ASE logo The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh


No 59 - March 2009

Moonwatch in North Berwick

In April 2008, the Seabird Centre in North Berwick contacted the Society about the possibility of holding a joint event at the Centre. In June, David Small along with Ken and Rachel Thomas met with Anna Pugh, their events manager. After a guided tour of the Centre, we discussed what we could do for them and looked at possible dates for the event.

It was agreed that a 'Moonwatch Week' would provide an excellent structure around which we could include a number of events. With the Moon being the focus, there were opportunities for observing as well as possible links with tides and bird migratory behaviour. The week running up to the full Moon in November (6-13) was decided as an ideal time to hold the event. With the Moon rising during the afternoon, there was an opportunity for observing during the late afternoon and early evening when there would still be good numbers of visitors.

observing at the Scottish Seabird Centre

We had another meeting in October to sort out the program of events. It was decided at this point that Ken and Rachel would prepare activities for children who attend the Puffin Club at the weekends. They would also organise observing sessions at the weekend together with Monday and Wednesday evenings. David took on the bulk of the task including preparation of material about the Moon which would be displayed throughout the week; training the staff to use the loaned telescopes; deliver a public talk on the Monday evening. The local Brownies had shown an interest in astronomy, so David also agreed to talk to them on the Monday.

The Moonwatch Week got underway on Thursday 6th November, with David and Anna setting up the displays and the telescopes. There was some staff training on the telescopes so that they could do some observing on the Friday afternoon if they wanted to. As it happened, the weather wasn't willing to allow this on Thursday or Friday - it is Scotland after all!

Saturday was partially cloudy, but sufficiently clear to allow around 30 people to see the (mainly blank) disk of the Sun through the Society's solar telescope. There was a small flare visible, but this was hard to spot. Meanwhile, indoors in the warm, Ken and Rachel were setting up for the Puffin Club. Children are welcome on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to take part in a variety of craft activities. There was a rather messy demonstration of how impact craters were formed on the Moon. A mixture of flour and hot chocolate powder was used for the surface, then a variety of objects (including Maltesers) were dropped onto the surface to see what shape of craters were produced. We had some very nice 'ray' patterns. We also made Moon Landers with marshmallows as well as small card models of the Space Shuttle. A good time was had by all!

Just after 2 pm, Mike Dale and Peter Mulholland from the ASE joined us with a range of telescopes to observe the Moon outside the centre. As it had been a nice day for the beach, there were a lot of people passing and a good number took the opportunity to view the Moon through the telescopes.

Sunday was a similar to Saturday with Ken and Rachel attending the Puffin Club (with a fresh bag of Maltesers) while David stayed at home to write his talk and get prepared for Monday. The weather managed to stay reasonable again allowing a number of people to observe the Moon and Jupiter.

On Monday the 10th of November, David gave a talk to 18 members of North Berwick Brownies. He explained how telescopes work and told them about the City Observatory on Calton Hill and what it was used for in the past. They then had the opportunity to look through some telescopes at Jupiter and the Moon. This was very much appreciated by the girls, as many had never looked through a telescope before.

In the evening, David gave a general talk about the Moon to around 20 people and followed up with a question and answer session. This was to be followed by some observing but, unfortunately, a large amount of cloud moved in and hung around for half an hour before clearing. The members of the ASE stayed around for a while to observe a few items with some of the staff of the Centre.

Another observing session was arranged for the Wednesday and although the weather was fairly poor, we did manage some observing and were able to provide some fleeting views to an appreciative family.

The weather was reasonably kind to us and around 100 members of the public, including a good number of children, had the chance to look through a telescope. We were gratified by the occasional "Oh wow" as many viewed the Moon for the first time. The ASE managed to get 6 volunteers with 7 instruments to North Berwick on multiple occasions for what was a very enjoyable and successful event.

Our thanks go to the Seabird Centre for inviting us to work with them. Particular thanks go to Anna, whose enthusiasm carried the whole project through to a successful conclusion. Thanks also to the staff for making us welcome and helping move equipment. Thanks also to Mike Dale, Horst Meyerdierks, Peter Mulholland and Andrew Mackie for volunteering and attending as many of the sessions as possible.

David Small, Ken Thomas, Rachel Thomas


Cover page

Forthcoming events

Moonwatch in North Berwick

Observing session at the dark sky site, Addiewell

2009 A Space Odyssey

Annual General Meeting

Annual Report for 2008

Society news

About the ASE Journal

This journal as a single web page

This journal as PDF file (350 kByte)

Annual report as PDF file (110 kByte)

web: ISSN 1756-5111
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