SIGMA Events Programme for 2017

Meetings are held on the first Friday* of every month at Birnie Village Hall 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 is held at Lhanbryde Community Centre and the July meeting is held later in the month.

Friday 6th January
Venue: Lhanbryde Community Centre
SIGMA Stargazing Night
SIGMA’s annual Stargazing meeting. Another chance to hold a joint club night and public observing session. Held at Lhanbryde, the event will give members and visitors a chance to see many of the wonders of the local night sky and talk with local Astronomers.

Friday 3rd February 2017
Universe in a Nutshell
Tim Browett, Robert Gordon’s College
This talk will explore our expanding and evolving understanding of the Universe. Tim will examine the development of science’s views on the Universe’s turbulent 13.8 billion years of history, what we currently believe the state of the Universe to be, and finally examine possible outcomes in it’s future evolution. A number of practical and novel demonstrations will be used to translate the potentially mind-bending theories into tangible and manageable concepts.

Friday 3rd March 2017
How do They Know That?
Bill Leslie, SIGMA
How can anyone know the size of a planet, its distance from the Sun and its mass? Bill will be explaining the science that astronomers use to answer these questions.

Friday 7th April 2017
Recent Curiosities on Mars
Pauline Macrae, Highlands Astronomical Society
Pauline will be talking about Mars, and the discoveries made by the Curiosity Rover during its four and a half year trek across the red planet.

Friday 5th May 2017
The Best-Observed Solar Eclipse Ever?
Dr. Hugh Hudson, University of Glasgow
August 2017 will see a total solar eclipse crossing the entire breadth of the continental United States.
From several points of view this will be a milestone: a long period of totality, excellent infrastructure, and remarkable new technology (smartphones, GPS, and the Cloud, for example).

This eclipse will be more than pretty pictures because of this, and Dr. Hudson will describe some of the hoped-for advances in our understanding of the solar corona, the Sun itself, and the Moon too. It is hoped that citizen science can play a major role in discoveries following the event itself, via the massive archive that will result. Visit for more information.

Dr. Hudson will also describe the activities of the team at the partial solar eclipse in Patagonia (February 2017) in preparation for the big event.

Friday 2nd June 2017
AGM, Solar Observing and Social
Venue: Morayvia, North Road, Kinloss
Another chance to catch up with events within SIGMA over the last year and to elect the new committee. There will also be the usual Space News and membership draw.

Friday 21st July 2017
2nd Prof. George Fraser Memorial Lecture
Venue: Morayvia, North Road, Kinloss
In 2015 SIGMA, in association with Morayvia, held its first memorial lecture in honour of Prof. George Fraser (22 July 1955 – 18 March 2014).

Born and brought up in Burghead, George was Professor of Detector Physics and Director of the Space Research Centre of the University of Leicester.

Though his work was recognized internationally, his achievements are virtually unknown locally.

Prof. Martin Hendry, University of Glasgow, a renowned international scientist and regular speaker at SIGMA will deliver this 2nd memorial lecture.

2020 Vision: Multi-Messenger Astronomy and Cosmology From Earth and Space-Based Observatories
The direct detection of gravitational waves by LIGO, (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), from the collision of two massive black holes more than a billion light years from Earth, has been hailed as the scientific breakthrough of the century, opening up an entirely new way to explore our Universe, and future prospects for simultaneously observing both electro-magnetic and gravitational-wave signals in the distant cosmos.

This new field of “multi-messenger” astronomy offers rich opportunities to address some of the deepest unsolved mysteries in astrophysics – from probing the runaway expansion of the Universe to understanding how stars and galaxies formed. This lecture will highlight some of the exciting discoveries that might lie ahead and showcase some of the remarkable technology that underpins our efforts to explore the Universe across the entire electromagnetic spectrum and beyond.

Friday 4th August 2017
TV Astronomy
Robert Law, Mills Observatory, Dundee
Robert will show how to use simple video cameras to get pictures of the moon and planets with small telescopes. He will also show pictures from the 16 inch reflector telescope at Mills Observatory.

Friday 1st September 2017
Charles Piazzi Smith
Prof. Andy Lawrence, Royal Observatory Edinburgh
Professor Lawrence will cover Charles Piazzi Smyth and his historic trip to Tenerife in 1856, which started the whole idea of mountain top astronomy.

The talk will be a mixture of the history and the science concerned. Charles made measurements of double stars, Jupiter, the solar spectrum, the zodiacal light, and made the first IR measurement of the Moon – all things within the reach of amateur astronomers.
This will be another talk not to miss so do make time to come along and bring that friend who has always meant to comedown with you.
(Please note this is a change to the previously advertised talk.)

Friday 6th October 2017
Transiting Extra-Solar Planets: From Hot Jupiters to Super-Earths
Prof. Andrew Cameron, University of St Andrews
Extrasolar planets that transit their host stars are highly prized, because we can measure their radii as well as their masses.

Prof. Cameron will describe some of the problems faced in extracting planetary parameters from the various types of astronomical observation needed to deduce planetary bulk densities, which offer clues as to whether planets are mainly rocky, icy or gaseous.

A bewildering variety of planetary compositions is beginning to emerge, many of which are not represented in our own solar system. In particular, analyses of the planet population found by the Kepler/K2 space mission suggest that we may soon have an idea of the prevalence of Earth-sized planets around other stars.

Friday 3rd November 2017
Astrophotography and Nightscapes
Maciej Winiarczyk –
Change of venue: This meeting will now be held at Morayvia, Kinloss

Friday 1st December 2017
Christmas Quiz and Prize Draw
for SIGMA Members and your Families
Another chance to 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 and an update on future planned events for SIGMA in 2017.

The 2017 Leaflet is available to download (pdf).