International Dark Sky Week (20th – 26th April 2014)

DarkSkiesAwarenessWe are currently in International Dark Sky Week that forms a part of Global Astronomy Month.  Running between 20th and 26th April, International Dark Sky Week has the goals of inspiring people to celebrate the beauty of the night sky, raising awareness of light pollution and encourage people to take action.  Over the week, the International Dark Sky Association website includes information and resources to help with these goals.

Whilst promoting dark skies, remember our observatories are located under one of the darkest skies in the country at the Dark Sky Discovery site of Dalby Forest.  Our public stargazing events have now finished for the season but will start again in October.  Before then though we have our annual Starfest star camp that this year takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend.  If you are thinking of attending the camp then we advise you book soon as over half of the pitches have already been sold.

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Active Galactic Nuclei with Dr Stuart Lumsden

Dr Stuart Lumsden.  Image credit: University of Leeds

Dr Stuart Lumsden. Image credit: University of Leeds

The guest speaker for the April meeting of the society at Ayton Village Hall was Dr Stuart Lumsden from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds.  Due to Good Friday, the meeting was brought forward to Friday 11th April with the title of the talk, Active Galactic Nuclei.

Active Galactic Nuclei is a term for the supermassive black holes found in the centre of many galaxies including our own Milky Way that can have masses of millions to billions the mass of our own Sun and depending on their angle to the observer can show a number of different properties.  These properties include the detection of jets, radio lobes and various forms of electromagnetic radiation.  Depending on these properties, the AGNs are known by a number of names including quasars, radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies and blazars.  It was shown how black holes in galactic centres are detected from the motion of stars and how the luminosity of these massive objects change as material moves onto the accretion disk; showing that it is possible for these objects to switch off during a period of no fuel.

A really interesting talk on these mysterious objects.  Many thanks to Stuart for visiting us to explain Active Galactic Nuclei so clearly.

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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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