Out of this world glimpses with Moonwatch at Rogate

The giant telescope in action at Rogate
The giant telescope in action at Rogate

DESPITE the challenges posed by passing clouds and the threat of rain, visitors to the Rogate Family Moonwatch hosted by the village’s recently-formed Community Sky Centre, had plenty of close-up glimpses of the vast mountains and craters on the moon.

Rogate recreation ground resounded to many excited ‘wows’ as Steve Broadbent from Hampshire Astronomical Group, the group’s astronomical advisers, and South Downs National Park (SDNP) dark skies officer Dan Oakley positioned their powerful telescopes so even the youngest visitors could see the details of ridges thrown into relief by the earth’s shadow passing across the moon’s surface.

Visitors were told some of the craters they saw were more than 150 miles wide.

Dan Oakley said: “The national park authority is happy to support the enthusiasm of communities taking pride in their 
dark skies.”

Warmed by mugs of hot chocolate, the group was then treated to a fact-filled power point presentation about the moon by Emsworth-based astronomy tutor Ninian Boyle, who answered many searching questions.

In 2015, Ninian will be training the Community Sky Centre’s first group of volunteers in telescope management so they can work with the public on the regular public observing evenings which are planned.

Ann Arnold and Roger Mowll of Rogate Youth Club, said they were delighted one of the small telescopes given to the project by parishioners would be kept in the youth club, so during the dark winter evenings ahead youngsters could start exploring the night skies.

Edward Doyle, rector of Rogate, said: “I feel so excited about the Community Sky Centre project. To live in the national park where there are dark skies and plenty of expertise around to help us understand more of our solar system will be a star attraction for our area in the years to come”.

Rogate Community Sky Centre has also attracted interested visitors from Milland, Fernhurst, Compton, Lodsworth and Petersfield.