Leader: Esther Richard
Contact: send an email by clicking on the carrier pigeon on this page
Meetings: Typically on a Thursday evening or occasionally at other times when weather permits scope usage or visits are planned. Members of the group will be notified of meetings by email and via this webpage.
I have somehow found myself offering to take over the Astronomy Group from Simon. So, as of January 2019, I will attempt to follow in Simon’s footsteps, with the help of Graham, Peter and Gary, who put in so much time and effort as it is. Many thanks to them for staying on. Please bear with me while I find my feet over the next months.
There is a total lunar eclipse visible from Radlett on Monday 21st January. Unfortunately it is at a slightly inconvenient time, the partial eclipse starting at 3:33 in the morning. Totality will last for about an hour from 04:41 to 05:43 with the partial ending at 06:50.
If the sky is clear you will be able to see the eclipse from wherever you can see the Moon. However, if the weather is good we will try to set up at least one of our telescopes at the Radlett (Phillimore) Recreation Ground off of Gills Hill from about 4:30 am to about 6:00 am. Keep a lookout on the astronomy page on our website (www.radlettu3a.org.uk/astronomy) and for an email to members of the group confirming if it going ahead.
The Quiz evening which had to be cancelled in December will be the first inside event in 2019. The date booked at the Radlett Reform Synagogue is now Thursday 21st February - which is the first convenient date. Start time is 7.30pm. Anyone is welcome and the organisers hope to see many of you then. Simon, best wishes for a new worry free U3A life. Hopefully you can now relax and enjoy other things. I am sure everyone will join me in thanking you for all the hard work you have put into the group since you volunteered to run it 5 – 6 years ago. You will be an extremely difficult act to follow!
The Astronomy group own a telescope, thanks to a grant from the Radlett Festival Committee, it will be available for use by the group and for the local community under supervision of the group. Telescope evenings will be arranged at short notice depending upon the weather and peoples availability and will be announced here and via eMail.
Keep an eye this web page for short notice announcements of telescope evenings and any other events.
Past events and other information
For a change we had good weather for our telescope evening on Thursday 2nd August about 15 people came out to the Radlett Rec on a lovely, clear, warm and dry evening. We has two telescopes set up and saw Saturn with its rings, Jupiter with some of its moons and a bright Mars. We also looked at a few stars as well. A good time was had by all. We hope to repeat this during the summer.
On the evening of Friday July 27th there was a Total Lunar Eclipse. At the same time four main planets, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter should also have been be visible. Mars being particularly worth seeing as it was closer to the Earth than it has been since 2003!
About 10 people turned up to a new viewing location, Radlett (Phillimore) Recreation Ground, despite the threat of rain. However, our usual weather jinx hit us again and we had total cloud cover and didn't manage to see anything apart from a brief glimpse of Jupiter.
There will be another total Lunar Eclipse visible from Radlett (weather permitting!!) in the early morning of 21st January 2019. Lookout for information closer to the time if we will try to see that one!
On Thursday 12th July we got our telescope out to do some sun spot spotting at the Radlett Recreation Ground. Several members of the astronomy group came along and we also had a few members of the general public (including some children!). We got a good view of the but unfortunately we are currently going though a sun spot minimum (possible contributing to the good weather we are having!!) so there were no sun spots to see. We were able to show some other things, including a prism splitting the sunlight into the 'rainbow' colours. A great afternoon was had by all there.
For our June 2018 meeting we heard about Galileo who was responsible for many discoveries and inventions. Although he did not invent the telescope, he made significant improvements to the telescopes of the day and was probably the first person to point one at the stars and planets. He was able to discover the 4 biggest moons of Jupiter, now called the Galilean moons. He also made important observations of the Sun and Venus. Unfortunately, much of Galileo’s work and writings led him into conflict with the Catholic Church as he was calling into question the Church’s view of the universe. He was a devout catholic and never intended any heresy, but in his later life was imprisoned and then put under house arrest.
In November, we visited the University Of London's Mill Hill Observatory. This proved a very interesting evening and I apologise that we couldn't fit everyone in. We were over-subscribed and, and even though we were allowed to go over-quota, we still didn't have enough space for everyone. It's quite amazing to have an active observatory right next to a major road in such a built up area!
In December we had our annual fun quiz which was enjoyed by all.
Wednesday 25th October Gary Harding gave a talk on Total Solar eclipses, including experience of the Great American Eclipse of 2017.
Sun spotting - Thursday 6th July
We got a big and small telescope out on Thursday afternoon as the threatened rain did not appear. We could see the sun though both of them and a few sun-spots through the big scope. We had about 8 people come and look through the scopes.
It’s not easy getting speakers for such a small audience as us, so we are suggesting that some of us might like to also attend meetings (or even join?) another local astronomy society, the “Hertford Astronomy Group”. This group meets on Wednesday evenings at the Panshanger Golf Complex in Welwyn Garden City and you can find details at www.skiesunlimited.co.uk/HAG/
Telescope Evening - Thursday 26th January
After several cancelled telescope evenings due to bad weather or other reasons we planned another one at fairly short notice on 26th January. Though it was a bit 'touch and go' as it had been rather cloudy during the day Gary Harding and Graham Taylor got our telescopes out and arrived at our preferred viewing spot at Kemprow at about 19:40.
Both scope were setup and working by about 20:00, the U3A scope by Graham using the Star Sense accessory and Gary's own scope using the SkyPortal application on an Android tablet. This proved to be a very useful way of controlling the scope as you could use the SkyPortal sky map to see potentially interesting objects and just tap on them on the screen to direct the telescope to them.
We were able to see Mars before it set and a number of stars, including all of the main stars in the Orion constellation. At about 8:30 we were joined by three other Astronomy group members, Tony Lynn, David and Kay Bagon. We found some other interesting objects, including star cluster the Pleiades (or Seven Sisters), though with the telescopes you could see very many more stars than seven!
Following a comment about seeing planets we looked to see what might be in view and in a first I think for everyone there we were able to see Uranus!
By 21:30 we were starting get a little cold (well is was minus 2 to 4!) so we decide to pack up and head back to our warm homes. - Gary Harding
For your interest, we plan to send out irregular ad hoc emails with details of any pertinent astronomical events that may be happening. In order not to bombard those of you who are not interested in this with unwanted emails, this will be an “opt-in service”. So if you want to be included, please send a confirmatory email to Gary, or me via the carrier pigeon, and we will add you to our opt-in list.
If you would like to sign up for this group, contact the leader, Simon Pyzer, sign up at the next monthly meeting or to send an email, please click on the carrier pigeon, which is usually on the top right of the page. If you are using an iPad, tablet or phone to read this, it may be at the very bottom of the page..
Click once on a photo, then scroll through the images.
We set up our telescopes in Radlett Rec on 26th August 2016 to do a bit of sun-spotting. There were about 10 sun spots to see, mostly in two group. We had about two dozen visitors, including a couple of passing children. The sun was out all of the day and a great time was had by all.
The Rosetta Mission
On 2nd March 2016 our speaker was Mr John O’Keeffe who was one of the Lead Engineers on the Rosetta mission which sent a space probe to land on comet 67P in the summer of 2014. This was a remarkable mission from various standpoints since it required a complex 10 year 4 billion mile journey including a 31 month period when the space craft was in hibernation mode to save power; its main claim to fame however is that it was the first probe ever to land on a comet. Click to read the Rosetta Mission Article.
Northern Lights Tour January 10th -13th 2016
Nine local people (6 from the Astronomy group) went on a trip to Reykjavik to see the Northern Lights from January 10th to 13th. We managed to see them, though not spectacularly, on the first night we were there. On the second night we were clouded out but we managed to go again on our third and final night. We again saw the lights which were more impressive than the previous night. At about 23:30 the coaches that took us were about to go back to the hotel when the sky became very active, drawing everyone back out from the coaches to watch them for about another 45 minutes.
There are some pictures from the trip on this page and more on the 'Other Astronomy Group photographs' page - link on the right. You will find a time-lapse video at the bottom of this page (made from more that 400 still pictures taken by Gary Harding) from the final night. There is also a link to the video on youtube on the right of this page as well as a link to the report from the trip.
Total Lunar Eclipse
In the early hours of Monday 28th September 2015 a number of the members of the group set their alarms for about 03:00 am and got up to see the Total Lunar Eclipse. A couple of the pictures taken by Gary Harding using his Nikon camera attached to his Telescope are shown here - there are more on the 'Other Astronomy Group photographs' page which has a link at the top right of this page.
Astium in Stevenage
On Thursday 17th September 2015 we visited Astium in Stevenage. This is the third largest space company in the world where they make a quarter of the world's satellites. As part of the European Space Programme, they're developing a Mars Rover which should be exploring the surface of the Red Planet by 2019 and their starring role is helping create Gaia, the largest ever camera to be sent into space, designed to map a billion stars. The highlight of the trip was our visit to 'Mars'! In case those of you who were not on the trip are wondering what we are talking about any why this didn't hit the national headlines we only got to see (and walk on!) the sand test bed that they are using to try out prototypes of the EXOmars rover which is planned to arrive at Mars in early 2019 and search for life there. There are photographs of the group standing on 'Mars' and a panorama of the test-bed on this webpage. There are more pictures on the 'Other Astronomy Group photographs' page which has a link at the top right of this page.
"Solar Observing and Imaging"
On Thursday afternoon, 15th October 2015, there was a talk by Peter Meadows on "Solar Observing and Imaging". Peter is somewhat of an expert on this subject. He is the solar editor of The Astronomer magazine and his solar observations are also submitted monthly to the solar section of the British Astronomical Association. He has been solar observing for over 20 years and uses a an 80 mm refractor with the safe projection method to produce the disk drawings you can see on his web site - www.petermeadows.com. To help in analysis of the disk drawings, he has written three Windows® software programs, including Helio Viewer and Helio Creator and he told us all about this. Unfortunately the weather was not kind to us so we were not able to set up our telescope to see the sun.
Northern Lights Time Lapse Video