2024 Programme

Meetings are held on the first Friday of each month* at Lhanbryde Community Centre (Robertson Road, Lhanbryde, Moray, IV30 8QQ). The Centre is ideal for routine observing either during or after meetings, with only minimal light pollution.

*January, February (2 meetings) and March meetings will be fully online via ZOOM. This is to avoid having to cancel any meetings due to bad weather locally or affecting the Speakers being able to travel to Moray, and/or Speaker’s availabilty.

In the event of any other meeting having to take place over ZOOM this will be communicated to members by email and the website.

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

Non-members are always welcome – please contact us.

Download 2024 Leaflet

Friday, 5 January 2024 (Zoom)
Andy Green
Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS)
In search of the Goddess of the Dawn – The story of the Aurora
The Aurora is one of nature’s greatest phenomenon but what is it? What causes it? What does it mean? In this presentation we aim to cover all of this and perhaps more. Andy has been Aurora hunting for over 15 years, mainly in Iceland and has a great insight into searching for this elusive light show.
Friday, 2 February 2024 (Zoom)
Prof. Brad Gibson
University of Hull
How the Universe Will End
One of the most exciting questions in all of science remains “How did the Universe begin?”; less spoken about though is the opposite end of the life-cycle: “how the Universe will end…”.  Over a rollicking and interactive hour, Professor Gibson will walk you through our Universe, from its birth and toddler phase, to the rough teenage years and mid-life crises, and ultimately, its mysterious fate, billions of years from now.
Friday, 16 February 2024 (Zoom)
Hazel Collett
British Astronomical Association
(This talk has been brought froward from April due to speakers availability)
The Beauty and Violence of the Sun

Hazel gives a brief look at the make-up and some physical data about our local star the Sun:
Violence – caused by the dynamics of the Sun including effects such as aurora there are a number of short video clips to back these up.
Beauty – what to look for i.e. sundogs.
There is also a short bit on observing the Sun – sunspots and prominences.
The talk concludes with a short stunning video from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Friday, 1 March 2024 (Zoom)
Prof. Ian Robson
Science and Technology Facilities Council, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
The Pluto Story
This talk is about the erstwhile planet Pluto, how it was discovered and how discovery and observations of Kuiper Belt Objects eventually led the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006 to declassify Pluto from being a planet. Although ‘what is a planet?’ might seem to be an easy question to answer, it turns out that the ensuing debate by professional astronomers was both complicated and fractious. The twists and turns of how Pluto finally came to be demoted by the IAU are revisited on a personal basis – astronomical democracy in action – or not, and what was the legacy from the decision and what have we learned from the New Horizons space mission to Pluto and beyond.
Friday, 5 April 2024
Richard Oakley
This fascinating time piece believed to date from 200 B.C. has completely changed our view on gear mechanisms. This talk covers the machine layout and the gear mechanisms that are adopted to achieve its functionality. This presentation discusses the research that has been carried out to determine how the machine works and the contributions of each researcher and what needs still to be done. The talk also discusses who may have designed the Antikythera mechanism and from where it originates and when.
Friday, 3 May 2024
Dr. Howie Firth MBE
The Bear and the Ship
An old Shetland folktale and a 2,000-year-old Mediterranean voyage lead Howie Firth on an astronomical trail to Siberia and ancient Egypt. We visit the islands of Fetlar and Paxos, and take a journey in the sky with the star Canopus and two constellations.
Friday, 7 June 2024 AGM
Friday, 5 July 2024 Equipment Night/Solar Observing
Friday, 2 August 2024
Pete Sherman
Navigating the Night Sky
When starting out in astronomy, finding your way around and locating objects in the night sky can be difficult and frustrating. This can lead to many budding astronomers giving up on the hobby prematurely. With the advancement of GOTO and self-aligning telescopes, learning the constellations and star hopping is a dying talent.In this talk Pete will cover recognising the constellations, movement of the sky over time, star magnitudes, using star maps/planetarium software and star hopping to aid your enjoyment of telescope or binocular viewing.
Friday, 6 September 2024
Dr. Hugh Hudson
University of Glasgow
SunSketcher: How Round is the Sun?
The North American total eclipse of April 8, 2024 will have been a beautiful spectacle, but also a useful one. Dr Hudson will describe the “SunSketcher” effort to recruit a million smartphone cameras, using their image timing to determine the shape of the Sun more precisely than ever before (http://sunsketcher.org). This scheme relies upon capturing GPS-timed glimpses of Baily’s Beads. In the case of hemispheric cloudiness (or other failure), then Dr Hudson will talk about the history of this fascinating subject. The project hopes to have some preliminary results by August.
Friday, 4 October 2024
Prof. Andrew Cameron
University of St Andrews
Exploring small planets with TESS, HARPS-N and CHEOPS
Extrasolar planetary systems contain both familiar planet types – gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, ice giants like Uranus and Neptune – and unfamiliar ones such as rocky super-Earths and mini-Neptunes with extended atmospheres. But what about true Earth analogues? In principle these are easy to detect with space photometry from missions like TESS and CHEOPS, but weighing them with ground-based spectrographs like HARPS-North is proving to be a headache – thanks to the stellar equivalents of sunspots and faculae that mottle the faces of their host stars. These mask the stellar orbital reflex motion that reveals a planet’s mass. Andy will talk about some recent successes, and a major new initiative to bring ultra-realistic, large-scale computational models of the physics of stellar photospheres to bear on the problem.
Friday, 1 November 2024
Pauline Macrae
Weird Stars
Not all stars are born equal and this can lead to some real monsters, large and small, out in space looking and behaving in weird ways. This talk looks a little closer at some of these stars but beware, nightmares are made of these…
Friday, 6 December 2024
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.