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MAS archive


Photo: jpeg (meeting in progress)
This page lists our monthly meetings. For other events open to the general public, see our Events page

Dates are set well in advance but the 'content' of the meeting is only updated (from our 'meetings database') when details are entered, so 'blank' or 'TBA' may be shown when data has not yet been entered (please be assured that the meeting will take place and a talk on (some) Subject will be delivered by (some) Speaker ! )

Photo: MAS Meeting
Meetings are held at the Church Hall (aka 'The Soltau Center') of St James-the-Less, Stubbings, Maidenhead SL6 6QW, from 7.30 (for a map and directions, see the About MAS (Where we meet) page

The Main Topic is usually delivered by an invited guest speaker. We aim to provide a diverse range of subjects linked (in some way) to Astronomy - whilst the 'Second Session' is typically delivered by one of our members. If time allows, the evening concludes with a short 'What to see this month'.

Details of a typical evening (times are approximate) :-
7.30pm. The evening starts with the Chairman delivering any important Announcements and then introducing the main speaker.
7.45pm (latest). Main Topic Speaker gets up and the lights are turned off.
If you arrive after 7.45, please enter the Hall by the first door (on the right, after the entrance) and please be extra careful when finding a seat at the back of the Hall as members often setup telescopes there !
8.45-9pm +. Coffee break during which visitors often chat with members who have set-up their telescopes at the back of the hall. If the weather is good, sometimes members will nip out for a quick look at the sky.
Smoking is permitted outside the Hall, however smokers are asked to avoid any 'observers' (smoke particles always seem to get into optical equipment, no matter how well 'sealed' it may be)
9.15pm (at the latest). The 'Second Session' then runs for about 45 mins, typically ending with "What's Up !" (what to look out for in the sky this month)
10pm. We aim to clear the hall by 10pm.
Post meeting Observing. If the weather is good, the Observing Organiser then leads the way to our chosen observing site, or (if the weather looks even a slight bit 'iffy) members sneak off to the local Pub instead :-)

Next meeting :

(+) Jul 2019 Summer break - (no meeting)

(+) Aug 2019 Summer break - (no meeting)

(+)  6 Sep 2019 History of Mars Exploration - (Jim House)

(+)  4 Oct 2019 Kew Observatory and the origins of modern solar physics - (Lee Macdonald)

(+)  1 Nov 2019 The Origin of the Solar System - (James Fradgley)

(+)  6 Dec 2019 Xmas Quiz and social - (By members)

(+)  3 Jan 2020 Equipment Parade - (By members)

(+)  7 Feb 2020 Ask an expert Q and A panel - (By Members)

(+)  6 Mar 2020 TBA

(+)  3 Apr 2020 TBA

(+)  1 May 2020 TBA

(+)  5 Jun 2020 MAS 62nd AGM

  Meetings Archive  

The meetings archive gives an 'overview' of the Society activities over the past 10 years (see also the Events page).

Members have access to the full 'History of MAS' (including AGM minutes going back to 1957) along with full names and photos

The MAS 'year' runs from September of one year to June of the following. The end of year AGM in June elects the Committee for the following year (there are no meetings in July and August - although often members will meet informally at the local pub - which gives the new Committee time to 'get a grip' on running the Society)

The "short cuts" (in the 'title bar', at the very top of this page) will take you to the June AGM entry for the end of that MAS year

The Maidenhead Astronomical Society meetings archive (last 10 years only)

Missed a meeting, or can't remember when a topic was last covered ? Here is the archive of past MAS meetings.
Note that this list covers only our monthly meetings and AGM's. Reports on Observing and Other Events are separate pages

If notes were taken at the meeting, the date below is underlined and shown with a '(+)' = click to see the notes (if no '(+)' is shown, no notes were taken - or, more likely, the webmaster hasn't found them and posted them up yet :-) )

(+)  7 Jun 2019 MAS 61st AGM - (and Photo Competition prizes)

(+)  3 May 2019 13 Journeys in Space and Time - (Colin Stuart)

(+)  5 Apr 2019 Space Weather - (Dr Colin Forsyth)

(+)  1 Mar 2019 The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) - (Dr Aprajita Verma)

(+)  1 Feb 2019 Ask the Expert - (members panel)

(+)  4 Jan 2019 Equipment exhibition - (and EGM)

(+)  7 Dec 2018 Christmas Quiz and Social

(+)  2 Nov 2018 Short talks - (by members)

(+)  5 Oct 2018 The Future is out of this World - ( Dr Stuart Eves FRAS)

(+)  7 Sep 2018 13 Journeys through space and Time - (Postponed new date TBA)

(+) Aug 2018 Summer break - (no meeting)

(+) Jul 2018 Summer break - (no meeting)

(+)  1 Jun 2018 MAS 61st AGM - (and Photo Competition prizes)

(+)  4 May 2018 Using Video and an Aurora Encounter - (by members)

(+)  6 Apr 2018 Berkshire Astronomers - (Kenelm England FRAS)

(+) 16 Mar 2018 NEW DATE Jupiter and the Juno Mission - (Dr John Rogers)

(+)  2 Feb 2018 Talks by Members

(+)  5 Jan 2018 Telescope and Equipment workshop - (Q and A with members)

(+)  1 Dec 2017 Xmas Quiz and Social - (Quiz Master Tim H)

(+)  3 Nov 2017 Wonders of the Deep Sky - (Callum Potter)

(+)  6 Oct 2017 Observing the Sun - (by MAS members)

(+)  1 Sep 2017 Gravity Waves - (a recap by Martin Dyer)

(+)  2 Jun 2017 MAS 60th AGM - (and Photo Competition prizes)

(+)  5 May 2017 Novae - (Jim H)

(+)  7 Apr 2017 Comets - (Kenelm England)

(+)  3 Mar 2017 Pseudoastronomy - (Stephen Tonkin)

(+)  3 Feb 2017 Members short stories

(+)  6 Jan 2017 Telescope Parade - (exhibition by members)

(+)  9 Dec 2016 (note 2nd Friday) Christmas Quiz - (and members shorts)

(+)  4 Nov 2016 Observing Planetary Nebulae - (Owen Brazell)

(+)  7 Oct 2016 Astro tourism - (David Phillips)

(+)  2 Sep 2016 Rosetta Space Mission - (Andrew Morse)

(+)  3 Jun 2016 MAS 59th AGM - (and Photo competition results)

(+)  6 May 2016 Build a recording spectrometer John Paraskeva - (2nd half Spectrometer results Alun Halsey)

(+)  1 Apr 2016 The Universe in multiple wavelengths - (2nd half Gravity Waves)

(+)  4 Mar 2016 Astronomy and the Weather - (Robin Oldman)

(+)  5 Feb 2016 Sungrazing Comets - (Kenelm England FRAS)

(+)  8 Jan 2016 (note 8th as 1st is New Year) Practical Astrophotography - (and Telescope Parade)

(+) 11 Dec 2015 Xmas Quiz and members shorts - (NOTE DATE CHANGE)

(+)  6 Nov 2015 The Big Bang Theory - (Kevin Pretorius)

(+)  2 Oct 2015 Starting Astrophotography - (short talks by members)

(+)  4 Sep 2015 Basketballs and Beyond - (Jane Green)

(+)  5 Jun 2015 agm

(+)  8 May 2015 (NOTE 2nd Friday) Talks by Members

(+) 10 Apr 2015 (2nd Friday) planned meeting replaced by - (talks from members)

(+)  6 Mar 2015 Astronomy in Namibia - (Scott Marley)

(+)  6 Feb 2015 Did the Moon sink the Titanic ? - (Dr Barry Kellett)

(+)  7 Nov 2014 Guest stars ancient and modern - (Guy Hurst)

(-)  3 Oct 2014 Measuring the Universe - (Kevin Pretorius)

Measuring the Universe, Kevin Pretorius (Farnham Astronomical Society) Astronomical distances are based on a 'ladder' of measurements, starting with calculations of the distance from Earth to Moon - which in turn is based on calculations of the size of the Earth. Educated people have known since 500BC or earlier that the Earth is 'round', however it was not until Eratosthenes (276-195 BC) that a reasonably accurate calculation was done to determine it's size (see Well at Syene). To work out the distance to the Moon, you note the width of the Earths shadow as the Moon crosses it during a Lunar Eclipse and apply trigonometry .. as did Hipparchus in about 129BC, getting a value of about 65x Earth Dia., an overestimate of about 10%. After this, various attempts were made to work out the distance from Earth to the Sun, however none of the calculations got close as the 'theory was wrong'  - everyone was using a 'model' of the Solar System based on the (then obvious) 'Geocenteric' approach (Sun and planets all orbiting the Earth), so using trig. to work out the Earth-Sun distance always gave nonsense values (Ed. in modern Science, it is now recognised that 'nonsense answers' are one of the main 'clues' that your theory is 'wrong' (or at least incomplete) !) Ed. Unfortunately the Geocentric model became an 'article of faith' to the Church, making it rather risky for anyone to put forward any other view (not that this stopped Copernicus, 1473-1543, who (perhaps sensibly) only published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in the year of his death, however Galileo Galilei 1564-1642, spoke out in 1616 and went on to 'defend Copernicus' in Rome where was told by the Inquisition that heliocentrism was "foolish and absurd in philosophy (i.e science), and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture" and, essentially, told to shut up. Of course he didn't, and in 1633 he found himself in front of the Pope again and this time was found to be 'vehemently suspected of heresy' (about once step away from being burnt at the stake) and was very lucky to only be sentenced to house arrest and have his books (including any future ones) banned. His books were removed from the 'banned' list some 200 yrs later (in 1835), however it took a Church Commission, instigated by Pope John Paul II in 1981 (some 12 years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had walked on the Moon), eleven years to decide, in 1992, "that the judge who condemned Galileo had erred" (thereby preserving the dogma of 'Papal Infallibility'). So it took some 1500 years for the 'model' to be corrected and for it to be understood that the Earth and the planets orbit the Sun. The big step was made by Kepler (1571-1630), who used Tycho Brahe's visual observational measurements to show that the planets (including Earth) followed elliptical orbits around the Sun and put into place the next 'step' of the 'ladder' by showing that a planets orbital period squared was proportional to it's semi-major axis (orbit) cubed (see Keplers Laws of Planetary Motion). However whilst this gave the 'relative' orbital distances of the planets from the Sun, an 'absolute' value for one of them was needed to work out all the others ! The 'rung' of the ladder was put in place when really accurate measurements became possible with the invention of the telescope in the early 1600's (often incorrectly credited to Galileo). So Cassini (1625-1712) and his assistant, Jean Richer, taking observations from 'opposite' sides of the Earth, used trig. to work out the orbit of Mars and thus all the other planets (he was only out by about 10%). Rev. James Gregory (1638-75) proposed an approach based on the transit of Venus (which happens in pairs, 8 years apart, every 110 years or so - James was born between the 1631/39 pair) to get a more accurate value - Edmund Halley (1656-1742) came up with the same approach 100 years later and this was used in 1761/69 (after Halley's death) to calculate the orbit of Venus. The next Venus transit pair in 1884/92, further refined the figures and led to todays value of Earth-Sun distance of 92 million miles. Once you have the Earths orbit, you can use trig. to calculate the distance to the nearest stars (by measuring angles 6 months apart at opposite sides of the Earths orbit). This was first done by Bessel (1784-1846) for 61 Cygni (he got 11.4 LY, which is about right). By the start of the 1900's distances to many nearby stars had been calculated using the 'triangulation' method, however this method is limited to stars in our own Galaxy (the same method was used by ESA, 1989 Hipparcos mission to calculate the distances to about 118,00 stars, and will be used by Gaia, launched 2013 to measure about 16 billion). So the next 'step' in the ladder is a change from simple trigonometry to measuring the brightness of light. It was Newton (1643-1727) who realised that the brightness of stars depended on their distance (the inverse square law) - he even used some clever reasoning (based on the brightness of Saturn) to deduce that 'the stars' were 'at least' 18-45,000 times further away than Saturn (too short by at least one order of magnitude, however this had more to do with the difficulty of estimating the brightness of the Sun than anything else) It was only in 1911, when Hertzsprung and Russell took the trig. calculated distances to work out the 'absolute' brightness of the nearby stars that they found a plot of the absolute luminosity (actual brightness) v's 'spectral class' (colour) produced a 'band', (now known as the 'main sequence'). Knowing the 'spectral class' gives the actual luminosity of a star, so measuring it's apparent brightness allows the actual distance to be calculated. Since it was possible to isolate a few stars at the edges of nearby galaxies, we thus also had the next step - distances to the nearby Galaxies. Working out the distances to Galaxies further away could be done by measuring the brightness of other objects, such as Cepheid Variables and Type 1A Supernovae etc. However, the final step came with Hubble (1889-1953), with the discovery that the Universe was expanding, and the further 'red shifted' a Galaxies (stars) spectrum is, the further away it is (and the faster it is receding, however that's another subject). From red shifts we can calculate distances to the Galaxies right at the edge of the visible Universe !
This note last modified: 5th Feb 2015 22:06.


(+)  5 Sep 2014 UKMON - (Richard Kacerek)

(+)  6 Jun 2014 agm

(+)  2 May 2014 Asteroids and Comets - (Jerry Workman)

(+)  7 Mar 2014 Talks by members

(+)  7 Feb 2014 History of Radio Astronomy - (Paul Hyde)

(+)  3 Jan 2014 Members telescope workshop evening

(+)  4 Oct 2013 Project Alcock

(+)  6 Sep 2013 Zooniverse - (Brooke Simmons)

(+)  7 Jun 2013 agm

(+)  3 May 2013 Members Photographic Compitition

(+)  1 Mar 2013 Exploring the Solar System by Satellite - (Dr Stuart Eves)

(+)  1 Feb 2013 Mars revisited - (Gerry Workman)

(+)  2 Nov 2012 (place holder)

(+)  5 Oct 2012 The History of Dark Nebula

(+)  7 Sep 2012 Photographing the Night Sky - (Nik Szymanek)

(+)  1 Jun 2012 agm

(+)  4 May 2012 Origins of time keeping

(+) 12 Apr 2012 The Faulkes Telescope Project

(+)  2 Mar 2012 Astronomy for new members - (various)

(+)  2 Dec 2011 Xmas social and Reprocessing old data using new Registax - (Bruce Kingsley)

(+)  3 Jun 2011 agm

(+)  6 May 2011 Occultations Ancient and Modern - (Tim Haymes)

(+)  1 Apr 2011 Active Galactic Nuclei - (Dr Nick Hewitt)

(+)  4 Mar 2011 Astro Imaging Overseas - (Damian Peach)

(+)  4 Feb 2011 Dark Energy and the Accelerating Universe - (Dr Mark Sullivan)

(+)  7 Jan 2011 Social evening and Quiz - (Tim & Robin)

(+)  5 Nov 2010 Big Bangs - (Jim & Tim)

(+)  1 Oct 2010 Astronomy in Space - (David & Jim)

(+)  3 Sep 2010 The Sun Kings - (Dr Stuart Clark)

(+)  2 Jul 2010 Telescope and Camera workshop - (members)

(+)  4 Jun 2010 agm

(+)  9 Apr 2010 Meteorites - (David Bryant)

(+)  5 Mar 2010 Bits and Pieces - (Greg Smye Rumsby)

(+)  8 Jan 2010 (cancelled due to snow)

(+)  4 Dec 2009 Xmas Social and Quiz

(+)  6 Nov 2009 Planetary Nebulae - (Owen Brazel)

(+)  2 Oct 2009 A beginners guide to the night sky - (Tim H)

(+)  4 Sep 2009 Short talks - (members)

(+)  5 Jun 2009 agm

(+)  6 Jun 2008 agm

(+)  1 Jun 2007 agm

(+)  7 Jun 2006 agm

(+)  3 Jun 2005 agm

(+)  4 Jun 2004 agm