Jane A Green lecture - Basketballs and Beyond - Wonders of the Cosmos

"Basketballs and Beyond - Wonders of the Cosmos" was the intriguing title for our March lecture given to us by Jane A Green.  Jane is a professional speaker and broadcaster, who has co-presented with Sir Patrick Moore, celebrities and media professionals, and has been featured in various astronomical publications.  She scripted a live television/theatre interview with the U.S. Astronomer "Buzz" Aldrin the second man on the moon, has been a guest of the BBC Radio 4 programme Midweek, and Stargazing Live, and was co-presenter of the TOUR OF THE UNIVERSE 2014, appearing with the presenters of the Sky @ Night programme and other high professional speakers.  She is currently Uckfield 105 FMs' resident astronomer and co-hosts Astronomy FM under British Skies.

Jane started her talk by saying that she was a senior officer on cruise liners, and got a degree in Astrophysics and Planetary Science, loves horses, and was with the British Horse Racing Authority for ten years, used to talk to her colleagues about astronomy, and that many of them have become interested in astronomy.   She also said that she does not usually give talks to Astronomy Societies as she feels that many Societies will "know it all already" (which certainly was not the case with this lecture).

Jane said that she is going to take us on a small to utterly immense journey  to show us where earth, stars, planets and the sun are in relation to each other, and to the rest of the universe.   A basketball was used throughout the talk to convey space, size and perspective for the many statistics that she gave us.   Showing us some lovely images of galaxies and dust clouds she talked about how stars are born, live their lives in stellar nurseries, and die.  She then went on to talk about all aspects of the sun,  including sunspots and prominences, showed us tornadoes and a tsunami of plasma inside the sun in U.V. light,  said that the sun would entirely power the United States for 4 years, and that it is 333,000 times bigger than the earth.

She went on to talk about many aspects of the planets of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and gave us many statistics, while using the basketball  for comparisons.  We saw many deep sky objects in amazing images on screen.   There was an artist's impression of the Milky Way Galaxy with its spiral arms comprised of galaxies.   It is thought that 80% of humans on our planet will never see the Milky Way. 

We were told about a recent discovery that our Milky Way Galaxy sits on the edge of a gigantic supercluster of galaxies called the Laniakea  supercluster, and that the Milky Way seems to be moving towards what is called the "Great Attractor" a dense region of clusters about 160 million light years away. 

Jane's final statistic was that "one grain of sand in a Cathedral will still be more packed with sand than space is with stars, and that everything began with subatomic particles inside atoms measuring one ten millionth of a millimetre in a speck of dust, one thousandth the width of a human hair" a difficult statistic to comprehend.

Jane's book the Haynes Astronomy Manual is an international best seller being listed No.6 in Amazon's list of collectible Astronomy books for 2011, was on sale after the talk, and sold out.

Sixty six members and guests came to hear Jane's lecture.  There were lots of questions afterwards which she was very happy to answer.   Our thanks went to Jane for her fascinating and thought provoking lecture.  We were delighted to welcome her.

The raffle was drawn and tea and coffee was available.        

Jan Dell.



WAS Aurora watching trip to Finland, 2015

Nellim 2015!

What another fantastic trip to Nellim, northern Finland!

On the 10th March six WAS members returned to Nellim, on Lake Inari, in what is fast becoming an annual "aurora watch" pilgrimage.

This was our 4th visit to The Wilderness Hotel and it didn't disappoint. Comfortable, warm rooms, excellent food, the addition of the aurora bubbles and enclosed aurora sledge (where you are towed out to the middle of Lake Inari by snowmobile, in a heated, Perspex domed sledge - with bottle of wine and goodies if you so wish) made it another unique holiday. The hotel has also added a bird table just outside the dining area....something so simple but a great idea! Red squirrels, arctic and "normal" redpolls, Siberian Jays and Pine Gross beaks to name a few, were all observed!

The weather for the week was superb and could not have been any better, blue skies and sunshine every day. The temperatures were mild (like last year) but unlike last year there was much more snow!

The clear days turned into clear nights and the aurora was seen every night....all seven of them. Some nights better than others but still.... Two nights were superb displays - very active and dynamic auroras in green, red and violet colours. We were also fortunate enough to see a corona in one of these displays. The unfortunate thing though, was that it was blowing a gale this night so the photographs do not do it justice. In fact it was so windy that my camera and tripod took off! This was on Pattsjoki Bridge and for those of you who remember, it is a particularly beautiful setting so seeing the aurora here this night was wonderful.

During the day we went walking, snowmobiling and husky sledging. The huskies have moved now to a location across a lake from the hotel. This makes the hotel quieter, no barking dogs to wake up to, but in a way I missed this. Our day with the huskies was epic, covering some 80 kms. We left at 10.15am and got back after dark; lunch of reindeer tortillas cooked over an open fire and an amazing sunset made this a truly wonderful experience.

Nellim 2016? Well I have been asked to organise another trip so if you are interested email me: events@wycombeastro.org. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed! (though I cannot guarantee you will see the aurora).


Chris Baker Lecture - Remote & Robotic imaging

Chris Baker came to Woodrow on Wednesday 18th February to talk about Remote Imaging and Robotic Imaging.  Fifty one of our members attended.  

Chris is a keen photographer based in the U.K. who started observing in 2000 and bought himself a Schmidt Cassegrain telescope and then had his own observatory.  In 2012 he bought, shipped out, and set up his own equipment at a hosting site on a mountain at Nerpio in Spain. We saw images of the site which showed various telescope installations, including his own equipment.  He recommended  remote imaging from the U.K. first before embarking on setting up abroad he did not do this, as it is essential to get good advice beforehand which fortunately he did have.    

He talked about his own experiences, the various hosting sites available around the world, equipment needed, software, and the support needed to make it a workable project.  He also gave us details of the rental cost, and said that some host sites were a lot more expensive than others

Chris is very keen on deep sky objects, and showed us some of his first attempts at remote images, and also some more recent ones that have won him prizes, and have been printed in the well known Astronomy magazines.   We saw many images of well known Messier objects including The Beehive Cluster, The Whirlpool,  Andromeda (which took 16 hours of data to produce), the Heart, Horsehead and Flame nebulae, the Rocking Horse cluster,  The Lagoon, the Bubble Nebula, the Jellyfish, Witches Broom in the Veil Nebula, the Monkey Head, Pelican, Cocoon, Rosette, and The Triangulum Galaxy. They were all stunning.  He also talked about the various wavelengths and processes he uses to take and process them.

He talked also about the differences between remote imaging and robotic imaging, saying that with robotic imaging he sets up his equipment to do things automatically without hands on intervention, but that this was not failsafe, and that it can be quite a challenge to get it right.

Unfortunately it was not possible to do a live remote link, so he went on to show us how to process some of the remote images so that we could see how the final results were achieved. Our members were keen to ask questions afterwards, and Neil then thanked Chris for a very interesting and informative talk.

Chris very kindly offered a raffle prize for a chance to use his telescope remotely from the U.K, with his help.  This was won by Jonathan Glenny.

Tea and Coffee was available, and the evening closed at 10.00pm.