I got to meet one of my heroes at PAS 2016 – the great planetary photographer Damian Peach.
What a brilliant day! We are all hoping that the organisers will run this show again next year. This is possibly the best show we will go to this year! Helped by great venue, interesting speakers, masses of atro stuff to look at, plenty of space in capacious halls to wonder around, lots of bargains, friendly and relaxed atmosphere, efficient catering at a reasonable price, central location, lecture theatre where you can actually hear the speakers and see the slides whereber you sat, and of course no entry charge! Why can’t all amateur astronomy shows be like this?
Several members of RAG attended the inaugrel Practical Astronomy Show today near Kettering 9/3/2019, including myself, Pete Hill, Heather, Rob Leonard, Terry Grimes, Ed Mann, Pete and Paul, Neil Wyatt, Ken Critchon. We should have more of these club outings to things astronomical!
The emphasis of this new show was on practical aspects of amateur astronomy, so no professional academics or folks from NASA bit rather likes of Paul Money, Gary Palmer and Damian Peach gave talks.
Paul Money started the talks with a jaunt through his observing career and a jolly look at his aperture fever and increasing expenditure on telescopes over the years until eventually he bought a 500mm Dobsonian telescope. Usually these purchases occured after he fell in love with a telescope or other bit of astro kit after reviewing it for BBC Sky at Night magazine. His poor wife – at least that is what most wives would say! How did he get away with it – the question most of us would ask!
The talks were great fun and, given that both show and talks were all free, well attended with relaxed feel. Unlike Astrofest which feels so serious, today was about fun, fun, fun! The lecture room housed about 200 attendees and sound and visuals were good. The free tickets meant that the lectures were full, and it was important to arrive early to get tickets for the talks. We were impressed with rthe quality and passion of the speakers, with something for everyone regardless of your level of experience and knowledge in astronomy.
There were a large number of vendors in the three rooms used for the show. Many of them are not seen at other shows, as the prices for vendors was much cheaper to attend PAS than Astrofest or the International Astronomy Show. Astrofest is still the place to go for definitive lectures by leading professional astronomers and celebrity speakers but PAS is setting itself up as the conference for those us who want advice on how to observe or photograph the night sky.
We were also impressed by the catering with a reasonable selection at an acceptable price, with efficient service so that you did not need to wait too long.
Unlike Astrofest in January this year where sale items were few and limited when present, there were a fair number of true bargains at the show today – masses of cheap space allowed vendors to empty cupboards and bring along their findings and sell them cheap – some of this stuff was excellent and in new or as new condition:
Pete and Heather join the queue to go into the show:
Spectrometer for sale:
Yours truly models a new scope for the home observatory……How can I sneak that one home without being noticed? Actually, I am not even sure if it will fit in the new Peter Bolas Observatory at Rosliston Forestry Centre (RAG’s home in Derbyshire, England, UK).
Damian Peach speaking on high resolution astrophotography below:
Bargain I picked up at show – a right angled finder scope with illuminated eyepiece on Sky Watcher mounting bracket for £45! Used but in excellent condition (below):
I have just installed a great £20 Accessory I purchased at European Astrofest 2019 – an aluminium eyepiece tray to compliment my aluminium Dobsonian mount base on my Orion UK 10″ Dobsonian telescope. Hitherto, I have been putting eyepieces on base below the scope with risk they fall off if I forget they are there and pick up mount to put it away at end of observing session. This new arrangement is much safer! I have drilled extra holes to install at front but there are also already holes available to install it both sides instead so I will see which I prefer in practice.
Day 2 – 9/2/2019:
Started today by docking the Soyuz onto the International Space Station. Last year I fluked a successful docking in the same simulator (I gave up in disgust when I could not get it to dock, got up and walked away to shouts of “You’ve done it!” – it drifted on to dock successfully when I let go of the controls!!) This year I buried that ghost, by successfully docking the aft hatch in both easy and hard modes and also successfully docking into one of the side hatches – not sure what changed the year to turn me into a mean docking machine….
I then did an interview on this new Rotarion automatic telescope turret – perhaps the most exciting innovation seen at thus year’s Astrofest.
Then Ed and I went into lecture theatre for the start of today’s series of 8 talks.
Stuart Clarke and Lucie Green, who are chairing the sessions today:
David Eicher started the lectures today with a talk on galaxies. Yesterday, when David presented with Brian May on Moon 3D, Brian did most of the talking, so today’s talk was the first time I have properly heard David speak – and he was VERY good! Here is one of Edwin Hubble’s plates from his presentation. I think David said it was one of Hubble’s observations of M31:
The next talk was on the Hayabusa 2 mission. Another brilliant talk – clearly today was going to be something exceptional!
The following link is to the webpage for live webcam feed for landing of Hayabusa 2 on its asteroid at the end of the month.
After coffee, Paul Able and Allan Chapman will be giving talks. Can you imagine attending a better conference than this? Perhaps it is possible, but it would need to be some conference to be so!
Brian May and Andrew
And with Paul Abel from BBC’s Sky at Night:
Other highlights and photos:
I did not realise Mercury has x-ray aurorae – there is no atmosphere and the solar particles coming down magnetic field lines hit the surface which gives off x-ray.
Andy and Paul Money:
Ed showed Paul photos of the new Peter Bolas Observatory at Rosliston Forestry Centre.
Lucy Hawking speaking about her father, Stephen Hawking:
The final two lectures were on dark energy and the leader of the team investigating the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule with the New Horizons probe.
This has been another fantastic conference! Shame have to go home now.
Day 1 – 8/2/2019:
Ed (Mann) and I stayed overnight at the Copthorne Tara Hotel before arriving at Astrofest at 8:45am on 8/2/2019 ready got the first day of European Astrofest 2019.
We come along for our annual trip to this conference, which advertises itself as the biggest and best annual European amateur astronomy conference. This may have been true in the past but now it has a run for its money with the International Astronomy Show held near Coventry each October/November.
It was great to meet many folks that we have met at previous Astrofests – after several years we know each other by sight with folks from Edinburgh astronomy soc, Bakers Street Astronomers, Leicester astronomy Soc, University of 3rd age astronomy groups, etc.
First impression was a mixture of positive and negative – on the negative side the number of vendors purchasing stand space in the exhibition has gone down for another year runnnig with significant spaces and stalls spreading out to fill gaps. Some big names are not here and I did not find any bargains that stood out as we wondered around the exhibition before the first talk.
In the positive side, all but the first session of talks are sold out and even the first is largely full. As always the range of topics in the talks is quite exciting and I am sure will kep us enthralled for both days. I also noticed that the Soyuz capsule/ISS docking simulator is back and I would to try it again to see if I can dock it successfully without having to fluke it as I did last time!
I have already purchased a copy off Brian May and David Eicher’s new book “Book 3D” and David Eicher was there to sign it for me and Happy to allow me to have a photograph taken with him. David is the editor of Astronomy magazine.
Purchases planned otherwise? I am looking for a Sky Watcher finder base but otherwise not expecting to buy anything.
The second talk of Friday stood out as a serious discussion of strategies to search for life starting on another planet, with emphasis to sort of things can put on probes to other planets to allow them to identify likely life. I was very interested in the speaker’s ideas on information processing indicators on planets that suggest that a planet has life.
NB There was only one thing I wanted to buy – a Sky Watcher finder base – the little bit the finder attached to…could I find one? Could I, heck!
Ed and Andy in the lecture theatre:
David Eicher, editor of Astronomy Magazine, and Andy: David is holding the new book he has co-authored with Brian May of Queen:
Ed and I are off to European Astrofest 2019 in London Kensington High St tonight – yipee! To give you a taste of what we are expecting, here is the video I took last year…….Watch this blog for details/photos of what we see in the next two days!
In the video below (from Astrofest 2018), watch out for the bit where I fluke a successful docking of a Soyuz capsule with the ISS on a simulator!
See following for posts from European Astrofest 2019:
I started my working day photographing ceramics at Richard Winterton Auctioneers (you might have seen him on daytime telly – Bargain Hunt and David Dickinson’s Real Deal), ready for the next sale later in the month.
One of the early lots was this pair of Lorna Bailey limited edition ‘Celestial’ vases…. very much a space theme in evidence:
Later in the day I found Jon, our resident toy expert looking through some old newspapers, he’s here, hiding behind this one!
I left work early as Julie had got us both tickets to Lichfield’s Guild Hall to see a talk by retired NASA astronaut, Winston Scott.
It was a 5.30 opening for a 6.00pm start. We arrived just after the doors opened and I was surprised to see the back of a man in a blue jump-suit… the main man himself !
Considering Winston and his wife had only just flown into the UK and had been travelling most of the day, he had a big smile and seemed genuinely happy to meet and greet us (and everyone else) on our arrival. Julie and I had chance to talk with him before his presentation and I said I was a member of a local astronomy group. He asked about us and I told him about the new observatory. He didn’t just politely listen (as you might expect), but asked what sort of scope we were going to put in it, etc.
His talk lasted about half an hour. He told us about his childhood, education and how he finally joined the US Navy – becoming a fighter pilot, flying F14 Tomcats. As he explained for those that didn’t know their planes, that was the one made famous by Tom Cruise in TopGun – although he quipped that he had actually ‘flown’ the things! The picture below was taken after he had received notification that he was off to NASA for astronaut training…
He explained that he trained to become a helicopter pilot flying anti-submarine machines in the Vietnam war, before applying to NASA.
His talk continued about the training involved to become an astronaut and his two missions, which included early experiments for construction in space – what would become the ISS. One of the most important things he did (yet hadn’t practised for), was after the Shuttle had released a SPARTAN solar observation satellite that malfunctioned. It was decided that he (and his Japanese colleague) should try and manually rescue said satellite (because it was slowly spinning out of control, the Shuttle crew could not use the robotic arm). Instead the two astronauts strapped their feet into position and over a 3.5 hr EVA, Winston guided the Shuttle pilot ever closer to the satellite so the two astronauts could physically grab it and load it back into the Shuttle cargo bay!
The satellite in question:
A link to him talking about catching the satellite:
He then explained the re-entry and landing procedure for the unpowered Shuttle and the extraction of the crew. He made an interesting comment… that you never see the crew leave the Shuttle as that is always done in isolation, “because some don’t cope with the return to Earth too well”, which is unlike the footage we see when they are being pulled / carried out of the Soyuz craft… had never occurred to me, that fact.
After concluding the main talk, the floor was opened for a half hour question and answer session which covered questions relating to travel to Mars, his training, pre-flight feelings and expectations, the private sector and space tourism, the future direction of space travel… and even his Navy ‘Call-Sign’… no, it wasn’t Maverick.. or Ice Man!
At the end Julie and I both went up separately to thank him. J got chance to ask a few more questions (!), one was about languages (as you might expect from a modern languages teacher!!!) and the other was about how they decide which way is ‘up’ in space – he’s answering that question below… (it depends on the craft).
We left with a signed photograph having had an absolutely super evening. We couldn’t have met a nicer and more down to earth guy. If intelligent life ever visited Earth, he would make a great ‘First Contact’ ambassador !
Damian and Julie
This is video from the International Astronomy Show in Stoneleigh Park 12-13/10/2018.
Video from IAS 2018:
Other posts on the International Astronomy Show 2018 with photos and impressions on the event: