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AAS News and Observing Reports

British Science Festival & BAA - Sept 2012

The University of Aberdeen hosted Europe’s biggest science festival between 4 - 9th September. The British Science Festival had  a programme of events for people of all ages and interests.  Some of the events with
an astronomical connection were as follows :

- May the force be with Us: What does the Earth's Magnetic Field do for us ?   
- From Quantum Gravity in the Early Universe to Quantum Engineering Deep Subsea 
- Space Weather: A New Hazard for a modern world 
- Dark Sky and Deep Space - Education Training Workshop (Wed 5th Sept 10:00 - 17:00)
- Wish you were here - Searching for Exoplanets followed by Star Gazing (Woodend Barn, Banchory )
- Uncovering the Secrets of the LHC - Large Hadron Collider 
- The Quantum Universe with Brain Cox & Jeff Forshaw 
- Life down below: The Search for a Deep Biosphere on Earth and Beyond
- Wish you were here? Seaching for Exoplanets 
- Expanding Minds and Universes 
- The real doomsday 2012: Cataclysmic Events and Human Extinction 
- BAA Weekend Event - Sun, Aurora and NLC (Fri 7th Sept - Sun 9th Sept) 
- Cosmic Dome  (family event) 
- Dark Matters  
- Cluster: Aurora Explorer 9 drop -in activity or exhibition)
- Cafe Cosmos Festival Special with Rick Holstein & Torcuill Torrance 
- The Extreme Universe  

British Science Festival website

 

As part of the British Science Festival AAS hosted a weekend meeting of the British Astronomical Association (BAA) at Kings College Conference Centre, University of Aberdeen.  The weekend  comprised:

- Talk on Friday evening (7th) by Dr Stuart Clark.  
- A full day of talks on Saturday (8th), including a talk by Torcuill Torrance on the  subject of Local Astronomy,  followed by an evening keynote talk by Dr John Mason.  
- Astrronomical Tour of Aberdeen on Sunday morning (9th) led by Dr John Reid

BAA Meeting - Aberdeen 2012

 

   


    

Venus Transit - 6th June 2012

Aberdeen was unfortunately clouded out for the transit of Venus on the morning of June 6th, however at least 2 AAS members  caught sight of the Transit: 

1) Phil Hart viewing from Leipzig, Germany
(pictures & story

2) Karen Yuill viewing from Mullhead on Orkney

 
These are some photos of my Transit of Venus experience in Orkney. They aren't stunning but the conditions were difficult with strong Easterly winds and almost 95% cloud cover. Pictures include some of our equipment and viewing position in a small gully near the Gloup, Mull Head to give us a bit of shelter. In one of the shots of my cardboard Solarscope, you can see we've had to weigh it down and surround it with stones to try and keep it from blowing away - as improvised by Roddy!

The PST picture was an improvised hand-held shot just to see if it would turn out. So far I haven't been able to get my web-cam to work but in the conditions I'd have been wary of having a laptop set up. Some of the others show the 2 small strips of clear sky that we had and how the remaining clouds resulted in a beautiful sunrise even if that meant we didn't see any more of the transit.

 



    

Perseid Meteor Shower (12 Aug 2009)

Torcuill Torrance (left) points out a meteor during the Perseid Meteor Shower, 
following a social event when AAS members and guests' enjoyed a Cosmic Curry
Back of Bettridge Centre, Newtonhill,  2009-08-12.  
(click on image for larger view)


    

Spring Star Gazing Success (Mar 2009)

 
Star gazers in Newtonhill were blessed with clear skies on Saturday night (March 28th) and braved freezing temperatures to enjoy the Spring Star Watch event organised by Aberdeen Astronomical Society. About 90 people enjoyed the evening that included talks on astronomy and telescope observing. 

A highlight of the evening was the Cosmic Dome planetarium run by Christine Macmillan from Techfest-Setpoint, who gave the audience a guided tour of the night sky before they were then able to go outside and see the real thing for themselves. 

AAS president Darren Moody said "400 years ago Galileo first pointed a telescope at the planet Saturn. On Saturday night we were able to give many people their first close-up look at Saturn, showing them the famous rings and some of Saturn's moons. Other objects on view included the Pleiades star cluster and the Orion Nebula. Early guests also had the opportunity to see the Moon through telescopes, as well as watch a flyover of the International Space Station. The evening was a great success and we hope to make this a regular event. The Bettridge Centre is an ideal venue for indoor astronomy activities and outdoor star gazing. We'd particularly like to thank Newtonhill Out of School Club for making some fantastic astronomy posters to decorate the hall for the evening.

Spring Star Watch Event  (March 28th 2009)

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) is an exciting global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture.  Coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first glimpses through a telescope and the birth of modern astronomy, it gives people all over the world the chance to get involved in this fascinating science and experience the wonders of the night time sky. 

IYA2009 links
| UK :  http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk/   | Global :  http://www.astronomy2009.org/ |


    

Big Binos in Action (Dec 2008)

 


AAS Project Officer, Torcuill Torrance, taking a look at the night sky using our very large (25x100) binos on a Millennum Unimount stand which allows him to glide his view around the sky with the greatest of ease. Bettridge Centre, Newtonhill 

Photo Credit: David Croston (Dec 2008)


    

Visit to Stirling Observatory / Old High School Telescope (13 Sep 2008)

 

The Observatory Tower 
atop the Stirling Highland Hotel.
   AAS member Jeff Fysh enjoying the view through 
the 12" Newtonian reflector built in 1889 by William Peck

On Saturday 13th September, 13 AAS members travelled down to Stirling for a very enjoyable visit to the observatory operated by Stirling Astronomical Society. Before a tour of the observatory we enjoyed a meal at a local Indian restaurant with 5 members of SAS, helping to forge links between the two astronomical societies.

Despite cloudy skies, Alan Cayless and other members of SAS entertained us with the stories of the Old High School Telescope that sits in the observatory atop the Stirling Highland Hotel. The telescope was designed, constructed and installed in the High School of Stirling by William Peck in 1889. However, despite good early use, the observatory fell into disuse in the early 20th Century and the telescope lay in storage gathering dust for many decades. In 1962 the High School relocated to new premises and the building was empty until 1989 when conversion to the present hotel started. Stirling Astronomical Society have done a tremendous job of restoration of the telescope and observatory and have a busy time showing it to local schools, groups, hotel guests and the occasional astronomical society. 

Alan also has an involvement in the Open University and treated us to a slide show of an observatory that they use in Majorca every year. Clearly they have better skies there than we had in Stirling that night and no doubt a few AAS members are adding this venue to their holiday wish list. 

The cloudy skies didn't stop us admiring the observatory and the superb view over the surrounding city. The telescope was aimed at the floodlit Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument and we were impressed by the quality of the optics that William Peck had made all those years ago. 

Late in the evening we headed for home and noted with our usual displeasure that the skies were gradually clearing! 

Our visit coincided with the busy Stirling Open Doors weekend that the observatory was a part of, so AAS is very grateful to Alan Cayless and the other members of Stirling Astronomical Society for taking the time to show us the observatory and tell us about it's history. We can't recall a previous official AAS visit to this observatory, but we're sure it won't be long before we visit again.  

Darren Moody

Links : http://www.stirlingastronomicalsociety.org.uk/


    

Perseid Meteor Observing by AAS Members (11/12 Aug 2008)

Two AAS Members observed 43 Perseids over a 3 hour period from the Bettridge Centre, Newtonhill with rates of up to 22 per hour.  Another AAS member observed from the society's Dark Sky Site and saw 5 meteors over a 1-2 hour period. Individual reports follow: 

1:
Initial conditions looked better down towards the coast and I joined Torc at the Bettridge Centre. Some early clouds thinned out to give clear skies (much better than I thought there would be). It looked as though it probably would have been OK inland too. We found a very pleasant spot where a hedge screened the Bettridge Centre lights and left us with a view of sea and stars. First meteor appeared about 10:30 pm (BST). I counted 18 Perseids in the first hour and 22 in the second hour. Not bad 12 hours ahead of the peak. Regrettably I had to head for home at 12:30 am, knowing that I had to work today. Torc carried on watching and photographing.   (Darren Moody).

2: I stayed up for another hour - seeing 3 further meteors, but taking many many unfocused, wrongly exposed images of the inside of my dew laden lens.   Haven't had so much fun for ages!  (Torcuill Torrance).

3:
Guess who was Mr Lonely again. I got to the (Dark Sky) site around 10:00 pm as from home the sky was beginning to clear. By 11:00 I had about 50% clear sky. As for Perseids, very few. Saw 5, one very fast and bright blue in colour which covered about 1/3 of the sky in length. A couple of tumbling satellites and by midnight, some great views of the Milky Way. At which point, beginning to imagine the black cougar of Correnie coming up behind me, I ate the last of the coconut cookies and finished off the hot chocolate and went home - as also having to work today (Chris Higgins).


    

AAS Dark Sky Site (Aug 2008)
An account of the founding and use of the AAS Dark Sky Site by Phil Hart (Tales from Scotland: The Value of a Dark Sky Site) has been published in Crux - the newsletter of the Astronomical Society of Victoria.


    

Noctilucent Clouds (June 19th, 2008)
Bright display of noctilucent clouds visible on June 19th. Images below and a 5 MB video were recorded by AAS member Torcuill Torrance from Newtonhill.  

Torc's pictures and a 5 MB video made there way onto the top story slot on the  June 23rd edition of spaceweather.com and the 2008 Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

    

Night at the Museum Event (17 May 2008)
Night at the Museum Event  held at the Zoology Museum and Natural History Centre on the University of Aberdeen's historic King's College campus. Interactive festivities included star and planet gazing with the Aberdeen Astronomical Society 

    

Dark Sky Observing Meeting (07 Sep 2007)
Five member of the society had a very enjoyable evening up at Dark Sky site on Friday evening. The early evening sunshine suggested good conditons for the dark hours, so we were initially disappointed with total cloud cover when we arrived at 9:30 pm. Patience paid off though as good clear spells materialised within an hour and we spent a good couple of hours with a few telescopes and one of our new 25x100 binoculars. 

It was good to see that the old favourites are still there (M13, M27, M57, etc.). I was pleasantly surprised at how many of these could be picked up with the binoculars. In particular the view of the Double Cluster in Perseus was breathtaking, as was the Andromeda Galaxy, M31. Just scanning the Milky Way through Cygnus threw up numerous delights. [D.Moody]

   

Phil Hart wins Honourable Mentions for astrophotos at prestigious "David Malin Awards", 2007. Phil Hart recently entered a number of his astro-images in the fourth annual David Malin astrophotography competition, hosted by the Central West Astronomical Society in Parkes, NSW, and came away with three honourable mentions in the Amateur Deep Sky and Amateur Solar System categories.  >> Picture of Phil Hart with David Malin

 

     
Photo Copyright: Phil Hart

 [More  http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au/events/astrofest/awards/ ]

    

Perseid Meteor Observing by AAS Members (12/13 Aug 2007)
Although cloud prevented meteor observing from the inland Dark Sky site, a number of AAS members saw Perseids in breaks in cloud from various locations around Aberdeen.
 
Date Observation (Times below are BST)
12/13th Aug Last night was clear for quite a while. I managed to observe 5 Perseids and one erratic from 10:45 to 11:30 pm. Then the clouds rolled in. [Chris Higgins, Craigievar]
 
Cloud. Perseids was a no-show for me. [Darren Moody, Bancory]
 
Clocked up a nice total of 16 meteors over a 45 minute period at our alternative viewing location near Doonies Farm, Altens. [Torcuill Torrance / Andrew Crockford ]
 
Braved the light polluted skies of our urban back garden in Stonehaven to check out these Perseid things between about 0045 and 0115 (BST). We saw 8 meteors including one spectacular and lingering fireball before the clouds rolled in [David Croston, Stonehaven]
 
Pretty pleased with our haul of 20 in an hour + one sporadic. Cloud cover initially was almost total but cleared to give a reasonable chunk of clear sky which swept across from south to north [Karen Yuill, Balmedie]
 
Cloudy each time I looked out.  [David Richards, Newburgh]
 
13/14th Aug Clear skies tonight.  Although I was mainly occupied with CCD imaging,  I noted that the Perseid's were putting on quite a good show (around 30 plus over a 3.25 hour period, 23:30 to 02:45 BST). No fireballs, but occasional flurries with 3 to 5 meteors over a two minute period.    [David Richards, Newburgh]

   

Observing Meeting, Woodbank (27 Apr, 2007)
Around 12 members of the society met at Woodbank and using three telescopes between 3.5 and 8" diameter viewed Moon, Venus and Saturn in the early evening event.

   
Moon through telescope, 
digital image (
Paul Nesvadba)

Pictures from Observing Meeting at Woodbank (Apr 27th)
 Pictures by Paul Nesvadba. Click on images for larger picture.

 

   

Public Observing Session, Lunar Total Eclipse (3 Mar 2007)
A large crowd of people enjoyed a spectacular view of the total lunar eclipse on Saturday 3rd March from the Bettridge Centre in Newtonhill. About 80 people joined members of Aberdeen Astronomical Society for the event, enjoying a talk on eclipses, a tour of the night sky as well as a great view of the eclipse through an array of telescopes and binoculars. 

Earlier in the evening, AAS President Darren Moody had described what happens during eclipses, giving the audience a good feel for what to expect as the show progressed. As the Earth's shadow crept across the face of the Moon, the sky gradually got darker, more stars began to appear and the Moon took on a dark red tinge. At the moment of totality, just before 11 pm, there were even some cheers from the crowd that consisted of young and old as well as local and foreign visitors. 

Darren Moody added "The view through binoculars was spectacular, with the Moon's colours varying from coppery-red to yellow to bluish-grey at the edges. The Moon takes on this unusual colour as sunlight is bent through Earth's atmosphere to illuminate the Moon." Some clouds blocked the view for a few minutes, but these soon cleared leaving an uninterrupted view until the main part of the eclipse ended at 1:10 am. The enthusiastic crowd also enjoyed views of Saturn, the Orion Nebula and numerous constellations and star clusters. AAS member and Newtonhill resident Torcuill Torrance said "It was a spectacularly successful evening. There was a real buzz about the event.".

 
See more Gallery Pictures of
Total Lunar Eclipse

   

   

Dark Sky Scotland Event, Durris (9/10 Feb 2007)
Report to be added shortly.

   

Geminids Meteor Observing by AAS Members (13 Dec 2006)
Several members of AAS enjoyed a clear, windy, but surprisingly mild night (temperatures a balmy 11 degrees C) for the peak of the annual Geminids meteor shower on December 13th. The peak was not forecast to occur until about 8 am on the 14th, but judging by the counts we made, the peak appears to have arrived early. A grand total of 652 Geminids were counted between 9:20 pm and 2:50 am, when clouds finally started to arrive. The breakdown of this count is as follows: 

9:20-10:20 pm: 60 Geminids (3 observers) 
10:20-11:20 pm: 135 Geminids (4 observers) 
11:20-12:20 am: 155 Geminids (3 observers) 
12:20-1:20 am: 150 Geminids (2 observers) 
1:20-2:20 am: 100 Geminids (2 observers) 
2:20-2:50 am: 52 Geminids (2 observers and increasing cloud).

This ties in really well with the peak that is showing up in early reports on the IMO website (http://www.imo.net/), where a peak ZHR of 110 is recorded at 1 am.  [ZHR is defined as being for a single observer (you're not really supposed to combine the counts of more than one person), but the peak rate of 110 agrees quite well with our observations] 

This probably ranks as one of the best nights of meteor observing we've had at AAS since the Leonid events of a few years ago.


Picture of  Geminid Meteor by Alisdair Farquhar 
14-Dec-2006 | Larger picture 

   

Leonid Meteor Observing by AAS Members (18/19 Nov 2006)
After cloud cleared a number of AAS members observed the Leonid Meteor Shower on the night of Nov 18th/19th from locations west and north of Aberdeen city.  Reports for morning of Nov 19th, when taken together are consistent with an increase in meteor count around the time of the predicted peak (04:45 hUT):
Time (hUT) Observation
00:00 - 01:00 Very Few Leonids [Darren Moody, Banchory]
02:15 - 04:15 Observed S/SW from window in house. 2 Leonids plus 1 sporadic [David Richards, Newburgh]
04:15 - 05:30 Increase in frequency, 8 Leonids in period, most fairly faint and short. Limiting mag ~ 4.5.   [David Richards, Newburgh]
04:25 - 05:25 I counted 22 Leonids in the hour, which is slightly lower than what I expected. Skies were very clear probably down to about mag 5.5. Light pollution and slight haze may have drowned out some faint meteors. Estimated ZHR ~ about 60.  [Darren Moody, Banchory]
04:30 - 06.15 31 Leonids in timeframe plus about 5 sporadics. 1 really bright Leonid in Virgo that left a trail that stayed around for about 5 seconds at 5.54am. Some light pollution so  some fainter ones may have been missed altogether [Karen Yuill, Balmedie]

   

Dark Sky Observing (Sat, 21 Oct 2006) - Orionids Meteor Shower and Comet Swan : Despite the poor weather during the day, skies finally cleared for a couple of hours on Saturday evening allowing observing of the Orionid Meteor Shower. Before the radiant rose and meteor activity started I took the opportunity to observe Comet Swan low in the north-west. I didn't have my telescope with me, as the dampness of the air and ground would have led to a constant battle with dew. I had a good look through binoculars and could just make out a tail to the comet, which was in the constellation Bootes at the time. Started meteor counting at 10:30 pm. I counted 13 meteors up until about midnight, when clouds came across and ended the session. One or two of these were bright with trains that persisted for a couple of seconds. This number was about what I expected for this moderate meteor shower with a radiant that had only just risen. [Darren Moody, Midmar Dark Sky Site]

  

Successful Public Observing Night  (30 Sep 2006) : On Saturday 30th September, AAS held a very successful public observing night for the Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service at the Bennachie Centre, near Chapel of Garioch. Despite clouds threatening from the west at sunset, skies were completely clear by the time full darkness fell. About 25 people came along to enjoy a talk on the subject "Pluto and Beyond" followed by a guided tour of the autumn night sky. The main objective of the evening was to give people the opportunity to experience the night sky through a variety of telescopes. Among the objects viewed were the Andromeda Galaxy, the Ring Nebula, the Hercules Globular Cluster, the double star Albireo, the galaxies M81 and M82, the Perseus Double Cluster and the North America Nebula. We even arranged for a meteor to fly past just as we were pointing out a satellite! The next public observing event will probably be timed to coincide with the total lunar eclipse in March 2007, so watch this space.

  

Dark Sky Observing (26 Aug 2006) : Last night's star party had a record of 7 'scopes setup, with another 6 or 7 pairs of binoculars to boot - including a larger pair of 25x80's for fun. We seemed to have a good mix of Maksutov-Cassegrain/Schmidt-Cassegrain goto's, a very nice refractor with a whopping 2-inch eyepiece and a selection of reflectors. 

The group observed a variety of objects ranging from old favourites like M57 The Ring Nebula, Saturn Nebula, Dumb-bell, Pinwheel, Pegasus Cluster, M2, M73, M72, M29, M13, M92, M33/4, M32/110/31, Whirlpool Galaxy, Wild Duck Cluster, The Pleiades, and Torc's first sighting of Neptune. It was noted that the variable star Chi Cygni in Cygnus seems to have died down considerably. Bodes and the Cigar Galaxy also made it onto the viewing lists.

Everyone was able (and encouraged!) to look through other 'scopes and eyepieces, with many a "credit-card-damaging" mental note being taken. The weather was extremely kind, it was almost completely clear until we got too tired past 2 am. There was one small cloud that was hovering to the south but it seemed to get thinner as the night wore on. In all everyone had a great time - and Andrew has brought a new snack, the KG007 sandwich - its Meteor! 

Lets hope this is just the start of a great observing season.

 

Cloud obscures view of Perseid Meteors (12 Aug 2006) : The annual Perseid meteor shower is usually taken as the start of the new AAS observing season and allows us to watch the skies in the relative comfort of slightly warmer evenings. The timings of the meteor shower were ideal for UK observers this year, with a predicted peak occurring just after midnight (and it was a Saturday night). 

We always knew that we would be battling against the moonlight to see many meteors, but we would have been happy to put up with it. As it turns out, complete cloud cover and drizzle prevented the three optimists who turned up at the dark sky site from even seeing the Moon. The peak of the Perseids seems to have fallen in the middle of a week without any clear skies, so there are no reports of any meteors from the Aberdeen area. 

Hopefully we'll have better luck with the Leonids and the Geminids.

[ See pictures of what we missed on SpaceWeather photo gallery  ]

 


AAS Revised Logo (Jul 2006)

AAS Logo with words - Sept 2007 ]


AAS Web Site receives fresh look (Jul 2006) : AAS Web Site updated with a fresh look and a move to new site (www.aberdeenastro.org.uk)

 


Radio Scotland Feature : AAS Stars on Radio Scotland !  In December 2005, Aberdeen Astronomical Society featured on the Radio Scotland programme "Out of Doors".  Radio presenter Joanna Rae came along to one of our Woodbank meetings to find out what amateur astronomers get up to at night!  Skies were clear (and temperatures were sub-zero!) and we were able to show her Mars and other celestial delights through the telescopes.  This was probably our best Woodbank turnout, with about 20 people there.

 


Public Observing Evenings : Our public observing evenings are becoming very popular.  Unfortunately we can't always get rid of the clouds.  One of our events last year at the Bennachie Centre was a tremendous success!  Despite the frequent snow showers, a large crowd were able to observe the planet Saturn, which was high in the sky at the time.  At the event AAS president John MacNicol presented The Forestry Commission's Jackie Cumberbirch with a framed aurora photograph taken by Phil Hart from our dark sky site in recognition of their permission to allow AAS to use the site.

From left: Phil Hart, John MacNicol and Jackie Cumberbirch   Members of the public enjoy their first views of Saturn through a telescope
Photos courtesy of Aberdeen Journals Ltd.

 

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