40 enjoy SPA weekend on Sun, Moon and Planets

The SPA have held an autumn weekend course about practical astronomy at Preston Montford near Shewsbury almost every year since 1977, and the 2017 event, held in November, was as popular as ever. Some 40 participants gathered on the Friday evening to hear welcoming talks from Prof Ian Morison, Robin Scagell and Pete Williamson, making his first visit to Preston Montford.

Group pphoto
Group photo. Click to enlarge

The location is a Field Studies Centre set in lovely countryside close to the river Severn. Shrewsbury is a few miles away but the skies are vastly better than most of the attendees are used to.

The course theme was Sun, Moon and Planets. On the Saturday, Ian explained what telescopes are best suited to lunar and planetary observing while Robin presented guides to getting to know the Moon’s features and observing the planets. Solar expert Pete Williamson discussed solar observing and in the afternoon also gave an insight into remote observing, as he is a user of the Faulkes Telescope project. The Sunday was mostly devoted to aspects of imaging the Sun, Moon and planets.

During the lunch breaks on both days the Sun was visible, and on both nights we had clear skies so we were able to observe not just the Moon but also the planets Uranus and Neptune and deep-sky objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades.

First-time attendee Cath Adams writes: “The whole weekend from start to finish was great. The talks were fascinating and I learnt so much. I made so many notes and I’ve now got a full notebook to read through. I was a bit nervous before attending as I didn’t know what to expect or if I would find the talks too in depth for me to understand but everything was explained so well by all of you and I felt comfortable to ask questions.

I also found everyone attending the course friendly and helpful and I picked up lots of useful tips.”

Check back here to find out details of the 2018 Preston Montford course.


Clear country skies over Preston Montford
Guinea fowl strut around the grounds
Ian Morison gives guidance on solar observing
Observing from the car park
Cath Adams’ photo of the Moon