BAA Winchester Weekend 2022

After three difficult years, the 54th Winchester Weekend took place on 2022 Apr 8–10. The number of places was limited as some restrictions were still in place. Booking for all BAA meetings is now through the Eventbrite website; this was the first time the system was used for the Weekend and it worked well. The date when booking was to open was announced in the Journal and Newsletter, as well as on the BAA website. Within a few minutes, the first booking was made, and places filled up quickly. People were still cautious, but the prospect of getting back to normal overcame many concerns.



Friday Apr 8 was a dry, sunny day – a good start to the weekend. As usual, Richard Flux and Pat Barber were staffing the reception desk and giving out room keys. It was wonderful seeing people arrive – both old friends and those new to the event.

Winchester would not be the same without Alan Dowdell introducing the speakers. First up on Friday evening was Dr Matthew Malek, a good friend of the Winchester Weekends, who spoke about ‘Multi-messenger astronomy’. Matthew always gives an interesting talk which promotes discussion afterwards in the bar.

The Saturday morning session got off to the usual good start, with the return of the double act – Dr Paul Abel and Pete Lawrence – giving us astronomical challenges for 2022. Nick James and Chris Hooker told us about measuring comets and the work of the Mercury & Venus Section, respectively; they were followed by John Chuter, the BAA Archivist. All are doing invaluable work for the BAA.


From left to right: the BAA speakers Pete Lawrence, John Chuter, Chris Hooker, Nick James and Paul Abel. (Photo by Mark Gray; ed. by Pauline Philips)


The afternoon was devoted to a Lunar Section Meeting organised by the Acting Director, Dr Tony Cook. The programme included talks by Tony, Barry Fitz-Gerald, Tim Haymes and Nick James. As usual, the Section Meeting was well attended and proved to be an interesting and informative session.

The President, Dr David Arditti, introduced the Alfred Curtis Lecture, which this year was given by Dr Stephen Wilkins on ‘Exploring the Universe with the James Webb Space Telescope’. Dr Wilkins is Reader and Head of Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Stephen gave an excellent talk and answered many questions. He came with his ten-year-old son – a delightful young man and potentially an astronomer of the future.

Sunday started with a talk by Tony Rodda, entitled ‘Can you successfully 3-D-print a spectrograph?’ Tony’s answer was an emphatic ‘yes’ and he then gave a lively explanation of how it was possible. This was followed by talks from Dr Henrik Melin from the University of Leicester, about observing the giant planets with the JWST, and Dr Paul Clark from Cardiff University, telling us about formation of the first stars in the Universe. Both talks prompted many questions.


Speakers Dr Paul Clark (left), Dr Henrik Melin (second from left) and Dr Matthew Malek (right), with Ann Davies, organiser of the Weekend. (Photo by Mark Gray; ed. by Pauline Philips)


The members’ session on Sunday afternoon was an opportunity to hear what people had been doing during the three-year-break. The highlight among many interesting talks was a double act from Crayford. Steve Floodgate and David Gist, the ‘Eric and Ernie’ of astronomy, have a different approach to outreach – one that both educates and is great fun.

Winchester also provided the first opportunity for three years for members to buy things in person from the BAA Sales stand, and Bob Mizon’s display for the Commission for Dark Skies. They made the most of this and the stands generated a good income. Several members took the opportunity to pass on unwanted astronomical equipment and books. There were also trade stands featuring Paul Buckman’s AWR Technology, the UK Radio Astronomy Association, Dave Woods from DarkFrame Optics and Kate Kay with her T-shirts and mugs. We also had displays from Sections and societies. This provided a busy social area, with interesting things to browse during breaks. Steve Bosley had BAA lapel badges made; he did this in memory of his late wife, Peta. They proved to be popular and many were sold.

The staff at Sparsholt helped make the weekend run smoothly, so any problems were quickly overcome. I enjoyed all the talks and it was great to meet everyone again after such a long and difficult time.

Winchester Weekend 2023 will be held on Apr 14–16, and booking will again be via Eventbrite. The date bookings open will be advertised in the Newsletter and on the BAA website. I look forward to seeing you there.

The British Astronomical Association supports amateur astronomers around the UK and the rest of the world. Find out more about the BAA or join us.