A busy day at the Practical Astronomy Show, 2022 March 19

Hats off to Nick Vermeulen of Altair Astro and John Timmins (skipping about on his new knees and keeping the BAA team well supplied with coffee) for bringing about the return of the Practical Astronomy Show (PAS) – the first fully live astronomy show after the lockdowns. A breath of normal! People were queuing up the stairs and into the hallway before opening time and the enthusiasm was infectious, helped by a beautiful sunny spring morning.

The BAA stand at the Practical Astronomy Show.

The exhibitors and around 3,000 visitors (50% up on last time) were all itching for those wallets to open and to eyeball the latest equipment on offer.

Thanks to the kindness of the organisers, the BAA stand was well placed to capture passers-by and attracted many people, with new members signing up and current members dropping by to renew acquaintance, buy books, and exchange their astronomy experiences of the pandemic. It was good to have the Commission for Dark Skies by our side, generating interest for the cause.

Nick and John enticed a glittering array of speakers. Gary Palmer kicked off the day with his talk on high-resolution solar imaging, followed by Robin Glover (polar aligning accurately), Helmut Kesler (hydrogen-alpha etalons), Neils Haagh (the modern alt-azimuth portable mount), Gain Lee (imaging the night sky), Ivaylo Stoynov (APT software) and of course Damian Peach (imaging the solar system). A truly international line-up of experienced practical observers.

Attendees enjoy the exhibiters’ displays.

There was no holding back in attendance by the exhibitors. It is always entertaining to watch the speedy construction of Pulsar’s observatories. Roboscopes, Telescope House, 365 Astronomy and AWR Technology were there, amongst many others. BBC Sky at Night, with whom the BAA have been supporting digital classes, were there in force, as were our friends, the Society for Popular Astronomy. Northamptonshire Natural History Society, the Society for the History of Astronomy, travel companies and meteorite displays were all there to add to the fun.

It was good to see the younger generation come along too. The PAS attracts all ages, youngsters being brought by their parents but also with small groups of teenagers coming on their own.

The venue, Kettering Conference Centre in Northamptonshire, is a brilliant site, with large halls, lots of parking and easy access. At the end of a very busy day, we all broke down our stands whilst the local junior ballet championships were taking place downstairs. Not sure tutus and tripods mix that well.

Dr Nick Hewitt at the BAA stand.


Martin Lewis, with our friends at BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

My sincere thanks to Nick Hewitt who, as ever, assisted with the lugging and tugging of display stock and equipment, and extended his kind hospitality to me. Thanks also go to David Boyd and Ann Davies, who spent much of the day on their feet, keeping our sales up and gathering new members. This was also a testing ground for our new contactless card reader. My thanks to Andy Wilson for sourcing the best value system for the BAA, and for getting it set up.

Next year’s show will be on 2023 Mar 11 at the same venue and will be even bigger. See you there.

Photos courtesy of Janice McClean

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