The SAGAS 2016 Summer Convention was held on Saturday 16th July  at the Barn Theatre, Southwick West Sussex, arranged and jointly hosted by  Adur A.S. and Crawley A.S.

Summer Conventions are always a highlight in the Astronomical Calendar and greatly anticipated by the members of the twenty seven Societies that now comprise the SAGAS Organisation.  This year attendees at the Convention were drawn from as far flung areas as Newbury and Ashford

, which show the  scope and  influence that Sagas commands.  The tiered seating capacity of the Barn Theatre is 90, this had to be supplemented to accommodate those with mobility issues as well as the speakers and their guests by additional rows of  seats in front of the general body of attendees.  The Barn Theatre complex is an Oasis of green and quiet, hidden away from the general view.  I recommend that  time is taken to look up the  history of its  renaissance on the internet and see  what can be achieved by the  resolve of a local community.

The formal meeting started promptly at 10.30 with the introduction and welcome being  given by Jim Swift of  Crawley A.S.

The first talk of the day was given by William Joyce FRAS. Formerly a  Lecturer at The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux.  The talk spanned the first  recorded sketches of the Moon by Thomas Harriot (the originals of which are held in the Chichester County Archives) through to the details  recorded by the American Apollo missions and The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.  We  were told that new  developments in analysing Lunar Soil and Rock samples are  now  changing our previous held  views of  Lunar evolution and composition and that as new techniques became available  archived samples  of Lunar material would be made available  for  research.

The second speaker of the day did not really  not need any introduction at all. Professor Lucie Green who is Professor of Physics at UCL and a Royal Research Fellow.  Lucie is also seen regularly on the BBC Sky at Night  and has in the past  given  talks to  Crawley Astronomical Society.  Once again sketches by Thomas Harriot  also featured in the  beginning of  her talk.  The Subject of  her talk was The Sun.  Our daytime star is a complex structure and only now  with the aid of  modern Space borne  observations of it dynamics are we starting to understand   its workings . The  Earth, all the Planets, Kuiper Belt objects and beyond all lie  within the influence of the Sun’s Atmosphere  and only  now  are the Voyager probes which were launched in August 1977  reaching  its very edge.  Solar research with instruments on board the Hinode, SOHO, Stereo and Solar Dynamic Explorer missions are probing the Sun’s Photosphere, Corona, Sunspots, Subsurface activity and importantly Magnetic Fields along with Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections.  Our Sun is dynamic and subject to sudden outbursts of activity which have the potential to adversely affect our modern lives.  To this end Solar activity is now listed by the U.K. Government as a hazard to be considered as much as terrestrial Floods and Storms! The final image show was a composite of pictures returned by the missions mentioned above which combined showed the near solar environment with the Earth encased in the Solar wind.

Then the recess for lunch; and as we all emerged in to the light we were greeted by hot sunshine giving the opportunity for some solar viewing through Solar Scopes supplied by Adur A.S.  This gave us the chance to do some live, hands on viewing of Professor Green’s favourite subject The Sun.  (See the attached photograph of Professor Green checking for solar Prominences and Sun Spots).

The Lunch break also gave us additional time to view and purchase Astronomical items on the Trade stand of  365 Astronomy and also get useful information  regarding the  suitability and use of specific equipment for  various Astronomical observations.  365 Astronomy operates from Worthing  with an extensive on line catalogue. In the near future they are hoping to have a show room built in which to display their merchandise.

Through the good offices of George Hurrion the Barn Cafe was opened for our use with Tea, Sandwiches and Cakes being available. The Cafe is not usually open over weekends but George had asked his daughter who runs it during week days to kindly man it herself for our convenience. This was very much appreciated and was a very kind gesture.

The first talk of the afternoon was by Melanie Davies, Space Science Communicator.  The subject of her talk, Molecular Clouds, large, medium and small.  These the stellar nurseries where new stars are created as the clouds pass through the spiral arms of Galaxies. The process of creation may last as little as 10 million years before the material is either compressed into new Stars or dissipated into the interstellar  medium. The talk was a little shorter than the previous  ones which us  gave time for a group photograph to be  obtained  upon the lawn of the Barn Theatre.

The penultimate talk was by Dr Kathy Romer, Reader in Astrophysics, University of Sussex. Dr Romer’s subject was Dark Energy, Dark Matter.           Dr Romer started her talk by showing us the first Telescope she used.  This was a huge Instrument perched high in the Andes which she used to peer far across the cosmos at Galaxies who’s light had taken Billions of years to reach her Camera’s detectors.  Her talk sparked some very probing questions from the audience.  Why was the Universe expanding at different rates in the past and the inconstant Hubble Constant.  The conclusion to the talk is that we have a long way to go before we can answer all the questions that Cosmology poses.

Dr David Whitehouse was the final speaker of the day.  Dr Whitehouse is a Science Broadcaster and Writer and a frequent speaker at meetings of SAGAS Societies.  Dr Whitehouse had entitled his talk Snowflakes and Supernova. Surprisingly his talk started with an image of a Woman’s head carved in Ivory  reputed to have been sculpted 50,000.years ago.  The carving showed an unusual deformity above one eye which had subsequently enabled a link to be made  to a group of skeletons found interred in a cave in a rock face very close to where the Ivory carving had been found. This was an unusual start to an Astronomical talk but  was illustrating the time  when the human race had started to  recognise the wider  universe as was illustrated by a following  image of another contemporary  ivory object that  it had been conjectured was a rudimentary Lunar Calendar.  Dr Whitehouse then went on to describe the rudimentary beginnings of Radio Astronomy and his days at Cambridge as a research Student. Then forward to today’s Radio Telescopes and the planned  developments which were  where the new research into the Cosmos would be concentrated.

The event ended with it being agreed that the SAGAS Summer Convention had  again been a resounding success.

N Morrison. 18/07/2016 (Photos : T Questa and W Bottaci)).

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