The Solar System from your back garden

Residential weekend course,  Friday 10 to Sunday 12 November 2023

Preston Montford Field Centre, near Shrewsbury

Bookings are now closed but late places may be available – see below

This year our weekand course has the subject of observing the Sun, Moon and planets, both visually and using imaging techniques.

Our guest speakers will be Prof Ian Morison, Gary Palmer and Robin Scagell . Between them they have a wealth of experience of observing, drawing and imaging Solar System objects. The weekend is aimed at both beginners to observing and those who are more advanced, so we’ll be covering the basics as well as more detailed topics.

There will be the opportunity to observe in relatively dark sky conditions if it’s clear, and all the giant planets will be on display during the evening. Participants are encouraged to bring their own binoculars or telescopes, though equipment will be available for those without.

Aspects covered will include:

  • Instruments and cameras suitable for solar, lunar and planetary observing and how to get the most from them
  • Solar observing in both white light and hydrogen-alpha 
  • Methods of capturing and processing sequences for imaging
  • Theories of the formation of the Sun, Moon and planets

In addition, if it’s clear during the day we’ll be taking a safe look at the Sun with a variety of telescopes during the break times.

The location

The society has been holding a weekend course at Preston Montford almost every year since 1977. The location is in the heart of the Shropshire countryside. Click here for more details of the venue and its location


We hope to observe on the Friday and Saturday nights if it’s clear. There will be telescopes available and participants are welcome to bring their own instruments. Help will be given on setting up and using telescopes if required. The Moon is very close to new, resulting in dark skies, and in addition Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are visible during the evening. Solar observing may be carried out after lunch on Saturday and Sunday.


Numbers are limited to 40 participants. There is no age limit in either direction, but we do not provide special care for participants under 18.


The course runs from 6.30 pm on Friday 10 November, but if anyone expects to be later food will be kept for them. The course sessions begin at about 8.30 pm on Friday 25 November, and end at 3.30 pm on Sunday 12 November, though people may leave earlier if necessary.

Cost and participation

Bookings are now closed but late places may be available – see below.

The cost, which includes full board and accommodation from Friday evening (arrive 6.30 pm) until Sunday afternoon (course finishes 3.30 pm), but not travel to Preston Montford, is £230.00 per person. Some shared rooms are available for families etc at a cost of £210.00 per person. Participants under the age of 18 are welcome, though close supervision is not provided. Please let us know if you require a special diet or vegetarian food. There is limited availability of ground-floor and wheelchair-accessible rooms.

If you have any questions please contact

How we use your data Personal data supplied when booking will only be used for the purposes of administering the course and will never be disclosed; data will be held securely until the course is complete when it will be deleted (paper records will be shredded).


Cost: £230.00 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Deposit: For bookings before 22 September 2023 a non-returnable 11% deposit per person is required to secure a place.

Balance of payment: Bookings must be paid in full by 22 September 2023. Bookings after this date may be possible – please check before booking by emailing

Payment methods: Bookings are made online using standard debit or credit cards or PayPal.

Cancellation: If a booking is cancelled, the deposit will not be returned. If the balance due has already been paid when the cancellation is made, the balance will be returned only if the place on the course can be allocated to another person. If cancellation is made seven days or less before the course starts, no refund will be made for whatever reason. It is recommended that all applicants consider the purchase of holiday insurance cover to guard against such contingencies; holiday insurance is widely available from travel agents and multiple store chains.

Personal property: The Society for Popular Astronomy cannot accept responsibility for loss or damage to course members’ belongings such as baggage, money, astronomical instruments, etc. These should be covered by members’ own domestic insurance or holiday cover.