Celebrating 4 years of WAS Photo exhibitions

Wycombe Astronomical Society’ fourth Astro-imaging Exhibition in July 2017 was a huge success and demonstrated that our members are some of the best amateur astro-imagers around.

Five years ago the Society’s members were already gaining in confidence and competence in this very challenging field. At that time we ran a monthly competition aimed at both experienced imagers and beginners. There were difficulties, however. Often a month would go by and there was no good weather to allow imaging! The judging was often very subjective, carried out by visiting speakers some of whom had no imaging experience and hence no frame of reference for consistent judging. Beginners in particular were reluctant to show their humble first efforts and hence felt discouraged to venture further. Accordingly we abandoned the competitive element and instead decided to hold an annual exhibition in July of each year – that time of the year when short nights make imaging impracticable.

The range of equipment our members now own is formidable – some armed with expensive astrograph quality telescopes and high end CCD cameras, others with DSLRs and video cameras and more modest telescopes, yet others with point-and-shoot cameras or just i-Phones. The Society actively promotes astro-imaging among its members. We hold Practical Sessions to teach members how to attach their photographic equipment to their scopes, how to link their computers with scopes and how to carry out post-image processing using stacking and graphic manipulation software. In addition, invited speakers of international acclaim have lectured to us on the subject, including Nik Szymanek, Pete Lawrence, Chris Baker and Damien Peach.

Our first exhibition was in 2014 where we showed both electronic and printed images. Its purpose was to encourage and develop astro-imaging skills of WAS members through participation, teaching and sharing of techniques among the membership. In subsequent years, we maintained those aims but abandoned printed images (primarily on the basis of cost) and instead showed only electronic images, inviting each imager to describe what the target was and how the image was created. Images include aurora, the Moon and Sun, the planets, nebulae and galaxies – in fact anything remotely connected with astronomy! This format has stood us in good stead since, and the results of our endeavours are shown in this section of our website. It is plain to see what a high standard of images our members are creating and that our Society is working at a level that few other societies can match.

Click an exhibition image below to view the exhibition photos.

Waddesdon Star Gazing Event

A massive thank you to those that helped out at our Waddesdon event on Saturday 19th August....Richard & Carol, Mark C, Simmo, Paul, Pat, the two Adrian's and Alex. Although our numbers were few we had an excellent evenings viewing showing Waddesdon's 80 guests the night sky. Although Saturn was low down the views were good enough to generate the usual wows and "that's incredible you can see the rings". One lady told me that seeing it made her heart soar! There were long queues at each scope with people waiting to see M13, Alberio, The double cluster etc and everyone seemed interested in what they were looking at. The guests stayed around for a good hour or so going backwards and forwards between the scopes. Also, a huge thank you to Sandy who delivered another excellent lecture on the Moon. This was well received by the guests in the Power House.

Its always a pleasure helping out at Waddesdon's Stargazing evenings, they are good fun to do and a beautiful setting to do them in.



Courtesey of Trevor Hunter

Courtesy of Trevor Hunter

Cosmic Kidz and Stargazing Live

On Sunday 2nd April 2017 Wycombe Astronomical Society held its second Cosmic Kidz event.....an astromomy and science show for families. This year we were able to tie this in with the BBC's Stargazing Live programmes, being broadcast from Australia.

The event started at 2.15pm at a new venue - Amersham School in Amersham. Guests streamed in steadily from the start and this continued throughout the afternoon. It is difficult to estimate numbers but there must have been 130 or so and all were treated to a fun afternoon. Firstly, the sun was shining! This meant that the children and adults could enjoy some solar viewing. Several members had set up their telescopes and solar scopes which allowed for safe viewing of solar prominences and sun spots.

Inside there was a variety of displays and exhibits. We had 5 planetarium shows throughout the afternoon and each one was full. This was run for us by Mark at The Black Hole planetarium and all children and adults came out saying that they had learnt something. There was space food for the children to try - freezedried ice cream and freezedried strawberries. The mint chocolate ice cream was particularly nice! Paul Hill from the European Space Agency put on an excellent show - with explosions and "count downs" and the opportunity to wear a genuine spacesuit. WAS member, 13 year old Rio, gave two excellent talks which were well received and we had an indoor telescope display too.

The children had the opportunity to enter a competition by answering questions related to the show....what is the area in space called in which you have to wear a space suit in order to survive? (The Armstrong Line), Identify the object down the microscope (head louse), How is space food preserved?  (freeze dried) etc. The winning entry won a digital microscope. There was also the prize raffle in which a "GoTo" scope was the first prize and a pair of binoculars the second.

The lovely clear weather continued into the evening which allowed the second part of our event - the Stargazing Live part - to take place. This was just as busy as the daytime event and children and adults were treated to many a fine object. For a lucky few that arrived early the planet Mercury was a real highlight. Jupiter, another big highlight rose later in the evening and this produced the usual wows. M37 a lovely cluster in Auriga, M42 - Orion Nebula, the Moon and other objects were on display throughout the evening.

Huge thanks must go to all members who helped during the day and evening...no matter how big or small a role each member had it was a real team effort that made the event so successful one.


Stargazing at Waddesdon Manor

Over 60 guests at Waddesdon Manor enjoyed a rewarding stargazing evening in the company of members of Wycombe Astronomical Society. Following a leisurely dinner (while waiting for the clouds to disappear!) the guests listened to a short talk in the Powerhouse by Sandy Giles entitled “Celestial Signposts” – all about using constellations and stars to locate astronomical objects in the night sky. Then, thankfully, the skies cleared and the guests joined about fifteen WAS members on the parterre to see a wide range of objects through telescopes – Jupiter, M42, M3, M45 to name a few. Mark Cullen’s cumulative image stacking setup was particularly popular, showing spectacular views of the Leo Triplet, M81/M82, M51 and M101. All the guests were very appreciative of this now regular outreach event and as an indication of just how lucky we were with the weather, the roads all the way home were wet indicating that rain had fallen  - everywhere else but Waddesdon!


Perseid Meter Watching

Members of Wycombe Astronomical Society have had two lovely evenings of watching the Perseids recently and both with clear skies.

The first event, on Thursday 11th August, was held at Waddesdon Manor. Waddesdon arranged an evening meal and lecture followed by Perseid observing for their paying guests. Sandy delivered another excellent lecture titled “The Restless Universe” which was well received and afterwards they joined members of WAS on the Parterre. Although not perfectly clear it was good enough to enable the guests to see some bright Perseids as well as other objects through the telescopes. About 20 members of WAS assisted and had a very enjoyable evening.

Then on Friday 12th August we had our annual Perseid BBQ. The day had been beautifully sunny and this continued well into the evening.

This year the society borrowed two BBQ’s from members Mark C and Sarah W and these were lighted at 7pm with the view that they would be ready to cook on by 8pm when members would start to arrive. Unfortunately Sarah was a little over zealous with the charcoal and it took a while for them to really get going, helped with some frantic fanning by Sandy. Once ready to cook on though they were far better than the disposable BBQ’s that we have used in the past and some excellent BBQ food was cooked (and cremated).

As in previous years the society also provided the drinks for the evening and these went down well with only a couple of bottles remaining at the end of the evening.  

About 40 members and guests enjoyed the evening and we all saw at least one Perseid! We also saw a nice pass of the ISS low in the southeast. Several members took cameras in the hope of catching a Perseid on “film”.  A couple of telescopes were set up and two Ioptron sky trackers had their first airing too.

All in all, two excellent evenings’, viewing the Perseid meteor shower.