The fortuitous clear skies on the evening of Monday 16th January allowed the highly successful “Jupiter Watch”, held in front of the Lanyon building at Queen's University Belfast as part of the BBC's Stargazing Live season.
The event, hosted by the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) in association with the Irish Astronomical Association (IAA), was a resounding success, with estimates of more than 600 members of the public attending to view the largest planet in our Solar System, Jupiter, along with four of its brightest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Attendees ranged from young to old, from dedicated amateur astronomers to curious passers-by, and all braved the cold conditions to wait with patience to view through one of the many telescopes erected in the square. Interest waned only when clouds encroached upon the clear skies over Belfast well past 9 pm.
Many people expressed wonderment at having the opportunity to view another planet in our Solar System in such detail, indeed, many of the telescopes erected were capable of resolving the well-known Jovian moons and atmospheric banded structure of Jupiter. There were about half a dozen telescopes present, from a 5 inch refractor, to 6 inch Schmidt Cassegrain through to a substantial 16 inch Dobsonian mounted reflector.
Members of ARC and IAA were on hand throughout the night to help operate the telescopes and answer any questions from the public regarding Jupiter, the Solar System or astronomy in general.