What a wonderful last couple of months we’ve had, as we’ve welcomed back visitors to the observatory’s open sessions on Tuesday nights and Friday afternoons! We’re seeing high demand for limited spaces, especially on Tuesdays, so please book in advance and be sure to let us know if you can no longer make it.
We run our open sessions rain or shine, so even if it’s cloudy and you don’t have the chance to look through a telescope with us, we’ll do our best to make sure you leave with more knowledge about Scilly’s night skies.
July’s highlight for me was hosting the Year 4 and 5s from Five Islands Academy – so many enthusiastic questions, observations and breathy ‘wows’ as we got close up looks at the Moon through our powerful telescopes. Apparently the Moon is so close, you could be a frog and jump onto it, reported one young visitor. It’s been a tough last year, but my goodness, what a reminder that this was what the observatory was built for.
August is a mighty fine month to stargaze on Scilly, as the nights begin to lengthen and the Milky Way arcs above us, a magnificent, hazy streak of distant light. This year, cloud permitting, we are in for one of the best.
The annual Perseid meteor shower runs 8-16 August. The Perseids are one of the best known – and most spectacular – meteor showers in the astronomical calendar. These so-called shooting stars reach a sharp peak on 12 August, predicted to be between 20.00 and 23.00, which makes it an ideal stay-up-late treat for younger stargazers. Expect 100-plus gasp-inducing meteors an hour. There are very favourable conditions this year, as the Moon sets at 22.35, so will be out of the way. Make sure your eyes are properly adjusted before looking up – allow 20 minutes. Cross everything for a clear night!
Gas giant Jupiter is prime viewing this month, too – reaching opposition on 19 August. Throughout the month, it’ll be viewable from 21.00 or thereabouts low in the southern sky – the islands’ long, low horizons are hugely advantageous. By late August Jupiter will be shining brightly as the 4th brightest object in the sky after the Sun, Moon and Venus. Even a small amount of magnification can reveal the planet’s striped atmospheric detail and can pick out the 4 Galilean moons (scientists believe Jupiter has 79 moons; the Galilean moons are the biggest: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, first noted by Galileo Galilei in 1609). Top fact: Jupiter’s so big you could fit all the other planets of the solar system inside it, and still have room for more! I’ll also be fixing my telescope on smaller but stunning ringed Saturn - not to be missed.