What we're about

Instead of going out all lonely to see the stars and other things in space, let's share stargazing time and views for safer and more social, better experiences (and learn more)!

How

We do this locally in South West London (with occasional events elsewhere) and as often as the organiser's schedule/weather permits. Events may be at short notice (~2 days or less) sometimes if the skies suddenly clear. Hence our calendar can be somewhat random, but we try for at least one event per month, including: star-parties (in a public common/park), socials (pub/cafe), and occasional trips to exhibitions / observatories / other places of interest to astronomers. But no need to be an astronomer already - everyone welcome, from absolute novices to professionals and experts! (we're mostly amateurs and you won't be left out as a beginner).

We continue to meet in summer. For stargazing, we mostly start by meeting in lit public venues (such as pubs) near a darker location to gather and introduce ourselves; before walking to the darker location for viewing together. I aim to make events reasonably accessible via public transport too. This reduces worries for new members. Its much better than expecting new members to find a small group of unknown people at night in hard to find dark places. Feel free to suggest new events/locations too! (always on the hunt for alternatives in new areas, might you have somewhere to share with us?)

We enjoy sharing views through different telescopes/binoculars, or even with just your eyes; and knowledge about the planets/constellations/galaxies/deep sky objects and how to find them. Several members have telescopes and bring them to some meets, but you don't need anything to come along, just show up. Late evenings are much easier in Winter of course with earlier nights.

Its easy to find talks to go to around/near London to learn and the web always has plenty of news and info, so this meetup group is primarily for meeting up in the evenings to see the stars, the moon, planets or deep sky objects (if there are suitable telescopes around).

When

Note: due to the weather, meetings may come up at relatively short notice or be cancelled if its terrible, but I plan on both weekdays and weekends, and try to set up at least one or two meets per month. I also copy over and post the Baker Street Irregular Astronomers group monthly (but irregular) events in Regents Park to publicise those as they are great events and usually very well attended (can be more than 100). Everyone from novices/beginners to experienced astronomers go, there can be 20-odd telescopes/binoculars on a good (clear) night brought by members, so they are a great way to learn more and see different equipment and accessories at work.

Some meets will fallback to a social evening inside if skies fail us. If a meeting is described (in title or main description) as tentative or unsure, then please check with the organiser whether it is still on, close to the day of the meet (by phone/text/email, allowing at least a couple of hours ideally in case of delayed response). Otherwise you take a slight risk going.

Use the message board to make random invites if you're planning a session a night or two ahead. It feels much safer and more fun sharing the wonders of the night sky with others.

Where

Common meeting grounds might be Tooting Common, Streatham Common, sometimes Wimbledon Common or Blackheath, but we try others too occasionally. Commons/parks mean less streets and lights nearby, we choose the ones publicly accessible at night, and are generally the best places in London for stargazing. I'll try to keep public transport in mind as obviously dark skies tend to be further from public transport. You'd be surprised what you can see on a good night when away from immediate streetlights though, especially through any enhancing equipment (regular binoculars or even a pair of opera glasses will do, telescope even better).

For more about our regular locations, see the locations page I wrote about that (https://www.meetup.com/swl-stargazers/pages/Locations/) (in the "Pages" section on meetup website, not in the app).

Equipment

As I say, you don't need anything but your eyes to enjoy the night skies; there will almost always be at least some binoculars and a telescope brought along by others that will be happy to share views with you (the organiser has some good binoculars, often on a tripod, and a small telescope). But if you do have something you can bring - from as little as a red light torch (which doesn't ruin your natural night-vision so easily), to binoculars (any pair will do!), a camera (better if you can control the exposure manually eg. DSLR/bridge camera), or telescope, then we'd appreciate that and hope you can share views it gives. Even the star-map apps on phones are useful (eg. Google sky map, Stellarium) for finding targets to view. If you can provide transport for others to better viewing locations then thats also very much appreciated.

If you're interested in buying some equipment, do check out my buying advice (https://www.meetup.com/swl-stargazers/pages/Buying_advice_for_beginners_%28viewing_equipment%29/) in the page I wrote about that - but I very highly and strongly recommend you come to an event first (whether ours or another) and see other people's gear and ask questions first because it can easily be an expensive mistake if you don't know what you want, and even put you off for good. Or at least talk to someone in a proper astronomy shop (eg. Widescreen Centre in London, Astronomia in Godalming, or Tring, to name a few near/in London), and read a few reviews so you have a better idea what to expect. Things to consider: time to setup each night, weight/size to carry and put away, what you'll be looking at (planets/the moon? the sun? deep sky objects? everything? daytime use too?), ease of use (type of scope+finder, type/quality of mount, whether computerised/motorised), accessories you'll need/want (and cost of), and how well you know the sky or are willing to learn by hand all play a part - not just the cost and scope power!

Upcoming events (1)

Join "Baker Street Irregulars" (other group)

Needs a location

The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers is another (much larger) London group, not associated with us, who run free-to-attend monthly-ish star-party meetings in Regents Park. They run on fixed dates, but if bad weather prohibits (e.g. heavy rain), may be postponed/cancelled. The cafe is open specially for BSIA from 6.30, please make use of their drinks/snacks so they can afford to stay open for us, don't bring your own. Please follow government guidelines and mask up as appropriate; don't attend if ill and/or contagious or currently testing positive for Covid.

Whether a warm day or not, if there are clear skies it gets much cooler after the sun goes down, so do bring extra layers and warmer footwear (maybe even a hat) for cooler nights. If you're new to star parties, and not used to standing still in large open spaces at night for an hour or two, you'll too-late realise you're underdressed even if you planned for the weather; so add/bring another layer from what you think you'll need (probably two or even three in autumn/winter) everywhere. Trust me, you'll be grateful you did if you want to make the most of the telescopes/people there before you get too cold (can warm up slowly in the cafe if open, and chat, but you'll miss out on astronomical sightseeing time)!

These meetings are (as in the title), irregular, like ours :) and move date based on moon/planet/star rising times, other celestial events, and weather. Typically between twenty and a hundred (or more on special occasions) attend - depends how clear the skies are, but they have a maximum allowed for safety. A cloudy day can still have a clear night sometimes so do check the forecast.

Future meetings are on the facebook group or their website (links below)/mailing list; you can also donate to support their running costs (Park/Hub cafe booking, website and so on).

Getting there

The Hub, Regents Park, is a cafe on a raised earth mound in the middle of the park's biggest space on the North side.
Nearest gate: Monkey gate, to the right of the Zoo (when looking from outside the park).
All park gates are locked around sunset. In autumn/winter, monkey gate is the only one re-opened (& kept open) for the event. It should have a BSIA sign on it. The BSIA website has a description and map.

Public transport/final-steps help:

🚇 Tube:
- Baker Street (longer walk, easier bus)/St. Johns Wood
- Regents Park (a much longer walk, but (only) in summer can be through the park as its open later - til 9pm for April).
- Chalk Farm/Swiss Cottage (north past Primrose Hill).

🚂 Train:
- Marylebone

🚍 Bus:
- Primrose Hill (stop H, 274 route, every 10mins, previously stops on Baker Street opposite the side walkway exit of the tube). To the park: cross the zebra-crossing behind you, take the path almost-aligned with the crossing, away from the road towards the Outer Circle road; then cross that road to the park gate.
- Wells Rise (stop C on the 274, from Regents Park Rd, Camden Town towards Baker St, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate).

🚗 Driving:
Do NOT drive into the Park (prohibited, risks their permit to meeting there; officials will notice as wardens office is just down the road, they patrol/can join us).

🅿 Parking on the Outer Circle outside Monkey Gate is free after 6.30pm.

🚶‍♀️ At the Monkey Gate:
The (quite plain) iron gate may have a BSIA sign on it (maybe even another lit-up one next to it).

Keep almost-straight-on into the park, at right-angles to the road. One path splits off almost immediately nearer the fence to the far left, ignore it; take the left of the other two paths that fork inside the park.

The Hub is about 150m walk along the path, with a low-lit section further in (knee-height wooden posts with low-level lamps on, though not always lit).

⚠ Please only use open gates and never try to climb the fences, for safety/security/their continued use of the park. If the Monkey Gate is accidentally locked by a warden early, check you have the right entrance (very occasionally, events might switch gates for post-sunset entry/exit), then call/message the BSIA "unofficial force" organisers on Facebook/email/twitter eg. Eric, to fix it - links below.

General Advice:
Turn up when light or with friends/leave with a small group from the meet if you're nervous in the dark, people will be coming and going through the evening.
The toilets underneath the cafe at park level (access via the path, on a slope) may close earlier than 10pm.

Once there...
Central London still allows many fascinating and amazing views of planets (surface detail on some), their moons; and from outside our solar system, stars, nebulae, galaxies and clusters. Many colours to see (not just white!). We can explain lots between us all - no such thing as a stupid question! Saturn/Jupiter (and its moons) are always big highlights when they're visible.

In good weather, expect lots of telescopes of many shapes and sizes set up around the outside of the cafe, all with owners keen to share views with you, teach you how to use them/what to expect/which types are best for different things, to learn from each other and just chat. There'll be some binoculars, astro-photographers too, and 'scopes from beginner level all the way up to some much bigger ones, depending on the crowd (and weather a bit) each month.

Beginner tips:
Watch where you walk (beware tripod legs, try not to stand in front of a scope's view). Ask permission/advice before using someone else's kit. Queue where needed. Don't look directly at the sun if its still up. Don't shine bright lights/phone screens around or use flashes, we're trying to keep our eyes dark-adapted. Try not to touch scopes when using them, just hold your eye next to the eyepiece if you can (which may move, very slowly, if its tracking; or quite quickly when made to change targets). Ask/find the owner if view empty/out of focus (or maybe you're not holding your eye at the right point).

Even on cloudier nights, the social aspect makes for a (geeky) fun night and chance to chat for longer in the warmer cafe; but there might only be a handful of telescopes instead of 20 or 30-odd.

There can also be other Meetup.com groups there too.

Further Details:
Please RSVP on the Facebook event if you use it, via the group:
(posts at https://www.facebook.com/groups/132196206819659/ ).
More via their website bakerstreetastro.org.

August's FB event for example:
https://www.facebook.com/events/463337215365254/

Why Go?
Its further from our area, but they're a large and well-attended group (50-100+ depending on weather/time of year). Many bring telescopes that most are happy to share views from (after asking), even companies sometimes attend to demonstrate their products. Special occasions often have competitions/raffles. Its a great way to find out what sort of equipment you might be happiest with, to try before you buy, with realistic expectations of what you'll see; and to learn about others' experiences and generally more about astronomy and the universe. Plus hanging out with other amateur astronomers. A fantastic group!

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Past events (213)

Peek at the Perseids

Needs a location

Photos (35)