at the moon through Robert's telescope. My son was fascinated by the features he could see on the surface of the moon even though to the naked eye it wasn't all that clear. Even the grown ups were very excited by it all!
Robert also assisted us in trying to take our first astrophotographs through the view finder. Don't think I did a very good job:
Robert then adjusted his telescope so that we could see Jupiter. It was incredible to be able to see the red spot (which is apparently a storm that has been raging for at least 186 years). My photographic attempt at this was even worse than the moon so I deleted it!
Overall my son rates the event as "4.5 stars out of 5" and his favourite part was "seeing the mini Stonehenge on the moon". I would certainly recommend this for anyone who would like to learn more about astronomy and with Grizedale being one of the truly dark places in England it was the perfect spot for it. Think I need to dig out my ex-husband's telescope from the attic and head up there again!
Here is video by Robert of stars at Grizedale: