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Highlands Astronomical Society

Stargazey Pie, April 2005

Antony McEwan's monthly digest of HAS happenings

April 2005 Meeting

Spring has sprung! The grass is green, the flowers are growing, the temperature is rising and the little butterflies will soon be flitting amongst the colourful gardens. But don’t let that get you down - winter will soon be here again with its lovely cold dark nights and frozen ground. Until then we’ll just have to make do the best we can. At least some distractions to keep us sane through summer were mentioned at the Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 5th April…

The April 2005 meeting, otherwise known as the AGM: A reasonable number of members turned out to hear of the Society’s latest achievements and plans, and contributed to several discussions during the meeting. There were a small number of notices beforehand, presented by Chairwoman Pauline Macrae:

The Notices The notices will now be printed out on the reverse of the monthly sky-map, killing two birds with one stone. (Evil little creatures. I cleaned my car the other day, and now look at it!) This will make it handier to refer to after the meeting, though they will still be included in this newsletter for those who didn’t attend.

Start Time Please arrive at the Green House before 7:30 p.m. on the evening of the meetings, as we actually want the meetings to start at the proper time of 7:30 p.m. - SHARP! This will enable the meetings to run more closely to schedule, benefitting everyone. Stragglers may find themselves the target of hurled abuse and rotting fruit.

Transit revisited, Egyptian style SIGMA have invited any interested parties to attend a talk being given by Douglas Cooper on Friday 8th April at Birnie Village Hall in Thomshill near Elgin. Mr Cooper will be talking about his experiences viewing the Venus Transit of June 8th, 2004, from Egypt. More information, including a map to find the venue, can be obtained from Pauline as usual, or can be viewed here on the Spacegazer website. Having parked your cars, it is suggested you just ‘toot & come in’. (Tutankhamen... Get it? Oh, never mind….)

Observing at Easterton Airfield Following the talk mentioned in the previous paragraph, there will be an observation session (weather permitting), hosted by our friends from SIGMA, at the Easterton Airfield, very near to the talk's venue. You can’t get too much of a good thing, and there will be yet another observing session at the same place the following night, Saturday 9th April, from 8:30 p.m. onwards. If you wish to attend only the observing session on Friday night, or go to the session on Saturday, please contact Pauline between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. (before 8 p.m. on Saturday) for further information and to find out if it is actually taking place. Pauline will be in touch with members of SIGMA to see what the Elgin weather gods are up to. The SIGMA people will have telescopes set up and you are free to take your own along as well.

Even More Observing Due to popular demand, the Society’s observing sessions have been extended and are set to run through the spring and autumn months, as well as winter. They will take place over one weekend each in April, May, August and September. Contact details for each session will appear closer to the time. For this month’s sessions we will be starting up at 9 p.m.. It will not be properly dark until 9:30 p.m., or later, but the planets Jupiter and Saturn will show themselves well against the twilit sky, as will the young Moon. Naturally these events will depend on the weather, so fingers crossed everyone…

Friday 15th April - Antony
Saturday 16th April - Pauline


Material World, Radio 4 Thursday 28th April’s edition of ‘Material World’ will highlight the scientific achievements of famous astronomer Fred Hoyle. The programme is set to air at 4:30 p.m. on Radio 4, and sounds like it’ll be a ‘Hoyle’ lot of fun.

Return to Sender If you have not yet returned your completed questionnaires, please hurry and do so as soon as possible. If you have lost your copy, please print it out from the Document Library on this website (it's in pdf format) and send it to Pat Williams. Your Society needs your input!

Turkish Delight? There will be a total solar eclipse, visible from Turkey, in March 2006. A tour operator has sent an email to Pauline about their Solar Eclipse tours. No plans have been made yet, but they have sent their web address and I can forward that to you if you wish to view their website (at your own risk).

Eyes On The Skies Jupiter is easily spotted in the dusky twilight now and has climbed to greater heights when the sky darkens later. It can be found by following the long curve of the handle of the Plough down towards Arcturus, which itself is low in the North-East, and then continuing that curve round for the same apparent distance again to Jupiter. This is a great time to study the banded planet and its system of moons, particularly as these evenings' temperature rise makes observing a tad more comfortable. The Galilean moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto regularly pass in front of the planet’s disc, or cast their shadows on it. These events, known as transits or shadow transits, can be observed even in small telescopes, and their predicted times can be found in the pages of Sky & Telescope magazine each month, or by using a small java program on their website.

For those seeking fainter targets, Leo is now climbing high into the night sky, taking with him many galaxies and other deep sky objects. M65 and M66 are still on my ‘to see’ list for this season, so fingers crossed for the next few observing sessions. Following Leo is Virgo with her own cluster of galaxies, so there are plenty of ‘fuzzies’ to keep deep-sky enthusiasts happy for the next few weeks.

Comet Machholz is fading now as it takes its leave of our skies. It will continue to be visible for a couple of months or so, but will get dimmer each night as its journey takes it further away from us. There is still plenty of time to wave goodbye though, and it’s location can be found on the finder chart on the Sky & Telescope website.

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks at 10:00 UT (11:00 BST) on the 22nd April, but should be active from the 16th to the 26th. The radiant is low in the sky between Hercules and Lyra, so is not best placed. You may need to find a clear horizon to view the radiant, which is the point in the sky the meteors appear to emanate from. The timing isn’t good for this event either, as there is a full Moon on the 23rd which will seriously reduce the number of meteors visible, though not as much as the inevitable cloud will. The fog may not help much either.

Saturday 16th April is Astronomy Day Astronomical societies all over the world will be promoting astronomy and its related sciences and pursuits. You may recall from the notices above that this date coincides with one of the observing sessions at Culloden. Wouldn’t it be great if we were blessed with clear skies and clement weather! To be able to appreciate the night sky together, with no cloud or rain to hinder us, and be rewarded with satisfying views of the heavenly bodies, would be a very enjoyable (and probably rare) event at the observatory. Everybody please think positively….

The Main Event Tuesday’s meeting was, of course, the Annual General Meeting, or AGM, an occasion to review the events of the last year, make plans for the future, and discuss any matters the Society’s members feel important. AGMs are traditionally thought of as being dry, tedious, and possibly a little nerve-wracking for anybody sitting too near the front, particularly if there are vacant Office Bearer positions, but this one turned out to have an awful lot of life and energy.

Pauline read out her Chairwoman’s Report for 2005, reminding us of what a busy time we have had since last April. Public events, observing sessions, guest speakers, negotiations for a permanent observatory, a 10th birthday celebration and an amazing field trip to the Glasgow Science Centre and more, all contributed to filling our days and nights while promoting the Highlands Astronomical Society and keeping it in the public eye. The new revised website has helped with that too and has proven very popular, and now contains much-visited, and linked-to, equipment information and ‘members mods’ sections.

The notes from the 2004 AGM were then discussed and approved, and our Secretary Pat Williams introduced her Secretary’s Report, which was handed out at the beginning of the meeting. Trina then read out her Treasurer’s Report, some aspects of which were discussed by the members. Trina has now stepped down as Treasurer and Pat Escott was elected to replace her. Congratulations Pat. Bill Jappy also stepped down from the Committee and was thanked for his efforts. Pauline Macrae was re-elected as Chairwoman, so welcome back to her as well.

One change which will affect us all is an increase in our yearly membership subscription. The costs of using the Green House are increasing from £40 per meeting to £50, and there is the expense of a security guard (and VAT) to add to that. It still works out well for us, as Maarten informed us that anybody else hiring this venue would have to pay £200 per meeting. Consequently the 2005 membership subscriptions were agreed as follows:

Full Membership

Family Membership

Junior Membership (Under 17)

Unemployed/Student (Under 22)

Non-Members (per meeting)

It was agreed that the new rates continue to represent excellent value for money.

After the break there was great interest in the proposed changes to the Constitution, resulting in enthusiastic and lively debate. Several points were raised, with extremely relevant and pertinent arguments aired by several members. I was very impressed by the fact that the membership now feels able to discuss such fundamental matters at an AGM and feel that their opinions will be noted and acted upon by the Committee and Office Bearers. This can only be a good thing and will continue to drive the Society forward, ensuring it continues to best represent the wishes of its membership and to promote the right reasons for belonging to the Highlands Astronomical Society.

I can only say that the day of the dull AGM is over and would thoroughly recommend that people start to think of the AGM as an important and lively event to be looked forward to, at which a member’s voice can be heard and at which real contributions to the organisation can be made. Roll on April 2006!

Next meeting The next meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. SHARP on Tuesday, 3rd May, at the Green House. The main talk will be given by Dr. Martin Hendry and is entitled ‘Getting the Measure of the Universe’. I hope he brings a big tape measure. Sounds like another fascinating talk and I bet there will be some surprises to look forward to as well.


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