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Angela Thompson (Membership Secretary)
5th February 2005
Once again there was a popular response to a star watch event at Treborth, and this time it benefited from the expert contributions of several members of the Gwynedd Astronomical Society, who kindly enabled Friends to find and, view a wide range of celestial objects.
Despite only intermittently clear conditions most of the 45 attendees viewed at least one of the following fine objects through binoculars or high powered telescopes: Saturn, M42 in Orion, the Beehive Cluster, the constellations Gemini, Taurus, Perseus, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, Canis Major, Leo and finally Comet Machholz. Undeterred by cloud the meeting adjourned to the lab where one of the Astronomical Society members delivered a highly informative slide show on the structure of galaxies. It gave everyone a chance to warm up and enjoy some refreshment too.
Orion is the most obvious constellation at this time of the year as it hangs proudly in the southern sky. As well as several bright stars, most notably Rigel (910 light years away), and Betelgeuse (310 light years away), it contains the so called Great Nebula ( known also as M42), a luminous interstellar cloud of gas (hydrogen and helium) and dust, stretching 15 light years across and at an estimated distance of 1,500 light years from Earth. This is one of countless regions of our Galaxy where stars are born and images of M42 taken by the Hubble Telescope are amongst the most dramatic and colourful views of space we have. In binoculars M42 appears as a distinctly greenish fuzzy patch. One light year by the way is the distance travelled by light in one year and is approximately 6 million million miles!