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Astronomy Matters


The Third Rock

This talk is really for more 'general interest'. We all live here on Earth (for now), but where does this small planet fit into the big picture? What is our Solar System and how did it all start? What is the Milky Way; what is the 'Local Group'; where will we all end up? These are big questions that demand some mind-stretching answers but nothing too exhausting; it's general interest as I said! The talk concludes with some thought provoking details about the Universe and predictions for our distant future.

Parker Solar Probe - to Touch the Face of the Sun

Launched on 12th August 2018, this adventurous probe will complete many firsts during the next seven years. It will become the fastest man-made object at around 432,000 miles per hour, it will fly closer to the sun than any other object, passing less than four million miles from the surface and it will be the first to physically encounter the sun's corona. Survival depends on brilliant engineering and a highly elliptical orbit. This talk will explore the basics of the mission and set the scene for what we can hope to learn. Get the essential background before the science starts to flow!

New Horizons for Mankind

When the New Horizons spacecraft was launched in January 2006 on a trip to Pluto and beyond, it was the fastest man-made vehicle ever launched from Earth. Even gaining velocity from planetary sligshots, it still took more than 9 years to reach the planet. 3½ years later, it streaked past Ultima Thule, an enigmatic 'Kuiper Belt' object and the most distant subject ever imaged at a staggering 4 billion miles from Earth. The distance is so great, the images will take many months to receive and process and New Horizons is still active and on it's way to image more targets. The talk traces this most epic of voyages and looks at the new understanding that New Horizons is providing for us. See Pluto like never before!

Charles Messier - Marathon Man

Most northern hemisphere astronomers are familiar with the Messier Catalogue, but what about the man himself? What forces drove him, what part did history and the development of equipment play in his successes and failures? This talk explores both the man himself and the Messier challenge as well. When is the best time of year, which objects are easy, which really hard? If you are up for a Messier Marathon or just enjoy some of the history involved, then this talk will help to fire your enthusiasm.

Curiosity about Mars Continues

With the amount of hardware that is either on the red planet, on it's way there or in the planning stages, the theme of this talk has moved on from being purely about the Curiosity rover. The human race has been fascinated by Mars for centuries and studying it for decades. What is happening there right now; what are the next steps in the exploration of the only other candidate in what is known as the 'Goldilox Zone'? What can Mars tell us about Earth's future and is there a long term goal here? This talk involves videos and stunning images, with the final section in 3D.

Jupiter's Splendour

Juno survived orbital insertion on 5th July 2016 after a five year, 1.74 billion mile journey that reached speeds of 165,000 mph! Bristling with modern, sensitive instruments and cameras, all shielded behind thick titanium walls to protect them from the fierce Jovian radiation, the spacecraft will fly closer than any before it, dipping into the upper reaches of Jupiter's atmosphere. It will conduct a series of 53, highly elliptical orbits designed to continue until July 2018. Instruments delving deep into Jupiter's interior will help to unlock the secrets of this giant planet and perhaps the history of our Solar System too. Amazing photographs highlight the surface features of this stunning behemoth like never before.

Motorway to Mars

Following on from recent successes with various missions to Mars, a second 'space race' is under way, this time for a manned expedition to the red planet perhaps by the 2030s. What challenges lie ahead, what dangers fill the void of interplanetary space and will Mankind ever leave Planet Earth to answer the big question - 'Are we alone in the universe'? This talk assesses the progress of the project and illustrates with images and graphics, some of the enormous difficulties that will be faced along the way.

Rosetta the Comet Chaser

ESA's mission to rendezvous with a comet was 10 years in the planning and more than 10 years from launch to rendezvous. The target, a 4km wide lump of dust and ice was 310 million miles from the Sun and travelling at more than 45,000 mph! Ranking amongst Mankind's greatest achievements in space, this talk explains the basics, the incredible journey and the results that are pouring in to ESA's headquarters. Again, amazing images, animations and 3D play a significant role.

Here Comes the Sun

It sustains life here on Earth but to astronomers it is a G-type main-sequence star (G2V) informally referred to as a 'yellow dwarf'. Recent missions are expanding our knowledge and understanding at an incredible rate, so what's it all about? This talk explores some basics, details the latest findings and includes some fascinating images and animations. Never seen the Sun in 3D? Well here's your chance

Voyager - From Here to Eternity

Remember the 70s? When a computer filled a room and some cars had square steering wheels! The days when travel to the outer planets was deemed impossible, until a brilliant mathematician paved the way to Neptune. The Voyager probes are still providing data today from the edge of interstellar space, the furthest man-made objects from Earth. Why did HAL, the murderous computer in the film 2001, sing Daisy Daisy as Dr Bowman disabled it? The answer to this and many more questions are in this presentation.

Treadmill to the Stars

A personal journey through many years of astro-imaging. What equipment came and went; how did technology help the early amateur imager? This journey is from the first seeds of astro-photography to the joys of harvesting images, via the frustrations of a non-technical astronomer on the way. The presentation should be seen by anyone who feels even the slightest desire to take a snapshot of the moon. Ask me how I know......

Seasonal Skies

Ever wondered why the Moon wanders a random path by day and night? Have you looked at the night sky and marvelled at the number of stars? This talk is aimed at non-astronomers and can be tailored to suit all levels of interest. It explains the basics of what to see in the night sky from the naked eye to binoculars and small telescopes. Astronomy has never been more accessible, so what do you want to see? This talk can last from 30 minutes upwards.

The International Space Station

Sixteen years and counting, the ISS has provided answers to myriad questions and yielded scientific benefits for all. What went into the planning and development in the decades before construction and what is life like on board for the crew, who eat 14 tonnes of food in six months! This talk will reveal fascinating details and stunning images from this exciting orbital science laboratory.

Space Mission Top 10

There have been hundreds of fantastic space missions; choosing between them was far from easy, but some, for example the Apollo flights to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s, were an obvious choice. This is my take on Mankind's 10 most amazing achievements in the hostile and dangerous environment of space. It is partly based on technological excellence and achievement, but with an historical context as well. "And coming in at number 10 we have....."

The Solar System in 3D

Not so much a talk as a fabulous display of 3D images of our Solar System, from the G2V 'Yellow Dwarf' star burning at its heart to the outer planets in the cold, dark reaches of space. The presentation only lasts about 15 minutes and can be tagged on to the end of another. You can almost 'reach out and touch.....'

"So Long Saturn" - Twenty Years of Cassini

Launched on October 5th 1997, Cassini-Huygens reached Saturn after almost 7 years. Originally planned for a 4 year mission, three extensions have seen it study this most incredible planet for almost 13 years! In its final weeks orbital changes have flown it low and fast and it will end its days on September 15th 2017 by diving into Saturn's atmosphere. This talk explores some of the incredible and vast array of scientific discoveries this mission has uncovered, together with a selection of some of the phenomenal images it has sent home.


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