At the end of March, my two-year term as the first lady president of the ASE will come to an end. It has been a very enjoyable and rewarding time, which has seen quite a few changes in the Society.
When I first took on the role, I was asked the question "What do you hope to achieve during your term as President?" It was such an obvious question, but one to which I had given little thought! However, the realisation struck that this presented an opportunity to change things about the Society that I felt could be better. For example, there seemed to be little within a society whose members are drawn together with a common interest in astronomy for a hands-on practical approach. There were no co-ordinated group activities for practical observers, the emphasis instead tending towards the lecture meetings. In answer to this shortcoming, now we have set up two observing groups, which, although still in their infancy, enjoy good support and provide a focal point (if you will pardon the pun!) for the members. These groups contain sufficient enthusiasts to provide advice and guidance for new members of the Society who wish to learn the basics of good observational and imaging technique.
Do you have a vision for the future of the ASE? If you would like to see your ideas and visions implemented, why not join the Council of the Society. The only qualification for standing is that you have to have been an ordinary member of the Society for one year. Speak to the Secretary of the Society, Graham Rule, and he will tell you how to apply.
This year has been quite eventful. Various interest groups have been shown around the Observatory and we took part in the "Doors Open Day", which saw an estimated 400-500 visitors come to look around. We also hosted the prestigious BAA Aurora Section Meeting, which was organised by Ron Livesey, Director of the Section. This meeting was very successful and, judging by the letters received, was enjoyed by all the participants. We had hoped that the new solar telescope, which we currently have on order, would have arrived in time for the meeting, but sadly, no! The solar telescope is our first major outlay on equipment for some years and we hope that good use will be made of this exciting new instrument. The question off when the solar telescope can be used has been asked on several occasions. The answer is that during the summer months when daylight limits the amount of time for observing anything other than the Sun or the Moon, the solar telescope will keep the interest in astronomy alive. Perhaps you would like to start up a project monitoring and recording sunspot activity and relating the results to auroral activity. In another application, at a time when we often show groups around the observatory during the day, the solar telescope would be ideal to show visitors some stunning views of the sun. It also presents the opportunity to explain that this telescope is a dedicated instrument for observing the Sun and that no other telescope should ever be used for direct viewing. To this effect, we are having multilingual notices printed.
The Society will face many changes in the future, not least because of the proposed expansion and development of the ROE Visitor Centre. The ASE is our society the success of which is the responsibility of all its members. For it to thrive we need people with ideas, drive and enthusiasm to lead the way forward and inspire the next generation of amateur astronomers.
Finally my sincere thanks for the enthusiastic backing from members of the Society and the unstinting support of the Council members during my presidency.