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Star gazing at West Ham Park worth braving the cold

12:06 04 March 2014

Nicky Brown, left, Lyndsay Jones, and  Shaan Johal look at the stars in West Ham Park.

Nicky Brown, left, Lyndsay Jones, and Shaan Johal look at the stars in West Ham Park.

Archant

March 1 to 8 is National Astronomy Week and to find out more reporter Kay Atwal spent an evening at West Ham Park star gazing.

Although I wasn’t sure how much we would see, my daughter Shaan and I arrived at the park in Upton Lane, wrapped up warm and armed with the binoculars I have had since I was a teenager. I have used them on and off to teach my children about the moon and stars I wasn’t sure they would be strong enough to show us anything of value.

Once at the park we met Sue Banks, support officer at the park and Lyndsay Jones who was going to lead the star gazing session.

Sue Banks told me that although it was the first time the park was holding the event, it was fully booked within 24 hours of its announcement.

And despite the fact that it was cold, cloudy and a school night the park’s office quickly filled up with keen youngsters accompanied by parents and other grown ups.

Lindsay, who is fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, briefly took us through the night sky, pointing out which planets and constellations we were hoping to see. Among them were Jupiter, the constellations Orion‘s belt, Castor, Pollux and the one that almost every child is taught to spot, the Plough. The one that I was most excited to see, which Lyndsay described as “a fuzzy cloud”, was a nebula. It is a region of gas and dust in space where new stars are being formed or the remains of dead or dying stars.

Once outside we spotted Jupiter, known as the gas giant and the largest planet in our solar system. As we moved into a clear patch of the park and as our eyes became accustomed (in a matter of minutes) to the dark we spotted the North Star, another star called Sirius which 8.6 light years from Earth and to my surprise the nebula. At this point it was difficult to tell who was most excited- me or my daughter. Even the numb fingers were worth it.

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