2021 programme.


Meetings are held on the first Friday* of every month
Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.
Non-members are always welcome – please contact us

* Please note that the January meeting mat be held later in the month.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Black Holes – a Dark Story
Sandra Brantingham – British Astronomical Association
Starting off with how big suns are, how they work, how they die, how they create black holes and what we have discovered about them.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Apollo 15: the First Science Expedition to the Moon
Ken MacTaggart – Highlands Astronomical Society
50 years ago, having succeeded with 3 short Moon landing missions, NASA set out its plans for the first extensive exploration of the Moon. The crew of Apollo 15 landed at a dramatic site below the Apennine Mountains where they stayed for 3 days, exploring hills and the gigantic volcanic trench of Hadley Rille in an electric vehicle, and discovering unique clues to the origin of the Moon.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Nightscapes, Wide Field Astrophotography
Maciej Winiarczyk – Caithness Astronomy Group/wildnorthskies.com
This talk will cover the basics of how to make nightscape pictures. Including, among others: selection of suitable locations, choice of equipment, typical camera settings dependent on the subject, photographing technics, basics of post processing.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Non Professional Comet Observing and Discovery Today
Denis Buczynski – British Astronomical Association Comet Section
This talk will look at the activities, practices and opportunities for comet observers and discoverers in this age of electronic observing. The role of the non professional still has a significant role to play in cometary science.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Solar Microscopes
Prof. Lyndsay Fletcher – University of Glasgow
The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) on Haleakala mountain in Hawaii is our newest solar ‘microscope’. It is the most powerful in the world by some way, with a main mirror diameter of 4 metre, and its large mirror enables exquisitely detailed, high-magnification observations of the Sun’s surface. In this talk I will discuss the DKIST telescope and some of its predecessors, and show the ever-improving observations that these facilities provide, including the boiling solar surface, sunspots, and flares.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Followed by
Satellite Data and (Trans)Planetary Ecology: How Space is Changing our World-View?
Matjez Vidmar – Royal Observatory Edinburgh
Data from satellites is changing the way we perceive natural environment and life on Earth. From protection of wildlife, mapping the climate change or disaster relief, remote sensing from space is enabling us to monitor most of Earth’s surface in near real-time allowing for a very different perspective on our planet and the global consequences of local actions. In this talk, we will examine some of the main trends in Earth Observation, as well as showcase many of the local players in the global Space Data industry – where Edinburgh’s cluster of analytics companies punches far above its weight in shaping the future of our (trans)planetary ecology.

Friday, 2 July 2021

Wonders of the Southern Skies
Prof. Ian Morrison – Jodrell Bank
A look at some of the most interesting objects that can be seen from the southern hemisphere – partly illustrated with images of the southern Milky Way taken from New Zealand.

Friday, 6 August 2021

Astronomy and the Art of Navigation
David Paterson – Dundee Astronomical Society
From our earliest times, mankind has had an urge to travel – to explore, to colonise, and to trade. As journeys became longer the need to accurately navigate grew, and over many centuries the techniques of navigation were developed and advanced. Astronomical observations and theories played a major role, from early, simple approaches using basic astronomy, to the latest techniques which rely on fundamental theories of astrophysics.
This talk explores the development of the art of navigation: from the earliest recorded methods, through the age of sail and the great voyages of discovery, to the very latest navigational systems in use today, in particular the role of astronomy in providing an important foundation for accurate navigation.

Friday, 3 September 2021

The Fourth George Fraser Memorial Lecture
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 recognised internationally, his achievements are virtually unknown locally.
Preparing for Space Settlements Using Microbes
Prof. Charles Cockell – University of Edinburgh
Introduction by Prof. Martin Barstow
As we explore and settle space, we will take microbes with us. On Earth, we use them to make yogurt, drugs and to mine metals. In space we might use them to do similar things. I will talk about how microbes can help us in space and our experiments on the International Space Station in which we demonstrated how to use microbes to extract rare earth elements (used in high technology including your mobile phone) from rocks in the process of biomining. As we head out into the stars, microbes will come with us as our allies.
This is a free event is in association with The Orkney International Science Festival via Youtube https://youtu.be/X8Brypr-Ups

Friday, 1 October 2021

The High Energy Sun
Dr. Alec L. MacKinnon – University of Glasgow
The Sun is just an “ordinary star” but it nonetheless displays high-energy radiation (cosmic rays and gamma rays) more often associated with black holes and supernovae. These pose challenging scientific questions in their own right and need to be understood as part of the full picture of solar magnetism, flares and CME’s. We will look at some highlights of high-energy solar physics: the global neutron monitor network, solar cosmic rays studied on Earth, gamma-rays from the Quiet Sun, solar flares and the puzzling gamma-radiation that persists for hours after them. These phenomena have their origin in dynamic magnetic fields and tenuous gases and make the connection between our tranquil, hospitable solar system and the more exotic, explosive events we find much further afield in the cosmos.

Friday, 5 November 2021

Mercury: The Incredible Shrinking Planet
Dr. Simon Cuthbert – AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland
Mercury has been recognised as a “wanderer” of the night sky since Babylonian times, but its proximity to the Sun has made it a difficult body to study. The situation has changed dramatically since the recent MESSENGER mission, which has revealed a fascinating and distinctive member of the family of terrestrial planets. This presentation will explore current knowledge about this rather uncelebrated planet and consider how its curious nature might be inherited from the special environmental conditions close to the Sun during the very earliest history of the Solar System. A look ahead to the upcoming Bepi-Colombo mission will anticipate some exciting new insights about this mysterious “pink dot”.

Friday, 3 December 2021

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 2021 leaflet is available to download (pdf).