Weird Worlds: The new science of exoplanets

M E E T I N G   C A N C E L L E D


As a precautionary measure against the coronavirus the meeting on the 14th March has been cancelled. We hope to rearrange for Chris Lintott to deliver his talk later in the year.



Astronomers have got very good at finding planets around other stars. 
 From planets with twin Suns to evaporating Jupiters, and from lava 
worlds to giant diamonds, the variety of planets we now know about 
would put any science fiction series to shame. This talk, from Chris 
Lintott reviews the latest discoveries, and explains what these 
thousands of strange and unusual worlds change how we think about the 


An Introduction to Radio Astronomy

On the 10th October this year Norman Pomfret will be delivering his talk to us.


An introduction to Radio Astronomy begins by contrasting this modern day science with the classics, then discovery of Radio Waves and the personalities involved are acknowledged. This is followed by the accidental discovery of a new science that is now referred to as Radio Astronomy.   To set the scene for later topics several several examples of modern day physics are considered then, a few very important discoveries are introduced.  One of those is at the fore front of modern day medical science.


Now retired from project engineering of electronic systems, he has focused his widespread interests in Astronomy, Earth Science and Radio Communication under the umbrella of Radio Astronomy.  He is a Trustee of the UK Radio Astronomy Association.  Currently he is developing with friends a Schumann Resonance Sensor for the amateur observer.

This presentation supports the outreach aims of the UK Radio Astronomy Association.



Viewing event for the Transit of Mercury – 11th November 2019

On Monday 11th November there is a Transit of Mercury.  This begins at about 12.35 pm and is still in progress at Sunset.

Neil Havard is planning to observe this from the playing fields off Sappercombe Lane and would welcome any members and their friends who would like to come along to view the event – weather permitting. Sappercombe Lane is a narrow lane (just before Beeches Rd) off Little Herberts Rd that runs up from the church in Charlton Kings.  There is parking at the end of this short lane.  More telescopes would be welcomed of course, but ensure the correct filter is in place.

From the Editor of Mercury

Editorial to appear in this month’s edition of Mercury, the newsletter of the Cotswold Astronomical Society.

It has become apparent that the number of people reading Mercury is not as high as  expected. The number of people who have registered on the website so far, which is required in order to view or download Mercury, is only about one third of the membership, so it really begs the question, are the majority of members really that interested? If you are reading this you are one of the minority who obviously are interested, so the committee will be promoting the availability of Mercury to everyone else. The use of email to reach members also doesn’t appear to be fully effective either. Statistics from the mailing system show that at best 80% of the emails are opened, the minimum being about 58%.

A lot of time and effort goes into creating Mercury, both from the people who contribute articles and then editing and publishing. It would therefore be more appreciated if the majority of members actually read it.

I have plans to help promote Mercury, to be implemented over the coming months. However, if you have any ideas you would like to share on what would make other members more interested in making the effort to read it, please let me know.


From Herschel to Hawkwind

A talk at CAS by Pete Williamson.

On the club meeting night of the 12th October Pete gave his very interesting talk about the connections between astronomy and music. A prolific speaker at astronomy clubs the length and breadth of the country, Pete also runs SolarSphere, an astronomical and music festival, the next event being on the 14th to 17th August 2020 –

Membership access

As all members should now know, the website has been reconfigured to make accessing all membership restricted areas simpler, with one password. To read Mercury and access the forums it will now be necessary to create an account. Your access request will be checked against the list of paid-up members and then confirmed. Please allow between 24 and 48 hours for this to be done as it is a manual process. However, it can usually be done within a few hours.

Mercury editorial. Volume 37 Issue 2

This year, on the 20th July 2019, it is the 50th anniversary of the first step on the moon, by Neil Armstrong.  This special edition of Mercury, with a printed copy made available to all CAS members who attend the next meeting, is devoted entirely to recognising and celebrating this amazing feat.

 We are on the cusp of the next steps in space exploration – it may be 50 years since the first landing, but many more achievements have been made since. Several lunar missions followed, unfortunately curtailed more by political expediency than lack of scientific will or progress, then many more space missions made possible by the Space Shuttle. This has benefited astronomy enormously, the shuttle being used to launch the Hubble telescope. The USA plans to return to the moon in 2024, with other countries such as China already landing probes and un-manned explorers this year.

 While there has been a lot of discussion about why we have not followed up on space travel by building a permanent moon base, which has fueled speculation and conspiracy theories galore, it is encouraging now to hear about governments and private organisations making plans for a permanent manned moon base within the next few years, rather than decades.

I therefore thought it fitting that we should dedicate this edition of Mercury to the moon landing and look forward with much hope to successfully reaching the other worlds of our solar system and eventually, other solar systems. Travelling to planets within our immediate vicinity takes long enough, 9 months one-way to Mars for example. The method of travel to other star systems is currently way beyond our technical capability, requiring either a method of near light-speed travel or some means of avoiding conventional light-speed limitations. How or when this can be achieved is still a huge speculation and could be yet hundreds or thousands of years in the future, if at all.

The articles that follow are a very small sample of some of the wealth of information publicly available about every aspect of the Apollo missions. Some links have been provided but a quick web search will find enough information to keep you reading for some considerable time.

Here’s to the next 50 years of space exploration – it should be an interesting time.


Amateur Spectroscopy: Cracking starlight’s hidden code – by Hugh Allen

This is the title of the talk coming up at the next society meeting on the 8th June 2019.

Analysis of starlight by spectroscopy is inspirational and is a fundamental pillar of professional astronomy. But take a look inside popular astronomy magazines and you will not find much mention of amateur spectroscopy. The language of spectroscopy can seem obscure, the physics a bit daunting and for many the technique is poorly understood. The light from stars is however like the cover of a book. Carefully spreading the starlight into a spectrum is like opening the book’s pages. A new world is revealed where there is beauty, science and detective work in equal measure, and it is all readily accessible to the amateur astronomer. The talk will demystify amateur spectroscopy and show how it offers a unique way to observe the Universe.

The atomic structure of hydrogen is revealed in the light from the bright, A-class star Alioth in The Plough. Taken using an 8″ Meade LX90 telescope, Atik 314L+ mono camera, Alpy 600 spectroscope with a 23µ slit, RSpec software.