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
Hot News !
MAS Stargazing Live ! will be 1st April at White Waltham Airfield (home of the West London Aero Club)
Also coming soon (next week, Friday 10 & Saturday 11th Feb) is Astrofest at the Kensington Conference and Events Centre (London).
After the above announcements, we went straight into the members stories, starting with :-
A Lunar Grazing Occultation (plans by Tim H and Peter H)
Our first 'short' was delivered by Tim H. who detailed his (and Peters) plans to observe -81 Tau on Sunday 5th Feb at 19:00 UT.
To choose an occultation to observe, he used the Occult 4 software to choose a suitable predicted occultation i.e. with a 'path' crossing UK within easy driving distance. In the case of -81 Tau on Sunday 5th Feb at 19:00 UT, the 'path' would cross England near Oxford.
To discover exactly where the Occultation would be visible from the surface of the Earth, the Grazprep 4.03 software, developed by Dr. Eberhard Riedel, can be used. The topography of the Moon has been mapped by lunar orbiters etc. to such accuracy that the occultation 'path' can now be predicted to an accuracy of a few meters !
His next step was to use Google Earth to find suitable observing locations = these need to be accessible, on public land and away from street lights.
He and Peter then selected two sites near South Leigh - the Village Hall Car Park and a nearby football field. The next step was to travel to the planned sites and check for street lights / security lights etc., as well as inform the 'locals' what they were planning and ask permission. Their final preparations involved charging batteries and testing cameras and telescope together (to ensure focus is reached etc).
Of course 'on the day', all the preparation in the world can't defeat the British Weather ! The current forecast for Sunday suggests clouds at 5pm and clear skies at 7pm. For the occultation (8 mins. duration at about 6pm) the clouds will be clearing ..
Using Astrometry.net by Tim H
Tim next moved onto the on-line 'plate solving' service provided at nova.astrometry.net. This service allows you to upload your own images for analysis. After analysing the image (which typically takes less than 30s, although at busy times the server is sometimes overloaded) it will return not only the RA/DEC co-ordinates of the center of the image but also gives the exact FOV (Field Of View) in degrees and even identifies the most prominent star in the image.
An API exists(so you can upload images problematically and receive the return data in a machine readable format) and the software Source can be downloaded and you can compile it to run on numerous different platforms (for more information, see here)
Ed. to run it on a Raspberry Pi, see this page at Farnham AS (plate solving is one way to set-up or 'calibrate' a non-computerised mount for 'push to' use (eg a Dobsonian). Most other methods involve using a GPS or digital compass (or the manual 'pointing at Polaris and pressing the Calibrate button') approach
Astrophotography without a telescope by Peter H.
Peter H then stood up to talk about imaging the night sky using a normal DSLR and 'stock' lens'
He started by showing us some of his amazing results taken with a 18mm / 16mm wide-angle lens, mainly in the dark skies of Wales.
Using the 18mm lens, a typical exposure would be 1 minute, ISO800 at F6.6. Using the 16mm lens, 56-76s F3.5 ISO400 (in both cases the results show minimal star 'trailing').
He has the following tips for us :-
1) Mount the DSLR on a tripod and use 'B' (Bulb) for 'manual' or 'cable release' operation
2) For 'short' exposures, you should enable 'noise cancellation' (which means the camera will take a second exposure after the first, but with the shutter closed, to crate a 'dark frame' which is them subtracted from the first exposure (i.e. 'dark frame subtraction').
3) If you use RAW (or JPEG+RAW) mode, you can 'correct' for the orange background glow (typically caused by light pollution) by adjusting the 'white balance' in Photoshop etc.
4) All lenses have an 'optimum' F number for maximum sharpness - plus, focus a lot easier at higher F numbers - so F5-F8 may well give a better final result that the lens wide open f2-f4 (the disadvantage is that the higher the F, the longer the exposure - and thus the more 'star trailing' your get)
5) To enhance your image, try 'light painting' nearby features (houses etc) - Peter showed us an amazing shot where he had 'outlined' his telescope using a laser pointer to 'draw' lines around the tube/tripod legs etc !
6) Most DSLR's support an 'Interval Timer' (typically £20 on eBay, or 3-5 times that for the 'branded' version) - modern cameras often have this 'built in' (or available via a WiFi link to software running on your tablet/smart phone), whilst older models have a USB (or even just a 'jack socket' for 'manual shutter control'). This allows you to set up an 'imaging session' that could run all night ! You can usually set the total number of shots, the exposure time of each shot and the delay between shots.
Ed. note - if the exposure time is long, and you have enabled 'noise reduction', remember that the total time for each shot is double the exposure time - so make sure you set the 'delay between shots' appropriately (i.e. to include the second 'shutter closed' dark frame time).
Finally, Peter showed us a number of images taken using a small 625mm F8 APO refractor (on a guided mount) with a 'Digital Systems Camera'. These are (relatively) inexpensive camera's without the 'flip mirror' that a DSLR has. By removing the lens, you can fit an adaptor that connects it direct to the telescope focus assembly Ed. the absence of a mirror means the sensor is much closer than a DSLR. On Newtonian telescopes that often have trouble reaching focus with a DSLR, a 'Digital Systems Camera' may well provide a solution that's cheaper than a new low profile focus assembly :-)
Update on asteroid light curves measured for the Gaia-GOSA project by Adrian J.
Adrian reminded us that the Gaia-GOSA project still needs input from those with telescopes (of 200mm and over) on good auto-guided mounts and CD cameras to measure asteroid 'light curves'. It is still 'early days' yet so you have a chance to make a real difference !
Although typical rotation periods are 5 - 8 hours, so long as your observation 'run' includes a Gaia 'snap shot' of the same asteroid you data can be calibrated and combined together with others elsewhere in Europe.
Both Adrian and Tim have been 'mentioned is dispatches', and Adrian has even been awarded a @certified Observer' Certificate in recognition of his efforts !
Ed. Gaia-GOSA was first mentioned in Part Two of the 2016-10-07 'Astro tourism' meeting
After the break :-
Recent images from Deepest Reading by Alun H
Alun has a new camera - a ZWO ASI-130 monochrome 1/2" CMOS USB2.0 Camera with Guiding Port. Although only 1.3MPixel, this camera gave very good results. Alum showed us an amazing (9 segment mosaic) image of the Moon which was really sharp with excellent contrast.
See photo right by Alun (click for higher resolution)
He also mentioned using his older ATIC314 with an old Tamera zoom lens set to 135mm.
Using various different filters (H alpha, OII, OIII and UHC (to cut light pollution) he displayed some amazing images of some of the fainter nebula (including the 'Jelly Fish' and 'Monkey Head') and, using a DSLR, the 'Rosetta' and 'Running Man'.
Photo above, false colour composite image (Halpha, OII and OII) by Alun (click for higher resolution)
Whats Up in the Sky this month by Robin O.
Robin's nice new PC behaved itself and he was able to run his most excellent Stellarium 'script'. This started by looking West, just after sun-set this month, for the planet Venus. This is followed down by Mars and Uranus.
Orion is extremely well placed in February and should be explored in all it's glory - to see the full script, visit our Sky this Month page (and scroll down to see some of our members photos).
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.
(+) 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)
(+) 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