Introducing the Equipment & Techniques Section

At its meeting in 2018 March, Council decided to establish a new BAA Section, called the Equipment & Techniques Section, and in June they appointed me to be its Director. The E&T Section, as it will no doubt be known, obviously replaces the Instruments & Imaging Section, but also inherits the mantle of a succession of Sections with slightly different names, but always having a focus on telescopes and related equipment, going back to the formation of a ‘Methods of Observation Section’ by Capt. Maurice Ainslie (an ‘archetypal English amateur astronomer’ according to the Biographical Encyclopaedia of Astronomers) in 1917. It was re-named the ‘Instruments & Observing Methods Section’ in 1952, the ‘Observing Techniques Section’ in 1982, the ‘Telescope Making Section’ in 1985, and the ‘Instruments & Imaging Section’ in 1995!

So much is history. The new Section will not be a historical one. While it will always be interesting to see observers continuing to restore, use and adapt old equipment, my intention is to focus the Section on the equipment and techniques that amateurs are commonly using today, with an objective of spreading knowledge and experience on all the aspects of practical amateur astronomy that cut across the observing Sections that are devoted to specific objects. This is obviously a vast area, and one in which a single person cannot possibly be knowledgeable on all aspects, so I have recruited a committee of people to help me who are top specialists in relevant fields.

My Assistant Director is Gary Palmer, who is well known in the BAA and on social media for his imaging of the deep sky and the Sun, and for running workshops on imaging and equipment throughout the UK and writing equipment reviews and articles in Sky at Night magazine. He also often works with manufacturers prototype-testing equipment. Our Equipment Advisor is Martin Lewis. He is known for his world-leading planetary and satellite imaging, but is also an expert visual deep sky observer and sketcher. Martin has worked with camera manufacturers and software writers, has made some beautifully-crafted and well-thought-out Dobsonian telescopes, and has a lot of experience with optics.

Tony Morris is our Imaging Advisor. A past BAA Council member, Tony will be known as the author of the BAA guidebook Introduction to DSLR Astrophotography. He is Curator of the instruments and observatory of Mexborough & Swinton Astronomical Society. My last committee member is Es Reid, who joins us as Optics Advisor. Es began his career as an assistant to famous telescope-maker Jim Hysom (who sadly died last year) and is now a leading professional designer and tester of scientific and industrial optics, as well as an amateur astronomer.

I won’t say much about my own qualifications for this directorship, but I have been messing about with telescopes and observatories for nearly 40 years. You may have seen my book Setting-Up a Small Observatory, or my articles on imaging in Astronomy Now. I often give talks on related subjects to BAA and local society meetings.

These days few people make their own telescopes from scratch, but there is a vast area of adaptation and optimisation of commercial equipment to discuss, and we know that BAA members have boundless ingenuity in their solutions to the problems of practical astronomy that are just waiting to be publicised through the Section. My aim is to hold one meeting a year, and I hope to have information on the first one soon. There will be an item from the Section in every issue of the Journal from now on, and I invite questions and suggestions for topics for discussion. We may also sometimes review new equipment here.

While many members will have very specific and technical queries that I hope members of the committee will be able to answer, I anticipate one of the key functions of the E&T Section will be advising relative newcomers to the hobby on the basics of buying and using telescopes. In doing so we should be able to make the Association more useful to an important part of its membership. And of course we’ll have fun with telescopes big and small!

David Arditti, Director

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