Monday, 21 September 2015

Solar Day - Newgale

The P.A.G. annual "solar day" was held at the lifesaving club premises at Newgale on Saturday 8th August from midday.
Our thanks to Roy for allowing us access to this venue yet again.

Below are a selection of pictures received - once again it appears to have been a successful event!

Thanks to Phil T for these pictures!

Friday, 4 September 2015

September Meeting - Solar Superstorms

24 of us attended the September meeting and at least another 8  would normally be there (by my reckoning!!) We average around 30 at the meetings so this was a good turn out for the 1st meeting since the August break.

Our container (rescued by Richard from an un-named venue in Haverfordwest) caused some interest early on. When the interior painting is complete it will be fully useable though we have already placed a few lumpy articles inside to save carting back and forth.
Phil has fixed up some interior lighting and arranged for a sturdy padlock - all useful additions.

We started a little late with Kim's look at "What's Up" in September.
Planets are in short supply this month - Saturn is  low down in the evening sky and for the early risers Venus is there.
Copernicus was the Moon crater considered and some deep sky areas were hilighted for globular clusters and the like. An unusually short one for Kim but he will make up for it!!
We really must mention the total lunar eclipse later this month. Sadly it's early morning but check out our Twitter site for more details or "google" it.

The main lecture covered by Mike was on the subject of "Solar Superstorms".
A scary insight into how dangerous our nearest star can be. The met office now has a dedicated site for this that is well worth keeping an eye on.

Around 8.45, miraculously, the sky had cleared somewhat and we set up binoculars and telecopes for a brief time.
Saturn was the easy target and low down so better for binocular viewing. The 25x 100's showed the ring system clearly to the delight of many.
We also managed to see M31, the Andromeda galaxy and the double cluster in Perseus.
Plenty of constellations were visible, Ursa Major, Hercules, Sagittarius, Ophiuchus (another of Kim's subjects, so good to have sight of), Bootes etc. etc.
Those that stayed had this extra treat - let's hope we have more clear skies on our meeting nights - it adds that extra ingredient that makes the evening worthwhile.

Next month the subject under consideration will be "Variable Stars" - join us if you can at our usual venue the Letterston Memorial Hall on Tuesday October 6th at 7.00 p.m.

Monday, 13 July 2015

July Meeting - Women in Astronomy

The July meeting was on our usual 1st Tuesday on the month - 7th July at 7.00pm at Letterston Memorial Hall.

We had 30 attending including at least 1 newcomer - Jasmine from Whitland. 
She has attended Swansea meetings but this time came straight to us from work - there's dedication for you!!

Here we have some of the early arrivers

Gladys is at the front along with her husband/taxi driver! - (that's what he calls himself).

We resurrected the notice boards for this meeting (though it had proved very useful during the Letterston Carnival a few weeks earlier also)

We really should take it to all meetings as it always has something of interest on it.

Now that we have a container (see forum) on site that should be more of a possibility!!

Jim, fresh from his holiday in Oz, commenced with the "What's Up" in July.

With little dark sky at this time of year actual astronomy is limited but for those that want to stay up late (or get up early) there are a few things visible.
One event Jim hilighted was the "New Horizons" probe to Pluto. When it left in 1996 Pluto was a fully fledged planet but then it was demoted and is now classified as a dwarf planet along with Ceres and a few others..
As I write this New Horizons is at its closest point (well, Tuesday actually)  to Pluto, taking pictures of the dwarf planet and its 5 moons, which will surely delight us in the months to come.

It is worth keeping an eye on our "Twitter" page as snippets get put on there also. Here's the link:

Kim followed this with the main item on "Women in Astronomy"
I'll arrange to have this put on the forum so that we can all benefit from it once more.

Some of the women Kim mentioned are the "unsung heroes of astronomy".
In the era of Caroline Herschel, for example, the woman could do little practical work but was allowed to document the work of her brother William.
She did, however, discover several comets and received a gold medal from the R.A.S. and another on her 96th birthday from the King of Prussia.
The account of Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the discovery of pulsars was another episode that showed that astronomy was very much a man's world until fairly recent times.

Strictly speaking this was true in many fields. If you have the opportunity find and read the books by PBM Allan on Moths. A really humorous chapter is the one which outlines just what the entomologists wife is permitted to do. I like to think it is somewhat tongue in cheek but it gives an  another insight into that bygone era.


Monday, 15 June 2015

Letterston Carnival

The Letterston Hall Committee politely requested our presence at the Carnival this year and Saturday the 13th June was the day.

The weather was forecast as rainy with 100% cloud so we opted for the indoor display.

I collected the display boards from Jim's place on the way and Sue and I arrived around 1.00 to find Phil already there.

The Coronado caught the eye of many and along with Phil's 70mm refractor, complete with solar  filter, we had plenty to talk about.

Likely we spoke to more people inside than we would have done outside and advanced our cause by the distribution of plenty of literature on the sky and the P.A.G.. The sheet at the bottom left of the table was the biggest mover (I know you can't see it!!) - it gave details of the group and the meeting place/time. (particularly handy for this venue.).

One of the outside attractions that attracted Phil was the steam engine below.

Being a "nuts and bolts" man this was right up his street and he went back many times.

Several we spoke with were seriously considering coming to meetings.

One man I spoke with had recently attended a lecture, in Welsh, given by Rhodri Evans.

Being from London and recently moved to Brimaston he didn't understand too much but he sounded keen to meet up with us. (Rob - I told you it began with a C - and I still don't know where it is!!).

Things started getting noisy what with dancing and drums so by 4.30 we were ready to pack up - and it was still raining.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

June Meeting - History of Telescopes

I counted just 25 of us that met on our usual 1st Tuesday of the month.
Several "regulars" were not with us - Chairman Jim was visiting family in Australia, Rob & Nathan apologized for their absence, Goodwick Mike and Kim & Jenny were unusually not with us but hopefully will be back in July.

Always good to have new faces and this time it was Keith who has recently moved into Letterston so managed to find us quite easily.

He has a Skywatcher 127 that he brought along seeking some advice. After the meeting several of us made some (hopefully) encouraging observations.

Here we have Andrew Sprott from Swansea - the first man to arrive. He gave the warmly received talk on the "History of Telescopes" - material that his old friend Fred Whittle (now sadly deceased) had compiled with him some years ago. 

First we had our usual "What's Up" material for the month of June.
Though daylight hours are greatly reduced currently -  the good news is that we are downhill to winter after 21st June, the date for the Summer Solstice in 2015.
The material has been placed on "dropbox" for easy download - you don't need an account just click on "open" when prompted.
(It does work - my guinea pig has tested it!!)

The lady beaming at the front is Gladys who came with her husband (or chauffeur as he called himself).
The two ladies that generally bring her were not free so Tony(?) stepped in.

Next month (July 7th) is our last meeting until September.
Jim will handle the "What's Up" and the main talk on "Women in Astronomy" is being covered by Kim Gowney.

Before that we have been invited to support the Letterston Carnival on Saturday June 13th.
Several of us will be there to view our closest star with dedicated Solar telescopes and others will be on hand with telescopes having  the requisite filters attached for safe viewing.
Join us if you can - weather permitting it is a good opportunity to share our hobby with those in the territory!
Check the forum for latest timing/news but I anticipate we will arrive around noon.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

April Meeting - Spectroscopy

Our April meeting was held on the usual 1st Tuesday of the month - 7th.

29 met on this occasion, several new ones were on holiday and managed to find us - 1 from London and 2 from the home counties - and another 2 from closer at home made up for some of our regulars that couldn't join us for one reason or another.

Our knowledgeable committee member Kim Gowney handled the "What's Up" item and he was followed by our Secretary and local physics teacher Rob Woodman handling the lecture on spectroscopy.

 Here we have a few attendees with Mike from Goodwick (with the tea!!) entertaining the couple from the home counties.

The content from the meeting can be found on the website-
Look under Lectures - April and the links are there.

Rob brought along a few props and so at the end of the meeting we could all look at the spectra from various sources.
Peter here is getting involved in the practical side of things.

Later we ventured outside to check the night sky.
Unusually it was fairly clear and Kim had anticipated this and brought along his 8" reflector which several of us looked through after Kim had found some suitably worthy targets.
2 Iridium flares occurred within minutes of each other in the same portion of sky so we also had that as an interesting sideline. Flares are a regular occurrence but 2 close together at almost the same time is not so usual so we were happy to notch that one up.
Next meeting is on 5th May - we look forward to seeing as many of our regulars as can make it and any newcomers - there are a number that make contact via the website that have not attended meetings so if you are one we will be pleased to see you at Letterston memorial Hall at 7.00p.m. .

Friday, 6 March 2015

March Meeting - Satellite Altimetry

Thanks to Kim for his work on this months meeting.

The meeting began as usual with a "What's Up " item given this month by Jim, the Lunar phases and planetary prospects were covered as was the seasonal sky with the advent of the summer constellations now swinging into the sky during the early hours.

Of the Planets, though several are on display, it is really only Jupiter and Venus that show well, the rest are either setting early, or too low to show much detail.

After Jim's presentation and the obligatory tea and biscuits, the group settled down in some anticipation of the main event, a talk on Satellite Altimetry by Prof Phillipa Berry. 

I doubt if many had much idea what to expect, even less could figure the application of the discipline, but after a rather complex start, Philippa started to make clear the purpose of this rather extensive space program, and it's applications were surprising and varied, being able to detect ocean plate ridges due to the variance of the earth's gravity, which in turn causes a noticeable variation in the mean sea level. Also topography, and rising water levels, measuring various lakes and even river systems, the variety and detail possible with this technology was remarkable.


In the solar system itself microwave altimetry has been used to study Titan, and due to the nature of the Methane/Ethane sea, the returns were able to see the depth of the shallower parts of the hydrocarbon lake (we learned that this was not possible with water due to the ionic bond nature of water molecules, but the co-valent bonding in Methane allowed some penetration and return, thus the depth reading was possible) this was quite a discovery.
Much finer details were covered during the discourse, but I have neither the ability nor the memory to include them in this report, suffice to say, the talk was a fascinating insight into the whole arena of this particular area of research.

The evening did not, as is more usual, end there, we were also treated to a minor fashion event as our Secretary, Rob Woodman, provocatively modelled the new polo shirts that are now available to order, along with some fleece and hoody style over garments.

All in all, a fine meeting in which we all learned something.