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 –

Museum of The Moon talk by Peter Cadogan

Celebrating 50 years since the first Moon landings

WHEN:  Thurs 17th October 2019 7pm—8.30pm

WHERE: Gloucester Cathedral Nave

SPEAKER • Dr Peter Cadogan

Dr Peter Cadogan, lunar scientist and author of The Moon – Our Sister Planet, developing computer software for counting craters in images returned from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite. The talk will not be too technical!


£15—Friends Of Gloucester Cathedral members £17.50—Non Members
Ticket price includes a ‘glass of fizz’

Lecture followed by drinks in the Cathedral Nave




11a College Green, Gloucester (Tues/Thurs 0930-1230) 01452 522419 (voicemail)
On the door


Thurs 3rd October


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.


Apollo 11 Anniversary Event

Advertised on behalf of the Newbury Astronomy Society at Stockcross Village Hall

50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing 1969

Stockcross Village Hall July 19th/20th 2019

Friday July 19th: 7.30PM Movie 
“The Dish” Comedy based on true events around the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Suitable for Adults & Children.

Doors open 6.30pm for Pop-Inn Pub, drinks & snacks available. Ticket £2 at door.

Saturday July 20th: 12-3PM Talk & Displays
Free Talk 1PM “A History of the Moon” Steve Harris, Newbury Astronomy Society. Hot Dogs & drinks available. Moon displays and memorabilia.

Poster competition for children.
Saturday July 20th: 7PM-Midnight Moon Dance

With special guests  The MiGZ. £12 per ticket includes food & band.

Space themed Fancy dress (optional). Music from 1960s to current day.

Tickets on sale Stockcross Post Office – not available on door.

This is a community event, and we are planning to have telescopes available for viewings on both the 19th & 20th July.


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.


The latest Mercury, May / Jun 2019, is now available

Front Cover Mar/Apr 2019

The latest Mercury newsletter is now available and members can download the May / Jun 2019 issue from the Downloads page.

Highlights of this issue are:

  • Stargazing in Naunton Park
  • Trailed Star Colours
  • The History Spot: Caroline Herschel Final, Part 4
  • Mars Desert Research Station
  • Entries and winner of the CAS Annual Astronomical Photography Competition
  • Treasurer’s Report 2019


Society report from recent meetings

At our March meeting we had a talk on CMOS chips and how it is likely to be the next big thing in astrophotography. Eddie Carpenter also gave a talk on some things to look for when observing.

Later in March the CAS hosted the Deep Sky Meeting for the British Astronomical Association, which was attended by over 80 people, including several of our own members. My thanks must go to the excellent team that helped me with the catering for this all day event. The whole day was a great success and our visitors seemed very pleased with the talks and our hospitality.

Recently Ian Davies ran a stargazing event in Naunton Park for some local children and their parents. We assembled just after sunset and set up a couple of telescopes, Ian with his ten inch Dobsonian and Neil with his eight inch Celestron. As dusk advanced we started pointing out the brighter stars appearing, such as Sirius, Betelgeuse and Rigel. Then we were treated to a spectacular view of the ISS passing overhead, much to the delight of the children and parents. We also showed them views such as the Orion Nebula, the Double Cluster in Perseus and had a look at the rather distant planet Mars. The event was a great success and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Many thanks must go to Ian for organising it.

Our April meeting was the AGM. Reports were given by Neil Havard, the Coordinator, on the past year and by Rod Salisbury, our Treasurer, on the healthy state of our finances. Any members who were not present, but would like to see a copy of the accounts should email the Treasurer through the website, or ask at the next meeting. Malcolm Mitchell reported on the buoyant membership, although we would like to see some more new members. Mark Gibbons reported on the year’s talks and the task of obtaining speakers. Sue Kear, our Secretary, has spent some time dealing with the paper records from the past. These are now archived at Heritage Hub, formerly The Gloucester Records Office. I am most indebted to all our officers for their hard work and support over the past year. I am sure you are also grateful to them for making the Society run smoothly.

There were no new nominations for any of the Officers posts and so each of the current officers agreed to continue for the coming year and were duly re-elected. The Committee members are all aware that new ideas and fresh blood would be welcomed on to the Committee and, although some individuals may be reluctant to stand for office in case the job was daunting, we would like to encourage members who may be interested, to work alongside us for a year to see if they might be able to make a contribution in the future.

Following the business of the AGM we ran the Image showcase, our annual competition for the best astrophoto taken during the year. This year we had 22 images submitted from across the membership. As expected there were many stunning images and they were a delight to see. They included the Orion nebula, various galaxies, the Crab nebula, the Moon and The Milky Way. Various degrees of sophistication had been used to capture and process the images. Some smaller and fainter objects had taken several hours of imaging and detailed processing, while others were single shot or short exposure. After initial viewing, the images were left to run during the tea break and members allowed to vote for their top three. The results will be announced at the May meeting.

Observing in the next couple of months will be rather more challenging with the light evenings of May, June and July, but I still encourage members to do their best where possible. Jupiter is rising in the early hours now as it approaches opposition in early June. Hopefully Jupiter will be ‘the bringer of jollity’ for those trying to get good images of the planet. I wish you luck as its large southern declination will make it challenging to get clear images through a turbulent atmosphere. Those who use video images can at least select the clearest ones to stack.

In June, during the Cheltenham Science Festival, the CAS is hoping to offer some stargazing for those attending. As before, members are asked to bring a telescope to Imperial Gardens on the nights of Thursday 6th or Friday 7th June if the skies are clear. The Moon will be approaching first Quarter and Jupiter may be visible to show the public. Help would be greatly appreciated and I will keep members posted on details.

Very best wishes to you all and please keep coming along to the meetings as there are plenty of good talks ahead.

Neil Havard
CAS Coordinator