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)
Friday, 4th November - Observing Planetary Nebulae by Owen Brazell
(report by Steve B.)
Owen Brazell, as well as previously editing the Webb Society's Magazine - The Deep Sky Observer, is currently the Joint Meetings Organiser & Galaxies Section Director of The Webb Deep-Sky Society. He is also the assistant director of the British Astronomical Associations Deep Sky Section and a regular contributor to Astronomy Now.
He is a keep observer of Deep Sky Objects and an active member of the Guildford Astronomical Society, so for our DSO observers, this meeting was very interesting - indeed, Tim H. was so interested that he created a list of the 'best' ones (from the Web Society Deep-Sky Observers Handbook) and made copies available to members at the meeting !
Observing Planetary Nebulae by Owen Brazell
Owen started by reminding us that he had delivered a similar talk exactly 7 years ago (to within a couple of days), almost "before records began" :-) (Ed. This was at our November 2009 meeting, this report being only the 3rd of our now more regular Meeting reports - note the rather different 'style' of the author at that time)
He then pointed out how 'new' Planetary Nebulae (as Astronomical objects) are - indeed it wasn't until 1764, when Messier created his famous list, that anyone gave them much attention. Initially, it was thought that PN (Planetary Nebulae) were just clusters of stars too faint to resolve individually, even after Herschel pointed out that star at the exact center of NGC1514 was way too bright to be associated with much fainter stars (and too much of a co-incidence to be at the exact center). Lord Rosse, with his 72" telescope built in an Irish bog (the largest telescope in the world from 1845 until the construction of the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker Telescope in 1917) added to the list of PN's but it was not until 1864 that Huggins managed to obtain a spectroscope of NGC6543 'Cats-eye', which proved it to be gaseous, that the 'faint stars' questions was settled, although even today, actual faint clusters have been miss-classified as PN.
Finally, in the 1980's we started to obtain images detailed enough to settle the question once and for all (i.e. distinguish between a PN and some other deep sky object).
How to observe Planetary Nebulae
Many PN's are quite faint and very difficult to see in today's light polluted sky. For visual observers, a Nebula Filter is almost a 'must' - these come in various 'types' the most common (and cheapest) being a simple 'CLS' or 'UHC' filter that is effective in cutting out the glow from Sodium and Mercury street lights.
More specialist visual observers can use the OIII filter (as the 'rods' in the human eye are particularly sensitive in this region).
Note that filters 'work' by blocking the 'unwanted' light (and passing the 'wanted') - so will make the background darker and thus increase the 'contrast'.
Photographing Planetary Nebulae
When imaging in OIII make sure you are using a one rated for 'CCD' use as many filters suitable for visual observing pass considerable light in the IR region where CCD camera's are particularly sensitive and which will 'blur' your OIII image. Ed. The difference between a 'general' Deep Sky filter, suitable for visual observing, and a UHC filter suitable for CCD photography can be seen in the Lumicon specifications found here
If you are using eye-piece projection, you can make use of the screw-in types whilst those using (for example) a Canon DSLR can find filters that mount inside the camera.
One thing to note is that all these 'specialist' filters make use of multiple layers of interference gratings. This means they are only effective when aligned at 90 degrees to the light path - when angled the 'pass' frequencies change. Since filters will almost always be placed in the 'light cone', this means short focal length 'fast' telescopes (f/4 and lower), with a 'sharper angled' light cone, can be less suitable for PN observations using filters.
Of course in today's world, whilst Chinese manufacturing has helped to bring down prices, the actual quality of the filters has suffered (even some of those 'made in USA' can be questionable). Recommended makes are Astronomik (made in Germany) and 'Lumicon' (made in USA).
The Hbeta filter is a 'specialist' device that is of little use since only 10% (or less) of PN show any significant emissions in this region, although M43 (north part of Great Orion Nebula) is one that does and is (about the only PN) best viewed in Hbeta.
Almost all PN's extend beyond the 'obvious' image into the surrounding space. This will emit in the Halpha (IR) region, for which you will need a suitable Halpha filter. However, as the human eye is not responsive to Halpha wavelengths, you will be rather disappointed if you try to use one for visual observing. Indeed, it can be very difficult to find the N visually with the Halpha filter 'in place'.
Since most filters screw into the end of the eyepiece, 'switching out' the filter can be a real pain. The 'filter slide carrier' provides a solution for those in USA (where the relative humidity is significantly lower), but on the average night in the UK the exposed glass surface of the filter will simply mist up. Whilst enclosed or even heated slide carriers do exist these can be astronomically expensive.
Those with standard Newtonian OTA's can fit a slide carrier to the end of the focus tube inside the OTA (and a dew shield on top) = see right, and here.
(Ed. A DIY solution is even possible (if the end of your focus assembly is threaded), although it will often be considerably cheaper just to purchase duplicate eyepieces, and swap them over once the PN has been found).
Of course, some PN's are so faint that many hours of imaging will be needed to bring out the surrounding Halpha 'glow' (Owen showed 2 images generated by amateurs from 20-30 hours of imaging).
Ed for more on choosing and using filters, see here and which filter(s) to choose for various common PN, see here
Planetary Nebulae spectroscopy
Using a suitable filter - such as the Star Analyser 100' (or 200) it is possible to observe the emission spectra of bright PN's as a series of (faint) images.
Ed. for more on this subject, see our May 2016 meeting notes
Many of the best books are now out-of-print (although they can usually be found on Amazon, for a price). If you decide to buy one of the in-print books, go via the Webb Society (purchasing direct from the publisher can be very expensive).
There is a while range of software available that will assist you in finding PN's. Some is available for both PC and Mac, some aimed at Android tablets and some is even free ! 'General' software includes :-
Guide 9.1, $45 for the DVD, Open Source GPL (if you can find a copy on-line, you can download it for free).
Sky Map Pro 11, £84 (supplied on 2x CDs). A 15day time limited cut down demo version is available
TheSkyX, $330 (download) $350 (boxed) PC or Mac.
Starry Night 7, $80 - $250
Cartes du Ciel (Sky Chart) Open Source (the developers are French and this shows in the somewhat obscure GUI)
Stellarium Open Source for PC/Mac, $2 for smart phone / tablet
(Ed. not mentioned was Celestia, another Open Source star charting software that is more 'visual' in it's focus)
For iPhone/tablets etc :-
Deep Sky Browser (iPhone), $10
Sky Safari Pro 5 (Android), £38
Stellarium (Android), $2
Google Sky Map (Android), free (very similar to Stellarium)
'Planning' software is more specialist - it will advise you 'whats available' based not only on date and your location, but even on the 'power' of your telescope ! Most will generate a file containing the 'list' of objects that your want to observe which can be used together with a suitable 'GoTo' computer. However, as is usual for 'specialist' products, the GUI is often poor making the software almost impossible to use and (of course) will cost your 'an arm and a leg'. Worse, many products have not been updated for some years.
Some Owen has encountered are :-
Skytools 3 $40 (Starter), $100 (Standard), $180 (Pro)
Astroplanner 2.2 (last updated Apr 2015), $45
Deep Sky Planner 7, $75
Eye and Telescope 3.0 (July 2011), £72 (after adding VAT and postage)
DeepSky 2000, $70 (but Owen reports it has a rather poor 'SQL' based GUI)
Digital Setting Circles
If you have a Dobsonian (or other telescope without a GoTo), you can retro-fit it with a 'Digital Setting Circle' kit containing rotary encoders and a small computer, similar to the 'GoTo' controller fitted to most modern EQ mounts (but, of course, without the actual motors).
Unfortunately, such kits are 'astronomically' priced
(Ed. see, for example the Nexus ($250), Sky Commander ($500) and, from a seller that can charge $64 for a USB-serial adapter (less than $5 elsewhere) the Argo Navis (with ludicrously high resolution (32k step) encoders for $1000-1,500+ depending on your mount, although can be cheaper if purchased with the mount (see, for example, Obsession Dobs with Argo Navis at "only" $895 extra)).
These come with databases of the most common objects and most can be programmed directly from both general and planning software with the object(s) you wish to find allowing the telescope to be operated in a 'Push To' mode :-).
(Ed. A (somewhat lower resolution) DIY solution based on Digital Compass IC's (so no encoders required = see, for example, here) is not too difficult to build and can come in at a fraction of the 'commercial' cost, especially if the £4 Raspberry Pi Zero is used !)
Finally, it's still possible to discover your own Nebula = see for example, discovery of the 'Soap Bubble' Nebula.
(Ed. for more on Planetary Nebula, including photos, see this wikipedia entry)
Robin kicked off with his "What's Up" in the sky for the coming month (see here).
Next, Tim H. described how he updated SkyMap Pro with current Comet data. Since this is also likely to be of interest to Stellarium users, a Note has been written on the subject which could be found in the FAQ section here
He then showed some recent images, including one of M33 (Triangulum) taken with his Canon camera with an add-on CLS filter. The filter helped cut down on light pollution so such an extent that he 'only' needed a stack of 11x 60s images !
Tim then gave us a quick overview of his recent ASOP35 meeting, from which I picked up on two 'reports' = one a Raspberry Pi Stratum 1 (GPS based) NTP 'Time Server' (see here) for use in the field when you have no Internet connection, the other on the ZWO ADC (Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector) which can significantly improve colour imaging of the planets. He also mentioned the ASOP excursion to Clanfield Observatory (Hampshire) which, he suggested, would make a good Society trip.
Finally, Peta showed us his 'Scale Solar System' movie, made by himself, family and helpers on Maidenhead Pinkney's Green fields a few years back. With the Sun as a football, the Earth is a pepper-corn, Neptune goes at the very end of the field and the nearest star 4,000 miles away !
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: 11th Jun 2019 10:37.
(+) 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)
(+) 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