2010/11 Speaker Info PDF Print E-mail

As usual, the committee has been working hard over the summer putting together our programme of talks for the coming season. When considering speakers and subjects, we try to cater for both relative beginner’s and the more experienced observer, and we feel we have succeeded in putting together a particularly strong line-up this year.

We commence in September with a welcome return visit from Colin Johnston, the principal presenter of star shows at Armagh Planetarium. Colin will be speaking on a subject which, surprisingly, has not featured in recent years at the society, The Moon. Colin, who is an acknowledged expert on the Apollo missions, will be discussing various aspects of the Moon, including current theories about its formation, the history of lunar exploration and future prospects, and will also highlight those features and objects the observer can hope to see and study as it goes through its monthly cycle.

The society has seen a recent influx of new members, and there are signs that we might have a further few new faces as this season commences. With this in mind, we have brought the beginner’s night forward to October this year. The function of this night is to introduce beginners to the wonders of astronomy, and fire their enthusiasm to go out and observe for themselves. And nobody does this better than our speaker for the evening, Andy McCrea. Andy is one of the best-known amateur astronomers in Ireland and his previous visits to the society linger long in the memory of those who were present. He will discuss all aspects of the hobby for the beginner, including what and when to observe, and what equipment is required, if any. Afterwards, weather permitting, there will be a short observing session in the grounds of the school, with various telescopes, binoculars, eyepieces and reference books available to try out. If any beginners have recently bought new equipment, they can bring it along. More experienced members will be able to provide advice and guidance on how to use the equipment properly, and what objects can be seen with it.

The November talk will be given by John Cox, who is a member of Doncaster Astronomical Society. John will be giving us a talk on Double Stars.

The December talk should prove to be one on the highlights of the season, or any other season. We are very privileged to be able to welcome Professor Philip Dufton from Queens University. Prof. Dufton has been at the forefront of astronomy education in Ireland for many years, and will take the opportunity to discuss the many advances which have been made in the last forty years of astronomical research. This is a truly enormous subject, when one considers that, forty years ago, the Voyager spacecraft had not yet visited the outer planets, exoplanets were unknown, the Hubble space Telescope was only a blueprint on somebody’s drawing board, and the idea of retrieving samples from a comet was science fiction. So, this is a talk not to be missed.

January sees a visit from another leading astronomy lecturer, Dr Brian Espey, from Trinity College in Dublin. Dr. Espey has put together a series of images of various astronomical objects in 3-D. This will allow us to see these objects in this form for the first time, and will include images of Earth, the Moon, space shuttles, planets, the Sun and galaxies. All the equipment needed to view the images will be provided, and this could prove to be a memorable experience.

We always try to come up with something a little different for our annual Andrew Trimble Memorial Lecture each year, and we think we have succeeded again this year. We have all had the experience of gazing through a telescope or a pair of binoculars at some distant object on a cold night in January, but have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could stand on the surface of Mars and do the same thing? How would familiar objects look through the pinkish atmosphere? Could you see the tiny Martian moons? Would there be eclipses? Dr Tolis Christou from Armagh Observatory will be our guide to these and many other questions in February.

Space weather is a subject which has become very prominent in recent years, and the study of the activity of the Sun and its effects on Earth and the rest of the solar system is now very popular. Many different spacecraft have been launched in recent years to complement ground based observations. Dr Chris Watson from Queens University will be our speaker in March, and will provide the very latest up-to-date information on this fascinating area of research.

We have left April blank for a while. This will hopefully give us an opportunity to react to any major events or occurrences over the next few months. We were very lucky to be able to organize a short talk from Dr David Asher a couple of years ago, soon after the outburst of Comet Holmes, so maybe something similar may crop up in the next few months.

Finally, May will be our annual member’s night, when members of the society have the opportunity to give a short talk, and this will be followed by our Annual General Meeting.


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