This article originally appeared in Scilly Now & Then magazine's August edition.
After months of beautiful weather bringing clear night skies, it naturally transpired that one of the rainiest evenings of July coincided with the most spectacular astronomical event of the season, the total lunar eclipse. Of course.
It's easy to be fatalistic about it, but the simple truth is that sometimes weather happens, sometimes it doesn't. Such is the life of a Scilly stargazer, the joys of our 'dynamic' skies.
I've written before about the rewards of snatching moments of clear sky as and when they arise – and the lunar eclipse was a case in point. The COSMOS team, dotted around St Martins, was eagerly curtain twitching until finally, roughly 10.20pm, the sky cleared and the final half of the eclipse could be seen. While we missed the wow-factor of totality, witnessing first hand the Earth's shadow on the Moon remains a spine-tingler. Plus the added bonus of a jumbo Mars at opposition. Just magic! Check out Jason Poat's photo taken from Polreath – it really was worth venturing out in the end!
Dazzling Mars is currently shining at its brightest for 15 years and you'll struggle to miss it – look out for the very bright, very red star! It's planet Mars. However the real highlight of the August skies is the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year promises to be a blinder – as the peak of the showers coincides with a new Moon, promising (ahem, weather permitting) favourable viewing. Dates for your diaries, 9 – 16 August, with the peak actual expected between 9pm and 9am on 12-13 August.
Set yourselves up a deckchair in a dark spot (luckily we have loads of these on Scilly) and acclimatise your eyes for at least 20 minutes. The meteors emanate between Cassiopeia and Perseus – have a look on Stellarium to familiarise yourself with the whereabouts of these constellations. Really though, anywhere 'up' is a good place to start spotting this month, and that's fine by me.