This blog post is part of our regular “From the BAA Journal” series. This series features a selection of articles, news, reviews and letters from the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, published six times a year.
Notes and News, from the BAA President, David Boyd
BAA President David Boyd with the latest BAA news:
Bob Mizon awarded an MBE
Firstly, our warmest congratulations to Bob Mizon, coordinator of the BAA Campaign for Dark Skies, who has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List ‘for voluntary service to Astronomy and to the Environment’.
Bob has been a tireless campaigner for protection of the night time environment and against the excesses of light pollution for many years and this recognition of his efforts is very well deserved. Well done Bob!
The BAA Weblog and Twitter
As many of you may have noticed, the BAA now publishes a regular Weblog, or ‘blog’, providing information about current astronomical events and alerting people to interesting observing opportunities. We are doing this both to raise awareness of the BAA as an observing organisation and to promote astronomy among the general public. Within just its first week the blog has reported on another supernova discovery by Tom Boles, information on where to see the new Comet McNaught, discovery of a new Trans-Neptunian object, opportunities to observe noctilucent clouds, news of yet another asteroid impact on Jupiter, a spectacular image of the Sun and much more.
We have also started a BAA Twitter feed to provide high quality astronomical tweets (140-character text messages) within this hugely popular social networking environment. This is a powerful new way of reaching people who are not yet in the mainstream of amateur astronomy, but who might be tempted to participate in one of the coordinated observing events we are planning during the coming year.
Both of these new services are being run for us by Steve Owens, the new BAA Outreach Coordinator, as part of the Beyond IYA project which I mentioned last month. (See Steve’s article about these new initiatives in this month’s journal). You will find links to both these new services on the front page of the BAA website at http://www. britastro.org/.
Spectroscopy for the amateur
Spectroscopy is one of the new frontiers in amateur astronomy. Now that high resolution spectrographs such as the LHIRES III are available commercially, amateurs have access to equipment which will enable them to make scientifically useful spectroscopic observations of stars brighter than about 8th magnitude. The BAA is organising a weekend meeting at the Norman Lockyer Observatory near Sidmouth in September on the Formation and Evolution of Stars, which will feature talks from the leading amateur spectroscopists in the UK and France. Details of the meeting were circulated with the June Journal and there is a link for this meeting on the home page of the BAA website. If you are interested in finding out more about the potential for amateur spectroscopy, and in hearing talks from several excellent speakers, this will be a good opportunity.
BAA Section Newsletters
Several BAA observing Sections issue newsletters or circulars which report recent observations and provide suggestions of what to observe and how to go about it. In many cases, these are available to download from the relevant Section’s pages within the BAA website. Other Sections provide similar information online through their websites. I encourage you to investigate these, even if you are not an active observer in that particular Section you might well find something of interest and you never know, you might be persuaded to broaden your observing horizons!
Explore the Moon with ‘Moon Zoo’
This is the latest in a series of ‘Zooniverse’ projects following on from Galaxy Zoo. As they say on their website ‘with your help, we hope to study the lunar surface in unprecedented detail’.
The project invites you to explore images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter which show the lunar surface in remarkable detail, including features as small as 50cm across. At this resolution you should be able to see individual boulders on the lunar surface and, if you’re lucky, the remains of previous missions to the Moon. The scientific aim of Moon Zoo is to provide detailed crater counts for as much of the Moon’s surface as possible. Because the Moon has no weather, craters remain intact essentially for ever and provide a record of bombardment of the Moon’s surface from the time of its creation. If this sounds interesting, visit the Moon Zoo website at www.moonzoo. org
Time to renew your membership
August is the month for renewing your BAA membership. Please try to do this promptly as it saves the office having to send out reminder letters. I know these are difficult times for many of us but your continued membership of the BAA will help to keep alive your interest in astronomy and provide the stimulus to get out and observe. Observing the heavens on a clear dark night must be one of the best therapies for recovering from the stresses of everyday life and putting our presence here on the Earth into perspective.
Very best wishes and clear skies to all.
David Boyd, President
This blog post is part of our regular Thursday “From the BAA Journal” series. This series features a selection of articles, news, reviews and letters from the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, published six times a year.
Notes and News, from the BAA President, David Boyd
BAA President David Boyd with the latest BAA news:
A new Director for the Historical Section
I’m very pleased to let you know that Mike Frost has agreed to become Director of the Historical Section, with Lee Macdonald acting as his deputy. They are developing what sounds like a most interesting programme which will raise the profile of the Section, both within and outside the BAA. See Mike’s article on the next page for more information about their plans.
Robotic telescope project
After helping us to get this exciting new project off the ground, Jeff Moreland has decided to step down as coordinator and Peter Meadows is taking over. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jeff for all his efforts in establishing access for BAA members to the remote observing facilities at Sierra Stars and Global Rent-A-Scope. Peter will now be working to expand the use of these facilities by BAA members, particularly for projects in support of our observing Sections. Peter also writes about his plans elsewhere in ‘Notes and News’.
Radio Astronomy Group coordinator
Laurence Newell, who has coordinated the work of the Radio Astronomy Group for several years and overseen a great revival in its fortunes, has decided to step down to give himself more time to spend on software and hardware development projects. The group has recommended to Council that Paul Hyde take over from Laurence as coordinator and Council has approved that recommendation. We are very grateful to Laurence for leading the recent resurgence of radio astronomy in the BAA.
Beyond the International Year of Astronomy
Council has agreed that the BAA will participate in a national programme following on from the International Year of Astronomy 2009 called Beyond IYA. In this we will be joining the original sponsors of the IYA2009 project, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Institute of Physics and the Society for Popular Astronomy. This programme aims to maintain and further develop the infrastructure and momentum established in IYA2009 to promote public outreach in astronomy. We are fortunate that Steve Owens will continue to coordinate the programme as he has done very successfully for the past two years. In the next Journal Steve will tell us about the plans for Beyond IYA and the new ways in which the BAA will be reaching out to a larger audience for amateur astronomy.
In the course of moving temporarily out of Burlington House recently while it was being refurbished, it became clear as we worked our way through the cupboards and filing cabinets in our old offices, many of which had probably not been opened for years, that we had many items of great historical interest to the Association. We have now set in place a proper cataloguing and archiving procedure for these items, largely through the painstaking work of Dick Chambers. Recognising the long term importance of this collection, Council has now established the post of BAA Archivist and has appointed Dick as our first official Archivist, recognising the vital contribution he is making to preserving the early history of the Association.
This year’s event was generally reckoned to be one of the most successful in recent years. There was a strong theme of practical amateur observing, very much in the tradition of the first Winchester course organised by Alfred Curtis in 1967, and the Solar Section meeting on Saturday afternoon was well attended. Our thanks are due to the organisers, Alan Dowdell and Ann Davies, the volunteers who ran the registration desk, the exhibitors, the sales stands and the staff at Sparsholt College who made us welcome and, as always, fed us extremely well. Next year there will be a Lunar Section meeting on the Saturday afternoon. The dates are 2011 April 15-17 so do put these in your diary now and watch for the booking form in the Journal.
Commander Henry Hatfield
Many of our members will remember Cmdr Henry Hatfield RN, a prominent member of the Association for many years, who sadly passed away on April 1. Judging by the many responses I received to my e-Bulletin announcing his death, he was much liked and respected. I have fond memories of visiting his house in Sevenoaks with my local astronomical society many years ago and being warmly welcomed by Henry and Mrs Hatfield. His pioneering work in many areas of astronomy was an inspiration to all of us. An obituary will appear in the Journal in due course.
The Sun as you’ve never seen it before
And finally, for those of you who haven’t already visited their website, the Solar Dynamics Observatory is now returning the most amazing high resolution images and videos of solar activity. This is your chance to see how it really happens on the surface of a star. This project, in which UK solar scientists are closely involved, should greatly increase our understanding of dynamic processes on the Sun and how these affect the Earth.
This blog post is based on an article in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association. For 120 years the Journal has published the observations and work of BAA members. It also contains many other articles and items of interest to all amateur astronomers. It is published six times a year, and sent free to all full members of the BAA. Find out how to join the BAA here. Members are also able to download current and previous issues of the Journal from the Members | Downloads section of the website. For subscription details for non-members, please contact the BAA office.