SAGAS Summer Convention 2017
Report by Neil Morrison
The SAGAS Summer Convention for 2017 was hosted by Hampshire Astronomical Group on the 15th July at Clanfield Memorial Hall, South Lane, Clanfield Hampshire.
The meeting was formally opened by Graham Bryant of Hampshire Astronomical Group introducing the theme of the Convention “Astronomical Research in Southern England”
The first speaker of the day was Dr Aru Beri, University of Southampton her Topic; Black Holes, If they are black why are they so bright? Starting by briefly reminding us of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity how Mass distorts Space and Time told and us that the first detection of a Black Hole was only made in 1971. This was Cygnus X1 which attracted attention as a very strong Radio and X- Ray source. Black holes can be detected by the radiation from the Accretion disc. Jets from their Poles and the X Rays from material at high energy. The energy emitted is variable and dependent upon the amount and temperature of the inflowing material. Not all X- Ray sources are Black holes, Neutron Stars are also X Ray sources although tiny with only a radius of 10km. A very informative talk which subsequently made me reflect upon a parallel talk given some years ago at the NightLife /SAGAS convention held at the Seaman’s Mission, Portsmouth by the late and very distinguished Prof. A Arp.
The second speaker for the morning was Dr Iacopo Vivarelli of Sussex University; his talk was titled Higgs Boson, A look beyond the media hype. The Large Hadron Collider is the tool for his research. This ring of magnets and complex electronics encompasses the coldest and hottest places in the Universe. The magnets which control the plasma are super cooled to a temperature below that of the Cosmic Microwave Background and when operating the point where the two opposing beams of particles meet reaches temperatures equal to that which is postulated to have occurred at the moment of the Big Bang! To press forward with more fundamental research the Large Hadron Collider is being upgraded to achieve higher powers. The final slides of the presentation were of the enormous Chambers within which the fleeting existence of the fragments created by the Large Hadron Collider are detected. This was a fascinating talk introducing us to smaller and smaller fragments of the structure of the Atom.
The Lunch break followed and those of us who had ordered Lunch beforehand enjoyed the expertly prepared Sandwiches provided by our hosts. Time was available to drive up to the site of Hampshire Astronomical Group’s Observatory. The Observatory consists of a Club House and five Domes secure behind high fencing. Each of the five Domes had a member of HAG in attendance to explain the History and workings of the instruments they contained.
The Telescopes on site range from the very modern to the most venerable. The modern a F7.9 Richey-Chretein Reflector, 16 and 12 inch Newtonians. A 7 inch Star Fire Refractor the bequest of the late Douglas Arnold and lastly the two venerable Refractors of 1860 and 1890 vintage. These latter instruments were enthusiastically and lovingly introduced to us by Peta who explained that despite their age they were as good as any modern instrument. New observers are trained using these Telescopes before being permitted access to the Modern computerised instruments. There was also a Solar Telescope on site but thick cloud prevented any observing.
Returning to Clanfield there was still a short period available for browsing the equipment on display by 365 Astronomy. Some trade was done as well as helpful advice being offered.
The afternoon session began with a talk by Richard Kacerek . UKMON: Meteor Science.
In the past seven years or so with the improvements in CCD Cameras using fast wide angle lenses there has been created a number of observing stations monitoring the sky for bright meteors. The systems in place are programmed to operate automatically during the hours of darkness capturing, hopefully, the trails of incoming meteors. Hampshire Astronomical Group is one such station. Most meteors burn up at an attitude between 100Km and 50km above the ground. If an object is captured by more than one station it’s track brightness and previous orbit can be calculated. Richard showed the audience several sequences of bright Fireballs that the System had captured. At present the faintest meteor that can be detected is of Magnitude +2. Monitoring meteors in this way seems a more comfortable than sitting out on a freezing December Night in the hope of seeing a Geminid!
Graham Bryant then gave us a summary of the recent science projects undertaken by Hampshire Astronomical Group.
In collaboration with Hampshire Astronomical Group students from the University of Portsmouth have undertaken studies of ; Near Earth Objects, Super Nova searches and confirmations of Super Nova , Transiting Exo- planets and Variable Star projects, Solar Prominence Studies also Spectroscopy using the 24 inch Telescope. Graham and other mentors have also personally helped review Student papers. In recognition of his work Graham has recently been awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Portsmouth University.
Our final speaker for the Convention was Dr David Bacon, of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth. His talk was titled, Probing the Dark Universe with a trio of extraordinary Instruments. Once again elusive and dark were the by words. Dark Matter and Dark energy mostly does not glow. To understand such phenomena a Dark Energy survey is being undertaken using instruments with the titles of LSST, Euclid and the Square Kilometre Array (the latter is a cluster of Radio antenna). Dark matter, Dr Bacon said may be a new type of matter which feels Gravity but is porous to Light. Dark matter and Galaxies appear to clump together at the same points in the WEB of the Universe. Work going on in the further construction of the Square Kilometre array and other developments will in time hopefully shed light upon Dark matter.
Following the final talk there was just time for a short presentation by Zoltan Trenovszki of 365 Astronomy of one of the latest products he was marketing. A sophisticated wireless link which enabled a telescope to be remotely controlled by computer.
With the concluding remarks and thanks the meeting finished just after 17.40.The convention was most enjoyable and everything was expertly organised by Graham Bryant and his team from Hampshire Astronomical Group. Congratulations and many thanks Graham for a superb Conference.
Photos: T Questa, Mike Maunder and Danny Thomas