Earlier this week the esteemed McGurie college, here in the fine town of Shepparton, held a star gazing night. This was an auspicious beginning, supported by the Telescopes in Schools initiative, and saw some 20 or so kids and families come along to view the cosmos. This evening is to be the first of a series. It was a convivial gathering, spoilt to only a small degree by poor weather conditions, some trouble with the collimation of the scope, and a near dazzling array of security lighting. Despite these troubles we had a good night, a sound beginning to what promises to be an enjoyable and interesting program. I was especially impressed with the energy of the organiser Robert, and of course by the telescope McGuire had at their disposal - a 12” catadioptric behemoth that required sets of castor wheels to be relocated. Anything that requires wheels in order to be moved deserves some natural level of respect and admiration. Yes, this giant marvel of precision engineering is ungainly and difficult to budge, but damn-it if a set of wheels won’t bring the beast to bear!
Some time out in the fresh evening, basking in the splendour of the raiment above, does wonders for one’s eagerness to dust off the scope at home and drag it out-of-doors for more. So inspired, I pulled my more humble reflector out this evening to take in Saturn.
While the general glow of street-lights does something to wash the colour from the view, it was rather nice to sit back and look at the orb of Saturn and its encircling rings. It is something humbling to look at what appears to be a star through our eyes, and bring it into sharper focus with a telescope, and to find a dusty orange marble, replete with a girdling of brilliant white rings in its place. As much as the Southern sky is splendid for its cloudy encircling arm of our galaxy, I find something especially calming and marvellous about gazing at our solar neighbours in the ecliptic. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I rather enjoyed myself.
I tried to take some photos through the eyepiece, but I don’t really have the set-up to make it work. The best I got was a blurry smudge that would do well on a UFO Sightings website, but wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. Nonetheless, a pleasant evenings viewing, and I am much looking forward to the day when my lad is old enough to come outside with his Dad and view the moon, the planets and our universe.