This morning (after watching From the Earth to the Moon last night until silly o'clock) I did an "Ask an Astronomer" session in the office when Mike, our site manager, brought his diving club round the Observatory. They asked quite a few questions and seemed quite interested which is always good. When they went off to take a look in the control room, I finished installing the last part of a 1/250th scale model of a NASA Deep Space Network tracking antenna, the plans for which can be found at JPL, which I started building while waiting for New Horizons to launch the other day.
After they left I wandered over to the visitor centre and found that they were very busy which is great to see as winter is usually a very quiet season. (There is a book of old press cuttings in the library here which show that when the site was first opened to the public on open days in 1965 there was so much interest that 5,500 people were turning up on some days and there were huge traffic jams blocking the local roads for miles!) I figured it was a perfect opportunity for some guerilla astronomy, so I offered to do an Ask an Astronomer session for them as well. Normally these sessions only run during the school holidays when it is busy, but there were enough visitors to make it worthwhile today. The 3D theatre was full and the audience were very talkative (they even laughed at my jokes, very unusual!), one of them came to talk to me afterwards and had loads more questions. As much as I hate public speaking, it is great when people really take an interest.
The weather had been nice all day so I left fairly early to have dinner, the plan being to come back and get out the telescope when the atmosphere had settled down a bit. As I cycled back down the road to the Observatory earlier I had to try hard to concentrate on the road as the Milky Way was quite prominant overhead. I got out the telescope and assembled it on the roof while Andy, this evening's controller, kindly turned off the floodlights. I left the 'scope outside to cool while I went to put on some extra layers and get a cup of tea. By the time I got back outside the stars were fading rapidly and within ten minutes it was foggy enough that the top of the telescope was starting to disappear. Grrrr. Hopefully everyone out there in blog-land is having better weather...