Derby and District Astronomical Society
A Visit to Basingstoke Astronomical Society
by Chris Newsome
On 12th March 2005, I went to Basingstoke for a family party and on checking the website for the local paper, found that Basingstoke Astronomical Society (B.A.S) was planning a Messier Marathon that night at a dark site just outside the town. So a few emails and a telephone call later I went along with my Meade ETX-105 to the marathon to exchange a few ideas/views pass on greetings from one Astronomical Society to another and have a look through some other telescopes. The forecast was for clear skies later in the evening but during the early part (around 7:00pm to 9:00pm) the cloud was intermittent. In fact it was so intermittent, finding two stars to do a GoTo align was proving very difficult. Anyway, once the align was successful, after about the 6th attempt, observing could start in earnest only for the cloud to close in again!
It wasn’t until about 10:00pm that the skies cleared completely. And what a view it was. The site itself is around 3 miles outside Basingstoke on a bit of high ground that overlooks the town. Now you may have thought that the lights of Basingstoke (or Boring Torystoke as some of the locals call it!) in that proximity would have been too bright but incredibly they didn’t hamper the observations at all. M31 was right on the horizon directly above the sodium lights of the town and could be seen through a telescope (in this case a 12” Meade LX200). Moving round the skies at various times of the evening, the Messier objects were slowly being ticked off the list by various people including a couple of new ones for myself. I finally managed to see and make out M51 in Canes Venatici through my ETX and also added M49 to my list. M13 was fantastic through an 8” Dobsonian belonging to the Chairman of the B.A.S. (Malcolm Trussler). In between gaps in the clouds, Saturn and Jupiter beckoned and didn’t disappoint. At the start of the evening, on the drive to the site, the very thin crescent moon was hanging in the sky with Mercury to it’s lower right (it is only the second time that I have been able to identify the planet myself with the naked eye in an orange sunset sky). As for what the final total was for the Messier Marathon, I am waiting to hear from the B.A.S.
I didn’t manage to get any photo’s of the sky on the night – visual observations were enough!! I did take a few photo’s of the assembled telescopes which ranged from refractors with video cameras attached to Dobsonians and a Meade LX200 12” SCT on a megawedge. The LX200 is an awesome beast of a telescope. I would never have thought that such a large telescope could slew to an object with such speed and such accuracy.
However it was very cold on top of the hill and a barbecue was set up to heat up saucepans of soup for the gathered astronomers (about 14 in total). B.A.S. is a young society – they have been in existence for about 1 year – but the enthusiasm and welcome from them was wonderful. I was made to feel very welcome by all and, as a sideline, it transpired that myself and Malcolm Trussler were at the same school together in the late 1970’s albeit one year apart! When I am next down in the town visiting family and there is an observing event, I will endeavour to go along and join in. Please visit the website of the B.A.S. at http://www.basingstokeas.org.uk/ and see what they are up to.