There were lots of scopes on show at last night's event at Taunton Racecourse. Credit: Kieron Allen
With clouds blanketing the sky – only parting enough to release a little drizzle, the weather couldn’t have been more inappropriate for last night’s Stargazing LIVE event at Taunton Racecourse in Somerset.
But even without a star in the sky there was plenty to occupy and inspire the hundreds of people who braved the adverse conditions to enjoy an evening of astronomy.
Organisers took over the entire racecourse site, separating the numerous buildings into eight diverse exhibitions and lecture halls.
The whole event was very family friendly with talks on subjects like supernovae and our place in the Universe clearly aimed at an older audience and interactive activities and planetarium shows that could be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Local resident, Joe Bannister was at the event with his wife Chantelle and daughter Lilly-May.
"We already have a telescope at home but we wanted to come down and show our daughter some of the bigger scopes out there,” said Mr Bannister.
“Given that Exmoor is so close and is supposed to have such great dark skies it’s actually quite hard to find events like this around here, that’s another reason I wanted to come, so I could find out about local astronomy groups and where to take my telescope."
Gathered at the centre of the racecourse’s main grandstand was an enthusiastic group of amateur astronomers from some of the region's most popular astronomical societies including The Crewkerne and District Astronomical Society and the Tiverton and Mid Devon Astronomical Society.
With the weather hampering any chance of observing, this was by far the busiest area at the event with a bustling crowd of people eager to discover more about the night sky and lots of experts on hand giving advice.
The Activities and Interactive Zone was another area popular with the crowds. With the opportunity to handle real meteorites, reconstruct craters on the Moon and learn about our place in the cosmos with scale models and an army of helpful assistants, this area was clearly aimed at children.
A pair of mobile planetaria, welcomed “big kids” too, taking eager viewers on a whistle stop tour of our Solar System.
“Stargazing LIVE has been a major success because of its format,” said world-renowned astrophysicist, Dr Francisco Diego, one of speakers at the event.
“It’s scientific but not boring with a very nice mixture of personalities to present the Stargazing LIVE programs, people who have been involved in other TV series, this attracts the attention of the public in a unique way.”