Please note this event date has changed to Friday 21st March.
The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers (BSIA) meet every month in central London to look at the sky and socialise. Bring a 'scope if you have one, if not, don't worry, everyone is very friendly and happy to share - some nights there are 30+ telescopes there.
March Message from the BSIA
Telescope Raffle for Good cause: The BAA asked us if they could offer some money to contribute to a prize for someone to win on the night. Simon, from The Widescreen Centre, kindly contributed too so that we can offer an awesome Celestron Nexstar 127 SLT telescope in a raffle draw to go towards paying the Park fees for keeping BSIA meets always free. There is no obligation to buy a £2 ticket (or a bunch of tickets), but you will be helping grassroots astronomy and one of you will walk home with a great scope.
But onto the skies: Jupiter’s a couple of months past opposition now but, being still relatively close to the Earth and so high in the sky, the views of the gas giant’s cloud bands and larger storms remain breathtaking in a medium or large scope. It will be another 12 years before Jupiter looks so good to northern hemisphere observers so do grasp this chance to see it.
Speaking of the larger scopes you’ll have the opportunity to look through on the Telescope Deck, by 10pm(ish) Mars will have risen in the East. We’ve not seen Mars for 2 years and we’re only a couple of weeks away from opposition with the Red Planet. That means we’re reaching our closest point in this year’s orbits and Mars will look bigger, brighter and show us some of its features.
Even in a small scope you may tease out the white polar ice cap comprised of solid carbon dioxide and water ice, but in the larger scopes you’ll see darker details on the globe where the Martian plains and shield volcanoes become visible. The two moons Phobos & Deimos (both captured asteroids) may be visible in John Wildridge’s leviathan scope (you can’t miss John’s scope – it looks like a canon with a long burning fuse made of people queuing to use it!).
No moon on either 20th or 21st, so all the better for hunting down deep sky objects.
First, and needing no introduction, will be the Orion Nebula stellar nursery. A vast cloud of gas and dust clumping in regions to compress down and form new stars. A black hole is also believed to lurk in its centre. You can’t miss the three belt stars of Orion in the south west. Find the ‘sword’ that appears to hang down from Orion’s belt and that’s where it lies.
Star clusters are still ruling the skies, with the naked eye visible Pleaides cluster looking resplendent in the east in the constellation Taurus; the Double Cluster sitting between Perseus and Cassiopeia in the north west and the large Beehive Cluster positioned half way between bright Jupiter in Gemini and the lion shape of the constellation Leo.
This time of year marks a transition from the plentiful nebulae (gas clouds) of winter to the spring’s galaxy season. Later in the evening you’ll have to opportunity to try and tease out the brighter galaxies in Leo, but the big treat is the possibility of seeing a supernova with your own eyes! In late February long dead sun-like star flared up into life again and blew itself apart in a galaxy 12 million light years away – that means we see it as it was 12 million years ago. Recent photos suggest this gargantuan explosion, that lit up brighter than the whole galaxy itself, is still visible in medium to large scopes. So if you don’t know how to locate M82, the Cigar Galaxy in Ursa Major, make sure you ask someone to find it for you as each Milky Way sized galaxy only plays host to a supernova once every 80 years or so.
Although you’re welcome to bring any equipment you like, please don’t worry if you don’t have a scope of your own, everyone is welcome from advanced to absolute beginner – there will be plenty of scopes around on the night and people will be more than happy to find objects for you to observe if you ask. And if you are new to astronomy – there are no silly questions, just ask away! This is also a great opportunity, with experts on hand to show you how to set up a scope, get the best out of it, solve any niggles you may be having or just take a look through a wide range of scopes first if you're thinking of buying one.
The nights can still be very chilly so please do bring along plenty of warm layers and winter clothing to keep out the cold. And to help further, there will be hot and cold drinks and snacks available from the café until around 10pm. Although observing in winter can be cold, the skies more than make up for it.
All the park’s gates are open until 9pm, but only Monkey Gate (the one nearest to London Zoo, see map), will be open to leave through. Please don’t climb over the fences as an injury would be very regrettable and will likely prevent our continued use of the Park.
Parking outside Monkey Gate is free on the Outer Circle after 6.30pm and it’s about 150m walk from the road to The Hub along the floor-lit pathway.
We'll have a visitors’ book available on the night, so can you please take the time to sign it so that we can show how popular our free events are?
Finally, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who’s donated money to the BSIA through the website to allow us to keep all Baker Street Irregular Astronomers’ meetings absolutely free for everyone. If you’d like to make an anonymous donation to the society, you can do so here. We thank you in advance.
We look forward to seeing you all on Thursday 20th or Friday 21st March in Regent’s Park. Bring scopes and binoculars if you have them, if not, just bring yourselves, friends and family. We look forward to showing you the universe!
Ralph Wilkins for
The ‘Unofficial Force’.
Visit the BSIA's website here for more details: http://www.bakerstreetastro.org.uk (http://www.bakerstreetastro.org.uk/)
On a clear night, there can be over 100 people at this event, so to help us connect with other members of this group, we'll stake out a table inside the Hub, with a GEEK CHIC sign.
There are detailed directions on this customised Google Map (http://goo.gl/maps/QlLEb).
Summary of directions:
Enter the Park through the Monkey Gate, which is at the very north of the park. If you have short legs like me, it's a 20-25 minute walk from either Baker Street or Camden Town stations. So instead, I'd recommend going to Baker Street or Camden Town and catching the 274 bus to London Zoo to save the walking.
Once inside the park, it's only 150 meters or so (3 minutes) to the Hub - please be vigilant when it's dark.
Geek Chic costs: Full Membership of this group is £15 a year. You can attend two events for free. You can pay any time by Paypal using the link on the left navigation pane, or
Click here now to pay your membership fee (http://www.meetup.com/GeekChic/dues/)
**Please note, this cost is for Geek Chic Membership, not for attending the BSIA stargazing events, which are free and open to the public for no fee.**