On Saturday March 5th, around 20 of our Wycombe Astronomical Society members went to Waddesdon Manor to help with our 5th joint Stargazing event for their National Trust members.
The first part of the day from 10am -4pm was designed for families and 4 of our members helped with a variety of projects set by the Waddesdon Educational team and Wycombe Astronomical Society. The WAS projects included using microscopes (kindly lent by Tring Astronomy) to see in detail bits of meteorites, Mars and bugs etc. They also made Planispheres and checked using an I-Pad what was up in the sky and where the ISS (and Tim Peake) were at that moment. The whole thing was very busy and successful with a succession of families filling the education room throughout the day.
Despite the atrocious weather of that day – snow showers, rain and a persistent cold north wind, our members were not to be deterred and came along in the early evening to set up their telescopes on the Parterre at the rear of the Manor.
For the guests of Waddesdon Manor the evening commenced with an excellent two course dinner. After which they were ushered to the Powerhouse, where they received a very informative and interesting talk by Dr Sandy Giles of the Wycombe Astronomical Society on the topic of our Universe and beyond which included a lot of interesting information about Charles Messier, the man and his catalogue of deep sky objects.
Charles Messier lived in the 1700’s and like all the astronomers of the day – sought fame by discovering a comet. However, after finding so many fuzzy blobs (which were not comets), Charles Messier decided to catalogue them all to avoid future confusion. His catalogue was printed in 1781 and it is this which earned his fame and recognition that we know of today. In the years after, he did discover a comet -not one, but several.
During the time of Dr Giles’ talk, outside the heavens opened and it looked like the final part of the evening was not going to take place. However, around ten minutes before the close of Dr Giles’ talk, the strong north wind turned in our favour and blew the rain and clouds away to leave a brilliant dark sky.
For the members of the Wycombe Astronomical Society (astronomers), it was absolutely ideal as they were set up on the Parterre which gave them an excellent horizon from the east, through the south and off to the west. The astronomers quickly trained their telescopes to pick out the interesting objects up in the sky, many of which Dr Giles had mentioned to his audience.
Soon afterwards, the staff of Waddesdon Manor ushered their guests to the Parterre, where they were to experience the excitement of seeing these objects through the wide variety of telescopes for themselves, as well as being able to talk face to face with the astronomers and ask questions.
In addition, the prime target for all the telescopes being the planet Jupiter. A marvelous sight through any instrument, along with its four moons – the Galilean satellites.
It was generally felt by the astronomers that the guests of Waddesdon Manor for that evening had enormous interest in the subject, due to the nature of questions being asked and the enthusiasm of looking through a telescope and seeing these objects for themselves.
The clear bright sky of this evening made the venture a success for all the Wycombe Astronomical Society members and no doubt, made it possible to leave a lasting impression to the guests of Waddesdon Manor.