The 2nd Holywood scout troop completed their astronomer badge in December 2019, with Prof Smartt testing their knowledge of the solar system, showing them how to find asteroids and planets, and practical star finding.
The boys carried out the written project work required and on a clear Friday night in November they used a high power laser pointer to orientate themselves around the night sky. In their patrols, they had to spot Mars (bright red object in the south east) and find Polaris. These are essential expedition skills to find north when camping and hiking at night. During their camp in Castle Ward in November, the scout leaders were able to test what they had learned.
The troop leader, Greg Brennan, who has led 2nd Holywood for many years said “The boys really enjoy being outside, looking up on a dark night and understanding what they are looking at. We like to give them a useful life skill of knowing their way around the sky, finding directions, and being confident of their direction. We really appreciate Prof Smartt coming to see us and the questions, tasks and activities he gave the troop.”
Prof Smartt said “It's always wonderful to see the enthusiasm and desire for learning from the boys. I was impressed with the knowledge they had already and some of the written projects were excellent. I hope they will remember how to set their compass, recognise the night sky and set themselves confidently on a direction. Being too reliant on GPS and phones can be dangerous - signals are low in the Cairngorms and the Alps !”