February’s talk

Wish You Were Here - For Astronomers

Illustrated talk given by Lillian Hobbs on Wednesday 18th February 2004

                Lillian Hobbs is an avid amateur astronomer with two domes in her garden and has recently bought a 14-inch Mead Catadioptic telescope.  She has also written a book called “The ETX telescope guide”

                As a member of the Southampton Astronomical Club, and working as a software engineer, Lillian presented her fascinating talk using computer graphics, stills and video-camera clips via a computer projector.

                Because of her work, she does a lot of world travelling, and has taken this opportunity to build up material during visits to observatories and space centres world wide.

                Lillian began her talk by taking us on a tour round the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, visiting various launch pads, the museum and the IMAX theatre.  Then she showed a video clip of the public observation area whilst preparing to observe a night-launch, only for it to be cancelled at 6 seconds from blast-off.  Having arranged to watch the next launch, that was also cancelled at nine minutes because of thunderstorms.  The metal bleachers became a hazard because of the electric storm.  Hilary Clinton was taken to safety, but everyone else had to wait before departing for her security!

                We next visited the Smithsonian Space Museum in Washington with its pioneering aircraft and early space exhibits.  Our next stop was at the Goddard Space Centre with a demonstration launch from the car park.

                Then across America to the Jet Propulsion Laboratories at Pasadena, where Lillian visited the Space Control Centre that had been used on a number of interplanetary missions.  In the museum were models of Voyager and Galileo and many other space satellites.  There was also a very impressive detailed globe of the surface of Venus.

                At 6,000 feet above sea level Lillian had visited the Mount Wilson Observatory with the 100-inch telescope and then to the 5,550 ft Mount Palomar observatory to see the 200-inch Hale telescope.  A sign outside warned of rattlesnakes!

In Arizona Lillian and her brother left Phoenix in Arizona in snow to take some stunning pictures of Monument Valley and Meteor Crater enduring temperatures of 90 degrees F.

                Above Flagstaff, Lillian spent a nostalgic visit to the Percival Lowell Observatory, where they were able to see in the library many measuring instruments and artefacts actually used by the astronomer himself.  At 7,000 feet, there was more snow, but she still managed to visit the 24 inch Clark refractor Telescope used by Lowell to study Mars around 1896.

Via Page damn and the Grand Canyon, Lillian took us to see Kitt Peak Observatory, with glimpses of the 4 metre telescope, the 2 metre telescope and the McMath solar telescope.  She then went on to meet and talk to Alan Bean, the Apollo 12 Lunar Module Commander at nearby Nova Graphics.

                At White Sands Testing Grounds, we were shown an impressive memorial window to Clyde Tombaugh who had discovered Pluto in 1930, and then a quick visit to Roswell UFO museum, a converted old cinema.  There were slides in another area of the moon buggy used by the astronauts for training but with pneumatic tyres.  Murray’s eye lit up as we passed the rusty base of a V2 rocket, and then past Wernher von Braun’s plane to the space centre where Lillian had a shuttle simulator all to herself!

                In the car park of the Almagordo National Space Hall, Lillian found two trailer-observatories.  She thought they may have been capable of housing either 12 or 16 inch reflecting telescopes.

                Lillian visited the Robert Goddard Workshop, which had been re-constructed to be as nearly as possible a replica of his original shop.  Lillian thought that this was the best museum she had ever seen; and it was free!  There was also a TV monitor continually showing personal recollections.

                Quickly, Lillian showed us pictures of her visit to the Sydney Observatory adjacent to the Harbour Bridge in Australia.  The observatory is now just a museum, but she found it worth a visit.  Then we were taken on a visited to Perth Observatory.  This was well out of Perth itself, and the skies were very black and clear.  The observatory consisted of quite a number of small domes housing mainly small telescopes.  She was shown one dome housing a 14-inch Celestron reflecting telescope.

                Lillian had attended the Annual Whirlpool Star Party at Birr in Ireland.  Here she was even able to look through a 5¼ inch eye-piece on the famous old Great Telescope tube, although at the time the telescope was in its lowest position; - and it was day-light!

                Lillian had also visited China.  When asked by members of her tour where her equipment was to view the eclipse, she realised that on that exact day, there was to be a partial eclipse of the sun.  She showed us the only photograph she had managed to take of the partially covered sun.

                Her final video was of a total eclipse of the sun, viewed from the little village of Lyndhurst in the Outback someway inland from Perth.  Normally a population of 20 turned to 20 thousand on the day.  The eclipse only lasted 15 seconds, but the video was good enough to see the corona and one or two prominences.

                It really was a tour guide for astronomers, and was well presented.

Duncan Goulding

                  Murray Barber sadly announced the death of Duncan Goulding, a well respected member of the Society, and gave a brief but interesting talk about his life.

                Duncan had been a very talented engineer.  He had been employed at Napier’s, working on the demanding lubrication systems of aircraft engines.  

Later he had worked on high intensity light sources as used in research of the cell structure. 

Murray related a time when he had been shown a device Duncan had worked on in research to predict the effect of a nuclear bomb.  It was a highly polished double-focus mirror which used a very high intensity pulsed zion light source.  The object was to see what the effect of a bomb dropped over Westminster might be.  It was discovered that clothes would be set alight even as far away as Tunbridge Wells.

Duncan maintained three exceptionally well equipped engineering workshops in his garden, one housing a computer-aided milling machine.

Murray went on to say what a privilege it had been to know Duncan, and all members that knew him readily agreed.


The Transit of Venus 2004

                Joan Grace produced some very interesting and detailed information about the June 8th Venus transit across the face of the sun.  Joan had downloaded the press release from the European Southern Observatory web site at www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2004/pr-03-04.html.  I have visited the site and found that the whole www.eso.org site is worth a visit.  There is also a lot of very detailed information about the VLT and much more.

                If you do visit the site and want to print out any of the pages, it is worth setting your printer to “Landscape” to prevent losing material to the right of the page.




      At the next meeting on Wednesday March 17th 2004, the speaker will be Dr. Robert Smith.  His talk is called "Extra Solar Planets".

      As usual, the meeting will be held in the Drama Studio at Uplands College.  The doors open at 7.15 and the meeting starts at 7.30 prompt.






           There will be Observing Sessions on the following Fridays:

19th March

23rd April

      The sessions meet at 7.30 pm in the Crow and Gate pub, about a mile south of Crowborough on the A26 main Uckfield road.  Then at 8.00 pm the group move onto Ashdown Forest with Sean’s and the Society’s telescopes and possibly others.

      Sean Tampsett suggests that interested members phone him between 6.00 pm and 7.00 pm to make sure the session is going ahead.



      We now have 42 paid-up members but 8 are still in hibernation.  It is possible that these members think they are paid up to date, so it may be worth looking at their last Society Receipt to see if it covers the current period.


      Some Society members wrote to their MP with regard to the Government's recent response to Light Pollution and will be delighted to hear that the Government has announced it is to introduce planning curbs on light pollution to preserve energy and protect the night sky, although this may not be published until the autumn.

      This will affect large lighting designs, but still will not address the many badly installed private security systems. 

Interestingly though, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is considering whether to make Light Pollution a statuary nuisance like pollution of other kinds.

Pressure from interested parties may be showing signs of paying off after all!




Chairman: Murray R. Barber        01892 654618


Treasurer: Ian Reeves                        01892 784255

Editor:        Geoff Rathbone           01959 524727


Publicity &

Web Site:  Michael Harte              01892 783292


Dir. of

Obs:    Sean Tampsett                       01892 667092