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Guildford Astronomical Society

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Public Outreach

At a public Observing Event, organised by GAS, Ted prepared to show visitors the view through his 18 inch Obsession scope. The stars of Orion are visible in the background sky Ted prepares his telescope for a public observing event at Newlands Corner. Picture credit: Surrey Advertiser

One of the main aims of GAS is to promote the understanding and appreciation of astronomy to a wide audience. We achieve this through an ongoing programme of public education and outreach events.

Our outreach events are frequent and varied. We've organised activities at school clubs and Scout camps, and we've often hosted events when there have been special astronomical phenomena such as eclipses, comets and meteor showers. To find out more, see our Recent Events.

Outreach Event at Bentley Copse

by Brian Gordon-States

On the evening of Friday 25th March, Julia Gaudelli, Colin Onslow, Mike Worsey and I attended an outreach event for scouts at Bentley Copse. There were a total of 16 scouts and four adults. There was a problem with some lighting to the south on one of the buildings but a quick word with the warden there and he turned off the timer switch. Julia had her 8" Meade SCT on its wedge and tripod, Colin had his Celestron 6" SCT on a CG5 mounting, Mike Worsey had the societies 8" f6 Dobsonian (proof that the society scopes do get used) and I had my 10" f5 Skywatcher PDS Newtonian on an NEQ6 Pro mount.

The conditions were not very good, and lots of flashing torches From other scouts, cubs, etc, didn't help – those who ever watched the TV programme Dads Army will know the phrase "put that light out" which was heard on many occasions at this event.

Julia started the proceedings with a quick guided tour of the night sky using her green laser pointer.

Between 1930 and 2040 the various scopes were pointed to M44, M42, NGC884 and 869 (the double cluster in Perseus) Mike showed some doubles by splitting Castor and also used Alcor-Mizar, Sirius, and by request from a few Betelgeuse who they thought would go supernova at any minute. Towards the end of the session Saturn was observed as it rose above the trees to the east. It was a very enjoyable evening, even with the problems already explained. I had a chat with the warden and expressed an interest in going back there to Bentley Heath to observe when no one else is there and he said that if we called him, he felt sure that he could arrange it. Possible additional observing venue?

Outreach Events at Chandler School, Witley

by Brian Gordon-States

On Thursday, February 17th 2011 Andy and I attended the Chandler Junior School at Witley to give a presentation to the Year 5 students. The initial short talk was given by Andy to the whole group at assembly of around 300 pupils. With the hall cleared apart from the year fives Andy and I gave a presentation all about space. Some of the questions we were asked were very good including "how deep is the Moon?" and "were is Heaven?". Andy had his Maksutov Newtonian on display and I had a pair of 15x70 binoculars set up with 1,000 Oaks filters for solar observing. This all went very well. John Axtell received the following testimonial via e-mail after the event.

"Please would you pass on my sincere thanks to Andy and Brian for their presentation today. I could see how much work they put into it and the children thoroughly enjoyed it and asked loads of questions. Also many thanks to you John for setting the whole thing up.

We now look forward to the evening of the 8th March and pray for a cloudless sky. All the best and thanks again"

Tuesday, 8th March 2011

Andy Lee and I on March 8th just before we and Ted Dodman became inundated.

For this event three GAS members attended, myself, Andy Lee and Ted Dodman – I had my new Skywatcher 10" f5 Newtonian on a NEQ6 Pro for its 'first light' Andy had an EQ6 with a Skywatcher 110 f12 ProMax Maksutov and a Williams f5, 98 OG, and a pair of tripod mounted binoculars – and Ted arrived a little later with his awesome 18" f4.5 Obsession Dobsonian.

The teaching staff had indicated that there would be around 50 pupils and parents, but in the end there appeared to be over 200, with long queues at all three scopes. A series of "Wows", "Oos", "Ahhs" and "Oh my God" could be heard throughout the evening as the visitors peered into the scopes and many questions were asked, mostly very intelligent.

We all three started with our scopes trained on the Moon which was around four days old and 13% illuminated and Earthshine was evident.

A while later as it got darker Andy trained his scoops onto Jupiter as it dropped low in the west, and Ted moved his 18" onto M42 – the Orion Nebula.

The event was planned from 1800 to 1900 hours but in the event went on an hour longer, all of us being prepared to stay as long as there were visitors.

The school is "switched on" to astronomy and it's covered during lessons. The staff and visitors all seemed appreciative. GAS subsequently the following note via e-mail the next day.

"The guys were outstanding, please pass on my thanks, the evening was a huge success. Hope all is well. Tony"

Nice to be appreciated

International Year of Astronomy

The official logo of IYA2009. A stylised person and child gaze at stars in the sky.The text 'The Universe Yours to Discover' appears at the top and 'International Year of Astronomy 2009' appears at the bottom of the image

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) was a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. It stimulated worldwide interest not only in astronomy, but in science in general, with a particular slant towards young people. IYA2009 marked the monumental leap forward that followed Galileo Galilei's first use of the telescope for astronomical observations. It portrayed astronomy as a peaceful global scientific endeavour uniting astronomers in an international, multicultural family of scientists working together to find answers to some of the most fundamental questions that humankind has ever asked. You can find out more about IYA at the official UK website.

The Universe for Everyone

GAS presented many events to celebrate IYA 2009. We extended our usual activies further to promote and encompass the key themes of IYA2009.

We were at the UK Space Conference at Charterhouse School in April, with kids' activities, talks, an exhibition and star party. We held a very successful afternoon of talks with the theme 'She's an Astronomer' for local school students. We were at the Surrey County Show in May where we used solar telescopes to allow visitors to safely observe the sun. The first three of our 'Tours of the Night Sky', which were held at Newlands Corner, attracted hundreds of members of the public and were very well received. Several more of these observing sessions for the general public are scheduled during the year. You can download the flyer here [PDF: 122KB]

There were many more exciting events planned to celebrate IYA2009. For all of GAS's upcoming events, see Diary dates

For events hosted by Farnham Astronomical Society, click here.

The Great Look Up

The Great Look Up FlyerOn Friday, 28th August 2009 the Guildford Astronomical Society, in association with The University of Surrey, mounted a massive public outreach event in support of The British Festival of Science which, this year, was centred on Guildford. The venue was at The Varsity Centre, The University of Surrey, Egerton Road, Guildford and was attended by over 300 members of the public. After talks by Maggie Philbin (TV Presenter/Journalist), Dr Stuart Eves (Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd) and John Axtell (Secretary, GAS) the evening's viewing got under way. More than 30 telescopes, guided by members of GAS and other local societies, were available for the public to view the night sky. Thankfully, the weather stayed clear and the Moon and Jupiter presented a fine sight!