The SPA runs an annual weekend course where members can observe and learn together. It combines a number of talks with the chance, weather permitting, to look at the stars.
Preston Montford is owned by the Field Studies Council, who run courses at a number of centres around the country, but this course is run by the SPA and not the FSC, who provide the accommodation and facilities. There are no age restrictions on attendees, but while we will keep a particular eye on young persons attending by themselves, parents are advised that we cannot take responsibility for supervising them.
Preston Montford is about five miles from Shrewsbury, in open countryside. This gives skies which are much darker than in most suburbs, though of course they are affected to a certain extent by the lights of Shrewsbury. However, they are good enough to show us a wide range of astronomical objects, and if it is clear there are enough objects on view to keep people busy for hours.
The autumn skies contain a huge range of objects. The summer Milky Way is still visible in the west, with objects such as the Dumbbell Nebula, M27, and the Veil Nebula in Cygnus (visible using filters). During the evening the winter constellations rise, such as Taurus and the famous Pleiades cluster, Orion and its nebula, and Gemini. And many attendees at Preston Montford get their first glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, which is high in the evening sky.
Attendees are encouraged to bring telescopes, and several different instruments will be provided. There is plenty of room to set up telescopes, either immediately outside the classroom where there is shelter from the elements, in the car park where there is hardstanding, or in the extensive grounds. The outside lights of the Centre are switched off for our benefit, though there is usually a moth trap in the grounds which is left on.