Toner Stevenson with Dr Kevin Fewster, Director of the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum. Image and copyright Toner Stevenson ©, all rights reserved
A visit to Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory is always special. Today (Thursday 24 March 2011) was even more so. First I had meetings with two ex-Powerhouse Museum/Sydney Observatory people: Dr Kevin Sumption, who is responsible for the exhibition program and the grand new extension to the Maritime Museum which opens in July, followed by a discussion of Observatory matters over lunch with Dr Kevin Fewster, Director of the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum (pictured).
After the meetings I was shown the collections from James Cook’s voyages including the logbook, compass, the original quadrant from the first voyage (a replica is on display in Sydney Observatory), and many other heritage collections which have a special relationship to Australia. I then climbed the daffodil-covered hill to the Observatory to visit the contemporary astronomy exhibits, the heritage buildings and the instruments that were important in the development of timekeeping and our understanding of the Solar System.
A sundog over the Thames. Image and copyright Toner Stevenson ©, all rights reserved
The grand finale of the day was viewing a sundog from the return ferry ride on the river Thames. I was alerted to the sundog phenomenon by astronomer Les Dalrymple via the blog a few weeks ago who gave a full explanation of a sight that can be puzzling. Known scientifically as parhelions these phantom suns appear when there are cold cirrus clouds full of ice crystals in the atmosphere. This effect moved from one side of the Sun to the other within a space of a few minutes before disappearing.
Toner Stevenson, Sydney Observatory manager on leave in the UK