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Messages - Geoffw

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Go to and make sure you have your say about the proposals for Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire – before the 12th of July.

Gardening Groups / OLD HERBACEOUS at the Torch 4th july
« on: June 20, 2018, 07:30:10 PM »

WED 04 JUL 2018
£13.00 | £11.00 CONCESSION
Produced by Kick In The Head


Directed by Simon Downing

With Giles Shenton as Herbert Pinnegar

Described as “Downton Abbey with gardening tips”, Old Herbaceous is the humorous love story of a single-minded yet gentle man with a passion for plants and is a charming one man play which has entranced audiences around the country.

 An acute and sometimes hilarious observation of relationships between the classes in a simpler age, Old Herbaceous is sprinkled with witticisms and epithets. The evening blossoms into tender humour, much in the traditionally understated English style of the early 20th century.

"Wonderful production" - Surrey Advertiser
"Not to be missed" - BBC Radio Kent

As Old Herbaceous, renowned actor Giles Shenton truly lives the part of the legendary Head Gardener, Herbert Pinnegar, inviting you to feel included in a private chat from a bygone, comforting age.

 Keeping you engrossed, amused and emotionally engaged from start to finish, Old Herbaceous will leave you with a feeling that, perhaps, all’s right with the world.

Health and Well-being! / Refugee Week 2018
« on: June 18, 2018, 02:52:49 PM »

Astronomy Group / Saturn Observing Guide for 2018
« on: June 16, 2018, 10:14:51 AM »
More than a few beginners have looked at the planet Saturn through a small telescope and asked, “Is it real?” Oh, it's real.  And it's one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. The color of Saturn, the proportions, the apparent 3D perspective of this grand icy world make it arguably the finest sight accessible with a small telescope. The planet reaches opposition on June 27, 2018 and will remain bright and large in a telescope over the next few months.

Saturn, located above the “Teapot” of the constellation Sagittarius in the southeastern sky a few hours after sunset in late June 2018 as seen from the northern hemisphere. This view is visible nearly overhead for observers in the southern hemisphere (created with SkyX Serious Astronomer by Software Bisque)

Seeing The Rings Of Saturn
Saturn is one of the finest sights in a small telescope, even for beginners, and the planet reveals much to a patient observer.

There are the rings, of course, with their complex structure and segmentation. You’ll easily see the two main A and B rings, and in steady skies at 100x or more, you may see the large gap between the two main rings.  This is the Cassini division.

Can you discern the difference in brightness between the two rings?  Most observers agree the outer ‘A’ ring is fainter than the inner ‘B’ ring.  If you have rock-steady sky and a 12-inch or larger scope, look for the elusive Encke division, another gap near the outer edge of the A-ring.

More than most planets, Saturn displays a striking 3-D effect caused by the darkened edges of the disk and, when you can see them before and after opposition, the shadows cast by the rings on the planet. The apparent tilt of the rings this year is about 24o, nearly as large as it gets, and you may be able to trace the outer rings all the way around the planet, even the far side.

Also in the days around opposition, you may see the rings shine a little brighter than in the weeks before and after opposition. This is a consequence of the Seeliger effect, the temporary disappearance from our point of view of the shadows of the tiny ice particles that make up the rings.

The architecture of Saturn’s rings and cloud bands (image credit: Robert English).

The Moons Of Saturn
Like Jupiter, Saturn has a complex system of cloud bands visible with a small scope. But the planet is twice as far from the Sun as Jupiter so it doesn’t receive enough energy to drive as much active weather. The pale whitish-yellow bands on Saturn are by no means as obvious as Jupiter’s, but they are visible through most scopes. A yellow filter may help bring them out a little.

And there are the moons of Saturn.

The brightest is Titan, a moon which you can see with binoculars.  A 6-inch or larger scope may show the color of the dense yellow-orange clouds on this large 8th-magnitude moon, the second largest in the solar system.  The clouds hide the entire surface of Titan.  Which is too bad, because lakes of liquid hydrocarbons are spread across the rugged terrain of this planet-like world.

With a telescope of 4-inch aperture, and dark sky, you can also find the moons Iapetus, Rhea, Dione, and Tethys, all of which are approximately magnitude 10-11.  It’s hard to tell one from another.  To sort them out, try this online tool at Sky and Telescope. CLICK HERE

Saturn Observing Tips
Saturn delights most stargazers, but it can be frustrating to observe, especially this year when the planet is low on the horizon for northern observers. The visual image of the planet in a telescope is often small.  And if the atmosphere is not steady, the image tends to ripple and blur the delicate details in the clouds and the rings, so it’s never as clear as you see in professional images taken with big scopes.

Binoculars of 10-12x will show Saturn as a tiny, slightly non-circular disk, and they show Titan as a tiny point. But that’s about it. To clearly see the rings of Saturn, you will need a telescope.

Which telescope? Really, any telescope will give you a respectable view of the planet.  Refractors of longer focal length tend to give larger high-contrast images of planets.  Reflectors have a little less contrast because of the central obstruction of the secondary mirror. But if they are well collimated, reflectors do a fine job with planets.  Most of the best amateur planet imagers, for example, use SCT’s and Newtonians because these telescopes are available in higher apertures, and higher apertures enable higher resolution.

First, before you get started observing Saturn, make sure your telescope is aligned and cooled down to ambient temperature.  If you just take it from a warm house into the cool night air, there will be eddies of air in the telescope tube and movement of the mirror surface that will badly degrade the view until the temperature of the scope equilibriates with the rest of its surroundings.  It will take between 20 to 60 minutes for the scope to settle down, depending on the size of the mirror and lenses and so on.

Also, it helps to wait until Saturn is as high in the sky as possible before you observe. As mentioned, this year and for the next several apparitions, Saturn is south of the ecliptic and will never rise very high for northern-hemisphere observers. It is extremely well-placed for southern-hemisphere observers this year, however.

Don’t expect a Hubble-like image.  Despite its beauty, Saturn appears quite small in a telescope. The disk is only 18″ across at this opposition, about 1/3 the apparent size of Jupiter at its closest and about the same size as Mars at its opposition this year.  The rings extend farther, about 45-50”, which makes the planet appear larger but even with the rings it’s never larger than Jupiter at opposition.  You can never see Saturn through a telescope quite as well as you would like to.

Once you get the planet in view, pop a low-power eyepiece into your scope. At 25x, you’ll see Saturn as non-circular, and 50-60x should reveal the rings and the planet’s disk.

Saturn in a small telescope (credit:

Now move to at least 100x and take in the view.  The image will appear larger but a little fainter and possibly a little fuzzier. But keep moving to higher magnification until the image gets too fuzzy or faint.  The optimum magnification depends on your telescope and seeing conditions. In steady sky with a high-quality scope, you can get up to 50x to 60x your telescope aperture in inches, and if you can make it up to 300x or more in steady sky, you will get an excellent view.  But it’s not often you can use that much magnification. You need to experiment each night to determine the optimum magnification that will give you the best trade-off between image size, sharpness, and brightness. And yet if you’re patient, you can see a lot of detail on Saturn, even though it may be frustratingly small.  Even nights when the air isn’t so steady, wait for moments of good seeing when the image will suddenly sharpen and jump out at you like a tiny hologram. It’s darned impressive.

A colored filter, especially a #80A blue filter, can help you see fine detail near the poles and in the cloud bands of the planets.

From Earth, the view of Saturn and its rings changes slowly as the big planet revolves around the sun every 30 years.  Most of us, with a little luck, will get to see Saturn’s full range of faces just once or twice in our adult lives.  So don’t waste this opposition… head out when skies are clear to see the ringed planet for yourself.

U3A Walkers / Monday Walk: Leweston Farm to Cleddau Wen
« on: June 11, 2018, 10:29:27 PM »
Led by Nigel and Shirley Williams, nearly thirty U3A members set off in perfect weather for a stroll down through the fields and woodland of the Western Cleddau.  We walked about three and a half miles through mixed woodland, pasture and alongside the beautiful Western Claddau as it emerges from Treffgarne Gorge.  This was followed by a pleasant meal at Ye Olde Inn, Camrose.

Photography / Peak Design Camera Straps
« on: June 08, 2018, 07:00:46 PM »
I've been a big fan of Peak Design straps - especially with the anchors with the thin cord that fits through the lugs on cameras like my fujifilm X-T2.  Peak Design are now recommending against using these anchors as they have seen a small number of failures.  Not sure what to think as fitting the cords through the camera lugs was a major advantage to me of the straps

Astronomy Group / NEXT MEETING: Wednesday 27th June - Asteroids!
« on: June 08, 2018, 06:39:20 PM »
Asteroid: Doomsday or Payday?

DVD: Asteroid: Doomsday or Payday?
"The asteroid that exploded over Siberia—injuring more than 1,000 and damaging buildings in six cities—was a shocking reminder that Earth is a target in a cosmic shooting range. From the width of a football field to the size of a small city, these space rocks have the potential to be killers. In a collision with Earth, they could set off deadly blast waves, raging fires and colossal tidal waves. But some audacious entrepreneurs look up at asteroids and see payday, not doomsday. Some asteroids are loaded with billions of pounds' worth of elements like iron, nickel, and platinum. NASA is planning an ambitious mission to return samples from a potentially hazardous asteroid, and would-be asteroid miners are dreaming up their own program to scout for potentially profitable asteroids.

Will asteroids turn out to be our economic salvation—or instruments of extinction?"

Astronomy Group / Jupiter
« on: June 08, 2018, 06:29:45 PM »

The planet Jupiter is always one of the brightest objects in the night sky. It’s brighter than any star, and is only outshone by the planet Venus and the Moon, and, very rarely, by Mars and Mercury. Jupiter reaches a position for optimum viewing in a telescope once every 13 months, roughly, and it made its latest closest approach to Earth on May 9, 2018 when the planet appeared in the constellation Libra along the southern ecliptic. A couple of months before and after this date, Jupiter is in perfect position for viewing with a small telescope, or even a pair of binoculars. You can’t miss it: the planet is by far the brightest object in the southeastern sky. The visible face of Jupiter reveals so many interesting features in a small telescope that the planet is a favourite target for new and experienced stargazers.


What's On in Pembrokeshire / Re: Stack Rock Fort up for Sale!!
« on: June 05, 2018, 04:13:20 PM »
I was really interested until I found out it doesn't have a garage!

Oh! and I would add that its Energy Efficiency rating is "G".

Astronomy Group / The Night Sky This Month – June 2018
« on: June 05, 2018, 10:21:41 AM »
The Night Sky This Month – June 2018

Saturn at the 2014 opposition as imaged by Damian Peach (

The best stargazing of the year begins now. Through June and into July, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars make their best apparitions in many years and reveal plenty of fascinating detail in a small telescope. Venus and Mercury also make appearances, as does the big asteroid Vesta which grows bright enough to see without optics. And of course, the best part of the Milky Way returns with its rich collection of hundreds of star clusters, star-forming regions, dark nebulae, and star clouds. Here’s what to see in the night sky this month…

1 June. Look for Saturn about 1.5º south of the waning gibbous Moon well after midnight. The pair are just above the Teapot of Sagittarius in the southeastern sky.

3 June. The Moon is 3º north of the brightening planet Mars in southeastern pre-dawn sky.

6 June. Mercury lost in the Sun’s glare at superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun as seen from Earth. It will return to the evening sky later this month.

6 June. Last Quarter Moon, 18:32 UT

10 June. Venus is joined by the two brightest stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, in the western sky after sunset. The planet is about 28 degrees above the horizon in early June for northern observers, and slightly higher for southern observers. It brightens a little to magnitude -4.1 over the month and slowly begins to grow larger (about 15”) and less illuminated (from 80% to 70%).

Venus, Castor, and Pollux in the western sky after sunset on June 10, 2018.

13 June. New Moon, 19:43 UT

15 June. Mercury emerges in the evening sky for the rest of June and into July. Look for the planet getting higher in the western sky after sunset. By month’s end, it sets more than an hour after the Sun and shines at an impressive magnitude 0.1. A pair of binoculars will help you pick it out of the twilight glare. The planet is about 6” across and, in a telescope, reveals a gibbous disk about 60% illuminated.

Mercury and Venus in the western sky after sunset in late June 2018.

16 June. Spectacular Venus is just 2º north of the slender crescent Moon (about two finger widths held at arm’s length). The Moon is also about 1.5º south of M44, the Beehive star cluster. They all make for fine viewing through a pair of binoculars in the western sky after the Sun goes down. I challenge you to find a prettier sight anywhere.

19 June. The asteroid Vesta reaches opposition. After the dwarf planet Ceres, Vesta is the second-most massive body in the solar system asteroid belt. Its mean diameter is a respectable 525 km. But, unlike Ceres, it does not have sufficient gravity to pull itself into a spherical shape, which is why it didn’t make the grade as a dwarf planet. Vesta lies in northern Sagittarius, not far from Saturn, and reaches a peak brightness of magnitude 5.3. That’s bright enough to see without optical aid in dark sky. The chart below, courtesy of Sky and Telescope magazine, shows you where to find it from day to day.

A chart showing the position of Vesta (and Saturn) through June and July. Credit: Sky and Telescope.

20 June. Grab your binoculars and have a look at Venus just 0.4º north of the Beehive cluster in the western sky after sunset.

20 June. First Quarter Moon, 10:51 UT

21 June. At 10:07 UT, the Sun reaches northern solstice, the northernmost point on the ecliptic, where it appears to stand still for a day before slowly moving southward again. This marks the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter south of the equator. At solstice, the Sun lies near the star Propus at the foot of Gemini, not far from the star cluster M35.

23 June. Jupiter lies just 4º south of the waxing gibbous Moon. Just a month past opposition, the big planet remains a resplendent sight in June. It slowly dims and grows smaller this month, but at magnitude -2.4, it’s still brighter by far than any star. The planet’s disk spans about 45”and continues to reveal plenty of detail in a telescope. Learn more about what to see on and around Jupiter in the Cosmic Pursuits Jupiter observing guide.

27 June. The planet Saturn reaches opposition, rising in the eastern sky as the Sun sets in the west. This marks the closest approach of Earth to the ringed planet in 2018. The planet reaches magnitude 0.0 and its disk spans about 18”. The rings are more than twice as wide as the disk. This year, the rings are tilted splendidly towards our line of sight by some 24º. It’s a great time to see this planet, which many new and experienced skywatchers rank as the most beautiful thing you can see through a telescope. Because the planet is in the southern reaches of the ecliptic, this year’s apparition favors southern stargazers. But northerners can see plenty on nights of good seeing.

The location of Jupiter and Saturn in the late part of June 2018.

28 June. Mars stops its eastward motion and becomes stationary relative to the background stars. For the next many weeks, and through its opposition on July 27, the planet will appear to move westward from day to day. This is called retrograde motion. At the end of June, Mars lies well to the east of Saturn in the constellation Capricorn. The planet gets down to business this month, brightening from magnitude -1.2 to -2.2 and growing to 20” across. On nights of steady seeing, it will reveal plenty of detail in a good telescope at moderate to high magnification. The planet rises around midnight as June begins and 10:30 p.m. as the month ends.

28 June. Full Moon, 04:53 UT

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