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Stump Cross Caverns (Yorkshire Dales) Dark Skies Event


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Reposting details of this here as a new thread (on suggestion from @Stu ) for those interested. It doesn’t quite fit the observing report section in the usual sense but there is some astronomical observation involved!

Something a bit different last Saturday (19th Nov) - a Dark Skies event at nearby Stump Cross Caverns  (a limestone cave system between Wharfedale and Nidderdale in North Yorkshire, England) 

Combining astronomy with geology - another interest of mine, this was the first of two such events il be attending in Nov/Dec. 

Astronomers Chris Higgins and Martin Whipp, from the Lime Tree Observatory gave an excellent general presentation on astronomy overlooking the splendid North Yorkshire Dales (in December 2020, we were designated an International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association).

Sadly no clear skies were on offer  - quite the opposite with thick fog descending, but did see and get hands on with some interesting astronomy related objects. Notably a fascinating collection of meteorite fragments. The most interesting was undoubtedly a piece of the Allende meteorite, which broke up in the atmosphere at Chihuahua, Mexico near the village of Pueblito de Allende, in 1969. The main interest here is that inclusions in Allende (and other carbonaceous chondrites) are thought to be the earliest-formed solids in the solar nebula. The experts were keen to point out for example the c7 billion year old nanodiamonds within the material - these have been well studied and form a remarkable story. 


The evening concluded with an exploration of the cave system - which I’ve visited before, but this was the first time I’ve experienced it illuminated with a UV torch only, highlighting quite spectacularly the features in the limestone and calcite structures. So an interesting and unusual Saturday night despite the very unclear skies!


My next Astronomy meet up at the caverns is December 7th so a second opportunity to enjoy the views, both above and below ground. Well recommended day and night for visitors to this part of the country. 

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Another excellent Dark Skies event last night (7th December) at Stump Cross Caverns.  Crystal clear skies and very good seeing conditions made up for last months event here where thick fog prevented any telescope viewing. 

The session was hosted by Yorkshire based astronomer Richard Darn and provided a superb evening for new and experienced stargazers alike. Presentations in the “cinema” covering general astronomy and examples of astrophotography were combined with a laser guided observing session. The cave tour was also on offer again - but this time I stayed above ground for the excellent solar system views. 

The highlight was probably Jupiter - the excellent seeing conditions enabled some razor sharp, steady views full of surface detail. I found the view through a Celestron 80mm ED refractor particularly impressive up to 100x power, whilst the view through the Skymax 127 was also impressive at 150x. I’d say the refractor view of Jupiter was the best I’ve had overall. 
Saturn also nice to view again - and always good to see the reaction of first time observers of this planet during an outreach session. 


The Moon looked splendid, particularly through the refractor, and provided some fun for beginners in taking some phone shots through the ‘scopes. 
Mars was good of course, but possibly underwhelmed some. A tricky target to appreciate fully perhaps during an outreach event. 


The proximity of the Moon and Jupiter hinted at what was to come in the early hours the following morning - and a spectacular view that turned out to be! 

Overall another memorable N Yorkshire dark skies event at a fantastic location. 

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