The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers is another (much larger) London group, not associated with us, who have monthly-ish meetings in Regents Park. They run on fixed dates, but if weather prohibits (eg. heavy rain), may be postponed/cancelled - do check the Facebook page or their website a day or two before to be sure. The cafe is shut between 5 and 6.30 in autumn (they open specially for us, please make use of their drinks/snacks and don't bring your own inside); you can't wait in there if you arrive early.
Whether a warm day or not, if its clear skies it gets cold after the sun goes down, so do dress warmly with layers and warm footwear + hat. 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 yet another layer (probably two actually 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. They are very well attended (many more than our group). Typically between 50 and over 100 - depends how clear the skies are. A cloudy day can still have a clear night sometimes so do check evening's forecast.
For their future meetings, see the facebook group or website (links below)/mailing list.
The Hub, Regents Park, is a cafe on a raised earth mound in the middle of the park's biggest space nearer the North side (nearest Monkey gate next to the Zoo). A good description and map is on the BSIA website via this link ( http://www.bakerstreetastro.org/meetings/directions/ ). My extra help and tips follow...
The nearest tube stops are Baker Street/St. Johns Wood, or Regents Park if you want a longer walk across the park - only in summer when its open later (til 9pm for April). In winter, gates will be locked until the meet starts - you must enter via the Monkey gate. From Baker St. its a fair walk; nearest bus stop is Primrose Hill on the 274 route (every 10mins, 2 stops 'Q' & 'R' on Gloucester Place are ~5mins at a fast walk from Baker Street tube). Or get off at Wells Rise stop if coming the other direction/going back to Baker St. tube [Via the 274, at Primrose Hill stop, from Baker St. direction, 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 and keep almost-straight-on into the park. One path heads off almost immediately nearer the fence to the far left, ignore it; you want to take the left of the other two paths that fork inside the park, walking at right-angles to the road].
Do NOT drive into the Park, it is prohibited and risks their permit to continue meeting there; officials will notice (wardens office is just down the road and they patrol/can join us).
Parking outside Monkey Gate is allowed and free on the Outer Circle after 6.30pm.
Notes for All
All park gates are only open til sunset; after sunset there is only one park gate open (usually Monkey Gate, near the zoo, the gate to the right of it when looking from outside the park). From the gate (iron, but plain & at chest-height fence level - may have a custom BSIA lit sign by it) on the "Outer Circle" road, its about 150m walk to The Hub along a path with a low-lit section further in (knee-height wooden posts with low-level lamps on, though not always lit).
Turn up when light/leave with a small group from the meet if you're nervous in the dark, people will be coming and going through the evening.
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.
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, and to learn from each other. There'll be some binoculars, astro-photography too, and 'scopes from beginner level all the way up to some very impressive and some custom-built well over 12" aperture 'scopes or very high quality smaller ones (just as useful), 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 still up. Don't shine bright lights/phone screens around, we're trying to keep our eyes dark-adapted. Don't touch scopes when using them, just hold your eye next to the eyepiece (which may move, very slowly, if automatically 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).
In summer, there's sun-observing early on - with proper filters for safety (V.dangerous otherwise). Maybe sunspots, prominences/filaments in hydrogen-alpha wavelengths (depending on equipment people bring) showing even more colours.
Even on cloudier nights, the social aspect makes for a (if-slightly-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.
I (your meetup group organiser, John) usually attend their meetings too (from 7-8pm onwards depending on my schedule); but don't rely on finding me there; though you will find some of the BSIA hosts (not connected with our group) Eric, Carl, Simon, Mike or others. There can also be other meetup.com groups there too. Simon is from the Widescreen center, where you can buy telescopes, binoculars and find much more knowledge and advice about equipment and astronomy. Our members have recommended them.
For more info and to double check in case of bad weather, if its still happening, see the facebook group ( http://en-gb.facebook.com/BakerStAstro ) (posts HERE ( http://www.facebook.com/groups/132196206819659/ )) or its own website ( http://www.bakerstreetastro.org.uk/ ). There's a podcast ( http://www.facebook.com/groups/197643350345054/ ) too, Awesome Astronomy, produced by some of the current/previous organisers and regulars.
For everyone in South West London its more a trek than many of our meetings, they are a large and well-attended group (50-100+ depending on weather/time of year) with many members bringing along telescopes that most of the time you are free to view through (or to queue for, on the biggest), even companies sometimes demonstrating their latest products or with competitions (raffle in June!). 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 of course just hanging out socially with other amateur astronomers. A fantastic group!
Please do check their website for last-minute changes due to the weather.
Come spot meteors with us for the Geminids meteor shower. Final date may move in the week beforehand based on weather and organiser's social diary. Free event (though donations to fund the meetup fees, or offers of drinks, gratefully accepted).
The Geminids (http://meteorshowersonline.com/geminids.html) run from approx 4th to 17st December every year (peaking 14th). Named due to their originating point ("radiant") appearing in the constellation of Gemini, as the Earth flies through 3200 Phaethon asteroid debris in our orbit around the sun.
This is simple: all you need is to dress up extra warmly, so you don't have to quit early! If inexperienced at cold nighttime astronomy outside, bring (possibly 2) extra clothing layers on top of what you think you need (ie. plan for being outside a few hours then add more layers). Don't forget gloves, hat (highly recommended), scarf/similar, and thicker socks/shoes or boots suitable for grass. Thermal underwear is a great addon.
Optionally bring: reclining chairs/ rugs/ cushions/ sleeping bags/ space-blanket/ waterproof layers as you like (lying on your back is easiest way to see more of the sky without getting a tired neck and not to miss any, but also the coldest). - it will get very cold late on if its a clear sky and we're on the cold ground (clouds act like a blanket so on a clear day/night, as we're hoping to have selected, it will get cold fast)!
No need to bring telescope or binoculars - do if you like to look at other things and don't mind missing out on meteors, but absolutely the best tool to see meteors with, is your own eyes and the ability to point them upwards for minutes at a time. Very beginner friendly! Cameras also welcome with a similar caveat (only useful for meteor photos if can do long exposures & with a tripod/other steady support); please don't use flash around us.
Red torches are fine if you have them - they don't ruin your/our night vision when we're well adjusted to it. Otherwise do be careful where you point lights! There are smartphone apps (for Android devices at least) that can dim and redden the display even more beyond your minimum setting to help retain your night vision too (don't forget to reset to normal before you get into daylight or it'll be impossible to see!).
We'll gather a crowd of us at the pub meet point. Please aim to be at the pub for the start or soon after if you can (or let us know ahead if late), you'll avoid your own stress worrying to find us and delaying us all. You'll have a say where we walk to, and we'll explain what to expect; you'll relax with the friendly group first, time for a brief drink if you want.
We'll then walk to the common around 8pm (or earlier if people are there and ready in time). I expect we'll head for Tooting Common's cricket pitch just to the east and a little up Dr. Johnson Avenue (pitch is on grass to the right of that road), around 10-15mins walk. Though we will comment on the event to confirm exactly where, once we set off/get there.
If you might arrive later, either take your chances finding us, or make sure you have my no. (see "how to find us" comment for the event, visible on event web page and phone app event location description).
For the pub, via public transport, Tooting Bec tube station is on the Northern line and nearest, via 249/319 bus or 10 minute walk east along Tooting Bec Road to the pub, the 249 also comes from Balham station (with its mainline service to/from Victoria via Clapham Junction). Streatham stations (except Streatham Common) are close enough too, 319 comes down from just above Streatham Hill, 249 joins the route from the other direction at St.Leonards. Nearest stops to Rose & Crown are Manafort Road or Franciscan Rd (first one you come across).
Driving? You can park on Avoca Road next to the pub, or Elmbourne Road right opposite the pub alongside the common - do check for the double-yellow (or red) lines to avoid fines.
If arriving later and we are indeed at the cricket pitch you can walk/still use 249/319 busses til "Tooting Athletics Track" stop, or drive and park in the car park at the bottom (south end) of Dr.Johnson Ave (next to the bus stop). Walk down Dr.Johnson Ave. and when you see grassy common on the right, the cricket pitch is on the larger green there (if thats where we are). Check parking restrictions but I believe that car park is free after 6pm. Maybe you could bring folding/reclining chair(s) if you have any and the space for it, as it'll be harder for others walking/public transport to bring bulkier items.
The moon (in its current phase) will (not?) be up from ???? til ????. This meteor shower is fairly active, you ought to see them away from the radiant point so if thats cloudy, look for a nearby clear patch. Keep an eye out in the evenings and mornings of the same week too if you're an early riser. I can help show you where to look at the meet, if you're lost in the constellations - assuming not cloudy in that area. Google Sky Map is one free useful phone app to help find constellations, there are many other options too.
In London the viewing is not as good as further away but we've always managed to spot a few if the clouds don't get in the way. Also plenty of chance to chat, hang out and learn about other things out there while waiting in between meteors.
As always, and I'll say again for first timers, please note, all experienced stargazers will strongly recommend bringing at least one extra layer all over (including socks) to keep warm: one or two more layers at this time of year than you think you'll need for standing outside for a while in an open space. It cools down quickly in the evening especially if we get clear skies and, standing (or even more so lying) relatively still on open ground for longer periods, you will notice it more than you expect. In autumn/winter, a hat, and gloves or thick warm pockets, are pretty essential. People have used those shiny silvered space blankets before too.
We've been meeting for meteors for several years. Weather is a major factor on success or not so if it looks wet and solid cloud then I will move date as it gets near enough to predict. Lets hope we're successful!
More info on Geminids here: http://meteorshowersonline.com/geminids.html
This year's European AstroFest conference and exhibition. It is a 2-day event on the Friday+Saturday. They've now got the conference schedules (http://europeanastrofest.com/conference/) up and there are tickets left for the talks sessions (which include exhibition access for the whole day even if you only buy a single talks-session ticket), and £8 exhibition-only tickets if you don't want to spend much but like looking around the stalls (many will have show discounts, typically ~10%). You may not be able to get conference tickets on the day (see the site) but exhibition-only tickets should be available on the door if your decision to go is last-minute. The exhibition was £8 alone per day in 2015, with many well-known astronomy company names attending with gear for you to see, and often some show deals (though its varied in previous years). You'll get a better deal booking for any of the conference sessions, you can move between the exhibition/conference as you wish if you have the right conference ticket through the day. The conference is split into 4 sessions; 2 on Friday (10th), 2 on the Saturday. Each session is basically a half-day with a break and has ~4 talks. You buy tickets for any sessions you want to attend (per session, not per day or per talk). The website (linked to below) has talk details. Website: http://europeanastrofest.com/ Want to meet up with others from this group while there? eg. for lunch (they serve sandwiches/simple hot food I believe - eg. like hot dogs, pasties probably, and coffee/soft drinks and have seating areas though there's plenty of shops/lunch places mere minutes walk away on Kensington high street).