Stargazing Live at Braywick – 21 January 2012

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A man (probably not older than 35) with a cheery face, clad in a polo shirt, fleece, and jeans, stands presenting an introductory PowerPoint in the Braywick Nature Centre. One detects a hint of a restrained eccentricity as he speaks quite quickly whilst discussing his areas of speciality. He’s talking about the various consolations and what one can see in the night’s sky, using hand gestures to show the size of the four moons that orbit Jupiter. Sitting before him, myself and fellow ambitious stargazers are well-wrapped in coats, scarves, and gloves, ready for an evening under the sky.

I PRESENT THE MOON: An  member talks about the four moons of Jupiter. (IMG_2139)

After the gentleman enthusiastically answers our questions, we walk outside where seven or eight telescopes are set up for the public to use. Surrounding them, a surprisingly large number of people, with children being urged by their parents to stand on the supplied boxes to more easily see through the eyepieces.

VIRTUAL SKY: When it was cloudy outside, Matthew headed indoors to try out the virtual stargazing PC software. (IMG_2116)

The event’s being run by the Maidenhead Astronomical Society, to tie in with the BBC’s Stargazing Live week of nightly programming. Though posters about the society feature members of both genders, those are manning the equipment outside are all male, with their wives making the hot drinks and selling Mars bars indoors. All of the owners are – as one would expect – extremely knowledgeable and even more keen to share that knowledge with the inquisitive visitors.

TWINKLE TWINKLE: A failed attempt at phoographing some of the tars in the sky. (IMG_2134)

There’s one guy who sees me with my camera trying, but failing, to photograph the starry sky. He encourages me to remove the lens, screw on his adapter, and fit the body to the back of his Schmidt-Cassegrain, meaning my camera effectively becomes a telescope. This allows me to, with his assistance, get an albeit blurry picture of Jupiter.

A CLOSE-UP: Though blurry, noisy, and vague, one can just about make out Jupiter in this shot. (IMG_2128)

As we walk back to the Braywick Heath Nurseries car-park, I discuss with Mum and Matthew what we saw. We all really enjoyed the evening, and agreed that the Society seems a very active group.

While my photography has left a lot to be desired, the sights we saw with our naked eye will stay with us for a long time.

THE STARRY SKY: Flecs of light were magnified by the telescopes to revail more detail. (IMG_2113)

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a 21-year-old from Maidenhead in Berkshire. He is now two-thirds of the way through his Journalism Studies degree at the University of Sheffield. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, going to the theatre, and writing about himself in the third-person.