A night of stargazing with Peebles astronomers

Jupiter, one of the planets under discussion on Saturday
Jupiter, one of the planets under discussion on Saturday

A new astronomy group is holding a stargazing and planetarium evening in Peebles on Saturday (March 8), as part of National Astronomy Week.

Set up by Dr Tom Johnston about six months ago, the Peebles Astronomy Group is using a mobile planetarium from the Royal Observatory for the Star Party and Planetarium Night at Kingsland Primary School.

Four of the six ‘tour of the sky’ planetarium shows are booked out in the Stobo Castle-sponsored event, the only one planned for astronomy week in the south of Scotland.

Dr Johnston said: “We anticipate several hundred folk will attend as it will appeal to a wide cross section of the public and all age ranges.

“We’ll be setting up telescopes in a dark area behind the school where the public can have, what will be for many, their first view through a ’scope.

“There’ll be various presentations and demonstrations running in the hall throughout the evening along with craft activities, quizzes, stalls, a raffle, food and refreshments.

“We’ll also have representatives from the Scottish Aeronautics and Rocketry Association along showing us their rockets.”

He explained: “The purpose is to help raise the profile of the hobby in the area and raise the public awareness about issues like light pollution, emphasising how fortunate we are to have such beautiful dark skies here in the Borders.

“We also hope to demonstrate to amateur astronomers from other parts of south and central Scotland that the Borders is an excellent venue for stargazing activities and offers excellent local amenities.”

Dr Johnston, a biochemist, took up astronomy about eight years ago: “It makes it seem more real when you are looking at a planet like Saturn or Jupiter, it’s there, the light is hitting you in the eye, it’s not just a picture in a book. When you think of the distances from these objects and the millions of years the light has taken to reach your eye: I think that really appeals to people.”