Astronomy Shows & Conferences

Various videos from Astrofest and International Astronomy Show over years

Following Ed’s and my recent trip to Astrofest in London, the following videos come from various recent astronomy conferences aimed at amateurs – if you are thinking of attending either the International Astronomy Show later this year or Astrofest next year, then these videos will give you a flavour of what’s in store for you!

Andy

http://www.thornett.net/Large_files_RAG_Wordpress/Large video files/Astrofest 2016 High Definition Movie(2nd copy).mp4

 

http://www.thornett.net/Large_files_RAG_Wordpress/Large video files/Astrofest_2015_-080215a-for_computer-.mp4
http://www.thornett.net/Large_files_RAG_Wordpress/Large video files/European Astrofest 2017 by Andrew Thornett www.astronomy.network.mp4
http://www.thornett.net/Large_files_RAG_Wordpress/Large video files/International Astronomy Show Stoneleigh Park 14-15 October 2016.mp4

 

Interview-with-Paul-Money-at-IAS-2014-06-08.mp4 (below):

Damian-and-Chris-members-RAG-at-exhibition-at-IAS-2014-06-07.mp4 (below):

Review of Astrofest conference 2018 on 9-10 February 2018

Ed Mann and I attended again the Astrofest amateur Astronomy conference in Kensington, London. As usual the talks were fantastic covering a wide range from being part of an astronaut rexperience in the antarctic to a review of Cassini and Juno to SETI, the radio universe, dark energy, Victorian amateurs by Allan Chapman, Libyan desert glass, New Horizons at Pluto and beyond and a range of others. One other attendee told memthat in her opinion the talks were betterthanb last year. I am not able to judge myself as they’re great every year in my opinion.

There were also plenty of visitors – this conference appears to be doing better than IAS in this respect. The final session was sold out.

However, the exhibitors were limited with virtually no bargains, hardly any stock and a generally depressive attitude which was a shame. Sadly this year this conference was not the place to come to find a wide range of kit.

Overall still an enjoyable experience and worth coming.

Andy and Ed

Video from Astrofest 2018 in London:

Lecture Theatre:

Exhibitors:

Andy tries to dock with the ISS on a Soyuz simulator: 

 

In my typical fashion, the most ridiculous thing happened to me whilst operating this simulator. I gave up just before the end, believing I would not succeed. I got up and then my educator suddenly shouted, “I have never seen that!” After I let go of the controls, the simulated Soyuz spacecraft drifted sideways to a perfect docking! I don’t think I would have succeeded in doing this had I carried on trying to dock the thing……so I ended up with a certificate of successful docking!!

Allen Chapman talks about Victorian grand amateurs in the lecture theatre:

Photos from some of other talks:

Dallas Campbell, TV presenter from Stargazing Live and Gadget show, with Andrew (below) :

Dallas Campbell talks to Astrofest:

The only stuff I bought from Astrofest this year – truly! Two mission patches for Tim Peake’s mission to ISS – one for me and one for Damien.

Jocelyn Burnell Lecture at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

Since retiring a year ago I have rekindled my casual interest in astronomy by taking an online Astronomy GCSE course, joining the RAG and visiting places of astronomical interest, such as the world famous radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire. During my visit there on 1 February 2018, a famous astronomer, Dame Jocelyn Burnell was delivering a lecture on her discovery of pulsars in 1967.  She’s famous not only for this discovery but also for her controversial exclusion from the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery.

Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope

Although the radio telescope is an impressive feat of technology and engineering, the highlight of my visit was the lecture. The event sold out shortly after Christmas and so all 200 seats in the auditorium were occupied, she was obviously very popular with the astronomer fraternity.

She explained that the objective of her PhD was to discover more quasars (quasi stellar radio sources) but first she had to build her own radio telescope, and for this, like all fellow astronomy students back then, she was given a tool-kit; rugged pliers, wire snips and a screwdriver! Cambridge still used valves in their amplifiers, although transistors were available at the time! The new telescope covered several acres, used miles of cable, took 2 years of working in all weathers to complete and worked first time! It was a fixed structure, with no control over its direction.

Launch of IYA 2009, Paris - Grygar, Bell Burnell cropped.jpg                                                                                   Dame Jocelyn Burnell                                                                                 

She confessed to being so surprised at getting into Cambridge University that she was sure the University had made a grave mistake and she would be thrown out as soon as this was discovered. In the meantime, she would work flat out to get as much done before this happened. This, she said, was the incentive that drove her to work long hours and to accept the brunt of supervisor’s caustic comments.

The main task was inspecting miles of printout for anomalies and it was not long before she found one…then another…and another. It was a sign of the times that her supervisor (and recipient of the Nobel Prize) was arrogantly dismissive of her excitement and was told the source was not from outer space because of the pulse’s incredible regularity, it must be man-made interference.  And so began a laborious period of eliminating all possible spurious radio sources; badly suppressed vehicles, radio waves reflected from a corrugated iron shed roof and even from the Anglian Police Force radios. With an ironic smile she recalls telling her supervisor that if a vehicle was to blame it was setting off at 4am, then at precisely 4 minutes earlier each day and had been doing so for the past 2 weeks! The source was clearly emanating from the same point on the celestial sphere. With wry humour, she told how she played along with notion that it could be a man-made source, labellng the first anomaly or ‘bit of scruff’ as LGM-1; Little Green Man-1.

She recounted that to check the recurrence of one source she would need to be using the telescope at 2am but she was due to go to her home in Ireland with her fiance that day to announce their engagement…she duly stayed up all night and also made it home. Such was her determination.

With standard plotting paper speed the anomalies were too compacted to be analysed accurately, so the paper speed had to be  increased. But this meant each paper roll would last only 20 minutes. The solution was to only increase the paper speed just before the predicted time for the repeat showing of the anomaly. Unfortunately, this meant going out to the telescope control shed in the middle of the night sometimes.

We now know (partly due to astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle) that the anomalies are pulses from neutron stars rotating very rapidly and with incredible regularity, the LGM-1 has a rotation period of 1.3 seconds. Strong radio signals are emitted along the axis of the magnetic field and because this is inclined to the axis of rotation, the radio beam points in the direction of Earth once each rotation, causing it to pulse like a beam of light from a lighthouse.

Artist conception of a pulsar with its magnetic field lines and particle jets

Pulsar: a rapidly rotating neutron star with a strong magnetic field

During an interview with a reporter from the The Guardian she was asked what the new stars were called. Burnell said she had been too busy to think about it. The reporter suggested an abbreviation of pulsatiing radio star, and that was agreed.

During the post lecture questions Burnell was asked by one of the school children in the audience about being overlooked for the Nobel Prize. She has obviously fielded this question may times and her stance is well known; research supervisors take the flak if the project flops and the credit if it succeeds, no matter how well, she explained. In those days, students were regarded as ‘support’, the ‘labourers’ poring for hours over paper charts, whereas the supervisors initiate and direct the research and as such deserve the credit. She is clearly not bitter, and has received many other accolades and honours as ample compensation. She claims that by not getting the Nobel Prize, she is in good company. She is right, take a look at the achievements of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (composition of the stars) and Henrietta Leavitt (Cepheid period/luminosity), both worthy candidates.

Live and stained microscopy (H&E and gram staining) of bacteria in single culture from previously taken mouth swab from Hannah 5/11/2017

Today, was Hannah’s turn. Both children prepared slides from the culture we have grown from a swab taken a couple weeks back, stained with H&E and Gram stains and viewed live, H&E, and Gram stained samples under the microscope using x4, x20, x32 objectives. For some reason, we weren’t able to obtain focus with the 63x objective today – not sure why!

Our conclusion – Hannah has Gram positive rods in her mouth, most likely Actinomyces, possibly Actinmyces Israelii.

Actinomyces israelii is a species of Gram-positive, strict anaerobic, rod-shaped bacteria. It is known to live commensally on and within humans in the mouth, vagina and colon, A. israelii is an opportunistic pathogen. It was named after the German Surgeon, James Adolf Israel (1848–1926), who studied the organism for the first time in 1878 (Wikipedia).

Andy, Rhys and Hannah

Rhys and Hannah made these slides:

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x4-obj-live-sample (below):

Microscopy culture form Hannahs mouth 051117 x20 obj live sample Ph1 (Phase contrast gave much better view than non-phase live images, although bacteria could be seen in both – in Phase contrast the bacteria appear dark as if stained (below):

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x32-obj-live-sample-Ph1 (below):

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x32-obj-Gram stain (the first one also has Phase annulus 1 in place, 2nd photo does not. In theory phase contrast should not be used on these samples but we found today it did enhance the image by darkening the background and improving contrast). It is clear that this bacterium is Gram positive (blue) and consists of rods:

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x32-obj-H&E stain – again first image also has Phase annulus 1 in place and next two do not. Although the pictures look similar, the stains are not staining the same things. H&E stains nuclei and membranes blue and cytoplasm pink regardless of Gram staining characteristics. Some bacteria are Gram positive (blue) others are Gram negative (pink):

 

International Astronomy Show and Meal Afterwards!

I have to thank Andy, he persuaded me to go along to the event – which I think I enjoyed more having not been the previous year!

I had hoped to get along to at least one talk, but there were so many new things to see that we didn’t manage it! I didn’t intend to buy anything either, but I couldn’t resist in the end…  😉

The buying even started as we entered the event (after having had a chat with two local astronomy groups with tables in the foyer – good to get an idea of the type of leaflets others produce), when we came across some nice-hand made, stained glass, astro-themed decorations at £18 a pop!

a bit cheaper than the larger artworks, like this black hole inspired piece…

http://www.dolittleglass.co.uk/index.html

I was amazed to see (and get to play with), the new Nikon full frame D850 (£3500) as it only came out a few weeks ago, plus the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ‘Art’ lens (£1650).

I had been thinking it was time to upgrade the old 12Mp D3, but having talked to astrophotographer Nigel Ball (he had a stand at the show and was one of the lecturers on Friday), who uses a 12Mp D3s and newer 36Mp D810A with the same Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens I have, he said I may be better off looking for a second hand 16Mp D4s instead…. we’ll have to see…

As well as all the nice camera gear, I especially like the Panther Alt/Az mounts which I’d seen two years ago… I got to chat to the UK distributer, but more importantly the Danish designer. He explained how it tracks, how to use the superb hand controller and with the addition of the extra field de-rotator. how they got around the problem of long exposure photography on an alt/at mount.

Andy even challenged him to set up the mount within their advertised time frame (around 5 minutes). He managed it in half that time whilst Andy did his best to put him off – taking pictures of the poor chap!!!

But with the poor weather we’re having, dropping another £5k on a new mount, no matter how cool… seems rather crazy… I still like it though 🙄😀😳

http://www.peak2valleyinstruments.co.uk/page_3569452.html

It was cheaper though than the Austrian made ‘ASA’ Direct Drive mount (uses magnets rather than gears or a disc) that caught mine and Andy’s eye at the show, a ‘snip’ at a discounted……  £11.5K !

Something else that caught my eye (and a nice change from all the usual gear you expect to see), keeping with the artistic slant, was some astro-themed paintings… The one here on the lower right looked far better in real life than that printed in the show guide. Is it a galaxy or globular cluster… that’s for the observer to interpret!

We had a good chat to the artist and talked about how to break into this market – difficult when the work was selling at £700-800 for the smaller works and £2-3k for the bigger ones. Such a purchase in our household would include the two of us. At this sort of show, mostly men…. is ‘he’ really going to buy without the OK from the wife..?!

After the event we all got back together for an Italian at ‘Pizza By Goli’ in Lichfield – thanks to Stephen for organising and to Heather who we toasted for her work on RAGs new Charity Status!

Ooh yes, my purchase – a pair of Vixen SG  2.1 x 42mm ‘Galilean’ binoculars. Down to £199 from £259 from The Widescreen Centre. I remember seeing these when first released 4 years ago or so for around £229.

I even got a very quick chance to use them Saturday night once home before the clouds rolled in. The huge field of view is around 25 degrees, which allows you to see the entire ‘Square pf Pegasus’!

I added the below to show you the comparison with a Telrad view…

Only the central 40-50% is really clear, but it did allow me to see stars within ‘the square’ that I couldn’t see naked eye very clearly, if at all – these were around Mag 4.5-5.5. On a good night, especially in the summer when viewing the Milky Way from Hereford, Wales or on holiday in Austria – they should really come into their own and be good fun!

Damian

International Astronomy Show Day 2

Damian and I arrived at 09:15 at Stoneleigh Park south of Coventry for day 2 of the International Astronomy Show (IAS). We arrived at the same time as Terry and met Ed as we went around. Damian’s enthusiasm was infectious and we enjoyed a fantastic day in which we went to every store and explored every nock and cranny! We spoke to exhibitors, learnt about new products, discussed advances in amateur astronomy and the problems of selling astro equipment in a post-Brexit, poorer UK. I learnt some important information from Gary Palmer on using my Daystar Calcium Quark filter, we saw mounts with direct drives, large beautiful mounts that could be assembled and dissembled in < 3 minutes (each of assembly or disassembly), large scopes, small scopes, filters, power supplies, solar scopes, observatory automation equipment, observatory domes, mounting accessories, flat field plates, telescope storage bags, astronomy art, remote observatory rental companies, astronomy holidays, local astronomy societies, history of astronomy, second hand books, binoculars, more binoculars, bigger binoculars, enormous binoculars, refractors, reflectors, Cassegrains, Dobsonians, cameras – tony, larger, and enormous, connecting leads, dew heaters and bands, eyepieces, filter changers, eyepiece turrets, finder scopes, and even a microscope, amongst others. There was so much to see that Damian and I never got to see a lecture today!

Terry made up his mind and purchased an absolute bargain of a scope – a Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5 and Sky-Watcher 80 ED scope with all necessary accessories – I think he found the bargain of the show! Well done to him and to everyone who found what they wanted or just enjoyed the day!

In the evening many members of RAG enjoyed a fantastic meal at Pizza by Goli in Lichfield.

Click on this link to download documents from the show (copy of the conference brochure with speaker information, vendor’s address cards and information about products)

Andy

Thanks to Ed Mann for the panoramas – other photos taken by myself or Damian:

 

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International Astronomy Show 2017 Day 1

Back again at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry, this show provides a relatively local chance to listen to some excellent talks and go to stands from virtually every astronomy retailer in the UK. Much cheaper than Astrofest in London due to not needing to book hotels or train tickets.

Today, Peter Hill, Ed, Terry, Paul Simpkins and Pete Simpkin and myself arrived early to get the most out of the day.

Terry was attracted to a discounted Celestron Nextar 8 but we needed to wait and see if he buys it! He then expressed ibterest in a Donsonian mount with digital setting circles. He is keen to find an effective useful GOTO scope for hinself to use.

For myself I purchased a small meteorite as demonstrator for my talks on meteorite petrology and microscopy – I don’t intend to get into meteorite collecting. Financial ruin lies that way!

I also bought a book for a fiver, but nothing else has taken my fancy so far. Let’s hope it stays that way.

The talks differ from Astrofest in that at IAS they are 1 hour in length rather than the Astrofest 30 ninutes. This alllows much nore detailsd exploration of a topic. For me, this is one of the particularly positive aspects of IS. The first talk on the sun was excelkent. Starting simply, it built up to in-depth discussion on composition of Sun as found by spectroscopy. Brilliant stuff. Other talks turned out to be equally as good. Terry, Peter, Ed and I also attended talks on dark matter.

Stands are really interesting – even if I am not in buying mood. I enclose some photos below.

Andy

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Federation of Astronomical Societies Annual Convention 2017

Ed and I are here in Birmingham University for the GAS annual convention. This is the first time I have been here after Dave gave such a good write-up of the meeting last year. At only  £5 it is also one of the cheapest astronomical conferences you can go to – and local to us in Staffordshire and Derbyshire too.

There are around 100-150 attendees from a range of Astronomic3al Societies that are members of FAS. The talks are excellent from a range of highly qualified university based astronomy departments. Lots of professors! This makes it quite a different animal from other astronomical conferences for amateurs which tend to use either amateur astronomy lecturers or more junior departmental staff. It therefiee compliments those events well. The current prestigious bunch tend to drop in interesting bits of information that I had heard of before – such as the problem of light scatter experienced by GAIA. The talks today were theoretical and about astronomical research rather than practical astronomy. If Horizon and BBC’s Sky at Night TV does not stretch you ant more then you could have found something here to stimulate your astronomy taste buds. However these talks might have been too much for beginners unless you know a lot of physics and were certainly not aimed at children.

Well worth attending. I hope these events will continue. We will find out at AGM this afternoon – as there is a possibility the organisation might have to close due to lack of volunteers for senior positions within it.

Ed busily collected contact information from many of the lecturers during the day – many of them would make great speakers for future RAG meetings and do give such talks.

Andy

 

The programme for the day:

This picture shows me sitting in the lecture theatre:

Professor John Zarnecki discusses the future of Europe in space:

Professor Ian Shipley speaking about what happened next after Higg’s bosun was discovered. By this he meant the role of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope when it is built (LSST):

Professor Tim Greenshaw talked about the Cherenkov Telescope Array:

Professor Donald Kurtz speaking about planets and pulsations: this was about astroseismology.

Professor Carl D. Murray gave the final talk reflecting on Casini mission to Saturn:

Pictures from the convention outside the talks:

   

Some impressive kit could be seen in the break. This isn’t a conference with many vendors but this new diagonal has a lovely magnetically held filter slider that therefore does not fall out unlike some competitors. I can imagine this being highly sort after by amateurs if priced right. Or at least it would be great if the manufacturer added a brass compression ring and not just two thin screws to drill holes through your Ethos eyepiece! The large eyepiece changer does have compression rings and us therefore better designed in this respect.

 

RAG First informal Star Party 23-25th September 2017

Hi Folks

Last weekend, Dave Jones, Pete Simkins, Paul Simkin and I went to the Brow Farm campsite near Church Stretton to try out an informal Star Weekend. Heather and Doreen were also there for the Friday night. The second photo shows the view from SE to SW  from the higher part of the site

Pete and Paul arrived on Thursday and had quite a good night’s observing. Unfortunately the rest of the weekend was pretty cloudy and rained some of the time. At least my tent didn’t leak this time as it did at Solarsphere.

Saturday brightened up quite a bit and we all got out our solar setups for a while, until hazy cloud made us give up again. At least we all saw a very nice sunspot for a while

On the Friday night, we all met up with Roy and Peter from the Shropshire Astronomy Society and all had a very pleasant meal and a few pints at the local pub. They invited us to go and see a talk by Pete Williamson at their meeting on Saturday night. It was a very interesting evening and the talk was excellent

Brow Farm is potentially a very good venue with minimal light pollution. There is a flat area with electric hook-ups and a hillside with 3 camping pods. There is also a separate field that is usually used by parties. If we wanted to set up a larger gathering it would be ideal as it is flat and has good visibility all round. It also has an empty caravan that could potentially be used as a presentation room/ meeting place if the owner allowed it

The campsite is less than an hour and a half from most of the RAG members and is very cheap, at £6 per head (plus £5 for electric if required) per night

Great weekend in all and I thoroughly enjoyed it