And it’s a farewell from Starry Steve…

Astronomer Steve Pond was thrilled that Sussex had its first astronaut in Major Tim Peake

Above: Starry Steve Pond living every minute when Sussex astronaut Major Tim Peake was blasted into space – do try this at home

AS these articles for East Grinstead Online come to an end I want to thank you all for having read them over the past almost two years – the feedback has been much appreciated. It has also been lovely to meet readers in person at various public observing events around the town or when you have introduced yourselves to me in the aisles of local supermarkets and other places around East Grinstead (my door is always open, as the saying goes).

In the time that I’ve been writing these articles there has been so much happening in the sky above us: from close encounters between planets (and other planets) and the Moon as conjunctions occurred, the seasonal sky as it progressed through the year, the constellations which came and went, and the times of great excitement as Mankind further explored the solar system are just a few that come to mind…

9fa5747d-060e-44d1-aca3-edb30e836277

Pluto image NASA

But of all I’ve written about, for me the most awe inspiring event was New Horizon’s flyby of Pluto in July of last year. Rather than go into facts and figures I’d rather just leave you with these two images from the event.

Above is our first-ever close-up image of the dwarf planet taken just a day before the closest encounter. An amazing image of an object that for all of us had just been a bright spot of light out in the depths of the solar system until that moment. Even the mighty Hubble space telescope only showed an object with various shades of dark or darker, on it. Nobody had a clue what to expect so this image took everybody’s breath away.

 

Only hours after its closest encounter New Horizons travelled through Pluto’s shadow, at this point it turned to capture an image of this event. The surface might be in darkness but the image was just as spectacular as the first one we looked at. The light from the Sun was caught passing through a haze that surrounded the dwarf planet, something nobody had expected.

42abe32b-c23a-43b6-a5aa-886f2d914ff9Pluto Backlit image NASA

New Horizons, as I write this, is continuing to send back information as it will do for the two hundred days, and still the surprises are coming in.

The New Horizons mission is proof of just what we as a species can do when we really put our mind to it and channel our efforts to good effect, especially when we read the or watch the news these days and see what is happening across the world. That’s something worth remembering next time you look upwards at the sky, above East Grinstead.

A big thank you to East Grinstead Online for publishing these articles, and for all you have contributed to the life of our town. It’s been great, and you will be missed.

If you would like to continue to be kept up to date with events occurring in the sky above East Grinstead, and astronomical news of matters further afield then you can at:

Facebook group: Above East Grinstead https://www.facebook.com/groups/630839200303198/

@aboveeg

Or I can be contacted on aboveeastgrinstead@hotmail.co.uk

Happy observing, and may clear skies always continue to come your way,

Steve Pond

 

 

March 31st, 2016 by