News : Astronomy Night Hand Out
28th November 2023
As promised, here's the hand out from last weekend's Astronomy Night. At 28 Mb, it's quite large but it's packed full of hints and tips for getting into astronomy.
News : Astronomy Night
28th November 2023
A lot of excellent photos have appeared following Saturday's astronomy night for the Freemen of Newcastle. I'll add a few to the gallery over the next few days though the bulk are on the Freemen of Newcastle's Facebook profile.
Looking back, I'm genuinely surprised by the turnout given that it was so incredibly cold, more so because Newcastle had just beaten Chelsea 4-1. :)
News : Astronomy Night
27th November 2023
Saturday night's talk for the Freemen of Newcastle was a success. The weather was kind to us and those attending were treated to views of The Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and The Space Station.
At the conclusion, the feedback was superb and, from the overall response, I think it likely that another talk will go ahead sometime in the near future.
This was Freya's first astronomy talk, which she enjoyed a lot but, she felt, would have been improved if I'd added a small section on Peppa Pig because she likes astronomy, too. Apparently.
Other news... Episode 4 of The Great Geordie Space Race is presently airing on Radio Northumberland. We've changed the format a little and rather than concentrate on just one topic, we now feature pieces on Jupiter and her Moons, The Aurora and the launch of Starship 2.
Check it out on Radio Northumberland or ask Alexa to find it for you.
News : Lecturing News
21st November 2023
This has not been an easy month. The Great Geordie Space Race is still on hold whilst we sort out our production schedules. My talk for Cosmology Night has been postponed until next year and... well... this.
"To err is human, to forgive divine" is a quote from Alexander Pope's poem, An Essay on Criticism. I didn’t know that. I honestly thought it was one of Shakespeare’s. I looked it up just to be sure because I didn’t want to give a false attribution. I didn’t want to make a mistake.
I make mistakes all the time. I honestly thought that building a Log Cabin in the back garden would take no more than a long weekend, maybe a couple of additional days to fit the thing out properly and give it a lick of paint. Three months on and... It’s got a roof and the roof is watertight but I’m nowhere near finishing the shingles. The floor? Don’t ask me about the floor. Yuk.
So, yeah. We all make mistakes.
I’ve found that the best way to deal with a mistake is to take responsibility for whatever you did that was wrong, and try to correct that error. In other words, own it. I also firmly believe that you should be wholly honest and own up to your mistake. And if your mistake has hurt someone or caused offence then you must absolutely try to make amends.
That’s just me though. Call me old school if you want.
What’s the point of this missive?
I was booked to deliver a talk on Jeremiah Dixon at a local history society on Tuesday 14th November 2023. I had the invitation in black and white. From their Secretary. The date was in the Subject Line of the e-mail. Simple.
Then a new Secretary took over.
I should have spotted the signs earlier, really. The Red Warning Light was already flashing when they declined to pay my full fee. They could only afford £40, which meant that once I’ve deducted the cost of petrol (£10) and using the Tyne Tunnel (£4) then I would earn just £26 for three hours of work. That’s less than £9 an hour. Hence the Red Flag.
What went wrong?
The date of the meeting was actually Monday 13th November. Their Secretary had made a mistake. Well, both secretaries actually since the second didn’t correct the first.
An e-mail from the society's Secretary arrived at roughly 9 pm on Monday night. Is everything okay?
Well, yes. Everything was okay because I wasn’t supposed to be there until the following day. I found a copy of the original booking. Tuesday 14th November in plain, old black and white.
I kept my response cool. I kept my response polite. I included the original e-mail confirmation and pressed Send.
A day went by and... no response.
I messaged their Chairman. Do you want to re-schedule?
A week has gone by. Still no response.
I guess that’s the measure of their organisation. Careless. Rude. Unprofessional. Needless to say, we won’t reschedule the talk. We won’t have anything to do with them again. I’ve already circulated their details to my small circle of speaker friends on the grounds that it might save someone a bit of time and money.
In context, this is the first time in twenty years of Public engagement that something like this has happened.
What it means is that we’re going to double-up on making sure that bookings are arranged properly. A confirmation e-mail will become a binding contract. Tough but this mistake has cost me time and money, and I can’t afford to treat either of those assets so casually. Not these days, anyway.
News : The Great Geordie Space Race
16th October 2023
We're sad to report that The Great Geordie Space Race is on hold at the moment whilst we sort out our schedules following a recent bereavement in the family.
We should have the new show ready by the end of October.
News : Lecturing Programme and The Great Geordie Space Race
15th October 2023
Two new additions to the Winter lecture programme with a visit to Cosmology Night @ Earnest, Shieldfield, Newcastle on November 29th and an Astronomy Night with the Freemen of Newcastle in November.
The full programme looks like this:
|20-Oct-23||Jeremiah Dixon||Brancepeth Archives|
|10-Nov-23||Thomas Wright||Bishop Auckland U3A|
|25-Nov-23||Astronomy Night||Freemen of Newcastle, Moor Bank Lodge, Newcastle|
|23-Jan-24||Thomas Wright||Spennymoor Probus, Spennymoor|
|23-Mar-24||Thomas Wright||Crook History Society, Crook|
The third edition of The Great Geordie Space Race, Radio Northumberland's show dedicated to all things astronomical and astrophysical, and presented by yours truly, is now playing at various times. The page now features an archive of past shows.
The Blog has been removed but only temporarily. It will return very shortly with new content. In addition, some of the older (slightly contentious) entries will be restored.
News : Lecturing Programme (Update)
5th June 2023
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip down to Bishop Auckland Astronomical Society last Friday. What a smashing little society! And a gorgeous venue, too!
With that talk out of the way, that's me done until October. Alas, the July and September sessions outlined below haven't come to anything so... I can kick back for the rest of the summer, eh?
Not a chance. We're just about to kick-start another astronomy project, The Great Geordie Space Race, which is our new montly, hour-long programme to be broadcast on Radio Northumberland in the coming weeks. The show will be a mix of astronomy news and views, interviews, guest presenters and, of course, music, a local version of The Sky at Night. Local astronomers for local astronomy!
Watch this space for further details. We're kinda thrilled.
News : Theft
27th September 2022
For the second time this year, we've been the victim of a petty theft whilst out lecturing. In both instances, one of our projectors was stolen.
Not long ago, we felt blessed. We had four projectors - two were gifted to us and one was rescued from a skip - so we had plenty of spare capacity in case one of them went POP, which they do from time to time.
Alas, one projector failed catastrophically when the bulb blew mid-talk and we were down to three. Then one of our BIG Panasonic projectors was stolen earlier this year just as we finished a fairly local talk - somebody just picked it up and walked off with it. It may still turn up but I'm not optimistic.
Last night, the Chair noted that there were a lot of new faces in the crowd. I really should have twigged at this point and I kick myself for being too trusting. I really do but, you know, this is just a small talk in front of a largely mature, middle aged audience. You just don't imagine for a second that there's a bloody thief in the room.
Talk about bare-faced cheek. I'd finished the talk, taken a few questions and settled down to relax, job done. The crowd dispersed and, as the room was being cleared, one of the organisers saw our projector sitting on a table next to our other stuff so we know it was there at some point. He turned away to deal with something else and, looking back, noticed that unit had gone. He logically assumed I'd picked it up. I logically assumed that Julie had picked it up. It was only when we were putting our stuff back into the car that we noticed that the little Panasonic projector wasn't where it should have been.
I came away shocked. Shocked and disgusted, and it took me two days to calm down.
Thankfully, my friends helped out and, within a day, we had an offer of a replacement. Thanks, Keith Newman. You're a star.
News : Lecturing Programme
31st August 2022
The Lecture programme continues to evolve following the end of Corona Virus restrictions. Autumn 2023 is now looking quite busy. The proposed Winter Series of talks hasn't come to anything yet but will probably become a Spring Series instead.
The above image is NGC265, a spiral galaxy in Sculptor photographed on 31st August 2022 using a 20 inch CDK via the iTelescope service.
Professor David W. Hughes
23rd July 2022
We were deeply saddened to learn of the recent death of astronomer (and name-sake) Professor David W. Hughes (1941–2022). David was professor of Astronomy at the University of Sheffield and published over 200 research papers on asteroids, comets, meteorites and meteoroids. He wrote on the history of astronomy and the origin of the Solar System although he is perhaps best remembered for his work on the origin of the Star of Bethlehem.
I am acutely aware that many visitors to this site were actually looking for David and were perhaps disappointed to find that I am not he.
I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Hughes way back in 2002 when he lectured at Newcastle University on the origin of the Christmas Star (a probable triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn), and it was his kind words and encouragement that kicked off my own research into the origins of another Biblical Event, namely Joshua's Longest Day. The evidence strongly suggests that Joshua (if he existed) timed the battle to coincide with a Solar Eclipse, which confounded and confused his enemies to the extent that, fearing a right kicking from God Almighty, they fled the field and Joshua won the day.