March 9th Public Obs – at the old place!

We have an engagement at Dinton Pastures in order to fulfil the BSA Science and Technology Week programme. It is solely outdoors and therefore will not require the preparation of talks. We will be completely controlled by the weather, either regarding cloud cover making it impossible, or ground conditions which will affect choice of exact location. For  simplicity punters will arrive by car at the normal main car-park. Those who know Dinton will know that a lot of brush has been removed so we do not know to what extent car headlights will penetrate to the scopes.

There’s a few complications. I know how members want everything taken into account so bear with. This is our first time here for a while and times may have changed. Here’s a list.

1. Car-parking is by meter at all times. Expect to pay £4.50 (coins in slot) for three hours, and keep the receipt. Ringgo sends VAT receipts by email. BSA* have funds to cover reimbursement.

2. Don’t ask about parking near the observing. That would be (literally) a step too far. But if we return in the future the problem will be worked on. I promise you won’t have to carry stuff very far but if you use a trolley, big wheels would be best over grass.

3. The official ‘hours’ are 7pm to 9pm. But we know with a 3-day-old moon we start setting up at sunset to be in time.

4. As far as I know the gate will be closed at 9pm. If you need more time to leave, so be it, leave early.

5. The BSA has an eventbrite website which issues tickets (100 visitors expected at the moment), but the park is a public space and no-one will be checking. Our aim is to entertain as many as possible, whether passers-by or gatecrashers as was the case in the old days.

Please get involved with your scopes, binos-on-tripods, whatever. If you do not have a scope come and help in a yellow vest (provided). Whatever happens regard the weather with optimism. The worst thing will be if everyone stays home and the clouds clear!

I have left the possibility of clouds/rain ’til last. The BSA* have an email cancellation procedure but I requested they explain that if we only see clouds it will be cancelled. If that is definite I/we will be intercepting punters before they waste money on car-parking

*BSA British Science Association


Eclipse 2017 is now completed. Don’t look here for images of the eclipse but friends and rellies of those present might like the memories.

August 21 2017 at Courtyard by Marriott Kansas City at Briarcliff. This is the scene before the eclipse….

The build-up to the second contact was as exciting as usual, but the atmosphere was exactly right (wrong) for cloud formation and as the temperature dropped cloud duly formed. However it was slow enough for us to see the corona for about 5 secs before the clouds won. Here are a couple of videos of the reaction…


Sue and I would like to thank Larry for the invitation to the party at Stroud’s Oak Ridge Manor after the eclipse…

And there was a storm later that evening! Actually many storms that lasted all night (this screen grab from showing 52 strikes/minute) and blacked out the region…



Makes you think.

Back in 1983 the houses where I live were still being built. The bricklayers were laying bricks at a phenomenal rate and eventually they got to the plot next door. With them was a hod carrier, a small tough guy, whose job was to load clutches of bricks on a shoulder-carrier and get them to the brickeys asap.

He spoke English with a thick accent and because the job involved little intellectual capacity they made fun of him.

I knew he was Polish and wanted to know more, so got him into our kitchen on a tea-break.
“When did you leave Poland?”.
“1939, just before the Germans came.”
“What happened when you got to England.”
“They gave me a Spitfire.”

By Unknown - Dodatek do Nr. 119 "Ilustrowanego Kuryera Codziennego" z dnia 1 maja 1939 r.; s. IIlustrowany Kuryer Codzienny. 1939, nr 240 (31 VIII) s. 24Szlakiem Józefa Piłsudskiego; Warszawa: Wydawnictwo "Ra"; 1939; s. 121Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (Sygnatura: 1-W-1548) (Polish National Digital Archive), Public Domain,
By Unknown – Dodatek do Nr. 119 “Ilustrowanego Kuryera Codziennego” z dnia 1 maja 1939 r.; s. IIlustrowany Kuryer Codzienny. 1939, nr 240 (31 VIII) s. 24Szlakiem Józefa Piłsudskiego; Warszawa: Wydawnictwo “Ra”; 1939; s. 121Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (Sygnatura: 1-W-1548) (Polish National Digital Archive), Public Domain,

ReadingAS in Wales

We currently have bookable space In this accommodation ‘The Old Stables Cottage‘, self catering (double and single) for an astronomy weekend in mid-Wales.

In this instance we are booking for Apr  4th to 8th (any start and end you wish within those dates)

£30 per person per night.
email John Frake if interested…

John Frake <>

Not owning a telescope need not be a problem. But binoculars can be an advantage. Beginners can get introduction from us as to a dark sky. The viewing area is just outside the dining area Massively convenient.

Here’s location details.

Click images to expand.

The weather is king. When it is clear Wales is often clear of air pollution and the nights can be very good. When cloudy, we revert to plan B which involves red wine or other liquids.

Hints for the dark.

Observing in the Thames valley the environment is not so dark that one needs to be obsessive about lights but looking directly at lights is to be avoided. Keep all lights pointing down or away from others when possible. Red is the best colour for preserving your night vision and any torch can be covered with red cellophane. Babybel wrapper is fine!

Computer screens and camera menus can be quite bright. Face towards your companions when using such equipment, so they only see your face glowing. A lot of software for use outside at night has a red mode. I find it impossible to use, too dim and hard for my eyes to focus. Don’t bother with it if that is the case.

If you arrive in the dark and others are already observing we like to know who is turning up. Say “hallo” at least or “it’s only me”. Despite what you might expect, astronomy can be a social activity! Anoraks are for wearing.