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Reading Science Week 2013

Fri 15th and Sat 16th March 2013

The public are invited to participate in our Reading Science Week activities. We will be at the Museum of English Rural Life on the evenings of 15th and 16th March. There will be an indoor exhibition to demonstrate the work of the local amateur astronomers and some of the equipment used for observing and photography. Telescopes will be setup in the garden and if clear there will be observing of Jupiter and its satellites and a thin crescent Moon (better on 16th).

Amateur astronomers from, Reading, Newbury and Maidenhead societies will be present to manage the telescopes and there will be talks in a room nearby. The talks will be mainly by Scott Marley who is a professional science educator.

For further questions please email [email protected]

Venus and Uranus Converge



On the evening of 9th February 2012 Venus and Uranus will appear very close together in the sky as seen from Earth. This is purely a line of sight effect as Uranus is much further away from us than Venus. The planets as seen from here pass and re-pass each other throughout their journeys around the Sun.

When this happens it is called a conjunction. Sometimes the planets will be several degrees apart in the sky but this particular conjunction is a very close one and Uranus will be less than a degree from Venus.

Uranus is theoretically visible to the unaided eye from a very dark site but at magnitude 5.6 it’s right on the limit of what normal people can see. It is easily visible in binoculars though and you should be able to see it close to Venus on this evening.

The chart below shows what it will look like through a telescope with an eyepiece giving 1 degree field of view (FOV). You can calculate your FOV using this simple calculation…

Actual FOV (deg) =	Apparent FOV (deg) / (Scope Focal Length (mm) / Eyepiece Focal Length (mm))

For example a 26mm Meade Plössl eyepiece with apparent field of view of 60 degrees in a telescope of focal length 800mm gives…

Actual FOV = 60 / (800 / 26 ) = 1.95 degrees

Nb. eyepieces are sometimes labelled with their apparent FOV or you can usually look it up on the manufacturer’s website.

In a telescope Uranus appears as a greenish blob, distinctly unlike a star. Venus will show a smallish but very bright gibbous disk. It won’t be hard to know where to point your binoculars or telescope as Venus cannot be missed, it will be by far the brightest point of light visible in the southwestern sky as darkness falls.

The chart shows a normal orientation, depending on your telescope the actual view you see may be a mirror-image of this and/or upside-down!

Venus and Uranus

Comet Garradd

Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd, Aug. 24, 2011 (Richard Schmidt)

Comet Garradd

A comet discovered in 2009 by Australian amateur astronomer Gordon Garradd is currently visible from the UK in the morning sky. It is currently around magnitude 7 and can be seen with binoculars that have at least 10x magnification. The object is quite small so a medium sized telescope and fairly dark skies are needed for good views.

The comet is moving through Hercules close to the keystone asterism. It passes by the head of Draco in February. The chart below shows its movment during January and February 2012.

It is sporting a short tail now which is showing up nicely in recent images. The brightness won’t change much over the coming couple of months so there is plenty of opportunity to observe and image the comet.

Comet Garradd reaches peak brightness in February when it should be at around 6th magnitude. If you have really dark skies it could just be visible to the unaided eye around this time. The comet’s closest approach to Earth happens in March when it will be close to Ursa Minor and should still be around magnitude 7.

Finder Chart for Comet Garradd

Finder Chart for Comet Garradd

Main Meeting – October 15th

The Reading Astronomical Society is fortunate to have as our guest this Saturday Dr. Gretchen Benedix of the Natural History Museum. Gretchen is ‘Researcher in Meteoritics & Cosmic Mineral’ which simply means material that has arrived on Earth from space.

The easiest place to find this material is Antarctica, but not the easiest to travel to! She has a 3 minute précis on living in Antarctica on YouTube….

There will be short talks in the second half of the meeting on recent activities of our members.

Jupiter: Remember throughout the autumn and early winter we will have nightly views of this giant planet. Now is the time to get out the telescope or binoculars.

Here’s the best brief guide to observing Jupiter’s moons….


The evening is free to first attenders. We hope you will become a regular member of course!

Reading Astronomical Society

Main venue: St Peters Church Hall, Church Rd. Earley, Reading, RG6 1EY
GPS: 51.443891° -0.928940°
Meeting starts at 7.00pm.

2011/12 Session Starts Here

Another year and a slightly new arrangement. Times and details below….

The Reading Astronomical Society holds the first of the season’s main meetings next Saturday, 17th September at the usual venue, and just less than a week later the AstroBASICS section hold the first of the season’s sessions for beginners and practical hobbyists. All sessions are at St. Peter’s Church Hall, Church Road, Earley, Reading, RG6 1EY.

Please note the AstroBASICS sessions are in the upstairs hall and are regretfully not accessible by wheelchair.

The speaker at the meeting of Saturday 17th will be Professor Mike Hapgood from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Mike’s subject will be space weather.

Space weather is the popular term for variations in the stream of energetic and electrically charged particles emanating from the sun.

We make no apologies for repeating this important subject. The sun is embarking on another few years of sunspot activity and each time this happens the human race is depending on more and more vital electronics installed for all manner of functions. It remains to be seen how our electronic infrastructure will stand up to the next big solar storm. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

The AstroBASICS session of Friday 23rd will have a talk on observing the sky. How much or how little equipment you need to consider yourself an amateur astronomer. How we report events or phenomena in the sky, and how to avoid being misquoted in the media! We have a wonderful 3 minutes of Richard and Judy which we will inflict on our guests!

Our AstroBASICS accommodation this year is so much more inviting so, for those who can stay a little longer, we are hoping to extend the evenings to extra talks and demos for when we cannot observe outside.

Venue: St. Peter’s Church Hall, Church Road, Earley, Reading, RG6 1EY
GPS: 51.443891° -0.928940°

Main meetings start at 7.00pm. 3rd Saturday except July and August.

AstroBASICS sessions are in the upstairs rooms: Open from 7.00pm for 7.30 start. 4th Friday except July and August.

BADAS Trip – 3rd August

Andrew Elliott was a former member of the society who lived in Reading up to his retirement when he moved to a lovely location on the north bank of the Ribble estuary at Warton. There he attended the Blackpool & District Astronomical Society. He did many talks to astronomy societies all over the UK, about his consuming interest of high-speed imaging of meteors and digitally-timed recordings of occultations.

Following the untimely death of Andrew on 28 Nov 2010 and having been honoured by the IAU in naming asteroid 229255 Andrewelliott, Chris Menmuir and Gerry Bond from Reading attended the BADAS meeting of 3rd Aug 2011. Some of Andrew’s videos and results were shown, and talk about the man himself and how he inspired so many. Edna Elliott, Andrew’s mother, was guest of honour.

Edna receiving honorary membership from Chairman Ray Smith

Edna receiving honorary membership from Chairman Ray Smith

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