Peter and I concluded this must be our fourth evening at the Royal Botanic Garden John Hope Gateway Centre. But this time it was not an astronomy event per se, but a coming together of art and science, and a preview of the Sea Change exhibition on 2013-11-07.
As on previous occasions, we would set up on the terrace outside the restaurant. Graham Rule had taken large binoculars and tripod on the bus, while Peter Mulholland and I brought very similar small refractors on identical mounts. And John Wood had just got hold of the ASE’s 250 mm Schmidt-Cassegrain that he still needed to get used to.
The day had been clear and sunny, but after dark it turned cloudy and rainy. While Graham was already checking the Balmoral Hotel clock through the binoculars, we reluctantly set up the scopes – under the roof where they would stay the whole three hours due to regular spells of rain. Some time into the event we could identify Auriga, Cygnus and Vega. Peter trained his goto computer and later kept tracking the clouds in front of the Pleiades. We did see the star cluster in binoculars and toward the end also as star map on an Android screen.
Not many people therefore ventured out into the dark and cold; mostly we could only show some leaves on trees across the pond through two telescopes. Some interesting conversations were had, but the weather made this an almost complete washout. Having fulfilled our duty we packed up at 22:00. Last was the SCT with tripod and tube already detached. When Jupiter not only split the cloud but also found a gap between the trees. While John and Graham still tightened the bolts that keep the scope on the tripod I swung the tube to acquire the giant planet in the finder and in three minutes we were looking at the Galilean moons and Jovian cloud bands. A few of the guests and staff were also still around to get a view during gaps in the cloud.
It is of course common for planned observing meetings to be clouded out, whether that be ASE members meeting in a park or an outreach event like this. At least there is good company and the effort is appreciated by the hosts and budding observers.