2020 programme.

Meetings are held on the first Friday of every month at Lhanbryde Community Centre near Elgin (unless otherwise stated).
Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.
Non-members are always welcome and refreshments are provided (for a small donation).
SIGMA regularly holds public observing sessions at its dark site outside Elgin. Visit our Public Events page to see what we have planned.
* Please note that the January meeting mat be held  later in the month.

Friday 10th January 2020
The Pyramids, the Stars & the Playboy Connection
Dr. Howie Firth – SIGMA
The story of Jane B. Sellers who developed interpretations of Egyptian archaeology in terms of ancient astronomy, including eclipses. She was able to travel extensively to study and observe through having been an investor in the start-up of Playboy magazine and a friend since schooldays of its founder, Hugh Hefner.

Friday 7th February 2020
Is the Earth Flat After All? The Hologram Universe
Maarten De Vries – Highlands Astronomical Society
In 1981 Stephen Hawking stated that information inside a black hole is lost forever. It took 28 years for Leonard Suskind, founding director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics, to prove him wrong, and in doing so discovering that the universe we live in can be described as a hologram. In this talk Maarten will explain, using easy to understand concepts, what the fuss was all about and how the absurd idea that we live in a hologram universe provides the methods that are now widely accepted by those who study cosmology and quantum mechanics.

Friday 6th March 2020
The Search for Life in the Universe

Prof. Charles Cockell – University of Edinburgh
For the first time, using robots and telescopes we are on the verge of getting some sort of idea about whether we are alone in the Universe. In this talk we’ll take a tour of these distant worlds and new missions and consider the prospects for life elsewhere.

Friday 3rd April 2020

Bringing a Piece of Space Down to Earth
Dr. John Davies – Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
Near Earth Objects have been of especial interest since the realisation that an asteroid impact probably wiped out the dinosaurs. Two spacecraft are currently in orbit around different asteroids – each hoping to return a sample to the Earth in the next few years. John will explain what an asteroid is, where they come from, how the sample missions are progressing and briefly mention a future mission which will be the first attempt to deflect an asteroid as a dry run for the day humanity may need to do this for real.

Friday 1st May 2020
The Frontiers of Astronomy

Dr. Robin Catchpole – Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University
The frontier of our knowledge stretches from our Solar System, to the creation of our universe. The frontier posts are marked by questions; Is there life elsewhere? Where were the elements made? How was our galaxy made? What are Black Holes? What is Dark Matter? What is Vacuum Energy? How did our Universe begin?

Friday 5th June 2020
SIGMA’s 20th Anniversary! (plus AGM)

followed by
The Path to the Planets, the Road to the Stars
Dr. Howie Firth – SIGMA
It’s now almost 50 years since the last human footprint on the Moon. Maybe sometime in the next decade we will return – but what about Mars and beyond? Will we ever explore much of our own Solar System, let alone reach the nearest star? Howie says that the dream of exploration is so deeply built in to us that we have to try – and there is hope.

Friday 3rd July 2020
Scottish Dark Skies
David Warrington – Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
The Story of The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
Details of this talk not available at time of publication – full details will be advised on our website.

Friday 7th August 2020
An Update on the Solar System
Graham Young – University of Dundee
Grahams’ favourite topic is the solar system and photographing planets, asteroids, comets, the Moon and Sun – including of course special events like eclipses and transits. From 1976 to 1984 he produced a photographic Lunar Atlas using the 10 inch refractor at the Mills Observatory in Dundee, and has recently returned to lunar mapping.

Friday 4th September 2020
Finding Planets Around Other Stars
Prof. Ken Rice – Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
Just over 20 years ago, we didn’t know of any planets outside our Solar System. We now know of almost 4000, and the discovery of new ones continues apace. These planets are known as extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. Ken will discuss how we find them, what we know about them, and the prospects for the future of this exciting research area. In particular, when can we expect to detect an exoplanet that might have conditions suitable for life?

October 2020 (Date TBC)
SIGMA Stargazing and Equipment Night – a joint club night and public observing session.
See many of the wonders of the local night sky (weather permitting) and talk with local astronomers.

Friday 6th November 2020
Ice Giants
Pauline McRae – Highlands Astronomical Society
Very little is known about the Ice Giants. What we do know, comes mostly from the Voyager 2 mission. With advances in experimental techniques, computer modelling and observations with advanced telescopes, we are gradually learning more about our outermost two planets. This is the story of what has been discovered so far and how they may be important in understanding the formation of solar systems.

Friday 4th December 2020
Christmas Quiz
SIGMA Members and your Families
Bring along the family for a night of fun, questions and mince pies to end the year. There will also be the usual Christmas raffle.

The 2020 Leaflet is available to download (pdf). (Please note that the BAA meeting advertised in the leaflet has been postponed until 2021)