Spot planets and star clusters at a free stargazing event celebrating Bodmin Moor International Dark Sky Landscape

There’s an opportunity to spot planets and star clusters at an event celebrating the incredibly dark night sky of Bodmin Moor.  The stargazing event will be led by Caradon Observatory and takes place on Saturday 21 October at Jamaica Inn.

The event is one of a series showcasing the exceptional quality of the night sky over Bodmin Moor, which was designated as an International Dark Sky Landscape in July after a successful bid by Cornwall Council and Caradon Observatory.

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The dark sky evening on 21 October will be in two parts. At 7.00pm there will be a dinner – carvery and dessert for £15.00 per person. Please call Jamaica Inn on 01566 86250 to book. This will be followed by a free stargazing session at 8.30pm, which is open to everyone. 

The dinner event will include an introduction to Bodmin Moor’s International Dark Sky Landscape designation and a talk on Neptune and the Cornishman John Couch Adams, who predicted the planet’s existence in the 1800s based on irregularities in the motion of Uranus. John Couch Adams initially worked out the calculations in his head before committing them to paper, where they took up some 20 sheets. There will also be an opportunity to see Neptune and its moon Triton illustrated on the Magic Planet, an interactive globe that depicts the topography of planets.

The free stargazing session will start at 8.30pm with a chance to chat with the astronomers. People should wrap up warm and keep their fingers crossed for clear skies. Outside observing will begin from 9.00pm. There will be an array of telescopes for viewing the night sky, including a 12 inch telescope on loan from First Light Optics in Exeter. At twilight Saturn will be a few degrees above the southwest horizon.  Neptune will be due south at around 10.00pm.  Although much smaller than the major gas giants when viewed through a telescope, it will still be visible as a blue disk. Weather permitting, there should also be a chance to see the Andromeda galaxy, a star cluster or two and the beautiful double star, Albireo, at the head of Cygnus, the swan constellation.

Mike Willmott, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Association and Caradon Observatory’s Director with Responsibility for Theoretical Astronomy and Education, said: “Everyone is welcome to join us for this opportunity to view the stars and planets from one of the darkest areas of night sky in the country. The main focus of the evening will be on the discovery of Neptune, and the work of Cornishman John Couch Adams. In 1845, he used mathematics to predict the position of a new planet which would explain the observed irregularities in the position of Uranus.

“If it’s a clear night, there’ll be the chance to look through telescopes, or to look at the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest spiral galaxy and the most distant object you can view with the naked eye. If it’s cloudy, you’ll still be able to enjoy talks about the wonders of our universe and to put your questions to the astronomers.”

Sue James, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, said: “Supported by the Cornwall Local Plan, Bodmin Moor’s International Dark Sky Landscape status helps to protect its exceptionally dark and clear skies from light pollution, providing excellent viewing conditions for amateur stargazers, astronomers and astrophysicists.  One of Cornwall Council’s priorities is to work towards a green and prosperous Cornwall, where we both protect the environment and create jobs. Our support for projects like this is a clear indicator of our commitment.

“Bodmin Moor is the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to become an International Dark Sky Landscape, and its dark night sky is just as much of an asset as its beautiful and rugged scenery. Other areas with Dark Sky designations have seen a growing trend in dark sky tourism that we hope will be replicated here, particularly during the darker autumn and winter months.”

To book a place at the dinner event, ring Jamaica Inn on 01566 86250. There’s no need to book in advance for the free stargazing, and people are welcome to drop in from 8.30pm.         

More information about Bodmin Moor’s International Dark Sky Landscape designation is available on our dark sky page.

Story posted 9 October 2017