Welcome to Edition 40 of the Society's Journal. We have to thank Dave Gavine for editing this edition - and the other 39! Unfortunately, Dave has great difficulty in getting members to contribute articles so please consider writing about your astronomical interests whatever they might be - from reviews of books you have enjoyed to observations you have made.
We have had quite a good year what with the eclipse and the Leonids - although the weather could have been a little more helpful for both these events. Charlie Gleed and Jim Douglas have continued to work on the Earlyburn site and we hope to start using it in the evenings soon - weather permitting.
Recently the Observatory has featured in a BBC Scotland TV series in which Brian Kelly (formerly Dundee's City Astronomer) may be seen sitting on the roof of the Playfair Building in a pink inflatable plastic arm-chair talking about aspects of astronomy. The BBC's generosity extended to a very nice financial donation - and the inflatable chair which is now in the library!
Your Council has been concerned about the cost of running the Observatory. This year we have received bills for £1,000 in rates and £1,800 for water rates. Jim Nisbet complained about these bills to the City and the Water authority and Graham Rule raised the matter at the Calton Hill Advisory Group and it now seems likely that we will be able to reduce the water rates by having a meter installed and get a rebate on our rates.
There have been a number of groups at the Observatory with some Cubs and a group from Peebles Baptist Church both being lucky enough to have clear nights. If you are involved with other organisations perhaps you could interest them in a visit to the Observatory. Get in touch with Graham Rule or myself to discuss the arrangements. We can also give talks elsewhere. Jim Nisbet, Graham and myself spoke to a group at Vogrie Country Park and Graham gave a talk on the history of our Observatory to Morningside Heritage Association.
The event organised by "Tam the Gun" took place at the Hill as mentioned in the last Journal although the Gun itself was not fired from the hill. However there is an older time signal in Edinburgh. The time ball was installed at the Nelson Monument nearly 10 years before the one o'clock gun was set up. The U.S. Naval Observatory is encouraging cities around the world that still have working time balls to drop them at midnight on 31st December and Graham hopes to do the necessary to include Edinburgh in this world-wide celebration of this form of time signal. Charles Piazzi Smyth set up the time ball in 1852 and Graham's dedication to the historical heritage of the Calton Hill is such that he is willing to spend his hogmanay at the top of the Nelson Monument - keep an eye out and make sure his watch is accurate!Whether you are an active or armchair astronomer, or mixture of both I hope you will find that the Society's programme of events and activities has something for everyone. We are always open to suggestions - let any of the Council members know if you have any ideas for future events or activities.
Remember that the Society is open every Friday night and if the sky is clear members can use the telescopes for observing. Views of Jupiter and Saturn through the telescope are particularly impressive in the evening sky this winter. The Society is purchasing a new set of eyepieces to supplement the meagre two currently owned.
Even if the sky isn't clear please consider coming along for chat with other members about astronomy (or anything else for that matter). May I wish all of you a good festive season. I look forward to seeing you in the new year.