Solar Sunday – A Mist Opportunity

6th Jan 2013
The forecast for Sunday 6th Jan did not bode well for our first solar observing event, the first of four public events as our part in BBC Stargazing Live 2013. I had left the village of Little Compton behind under patches of blue sky and the sun breaking through, the further I motored up Harrow Hill the lower the mists descended and I ventured into the darkening hill fog, already obscuring the leafless tree tops.
Occasional lighter patches in the murk and the breeze from the west hinted that the mist may disperse enough to permit some glimpses of our own star. Upon my arrival, to my great surprise the two laybys were already nearly full of cars and equipment was being set up in front of the King’s Men stone circle and the atmosphere already had an enthusiastic buzz. With British aplomb, teapots and china cups were the first thing you saw on entering the grounds as Sarah Withey and son Bert set up the welcome tea stand and already a steaming kettle was issuing forth, needless to say a small but orderly queue was already forming.
Within the hour, 10 telescopes were assembled with polar axis pointing toward an invisible Polaris, aperture covers firmly on waiting for that elusive clearance. Visitors to the Rollright Stone monuments began to arrive, not great in number, but were warmly greeted by Warden Mary Edginton who had volunteered for the day. Most took advantage of tea and biscuits and took great interest in the astronomical display and took away the relevant literature. Hopefully we may see them again at our other Stargazing Live meetings. Barry Clack and his team from Witney TV spent a long time on site, interviewing and videoing the proceedings with the promise that they will be covering all of our SGL events. Despite several lighter patches developing the mist and low cloud never dispersed and, after 3 hours with feet starting to feel the cold and the temperature dropping, by 2pm astronomers were slowly packing away their equipment.
The last pieces were packed away by approx 2.50 and, right on cue, the hazy disc of the sun poked its way through thinning cloud. Such is the power of the Sun in this mystical ancient setting that it caused 3 CNAAG members to behave in a very strange fashion, performing strange Neolithic dances, as depicted in the pictures. At this point I feared for my safety and took refuge in my warm motor car. As is advised to all visitors to the Rollright Stones – we left it as we found it, taking nothing but memories.
Despite the weather and lack of any observing opportunities, enthusiasm and camaraderie won the day and to meet outside this early in January was a unique experience. A triumph for enthusiasm and a day for terrific people – we all took away some great memories . Here's to the next meeting and the fantastic astronomy to come. Link to the Witney TV item
This entry was posted in Events, Observing, Outreach, Stargazing Live 2013.

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