Monday, 28 September 2009

Making a comet.

The view from where Gordon was standing.

Sigma Fun Day at Craigellachie

Well the local school I was going to visit on Friday decided that they didn't have the time for me to visit them. That suited me just fine as I was pretty low on energy anyway. On top of that, we had minimum night time temperatures of 15deg C so the dry ice for the comet making demos on the Saturday was disappearing fast and our freezer was pretty full. I lost so much dry ice overnight on Thursday/Friday that I managed to cram what was left into the middle of the freezer so by Saturday morning I had enough left for one comet at least.
Saturday was a roasting hot day, for late September anyway so the brilliant weather, combined with a whisky festival in nearby Aberlour and the fun and games at the Dufftown Pipe Band's 60th birthday party just a few miles in the other direction meant that we didn't have much of a turnout for the afternoon session. Disappointing, especially for Karen who had put so much effort into the publicity of our event.
My comet making demo was a bit of a disaster as the comet wouldn't stick to make one big lump but the kids enjoyed it.
They certainly enjoyed the rocket workshop, most of them spent the afternoon launching, modifying and launching their rockets again and again.
I was totally exhausted so I had to go home at 6pm and missed the evening observing session. About 20 people turned up and all had a great time in clear skies...and it was warm!!

Pics from Pete.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

More outreach plans

We are having another Sigma Fun Day, this time at Craigellachie on Saturday 26th September.

Details are here,

That means I'll be making more comets but we will have far more dry ice than I will need. Rather than have it just sublime away, I've arranged to go to the Steiner School in Forres to do the solar system using IZAL toilet paper and Playdough, fire some rockets and make a comet for a couple of classes.

So it's going to be Friday morning, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening. Hope I have more energy than I have now. The last two nights have been incredibly clear with no Moon but I just can't drag myself out to hunt down any deep sky objects.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

North Ronaldsay Golf Club Clubhouse

I bet they didn't go scrounging to the HIE, the council and the breweries to build this club house!
The main room is the bar (see the empty bottle), the caddy car store and the locker room. Maybe even the office for the secretary and the treasurer, after all, it has a table.

North Ronaldsay Golf Club

The fees look very reasonable but ponder this. If you pay the deposit on a new ball and use that ball during your round, do you get a refund on a new ball or on a used ball?

The doorway doubles up as the greenkeepers' store and it's where they keep their supply of sand for the bunkers.

No flags out on the course so it doesn't look as if the hole cutter has been used for a while.

Would the sheep droppings be treated as casual water? These sheep eat seaweed so maybe they would look on a golf ball as a rare treat!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Back on the Orkney mainland.

Flew back to Kirkwall on Friday night, repacked all my stuff before setting off for the Family Day.
No room to launch rockets so I spent the day doing the mind-blowingly banal pinprick constellations, the kids enjoyed it though. The crowds were good but hard to compare with last year as we were in three separate rooms.
I was amazed when on little lad, about 7 or 8 years old, said to me, "You came to our school last year." Now had remembered me for the right reasons or the wrong reasons??

On Sunday, I went to visit my brother and his wife, hope you like the view from their front window. After that, I went up to the Brough of Birsay to visit an old friend I worked with in Hull almost 40 years ago. The view from his window is just as stunning but I didn't take any pictures!

On Monday, I spent most of the day trying to find the age of the universe with Hubble's original data. It didn't go too well, just one group found Hubble's constant but we didn't get any further. Not the kids' fault, I don't think I had as much time as when I did the same thing at Going Nova 2009.

Today, I did my talk on the Moon in the big cinema in Kirkwall, about 70 people there and a lot of questions afterwards, far more than last year. A lot of people said some very complimentary things about my images afterwards so I was quite pleased.
Off to Kirkwall later this afternoon for the Council Reception so maybe I will get a chance to see some people. I've been away doing things on my own all week and haven't been to any of the events apart from my own!

As I was driving back to Kirkwall, the Sun was setting behind me and I could see very faint anti-crepuscular rays in the east. I've been aware of them just once before.

Around the bird observatory

Too windy to see many birds but the views of the seals were great.
There were hundreds of Turnstones on the grassy area around the lighthouse. The stones along the shore were all flat discs, anything from 6 to 12" in diameter so they had no chance of turning them over! I did see one turning over a small stone on the grassy area.
As I was having breakfast in the bird observatory, three grey herons flew in. Must be quite unusual as they got a mention in the observatory blog.
I spent a while cowering down behind a wall beside Hooking Loch. Saw a Little Grebe, a Whooper Swan which had been there all summer with a damaged wing and quite a few Snipe flying around.
Pity it was so windy as we might have seen some mist netting if it had been calmer.
There were some large crows flying about but I could never see them well enough to say that they were Ravens. As I was driving out of the car park at Kirkwall Airport, a Raven flew right across in front of me. Bet you don't see that from many airport car parks.
I saw just one Hen Harrier, a female flew in front of the car as I was leaving an old friends house at the Brough of Birsay.

Spare time on N. Ronaldsay

Had a great time driving around the island, stopping off to walk around.
Very windy but got some good views of the "sights" of the island. The sheep are supposed to be held behind a wall which goes all the way round the island so they eat just seaweed.

Talk on N. Ronaldsay

Shocking day of driving rain on the day of my talk but 19 out of a total population of 60 turned out to hear my talk on binocular astronomy. I think they enjoyed it and a lot of people said they were looking forward to hunting down the objects I mentioned.
Everyone got a copy of the Dark Sky Scotland star charts and I left a stock behind at the bid observatory.

Visit to N.Ronaldsay PS

First wi-fi since I left North Ronaldsay.
Had a great time in the two-pupil Primary School, one made the scale of the Solar System on a roll of Izal toilet paper, the other made models of the planets using playdo, then we put the two together.
Finished off with pin prick constellations.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Some views of the plane passing over and coming in to land.

Some pictures of the Islander aircraft

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Had a pint last night with an old friend I hadn't seen for 40 years.
Talked about ailments, getting older and all the things we can't do any more!!!
Hope to meet another old friend on Monday, hope we talk about something else!

Had a fabulous drive from Forres to Gill's Bay in Caithness yesterday, then across the Pentland Firth in the new catamaran ferry, the Pentalina. Very comfortable and excellent bacon rolls, boat wallowed a bit as it came out into the Pentland Firth.
Orkney is famous for it's fish but last night, I had the worse fish and chips I have ever had, in an hotel in Kirkwall, better not say which one.
Flew across to North Ronaldsay this afternoon in a Britten Norman Islander, smallest plane I've ever been in but just like a trip in a bus to Orcadians. Surprised how noisy it was but I suppose I was only 5 feet away from two engines. Cloudy coming into N. Ronaldsay but good views for the first part of the trip to Papa Westray.
In Kirkwall, we sat on the runway while the pilot revved up the engines, then he let off the brakes and away we went. On Papa, he taxied up to the end of the runway, swung the plane round and just let rip!
Rain started about noon and it is here until the morning at least so no chance of a look at the sky after my talk on binocular astronomy tonight, what's new.
As I sat down on the plane, the lady behind me asked if I was doing the talk tonight, she had spotted the laptop!
Rain has suddenly got heavier and is lashing against the windows of the Bird Observatory conservatory. Really comfortable place with very friendly, helpful people.
Looks like it will be windy tomorrow so let's hope it is dry.