Astronomy Shows & Conferences

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.

Andy

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:

Andy

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.

Andy

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.

Andy

 

European Astrofest Day 1 – 8/2/2019

See also:

Astrofest 2019 Day 2 – 9/2/2019

Video from European Astrofest 8-9 February 2019

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!

Andy

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: