The 53rd BAA Winchester Weekend, 2019 April 5–7

Within a week of the booking information appearing in the Journal, the weekend at Sparsholt College was sold out. I had put together a programme I thought interesting and had a line-up of excellent speakers, so I hoped that the meeting would reflect the interest shown.

In warm and sunny weather on Friday April 5, everyone arrived in good time to be given room keys by Richard Flux and Pat Barber.

The weekend wouldn’t be the same without Alan Dowdell, our master of ceremonies. The first speaker he introduced on the Friday evening was Dr Suzanne Imber from Leicester University, who gave a talk about ‘The BepiColombo mission to Mercury’. She was an inspirational speaker, so the weekend started as I hoped.

The Saturday morning session got off to a good start with the return of the double act of Paul Abel and Pete Lawrence, who encouraged us to take part in astronomical challenges. The morning continued with two excellent talks: one by Prof Bill Chaplin from the University of Birmingham who spoke about ‘The NASA TESS mission’ and the other, after a coffee break, by Prof Tim Horbury from Imperial College who spoke about the ‘Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter’.

The Mars Section Meeting in the afternoon was organised by Richard McKim, so I could sit back and enjoy it. Richard had a full programme with talks by five BAA members – Martin Lewis, Simon Kidd, David Arditti, Paul Abel, Damian Peach and John Sussenbach. This attracted a full audience to the lecture theatre and proved to be a very interesting session.

The highlight of the weekend is always the Alfred Curtis Lecture. This year it was titled ‘Exploring the atmosphere of Mars with the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission’, given by Dr Manish Patel from the Open University. Manish proved to be an excellent lecturer. He talked for well over an hour and answered many questions, continuing to do so in the bar afterwards while enjoying a drink.

Dr Jenny Shipway started the Sunday morning session with her talk, ‘AstroBoost: supporting astronomical societies’ public engagement work’. This initiative is of interest to all who belong to societies and would like to do more outreach activities.

Prof Andrew Norton from the Open University has supported BAA events over a number of years so it was good to welcome him back. He talked about ‘The Variable Star Zoo as seen by SuperWASP’ – something he is deeply involved with.

Prof Brad Gibson from the University of Hull gave the final lecture of the formal proceedings: ‘Are we alone in the Universe?’. Brad is an entertaining speaker. He also told us about setting up the new E. A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics at Hull University; he has been responsible for doubling the number of women entering physics at Hull over the past two years.

The Members session in the afternoon is an opportunity to hear what people have been doing during the year and it was as varied and interesting as always.

Bob Mizon joined us with the BAA Commission for Dark Skies stand. I brought BAA Sales and was helped by Monika from Newbury AS. Peta Bosley had the new BAA polo shirts and fleeces on display. There were also three trade stands (AWR Technology, Peak2Valley Instruments and nPAE Precision Astro Engineering), plus society and section presentations making for a busy and interesting exhibition area.

The staff at Sparsholt helped make the event run smoothly and we have booked the College for the 2020 BAA Weekend Meeting. I will be advertising this in the December Journal, so keep a look out and book promptly. I look forward to seeing you next year.

Ann Davies, Sales & Promotions Coordinator

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