Astronomy Shows & Conferences

Solarsphere Online 2020

Hi Folks

Because of the Covid 19 pandemic, Solarsphere was cancelled this year, which is a real shame as it’s en excellent event. The organisers managed to put on an online event, with many of the original speakers doing a Zoom talk. Most of the talks are now available on Youtube along with many of the bands that play at the event.

Pete Williamson (one of the organiser) gave the audience figures for Paul Money’s talk:-

Zoom – 40 viewers

Youtube (live)) –  20 viewers

Astro Radio (worldwide) – 137210 !!!

Obviously the live links below are not active any more but the Youtube talks should work:-

SOLARSPHERE 2020 ON-LINE SCHEDULE: 15th & 16th August 2020
Solarsphere 2020 On-Line will be a Mix of Astro Radio Live Shows ( Audio ) and Zoom / YouTube Streamed Talks.
To listen to Astro Radio goto or ask Alexa / Google / Siri for Astro Radio from
Tune In. All links for Zoom talks are listed under the speaker’s name, Zoom allows 100 interactive
users. If Zoom is full then click and watch on the YouTube channel.
12:00 – 12: 05 : Opening chat with Pete Williamson
12:05 – 14:00 : JD Quenzer (music and chat) ASTRO RADIO
14:00-19:00 : Pete Williamson (music/talks/interviews) ASTRO RADIO
Within Pete’s show
14:30: Mark McCaughrean ESA – Radio Interview
chatting about Bepi Columbo mission to Mercury.
15:00 – 16:00 : Steve Tonkin BBC Sky at Night Magazine
(zoom / YouTube talk)
Two Eyes are Better Than One – Observing Deep Sky Objects with Binoculars
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 954 8071 3369
Audio broadcast on the radio
16:15 : Dr Helen Mason OBE Solar Scientist – Radio Chat about latest missions to The Sun
17:00 – 18:00 : Mary McIntyre Astronomer (zoom / You Tube talk)
Astronomy Sketching & Artwork – Mary will show her favourite sketches and how she created
them plus astronomy & space related artwork she has created.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 997 5519 3755
Audio broadcast on the radio
18:00 – 19:00 – Music and Band interviews – Radio chat with Bands that have played Solarsphere
and their music. ASTRO RADIO
19:00 – 20:00 – ‘Ask an Astronomer’, with Solarsphere Astronomy experts: Interactive Zoom /
Passive YouTube Session
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 934 4308 3062
Audio broadcast on the radio
Resident Experts: Jonathen Harty, Tracey Snelus, Paul Money, Emma Wride, Dr Julian Onions, Dave
Galvin, Steve Tonkin, Mary McIntyre, Stuart Atkinson, Dr Megan Argo, JD Quenzer, Gary Palmer,
Steve and James (from Cosmos Planetarium)
20:00 – 22:00 – John Graves (Solarsphere Lighting & Projections Engineer): Music, to include from
bands who have played at Solarsphere Festival. Radio Show. ASTRO RADIO
22:00 – 1am – Jon Wisby ( Alien Stash Tin ) Live Stage Music Show
10:00-Midday – Rock Reaper Music Picks ASTRO RADIO
12:00-14:00 : JD Quenzer (music and chat) ASTRO RADIO
14:00-19:00 : Pete Williamson (music/talks/interviews) ASTRO RADIO
Within Pete’s show:
14:30 : Chris Lintott BBC Sky at Night Radio interview
Chatting about the last year in astronomy & space research
15:15 : Paul Money Astronomer : Zoom / YouTube Talk
What’s on in the Night Sky
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 919 4747 0123
16:30 : Dr Tim Gregory Cosmochemist researcher , TV Presenter : Radio interview
Talking about his new book
Solarsphere Sunday Zoom Sessions (Access to ALL Zoom / YouTube Talks from 17:00
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 973 5205 5953
17:00 -18:00 : Dr Julian Onions Zoom / YouTube Talk
The Far Side of The moon – Is it full of Aliens.
18:00 – 19:00 : Emma Wride from AstroCymru : Zoom / YouTube Talk
Space Activities for Kids
19:00 – 20:00 – ‘Ask an Astronomer’, with Solarsphere Astronomy experts: Interactive Zoom /
Passive YouTube Session
Resident Experts: Jonathen Harty, Tracey Snelus, Paul Money, Emma Wride, Dr Julian Onions,
Dave Galvin, Steve Tonkin, Mary McIntyre, Stuart Atkinson, Dr Megan Argo, JD Quenzer, Gary
Palmer, Steve and James (from Cosmos Planetarium)
20:00 – 22:00 – ‘Snake’ (Music picks from Solarsphere Stage Manager)
22:00 – 23:00 : Zoom fun and chat ‘think tank’
Midnight – 3am – Jon Wisby ( Alien Stash Tin ) Live Stage Music Show

Astrofest 2020 in Kensington – Day 1 – 31/1/2020

We are back at Astrofest!

Ed Mann, myself and two friends from London – Kelvin and Joseph – exhibitors looking a bit thin on ground and Ed did search for bargains and not many to find so far although some might be hidden on some stalls…..we will let you know! (See below.)

However, the hall was virtually full to capacity – seating around 400 this is a remarkable achievement on day 1 of the conference,  given competition from IAS, Practical Astronomy Show, etc.

Talks covered wide variety subjects including legality of mining the moon, history of amateur astrophotography, history of Hubble Space Telescope, role of ESA, and many more. As usual, the speakers were excellent.

In practice, the exhibitors did provide a wide range of interesting items to look at and some new/relatively new kit was available, although this was limited. Astrotrak have a very exciting new mount and this would be my pick of the show. I have a photo of this below.

Nik Syzmanek signed copies of his new book on astrophotography. I purchased a copy of this as it includes specific instructions on how to use Photoshop and other software to do things such as Hubble Palate.

The conference has also been a chance to meet new and old friends from other astro groups, and breakfast at our hotel was a bit like a who’s who of amateur astrophotography!

I’m glad I came again.


Practical Astronomy Show 2019

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):

Purchase from Astrofest – Orion UK eyepiece tray

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.


See also:

European Astrofest Day 1 – 8/2/2019

Astrofest 2019 Day 2 – 9/2/2019

Video from European Astrofest 8-9 February 2019

Astrofest 2019 Day 2 – 9/2/2019

See also:

European Astrofest Day 1 – 8/2/2019

Video from European Astrofest 8-9 February 2019

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.