2023 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 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.

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 2023 Leaflet

Friday, 6 January 2023 – ZOOM Meeting

Against The Odds: A Patagonian Eclipse

Mike Frost
Coventry and Wickshire Astronomy Society

On December 14th 2020, the path of a total eclipse crossed the northern part of Patagonia (Chile and Argentina).

Of course, events got in the way. The coronavirus pandemic shut down travel across the world. Argentina and Chile closed their borders to foreigners. Tour companies cancelled trips, and Mike began to resign himself to missing this eclipse.

However … against the odds, a narrow window of opportunity began to inch open. Astro-Trails and Eurotur were able to negotiate permits for small groups of eclipse chasers to enter Argentina, travelling in a bubble like a sports team. Mike was one of their guest astronomers.

He made it to Argentina, safely. He made it back, safely. And in between he saw a stunning eclipse from an estancia (horse ranch) in Neuquen Province, northern Patagonia.

Friday, 3 February 2023 – ZOOM Meeting

Einstein’s Universe: The Dawn, and Exciting Future, of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

Prof. Martin Hendry
University of Glasgow

Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time produced by the most violent events in the cosmos: exploding stars, colliding black holes, even the Big Bang itself.

They were by predicted in 1915 by Albert Einstein and detected 100 years later by the most sensitive scientific instruments ever built – a discovery awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics.  And yet in just over seven years the detection of gravitational waves has gone from an epoch-making breakthrough to an almost routine occurrence, with almost 100 gravitational-wave events observed to date, and has opened an entirely new way for astronomers to study the universe.

In this talk join Martin as he explores the exciting dawn – and bright future – of gravitational-wave astronomy, and the remarkable new picture of Einstein’s universe which it is revealing to us.

Friday, 3 March 2023 – ZOOM Meeting

What Makes a Planet Habitable

Patrick Barth
University of St Andrews and the Institute for Space Research in Graz, Austria

In the last 25 years we have found thousands of planets around other stars, but so far we were not able to detect life on any other body than Earth.

After a short introduction into the diversity of extrasolar planets, Patrick will try to shed some light on the fascinating research on the origin of life and to answer some questions regarding the possibility of life on extrasolar planets: What does life need to start? Which environments might be harmful to life? What exotic conditions on a planet can we imagine that can still give rise to and host life? And maybe most importantly: How can we detect life on another planet?”

Friday, 7 April 2023

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans
University of St Andrews

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has been surveying the sky for over 20 years now. The survey started originally with a camera to image the sky with its telescope in New Mexico (United States), and then added spectrographs to measure the light distributions from stars, galaxies and quasars.

In recent years, the survey expanded to the Southern hemisphere, and even more recently, it started to add time-domain observations to its surveys, to monitor variable objects.

In this talk Anne-Marie will discuss the history and technological developments of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, highlights of scientific discoveries, and what we can expect from SDSS in the next few years. And as SDSS was one of the first surveys to make their data freely publicly available, she will also showcase its data archive, and demonstrate how anyone who wants to take a look at a digital part of the sky can do so!
More information: https://www.sdss.org/

Friday, 5 May 2023 – ZOOM Meeting

The Fifth George Fraser Memorial Lecture
introduction by Dr Howie Firth

Apollo 13: Beyond the Headlines

Prof. Nigel Bannister
Space Park, Leicester

SIGMA holds a bi-annual 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.

By the time Apollo 13 was launched in 1970, just 9 months after humans first set foot on the moon, attention spans had been exhausted and lunar travel was becoming back-page news. The events which took place in the hours after Saturn V number SA508 left the launch pad catapulted the programme back into the full glare of publicity and reminded us of just how risky space travel is.

This talk is based on work which Nigel carried out while working as a consultant for a TV documentary. It draws on accounts from NASA engineers working on the project at the time, along with the mission report and transmissions from the NASA archives, to tell a story which in places will be familiar to fans of Tom Hanks movies, but which also considers some of the lesser known aspects of the mission, contributing failures in the years before the launch, and the coincidences, deliberate decisions and planning which led ultimately to the safe return of the crew.

Friday, 2 June 2023

AGM & Solar Outdoor Astronomical Kitchen Event (SOAKE)

Friday, 7 July 2023

Equipment night

Friday, 4 August 2023

Space Exploration Via The Medium of Plastic Model Kits

John Davies
UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh

As NASA gets close to returning humans to the Moon with its Artemis programme John will attempt to tell some little known aspects of the original Moon race of the 1960s using examples of well loved plastic model kits as a focus.

Revisit the history of space exploration, and perhaps your own childhood, via  Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Aurora and other manufacturers. No assembly required.

Friday, 1 September 2023

From The Sun to the Outposts of The Universe: The Life of George Ellery Hale

Brian Kelly
Discovery Dundee

The American astronomer George Ellery Hale (1868-1938) was a pioneering solar astronomer and the driving force behind the establishment of several major US observatories and the building of some of the world’s largest telescopes. This talk will look at his life and scientific work along with his remarkable influence on the development of twentieth-century astronomy.

Friday, 6 October 2023

(Making Sense of the) Colours in the Night Sky

Gordon Mackie
Caithness Astronomy Group

Gordon will look at the colours of objects and phenomenon in the night sky, the causes of the colours and what it tells us about what we’re looking at.

Friday, 3 November 2023

A Brief Introduction to Astrophotography

Dr. Ray Palmer

Astrophotography is a vast and diverse subject, however, over the last 10 years there has been a revolution in the equipment and processing techniques available to the amateur allowing images of celestial objects to be obtained of a quality once restricted to the professional.

This presentation is an overview of the subject including stars/ meteor timelapse photography, solar system object imaging, as well as deep sky object (e.g nebulae and galaxy) astrophotography.

Friday, 1 December 2023

Christmas Quiz

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.