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Notes & Photos from the International Astronomy Show 7-8/6/2014 Warwickshire Conference Centre

Andrew Thornett


View photos from the conference by clicking here

YouTube links to IAS 2014 videos (these links are for YouTube - high definition versions can be downloaded using links at the bottom of the page):

Andy & Rhys look at meteorite store at IAS 2014 06 08. Click on this link to view video on YouTube

Andy & Rhys outside with solar scopes at IAS 2014 06 08. Click on this link to view video on YouTube

Andy interviews Nick Howes at IAS 2014 06 08. Click on this link to view video on YouTube

Andy interviews representative from Lunt Solar 2014 06 08. Click on this link to view video on YouTube

Damian and Chris members RAG at exhibition at IAS 2014 06 07. Click on this link to view video on YouTube

Interview with Andy M & Chris Howe 2014 members RAG at IAS 2014 06 07. Click on this link to view video on YouTube

Interview with Chair NW Astro Socs & Justine 2014 06 08. Click on this link to view video on YouTube

Interview with Paul Money at IAS 2014 06 08. Click on this link to view video on YouTube


Notes from the conference

Conference brochure.

Chris, Damian and I travelled together to IAS in the midst of a thunder storm on Saturday 7/6/14. We were concerned that this might indicate our experience of attending the conference!.......However, this couldn't have been further from the truth. We had a really enjoyable day, although only after the rear of my exhaust fell off my car!....Once there we met Ed, Andy M., Lee and Nick.

The exhibition at IAS was in a large hanger-like space with plenty of room between the stalls - so much so in fact that it felt like we had plenty of room in spite of hundreds or thousands who were visiting. Quite a few bargains were on offer from Televue Delos 14mm eyepieces for 195 to discounted telescopes and mounts. On the other hand Orion Optics had a large telescope on sale for 20000, and a bargain Astro Physics Telescope and mount was sold for under 10000. The space was so large that even Pulsar telescope observatory domes on sale were dwarfed by the size of the space.

I own three of Explore Scientific's 100 degree nitrogen or argon-purged eyepieces. At the Explore Scientific stand, we saw the current range, including a heavy-weight 9mm 120 degree field of view monster that significantly out-weighed my 100 degree version of the same focal length. The much-talked about 100 degree 30mm 3 inch eyepiece they have produced is also very big, as you might expect with a three inch barrel, and weighs 2.8kg - I think this is really a counter-weight for telescopes with too much weight on the front end! The ten inch refractor here last year was not back, but Skylight now have a wide range of pristine beautiful refractors.

In fact, one particular aspect of the conference stood out for us all - dobsonians seem to be less popular, SCTs rare, and refractors are ruling the roost -not just small but larger ones too, with some big mounts to put them on, and prices for a telescope/mount combination ranging up to 12000+. These telescopes are beautiful, well made, good for observing or photography and usually come with effective GOTO functions.

Damian was keen on purchasing a Kendrick heater strip designed specifically for his laser pointer. None were available even on the stand specialising in Kendrick dew heaters and straps. So, it looks like this is not currently available in the UK, explaining his difficulty. Added costs of transport and tax on entry mean they are expensive to order direct from Canada so I think he will need to wait for them to come back in stock.

Andy M. went to see the planetarium show in an inflatable planetarium. He was quite impressed. Should rag be considering getting one of these rather than building a permanent planetarium? Probably not, as the proposed space at Rosliston Forestry Centre will have many other educational uses if built carefully.

In previous conferences, there has been a sense of new advances being around astrophotography. This aspect of the hobby has now become mainstream and this was reflected by reduced pre-eminence of astrophotography booths, although they were there when I looked and new advances equally present. Just shows that fashions do affect astronomy, even in short time periods. Compared to Astrofest, book stalls were less evident too. Not sure why. One or two were present. Could've really see much in way of new books....Springer did not have their own stall - that could be the reason.

We had booked lecture tickets in advance as last year they sold put. However, this year the organisers bought in a bigger tent for the talks and most talks had free seats, apart from one or two particularly popular ones, such as Nik Szymanek's talk on Saturday.......

We felt shattered by the time we crawled into Nik Szymanek's talk at 13:30 - all that concentrated work exploring the stalls took its toll. Nik gave us an introduction to CCD imaging. I am not sure exactly how much he said we should spend outside in the hall in order to get started in astrophotogtpraphy but it sounded somewhere around 8000 to me by the time he had been through all the "necessary" equipment......although on reflection I think he might have said 2500. His talk, not surprisingly, involved masses of his excellent photos, but our enjoyment of those was limited by the fact that for the first time during the day the sun came out and shone through the fabric of the tent where the talk was being held. Still, the audience was rapt listening to his words of wisdom on the subject. In spite of the sun, Nik showed us how to do it in such a way that he could transform a raw image in seconds. Wow! On a more humorous note the sound of gunshot outside from an automatic bird scared seemed to be timed with every time Nik talked about shooting the night sky through his camera.

Nik's talk was followed by one on Summer Astronomy by Peter Lawrence from Sky at Night. Another very full room as I would have expected. Pete was keen to concentrate on the challenges of observing at a time of the year when the sky never goes completely dark and proving to us that it is still an exciting time to observe, finishing with some great objects to look at. Damian and I have definitely found that Summer is a good time to observe as the sky is often clear compared to cloudy/raining/snowing a Winter or the high humidity of Spring and Autumn. Pete showed me just how to the night sky talks at RAG. I think I need to step aside and let him take over. He gave a great summary of all the major events that are going to occur over the Summer, and kept the audience rapt with attention in spite if the problems with the sun obscuring his slides, and did a great job of answering questions from the floor afterwards. In the closing seconds we learnt that Paul hand draws the graphics in Sky at Night magazine and on the TV programme.

The final talk was by Mark Thompson, the president of Norwich Astronomical Society and also the presenter on Stargazing Live who stands outside telling viewers about the night sky in the rain! He spoke on "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've seen that!" Possibly one of the most important talks of the weekend, Mark asked how we can keep our interest in astronomy going, once we've seen most of the major night sky objects with our telescopes. What do you do when the fishing exhibition has finished? Ideas included observing planets and other objects and submitting these observations to national astronomical societies such as BAA or SPA. He also recommended drawing what you observe, something which changes as experience and skills increase, and therefore an aspect of the hobby that keeps pace with developing interest in the hobby. Looking for atmospheric features on Venus or seasonal changes on Mars are of particular interest to researchers who wish to use this information to help understand the planets concerned. For Mark, a "proper" observation of a planet involves a drawing and recording quite a bit of detail. He remembered the role of amateurs in highlighting to professionals cloud changes on the major planets, and explored the role of filters in helping us to do this. One thing he mentioned that we rarely do now which can still be helpful is to record transit times across the central meridian on Jupiter. I have read this in older observational handbooks but did not realise that this was still a useful exercise. Normally, I think about webcams as an alternative to photography. Mark considered webcam images as a way of getting clearer views of the planets in order to make e types of observations above. I really like this as it emphasises the science of astronomy that amateurs can do. My recent acquisition of a new low light video camera means this is something which is quite practical for me to consider doing. Mark talked about us looking for asteroids, again something we don't usually do, as they only look like faint boring stars and can be hard work to identify. However, ?Mark pointed out the potential role of amateurs in identifying risky near-Earth objects -maybe not particularly large scopes but crows sourcing could be very powerful as early detection system. For astro photographers, the asteroids can be identified during astrophotography with filters as the asteroid moves between filters. Recognising asteroids involves using blink comparison of the photos via our computers, and in doing something like this we walk in the shoes of the discovers of Pluto. If you discover an asteroid, e-mail the minor planetary centre and you might find you have discovered a new one! Mark tried to persuade us that variable star observing was worth doing to help define standard candles. Most if what he said excited me but regularly doing photometry on variable stars did not stimulate me to jump up with excitement! Perhaps he is right, though, and that variable star observing is more fulfilling in practice......I will see.....other ideas: supernova search programmes, looking for evidence jets from active galactic nuclei, join BAA or SPA.

This really enjoyable day was followed by a great evening at the Green Tree Restaurant in Lichfield. Chris, Damian and I were looking for a restaurant and suddenly heard a call, "you are going to the Green Tree!" It was Heather driving past - so we joined her group and had a what's of a time. Thanks guys!

On the second day of the conference, I attended with my son Rhys. A great chance for the two of us to spend some enjoyable quality time together. Rhys and I met Pete Hill on the way in on Sunday morning 8/6/14 next to the solar telescopes and salivated over a double stacked ethalon Lunt telescope with exquisite detail on the solar disc. Since the previous evening, a Herschel wedge was also available giving great white light views through a six inch refractor for comparison with the hydrogen alpha views. This was a great chance for me to talk to Rhys about how the gas in the sun moves around leading to solar flares and prominences and sun spots. The sun was so bright that even views with solar eclipse glasses being given out by exhibitors were great! Rhys and I took the chance to interview the Lunt exhibitor.......

......before we went inside to watch Nick Howe's talk on the future of astronomy. Nick is coming to talk at RAG in January next year (thanks Heather for arranging this). Without any notes, he talked continuously without a pause for an hour, relating the future to the past and revising the philosophy behind our researches in space in that drives our culture to want to ask more questions. The talk title comes from Nick's personal involvement in the Square Kilometer Array, which was what the majority of the talk was about. I think this will be a great topic for our RAG meeting when he comes so I won't give away his comments on the SKA. I think we are in for a great talk when he comes to see us at the forestry centre! Great news! Even though the sun was great outside, this morning Nick's slides were far easier to see than those of the speakers yesterday.....I suspect related to the angle of the sun on the tent. One idea that Nick suggested in his talk that I think might be of use to RAG is for amateur astronomers to visit Thomas Harriet's house (What do you think, Paul? Worth organising this as day trip for RAG members?) Did you know that Isaac Newton invented the cat flap? Apparently so - according to Nick Howe! Nick told us that whereas Isaac can claim the fame for inventing the cat flap, he can't claim responsibility for inventing the telescope, only refining it. However he did discover Fraunhoffer lines 200 years before Fraunhoffer least according to Nick!

I needed a Vixen bar - Orion Optics wanted 40. I would have negotiated a bit but they were being as grumpy as usual so I opted to see what other folks had on sale to see if I could get a better deal. I found one at a much more reasonable price of 19 on another store at the back of the room.

Over lunch, Rhys and I met up again with Terry and Justine and also with Peter and reflected on the morning. General agreement that the show was great fun!

Damian had sent me a message asking me to ask some questions regarding the Daystar Solar Eyepiece (an 799 ethalon filter that plugs into the eyepiece socket of an observer's nighttime refractor to turn it into a solar hydrogen alpha telescope) that had taken his fancy the day before.

Rhys and I booked into inflatable planetarium where we could lie flat on our backs and look up at the stars - a quite different experience.

Our final event of the day was to sit in on Dr Lucie Green's lecture on the sun. She is a great presenter and I learnt a lot about the sun that I did not know as well as enjoying a great summary of quite a bit besides. It is shame we don't see her so often in BBC Sky at Night TV show now. Her talk was a great end to the weekend and, yes Damian, I did get my photo taken with her - so there is something for you to photoshop for the next RAG meeting to make a joke at my expense! (I don't mind really!) Lucie reviewed the satellites that give us information about the sun and then went on to discuss what has been happening with sunspot numbers and ask the question why were sunspot numbers so low in the the latest solar maximum.

A great weekend, great friends, great talks, great exhibitors - glad I went!



High definition versions of videos on YouTube above:

Video 1 Looking at meteorite store

Video 2  Outside with solar telescopes

Video 3 Andy interviews Nick Howes

Video 4 Andy interviews representative of Lunt Solar Scopes

Video 5 Damian and Chris at IAS

Video 6 Interview with Chris and Andy M. from RAG at IAS

Video 7 Interview with chair NW astro socs + Justine

Video 8 Interview with Paul Money

[Photos/Drawings] [Techniques & Tips] [Pluto Time] [Photographs, drawiings and video by members of RAG after April 2014] [Andy Mac] [Andrew Thornett] [Chris Howe] [Damian] [Dave Jones] [Ed Mann] [Geoff Dryland] [Julian Palmer] [Kenneth Crichton] [Lewis Brailsford] [Nick Cox] [Paul Bertenshaw] [Peter Hill] [Rachel & David Donaldson] [Roger Samworth]