Scheduled Discussion Topics

Please note the talks start at slightly different times because they vary in length and the aim is to finish them around 9.30pm, so they will start promptly. Arrive early if you want to settle down and listen to them with a cup of tea or coffee.

Talks are listed below in reverse date order

History of the Astronomy Section

11th July 2023 20:45

The Astronomy Section was formed in 1972 by Dr David Falla, Frank Dowding and Geoff Falla. This talk, by Frank, looks back at the history of the Section and includes film of some of the notable events in the Section’s past.

Speakers: Frank Dowding

First American in Space and the Mercury Program

27th June 2023 20:45

When NASA selected seven men to become the country’s first astronauts, they ushered in a bold new space age. At first it was suggested that stunt men would make the best candidates! However, it was elite test pilots who were finally selected as they would be the best paced to deal with the unknowns of spaceflight and operating in zero-gravity. The Mercury program capsules accommodated a single astronaut and sat on top of a converted ballistic missile. Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton were truly the undisputed heroes of their day.

Speakers: TBC

Von Kármán Lecture - Two years of Perseverance on Mars

13th June 2023 20:45

The Perseverance Rover has changed the way we look at Mars. Perseverance is investigating Jezero Crater – a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favourable for microbial life – probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life. The rover carries an entirely new subsystem to collect and prepare Martian rocks and sediment samples that includes a coring drill on its arm and a rack of titanium sample tubes in its chassis. Throughout its exploration of the region, Perseverance will collect promising samples, seal them in tubes and store them in its chassis until depositing them on the Martian surface for retrieval by a future mission. We’ll talk with members of the Mars 2020 team about the past two years of operation and discovery.

Speakers: Dr. Sunanda Sharma, Postdoctoral Fellow, Mars 2020, NASA/JPL

Deep space astrophotography targets and how to plan your imaging session

30th May 2023 20:45

Planning an imaging session is an important part of the whole process of astrophotography. Good quality night skies are a rarity at the moment so it is important to get as much out of those nights that are suitable for imaging. This short presentation runs through the main aspects of planning. The lecture will also be useful to those who like visual astronomy as planning your targets in advance is equally important, so we will touch on this also.

Speakers: Jean Dean

Von Kármán Lecture - NuStar – Studying the Universe in X-Ray

16th May 2023 20:45

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is the first space telescope capable of taking focused high-energy X-ray observations of the cosmos, providing unprecedented information on the dynamics of black holes, exploding stars, and the most extreme active galaxies. Join us to learn how NuSTAR has expanded our knowledge of the universe after almost a decade of operation.

Speakers: Dr. Brian Grefenstette, NuSTAR Principal Mission Scientist, Caltech

Exploring the electromagnetic spectrum

25th April 2023 20:45

One of the main tools for an astrophysicist is spectral analysis. This lecture looks at the visible spectrum as part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum. It considers the following: three things to know about waves; is light a wave or particle; the effect of the atmosphere on observing; observing in different parts of the spectrum and spectral lines; and the identification of elements. The lecture finishes by looking at the colour vision in different species.

Speakers: Peter Langford

Von Kármán Lecture - What is in a Name? How we Find, Name and Investigate Exoplanets

11th April 2023 20:45

We live in a golden age of discovery having confirmed over 5,000 Exoplanets. How do we find these worlds and what challenges do we face in the search for more? In this talk with Dr. Marie Ygouf, we'll take a look at the discovery process and what lies ahead for exoplanet discovery.

Speakers: Dr. Marie Ygouf, Technologist, NASA/JPL

An Overview of Planetary Imaging

28th March 2023 20:45

Planetary, lunar and solar imaging is different to deep space imaging, it involves the use of a high-frame-rate (video) camera where thousands of short images are collected and then only the very best sampled and stacked. This lecture gives an overview of the whole process, equipment and software.

Speakers: Owain Catton

Von Kármán Lecture - Juno and The New Jupiter: What have we learned So far?

14th March 2023 20:45

Juno is a solar-powered spacecraft which has been orbiting Jupiter since July 4, 2016. For a few hours every 53 days, Juno passes within a few thousand kilometres of the giant planet, and collects a wealth of new information about Jupiter. The data collected so far have revolutionized our understanding of Jupiter, and of giant planets in general. Dr. Steve Levin, Project Scientist for the Juno spacecraft, will present some of Juno’s current science results on the planet's origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere, and magnetosphere, and discuss the science expected from Juno in the coming years.

Speakers: Dr. Steve Levin – Juno Project Scientist

Are we alone in the Solar System?

28th February 2023 20:45

What evidence is there for life, either past or present, within our solar system? There are over 200 worlds in our backyard and evidence is mounting to suggest some may contain life. In 2023 the European Space Agency will launch the JUICE mission which is in part, designed to look evidence of life on some of Jupiter's icy moons.

Speakers: Jean Dean

How to Photograph the Milky Way

14th February 2023 20:30

This is an introduction on how to photograph the Milky Way with a digital camera. It looks at the equipment required, including small portable trackers, typical camera settings and introduces some of the software that can be used for processing the images.

Speakers: Jacques Loveridge

Von Kármán Lecture: Near Earth Objects

31st January 2023 20:30

Comets and asteroids offer clues to the chemical mixture from which the planets formed some 4.6 billion years ago. If we wish to know the composition of the primordial mixture from which the planets formed, then we must determine the chemical constituents of the leftover debris from this formation process - the comets and asteroids. In this talk, we'll discuss with how Near Earth Objects are opportunities for discovery.

Speakers: Dr Davide Farnocchia, Navigation Engineer, NASA/JPL

Beginners guide to digital sensors, raw data and calibration

17th January 2023 20:30

This talk addresses the following questions: How do digital sensors work? What is genuine raw data and what is calibration and stacking. This is an introductory talk for those who are new to astrophotography.

Speakers: Jean Dean

Apollo Space Program

20th December 2022 20:45

The lecture looks briefly at the Apollo space program of the late 1960's and early 1920's. To mark the eve of the 54th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 8, there is a short video showing the original footage of the 6-day mission, that for the first time took man out of Earth orbit and towards another world.

Speakers: Club Members


6th December 2022 20:45

This is the first in a series of astrophotography lectures. What photographers call a raw file is in fact, a highly processed file. This lecture looks at how digital sensors work, and demonstrates what a true-raw camera data is and why it is important in astrophotography. It also gives an overview of image calibration, which will be discussed in more depth in following lectures.

Speakers: Club Members


5th July 2022 20:45

The universe began 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang and has been expanding ever since. We explore how light from distant galaxies reaches us, the difference between dark matter and dark energy and ask how the universe might end. The talk is about 45 minutes long. If you would like refreshments beforehand arrive about 8.30 pm.

Speakers: Peter Langford

An Introduction to Deep Space DSLR Astrophotography

21st June 2022 20:45

This talk is suitable for all members who would like to know how deep space images are produced. It is an introduction to DSLR deep space astrophotography. We look at the equipment, planning, data acquisition, calibration and processing. The talk is about 75 minutes long, it will start at 8.15pm and there will be a refreshment break mid-way through.

Speakers: Astronomy Club Members