Well, I survived another Kielder Star Camp. In our last thrilling episode, you may recall, our visit to Northumberland coincided with a hurricane, or at least the tail-end of one and I spent a memorable and very long, very sleepless night sheltering in the ‘warm room’, lying on the floor beside Jess to keep her safe and calm while gale force winds battered the campsite, almost bending the trees over as they blew down the field. This time, there was no hurricane, thankfully, but the ‘Beast from the East’ came to call and by the weekend, after the first blizzard, the campsite resembled an astronomical Narnia; when I emerged from my Pod (no tent or folding camper this time... long story...) I half-expected to find a snow-covered Aslan waiting impatiently outside for me and Mr. Tumnus skipping across the bridge carrying a telescope.

Snow is very pretty and exciting at first and for a few hours, everyone looks at it and smiles, wistfully remembering the Lord of the Flies savagery of school snowball fights and losing all feeling in their fingers as they made a snowman but once you're grown-up the novelty wears off quite quickly, especially when it means there is no chance whatsoever of seeing any stars in the sky at a Star Camp you've travelled over 100 miles to get to and have looked forward to for

6 months. In past years, I have enjoyed Star Camps blessed with several clear nights; over the four nights I was at Kielder in March this year, I managed to see stars in the sky for around an hour... spread over those four nights. Typically, I come away from Kielder with several hundred photos of star clusters, nebulae and the Milky Way to process. This time I had only a few dozen to go through and most of those were scenic shots showing my Pod covered with snow and a couple of stars peeking through a gap in the milky cloud above it. I took more photos of my meals, down in the pub than I did of the night sky.

It does make amateur astronomers like me wonder sometimes if birdwatching, trainspotting or watching paint dry would be better use of our time.

But then... as if to make amends, as if to accept it has been taking the mickey too much and has pushed us to our limits, the Universe takes pity on us and throws us a bone.

Recently, the planets Mars and Saturn have been having a very close encounter of the celestial kind in the morning sky. Like a daring Red Arrows fly-by, their respective orbits have made them appear to be moving towards each other although in reality, they are a long, long


Beth Thompson 01900 816368 07729 434 948

way apart. I've missed almost all of their beautiful ‘conjunction’ because of the weather, up at Kielder and elsewhere. I was beginning to think I'd miss the whole thing, that by the time my sky cleared they would have drifted well apart. On Saturday morning when I looked out my window at 5am I could see the Moon, so I knew the planets were visible too. I dressed quickly, grabbed my camera gear and headed across the road to the park - to find the Moon shining close to Mars and Saturn right above the tower of Kendal Parish Church. It was a beautiful scene and I was set up and photographing it within moments.

As my camera clicked away, I stood there, on my own, in the mud, on a freezing cold morning, with not another soul around, just looking at the wonderful display. Gloriously- ringed Saturn, a butterscotch and cheesecake- coloured world, shining *this* close to my beloved Mars, world of Everest-dwarfing volcanoes and Grand Canyon-shaming chasms, with the silvery Moon close by.

And that’s why I still do this and will never stop!

Stuart Atkinson

Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal

Cockermouth Golf Club 2018 TRIAL MEMBERSHIP

Cockermouth Golf Club is offering trial memberships to anyone taking up the game. This offer is available during the period 26th April

until 30th June

The total cost for anyone wishing to take up this offer will be £60.00 for three months

Could readers who are interested please contact one of the following members who will be delighted to answer any queries and will arrange for an application form to be completed

Geoff Bartle 017687 76223 & 07592 314228 Steve Hornsby 017687 76941 & 07775 337272

Hurry up and sign up for this fantastic offer and enjoy our wonderful golf course and all it has to offer!

New young juniors can come and try out ‘Golf on Saturday Mornings’ 9.30am - 10.30am. We can supply golf clubs and balls...

just come and try for no cost! NEW CLUB CATEGORIES

Young Adult Membership: age 18 to 21: £100 Young Adult Membership: age 22 to 25: £200 Young Adult Membership: age 26 to 29: £300


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