Astronomical Society of Edinburgh
Journal 40

The Scottish Astronomy Weekend 1999

The annual Scotttish Astronomy Weekend was held at Belmont Hall of Dundee University on September 10-12. Although it was the 13th such event the Fates were kind and It all went very well. Dundee has become the favourite venue for a number of reasons - Belmont Hall offers a superior level of facilities and catering, the city has much to offer in visitor attractions and of course there is the unique Mills Observatory. This year it was almost an Edinburgh Weekend: our 16 ASE members out of a total complement of 50 outnumbered those from all the other Scottish societies put together. Even Dundee itself was not well represented, and there were only two people from the west of Scotland. It is not a healthy situation and does not augur well for future events.

Dr Andrew Collier Cameron, senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews, described the search for planets going round some of the nearer stars, by the detection of small Doppler shifts in their spectra. His animated computer graphics were much admired. This was followed by a pleasant evening reception at the Mills Observatory, laid on by the Friends of the Observatory, and some viewing was possible in a reasonable sky with the 10-inch Cooke refractor. Sadly, this was Brian Kelly's last official duty there as City Astronomer, he is moving on to a new career and we wish him well.

Saturday had talks by Ron Livesey on the nature of lunar soil, Brian Kelly on the forthcoming, and possible Leonid meteor storm, Dr Michael Gadsden on the detection of Noctilucent and Polar Mesosphere clouds by the examination of the sections of atmosphere around the Earth's limb, as imaged by meteorological satellites, and Graham Rule spoke on Astronomy on the Internet. The staff at Belmont Hall obligingly helped Graham to set up a telephone link from their office to the lecture room so he was able to call up his own computer in Edinburgh and display, with the projection system, examples from the vast range of data, amateur and professional, available on the Web.

Scottish Astronomy Weekend delegates at the Renaissance Sundial at Glamis Castle. They include (L-R) Adrea and Iain Scott, Dave Gavine John Rostron, Alan Ellis, Maurice Frank, Ron Livesey and Jim Kidd. Storm Dunlop is on the right of the back row. Lorna McCalman took the photo.

In the afternoon some went off to explore the shops, museums or historic ships in the city while others went on a pleasant bus trip to Glamis Castle. Besides the tour of the sumptuous interior (but why do the so-called Ruling Classes have this obsession with killing animals?) the group had arranged to examine the magnificent polyhedral sundial in the grounds. This was made about 1670 and has 84 faces showing the time in various parts of the world. Too bad the sun didn't shine for us. Among our delegates were a few members of the British Association of Planetaria, who held a business meeting while the rest of us were on tour. In the evening our main guest speaker, Storm Dunlop, gave a very full and interesting account of the nature of variable stars and how amateurs can do useful work on them.

Sunday morning's session began with Dr Dave Gavine on the life and work of James Nasmyth then Jamie Shepherd spoke briefly on the nature of meteorites and invited the audience to handle specimens and study thin sections from his own extensive collection. A coffee break was followed by the final Members' Session, short contributions from the audience. Dr Sandy Mackenzie showed his latest astrophotography successes, Tony Hopwood described the "shock wave" effect detected by his particle collectors during the solar eclipse and New Moons, and the total eclipse chasers Iain Scott, Graham Young and Dr John Rostron described their adventures, successful and unsuccessful. Iain's slides of the totality from Bulgaria were particularly striking.

It is not yet certain where and when the next Scottish Weekend will be. Ayr has been suggested as a possible venue but we will let you know in good time.

Dave Gavine
(organiser on behalf of SAG)