Derby and District Astronomical Society

The Journal of the Derby and District Astronomical Society
May - August 2006

Society News

Reports by Anthony Southwell

The DDAS at Thornbridge Outdoors
DDAS Chairman Mike Lancaster presenting a lecture to the children and adults present at Thornbridge Outdoors.
Image Credit: Chris Newsome.

Thornbridge Outdoors

DDAS members Mike Lancaster, Chris Newsome and Adrian Brown went to Thornbridge Outdoors near Bakewell on the evening of 14th March 2006 for an evening of astronomy with a group of children and teachers from Meersbrook Bank Community Primary School in Sheffield. The intrepid astronomers took with them the DDAS LX-90 telescope and Chris and Adrian brought their own instruments, as it was hoped to hold a stargazing session for the assembled teachers and children. However this was thwarted by cloudy skies! So Mike gave a talk on the Solar System to the pupils instead. The talk was illustrated with spacecraft images, Apollo footage and the recent results from missions to Titan and Mars. A number of astronomical images by Chris, Adrian and other DDAS members were also shown.

Relay for Life – Moorways Stadium, Derby. Saturday 17th – Sunday 18th June 2006

The DDAS at the Relay For Life
DDAS members at Relay for Life.
Image Credit: Mike Lancaster.
The DDAS provided solar and stargazing activities at the Cancer Research UK Relay for Life at Moorways Stadium in Derby from Saturday 17th to Sunday 18th June 2006. Many members turned out to help and a great day - and night - was had by all. We were delighted to have been asked to take part in this event and provide out of this world activities for the participants and attendees. During the Saturday afternoon many people were able to glimpse the Sun's disc projected through a refractor provided by Mike Dumelow, as well as directly observe the filtered Sun through the Society's LX-90 telescope. Mike also brought along a large Moon globe signed by Patrick Moore and Alan Chapman and this provided an eye-catching addition to our set up. Jupiter stole the show in the evening as people were enthralled by what for many was their first view of the giant planet through a telescope. Both the LX-90 and an impressive 8" Dobsonian brought by Mike Dumelow provided this Jovian experience. Sadly the clouds rolled in and we were unable to observe anything else overnight! Nevertheless we kept people entertained with a couple of spectacular presentations of astronomical images on the DDAS laptop. One was an enthralling audiovisual tour of our universe by Chris Newsome constructed entirely from images taken by himself, Adrian Brown and other DDAS members. The other was a PowerPoint driven tour of our Solar System using a mixture of DDAS, NASA and other images assembled by Anthony Southwell. Our new club gazebo also saw 'first light' at the Relay, acting as welcome shade from the Sun, a housing for our presentations and as a gallery of astronomical images taken by our members.

For more pictures of this event click here.

January 6th 2006 Meeting - Astro-imaging

DDAS members Chris Newsome and Adrian Brown presented a very enlightening and enjoyable talk on astrophotography. The talk featured some quite visually stunning astronomical images taken by both Chris and Adrian. Chris was first up and he described how you can take some quite useful images with nothing more than a modestly priced digital camera, everything form either a standard small 'point-and-click' camera to a digital SLR that can cost about a couple of hundred pounds. The images that Chris managed to take with such a set up were very impressive. Also, being that Chris is a passionate lunar photographer, he showed us a number of images of the Moon, taken by himself with digital cameras and dedicated CCDs attached to a telescope. The detail that Chris had managed to bring out in the lunar surface was very impressive. We all look forward to seeing more of Chris' efforts. Many of Chris' Moon pictures can be seen here.

Then it was Adrian's turn. Adrian showed us how he took his quite staggering deep sky images. Adrian’s images were produced using a dedicated CCD device attached to a telescope and the resulting images were then image processed to bring out the fine details of the object being imaged. Chris uses similar image processing techniques to produce his lunar pictures. Adrian’s images of nebulae, galaxies, star clusters were quite amazing, and were of such a high standard that they could have easily graced the pages of magazines like Astronomy and Sky & Telescope. Adrian displayed one image that took everyone’s breath away - a picture of the Horse Head Nebula in Orion. The colour of the nebula and the detail imaged within the nebula itself were quite remarkable. It really demonstrated how far amateur astrophotography has come on in the past 10 to 15 years. Adrian managed to image the fine structure within this nebula, and I have never seen the Horse Head look that good in an amateur image before, quite remarkable indeed. The Society as a whole is also looking forward to seeing more examples of Adrian’s work and many of his pictures grace the pages of our gallery.

Both Chris and Adrian do not use any kind of specialised equipment, they both use 'off-the-shelf' telescopes, CCD cameras, ordinary laptop computers and commercially available image processing software to produce their wonderful images. In fact both Chris and Adrian have had images featured on the BAA website as Picture of the Week, more than once! So well done to them both! Chris and Adrian will return to present the second part of this lecture in November 2006, but this time, they will be outlining the image processing techniques and the software they use to produce their images.

February 3rd 2006 Meeting - Society Quiz

So with trembling hands and weak knees we approached the annual Society torture, er, I mean, Quiz in February! The quiz, as always was set up by our resident fiendish question-master, Arthur Tristram. And once again, the questions for this year’s quiz did not disappoint, in fact, headaches were to be had all round! (I’ve still got mine Arthur! – Editor) As usual, Arthur was ably assisted by Dave Maynard, who acted as score keeper. The rest of the Society were split up into five teams, each with four team members. There were individual and team questions, as well as a rather innovative picture and music round, put together by Mike Lancaster.

All in all a very enjoyable, if mind-consuming, night was had by all, of course, modesty prevents me from announcing whose team actually won! It is suggested that for the 2007 Society Quiz, it would be a good idea if we were to invite our friends from the Ilkeston and District Astronomical Society to come a long with a team of their own and pit it against a team from our own ranks. This suggestion is currently being worked on, so, watch this space! (Pardon the pun! – Editor) [...and it was also suggested that our Editor act as Quizmatser or scorer for a change! - Webmaster].

March 3rd 2006 Meeting - Atmospheres of the Planets - Dr Mike Leggett

In this highly detailed and informative lecture Dr Leggett outlined the atmospheres of the planets and one or two moons as well. He detailed how the various atmospheres of the planets formed, their composition, structure, and weather systems. Dr Leggett’s lecture was accompanied by a very extensive PowerPoint presentation that detailed all of the data for each planet’s atmosphere being discussed. It was interesting to see how a planet’s atmosphere can be influenced by a planet’s formation, and, conversely, how an atmosphere can influence a planet’s development.

April 7th 2006 Meeting - The Moon in the Western Imagination - Martin Griffiths - Centre for Astronomy and Science Education - University of Glamorgan

The ever-popular Martin Griffiths was the speaker for our April meeting. In this highly enjoyable lecture, Martin took the Society on a tour of the Moon’s cultural influence in the West, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Martin described the many myths and legends ascribed to the Moon by various Western cultures, and even detailed how we humble Brits could have laid claim to our nearest cosmic neighbour! We look forward to having Martin come back to see us in the near future.

May 5th 2006 - Annual General Meeting

The election of the Society Committee members for 2006/7 can be seen here.

After a long period of service Anthony Southwell stepped down as secretary and moved into the role of Aries editor.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions regarding the Society, then please talk to any of the committee members at one of our meetings.

June 2nd 2006 Meeting - Member's Talks and Planning Session for the Relay for Life

Most of the June meeting was given over to the planning for our attendance of the Relay for Life event at Moorways Stadium in Derby on 17th – 18th June 2006. The rest of the meeting featured a number of talks given by members. Keith Plamping gave us a brief mission update concerning the New Horizons spacecraft, which is speeding its way to Pluto as you read these words. Keith described briefly what the mission was about, how the spacecraft is functioning, and where it is currently located, which at the time was just beyond the orbit of Mars. Not bad going really, considering it left Earth back in January of this year! Also Keith gave the Society an insight to the life and works of Joseph of Cupertino, who is the Patron Saint of astronauts, who had religious visions and trances at the drop of a hat and was known to have a penchant for levitation!

July 8th 2006 - Annual Society BBQ at the Flamsteed Observatory

This year’s BBQ was a success, apart from the weather! Our illustrious Chairman, Mike Lancaster, acted as chef for the evening, our thanks go to him for volunteering. The food flowed and so did the drink, especially the red wine brought by a certain A. Southwell! The Society’s recently acquired gazebo saw action again at the BBQ, and provided a certain amount of shelter when the heavens decided to pour down on the assembled diners! Apart from that, a very enjoyable evening was had by all. Hopefully we will have better weather next year (I say that every year! – Editor) and we may even get to do some observing! [Hey - I can see some pigs flying outside - Webmaster].

August 4th 2006 - Observing Session and Telescope Training at the Flamsteed Observatory

This time of the year sees most people off on their summer holidays, so no 'formal' meeting was called for August. So instead of meeting at the Friend’s Meeting House, a hardy group of ten DDAS members made their way to the Society’s Flamsteed Observatory in the hope of engaging in some observing, if the weather was kind to them! It would also be the perfect opportunity for people to learn how to use the Society’s 8-inch Meade LX-90 telescope. Well, for once, the weather was reasonably kind to the group and a good evening’s observing was enjoyed by the assembled astronomers. Our Chairman, Mike Lancaster, conducted a brief tutorial on how to use the LX-90, and the assembled group utilised the Observatory’s 10-inch telescope, and a number of member’s telescopes were also present. Then just as the group thought it had luck on its side, late in the evening, the clouds rolled in! So that called an end to a very successful evening. For a picture of the event click here.

For our current meeting programme click here.

If you have any suggestions for lecture topics and potential lecturers, then please pass on your ideas to the