Wycombe Astronomical Society
Latest News & reports -2011
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
On Saturday 22nd October 2011 Sarah and I went to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Harwell Oxford for a series of astronomy lectures. The event was given the title “Communicating Astronomy.”
A welcome and introduction was given by Chris Hooker the Chairman of Newbury Astronomical Society who presented the day in conjunction with the Science & Technology Facilities Council.
The morning session consisted of 3 lectures as follows:-
From Galaxy Zoo to the Zooniverse – by Dr. Robert Simpson (Zooniverse)
The Universe in the classroon – Dr. Sarah Roberts (Faulkes Telescope Project)
Solar Stormwatch – saving Planet Earth through Citizen Science – Dr. Chris Davis (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory)
We had a lunch break in the excellent restaurant facilities, and visited the exhibition area where there were exhibits by Newbury Astronomical Society, the Campaign for Dark Skies with Mr. Bob Lambourne, and a Stargazing Live stand. We met Nigel from WAS, who sat with us for the remaining lectures.
The lectures in the first part of the afternoon were :-
Dark Sky Discovery – a new project for communities to discover the night sky Jo Lewis (SE co-ordinator, Dark Sky Discovery)
Astronomy communication through printed media – Dr. Emily Baldwin (Astronomy Now Magazine)
Working with the best prop in the world – Dr. Jenny Shipway (INTECH)
We then had a short tea break, followed by the remaining lecture.
Middlemarch, Einstein and the Barmaid – Professor Mike Edmunds (Cardiff University)
The closing remarks and vote of thanks was given by Chris Hooker (Newbury AS), and the meeting ended at about 5pm.
It was an enjoyable day, and well worth the visit.
Autumn News from Wycombe Astronomical Society
It’s been a busy few months for Wycombe Astronomical Society. In September we had a change of venue for our main monthly lecture evenings. We are now located at Holmer Green Upper School and this has allowed us to return to our normal Wednesday evening slot. The hall that we use is well equipped and there is ample parking.
The first lecture held at the new venue was given by Alistair Grieve, member of WAS. Alistair took us on a guided tour of the Multi Purpose Arecibo Radio Telescope. This was an informative lecture, which started with a video clip of Piece Brosnan and Sean Bean rolling around in the radio dish (from the James Bond Movie). Alistair was able to give us many interesting facts and figures relating to the telescope and we were able to hear part of the radio message broadcast to outer space to inform other beings about us. This was a well-attended meeting and an informative talk, which generated lots of interesting questions.
October was our Annual General Meeting. This was well attended by the members. All the current committee members agreed to stay on the committee for another year and two new members were invited onto the committee to help out with the increasing workload that the society generates. For a full account of the AGM please see Jans report.
One discussion that came up at the AGM was the possibility of a society trip to go and see the Aurora Borealis. As a result of this a trip has now been booked and 14 members are booked up to go next March. The trip is for 5 nights and is in Finland at 68 degrees latitude. We have aurora watching trips booked for each night and there are a variety of day activities that can be undertaken as well. The hotel, The Nellim Wilderness Hotel, is in the middle of nowhere and so observing the lights should be a real treat. If the trip proves successful then we may look into another one towards the end of 2012 or early 2013 when solar activity will still be high. If you would like to see where we are going look at or
Our vice President Bob Lambourne returned to us in November to provide WAS with another very interesting talk. Titled Irregular Astronomy Bob took us on a history tour of the ancient astronomers and their work looking for irregularities and regularities within the solar system and universe. This was another well-attended lecture and was appreciated by all who listened.
The photographic competition has gone from strength to strength with some excellent photographs being entered into both categories. The overall winners of the beginners and advanced groups will be announced at the Christmas meeting and the “trophies” will be handed out.
If you haven’t already put your name down for the Christmas bash please do – it isn’t too late! This year we are doing it slightly differently. WAS will purchase the food and drinks and we are asking £2 from each member to contribute towards the festivities. The bumper raffle will go ahead as usual and there are some great prizes to be won.
Dramatic music and graphics opened the “Mars Odyssey” lecture given by Mr. Andrew Lound to our Society on Thursday evening 21st July in Woodrow Sports Hall. Andrew is well known to us through his past lectures as a colourful character who always dresses for the part he is playing. He has many interests, and is a Lecturer, Broadcaster, Writer and Astronomer.
He started his talk on Mars by giving us a history of the planet, its myths and legends, and its connection to famous names such as Winston Churchill, Napoleon, Hitler and Alexander the Great, who were all thought to have been born under the influence of Mars the God of War. He then went on to talk about the contributions of the 16th to 20th Century astronomers such as Nicolas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, Christian Huygens, Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton, Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell, who all made their contributions in various ways to the evolution on the thinking and science of Mars.
Christiaan Huygens was first to see and draw features on Mars, and worked out that it moved on its axis over an approximate 24 hour rotation period.
The Americans funded a Radio Transmitter using a Nikola Tesla coil on a Radio Transmitter that Marconi used on his ship the Electra, to listen for ET through background radiation, although he didn’t know what the sound was.
The tabloid newspapers and Pathfinder magazine put forward theories that Mars was signalling to the earth in the 1920s’ but astronomers stayed away from the controversy on this. Other magazines showed rockets reaching Mars in the form of cartoons. We also saw the Birds Custard advertisement showing an image of an Astronomer Royal looking at Mars through a telescope.
“The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells was one of the many radio plays that stirred up fear about their being Aliens visiting the earth. Public interest later turned to films and the play was later made into a film which was the start of the Sci-Fi era. Flash Gordon was one of the first television series in the 1980s’. In 1945 came the first “bomb”, the first artificial satellite was launched, and Russia put the first man into space in 1961.
There have been many missions to Mars. In 1967 the Viking 1 and 2 Orbiters took soil samples, returned orbital images of the polar caps, and showed the now inactive volcano of Olympus Mons and dry river valleys. The probes also monitored the weather showing frost, and very cold temperatures from -35° to -140°. Mariner 9 in 1971 took 22 images before it failed, and Pathfinder in 1997 was the first probe to land on the planet.
We also heard about the failed probes, i.e. the American Mars Observer in 1993 took one photograph and then blew up. The two Russian probes, and the British Beagle 2 mission which lost radio contact with earth.
We saw the original image of the famous “Face on Mars”, which was a trick of the light, but later images from the Mars Express and Mars Global Surveyor cameras in 2006 showed the true geology of the image as being a hill with rock formations.
We saw more recent images of Mars from the Mars Odyssey (launched in 2001 and the longest running mission) and from the Hubble Space Telescope, and were given 3D glasses to see the amazing features. We could see water erosion, where frost and thaw caused rock to fall and cracks to form, giving evidence of acquifers beneath the surface and possible microbial life. There were stunning craters, sand dunes and old volcanoes. It would appear that Mars has much to offer in the future.
Andrew gave us a very exciting insight into the planet, and some of the secrets it may hold, and he believes that in the future teams from different countries will combine to explore it further.
Jackie thanked Andrew, and told us that he has promised to come back in March 2012 to give us another of his “Odyssey Class” lectures, this time on the “Titanic.”
Tea and Coffee was available.
Chris Rowland our Observatory Manager and Glider Pilot, very kindly organised another Glider evening for members on Wednesday 27th July 2011 at Wycombe Air Park.
The weather was ideal for gliding, with some cloud and a very light northerly breeze. Ten of our members came, including one member with his wife, and those who flew enjoyed their flight. When the flights were over we towed the two gliders across the airfield into the hanger, and then all went to the Harvester Inn at Marlow Bottom for a meal, which rounded off an excellent evening.
Chris has arranged the gliding event for several years now, and we would like to thank him for continuing to do so, as we look forward to it each year.
WAS Christmas Social
This years Christmas social was a well-attended and enjoyable evening. It was held at Holmer Green School and instead of a "Dutch supper" we decided that the society would purchase the food with each member contributing £2. This proved to be successful and a nice spread of food and drinks were available.
Jan provided an astronomy quiz and we were able to get together about 10 teams, each with four members. Richard also contributed to the quiz evening with a word search. The last remaining letters spelled out "lets go observing" which a few of the teams managed to work out before the end of the evening.
We had a successful raffle with many prizes - including three copy's of Brian Cox's "Wonders of the Universe", chocolates and wine.
It was also an evening for prize giving. Sandy Giles was given a certificate for completing the WAS 50 project and Morton Hardaker and Pat Clough were the ultimate winners of the WAS photographic competition. Morton won the beginners section and Pat the advanced. The photographic competition has proved to be a real success and we hope that it has inspired more members to have a go next year (details are on the website)
The Nellim aurora trippers were also able to get together for a quick meeting to discuss some of the activities that they can do. It looks like Husky sledging and snow-mobiling are on the cards!
On behalf of all of the committee at WAS I would like to wish all of our members a very happy New Year with lots of clear skies and good observing (and of course great Auroral displays….please!)
Waiting to be eaten
Sandy receives his Certificate
General view of the party
Morton receives his Trophy
>> Go to the 2012 page <<
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