Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival 2009

This was my first visit to Herstmonceux on the south coast near Hastings. I had heard so much about it and remember seeing the adverts for it last year, but I was still unsure if I wanted to drive for two and a half hours to get to the site, but I’m glad I made the visit.

After coming off of the M25 you are then driving a long a lot of tree covered single carriageway roads which have a lot of twists and turns, but once I had arrived I made out the numerous observatory domes immediately with the campsite right in front of the science centre.

Herstmonceux Domes and Tradestands

Luckily the weather was quite good, a little windy, but the telescopes on the Pulsar Optical tradestand did give visitors a view of the sun and the daytime moon.

The astronomy festival includes several tradestands from Ian King Imaging, Pulsar Optical, Telescope House and BBC Sky at Night Magazine as well as others. In a separate large tent was a collection of local astronomy societies as well as the SPA, which this year I actually joined for £12 for an annual membership which gets you a quarterly magazine, periodic newsletters and 5% discounts from astronomy retailers. They also provided me with a copy of the latest magazine, a pen and a red light pen once I joined.

The Herstmonceux site has 6 observatory domes, all were being used for various purposes during the day. One of the domes was being used for a very interesting exhibition of the history of the site underneath one of the telescopes. Another dome was the location for the talks during the day, again sitting underneath one of the telescopes. A third was open to viewing, the others were closed on the Saturday but open at other times during the weekend.

Herstmonceux Refractor Telescope in Dome E

Other amenities at the site included a beer tent, with a very nice Harvey’s bitter. There was also a canteen and lots of activities around the science centre. Herstmonceux does seem a perfect place for a school trip with a shop at the entrance and lots of science related activities in the centre.

I arrived at about the time Chris Lintott was speaking on Galaxy Zoo, but I did buy 3 lecture tickets for the afternoon, priced at £2 each. All three talks were very good, including:

  • Stuart Clark – “What’s Wrong with the Sun”
  • Ian Ridpath – “Exploring the Moon”
  • Nik Szymanek – “Imaging the Deep Sky”

One thing I must say though, is Nik please amend your talk, as I have now seen that same talk three times! Twice in Cambridge I think, and I did see your talk at the Bedford Astroblast, but at that you did do a slightly different talk.

I know it is difficult to gauge your audience at these events, but I would personally appreciate a slightly more technical talk on how to take the images like yours, instead of just going through the images you have taken and your Tenerife trips.

At the end of the day there was a raffle prize draw and then extra activities during the evening session, but I instead decided to leave at about 6.30pm,  but before I left I decided to walk down to the castle in order to get a few pictures of the very impressive castle and moat.

View all the photographs from Herstmonceux

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