Astronomy Shows & Conferences

An ‘Astronomy’ related day – plus… I met an astronaut!

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


Video from International Astronomy Show 2018 (12-13 October 2018)

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:

International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day One 12/10/2018: Talks & Impressions

International Astronomy Show 2018 Day One – 12/10/2018: Photos of vendor displays

International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day Two 13/10/2018

International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day Two 13/10/2018

Rhys and I came back to the International Astronomy Show today on day two. I attended yesterday but this was his first visit this year.

This follows on from Geoff’s and my posts from yesterday:

International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day One 12/10/2018: Talks & Impressions

International Astronomy Show 2018 Day One – 12/10/2018: Photos of vendor displays

See also video from day two:

Video from International Astronomy Show 2018 (12-13 October 2018)

Rhys and I opted to attend two talks – one by David Bryant and another by Allan Chapman.

David’s talk was a fascinating exploration of different types of meteorites and their history.


International Astronomy Show 2018 Day One – 12/10/2018: Photos of vendor displays

Below are some photos from the vendor displays at the International Astronony Show 12/10/2018, which Geoff Dryland and myself visited.

This post follows on from the following post:

International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day One 12/10/2018: Talks & Impressions

Once you have read today’s post, you may also like to read the post from day two of the International Astronomy Show this year:

International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day Two 13/10/2018

See also video from the show at:

Video from International Astronomy Show 2018 (12-13 October 2018)


International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day One 12/10/2018: Talks & Impressions

Geoff Dryland and myself arrived early to meet Pete Hill, Ed Mann and Terry for the start of the first day of this year’s International Astronomy Show at Stoneleigh Park just south of Coventry around 4 miles beyond Warwick University. This annual show lasts two days and is located just southeast of Birmingham in the middle of the UK.

Plenty of space allows vendors to expand the area occupied by their stalls  in the display hall and to therefore display far more stuff than in some other astronomy conferences.The talks as always were great. Today we booked for all 5 speakers, thereby leaving us with limited time for looking at the vendors. I sm back here with Rhys tomorrow and he and I can then spend more time exploring the stalls.

The first talk was on creating simulations of the universe by a professor fron Nottingham. This was an unexpectedly excellent talk and even included information in free software to generate your own universe simulation on a Linux machine called Gadget – anyone can download this so let me know if you want the link. I think i am going to dowload it myself and give it a go……

The second talk was on Astrophotography. The speaker recommends Sequence Generator Pro and Straton software. He gave lots of detail on his photo processing techniques but my own lack of pre-existing knowledge of the area snd poor acoustics in the room meant most of it went over my head.

Next talk was about commercialisation and resource utilisation of space. Another really interesting and unusual topic with information that changed my perspective on the subject.

Meanwhile Ed had bought the lowest profile 2″ to 1.25″ adapter I have ever seen and Terry a Baader zoom eyepiece. Both purchases were bargains, so well done to both for spotting those!

Ed then came back with a planetarium projector of his very own…..see photo below where Terry interogates the new device…..take me to your leader!

There followed a talk on Exomars and finding life on Mars. For me this was most interesting talk of day with lots of detail on evolution of Mars over 3.8 billion years and bringing it right up to date with recent scientific papers.

The last talk of the day was another excellent discussion, this time around the solar wind.

Each talk was nearly one hour – much longer than those at Astrofest- so giving a chance to get far more under the service of a topic.

This was a great set of lectures. Definitely worth attending the conference! Only spent about 15 mins at stalls during the day and further half hour at end of day but tomorrow I am hoping to take more time to look at those with my son.

Photos below from talks and a couple vendors.

More photos from the vendors today can be seen st:

International Astronomy Show 2018 Day One – 12/10/2018: Photos of vendor displays

Rhys and I attended day two and photos and thoughts from that visit can be seen here:

International Astronomy Show 2018 – Day Two 13/10/2018

See also video from day two of the show at:

Video from International Astronomy Show 2018 (12-13 October 2018)



International Astronomy Show in Coventry Friday 12 and Saturday 13 October 2018

It’s back again! The IAS in Stoneleigh, Coventry. If you have never been then it is a wonderful opportunity to goggle at virtually every astronomy store in UK and many from a Europe all under one roof and gear some excellent talks. Over two days you can go for one or both. Much cheaper than Astrofest as you don’t need to pay for train fare and hotel accommodation!

A number of RAG members usually attend and we normally organise a meal in Lichfield after wards.

See info below for further details (PDF) :

International Astronomy Show 2018 Advert Astronomy Now July 2018


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 video files/Astrofest 2016 High Definition Movie(2nd copy).mp4 video files/Astrofest_2015_-080215a-for_computer-.mp4 video files/European Astrofest 2017 by Andrew Thornett 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:


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.