Derek – Friday 6th November 2020

The rising numbers of coronavirus has necessitated a second lockdown for a month, starting yesterday. The community garden is not closing, though we will monitor the situation. The garden is, in effect, a small park, so visitors are allowed. There’s hand cleanser at the door, and we will take phone numbers, both of which we have been doing since re-opening in July.

Our opening hours remain: Friday and Saturday 10 to 3, Sunday 10 to 12.

The main change for us is that we can no longer allow groups to use the garden. In the past couple of months, we’ve had Woodcraft Folk, art classes, the WI and other groups using the garden. The rule of two means this is no longer allowable. A pity, but we must respect the law for all our benefits.

The Co-op has listed Forest Gate Community Garden as one of the groups to be funded in its local social fund. If you are a member, you have probably been sent an email asking you which group you wish to support. For every pound that you spend at the Co-op, 2p goes to your allocated cause. And those 2ps mount up. So do consider the garden in your choice of which group to support.

The last few days have been cold, with frosts in the mornings. Frosts come this time of year with clear nights, as without cloud cover more heat is lost from the earth’s surface. Clear nights, though, are great for stargazing. Even in Forest Gate, away from street lights and house lights, you can see the Square of Pegasus, Auriga the charioteer (with its bright star Capella), and late in the night the winter constellation Orion rising.

Near the Square of Pegasus, in the constellation of Andromeda, there’s the Andromeda galaxy. It is the only stellar object that we can see with the naked eye outside of the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Or would be able to see, if we didn’t live in a light polluted city. With binoculars, you can just about make it out as a cloudy smudge. The Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away from us, meaning we are seeing it as it was 2.5 million years ago, as that’s how long it takes for its light to reach us.

Various planets are visible in the night sky. Mars is at its closest for the next few weeks; you can see it mid evening in the south, a bright slightly red ‘star’. Jupiter and Saturn can be seen after sunset just west of south. Jupiter is one of the brightest, and often confused with Venus which is brighter still. Only the moon and sun are brighter stellar objects. Venus is best seen, these days, just before dawn (around 7 am). Later than that, you’d be hard pressed to see it at all. Though it is just about visible throughout the day, but you have to know exactly where to look as once the sun is up, it is the tiniest pinprick of light.

The Leonid meteor shower is due the middle of this month. That might have been an occasion for stargazing in the garden, but with lockdown that’s not on the cards. As an alternative, if the night is clear, I am thinking of going over the Flats on the 17th of this month around midnight, to look in the direction of the Leo constellation where the shooting star shower appears to emanate from. At midnight, Leo is on the eastern horizon on this date, not best placed, but it’s mid sky in the south around 6 am when it’s still dark. Not the choicest of times, either of them, chilly too, but shooting stars are free and there’s not a lot else to go out for.

I am still keeping an eye on our silver birch. The tree still has most of its leaves, with just a hint of them turning yellow. Hang on in there, Betula pendula.

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