We had a flurry of youth groups and special interest groups to the Observatory at the start of the year but due to a pandemic of Covid 19 we had to cancel all further visits as well as observing sessions at the Observatory. It also meant the cancellation of our monthly meetings and ‘lockdown’ meant our AGM had to take place online, a little later than normal.
We began using Zoom meetings (online webinars), encouraged by SIGMA, our sister Club in Elgin. Our first was in June and it went well. These webinars were hosted by SIGMA on their Zoom platform and the online meetings meant that all the neighbouring astronomy clubs such as Aberdeen, Caithness and North Ronaldsay as well as SIGMA and ourselves could watch the talks. This has strengthened links between us, to the point where Eric coined the acronym NOSAAA not NASA (North Of Scotland Amateur Astronomical Association) which is one good thing to come out of all this.
Eric did manage to take a photograph of The Heart Nebula in Cassiopeia from his observatory and it was accepted onto the BBC website.
In fact, Eric’s Observatory became our lifeline to live observing sessions. He worked out how to webcast from his telescope and special astronomy camera to show live images on YouTube in high quality 1080p resolution for invited guests and members of NOSAAA to watch. These have proved popular.
Eric also took part in The Orkney Science Festival online event in September and a live observing event where he was one of a group of observers using their Observatories to broadcast images for National Astronomy Week in November.
I’ll finish with some very sad news: Arthur Milnes passed away on the 14th August, aged 90. He had been a stalwart of our Club virtually since its inception and had been very supportive of, and kind to all members, and people in general. He had an extraordinary intelligence, with an ability to explain difficult astronomical concepts to beginners and he could always answer any question put to him.
Despite turning 90 in June, he was still on the Committee (and was Chairman from 2011 – 2016) and had agreed to run our Christmas Quiz yet again. His last talk to us was in January last year and he gave a couple more to another club later on in that year.
His passion for space, for flying aircraft in his youth (and what stories he could tell!) as well as aeronautical engineering, ran deep. His practical skills came into their own when it came to both observatories, playing a major role in the taking down, and the erection of, our first observatory, and also making a large contribution to the maintenance of our current Observatory which included instigating the raffle in order to raise enough money to run the Observatory.
He gave so much of himself to make the Highlands Astronomical Society as successful as it is and he will very much be missed by us all.
We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Lorna, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.