This year we decided to do something different in order to achieve the Astronomer Activity badge and so on a very cold Friday evening we hired the West Lancs Scout minibus to take us to the University of Central Lancashire's Alston Observatory. Not knowing exactly what to expect we were amazed to find, in what felt like the middle of nowhere, the impressive Alston Observatory Visitors' Centre flanked by two Observatory domes. Jordan and Dan, two Astronomy PhD students, were shivering outside waiting to greet us!
The Scouts were first taken into the Planetarium and given an overview of the history of the universe by Jordan and the main features of the observable universe. Jordan and Dan were really impressed with some of the questions they were asked and the scouts' knowledge of Astronomy.
Our next stop was to see the 15-inch Grubb-manufactured Wilfred Hall Telescope, which was built in 1894 but despite its size Dan explained why it's only as powerful as one of the much smaller modern-day mirror telescopes. We were then taken to the second observatory dome which houses, by contrast, the state-of-the-art 0.7m Planewave CDK700 Telescope. This telescope was named the Moses Holden Telescope in honour of the local Astronomer Moses Holden. The Moses Holden telescope is the most modern telescope available in the UK and is used for both teaching and public outreach. Despite being operational for just over a year, the telescope has already distinguished itself by imaging planets, nebulae in the Milky Way, distant galaxies and even confirming the presence of a planet orbiting a nearby star! Please scroll down to see a video of the telescope in action and Dan showing us some images the telescope has taken so far...
Our visit was finished off back in the warmth of the Planetarium, with Dan and Jordan taking us on a virtual journey of the galaxy. We learned all about the constellations which are visible in the night sky and the Greek mythology behind some of their names.
The last question of the evening was "please can we stay just a little bit longer" which summed up perfectly how we all felt.
A big thank you to Jordan and Dan at UCLAN for such an amazing evening - you definitely inspired some budding Astronomers at the ASJ Scout Group!
Our guide, Dan, showing us the state-of-the-art Moses Holden telescope...