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Dark Skies Weekend


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The Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde run a "Dark Skies Weekend" each year, up in Glen Feshie, about 10 miles south of Aviemore. I and 13 others + 2 University lectruers were there from the 3rd to 5th March this year. Between us we had a 10" Dob, 2 LX90s, a C5, a home made 6" Dob and several refractors (70-90mm) + many binoculars from 7x50 to 25x100.

We got to the outward bound centre "Lagganlia" where we would be based about 7.00pm on Friday evening. The snow was 6" deep on the ground and it was overcast - damm. By 8.30pm it had cleared from the north. It was crisp, clear and cold (-3 degrees). The viewing just got better and better. We could see down to magnitude 6 (honest). The double cluster and M35 were naked eye - it appeared that M38 was also, but that could have been combined wishful thinking. Earthshine on the 3 day moon was spectacular.

Comparisons of the 10" ob and an LX 90 on Saturn had more contrasty views with the 10" Dob. The 80mm refractors made the Pleiades breathtaking. A good night was had by all (aided by several beerrs / single malts, - we had enough alcohol to floor an ox - at 3.00am when it clouded over).

The Saturday dawned grey and we got another 2-3" of snow. But by 9.00pm it was clear again. Perhaps not quite as transparent as the previous night, but still worth being at the top of a ski tow at 3.00am to see Jupiter rise over the Cairngorms - but I was too knackered by that time to take any photos (sorry). It was also down to -7 degrees !

The days were spent sharing experiences, photos etc and getting lectures on such topics as "Variable Stars" and "The Stellar lifecycle".

A great weekend was had by us all. Friendships were formed and sleep deprivation ignored.

Who says Academia is dry and no fun. We had a great time.


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