An Evening of Stargazing

On Monday 11th February, the Rumble Museum at Cheney held its first ever Stargazing Event. The evening started at 5pm when around 70 visitors followed a chalk star and planet trail through the school site to L1. Professor Allan Chapman, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and author of many History of Science books, delivered an animated and highly engaging talk on the planets of the solar system, explaining the fascinating and peculiar elements of their atmospheres, for example the acidic environment of Venus and the composition of Saturn’s rings. He also spoke of how his wonder for the planets and stars started at a very early age where he made his own telescope.

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After some questions from the audience, everyone was invited to step outside to take a look at the evening sky through three telescopes which were set up and waiting, one by the University of Oxford’s Physics Department, one by a local enthusiast John Fathers, and one by Professor Chapman himself. The sky became clearer as the evening went on and visitors were able to get a stunning view of the moon as well as Mars. The owners of the three telescopes spent the evening talking to visitors while they enjoyed views of the sky.

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While all this was going on outside, there were a range of activity stalls inside run by a team of Year Eight Classics and Museum students. Making constellation charts, painting galaxies and planets, exploring ancient and recent astronomy artefacts, lucky dip questions, face-painting and astronomy themed bracelets, and paper orreries were among the stalls on offer. The University of Oxford’s Physics Department ran their own information stall with a range of interesting astronomical material and equipment to explore.

Finally, there were themed refreshments, as well as cups of tea and coffee available throughout the evening.

It was a very exciting event, and we are very grateful indeed to Allan, the University of Oxford’s Physics Department team Ben, Kate-Louise and Sian, John Fathers, and our Year Eight volunteers for all their time and energy in making it a special evening for everyone who came.

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