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 ! )
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 :
(+) 6 Mar 2020 Recent Developments in Gravity Wave Research - (Martin Dyer)
(+) 3 Apr 2020 Two eyes are better than one - (Stephen Tokin)
(+) 1 May 2020 The Monster in the Crab - (Gary Poyner)
(+) 5 Jun 2020 MAS 62nd AGM
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 Feb 2020 Ask an expert Q and A panel - (By Members)
(+) 3 Jan 2020 Equipment Parade - (By members)
(+) 6 Dec 2019 Xmas Quiz and social - (By members)
(+) 1 Nov 2019 The Origin of the Solar System - (James Fradgley)
(+) 4 Oct 2019 Kew Observatory and the origins of modern solar physics - (Dr Lee Macdonald)
(+) 6 Sep 2019 History of Mars Exploration - (Jim House)
(+) Aug 2019 Summer break - (no meeting)
(+) Jul 2019 Summer break - (no meeting)
(+) 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)
6th November 2015 - The Big Bang Theory - Kevin Pretorius (Farnham AS)
Report by: Steve B.
Kevin started with a reference to ancient beliefs regarding the Origin of the Universe (although he personally expressed a preference for that believed by the Jatravartids, as related by Douglas Adams in Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, it must be pointed out that the Christian beliefs as mentioned in the Bible are closer to currently accepted scientific theory). Whatever the origin, for most of the last 2000 years Scientists generally believed that the Universe was 'infinitely large' and 'infinitely old'. This happy assumption lasted up until 1823 when Olber posed his famous paradox.
Put simply, he asked 'Why is it dark at night ?' - in an infinite Universe you should see stars everywhere you choose to look - and in infinite time the temperature of everything in the Universe must reach a perfect equilibrium - i.e. everything would be as hot as the surface of a star ! Plainly the Universe could not be both infinitely large or infinitely old.
When Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, the link between matter, gravity and the bending of space/time was established and another problem was discovered. When Einsteins equations are applied to the Universe as a whole, it became clear that the Universe could not be 'static' - Gravity would cause it to collapse ! Even if you started with an expanding Universe the amount of matter in the Universe would determine it's 'shape' (and thus it's fate). Too much and the Universe is 'bent' into a closed 'sphere' - and, over time, will collapse. Too little and it is 'bent' into an 'open' shape that, over time, will expand in a accelerating manor. There is only one very specific amount of matter that results in a 'flat' i.e. 'exactly balanced' Universe that will continue to expand at a 'constant' rate. Since the Universe appears to be 'flat', in 1917 Einstein added a 'Cosmological Constant' to his equations that ensured the Universe 'stayed flat' no matter how much (or how little) matter it contained !
Of course within 10 years Hubble showed that the Universe was expanding and Einstein regretted not having faith in his own equations ! Rather surprisingly, it took another 20 odd years (to 1948) before anyone realised that if the Universe is expanding now, in the past it must have been (much) smaller ! If the whole Universe is squeezed into a tiny volume it would be very hot - so hot, in fact, that matter could not exist. As the Universe expanded it would cool and matter would 'condense out'. When the equations are run it was realised that this cooling exactly matches the observed cosmic ratios of Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium and Beryllium seen today. Further, photons from the early Universe should still be around today, albeit much 'stretched out' due to the expansion of space since then, however no-one took much notice of this at the time (radio astronomy was not advanced enough to detect them anyway)
Not every scientist accepted this explanation, and Fred Hoyle in particular was a strong critic - a brilliant scientist, he showed how the heavier elements are formed by fusion within the cores of stars (nucleosynthesis), however he will be remembered for coming up with the name "Big Bang" (on BBC radio's Third Programme broadcast on 28 March 1949) even if he did intend it as a term of derision !
In 1960 the 'early photons' prediction was rediscovered and scientists started to search. In 1964 Penzias and Watson discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation 'by mistake' (a mistake that was to earn them a Nobel Prize in 1978). Whilst discovery of the CMB cemented the 'Big Bang' Theory it was quickly realised that the CMB was 'too uniform' - and worse, whilst the proportions of matter that 'condensed out' matches what we observe, a huge number of magnetic mono-poles should also have 'condensed out', which we don't observe !
It was not until the 1980's that a solution to the 'missing mono-poles' was proposed - Inflation. If the size of the Universe suddenly jumped (in less than 10^-32s) from that of a proton to about that of a grapefruit, quantum noise would gives us just enough variation in the distribution of energy (and thus matter) for Galaxies to form but it's way too fast for the formation of many (or even any) monopoles. Of course this then leads to another prediction - Gravity waves - which would be very difficult to detect so it's no surprise we are still looking for them.
Kevin then touched on the 'Standard Model' (Fermions, Bosons, Higgs field) and how the various forces 'condensed out' after the start of the Big Bang, with current theory taking us all the way back to 1 Planck time after the start (10^-43s onward). This leaves the 'gap' between 0 and 1 Planck time (during which Gravity is believed to have 'condensed out') lacking an explanation (see Wikipedia Planck epoch), although it is hoped that a workable theory of Quantum Gravity will address this.
Some of the many questions Kevin answered :-
Q) How 'big' is the Universe ?
a) The edge of the Observable Universe is about 45.6 Bn LY away (however the Universe may extend beyond that).
Q) How can the observable Universe be bigger than the age of the Universe (13.8 Bn YR) ?
a) Light speed limits would only apply if the Universe was (and always had been) 'flat'. Whilst it's essentially flat 'now', space in the early expanding Universe was highly 'curved'. The light we are seeing now from the early Universe travelled within that non-flat space (the very space in which it was travelling was expanding = light from further than 13.8 BN LY away hasn't travelled 14 BN LY+ = rather it has been 'carried along' along with the expanding Universe)
Q) If the Universe is expanding, how come our galaxy / Solar system / planet / us, is not getting bigger ?
a) Gravity keeps Galaxies together - and electromagnetic forces keeps us (and all matter) together (but photons do get stretched) - see Metric expansion of space
Q) What is the Universe expanding into / where is the new space coming from ?
a) 'nothing' - the existing space is expanding (see expanding balloon analogy)
Q) What happened before the Big bang / what caused the Big Bang ?
a) Good question ! We don't know, although some theories have been proposed (see 'Brane Theory')
Q) What's Dark Matter ?
a) We don't know - it's the name given to the 'extra' gravitational force that's keeping galaxies together - all we can measure is it's gravitational effects
Q) What's Dark Energy ?
a) Don't know that either (name given to the force that seems to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe)
Q) Why is the Universe the way it is ?
a) Again, we don't know - our Universe is ideally suited to life, and it's a valid point that if it wasn't we wouldn't be here to ask, however if that means 'its all by chance' then there must be (or have been) many other Universes where life does not exist. Of course it's always possible that the 'fundamental constants' (most of which can't differ very much from their observed value if life is to be possible) might 'fall out' of String Theory, M-Theory or some other TOE.
For more on the Big Bang, see the Wikipedia entry (time-line of the Big Bang)
This note last modified: 12th Nov 2015 14:33.
(+) 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)
(+) 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 - (Roger Dymock)
(+) 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 - (Owen Brazell)
(+) 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 - (Dr Paul Roche and Sarah Roberts)
(+) 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 Brazell)
(+) 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