ASTRONOMERS DO IT IN THE DARK

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The Vega Baja Astronomy Group

astronomy femalefocusonline july22At long last I can stop talking about choosing telescopes, and tell you all something about our local astronomy group and something of what the members actually get up to.
The group is quite a mix of people, there are various nationalities and a pretty much equal number of men and women. Most people's idea of an amateur astronomer is an eccentric old bloke who talked what many thought was gibberish, Patrick Moore was the only astronomer most British people have ever heard of, and a very great enthusiast, but he was far from typical and not like anyone else I've ever met.
So, just who are the people in our group? There is a healthy number of people who are new to astronomy, often they have had a passing interest during there lives but never had time to really get to know more about it. All of us try to nurture newcomers interest, we try to be aware that it's easy to put people off by talking about some technical interest of our own, mostly we seem to manage this OK. There is one thing that becomes obvious to most newcomers, everyone is happy to help, to explain and to encourage, but we can never do the reading and learning of the basics for you, it's a hobby and for anyone to get to grips with it takes a little effort.
Astronomy isn't just one subject, it covers a huge variety of things. Cosmology, Planetary science, Physics, Spectroscopy and Mathematics, are just a few of the fancy sounding subjects, but DIY skills and woodwork can be very useful too. One of our newer members made a gadget from wood, screws and hinges to make his ordinary camera track the stars and produced some brilliant photos.
As you'd expect, there are some of us who have special interests, Spectroscopy is just one of them. Spectroscopy is breaking up the light from a star (for example) and working out it's age, what elements it's using and much more. An amateur can even tell if a star might explode.
Photographing the stars, planets, galaxies etc is a popular interest which digital cameras and computers have changed completely since I was young. An astrophotographer friend of mine takes pictures from his garden that are better than professionals with huge telescopes could have managed a few decades ago. Mind you, although he denies it, he's one of the best around, and always happy to help anyone.
Most members of the group aren't specialists, they're just interested in looking up and trying to understand what is there. We all get a kick out of seeing the night sky, recognising a constellation, spotting a planet or finding the galaxy Andromeda with our binoculars. No one ever forgets seeing Saturn's rings for the first time, but an amateur astronomer will want to know what they're made from, why there are gaps in the rings and just what are those strange moons doing!
We all get together every few weeks for a chat and lunch, we also have fortnightly meetings using Zoom. Hopefully we will be resuming normal meetings soon, they were put on hold during the Covid epidemic.
A few weeks ago, members went on a group visit to an observatory down in Murcia, a great time was had by everyone.
If you've got the impression we are an enthusiastic bunch who will welcome anyone who's interested then I've done my job properly, all you have to do is contact us.
You can also come to our public star gazing night on October 4th. We'll have a couple of telescopes to look through at the Moon and hopefully Saturn and Jupiter. We will be on the seafront at Punta Prima, just south of Torrevieja, setting up from 7.30, ready for darkness after 8pm. That's all for this month, happy stargazing.

Charles Oates, Vega Baja Astronomy Group.

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