Astronomical society forms part of 1st Sci-Fi convention on Yorkshire coast

SciFiScarborough2014-18.jpgThe weekend of April 5th and 6th saw the first ever Sci-Fi convention held on the Yorkshire Coast, Sci-Fi Scarborough at the Scarborough Spa.  Fans from across the country descended on the venue to enjoy all the action, with many dressing as their favourite characters from film, TV or comics.  Around the venue could be found special guests from the small and big screen, retailers, authors, artists, gaming and more throughout the Spa.

Headline names for the weekend included the main cast of Red Dwarf (Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules and Craig Charles) and the 6th Doctor Who, Colin Baker.

rp_SFS_Poster_D_JAN_14_A4_v2-212x300.jpgThe society was invited along to provide a factual element to the weekend and we were inundated with questions on telescopes, our Solar System, the Universe, alien life, space travel, and even theoretical physics along with queries about the society.  The weekend was also set to include a star party from the terrace of the Spa and daytime solar observing but unfortunately continued cloud throughout the weekend resulted in these elements not being possible.

Overall, a very enjoyable and busy weekend for society members.  We look forward to seeing many of the people we met at our upcoming events.  Talks are already in motion for a repeat event next year.  Keep your eyes out for details when these are released.  A gallery of photos taken throughout the weekend can be found here on the society website.

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Start of British Summer Time 2014

Clocks change at 1am, Sunday 31st March. Image credit:

British Summer Time (BST) starts on Sunday 30th March 2014.  The clocks change at 1am, moving forward an hour from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

The effect is lighter evenings and darker mornings and is also known as Daylight Saving Time.  Remember that throughout BST, astronomy software such as planetarium software and GoTo mounts may need to be configured to account for the clock change to accurately reflect the night sky.  BST operates until Sunday 26th October when we will then revert back onto GMT.

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Founder talks about the Moon at March meeting

The Moon.  Image credit: Mark Tissington

The Moon. Image credit: Mark Tissington

Society founder and Honorary President John Harper spoke to society members and visitors at the 21st March 2014 meeting of the society held at Ayton Village Hall.  The content of John’s talk was all about our nearest neighbour in space, the Moon.

The talk started with an excerpt of music from the Mike Oldfield album “Incantations” featuring lyrics adapted from work written in 1509 by Ben Jonson entitled Cynthia’s Revels that addresses the Moon goddess Cynthia or Diana.  It was fitting that John should open with this as the meeting coincided with the 2014 World Poetry Day.

Moving on from poetry, John started out by telling the meeting about his first sight of the Moon when only 3 and the bright object scaring him.  He then moved on to introduce some of the characters that could be found in the Moon including the famous man and the lesser known lady, crab, rabbit and hare.  The illusion of changing Moon size was covered and how this can be checked by holding out your little finger at arms length and how it remains approximately 0.5º in diameter.

The ideas on how the Moon came into existence were discussed including capture and the generally accepted theory of the collision of the juvenile Earth with the smaller planet that scientists refer to as Thea.  The elliptical orbits of both the Earth and Moon were explained including the terms apogee and perigee when the Moon is further from and closer to the Earth respectively, the phases of the Moon over the duration of the lunar calendar and how the Moon compares in size with other major satellites in the Solar System including the Galilean moons and Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

John then returned to folklore and explained some of the reasoning behind the naming of the Moon at particular points throughout the year including the harvest and hunters moons and the meaning of blue moon and the lesser known black moon.

The talk concluded with a quick look at the occurrence of eclipses, both solar and lunar in their full and partial forms.

We would like to thank John for putting together this fabulous talk and by all accounts, he has enough material to put together several other follow ups.

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Vernal Equinox – 20th March 2014

Illumination of the Earth during an equinox. Image Credit:

Today at 16:57 UT sees the Northward equinox.  For ourselves in the Northern Hemisphere, it is known as the Vernal or Spring equinox and the Autumnal equinox for residents in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Sun falls on the Celestial Equator during the Vernal equinox resulting in equal lengths of day and night across the planet.  From today on-wards  as the name suggests, the Sun is seen to be moving northwards, resulting in longer days and shorter nights for us.

The Celestial Sphere. Image credit:

The point on the Celestial Equator where the Sun lies during the Vernal equinox is known as the First Point of Aries.  However, due to precession (the continued change in the rotation of the planet on its axis), the Sun is no longer in the constellation of Aries and hasn’t been since around 100 BC.  At the moment, the Sun is in the constellation of Pisces and by the year 2600 it will be in the neighbouring constellation of Aquarius.

As the Sun rises at an equinox, the Sun will appear to cross the horizon due east and recrosses the horizon at Sunset due west.  Over the next 3 months leading up to the Summer or June Solstice, the Sun will appear to rise and set further to the north of these points as it appears to follow the path of the ecliptic.  It will then move back south approaching the southward or autumn equinox in September when the Sun will again rise and set due east and west respectively.

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Final public stargazing coincides with National Astronomy Week

NAW14-logoThe final public stargazing event of the 2013/14 season was held on the evening of Friday 8th March and coincided with National Astronomy Week.  The weather was very kind for the final event of the season with clear starry skies, only brightened due to a first quarter Moon in the constellation of Taurus.  As the forecast was very good, an crowd in excess of 200 individuals headed to the even in Dalby Forest.

Society founder and Honorary President John Harper FRAS opened the evening giving a short guided tour of the night sky pointing out some of the major constellations and objects before attention was turned to the numerous telescopes set up in the courtyard.  The highlight of National Astronomy Week 2014 was the planet Jupiter as it reached its highest altitude for many years making it ideally placed for observation so it was no surprise to see many telescopes targeting the giant planet.  Many were amazed at the detail that could be seen on the planet and that the Galilean satellites were visible with Io noticeably moving throughout the night closer to Jupiter.

In addition to Jupiter, attendees also had the chance to observe the Moon, star clusters, nebulae and binary stars.

Many thanks for all those who attended the evening and to all the society members and visitors who brought along their telescopes to help show the delights of the night sky and answer numerous questions.

Public stargazing events will recommence in October with details to be added later in the year to our events calendar.  Until then, the society continues to hold its monthly events at Ayton Village Hall, East Ayton (generally on the 3rd Friday of each month) and will be present in Dalby Forest at a number of events throughout the summer observing the Sun.

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