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BAA Journal 2017 October

From the President

Journal issue: 2017 October
Pages: 251–252

I write this following a most enjoyable BAA weekend at Chester. We were treated to an excellent line-up of talks and a fascinating visit to the OpTIC Technology Centre at St Asaph in North Wales to learn how advanced telescope optics are manufactured there. Many thanks to Hazel Collett for arranging the weekend, together with the local organising committee from Chester AS comprising Andrew Bate, John Ebo, Martin Robinson and Richard Sargent, supported by other Society members who helped out on the day.

It’s been a busy few months for many members. The solar eclipse of August 21 was enjoyed by large numbers in the USA as you will see from some of the pictures elsewhere in this Journal. Some even managed to catch the last moments from the UK near sunset. My observing station was the tower of the village church, hoping that the extra altitude would get me above local obstructions and give me a few moments longer. I did catch a few glimpses of the tiny 3% obscuration between clouds, and I wonder if I was the first person to observe an eclipse from that vantage point since the tower was built in 1320.

Do have a look at the pictures people have uploaded to their BAA Member’s pages. It was also interesting to see that members took advantage of being in some of the darkest spots in the US to see the night sky, as shown in the stunning image on the cover of this Journal of the Milky Way over Utah by Pete Lawrence. The Perseids also put on a good show – Steve Knight captured a beautiful scene at the Rollright Stones on the borders of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, with a meteor passing overhead.

AGM and the Christmas meeting
I hope many of you will be able to attend our AGM on October 25. As well as the Review of the Year and my Presidential Address, the results of the ballot for the Board of Trustees and Council will be announced. More details about the Association’s activity this past year are included in the Council report that appears in this Journal: please do take a few moments to review the extent of the activity undertaken by, and on behalf of, our members. And if you have not yet sent in your vote for the Trustees and Council for the next session, please do so right away – the deadline is October 13, so you still have time.

Looking slightly further ahead, the BAA Christmas Lecture will be given by Prof Martin Barstow, Leicester University, on ‘The Hubble Space Telescope and future large space observatories’ on the afternoon of Saturday December 9. Anticipating a large turnout, we’ll be holding the meeting in the Lucas Lecture Theatre at King’s College London, located on the Strand. Do book your place early to avoid disappointment. I am most grateful to Prof Peter Main, Head of the Dept of Physics at King’s College for facilitating this, and to our sister organisation, the Institute of Physics, for helping to sponsor the event.

Earlier this year I was invited to meet the IoP Chief Executive, Prof Paul Hardaker, and his team at their central London HQ. In addition to their generous sponsorship, the IoP has provided educational material for the BAA stand at New Scientist Live, as well as promoting some BAA events in their publications. The IoP and the BAA have several objectives in common regarding public engagement in science, and the two organisations plan to cooperate further in the future.

In between these two events, the Historical Section meets at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, in central Birmingham, on Saturday November 25. The keynote speaker will be Dr Allan Chapman and the theme of the meeting is ‘Nineteenth-century astronomy’.

The BAA: a community of amateur astronomers
One of the areas to which I have paid particular attention during my Presidency is the Association’s online presence. Our website is one of the main faces of the BAA to the outside world – and for many members who are unable to attend meetings regularly, it is one of the chief ways of interacting with the Association. The vision of the BAA website operations team is that it should be a vehicle for fostering a greater sense of community amongst members. We hope that the BAA observing community pages (https://britastro.org/community) go some way to achieving this. They include our active discussion Forum and the BAA Members’ Pages - I’m delighted to see that we have 135 Members’ Pages live at the time of writing, with a noticeable flurry of new pages coinciding with the eclipse.

I really enjoy seeing the work done by our members and I know many others do too. We are also keeping the website updated with all sorts of content, including news articles with a unique BAA take on recent events, Observer’s Challenges and Tutorials, so do keep coming back to the website to view new content. Many thanks to everyone who contribute to the website by writing articles, posting to the Forum or sharing observations – this all contributes to developing our community of amateur astronomers.

Your new President
The AGM brings my Presidency to a close and it is with some sadness I write this final column. I cannot believe how quickly the two years have passed and I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of it. The most pleasurable aspect has been meeting with members far and wide, learning about what interests them in astronomy and how the Association can help them get the most out of their hobby. I have also enjoyed representing the Association at events at home and abroad, which has reinforced in my mind how much the BAA is admired and respected as one of the world’s leading astronomical groups.

Your new President, Callum Potter, will be known to many of you as Director of the Deep Sky Section, a role which he will retain whilst serving as President. He brings with him a wealth of experience, having served on Council for many years, and also been our website manager, as well as being President of the Federation of Astronomical Societies. He also contributes a regular column to Astronomy Now magazine.

Like many of us, Callum is foremost an observer and if there is one piece of advice that I can pass onto him, having received it and attempted to follow it myself, it is to continue to do as much observing as you possibly can whilst President. After all, it is observing that has kept our Association at the forefront of amateur astronomy for the past 127 years.
I am sure that Callum can look forward to the full support of members as he takes the helm. I hope he will enjoy being your President as much as I have!

Jeremy Shears, President