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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 :

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

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

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

(+)  3 May 2019 To be announced

(+)  7 Jun 2019 MAS 61st AGM

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

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

  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 :-) )

(+)  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)

Friday, 4th March 2016 - Astronomy and the Weather - Robin Oldman
Second half: Tim H. "What's Up"
Report by Steve B.
Announcement - Photo Competition. The MAS Members Photo Competition starts now, in 4 categories (Planet, Deep Sky, 'local' and 'international'). Closing date is May meeting, judging will be external (so the 'usual suspects' can enter) and prizes awarded at the AGM in June. Susan will email 'FAQ' / clarifications. Some already asked :- Does the Moon 'count' as a planet ? not really (perhaps enter it as 'local' or 'international' ?) Does the Earth count as a planet ? of course (but you will need to get it all in the frame) Main talk After a quick introduction by Susan, Robin (who is well known for his '2nd half' contributions) got up to deliver his talk. He started by mentioning his qualifications ('monitor' of the school Weather Station, a Stevenson screen, in the early 1960's) but confessed to little experience of sunlight measurements as his school was in Scotland ! He now has his own weather station and up until a year or so ago (when his communications link failed) he (it) would report the weather in Maidenhead to the central 'register' where weather data is collected and made available world-wide. So, what causes weather ? Well, essentially it's the interaction of the Sun's radiation with a planets atmosphere, which then heats up and starts to circulate, from the equator (actually, the part of the planet closest to the sun) to the poles. In the case of the Earth, warm air rises from the equator and gets about 1/3rd the distance to each pole before falling again - this circulation is known as the 'Hadley cell'. In the meanwhile, cool air from each of the poles 'falls' toward the equator, again getting about 1/3rd the way there before warming up enough to start rising (and then flowing back up to the poles) forming the Polar cells. This leaves a 'gap' between the two, where a 3rd cell forms (the Ferrel cells), picking up heat from the falling Hadley cell and cooling from the Polar cell. This same 'system' of cells operates on other planets, most visibly on Jupiter and Saturn, however there are many more cells, each of which forms it's own 'band' in the planets atmosphere (a light band is an up-swelling, a dark one falling) and on Jupiter the 'polar' bands rotate 5 minutes slower than the equatorial ones (which, it is believed, causes the massive storm which is the Great Red Spot) Of course, on Earth, the land and sea have a huge effect on this basic 'cell band' atmospheric circulation, leading to a much more chaotic result. Next he considered the various cloud types that can form as a result of 'wet warm air' cooling to the 'dew point'. One 'rule of thumb' is that when the height of a cloud exceeds the size of it's base, it's going to rain ! In the UK we are used to 'variable weather' - and this is due to the multiple 'conflicting' winds - we are at the 'junction' of the Polar and Ferrel cells, we have warm air coming up from Africa and as a result of the North Atlantic drift, whilst the cold Arctic (and smaller North Sea) winds join with cool Siberian winds 'in opposition'. The Jet Stream (high level winds of 100-300 kmph) coming across the Atlantic) adds to the mix - it's were the winds change direction that the highs and lows tend to form. As cold and warm air meets, 'fronts' are formed with areas of low and high pressure as the cold winds 'push under' and the warm ones 'push over' the other. The Earths rotation (Coriolis force) means that the winds 'follow the iso-bars' rather than flowing direct between the highs and lows. Of course the Met Office does it's best, running it's MOGREPS model 4 times a day, using a 2.2Km national weather 'grid' (and 33km grid for the rest of world). It is to be noted that most of the time between runs is spent inputting new data (rather than actually running the model). This produces a (reasonably good) 36 hr. UK national forecast (and a 5-7 day forecast for the 'rest of the world'). Finally, Robin gave us a few 'tips' on what to look out for before setting up our telescopes :- High pressure indicates good weather, winds from the Continent tend to be dry (rather than those from the sea that are wet) and (for minimal star 'twinkle') we need nights when the Jet Stream has 'broken' and changed direction before reaching the UK. Finally, a good sunset really can be a 'predictor' of good weather (so, not just 'Sheppard's delight') !
Second half Tim H. took Robins usual 'slot' with a focus on planetary observation and how to find faint objects in the night sky :- Mercury is too close to the Sun to see, Venus also (except perhaps just before dawn). Mars is smallish (9") and can be found due South at 4am tomorrow (5th March) Saturn is in Scorpio, near Mars Jupiter is at opposition on March the 8th. Tomorrow it's due South at 11pm. To 'spot' ( :-) ) the GRS (Great Red Spot) you have to 'catch' Jupiter at the right time in it's (almost 10 hour) rotational period - so 11pm tonight, 5am on the 6th, midnight on the 7th and so on. List of GRS transits from Tim (04d = 4th March and so on): Note, times corrected, see the full list at http://www.projectpluto.com/jeve_grs.htm 04d 21h, 06d 03h, 06d 22h, 07d 18h, 09d 00h, 09d 20h 11d 01h, 11d 21h, 12d 18h, 13d 23h, 14d 19h, 16d 01h 16d 21h, 17d 17h, 18d 22h, 19d 18h, 21d 00h, 21d 20h The longitude of the GRS changes, and is currently 242. The transit times were obtained graphically from freeware Jupiter 2. I have v and it runs fine on Windows 7. Although most mounts come with a 'GoTo', the 'database' is usually limited to 20,000 or even less (for example, the ludicrously expensive Skywatcher SynScan V4, at 145 (for the handset alone), supports 13,740 objects) and the GoTo only 'works' if the mount is 'perfectly' set up. Since only the 5,000 odd objects up to magnitude 6 (the limit of 'naked eye' visibility) are easy to find, to locate any of the many fainter objects you need a good Star Atlas (there are still some printed versions available, such as Philips) or software - such as SkyMap Pro (a demo version, with about 7,000 stars, can found here, the full version (which supports 15 million stars) appears to be priced at 69 however no longer seems to be available), shown by Tim that can accept huge on-line 'star catalogues'. For example, Stellarium supports star catalogues up to 674Mb containing 116,923,084 objects (and needs about 1Gb+ of RAM to run in) When locating faint objects in the night sky, many astronomers use a technique known as 'star hopping'. This means starting at one of the 5,000 'easy to find' stars and then 'stepping' (or 'hopping') to the final location, typically in steps equal to your 'field of view'. This means working out your 'field of view'. Whist this can be 'calculated' from your telescope specifications (focal lengths of main tube and eyepiece) it's much simpler to 'measure' it as follows :- Choose a star near the celestial equator (one of the 'belt' stars in Orion is a good choice). Align it to one edge of your field of view and stop the telescope 'tracking'. Time how long it takes the star to reach the other edge of your field - if it takes 4 minutes, this is a 1 degree field of view. End piece Steve B finally finished his 'Photo Slide Show' of the Super Moon Lunar Eclipse (28 Sept. last year) using images taken by Colin A. from his front garden, and ran the 'movie' on the 'beamer' (which, unfortunately, tended to show a green, rather than a red, 'blood moon' :-) ) The file can be found on my MAS-support 'dropbox' for those who wish to download it (160Mb, Windows .wmv only) All our indoor Meetings are open to the public, however non-members are asked to make a contribution of 2 toward the hall hire costs (this may be collected by Fred, our Membership Secretary, at the door on arrival, or left at the 'Tea hatch' at half time).
This note last modified: 15th Mar 2016 09:52.


(+)  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)

(+)  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