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Coll and the Cosmos
The logo on the cover of Coll and the Cosmos for Carers, by Paul Middleton
Image Credit: Paul Middleton

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Coll and the Cosmos

Stargazing with Care for Carers

Image Credit: Paul Middleton

A beautiful logo from a booklet made to celebrate a Care for Carers trip to the Isle of Coll – a tangible indication of the effectiveness of one of the RAS200 outreach projects discussed at Burlington House last week.

Representatives of the organisations funded by the Royal Astronomical Society as part of the Bicentenary outreach project RAS200: Sky & Earth met at Burlington House in London last week, to share plans and learn from others' experiences.

The day at Burlington House was inspirational, a mix of getting to know the partner organisations funded earlier this year and hearing about progress from those who have been working with the RAS since 2015. But the best bit for me was receiving a copy of a beautiful booklet made by Paul Middleton, who visited the Isle of Coll on an Astronomy short break, set up by the charity Care for Carers. Care for Carers received funding in the first round of awards as part of RAS200 to develop astronomy as part of their programme of short breaks and activities for carers in Scotland. With the help of RAS Fellows, Cosmos Planetarium and Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, astronomy has begun to be part of the events and activiites that this group uses to support carers. 

The trips to the Isle of Coll provide a chance to star-gaze under dark skies, as well as explore the beaches and the Hebridean landscape. The booklet that Paul has made shows the group enjoying exploring the island and its inhabitants (including alpacas), finding out about the skies and even launching their own rockets. There are lots  of images showing the participants relaxing and having fun, with a focus on astronomy. And Paul has produced an apt logo, combining ideas about the observer's eye, telescope optics and C for Coll, with a hint of ancient stonework about it – a very attractive summary of the visit. But this best thing about this pleasing booklet is what it means: these few days were a memorable experience for the participants, something worth celebrating. As Paul Middleton, the author, puts it "If you are at all curious about the vast universe in which we find ourselves, this is the programe for you".  His booklet is a welcome sign of the positive impact of this project on the people taking part.

What Caring for Carers are finding is that people get bitten by the astronomy bug through their events, and go on to discover more about it. One carer has bought a telescope to use with her grandchildren; another now makes of point of taking a break in the garden on clear nights, and tracking the constellations and planets through the seasons. Astronomy can be a rewarding hobby at home, whether it is observing in the back garden, reading ideas about the universe on-line or catching up by email with friends made on the Isle of Coll. It is also an interest that can fit alongside caring responsibilities and open a window on the wider world. 



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