DR Paul Abel
Leicester University & 'Sky at Night' fame gave a talk about
Planetary Astronomy. The turnout was excellent and the talk enjoyed by all. Paul fielded numerous questions at the end and has inspired many of us to go out and record our own observations of the planets in our solar system.
Paul also stayed on afterwards to do a bit
of planetary observation but unfortunately the conditions outside where not suitable.
Dr Paul Abel
& KAS Chairman Mark Wright after the talk
Our Chairman Mark Wright, is offering prizes for the best astronomical photograph in two categories: beginner and expert.
Members should submit their entries by email to 'firstname.lastname@example.org
'. Photographs can be of anything associated with the night sky and don't necessarily have to be taken through telescopes. Get you camera phones, compact cameras, DSLR's and webcams out and have a go.
The last date for entries is 31st Dec 2012 and the winners will be presented with their prizes at our New Year Social on 7th Jan 2013.
Dr Simon Goodwin, lecturer in the Physics & Astronomy Dept at Sheffield University gave an informative and entertaining talk about the 'Fermi Paradox' - the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and humanity's lack of contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations!
Dr Goodwin explained how the number of known extraterrestial planets had multiplied rapidly since '51 Peg' was discovered in 1995, and how even earth size planets were now being founds circling far off stars.
And technology was even letting us analyse the spectra of these planets' atmospheres, enabling us to detect ozone and methane - which would be strong indications of the presence of life!
But with increasing evidence of the likelyhood of extra-terrestial intelligence, and calculations that once such an intelligence started to explore interstella space it would only take about 10m years to spread throughout the galaxy - why aren't they already here?? There are several theories: perhaps they are; maybe their technology allows them to stay hidden or maybe, they have moved beyond biological form and we are just a computer-simulation
of a 'posthuman' species that is interested in how its ancestors lived!!
Dr Helen Walker
from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) of the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) talked about the Exploration of Mars.
We were taken through all the recent space probes including Mars Express, Opportunity, Sojourner and the very latest pictures from Curiosity
Helen explained how all this data had re-written the geological history of Mars and whereas astronomers used to think that Mars might have had traces of water, the consensus now is that at one time Mars had large oceans covering vast regions of Mars! And this has made the search for evidence of life on Mars even more intriguing.
This would have been during the Noachian
period on Mars - before the end of the heavy bombardment period in the solar system and the start of major volcanic activity during the Hesperian
period - when the geological development of the Earth and Mars began to diverge.
CANCELLED due to bad weather
At our June meeting, Dr David Evans
from Birmingham University gave an enthralling talk about the research he is involved with at CERN using the LHC.Hands-on demo's of super-conductivity
(as well as the properties of liquid nitrogen) captured the packed audience's imagination as Dr Evans explained how the scientists at CERN were searching for the fundamental particles that make up everyday matter; how quarks that make up each proton only account for 2% of the protons mass; and why there is so little anti-matter in the Universe!
All fascinating stuff which meant that the Q&A session lasted nearly as long as the talk!!
At our May meeting, Nigel gave us an insight into the trials and tribulations of past astronomers as they tried to follow Kepler's predictions for the transits of Venus, to obtain an accurate calculation of the 'Astronomical Unit' (the average distance of the Earth from the Sun).
This turned out to be a lot harder than expected, not least because of ongoing wars between England and France, sailing half way around the world, pirates, yellow fever and (inevitably) clouds!
The next transit occurs on 6th June 2012 - although in the UK, we will only see the last hour of the transit and then only if you get up at sunrise (4:45am)!!
After this event, you'll have to wait until 2117 to see it happen again!!
<<< It's not like this really :-)