Our BS9 Astronomy sessions will focus one, two or three constellations, how to locate them and what amazing stuff can be found within them. We shall be exploring the history of those objects, their discovery and their significance to both science and society. We shall be using stars and other celestial objects as time lines, or perhaps time machines, and explore history through this (admittedly quite unusual) medium.
The objective is for children and adults to learn a few constellations that they will be able to pick out for themselves over the winter. Most importantly, the sessions are designed to inspire, to engage and to encourage enquiry and maybe even resolve those Christmas present challenges - all the children will be asking Father Christmas for a telescope this year!
The programme will look something like this:
November 9th 2018: A Royal Family
We start our sessions in the realms of royalty, exploring Cepheus the king, Cassiopeia his queen and their daughter, Andromeda. Through the stars in this region we shall learn about some of the great women in astronomy. For example how Henrietta Swan Leavitt determined that by using a very special type of star, we can work out the distances to the galaxies and thus calculate the size of the Universe. We shall explore Caroline Herschel's contributions to 18th century discovery from a back garden in Bath. Just across the celestial border, we shall peer back in time by almost 2.5 million years in exploring our close galactic neighbour in the heart of Andromeda.
November 23rd 2018: Bears and Dragons
Our second session will focus on one of the most familiar asterisms in the sky - the Big Dipper. Our journey will take us to Alioth, to Mizar and Alcor and the milestones these stars have played in the history of astronomy. The Pole Star is probably the most famous of stars, but few recognise the Little Bear dangling from the pole by its tail. Draco, the Dragon weaves its way between the two. In ancient China this region of the sky marked the Forbidden Purple Palace of the Emperor. Who can resist a visit to the Purple Palace - our journey will take us back to Bronze Age China!
December 7th 2018: Hercules and a Lyre
Week three will take us to the world of Hercules and enigmatic globular star clusters, ancient balls of stars lying at the very edges of our galaxy. We will hop over to Lyra for a glimpse of what our Sun may look like in about 4 billion years time.
21st December 2018: A Festive Finale
With a bright moon in store we shall need to focus on some bright objects and the constellation of Perseus will be our quarry. We shall visit one of the most famous variable stars (amazing stars that change in brightness), Algol - the Demon Star and a fascinating double star cluster. Although low down near the horizon, we will undoubtedly be tempted to hunt down the Christmas Tree Cluster.
There will also be a couple of planets (Mars and Uranus) around during all the sessions that we will observe as well if possible.
A couple of hopefully useful tips:
If we are lucky enough to have clear nights we shall be outdoors. Warm socks, gloves and hats are really important and we recommend waterproof shoes or wellies as the grass may be damp. We intend to have tea, coffee and biscuits available, which will be free, but we shall have a donation jar for the scout hut rebuilding fund.
It is important that children do not run around outside as we have some very solid equipment with bits that stick out. The equipment will be marked with illuminated light rope. Ideally it is best not to use white light torches - we will supply a selection of red torches.
There is no need to sign up for all four sessions - come along and give it a go. But please let us know if you are coming beforehand as numbers are limited.
The sessions will start from 6.00 and run until about 7.30. We would like children to be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Equipment and Conditions
Practical astronomy can be a little unpredictable, equipment can fail, lenses/mirrors dew up and atmospheric conditions render objects invisible. The emphasis of these sessions is practical, manual astronomy in the spirit of the great 17th and 18th century pioneers. If you have telescopes or binoculars of your own, please feel free to bring them along.
We are anticipating using a 12 inch Newtonian reflecting telescope and/or a manual equatorially mounted 8 inch Celestron Schmidt Cassagrain telescope.
All the observing is of course subject to the weather and local obstructions - trees, buildings and the Moon. We may completely change the plans according to the conditions.