Wessex Astro Star Party at Worth Hill Observatory 1999 April 24th
A welcome short break in the clouds gave us all a grand view of the Regulus occultation last night.
We had over a 100 visitors and kept them entertained with introductory talks by myself and Bob Mizon,
on occultations , eclipses and what we are most likely to observe on Mars. We managed to pipe a live
video feed of the occultation onto a couple of 24" monitors, (ex-airport display monitors sourced by
Bob Fuller). Even though there must have been twenty or thirty of us gathered around viewing, the
moment of disappearance took most of us by surprise, and I guess none of us got an accurate timing!
Before the reappearance some 40 minutes later we slewed the scope over to Mars and although I myself
didn't have much time for viewing, noticed that the seeing conditions were certainly very good for about
twenty minutes. The Solis Lacus was quite prominent and even inexperienced observers said that they
could see a bluish limb haze around part of the planet. Although I was in the dome and wasn't able to
view any satellites, the satellite visibility listing which we printed out from the GSOC site proved useful
as many people saw a few iridium flares and an appearance of the ISS. By midnight the sky began to cloud
over and although at these events due to the pressure of numbers we are not able to show very many
objects I think most people went away satisfied. We also laid on a mobile catering van this time which
proved popular. One of the nicest comments was from a lady who said: " I thought astronomers all looked
and behaved like Magnus Pyke, it was nice to realise you are really normal people."
Many thanks to all those WAS members who helped out.
The Network project
Congratulations must go to Ian Galpin for getting my computer network up and running. We started this
project about six months ago, the idea being to allow CCD images to be piped directly to the faster computer
in the portacabin about 100 yards from the observatory. Rather than have to store and transport images on
floppy disk we can now file them immediately on a large hard disk for image processing in the cabin. With
the help of Ian and Bill Horseman, we laid a 30mm plastic water pipe from the cabin to the observatory.
Bill had this novel way of getting the ethernet cable through the pipe. First crack open a bottle of wine -
drink contents - recycle bottle - keep the cork. Pare down cork so as to make a loose fit and attach 100
yards of fine twine and place in pipe. Next make connection to a bottle of liquid oxygen and turn on tap.
The cork shot out of the pipe like a cannon ball dragging the string with it, which enabled us to pull through
ethernet cable, co-ax, and phone line. Bill also rescued a 386 computer from a skip.This is now installed with
a new 200Mb hard drive and is working fine as the main machine in the observatory. The network also allows
access to Megastar files which will prove very helpful in tracking down faint fuzzies from the observatory
without having to print out star charts. I have also installed a ten foot work bench at the back of the cabin on
which I've set up the other sundry computers, kindly donated by friends and other members of W.A.S.
These are all basic "hands-on" machines which everyone can have a play about with. It never ceases to
amaze me how the young innocents get far more enjoyment from playing about with "Control Panel........Settings"
than Skyglobe or PC Space!
Worth Hill Observatory