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MINUTES | 2008

4th January 2008


Minutes of the 431st meeting held in Timperley Scout Hall on Friday 4th January 2008


Kevin Thurstan (Chairman), Geoff Flood, Paul Brierley, Tony Aremia, Chris Suddick, Colin Bowler, Geoff Walton, Norman Thurstan, Colin Eaves, Paul Clark, Richard Bullock, Ged Birbeck, Liz Clark. ALTRINCHAM AND DISTRICT ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
Total – 13

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the 431st meeting of the Society.

One minutes silence was held, as a mark of respect, in memory of Don Utton who died suddenly in December.

Don had been a member for round 17 years and was a former Chairman and Secretary of ADAS.

Don was a real stalwart of the Society, the type of person who was always prepared to do anything that needed to be done or to help anyone who needed it. He will be greatly missed.

It was agreed that £25 would be donated to Brain Tumour UK in memory of Don.

Paul Clark gave a presentation of photographs taken over 2007 including amongst others: Comet McNaught, Saturn, Spiral galaxy (but which) Milky Way, Star Party, Mars, Comet Holmes, Casseopeia and Andromeda.

Paul’s presentation was followed by a quiz, arranged by Kevin Thurstan. Those attending were split into 2 teams and although Kevin wondered if the quiz had been too easy it was noted that no team got all the correct answers!

The Secretary had nothing to report.

The only correspondence of note was from the British Astronomical Association enclosing their Journal, Year Book, and Programme, which have been deposited in our cupboard in the Scout Hall.

1st February 2008



Kevin Thurston (Chairman), Geoff Flood, Tony Aremia, Graham Sinagola,
Nick Odom, Peter Baugh, Norman Thurstan, Chris Suddick, Paul Clark, Geoff Walton, Elizabeth Clark, Paul Brierley, Colin Eaves, Joe Holland, Colin Bowler,
Mark Crossley, Richard Bullock, John Tipping, John Thompson.

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the 432nd meeting of the Society.

John Thompson from Macclesfield AS gave a talk on “The Life and Death of Stars”

Ninety-five percent of the Earth’s energy comes from the Sun - but don’t worry this will continue one way and another for some 5 billion years.

Spiral Galaxies, such as M51, are the region of star formation which takes place in the spiral arms where dust (carbon) Hydrogen and Hydrogen ions etc are irradiated with UV from hot young stars to form the embryonic stars. Very often these embryonic stars are surrounded by dense clouds of dust and thus cannot be seen.

We see many clouds of dust, particularly in nebulae, often being blown about by solar winds along with gaseous globules which give ongoing possibilities.

Star formation is a violent process and often leads to bi-polar jets blasting out from the proto star - more energy in space.

Planets, orbiting around stars are often discovered via a Doppler effect and some 271 extra solar planets have been discovered to date (there will be more now!)

We were told that Red, Blue and Green stars really are coloured (although the green ones really should be white)

HR diagram gives the absolute brightness of stars with the hottest stars with most energy being brightest, giving out more light.

Equally stars with bigger mass burn out more quickly i.e. higher mass quicker evolution.

The energy in stars such as the Sun is produced by nuclear fusion reactions which create heavier elements. Starting with Hydrogen – the simplest element, Helium, is first produced.

When the Hydrogen in the core runs out however, the core shrinks until its temperature and pressure increases enough to fuse Helium and create Carbon. At this point the star begins to bloat and becomes a Red Giant, with the reactions at the centre of the core quickly evolving to create heavier and heavier elements so that seen in section the core resembles an onion with different reactions at different depths. Once the core starts producing Iron the reactions quickly come to an end and in the last stages of evolution stars begin pulsating throw off their outer layers.

The final state of the star is to become a white dwarf.

Equally stars with bigger mass burn out more quickly i.e. higher mass, quicker evolution and a different ending.

Very massive stars are “doomed to boom” and go supernova.

More energy is required than can be produced by fusion to create elements more dense than Iron and they can only be created when a massive star explodes as a supernova and heavy elements are thrown out into space so that a death releases elements for a birth.

The remnants of the boom may become a Neutron Star or in the case of the biggest stars a Black Hole where the remnant is so dense that nothing gets out, not even light.

First discovered in 1783 by John Michel, Black Holes were named as such only in 1969. All galaxies are thought to have at least 1 Black Hole.

So, there is a process; Gas Cloud – Red Super Giant – Super Nova – Black Hole/Neutron Star.

And we……are just stardust.

Kevin thanked John who had spoken so eloquently, with great slides and video, to the enlightenment of the audience.

There was no formal business to be dealt with and Kevin closed the meeting with information that at the next meeting there will be a talk by Dave Ogden with an update on Messier Objects.

7th March 2008


Attendance was not recorded

Dave Ogden from Macclesfield AS gave a talk with an update on Messier Objects.

4th April 2008



Geoff Flood, Tony Aremia, Steve Holt, Colin Bowler, Paul Brierley, Colin Eaves, Nick Odom, Liz Clark, Geoff Walton, Chris Suddick, Stephen McHugh,
Richard Bullock, Roger Livermore, Ged Birbeck, Peter Baugh.

In the absence of a speaker Geoff Walton produced a BBC DVD of “The Planets”.
The first part was with regard to the exploration of the major Solar planets with a second part conjecturing about what the human race might do and where it might go as Earth heats up.
It proved to be a very entertaining evening.

The Secretary announced that he had a copy of the April 2008 BAA Journal, which contains a photograph taken by Paul Brierley – “Emission nebula NGC 281 with embedded Star Cluster IC 1590”.

There is also a copy of FAS Spring Newsletter which is now produced online.

The May 2008 meeting will be addressed by Nick Odom.

2nd May 2008



Kevin Thurstan (Chairman), Nick Odom, Josh Odom, Geoff Flood, Tony Aremia, Peter Baugh, Steve Holt, Chris Suddick, Colin Eaves, Stephen McHugh, Colin Bowler, Geoff Walton, Paul Clark, ????? Ged Birbeck.

Kevin opened the meeting and introduced Nick Odom who was to speak to us about the “History of Distance”
Nick took us through astronomical measurement, starting with the ancient Greeks who realised that the earth is not actually flat and the sun is not the centre of the Universe and measuring far distances with a remarkable degree of accuracy via Geometry. On through the years via Copernicus, Kepler and Herschel and Hubble, until Einstein complicated matters with relativity thus distance was no longer in a straight line.
Probably the simplest method of measuring distant stars is via the red shift although even this is less accurate than might be expected as the Universe is expanding non-uniformly.

Following Nick’s talk we had a break and then continued with the business of the Society.

The FAS Newsletter now comes as an e-letter but is too big to forward via Yahoo, a number of suggestions were made as to how we might proceed. Eventually the newsletter arrives as hard copy but minus some detail.

The equipment list is to be put on Yahoo so that it can be readily updated; if members sign up to Yahoo they will readily be able to view the list.

A set of 8X40 binoculars has been received from Evergreen Optics and are available to members.

There are now 5 sets of keys and Kevin will arrange for all key holders to also have a key for the cupboard.

Mar Crossley is changing ISP and at some point will have to close down the ADAS website. It was generally agreed that it would be worth having a training session some Friday evening so that more people become familiar with the website.

Ged Birbeck agreed to ask his son Steve to set the website back up.

Ged has asked Richard to send a cheque to pay for our stall at Timperley Country Fair and he asked members to start gathering items for the tombola.

At the 6th June meeting there will be a talk by Mike Cook “Observatory Building and buying and selling Telescopes”.

6th June 2008



Kevin Thurstan (Chairman), Norman Thurstan, Geoff Flood, Steve Holt, Colin Bowler, Colin Eaves, Paul Brierley, Geoff Walton, Mark Crossley, Graham Sinagola, Tony Aremia, Chris Suddick, Roger Livermore, Nick Odom, Liz Clark, Richard Bullock, Peter Baugh, Paul Clark, Mike Cook.
Total attendance – 19.

The meeting was opened by Kevin who welcomed everyone and introduced Mike Cook.

Mike gave a talk about the trials and tribulations of building ones own observatory.

Being a glutton for punishment Mike chose to do this just after moving house, not far from his previous residence but to a house with infinitely better astronomical viewing and facing south. The new house is situated at the top of a hill and there are no other buildings to block his views, additionally there is no street lighting in his immediate vicinity and light pollution is minimal.

The first task was to find an appropriate site in the garden which not only suited Mike but which was approved by his wife.

Next he had to dig a huge pit 1 metre deep to take the pier for his scope. The pier was concreted in along with duplicated armoured wiring; obviously an awful lot of concrete was needed for this installation but it is vibration proof.

A firm, flat base was prepared and the timber shell of the observatory erected with a sliding, sloping roof which slid on ptfe coated runners. The roof which is made from coated steel proved to be heavier than expected and supports had to be provided (which fold away when the roof is in place) Mains electricity was installed through conduits and all the necessary switching and ancillary gear put in.

Now only the finishing touches-shelving etc. needs to be done.

It is of course possible to purchase an observatory but Mike felt that the struggle was worth it as he now has an observatory completely to his own specifications.

At the end of the day Mike is justifiably pleased and delighted with the results of his labour.

Footnote: In the middle of all this Mike was having an extension put on his house (one wonders where his priorities lay?).

Kevin thanked Mike for his talk and it was suggested that we have a society visit to see the end result.

Following a break for coffee/tea we re-assembled but there was no business other than some correspondence from the FAS and BAS.

At the AGM in September we will have a talk from Chris Suddick.

5th September 2008




Kevin Thurstan (Chairman), Geoff Flood, Tony Aremia, Steve Holt, Norman Thurstan, Graham Sinagola,
Nick Odom, Jonathan Odom, Geoff Walton, Colin Eaves, Richard Bullock, Steve McHugh.

Total attendance 12

Proposed Seconded

CHAIRMAN: Kevin Thurstan, Chris Suddick, Geoff Flood

TREASURER: Richard Bullock, Kevin Thurstan, Geoff Flood

SECRETARY: Geoff Flood, Kevin Thurstan, Geoff Walton

Graham Sinagola agreed to attend to refreshments at meetings and Ged Birbeck will continue as the Society’s fund raiser.

Geoff Walton proposed a vote of thanks to the Officers for their work over the past year, this was carried. Kevin added his personal thanks to the other Officers.


CHARITY NO. 1012350

The Accounts are held as hard copy as it was not possible to copy them over.
Suffice to say that we have a surplus of £381.48

It was also decided that although attendances on Friday evenings between formal meetings are somewhat sparse we should continue to have the Scout hall open to enable members to assemble if they wish. Costs for hiring the hall run at around £400 pa which is less than previous costs when the observatory was operational.

Following a discussion about Public Liability Insurance it was decided not to take it out as our contact with the public is such that it is unnecessary, bearing in mind that the Scouts will be covered for the hall as will places such as Delamere Forest. When out observing individual members are responsible unless we organise an official Society event, when it should be considered.


There was some discussion regarding the equipment owned by the Society.

Many members do not know what is available or where it can be found (Society equipment distributed around a number of members). Kevin Thurston reported that a complete list of equipment is on the Yahoo site.

There was a feeling that perhaps we should have an “Equipment Evening” where members holding the varies pieces of equipment could bring them in so that everyone could see what is available and possibly have a loan of it themselves.

All members should make a point of being signed up to the Yahoo Newsgroup.

It was reported that the new Website is up and running at .

A programme of speakers or events has been arranged up to February 2009 but obviously some more are needed and particularly from members of ADAS. The Chairman likes to alternate speakers between members and visitors.

Members were reminded that Timperley Country Fair is on Saturday 13th September when help would be needed to man our stall and also on preceding Friday to fold raffle tickets etc. It was agreed that the library of books that we have would be sold off at the Fair.

Following a refreshment break there was a talk from Chris Suddick:

BOINC – Berkley Open Infrastructure for Network Computers is a system whereby many people can register to have their idle computer time used in a network to give massive computing capability.

There are 3.5 million computers registered in 247 countries and participants can register for 1 or more projects. The system works by using idle time on your computer when the screen saver is operating.
The most common project is SETI – Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence which has been using BOINC for some 5 years. There is so much information coming in that it would be impossible for any one computer to handle it. (In the view of the speaker this project is a waste of time!).

Some other projects include:

· cosmology @ home, which models the universe, searching for the model which best describes it.

· einstein@home, which searches for gravity waves.

· milkyway@home which examines the evolution of the Milky Way galaxy.

· orbit@home which studies near earth objects

Other possibilities are in the realm of Physics, for instance the Large Hadron Collider, environmental projects, medicinal, biological, and mathematical. Less vital ones include Belgian beer and pirates.

The onus is with the project operators to promote their particular project and there are stats available to show how things are going.

The Chairman thanked Chris for his interesting talk and then closed the meeting.

3rd October 2008


Geoff Flood, Roger Livermore, Tony Aremia, Roy Sturmey (Macc. AS),
Shirley Sturmey (Macc.AS), Steve Holt, Paul Brierley, Geoff Walton, Colin Bowler, Peter Baugh, Chris Enddick?, Jonathon Odom, Nick Odom, Richard Bullock, Stephen McHugh, Paul Clarke, Ged Burbeck + an other.
Total: 18.
Thanks were expressed to Ged, Peter, Tony and Chris, who manned the stall at the Timperley Country Fair for the whole day. The stall raised £148 on the day from which £20 fee for the pitch should be deducted.
Thanks were also expressed to Ged for getting the website up and running and to Chris for sorting out the e-mail. We now a link to the FAS and will shortly have one to NWGAS.
It was agreed to lay some flowers on the grave of Don Utton. Geoff agreed to locate Don’s grave.
Following the business side of the meeting a talk was given:
Carry on Eclipsing by Andrew Greenwood from Macclesfield AS
This visit to view the eclipse in Libya. The group travelled from Manchester to Crete to Knosos where they joined the good ship “Perla” which was to be their hotel and observatory for a while. The crew were very helpful in turning off lights at night to enable some observing. They were accompanied by some 800 star chasers including the boss of Chrysalis records and one Fred Talbot.
On the day of the eclipse they rose at 01:30 and left the ship at 03:00. The eclipse was due some 5 hours later but they had to travel in 15 coaches with 800 people (via only 1 petrol station) on an 8 hour journey.
The eclipse lasted for 4minutes and 10seconds of totality with the first contact at 09:09. During the period of the eclipse there was a temperature drop of 3 degrees and the desert looked like a really alien place.
The group walked about quarter of a mile into the desert for viewing, which proved to be very sensible as most people did not go so far and it was chaos close to the road. From their vantage point they could watch the sky changing and the shadow coming across the land. 10 to 15 minutes before totality the camera could see the corona.
Some spectacular photos were taken including a composite of 18 shots.
Consideration is being given to seeing another eclipse, going with “Explorer Tours” in 2009.

7th November 2008


Kevin Thurston (Chairman), Geoff Flood, Norman Thurston, Colin Bowler,
Andrew Patterson, Tony Aremia, Mark Crossley, Paul Brierley, Colin Eaves,
Geoff Walton, Graham Sinagola, Chris Suddick, Paul Clark, Nick Odom, Jonathan Odom, Peter Baugh, Richard Bullock, Mike Tyrell, Phil Masding, John Tipping,
Ged Burbeck.
Total 21

Apologies: Mike Cook.

Kevin Introduced Paul Clark, who needed no introduction! Who was to speak to us about:
Imaging in La Palma
Paul made the 41/2 hour journey to La Palma via the recently opened direct flight from Manchester, operated by Thompson, and which flies each Monday.
La Palma is a relatively undeveloped island which now is home to a significant number of international telescopes - The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) includes the Herschel 4.2m scope, at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory. The Observatory is open to wander about but is locked at nights. Really keen astronomers could allow themselves to be locked in and observe all night but they would be rather uncomfortable, so it is important to get out before the curfew.
The Gran Telescopio Canarias or GranTeCan or GTC is situated at 2400m and cost an estimated €130 million to build. It is a co-operative venture between Spain, Mexico and the University of Florida following an initiative from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canaria
La Palma is a great place for observing because the Spanish Government has imposed severe restrictions on lighting . Additionally they have initiated an over-flying ban which prevents the complication of mistaking `planes for satellites.
Paul stayed in Puntagorda and it was around 15 minutes drive up to the same level as the observatory. He discovered a fire road which although only 1 car wide had passing places which were suitable for setting up his equipment. On the basis that the road is only an emergency road there was virtually no chance of being disturbed or of car headlights ruining everything. There can be problems with the wind blowing sand from the Sahara which creates hazy skies but it is quite possible to get above 4000feet where the skies are clearer.
Some observing was done from the patio of the villa where he was staying but most of his imaging was done using his 200mm telephoto lens on a digital SLR camera.
Paul found that he could get a good focus using the screen on the camera, which has a noise reduction function and a cable release mechanism. With the tracking mount an accuracy of 5 arc seconds could be achieved but it was necessary to check the focus and alignment at intervals.
This visit was well planned in advance and Paul had an idea of what he wanted to do and what expectations he had - naturally one has to have a degree of flexibility depending upon conditions and what is seen.
Paul showed an number of exceptional images which were produced from 2 exposures stacked and using 2 second exposures from his F2.8 fixed lens camera.
Following the talk, Kevin proposed a vote of thanks.
After a break for refreshment the business of the society included an e-mail from the FAS suggesting the setting up of local groups of astronomical societies these would be along the lines of NWGAS which is already operational in our region.
Richard Sargent the new President of the FAS contacted local groups to see if there would be support for holding the FAS Convention and AGM locally, say at Jodrell Bank 6 or 7 people indicated their willingness to support such a venture.
Attention was drawn to the newly opened shop in Sale selling telescopes. They have a website -
There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting.

5th December 2008


Kevin Thurstan (Chairman), Geoff Flood, Norman Thurstan, Paul Brierley, Peter Baugh, Tony Aremia, Geoff Walton, Coin Eaves, Paul Clark, Chris Suddick,
Nick Odom, Jonathan Odom, John Tipping, Ged Burbeck, Richard Bullock,
Colin Bowler, Nick Dixon.
Kevin open the meeting and introduced Dr. Alistair Gunn, from Jodrell Bank who gave a talk on “The History of Jodrell Bank”
The existence of radio waves was confirmed by Heinrich Hertz (1857/94) and then in 1901 Marconi made a transmission across the Atlantic. As the atmosphere is transparent to radio waves reception can be made over the long distances required for astronomy.
Jansky (1905/49) founded radio astronomy in 1932 by his detection of radio waves from Sagittarius and in 1933 he realised that a lot of noise was coming from thunder and lightening but that other noise was coming from the centre of the universe. This noise was at first ignored but Reber continued research at home with a home made radio telescope.
Astronomers were slow to see the importance of the radio sky which is very different from the optical and radio is important to study physics.
Sir Bernard Lovell, who is now 95 and still puts in appearances at Jodrell Bank, was educated at Bristol University. In 1936 he came to Manchester to study X ray crystallography. During the war he was put to work on cosmic rays but in 1939 he was transferred to the Air Ministry, essentially on radar research looking for reflections . Radar screens were placed along the East Coast and they picked up echoes which were not aeroplanes - Lovell thought that they could be cosmic rays and wrote a paper.
During his time at the Air Ministry Lovell made a number of great contacts in the government and when the war was over he borrowed a radar system. This system was originally sited at the University Physics Department but interference from trams was too great and he discovered that the Botany Dept had land at Jodrell Bank and he moved the equipment there.
They discovered sporadic echoes which proved to be meteors and in around 1947 they discovered daytime meteor showers which, of course, were invisible optically.
More and more equipment was begged or borrowed to study cosmic rays.
In 1950, £1000 enabled him to string some wires between poles which did not find cosmic rays but he had in fact built the first radio telescope and picked up radio waves from M31The first plans for a dish telescope were drawn up in 1950 but Lovell wanted a steerable scope. An instrument was designed by Charles Husband, construction began in 1952 and was completed in 1957. The instrument was half paid for by the university and half by the government, however it was decided that a solid surface was required, rather than a mesh one and this upped the cost. When the Mk 1 instrument became operational it was £260,000 in debt, partly because the bedrock on which the, very heavy, instrument had to be seated sloped down and at one side deeper drilling was required.
The Sputnik launch in 1957 was the making of the instrument, the radio signals from the satellite were easy to pick up but only Jodrell Bank could detect the carrier rocket and it was spotted travelling at 1800 mph at 100miles above the Lake District.
Jodrell Bank continued to be useful in the space race and because of public interest Lord Nuffield sent a cheque to pay off the debts
Various modifications and refurbishment have been made over time and Jodrell Bank is now part of the Merlin project - a European network and arrays such as this will be the future of radio astronomy giving increased frequency sensitivity.
2007 was the 50th anniversary of the Lovell Telescope as it is now called and a show was put on using the dish as a screen (with the approval of the dark skies people).
For the future it is proposed to build a new visitor centre, plans have been drawn up and construction will take place when funding is available.
Kevin thanked Dr Gunn and following a break Society business was dealt with.
SPA are offering telescopes to schools, several have been notified.
NWGAS is still surviving with 7 or 8 societies. The newly formed South Cheshire AS, based on Nantwich will host the next meeting.
Nick Dixon returned the LX 90 which has passed to Graham Sinagola
The next meeting will be held on January 2nd 2009and will take the form of a quiz, prepared by Kevin.
There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting.

As agreed previously some flowers will be purchased and placed on Don Utton's grave on December 3rd the anniversary of his death. Members were invited to go to cemetary at 11:30am.

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