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.



Calling all Quizzers


Please note on Tuesday 10th December we are holding our pre-Christmas Quiz Evening.   Martin Armstrong-Prior has kindly offered to set the questions on this occasion.

At the last meeting of the club there was also a suggestion that people might bring with them something edible and/or drinkable, but please don’t go ‘over the top’ on this.

The evening starts at Lochvale House, Georgetown, (in the restaurant area in the basement – our new location) at 7pm.


We wish all our members a happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year!



Viewing Night Looks All Clear!

Hi all,

Just to say that as announced at our last club meeting it looks like tomorrow night we will have the very rare event of a scheduled observing night coinciding with some clear, bright weather.

The host is Mike Perry whose home is out near Twynholm.  The postcode is DG6 4NR.  there is a turning on the right off the main road to Stranraer and if you get as far as the chocolate factory on the left you will have gone too far!

Perhaps we could aim to arrive for around 7.30pm and leave the Dumfries area between 6.30 and 6.45pm.

The best plan may be to co-ordinate the transport for those who plan to go through giving me a phone on 07563 564 695.

In the nature of things with the unpredictability of the weather this is an announcement about the event at short notice before the evening itself.


The Transit of Mercury

All members please note.  There is an event at Dumfries Museum on Monday 11th November to coincide with the Transit of Mercury. Will as many members of our club who are free that afternoon come along to the Museum to support this and to help with viewing arrangements.

One of the museum staff has e/mailed me:

The event will be from 12.30 until 4.15 (I think the peak is about 3.20?) so it would be brilliant if some of the members were able to come along for part or all of that time. Fiona wrote in our programme that ‘astronomers will be on hand at the museum with sun filtered telescopes and viewing glasses’ (we have one telescope at the museum and some viewing glasses).

Like buses which if you wait for one another comes along at once the monthly meeting of our society takes place the following evening, Tuesday November 12th. 7pm.  Our speaker is Dr Alan Walker from Edinburgh whose subject is “From James Clarke Maxwell to Higgs” (Higgs refers to the theoretical physicist whose discovery of the famous boson was discovered by Cerne, and not Ken Higgs, the late opening fast bowler for Lancashire and England) Get a grip Steven, you’re losing the plot!! Seriously, though, an evening not to be missed as the speaker is both a friend and former colleague of Professor Higgs.

Steven (secretary)


We did glimpse the transit and here is the Dumfries Museum’s telescope equipped for observing from the southwest of Scotland.

Transit of Mercury Observing from Dumfries

Mark Toner (President)

Rescheduled Observing Night

This is a reminder that we’ve rescheduled our observing night to tonight, Friday 4th October. The weather does not look good this morning, but is expected to improve later. Watch this post for updates.

The venue, should we go ahead, is 41 Castledykes Road at 8pm. Check the weather first. If you’re not sure call the contact number at Dumfries 252674.


The Castledykes Observatory


As of 5pm the sky is looking a bit mixed. We just had some heavy thick cloud but there are gaps. I’ll check in an hour and see what direction things are going in.


It’s looking pretty good. As long as that band of cloud to the south stays away we should be able to see something. If the sky is still as clear around 7.30 or so, just come to Castledykes. Otherwise check here again.


It’s looking very good now. I’m going to set up a telescope and let it settle. We’ll start observing at 8pm and see what the weather brings after that.


All set up and the sky is looking great. We have the added bonus of hundreds of geese flying to Caerlaverock. It should be a good night.


What a shame. The clouds were just waiting for the sun to go down and then they rallied and covered the sky. It’s all off for tonight. Let’s rearrange another of these in a month’s time and see if we have any better luck then. Any takers for hosting the next one?

Observing Night

We have an observing night scheduled for this evening Friday 27th September, at 8pm. The venue is 41 Castledykes Road, Dumfries.

However the weather is pretty dodgy and our hosts have now been called away on family business and so we will have to postpone the observing session.

The new arrangement is that we will meet at 41 Castledykes Road next Friday 6th October at 8pm, weather permitting. Do not come along tonight.

Cancellation of October Meeting

Please note – unfortunately there has arisen a need to cancel October’s meeting of the club on Tuesday 8th October. 

Professor Lyndsay Fletcher, of Glasgow University, was to have been our speaker that evening but she can no longer come to be with us on that date.

However, we look forward to our meeting on Tuesday 12th November when Dr Alan Walker, of the Physics and Astronomy School of Edinburgh University, comes to us to give his talk “From Maxwell to Higgs and Beyond.” Dr Alan Walker is both a colleague and friend of Professor Higgs of the “Higgs Boson” fame so it promises to be a fascinating evening.

To paraphrase Rod Stewart’s song Maggie May and the line, “Its late September and I really should be back at school” “it’s late September  and we really should be observing again!” Neil, with his enthusiasm, and an inspiration to all our members, has already been doing this. In addition we are holding our first observing night (cloud and weather permitting permitting) at the home of Mark Toner, 37 Castledykes Road, Dumfries on Friday 27th September. This is just off the Glencaple Road to the south of Dumfries right into Castledykes Avenue and right again. Perhaps 8pm would be a good time to meet?

Finally, for members with literary tastes, I’ve just finished reading an unusual novel by Thomas Hardy entitled, “Two on a Tower”. Unusually its subject is the romance between an older sometimes passionate lady of the manor with a younger handsome and rustic astronomer. Hardy commented, “This slightly-built romance was the outcome of a wish to set the emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous background of the stellar universe, and to impart to readers the sentiment that of these contrasting magnitudes the smaller might be the greater to them as men”

Happy observing, happy reading!