Outreach - Stagazing in the Community

































The Partial Eclipse at Uffington White Horse Car Park on 20th March 2015

Credit: Rob Slack
Swindon Stargazers have been involved in a number of outreach activities over the years, including helping with scout groups, guides, beavers and brownies. Other activities include WI's and libraries, and more recently, the Lydiard Park Stargazing event. Unfortunately, this was clouded out and we therefore implemented our 'cloudy weather' programme of talks and demonstrations.

Lydiard Park Visitor Centre 28 March 2015

A presentation on the total eclipse, by Peter Chappell at Lydiard Park 28 March 2015

Garry Keenor demostrating his 254mm (10") Flex-tube Dobsonian Telescope at Lydiard Park 28 March 2015

Stargazing Event at Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve nr. Cricklade 14 December 2015
Originally conceived as an event to watch the Geminids Meteor Shower, the clouds closed in unfortunately and our plans changed to an indoor event for adults and children with activities and presentations by members of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Swindon Stargazers. Far from being a washout, it is true to say that everybody enjoyed the activities and learning about space. One presentation consisted of 'the sky at night around Blakehill Farm' (what we might have seen!), whilst the another explained how meteor showers occur.
Wave at Saturn - Avebury 2013

Saturn outreach event at Avebury on 19th July 2013, Hilary Wilkey looking through a 100mm (4") refractor
Swindon Stargazers often make trips out into the countryside for stargazing and some specific events, all our stargazing trips are free to join, and you do not even have to own a telescope or binoculars to join us. More about our ad-hoc viewing sessions can be found HERE
Credit: Garry Keenor
Credit: Garry Keenor
Credit: Rob Slack
Credit: Rob Slack
Credit: Ralph Harvey
Guide Leader's Workshop on 16th April 2016, near Wroughton
On Saturday 16th April, Rob Slack, Pete Struve and Bob Gatten attended an outreach event on behalf of the Wiltshire Girl Guides group. The object of the outreach was to provide foundation knowledge for the guide leaders, so that when on camp, they had some basic knowledge of astronomy to teach the girls.

The Swindon Stargazers trio attended one of the Guides camps, just to the south of Wroughton. Swindon Stargazers chairman, Pete Struve had been approached some months ago to see if club members would be able to put together a presentation and other possible astronomical activities.

Rob Slack was then asked to produce a presentation with some help from Robin Wilkey.

On a cold and damp morning, when Pete and Rob arrived at the camp, they set up presentation equipment and by mid morning were joined by Bob. Rob started the day off with a presentation, based upon finding your way around the night sky. Rob chose a method of using Ursa Major to find other constellations, since the guides know of the Plough and how to find the Pole Star. Rob split the presentation into the seasons of the year and included two to three constellations per season. Rob then went onto to inform the guide leaders what else is visible, such as the planets, Moon, satellites, meteor showers and comets. Rob also briefly covered equipment as well as observing aids, charts, book, websites and the like.

After Rob's presentation, Bob talked to the guide leaders about the 1000 yard model of the solar system. Bob explained, how balls and peppercorns, used as props, could to explain the scale of the solar system.

Pete also demonstrated some equipment and astronomy software.

The day went quite well. There was a lot of interest from the ladies and scope for more outreach events and perhaps a Saturday morning workshop. For us though, the highlight of the day was our lunch time visit to the fish and chip shop in Wroughton and a chance to warm up!

Credit: Pete Struve
Transit of Mercury viewing event at Avebury 9th May 2016
We were set up at Avebury on time for Mercury to commence it's journey across the face of the Sun. The weather was not great and earlier in the morning there were actually a few spots of rain. It was very over cast, but now and then the Sun did shine through. The Sun did manage to burn through to allow us to see the first ingress of Mercury. Although I have seen this before, back in 2003, I was still surprised how small Mercury appeared. The Sun exhibited two sunspots, which Mercury seemed smaller than.

For the next few hours the clouds taunted us with breaks every now and then. When a breakthrough happened we all frantically tried to line our scopes up. But once we did we ended up spending more time allowing passing public to view, than getting the chance to observe ourselves! MORE

1st Swindon Sea Scouts - Friday 11th November 2016

On the 11th of November, 2016, Armistices Day, Pete Struve led a small party of Swindon Stagazers to the meeting venue of the Swindon 1st Sea Scouts, just outside Lechlade.

We had been invited to talk about astronomy ( what else ) to the group of youngsters and this is what the club is all about - spreading the word! The original plan had been to get some members along with equipment, so that after the introduction presentation, we could do some observing.

Rob provided a presentation, which he had used a year earlier at for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Blakehill. The plan was to have the talk, discuss with the youngsters what we should be able to see, then go outside and do some observing. Sadly the weather, as it normally is in November, did not co operate.

We went ahead with the talk though and Rob added to it, some mind blowing ( and correct I hope ) facts to help make up for not being able to do any observing, such as trying to work out how long a Ford Mondeo ( one of the lads, Dads cars ) might take to get to the Moon at 70 mph!

We talked about the constellations around this time of year - Cygnus, Cassiopeia, or the W in space as Rob called it and Pegasus. The Andromeda Galaxy and Ring Nebular were also mentioned, along with some great Hubble shots.

We also talked about the planets on view in the coming months as well as the Geminids and Ursids meteor shower. With John Arthurs help, we explained to the guys the difference between a meteor and a meteorite. John handed round a real live sample of the later.
We also looked at observing aids, such as the good old Planetspere, as well as smart phone apps and planetarium software.
Eventually the sky did just clear enough for us to train our scopes and Binos onto the Moon. It was not clear enough to resolve any constellations though - a shame.

The youngsters seemed really impressed and I got the feeling a few of them were really blown away by the view of the Moon and the almost pin sharp craters through our scopes.

All in all, a good evening - same about the weather.

Report by Rob Slack - Photo courtesy of 1st Swindon Sea Scouts

Credit: Rob Slack
Marlborough Dark Skies Fest 25th to 31st October, 2021