I am going to change things round, nothing major, just swapping my plastic shed at the top of the garden for the larger wooden shed next to the house. The main reason for the change is that I don’t like going to the top of the garden to observe because a neighbours’ lights interfere, erecting a tarpaulin each time is a pain in the neck and, also, there is not much room at the top of the garden because it narrows considerably so I end up trampling my aunt’s plants in the dark and I have also stepped in the pond on a couple of occasions! Fortunately the pond is only a foot or so deep.
I have always preferred observing on the lower lawn, although I have a better view of the sky from the upper lawn, I am not easily spooked or anything like that, it is just a matter of preference and neighbours’ lights aren’t so much of an issue on the lower lawn.
The big shed, which has a tiny, lean-to one next to it, is supposedly my aunt’s gardening shed but, in reality, is actually used as a dumping ground for stuff we don’t want. It’s full of things which need taking to the tip and, once that is cleared out, de-spidered (very important this, as I am a card-carrying arachnophobe) and repainted I can move my stuff into it. Apart from my scope and other astronomical items, it will also house my surfboards and the sun loungers.
This isn’t actually my idea, my aunt suggested swapping sheds as she pointed out, the wooden shed – which is a proper wooden shed, like a summerhouse, not that cheap ship-lap rubbish – will be much better for my scope than keeping it in the plastic shed which is poorly insulated and I don’t think it’s doing my 18″ mirror any good. The plastic shed also sometimes leaks slightly when it rains, due to the rain blowing in through the vents. And one more thing – I won’t be worrying that the shed will blow down every time a storm comes along!
Apart from the clear out of clutter, dirt and spiders plus the repainting, the other thing that has to be done is getting a ramp. The shed has a step up to it because it is built up off the ground to avoid damp and to prevent mice and rats getting in so, after making various measurements, I have ordered a wheelchair ramp which can be fixed to the step as and when needed. I chose a wheelchair ramp because these are both easy to get, not horribly expensive and what is safe for a person will definitely be safe for my big telescope.
This shows the current state of the inside of the wooden shed! All this stuff is destined for the tip, and just dumped in the shed to get it out of the way. There’s a large television lurking among that stuff somewhere!
Bringing my observing spot back down nearer to the house will also mean more sessions. Apart from the neighbours lights being a pain in the arse, I developed an aversion to going to the top of the garden to observe. Don’t ask me why, it just is. I think it’s because I felt overlooked, despite the fact my spot can’t be seen either from the neighbours’ house or from the footpath that separates the respective gardens, especially in the dark – and the footpath is another factor. The photo below is the neighbours’ house, as seen from my current observing spot, with the offending window; they also have an annoying insecurity light they put on for their dogs.
I also won’t have to lug my other equipment (eyepieces, books, dew zappers, etc) up the garden either. It can just be placed outside or stored in the shed.
Changing the subject somewhat, in the news this week, depending on which source you looked at (it was mostly reported on the BBC – interestingly it was only reported in the more left-wing liberal press) it was reported that the Arctic ice is melting at an ever-faster rate, meaning that it could possibly be all gone during the summer from 2030. This could have ramifications for the climate of Northern Europe because, as sod’s law would have it, it probably won’t improve and become a nicer Mediterranean climate, it will instead become stormier, resulting in more crap summers like the abomination of a ‘summer’ we endured this year. Scientists believe this will push the jet stream further south, allowing stormier weather in over northern Europe, which is precisely what happened this summer. This is worrying for the future of amateur astronomy in the UK, which is bad enough as it is but, that said, this is what *could* happen and not necessarily what *will* happen and, even so, we should still get enough clear nights – anyway, by 2030 (when I will be 60! 😮 ) I may well have cleared off to warmer climes.
Looking at my clear sky spreadsheet for this summer highlights just how bad summer 2012 was, with few clear nights. May was ok, despite the unsettled weather, June had four clear nights and two partly clear ones, July had 11 clear nights but August was the worst month, making dismal reading with a paltry ONE clear night and seven partly clear ones; this is highly unusual for August which is generally pretty good for observing. June I’m not too bothered about, as it’s too light to observe anyway, but it is usually our clearest month. Time will tell if this is an aberration or the sign of something more sinister.
We have had four clear nights so far in September but these have been marred by dew and fog. I set up the other night, only for everything to be soaked within a matter of minutes, overwhelming the dew zapping equipment and forcing me to quit before I’d even found my first object. Not only that, but mist also rolled in, making deep sky observing impossible.