Speakers 2015/16

2015-16 Season Speakers :

Dr Kathy Romer7th July 2016 Kathy Romer from Sussex University
Improving our Understanding of Cosmic Expansion with the Dark Energy Survey This talk will introduce the following concepts: expansion of the Universe, dark matter, and dark energy. This will take about 15 minutes, with questions to follow. Then the audience will be asked to select which 2 or 3 of the following topics they want to learn more about. Each description will take about 10 minutes, followed by questions.
a) Practical aspects of the Dark Energy Survey;
b) How clusters of galaxies allow us to study Dark Matter and Dark Energy;
c) How galaxy patterns allow us to study Dark Matter and Dark Energy;
d) How exploding stars allow us to study Dark Matter and Dark Energy;
e) How gravitational bending of light allow us to study Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

Mary Spicer2nd June 2016 Mary Spicer - A Beginner's Guide to Astrophotography
Our Speaker is from Oxfordshire she is giving her first installment of Astrophotography for beginners could you please add to our web page.

  • Basics of which camera settings you need to use and how to focus correctly
  • How to shoot widefield images of constellations and conjunctions
  • How to shoot star trails
  • How to shoot with a zoom lens
  • Attaching a camera to a telescope
  • How to shoot lunar and solar images through a telescope
  • How to shoot deep sky images through a telescope

Mary uses photos throughout the whole talk to show what kind of results can be expected with different equipment.

Born and raised in Lancashire, Mary had her head in astronomy books before she could even read and got her first telescope when she was just 11 years old. But a move to London and light polluted skies kind of killed the passion a bit, and astronomy took a back seat for a few years.

Then that passion was reignited when she had the chance to study for the Astronomy GCSE exam in 2011, and this is when she first started astrophotography as part of her GCSE coursework. She went on to study the Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science at the Open University.

A move to dark skies in rural Oxfordshire 3 years ago to live with her fellow astronomy nut fiance, Mark, finally lead to them building their own observatory and they do astronomy outreach events from their back garden.

Mary is a keen astrophotographer and has had her images appear in online magazine, in local newspapers and on various tv shows. She is also a writer, and has recently written articles for Sky at Night magazine, as well as giving talks and astrophotography workshops in the area. 2 years ago Mary also took over the running of the UK Women in Astronomy Network.

Nick Howes5th May Nick Howes entitled ‘A tail of two comets- or Sense & Serendipity’
Nick Howes is a freelance science writer and amateur astronomer, whose work has included science writer for the European Space Agencies Science Portal.

A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, he has written for Astronomy U.S, Sky and Telescope, Popular Astronomy and many other publications and websites, including occasional guest articles for NASA's website. His images of comets and asteroids have graced the NASA home pages on multiple occasions.

His comet and general imaging work has won awards and been featured by the like of National Geographic, The Times of London, Universe Today, Space.com, Financial Times and Discovery Channel Science as well as multiple books and peer reviewed journals.

A STEM ambassador in the UK, he has appeared on both BBC television and radio and he regularly features as the official astronomer for the BBC in the South West of England. He is also the tour leader for astronomy holidays in Africa and a consultant to the GEO Observatory in Andalucia, Spain.

Steve Tonkin7th April 2016 Steve Tonkin Binocular Astronomy
Don't forget to check his site out for great binoculars resources: http://www.binocularsky.com

A return of Steve Tonkin with his talk Binocular Astronomy. Last time Steve was with us we were in the Pebsham Community Big Hall where the acoustics were so bad that many members did not hear what was being said, so we have another chance to listen to his talk and discover what can be seen with a simple pair of Binoculars, what to look for when buying binoculars, how to use them, what to use with them and so much more. PLUS a chance to try out a few in the talk so you can "see for your self".

Thursday 3rd March 2016 : Melanie Davies & Mission to Mars: Fiction vs Reality
Melanie Davies

Mars has been the focus of over 50 missions during the last 55 years – some successful, some not so. Within a generation, we’ll see the first real Martians colonising the Red Planet. This informal talk discusses the early mission attempts and failures; data and images from the first flybys; and the incredible scientific discoveries collected over the last decade from ambitious orbiters, landers and rovers. But central to this talk will be the very real plans to send humans to Mars. How will they scene from the martiansurvive? What will it be like? Will they be coming back? And will life there be anything like the scenes depicted in Ridley Scott’s new film, The Martian?

Bob Mizon4th February 2016 Bob Mizon entitled Seven Moons – seven weird and wonderful moons of the Solar System.
Dagenham-born Mizon is the national coordinator for the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, which fights against light pollution. He has also written ‘Light Pollution: Responses and Remedies,’ a book aimed at architects, builders and other professionals to highlight the problems.

Thanks to 17 years of campaigning, Mizon’s name was on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in summer 2010 for his voluntary service to astronomy and the environment. Bob has a great wealth of Astronomical knowledge and a great Astronomy enthusiast.

Asking Bob what he would like to be remembered for. “What, when I’m dead, you mean? On my gravestone or memorial I would like to have ‘Gone to the stars’,” he says. Fitting last words!

Andy Burns7th January 2016 Andy Burns entitled ‘Sir John Herschel, 1st Baronet of Slough, the forgotten man of science.’
This is a very big work on the life and works of one the most important influences in 19th century science, Babbage, Faraday, Darwin, Fox Talbot, and the Astronomers, Mathematicians, Botanists, Chemistry, Linguists, Natural Philosopher, Geology, Artist, Musician and so much more. He was one of the great scientists and oft decorated and feted around the world... and so few know about this humble man. He even translated Homers Illiad into the modern English Hexametre (and regarded this as his finest work). He is buried next Isaac Newton, and Darwin buried alongside him in Westminster Abbey.

Andy Burns Astronomy CV: Setting up the Griffon Observatory in Spain with the late Dr John Griffiths In Tahiti for the 2012 Transit of Venus… someone had to do it. After being bought the book ‘Astronomy’ by Patrick Moore in 1961, when he was around 8, astronomy was something that always fascinating. When he was 13, a neighbour brought home a small and basic (by modern standards) refractor and showed the rings of Saturn, his first look through a telescope. What a turn on to astronomy this was. Education, work and family commitments put paid to any more than armchair astronomy until he bought his first telescope 6” TAL2 in 1992. Things then galloped along. Mirror grinding (he is glad telescopes are now cheap enough to buy!), Eclipse chasing – 6 for 6 seen so far that lead to a regular slot on local BBC radio, and 14 years of weekly broadcasts followed.

Both recent transits of Venus covered, the last from Venus point in Tahiti 2012. Andy joined the fledgling Wiltshire AS in 1992, became Vice Chair and is now the society's Chair (since 2006). Edit 24pp newsletter each month (now in the 20th year).

Distance learning university courses (a Central Lancashire and University of Glamorgan) to strengthen his background knowledge lead to annual imaging trips for University of Glamorgan students to Portugal. This led to an opportunity to transfer to Spain and set up, equip and Co-direct of the Griffon Educational Observatory in Andalucía.

In 2005 Andy sold his business and retired to spend more time doing astronomy, and had his arm pulled off to join the Herschel Museum in Bath, where he was a financer, committee member and education astronomer. The privilege of working in such a historical environment rubbed off, and access to books and papers has helped the background knowledge on this amazing family. Andy now give talks on the Herschels world wide – USA 2008 (to the Astronomical League of America congress) and the Johannesburg and Cape Town observatories 2009, and an invite to the astronomy league of America in 2017. And many other topics, particularly related to managing expectations for budding astronomers of all levels.

Andy was privileged to be given the Sky at Night Achievement in Amateur Astronomy Award in 2010 for ‘outstanding contributions to advancement and promotion of astronomy’. He worked with the STFC in promoting astronomy in schools, and established background enrichment programmes within schools prior to them taking on GCSE astronomy, and outreach to primary schools and many other groups.

AND; from the ESAS big thanks for him stepping in at the last minute .


greg5th November 2015 - Greg Smye-Rumsby - Pluto; a planetary system revealed.

Pluto; a planetary system revealed.

1st October 2015 -  Melanie Davies FRASSpace Science Communicator
Talk entitled Titan: A candidate for Evolution

Titan is the largest moon in orbit around Saturn and the second largest moon in the Solar System. It is unique amongst moons, having a substantial atmosphere and Earth-like topographic features. This talk aims to uncover some of its mysteries and to discuss the possibility of life on this curious world.

The local artist/animator, Stephanie Grainger,  along with Ray Burnside presents their Picturing Galileo animation of Jupiter and Galilean Moons, overlaying discovery drawings of Galileo.

3rd September 2015 - William Joyce 

William JoyceOur first speaker for 2015/16 is William Joyce, Chartered Physicist & FRAS, a Local Astronomer & Astro Geologist tonight his talk is titled 'Active Galaxies'

With an astrophysics degree, William has worked in space research at Leicester university with Earth remote sensing satellite instruments and in industry in laboratories, space software engineering and later in aerospace systems engineering. William changed career in the mid 2000's and obtained a degree in Earth and Planetary science and followed this with university teaching and astronomy work (and teaching at Herstmonceux observatory). Currently he is studying the Moon for a PhD and gives public talks on astronomy and planetary science.


Also; Sky diary and Society Information.
A 'Short talk by Andy and Zoltan from 365Astronomy: Planetary imaging with ZWO cameras. There will be an opportunity to buy ZWO cameras cameras at a discounted price. Limited time discount for members only.'



details to be added