Saturday, 28 August 2010

Orkney International Science Festival

Starts next week but I won't be there this year, knackered.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Moon talk went well.

My Moon talk seemed to go down well. I chopped it down quite a bit so I managed (almost) to fit it into the HAS schedule.
The members donated just over £74 to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust which is pretty good going.
Nothing happening now until Orkney in September, if I can find the energy to get there.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Moon talk in Inverness

Doing my Moon talk once again, this time for Highlands Astronomical Society, tonight in Smithton Free Church, Inverness.
I'll be using the World Record Lunar image to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and hope to raise more than the £85 we raised at Moray's Astronomy Club, Sigma in April. Rhona has made "what is generally thought of as the best Millionaire's Shortbread of all" (her words) to boost the takings.
Next job will be to work out what I will be doing at the Orkney International Science Festival in September so I can work on it over the summer.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Back in the saddle again.

Talk to Highlands AS which was postponed in January is now on for June.
Last night I did the talk for Moray's Astronomy Club, Sigma and it seemed to go down quite well apart from me talking for far too long, as usual. The first thing I did when I got home was to chop it down so I don't take so long in June.
I had bought the right to use to Lunar World Record Image to raise some money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The Sigma committee organised a raffle and I put up a prize. The raffle raised £59, pretty good for just over 30 people, and the club made a donation of £25 on top of that so I was delighted.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

No go 'cos of snow

Not much doing in January.
I was due to do a talk on the Moon to HAS but the meeting was snowed off.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

At Moniack Mhor with Dark Sky Scotland

I switched on my computer at 10am on Monday 23rd November and here was a message from Dave Chalton, Dark Sky Scotland Project Officer, asking if I could help out with an event starting that afternoon!!
Well I got on the phone, found out where I would have to go and for how long, then I had to get permission to go!
It turned out that the event was at a writers' retreat at Monaick Mhor, not far off the road from Beauly to Abriachan above Loch Ness. It was an event with a difference. We were to provide the inspiration for a group of Advanced Higher English pupils who were on a creative writing course.
It was just getting dark when I arrived and Jupiter was hanging in the sky just below a beautiful crescent Moon which was bathed in Earthshine. Naturally, by the time we had something to eat, heard the introduction to how the week was structured and Dave and I got my telescope and the DSS big binoculars set up, the wind was howling and vicious showers of rain were scudding through. It was really exposed on the top of that hill.
We waited for a while as Dave explained one of his tasks for the group, (14 girls), the skies cleared and the rain stopped. The wind was still howling and it was perishing cold but everyone came outside and we showed them around the sky using our green laser pointers. It was too windy for telescopes but we had a few pairs of binoculars to pass around and everyone was quite amazed with what they saw. At one point a long persistent meteor trailed across the northern sky, almost parallel to the horizon.
One or two of the girls stayed out longer than I could manage and everyone was there long enough to see Orion's Sword clear the horizon.
Dave and I headed off for our B&B and next morning, we met Hamish at Abriachan Village Hall. After a bit of a delay, we set up the inflatable StarLab in the freezing cold hall and soon after, the minibus with the girls and course tutors, Gerry Cambridge and Magi Gibson rolled in. Dave went through his StarLab show and we fielded a lot of questions then back to Moniack Mhor for some lunch.
In the afternoon, Dave explained how to use Stellarium and I talked to the girls about the Apollo programme.
After dinner, it was far too wet to do any observing so Dave and I hit the road to the hotel where we were staying the night for a few very well earned drams. We needed them, it had been a long day.
Next day, we set off on our separate ways, Dave on a horrendous journey back to Edinburgh in driving rain and a pretty bad gale, me back to Forres in time to pick up my mother in law from the station.
A very different kind of Dark Sky event but hopefully, we were able to provide some material for the rest of the week.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Talk to Rotary Club in October.

Earlier in the year, I was asked to talk to Forres Rotary Club at one of their lunchtime meetings at the Ramnee Hotel in Forres. October 29th seemed a long way away at the time and 2009 being the 40th anniversary of the the first Apollo landing on the Moon, I decided to talk about the Apollo programme.
The funny thing was, nobody could tell me how long the talk would last! I was told 15 minutes, but maybe just 10 minutes, depends how much business there was to go through. The only thing I was told was that I had to finish at 2pm. Now that's not a lot of help when you are trying to put a talk together.
As it turned out, I discovered that it was far more difficult to come up with a talk which lasts 15 minutes than it is to do a talk for 50 minutes with pictures and diagrams in a Power Point presentation. There was to be none of that modern rubbish in this talk, just me, talking.
I had no shortage of information, David Woods' book, "How Apollo Flew to the Moon", the "Jim Haynes Workshop Manual for Apollo 11" and Gene Kranz' autobiography. The problem was fitting the information into 15 minutes!
Anyway, I managed. I took just under 15 minutes and there was time for the inevitable "was it all a hoax" question. I got a few laughs, in the places I wanted them and it was great to see some old friends who came along just to hear me! A lot of people said complimentary things to me so I came away quite pleased with myself.
I talked about the the alarms as Apollo 11 approached the lunar surface, the overshoot to a flat landing ground and the lack of fuel, and about how flimsy the Lunar Module was.
I tried to explain why they couldn't just blast off and fly straight to the Moon like Dan Dare would have done. I used a pepper pot for a rocket and the secretary's baldy heid for the Moon, no vegetation, you see.
I told them why they had to have things like "launch windows", finished off by telling them that Armstrong and Aldrin would both be 80 years old in 2010, the final mission was just over 3 years after the first one, and nobody has been back since.
It was bloody hard work preparing for it and it could just be stretched into a longer talk one day.