South Downs Planetarium Chichester

Minutes available for download here (PDF)

Society reports available for download here (PDF)

Chair: Phil Alner

Hosting Chair: Richard Flux for Vectis AS

Present: 30 from 19 societies

Member for Name Delegate
Adur Robin Durant Y
Ashford AS Jason Hall Y
Brighton & Hove AS John Bush
Brighton & Hove AS Barry Moppett Y
Brighton & Hove AS John Wade
Cody AS Phil Alner Y
Crawley AS Jim Swift Y
Croydon AS John Murrell Y
Eastbourne AS Keith Brackenborough Y
Edenbridge J Kingham
Edenbridge Graham Jeever
Farnham AS Danny Thomas Y
Foredown Tower Astro David Inman Y
Foredown Tower Astro George Hurrion
Guildford AS John Axtell Y
Guildford AS Tony Questa
Hampshire AG David Harris Y
HantsAstro David Woods Y
Newbury AS Richard Fleet Y
Newbury AS Nic Fleet
South Downs AS Jan Whittington Y
Vectis AS Stephen Griffiths
Vectis AS E S Bates Y
Vectis AS Richard Flux
Vectis AS P Balver
Wadhurst AS John Vale-Taylor Y
Wessex AS James Fradgley Y
Worthing Astronomers Janet Young
Worthing Astronomers Brian Halls Y
Worthing Astronomers Ady Jurd

(Apologies for any misspelt names. These are extracted from the signatures on the attendance sheet.)

Phil welcomed everyone to the meeting and opened by announcing the committee had been rocked by the resignations of the Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Newsletter Editor.

Phil had therefore taken on the role of caretaker chairman until the AGM. This had been accepted by the committee. At a show of hands this was also approved by the meeting.

A number of posts are therefore either vacant or being filled temporarily. The caretaker Chairman suggested that there were three possible courses of action:

  1. Call an EGM to fill the posts;
  2. Wait until the AGM; or
  3. Co-opt as above until the AGM

Following a question from the floor it was confirmed that the AGM was to be held in April.

Following much discussion the floor settled on two options:

  1. Give some time for thought before the meeting comes to a decision; and
  2. We need to move forward and not be hide-bound by rules.

It was agreed to come back to this question at the end of the meeting.

Two new societies had been accepted, Adur and Hants Astro. New society Edenbridge and District Astronomers was represented at the meeting by Graham Jeever. Andover, Romsey and Worthing societies had been invited but no representatives were thought to be present.




Phil Alner then handed over to Richard Flux on behalf of the chairing society, Vectis Astronomical Society.

1. Apologies were noted as above.

2. Societies present were noted on the attendance list by the entrance to the meeting room and taken as read.

7. Item 7 on the Agenda, FAS Update, was taken next as Keith Brackenborough had to leave before the end of the meeting.

The FAS update was given by Keith Brackenborough who reported that the Cambridge meeting had been very good.

Keith had clarified some matters of insurance regarding SAGAS societies. Now there would be full insurance cover for what had not been covered before. An example of what this meant was given: a collection tin, for instance, would be covered but not individual members’ equipment. Keith said that this was an example of SAGAS and the FAS working well together.

The FAS subscription would remain the same for 2011 as it had been for 2010.

In answer to questions from the floor:

  1. Keith confirmed that the FAS currently had a good bank balance.
  2. During the IYA the FAS had given money to organisations but not to any societies. SAGAS had been given money to purchase display boards.
  3. A new booklet entitled “Photographing the Night Sky” would soon be available. This was an updated version of the 2004 booklet.
  4. A list of insurance for societies of FAS meetings was not available on the web but it could be.
  5. Copies of Insurance policies were available on request from the FAS Insurance representative.
  6. The new FAS Handbook would be available in the next few days.
  7. Regarding FAS Insurance Keith confirmed that members doing work for their societies would now be covered.
  8. There had been a suggestion earlier in the year that the FAS would be holding their 2011 meeting at Jodrell Bank. This was difficult to get to from the SAGAS region: could it be held further south? Keith reported that no decision had yet been made. A suggestion was to have two meetings with one in the south – possibly jointly with SAGAS.

3. Guildford AS were thanked for their hosting of the summer meeting, all agreed it was a very enjoyable event.

4. Society Reports were as circulated. Those not circulated:

a) Vectis Astronomical Society

The AGM was held in August with some changes of officers.

A CfDS award was given to the Sentry Mead Hotel and was reported in the local paper of 15th October. Wight Salads may be nominated later.

After a Summer break the outreach programme would soon be starting again.

b) Adur Astronomical Society

Represented by Robin Durrant, who emphasised that this was a new society and not the old Adur Astronomical Society.

They meet nine months of the year (not in January, February or July) and have an annual subscription of £17 due on the 1st August. They rely on donations for shortfalls.

They have a non-academic speaker each meeting.

Current membership is over thirty including six ladies and two students. Imaging is their strong point and they aim to bring astronomy to the general public – “Astronomy For All”.

c) HantsAstro.

Represented by David Woods who said they had 207 members but were receiving up to 350 visitors per day. Membership is free but they rent astronomical sites, aiming to collaborate with other events for example the Portsmouth Festivities Event and ‘Portsmouth Space City ‘ to be held in 2011. They also aim to have a live link with ISS during this event.

They aim to get people to join their local astronomical societies and therefore they collaborate with groups such as SAGAS

d) Edenbridge & District Astronomical Society

(Guests of the meeting and as potential New Members.)

Graham Jeeves gave a brief report on the formation of their group.

e) SAGAS Summer Meeting

John Axtell showed pictures of the SAGAS Summer Meeting held in Guildford.

5. SAGAS: Finance

It was reported that after today’s meeting there would be £500 in the bank.

Receipts for payments were handed out where possible, the balance to be posted.

SAGAS: items to purchase

1. Sky Quality Meter

Approximate price £160. There was much discussion from the floor about this item. Initially the general view was that more investigation was needed on the matter. The aim was to build up a picture of the dark skies and light pollution in the SAGAS area, the best sites and the worst. They could be bought from suppliers in the USA, Ireland and the UK but the cheapest would be from the USA. It was argued from the floor that postage costs and import duty etc may well make the USA supplier not so favourable, particularly if the SQM had to be returned to the supplier for any reason. Stephen Griffiths of Vectis Astronomical Society remarked that they had a SQM. The floor wondered if Vectis would loan theirs to other societies in SAGAS to save SAGAS buying their own; indeed would there be a need for more than one in the SAGAS area? Further discussion followed. It was eventually agreed that SAGAS should buy a SQM for loan to societies who could not afford to buy their own and that there was a need for more than one in the SAGAS area, the light readings being quantifiable but variable over different nights (due to moon phases, cloud cover etc) and also observing sites of individual members.

2. Large Screen

It was then suggested that the meeting should consider the acquisition of a large screen for loan to societies for outreach purposes etc. This should be in addition to or instead of the SQM. Further discussion followed. The view from the floor was that representatives should go back and consult their societies then confirm any purchases at the January SAGAS meeting. It was then argued that that would cause delays, possibly of up to a year, before any SQM would be available for loan and therefore a vote should be taken now. After more discussion a vote to buy a SQM was taken with twelve societies in favour by show of hands. The motion to buy a SQM was therefore carried.

6. The Isle of Wight Star Party 2011 will be held from the 3rd – 7th March at Brighstone. Chalets and beach huts would be available for hire, and caravan and tent pitches. For further details visit

7. FAS

A suggestion was made for a list to be compiled of speakers based on member societies’ recommendations. At the moment there was a list of approximately 64 names with contact details and a list of talks available. It was noted from the floor that member societies already tell each other of good/bad speakers and swap their own members who give talks. The suggestion was that this proposed list was designed to do just that. The matter was left.

8. Intech Astronomy Day

Only two societies had so far signed up so more were needed – bring your own stand. A Telescope Clinic was one of the planned items.

Other Events

1. 10th November 2010.A star gazing night organised by the Intech Science centre in Winchester, 1630 for 1830 start. Including a Telescope Clinic.

2. 5th December 2010 a day event, also by Intech. Details not yet finalised but will include a list of speakers, David Tennant’s “We are Astronomers” plus a ‘fly-by’. Details will be available via SAGAS when finalised.

3. Farnham will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2011. Special events are as yet undecided.

9. SAGAS meetings

The next SAGAS meeting will be on 15 January 2011. No society had yet volunteered to chair.

The AGM will be held in mid April.

The Summer out of Chichester meeting is usually held in mid July. Hants Astro suggested they might host in conjunction with the Portsmouth Festivities but if so this would be in late June. Details will be confirmed at the January meeting.

Phil Alner then suggested that a list of individual’s observatories and facilities in the SAGAS area should be compiled. There was much heated discussion on this matter. The floor was agreed that no such list should be put on the web however well protected by passwords, and why was such a list needed in the first place? It could only be of interest to other astronomers. Phil explained it was thought that it would help others to build their own observatories. Further discussion followed in which various suggestions were made: a list of private observatories could be compiled by local societies and be made available by them on request; any such list should be posted, not sent electronically; should any such list even be kept electronically? The general view was for more information on what this list was intended to do and how it would be disseminated. An electronic list was not favoured.

The meeting then returned to the first item raised, ie the vacant posts.

Summarising the position, Phil Alner said the meeting had to decide on one of two options:

  1. to call an EGM to fill the vacant posts; or
  2. retain the caretakers in two of the four posts and volunteers for the remaining two posts to tide over until the AGM in April.

Much discussion followed. The main views and points raised were:

a) keep the caretakers and volunteers in place until the AGM

b) more time was needed to think about the situation

c) could an e-mail discussion and subsequent vote take place? No.

d) the committee should co-opt for these posts until the AGM

e) a secretary was needed before the AGM but could SAGAS operate without one until the AGM? Phil Alner said yes but the committee preferred not to.

After further discussion it was agreed that the posts be filled by the caretakers and volunteers above mentioned until the AGM in April 2011. Thanks were then proposed to all those who had stepped in at the last moment.

Before the meeting was brought to a close James Fradgley volunteered Wessex AS, subject to obtaining assistance, to chair the January 2011 meeting. This will be confirmed later.

After tea a most interesting illustrated talk was given by Stephen Griffiths of Vectis Astronomical Society on the Vectis All Sky Camera.


  • Could you please amend our name on the attendee list as ‘HantsAstro’ for myself and for Worthing Astronomers ‘Ady Jurd’ instead of Andy Jurd.
  • In your minutes, (item 4c, page 3) again please amend our name to ‘HantsAstro’ and it’s actually 350 visitors per day to our site, not hits.  DW……….done.

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