ASE logo The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh


No 53 - July 2007

Two BAA meetings in Scotland

BAA Variable Star Section met in Edinburgh

On 2007-05-05 the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh hosted the meeting of the Variable Star Section of the British Astronomical Association. The local organiser was our President, Des Loughney, who is also Eclipsing Binary Secretary of the BAA Section. Due to the state of the Calton Hill Observatory, the meeting was held at the Royal Observatory instead.

About 50 people attended, members of the BAA Section as well as members of ASE. After a brief welcome by Dr Andy Longmore on behalf of ROE, proceedings began with a talk by Dr Mike Hawkins, also from the ROE, about "Dark matter - the hidden universe". Although not visible directly, there is a variety of evidence for it, beginning with the flat rotation curves of galaxies to the gravitational lensing by galaxy clusters. Variable star observers might have been particularly interested in microlensing, where the passage of a compact dark matter object in front of a star can briefly enhance the brightness of the star.

There followed an inspiring talk by Stan Waterman, "A study of some GCVS and NSV stars in Cygnus". He has been imaging repeatedly two patches of sky of a few square degrees, naturally finding all sorts of variable stars. "Repeatedly" here means many times per night and for several years now. As Andy Cameron pointed out, the methodology and equipment was not all that different from what they use in the SuperWASP project to find planets.

After a buffet lunch most attendees took the opportunity and joined the tour of the Royal Observatory. Some recounted fond memories in the dome of the 36-inch Cassegrain - the East Tower of the observatory. At the opposite end - both of the site and the history of ROE - we were shown cutting edge technology in the form of the SCUBA 2 sub-millimetre camera that is in the final stages of construction and will be shipped to the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii later this year.

The afternoon programme kicked off with Professor Andrew Cameron of St. Andrews University with his talk "Sizing up extrasolar planets with small telescopes". The SuperWASP cameras are two arrays of off the shelf telephoto lenses with state of the art CCD detectors. Repeated observations return light curves for very many stars, and the challenge is to reduce the data to find the light curves that might betray a planet transiting its star. Typically these would be dips in brightness of 2 to 3 hours' duration and one or two percent depth.

The break for refreshments gave opportunity to study the posters that had been brought along by Section members.

Dr Martin Hendry of Glasgow University then spoke on "Gravitational microlensing - nature's telescope", complementing Dr Hawkins' talk in the morning. His research is into the use of graviational lenses to tell us more not so much about the mass doing the lensing, but about the background object being lensed.

The programme was rounded off by contributions by Melvyn Taylor on binocular observation of variable stars, by John Toone on the international effort to improve comparison star sequences (as drawn into the charts from the BAA, AAVSO etc.), and by Andy Wilson about several aspects of submission, analysis and archival of variable star observations by BAA Section members. Proceedings concluded with the closing remarks by Roger Pickard, Director of the Section.

This was the first meeting of the Variable Star Section in Scotland, and thanks go to Des Loughney and the staff of the ROE Visitor Centre and of the Astronomy Technology Centre for making it happen. And, naturally, to the BAA Section for holding the meeting here and to attendees for coming along.

BAA Out of London Meeting in Glasgow

The British Astronomical Association will hold this year's Out of London Meeting on the weekend of 2007-08-31 to -09-02. This will be hosted by the Astronomical Society of Glasgow. The programme and cost are shown on the booking form, which you can download in PDF format from the ASG website. Go to and follow the hyperlink "News".

The meeting begins on the Friday evening, 2007-08-31, with a Civic Reception and talks by Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, and by Dr David Clarke. The main programme takes place on Saturday, 2007-09-01, at Strathclyde University, with a comprehensive line-up of talks on deep sky matters as well as time on the Faulkes Telescope in Hawaii. After dinner there will be an evening visit to Glasgow University's Acre Road Observatory. The meeting concludes on Sunday morning, 2007-09-02, with a visit to Glasgow Science Centre, including a planetarium show.

The local organiser of the meeting is Eric Tomney, who can be reached by email on < baaweekend @ >. The completed booking form with payment should be sent to the BAA at their London address (given on the form) by 2007-08-10.


Horst Meyerdierks


Cover page

Solar observing

More on cooling the Earth

Minor planet (7170) Livesey

Recent observations


Two BAA meetings in Scotland

Glen Lyon weekend 16-18 March 2007

Forthcoming events

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