The Observatory construction on St Martins is gearing up for its next stage – the arrival of our domes and telescopes. However we still have a few hurdles to jump before we can get the facility ready for opening. We're holding a Gala Dinner at Karma St Martins on 6 October, with the fantastic Ian Morison FRAS. There's also a silent auction with a phenomenal line up of locally donated lots. We sincerely hope this will be an amazing event celebrating the wonder of our dark skies, as well as how far we've come as a team of enthusiastic amateurs (my most useful phrase of 2018 so far) and, crucially, raising the last funds needed to complete the project.
Autumn marks the start of the new observing season, bringing longer, darker evenings. As much as I adore Scilly summers, the annual dusting off of the telescope brings a whole other level of glee. There is so much to enjoy in the dark.
Summer constellations still loom large through September and October, moving slowly westward across our skies. Feast your eyes on the glorious Summer Triangle – a bright triad of alpha stars, waymarkers offering so much to explore: Deneb, Vega and Altair. Deneb forms the swan's head in Cygnus, and the tip of the Northern Cross asterism, lying smack bang along the haze of the Milky Way. Altair is the brightest star in Aquila, the eagle, and one of the closest naked eye stars to Earth, a mere 17 light years away. And then there's dazzling Vega, in Lyra, the harp – a little harder to make out in all but the clearest skies, but worth persevering.
We're pretty lucky on Scilly with regards to the planets this Autumn. Our solar system sisters are currently scraping close to the horizon. In a built up area this might preclude your enjoyment, but surrounded by seas, no problem. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are are stunningly bright – shining even through the twilight. Amaze some younger stargazers by pointing out these strange worlds, so far away from us and yet, astronomically speaking, on our doorstep.
More info on our Gala Dinner can be found here. To book call Karma St Martins on 01720 422368.