Autumn Equinox Sky Camp 2014

Martin Lewis reports as the UK's largest annual star party returns to Kelling Heath

Autumn Equinox Sky Camp 2014

This year’s camp-goers were treated to three nights of clear skies. Image credit: Martin Lewis

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For nearly 20 years the Autumn Equinox Sky Camp has been the largest star party held in the UK.

At this year’s event nearly 300 astronomers from all over Britain enjoyed three clear, moonless nights, as well as daytimes filled with warm autumn sunshine.

Hosted by Loughton Astronomical Society, the camp was held at the Kelling Heath campsite in North Norfolk.

The management of the site is keen to promote the sky as a natural resource and ensured as much light as possible was sheilded.

Away from light pollution, astronomers had the perfect opportunity to not only observe and image, but to meet old friends, exchange ideas and relax.

The camp began with a brilliant first night.

Many stayed up to take advantage of the mag. -6 skies, imaging and visual observing until dawn.

The Autumn Equinox meant that not only were camp goers treated to autumn sights, such as objects in the constellations of Pegasus and Andromeda, but could also catch some summer and winter objects as well.

For planetary astronomers Uranus and Neptune were on view whilst before dawn Jupiter shone like a beacon low in the east.

Day and Night

After a long night observing, most retired to tents and caravans to grab a few hours of precious sleep, but many were still up again early on Saturday morning to browse trade stands for new and second-hand equipment, hoping to pick up a bargain.

In the afternoon, we were treated to talks on image processing, as well as the history of astronomy and space travel.

There was a host of telescopes and equipment on offer, with many reflectors and Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes on portable equatorial mounts and solar telescopes for daytime viewing, but the most striking additions were the large number of Dobsonian telescopes.

There were around 25-30 of these giant truss-tubed scopes, many of them home built. But they were far from being simple light-buckets and featured fine optics, as well as innovative features such as digital setting circles and even Go-To motors to allow rapid targeting.

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Next year’s event will be held at Kelling Heath on 11th-13th September 2015, but do book soon as only a few pitches are still available.