MINUTES | 2005

3rd June 2005


The 407th Meeting of the Altrincham and District Astronomical Society, held at
Timperley Village Club on Friday 3rd June 2005 at 8pm

Those present were:
Paul Clark Don Utton Tony Aremia
Stephen McHugh Mark Adamson Geoff Flood
Colin Eaves Peter Baugh Vincent Cordron
Chris Suddick Roger Livermore Geoffrey Walton
Debbie Wilson Nick Dixon Alicia Dixon
Kirsty Dixon David Dixon Phil Masding  
Ged Birbeck Colin Henshaw (Total 20)

The chairman Paul Clark opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and announcing that
Phil Masding would be speaking tonight about the satellite tracking software that he and Mike Tyrell have been developing. Previously they had captured ISS images by manual tracking, this was difficult and rather fraught given the rapid motion of the satellite across the sky and the narrow field of view required to observe structural details. The new software automates much of the tracking which makes for more relaxed observing sessions. He showed images obtained on 8th May using the 10" Meade LX telescope. These were then compared with what they expected to observe using a Simulator program also written by themselves. Phil noted that the Envisat also has some structure but most satellites do not. However, there is considerable (perverse) interest in imaging spy satellites whose orbital parameters are not released by the authorities but are made available by amateur astronomers from their observations. Phil and Mike were congratulated on their impressive images and their sophisticated programming skills.
Following the break Paul Clark gave a sky diary. He pointed out that Jupiter's moons are frequently occulting and generating shadow transits so there is always something of interest to observe. He also pointed out that the planets Mercury and Venus have very close approach on 27th June with a separation of 8' at around 10pm. The Perseid meteor shower is due on 12th/13th August and can be impressive when the sky is clear. Colin Henshaw mentioned that gamma-Virginis is a binary which are coming to perihelion and so appear much closer together than usual. Colin also said that r- corona borealis is an interesting variable worth watching because its magnitude varies from the 14th to 6th magnitude.
There was a short business session in which members were urged to support our fund raising efforts at the Gatley Fair on 4th July. There being no further business, the Chairman thanked Phil Masding again for his talk, and everyone for coming, and then closed the meeting.


Chairman Secretary

2nd September 2005


The 40th Annual General Meeting and the 408th Meeting of the Altrincham and District Astronomical Society, held at Timperley Village Club on Friday 2nd September 2005 at 8pm

Those present were:
Paul Clark Don Utton Tony Aremia
Norman Thurstan Kevin Thurstan Geoff Flood
Colin Eaves Peter Baugh Mark Crossley
Chris Suddick Richard Bullock Geoffrey Walton
Nick Odom Colin Bowler Nick Dixon
Ged Birbeck J Coldon? (Total 17)

The chairman Paul Clark opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and suggesting since the sky was clear that we mount an expedition to Gradbach immediately after the conclusion of the meeting. Because this is the AGM, business would be taken first.
The Treasurer reported that we ran a deficit last year of £471 due entirely to the payment of back rent for the Observatory. On hearing this the Chairman promptly offered his unpaid subscription for last year, and Tony Aremia said that he had paid in £20 to the bank for the Timperley Fair refund. Thus the deficit was reduced to £431. Mark pointed out that members’ subscriptions just covered the Observatory and room hiring costs. Electricity cost £166, mainly in standing charges. Low user rates without standing charges are available only to residential customers. It was recommended and agreed that subscriptions should remain at £20 pa. We have yet to receive the Gift Aid tax refund on last year’s subscriptions which should be around £100. The Chairman thanked Mark for his work on maintaining the accounts, and Tony Aremia for his assistance.
In the absence of the Observatory Director the Chairman said that the state of the Observatory was of some concern and that we would need to consider what should be done in the coming year.
Mark Crossley, the web page master, said that it is still running and that there are pages where members can add news items etc. The Secretary acknowledged his laxity in updating the minutes on the pages.
The Chairman commented that it had been a patchy year for observing with only a few successful expeditions. He then called for the election of officers. The Secretary said that he wished to stand down, and the Treasurer said that he wished to stand down next year. The following were elected unopposed
Chairman Paul Clark
Secretary Kevin Thurstan
Treasurer & Web Master Mark Crossley
Events and Obs Director Ged Birbeck
The Chairman thanked the outgoing secretary for his efforts in the past.
The final item of business was to have a round-up of who has what ADAS equipment
Large Binoculars Paul Clark
LX90 Nick Dixon
3 Eyepieces Kevin Thurstan
STV imager Mark Crossley
Critchley-Meade &
Small Binoculars Ged Birbeck
17mm LV Eyepiece &
30mm 2” Superview Don Utton
The meeting then adjourned for a coffee break.
Following the break Paul Clark gave a presentation on refracting telescopes – pros, cons and characteristics. For the same sized aperture they are much more expensive than reflecting telescopes, but to offset this the image quality can be superior. 80mm short focal length telescopes are popular because they are relatively less expensive and they have a wide field of view (FOV). They are prone to chromatic abberation –the focal length varies with light wavelength. Achromat lenses reduce this but the more complex and expensive apochromat lenses are required to effectively eliminate this effect. Reflecters maintain a better quality of image away from the centre of the FOV than refractors where stellar images are no longer pin points at the edge of the FOV. The effects of chromatic abberation can be reduced by going to longer focal ratios, as was done historically in the past. This has the drawback of reducing the FOV. Paul made a final point that smaller refractors cool down more quickly than large reflectors – he thinks that his 18” Dobsonian reflector never cools down completely on a one night expedition.
Following the applause for his presentation Paul suggested that all those interested adjourn to Gradbach and said that he had maps for anyone who needed them. He then closed the meeting.

7th October 2005


The 409th Meeting of the Altrincham and District Astronomical Society, held at Timperley Village Club on Friday 7th October 2005 at 8pm

Those present were:
Paul Clark, Kevin Thurstan, Tony Aremia,
Terry Bailey, Norman Thurstan, Geoff Flood,
Graham Sinagola, Peter Baugh, Mark Crossley,
Chris Suddick, Richard Bullock, Geoffrey Walton,
Nick Odom, Colin Bowler, Nick Dixon,
Ged Birbeck, Phil Masding, Stuart Oldbury, Roger Livermore, Mary Stewart, 1 other (Total 21)

The chairman Paul Clark opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the meeting and announcing that tonight’s speaker would be Nick Odom, who would be delivering part two of his talk on “Relativity” this time focusing on general relativity following on from his previous talk on special relativity.
The Chairman also announced that Graham Sinagola had brought in a DVD of the transit of Venus on 8th June last year if anyone was interested in it.

Nick Odom then started his talk on general relativity by summarising some of the points of special relativity to help as background.
He stated that it took Einstein ten years from 1905 when he published his theory on special relativity before in 1915 he published his theory on general relativity. It was believed the laws of physics are the same irrespective of the speed of the observer and that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant. However Newton’s laws of gravity break down at high speed and Einstein wanted to reconcile relativity with gravity.
Nick then went on to explain in more detail, how the effects of gravity must travel at the same speed as light in gravitational waves, the fact that a man falling off a roof couldn’t feel gravity led Einstein to a flash of inspiration that gravity mimics acceleration, that gravity slows down time and time runs slower for an observer on the surface of the earth than it does for a spaceman in orbit, the higher the gravity is the slower time runs. Gravity also refracts light, distorts space and that the effect of gravity is greater in general relativity as opposed to Newton’s laws. We then heard about general relativity and black holes.
He finished off by explaining some of the observational conformation we have on general relativity including the perihelion of mercury, the displacement of star images during a solar eclipse, gravitational red shifting of Sirius b and radio astronomy observations of everything from the inner planets to binary pulsars and quasars.

The meeting then had a break for tea.

The Chairman Paul Clark then did a sky diary on the coming month concentrating mainly on the area around the constellation of Cygnus and mentioned how mars was going to be at its best over the next couple of months.

In any other business the Chairman reminded us that next months talk was to be by Andrew Greenwood from Macc AS on the subject of Mars.
The Secretary then reminded everyone that on the coming Friday, 14th October, the society had been invited again to Delamere Forest Park visitor Centre and would be providing several talks on astronomy, and that we still required speakers to help out, we need others to support the occasion with their presence or turning up with scopes to put on display and maybe even use if the sky was clear.
Richard Bullock offered his services and said he would be able to do a talk on the moon.

The meeting was then brought to a close.

2nd December 2005


The 411th Meeting of the Altrincham and District Astronomical Society, held at Timperley Village Club on Friday 2nd December 2005 at 8pm

Those present were:
Paul Clark, Kevin Thurstan, Mark Crossley,
Tony Aremia, Mike Tyrrell, Philip Masding,
Don Utton, May Stewart, Norman Thurstan,
Geoff Flood, Colin Eaves, Geoffrey Walton,
Graham Sinagola, Nick Dixon, Nick Odom,
Ged Birbeck, John Tipping, John Gartshore,
Roger Livermore, Stuart Oldbury, Adam Oldbury  

(Total 21)

The chairman Paul Clark opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the meeting and announcing that tonight we would start with the club business followed by Phil Masding and Mike Tyrrell with some new software, then we would have a clips and pics quiz followed by the tea break. Finally we would have a discussion on the future of the obs site.

The Business section started with the post, of which we had two pieces, one from Keele University and remittance advice from the forestry commission of £50 for our October evening at Delamere Forest Park. The Treasurer reported that subs were still trickling in.
We then had an update on the Stockport sky beam and a reminder to members who wanted to object of how where and what to include in the objection.

It was then the turn of Phil and Mike to show us their new software and how it turns images of mars into maps. They said that this year’s opposition of Mars has been a good one because Mars was high in the sky and there were a good number of favourable evenings to view on.
They then explained how they transformed the pixels on the two dimensional picture into a set of x, y and z co-ordinates on the surface of a surface of a sphere, showing the formulae used to create latitudinal and longitudinal co-ordinates on the planet for each pixel of the original picture.
They commented on the problems that arose because of the Mars’s axial tilt and position angle, which meant the latitude and longitude co-ordinates had to be transformed to compensate for this before they could finally be turned from latitude and longitude into flat map co-ordinates. They told us how they used only the central strip of many pictures to create a map of the whole planet as it made the transformation calculations simpler and that because of the Mars’s axial tilt and position angle the North Polar Region was missing from the map.

The Chairman then split the room into two teams one captained by the Secretary the other by Graham Sinagola and held a quiz on various pictures, video and sound clips.
The Secretary’s team won.

Then we had the tea break.

After the break we held a discussion on the future of the observatory site.
Over the years the buildings on the site have fallen into disrepair and the observatory itself is hardly ever used these days.
The main issues include: Ongoing costs. At £620 the current overheads are greater than the clubs income from members subscriptions and these costs can only rise.
Maintenance. To maintain the site its self, money needs spending on new equipment, the society building and storage hut are really beyond maintenance and need replacing, the observatory roof is leaking, the telescope mount doesn’t work properly, and the telescope needs an overhaul.
Security. The storage hut has again been broken into, the site can’t be made properly secure without more expenditure and it’s probably only a matter of time until the society hut is broken into and vandalised.
Need. The society does need a base for our weekly and monthly meetings and to store some equipment, preferably where we can occasionally use to observe from.
Comfort. At the moment to get to the obs site you have to walk across an unlit often muddy and fouled field to a cold, damp, draughty hut that has obviously seen better days.
Suitability. Is the obs site still suitable for the society’s needs, At the moment we would be too embarrassed to hold a society or NWGAS meeting there and over the past few years we have had several potential members who after seeing the hut have not turned up again.

The obs site its self is, at the moment, possibly holding the club back from expanding and putting its future at risk.

Three options were put forward to the meeting.
Do nothing. The site will just keep on decaying until it is totally beyond use for the societies needs, we would still have the same maintenance needs, the security issues would be the same and the societies costs would still continue rising well above its income.
Upgrade. To upgrade we would need a large capital injection into the society of around £6000 to £7000, we would still have the maintenance needs and costs, the security issues would be the same and the societies ongoing costs would still continue rising well above its income possibly even faster.
Surrender the site. The society could surrender the obs site and meeting room altogether and set up home in a more suitable single location, the Scout hut across the field from the obs has been put forward as a possible site if the costs of doing so were not prohibitive.
The Scout hut has ample parking, is heated, has kitchen and toilet facilities and there is a separate car parking area to the rear suitable for observing.
If we moved there we would have no maintenance, security or comfort issues and the society may be able to bring its costs more inline with its income.

There was then a period of discussion on the fate of the obs site and a general consensus that we should look further into the possibility of leaving the obs site and moving to the scout hut.

The Chairman, after previous talks with some of the membership, was already in discussion with Trafford Council as to where we stood with the lease on the obs site and it was decided that Stuart Oldbury would enter discussions with the committee at the Scout hut about the possibility and cost of a move there.

The meeting was then brought to a close.