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j028400504022006 Meeting Reports

This page provides quick summary reports of each of our monthly meetings, including any key links to websites or events mentioned at the meeting. The reports should help you catch up if youíve missed a meeting or give you a flavour of the types of topics we cover.

2005 Meeting reports are here.

CAS LiveLinks

Links relevant to whatís in the news now . . .


September 2006

Last night's CAS meeting was a great success, and it was great to see a few new faces. Chris gave a news round up covering subjects as diverse as the Smart 1 impact on the moon, the Atlantis Shuttle mission, new planets in other solar systems and new names in ours, space tourism . . . the list goes on.

We then had a short break with, for the first time, tea, coffee and biscuits. Thanks to Caroline for organizing that. The availability of refreshments did seem to encourage a bit more discussion among members , which was good to see.

After the break Jeremy Hunt gave us an excellent talk on "an introduction to astrophotography". This was an excellent talk covering the basics, illustrated by Jeremy's excellent photographs and providing some useful tips along the way. I'm sure there was something for everyone.


One of Jeremyís excellent photos.
Check out his website for more.

August 2006

Our August meeting prompted a bit more debate than usual.

Starting with the news section and a debate about the recent definition of a planet from the IAU. After a good half and hour or more of discussion the consensus seemed to be that the IAU had failed to come up with a clear consistent decision. On top of that, they had landed the amateur astronomical community with the difficult job of trying to explain the logic to the general public!

Also discussed was news of some direct evidence for dark matter. Again this prompted some debate, with a certain amount of skepticism for the whole concept from some quarters!

The main topic for the evening was no less than "life in the universe". Robin gave us an excellent talk covering; messages to aliens, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and a in dept look at the famous Drake Equation.

Two hours fairly flew by and it was great to have so much discussion.


IAU decision caused controversy in the media and at our CAS meeting!

March 2006

Our March meeting was not as well attended as usual, perhaps due in part to the poor weather and the absence of some 'regulars' chasing the solar eclipse ! Although the planned topic was astronomy software, Bill was called away on business at the last minute, thwarting his presentation for a second time.

Chris started the meeting with the usual round up of news items including; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter successful arrival at Mars and first photos, delays to the Shuttle launch and updates on the Hayabusa probes finding at Itokawa. We also discussed the committee's thoughts on the future direction of the society, which will be the subject of a separate entry.

After a short break it was time for Chris to continue with a (hastily prepared) presentation on the use of astronomy software for educational purposes, showcasing some of the software on the free CD which was available. After the meeting members gathered round a map to search out possible locations for an observing site close to Cockermouth. There was plenty of suggestions (thanks to all who helped there !) , although there were no obvious candidates and a bit more work is required.

CAS Observing Sites

CAS Observing Sites - Where next ?

February 2006

Our February meeting coincided with an excellent clear night (the first time that has happened in years!). So, keen to make the best of the opportunity, we closed our meeting early and headed over to Memorial Gardens for an impromptu observing session.

Chris gave a quick news update, including the latest from Cassini and the Mars Rovers, Pluto's new moons, the NASA budget and a look ahead to our two March observing evenings.

Bill gave a very brief overview of astronomy software (the full presentation to be given at our March meeting). Free CDs with over 600MB of astronomy freeware and shareware were available for members to take away.

Over in memorial gardens Robin had set up is telescope, and coupled with half a dozen pairs of binoculars we took advantage of some excellent skies.

Through binoculars open clusters were the order of the day, with at least ten being visible; M34, M35, M36, M37, M38, M42, M44, and the 'Double Cluster'. Robin's 'goto' scope picked out a number of objects including Mars and Saturn, the Orion nebula, the crab nebula and several galaxies.


Astronomy Lab - One of Billís demonstrations

January 2006

Our January meeting was a great success with almost 20 members braving the cold, both outside and inside the hall!

Chris gave the usual round up of news, including NASA's Stardust and New Horizons missions both in the news recently. Also the discovery of a new extrasolar planet. Chris also gave an introduction to our two new websites.

Bill covered the latest happenings in the night sky including positions of the planets and the affect moon phases and position has on observing. Our next CAS observing session is set for the 3rd and 4th March, when the moon shouldn't cause a problem. Handouts were available showing the night sky for February. Of particular note is Saturn's close approach the M44 (The Beehive Cluster) in the early part of February. Jeremy was able to show us a recent image he had taken of this.

Following a short break, where members caught up on news over the Christmas period and looked through the latest astronomy magazines, Robin talked about our main topic for the evening - Adaptive Optics.

Robin explained how modern technology allows astronomers to compensate for the effect the Earth's atmosphere has on light from stars and other objects passing through it. Normally the atmosphere severely limits the resolution of ground based telescopes, which it why the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is needed to produce such stunning images. However adaptive optics has allowed the 'wobble' caused by the atmosphere to be compensated for, thus giving resolution almost comparable to HST over small areas of the sky.

Robin also showed us some of the work he had been doing recently, imaging and measuring the redshift of an object 12 billion light years away. All with relatively basic 'backyard' equipment. See Robin's website for details here.


Lick Observatoryís Laser Guided Adaptive Optics

Key Links
Robinís Site
Jeremyís Astrophotographs
CAS News by Email
Free Monthly Skymaps

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