Last night was the first time in my 8 years as an 'astronomer' where I actually felt like one. Despite having an MPhys in Astrophysics which included a project on optical astronomy, doing a PhD in radio astronomy, and then becoming the 'Outreach Leader in Astronomy' I had only ever looked through an actual telescope ONCE (thanks to Huw James taking me out in a field that time) ! The nearest I have got to observing with an optical telescope is controlling the Faulkes Telescope from the comfort of an office at Cardiff University.
With this embarrassing confession in mind I was very excited to have the opportunity to join the students studying the 'Solar System' course here at the University, lead by Prof Phil Charles, on the roof of the Physics building. The plan was to observe as many planets as possible using the 2 Meade telescopes (which I have blogged about before Here) and 2 telescopes brought along by astrosoc. It was a fabulous night, and given all the rain this April and May, the conditions were awesome, not a cloud in the sky, and it wasn't that cold either.
During the evening I got to look at Mars (and it really was rather red, that's the rust you know!), Saturn (It's rings were really there!) and the Moon (those craters up close are lovely). When it got really dark I got to look at the open cluster called M44 (lots of nice blue stars shining brightly).
To see more photos click here.