We opened our programme for 2022 with a return to on – line meetings as a protective measure due to the prevalence of the new Omicron strain of Coronavirus.

We had a good audience on Zoom as well as through our YouTube channel, with members and visitors enjoying a fascinating talk by Rebeka Higgitt of National Museums Scotland, on “Nevil Maskelyne and the global projects of 18th-century astronomy”.

We learned of the enormous contribution of Nevil Maskelyne who rose from relative obscurity to become Astronomer Royal for 46 years at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. As Rebekah pointed out, the position of Astronomer Royal was more about refining the measurement of astronomical phenomena than simply stargazing.

These improvements in measurement, techniques and instruments were all directed towards the great projects of the 18th Century – establishing distance in the Solar System and in the Universe through parallax, finding longitude at sea and establishing the shape and size of the Earth. Of course the pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake also played a part.

A gifted observer and mathematician, Maskelyne was a driving force in the great expeditions to observe the transit of Venus from different points on Earth and in the operations of the Board of Longitude, which had such a profound legacy for accurate navigation at sea and the birth of Britain as a great maritime power. His own regularly published “Greenwich Observations” and “Nautical Almanac” were in themselves a tremendous practical contribution by science to the daily life of the nation.

Alan Pickup followed the main talk, giving his usual expert insights into “The Sky in January”. This presentation is a really indispensable opener for the month, alerting us to the major events, sights and opportunities for photography and observation in the night sky during the coming month.

After this, our own Will Joy took us through the results of his Meteor “Right” and Meteor “Wrong” competition in which he had asked members to correctly identify meteorite samples he had shown in his presentation from last year.

Objects 4 and 1 were meteors.

And finally, our President took us through the 14 entries for our newest feature, the Image of the Quarter”, and announced the winner of the first competition – Fran Goodman, who won with her evocative night scape entitled “The Hunter Rises”. As Mark commented, Fran’s image of the constellation of Orion rising above the tree line, really captured the wonder of the night sky, which is why we all do what we do.

You can see all the entries in this PDF document

Nigel Goodman