Who’d have thought broad daylight would be a good time to look at the stars?
Well, it’s not exactly. On this slightly cloudy Saturday afternoon, on the hilltop outside Boston Castle in Rotherham, it’s actually the sun we’ve gathered to take a closer look at.
The family and I are three of about a hundred people, including lots of families, who’ve turned up for ‘Reach For the Skies’ - a fun day hosted by Swinton and Mexborough Astronomical Society.
Imogen is one of the youngest to take to the impressive portable telescope, and - at two years old - struggles to master the art of closing one eye to look through the end. But she’s just excited to be at a castle and enjoys running around the green embankments, hoping to sneak a peek of Cinderella and Prince Charming, while I take a turn at the telescope. It’s an incredible sight.
“We had no idea how many people were going to turn up,” says the astronomical society’s chairman, Les Marsden.
“We’ve had so many children coming along with their parents, and they’ve been loving checking out the sky, and the sun. I think everybody is a little fascinated by what’s out there so it’s a great family activity.”
Les and his team show me the filter on the end of the telescope which makes the sun safe for viewing, blocking out an incredible 99.9 per cent of its powerful rays.
“There’s so much to see in the sky at this time of year,” adds committee member Phil Muffett.
“Today we’ve had the telescope configured for solar viewing, but Mars looks great at this time of year, really nice and bright, and there’s Uranus and Neptune, and the moon of course, plus lots of constellations and stars and - last month - the incredible Perseid meteor shower.
“We’ve also been up on the roof with binoculars and a telescope showing people all the local landmarks, as well as pointing out our observatory in Hoober, Rotherham.
“Downstairs Boston Castle has been hosting crafts for children, helping them to make space shuttles and rockets. It’s been a fantastic day.”
The society hosts regular fun days just like this and, next month on October 8, they will be visiting RSPB at the Old Moor Reserve, in Wath, to host a family stargazing evening, with all proceeds going to charity.
“There’ll be a guided walk to see the birds coming in to roost at sunset,” says Les.
“And then as the skies darken, we’ll lift our gaze skywards to watch the stars come out.”
Call RSPB on 01226 751593 to book your family’s place.