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Pete Lawrence and his lecture on Summer Astronomy at The International Astronomy Show 2014

International Astronomy Show 2014

The International Astronomy Show 2014.  A 2 day weekend event to myself, subjected to death by Powerpoint on a series of astronomy related lectures and a line up of vendors selling all sorts of astronomical products, some with sky-high prices. More telescopes than you can shake a stick at.  You want a £32K telescope?  No problem.  Want a new mount, Barlow, eyepiece, filter, imaging setup, meteorite?  It’s getting hard to distinguish between need and want. I need a new Barlow, I need a new mount.  Credit Cards can really take a battering here.

It’s clear from this weekend’s event that there is money to be made in Astronomy, or at least it’s a rich man’s game (and in food at the canteen).  The number of flash cars in the car park is testament to this, no doubt a substitute for the size of their telescopes.  But at least its a chance to see the telescope beforehand instead of just ordering from the web without ever seeing your purchase until it arrives.  Some beautifully engineered instruments.  A Lunt solar scope puts my entry-level Coronado PST to shame with Takahashi and Williams Optics confirming that size does not always matter.  But for those who do subscribe to bigger is always better and suffer from aperture fever, you can’t go wrong with one of the many big fat dobsonian telescopes on offer.  Plenty of big bang per buck (see what i did there?….)

Me, I can’t spend a penny, getting married in less than 8 weeks, need every penny I can get.  A pity then that Dick Turpin runs the canteen at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre where the International Astronomy Show is being held.  A very poor stale sandwich and a cup of tea, £4.20. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask. To complete my weekend and add to the misery of being robbed for a cup of tea, I then lived an Alan Partridge style existence by stopping in a travel motel on the Saturday night.

I came here last year but only for one day.  The lecture room from last year was poor, so I was glad to see they used a marquee this year attached to the main building.  However on Saturday morning, in colloquial terms, it pissed it down, raining so hard that fist sized raindrops attempted to punch holes through the lecture marquee (this happens a lot when we go camping).  First lecture by Will Gater was nearly drowned out by the noise of the rain hammering the marquee.  To compound matters, in the afternoon the sun came out and in a light coloured tent, washed out the slides on the projector except the title presentation from The Sky At Night’s regular contributor, Pete Lawrence.

Talks included:

Saturday:

  • Will Gater: Alien worlds: the extraordinary inhabitants of the Milky Way. A talk on exoplanets, the increase in rate of detection and discovery of alien worlds especially from the Kepler spacecraft.
  • Kevin Nelson: The how and why of image calibration: Shedding light on CCD’s. Apart from learning how many dark frames I should take, the rest of it went over my head, probably everybody else’s too.  A bit too much in-depth on how CCD’s work.  Especially considering I’ve just done a course on Astrotech and CCD’s.  Then again he got his own company and manufactures quality CCD’s.
  • Nik Syzmanek: Nuts and Bolts of CCD Imaging: Introduction to Deep Sky Imaging. Another chance to get envious of his images and through the entire presentation wonder how much money he’s spent on imaging kit.
  • Pete Lawrence: Summer Astronomy.  A popular lecture, lots of people attending.  A pity we couldn’t see any slides as the sun was too bright but it was on summer astronomy and what to view, mainly the summer triangle asterism, already a favourite of mine.
  • Mark Thompson: Yeah Yeah Yeah I’ve seen that!  Unfortunately I do not have much recollection of this lecture as it was rather boring.  Something about astronomy being the only science that amateurs can still make meaningful contributions to.

Sunday:

  • Nick Howes: The Greatest Telescope on Earth.  A talk on the future of ground based and space telescopes, the Square Kilometre Array and the technical challenges involved in building it. Not that expensive when you put in context that its 3 days spending of military engagement in Afghanistan.
  • David Bryant: All About Meteorites.  A colourful character, an even more colourful waistcoat. To find meteorites I need to sweep the car park, the roof guttering and run a magnet through the remains.  If it’s spherical under a microscope, then its a  meteorite.  This shouldn’t be surprising as 300 tonnes of meteorite material fall to Earth every day.  I’ve seen Geoff and Steve from Meteorite Men dragging a large metal detector behind a truck…I’m doing that.  Money to be made in meteorites.
  • Nik Szymanek: The Travelling Astrophotographer.  Image envy again this time rubbing salt in the wounds of his exploits on top of La Palma, Tenerife, Hawaii etc.
  • Dr Lucie Green: Solar Max.  Started off by demonising the Daily Mail and its alarmist headlines. A talk on the what’s happening with the solar max and where we are in it.  I purchased a solar telescope for the solar max and then sunspots didn’t get as spotty at peak as predicted.  Turns out that the we’re in a mini maximum.
  • Mark Thompson: Behind The Scenes of TV Astronomy.  I skipped out of this one, it was hot in the marquee, been a long weekend and yesterday’s lecture was entirely forgettable so decided to forgo.

Links:

International Astronomy Show 2014 Official Site

Kepler search for habitable planets

Last year’s visit to International Astronomy Show 2013

Nick Cook

Amateur astronomer, space, history, nerd, extreme dog walker, cat slave, severe tinnitus sufferer. 13.7 billion years in the making - not that much better for it.

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