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.