Autumn Programme

Hi to all our members and potential members, and  I hope you are all keeping safe and well!

In the light of the Coronavirus pandemic it was decided to forego a meeting in September and to resume the programme in October, creating a longer time from the virus’s peak and hoping that infection numbers would have declined further.

Anyway, 3 talks have now been arranged between now and the end of this calendar year.  These will be delivered remotely through Zoom. The plan is for Hayden Goodfellow to begin our programme by speaking to us in October about the Horizon Event Telescope and its imaging of the Black Hole in M87. (Hayden has been a public astronomer at the Kielder Observatory but is leaving for new pastures as a physics teacher at an academy in Edinburgh. We wish him well as a friend of our club!). In November, our speaker is due to be Dr Alex MacKinnon from Glasgow University who will take as his subject, Antimatter in Space, whilst the subject of Dr Pete Edwards, Durham University, in December, has yet to be confirmed.

These talks will be at 7pm on the second Tuesdays of October, November and December.  Due to the ongoing problems with Coronavirus and the increased restrictions on meetings we will be meeting virtually on Zoom. To take part, please email the society at the address given on the right under “Contact Us” and we will send you the connection details ahead of each meeting.

We won’t be able to share refreshments on Zoom, so Ken and Ann why not finish off any lovely chocolate digestives which may still be in the tin?!!


Thank You to Mark and Hayden – The Geology of Mercury

No, Mark and Hayden will have nothing to do, you will probably gather, with the creation of the Geology of Mercury, but just to offer many thanks to them both. To Mark Toner, for hosting the session on Zoom, and to Hayden for delivering our excellent first talk of this year’s programme on imaging M27 through the Deep Horizon Telescope.

The Clydesdale Club has kindly invited us to take part, if members wish to, in an online Zoom meeting whose subject is The Geology of Venus. This is on Monday evening, October 19th at 7pm. I will ask Mark to send log in details to our members by email.


The Way ahead for the 2020-2021 Season?

We continue to live through extraordinary times with the current Global Coronavirus Pandemic, and this has meant that the planning of the programme for the 2020-2021 season has not been an easy task!

We have booked the room at Lochvale House from October through to December 2020, but given the present health and safety problems no speakers have been invited to come in person as there is the strong possibility that even if they are willing to come, there is every chance that they may have to alter their plans in the light of of future developments. I am now though, contacting a number of the guest speakers we have had in the past, to ask if they can offer us a talk using IT remotely.

What we are now looking at is setting a programme in place where we will interact with speakers through an App like Zoom, so that they won’t have to travel from Glasgow, say. It will be very helpful at this stage is to get an indication of how many members would be happy to attend the meetings at our normal venue of Lochvale House with safe distancing, wearing masks etc. or if this seems to our members not to be the way to go,  to indicate that simply connecting up remotely is the best plan.

Can I ask all members to send me an e/mail to indicate if they are happy to come to Lochvale House, or instead whether they they think the best plan is to engage as a club entirely remotely through Zoom sessions and not meet centrally at all for the next several months?

Please e/mail me at stevenballard365@yahoo.co.uk this week if possible, and I will collate the responses and post up the suggestion that the majority of our members come up with.

Thank you for your help and understanding!


(Secretary Dumfries Astronomy Society)

‘In the Footsteps of Giants – Kelvin, Tait, Maxwell, Wilson to Higgs and Beyond’

This is the title chosen by Dr Alan Walker, an Edinburgh based physicist, who will be with us on the evening of Tuesday 10th March.

He adds, by way of what we can expect, that this will be “A random walk amongst Scottish  and other natural philosophers and physicists whose influence shaped a large part of the physics and technology of today”

Dr Walker is both a friend and professional associate of Professor Higgs, (he of the Higgs-Bosum fame no less!), and we look forward to having Alan with us, especially because his visit scheduled to us in the autumn had to be postponed at short notice because of illness.

Lochvale House, Tuesday 10th March, 7pm.


Rescheduled February Talk

Following the cancellation of Tuesday’s meeting because of the snowy weather, we are very glad that Jim Paterson, from the Moffat, Club has kindly agreed to offer his talk for next Tuesday, 18th February, instead.  We are grateful too to Lochside House for being flexible and allowing us to rearrange our meeting for the week later.



Unfortunately, our meeting this evening, Tuesday 11 February, has had to be cancelled at short notice.

Jim Paterson, our speaker, stays up at Moffat, and there has been snow there today.  He called me about 3.15pm. Understandably, he was anxious about getting home after the talk and in any event an amber warning is in place which covers the town there.

Jim has kindly agreed to reschedule his talk for next Tuesday instead, but I need to make sure this is ok with Lochvale House. I will post further details in the next day or two to confirm whether the meeting can go ahead next Tuesday, 18th February.



Moffat – The Dark Sky Town

As motorists drive into Moffat nowadays they are welcomed by a sign which declares Moffat to be a dark sky town.

We are pleased that on Tuesday 11th February Jim Paterson, from the Moffat Astronomy Club will be our speaker who will share with us the story of how Moffat achieved that status.  7pm Lochvale House, Georgetown.  All welcome.

(True to form, our planned observing night at Neil’s on 31st January coincided with poor weather which made viewing impossible!  Our next planned evening is Friday 27th March but in the meantime Mark, who lives at Carsethorne and has a small observatory there, has suggested that if we get a spell of fine clear weather we can arrange an evening there at fairly short notice, so please watch this space.  I will keep my eye open on the weather forecasts in the next month and post with Mark’s agreement between now and the next viewing night.)


Observing Night Friday 31 January

This will take place outside Neil’s home in Clarencefield on Friday evening this week.  It’s a good dark sky position but because the way to Neil’s house can be tricky to follow if you haven’t been there before, the plan is to meet outside (not inside as on a winter’s night we may never leave its warmth!!)) the Farmers Arms Pub on the main road through Clarencefield at 7.30pm so that Neil can lead the way.

If conditions are doubtful please phone Steven, the club secretary on 07563 564 695 during the later part of Friday afternoon when he can confirm whether or not we are planning to still go ahead. Thank you to Neil for agreeing that we can hold an observation evening there.

Europa – A Moon with Life?

Our first meeting of 2020, to be held on Tuesday 14th January, Lochvale House, 7pm, addresses a subject that will surely intrigue all our members. Europa is thought to be a moon with a frozen ocean, and this has led some scientists to speculate whether its depths may harbour some simple forms of life.

David Rendall, (our treasurer no less!), holds a PhD in Marine Biology, and when the secretary discovered this he asked David if he could apply his thoughts to Europa, and helpfully also fill a place on the speakers’ calendar. David is also glad as treasurer that on this occasion the club will not have to reimburse any speakers’ expenses!

We look forward very much to what David, with his knowledgeable background in this area has to share with us, and appreciate the time he has been giving to preparing his talk.

Last but not least, thanks so much to Martin Armstrong-Prior for offering the pre-Christmas Quiz last month.