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Past Events - 2019

WORK IN PROGRESS - We're a relatively small Group, but undertake lots of activities, so please bear with us while we try to keep these details up to date.

 

Public Moonwatch Event (12th Jan)

This event in Thurso failed to see the Moon due to cloud (& rain!), but the few that turned up were treated to some astro info, photos and videos. And there were hot drinks available from a make-shift CAG mobile unit....

 

Total Lunar Eclipse (21st Jan)

Several members were up during the night to witness a total eclipse of the Moon, producing a "Blood Red Wolf Supermoon".

Unfortunately a weather front arrived in Caithness just as the Moon became totally eclipsed....

.......but at least the first half of the eclipse was visible, rewarding those who were awake while most people were tucked up in bed.

 

Members Dark Skies Event (25th Jan)

Clouds prevented any observing, but indoors members got an update on the latest Space News and a talk by CAG Chairman to help celebrate a decade of CAG activities - “Adventures in Amateur Astronomy – 10 Years as Chairman of CAG”.

Iain Darby also ran through the what might be needed to construct a basic radio astronomy "telescope" using a satelite TV dish

 

Public Moonwatch Events (16th Feb)

This event held by separate CAG members in both Wick & Thurso allowed those on the eastern side of the county to view the Moon through a CAG telescope.

Whilst waiting for a gap in the clouds in Wick there was the chance for attending children to try their hand at launching (stomp) rockets and in Thurso where clouds prevented observing, hot chocolate was available whilst watching some moon related videos.

 

Annual General Meeting (23rd Feb)

The AGM was held on Saturday 23rd February in The Pentland Hotel, Thurso. The annual statement of accounts were accepted and the following office bearers and committee members were re-elected as part of the proceedings:

Chairperson: Gordon Mackie
Secretary: Keith Nicholson
Treasurer: Alan Gerrard

Other committee members: John Hilton, Dina Hilton, Angela Nicholson, Christian Wilhelm, Carole Whittaker & Mark Gibson
Membership for 2019 was set at £15 for adults and £25 for family membership (the same as last year).

The Chairman also pointed out that thanks were due to the Tesco Bags of Help scheme, the Dounreay Communities Fund and the Royal Society of Chemistry who all provided funding that will help CAG hold its public events and bring prominent guest speakers to the area during 2019.

 

Photo Outing - Moonrise at Keiss Castle (24th Feb)

A few CAG members took advantage of some clear skies and took a trip to Keiss Castle to await it being illuminated with moonlight....

 

Members Dark Skies Event (1st March)

At this members event Christian Wilhelm discussed some of the Open Source software currently available for use by amateur astronomers, and Gordon Mackie provided some "Astrophotography Basics" to those who own a tripod and camera capable of long exposures.

 

"KISSing the Moon" - Eric Walker (15th Mar)

As part of the Caithness Science Festival programme, Eric Walker from the Highlands Astronomical Society in Inverness, informed a packed venue of the simple techniques that can be used to observe and image the Moon....

He also talked about the ways in which he has used a 3-D printer to make adapters and other astronomically useful accessories.

 

"Peat Bog Iron and Martian Soils" - Prof Keith Nicholson (16th March)

As well as this talk by CAG member Keith Nicholson which looked at similarities between Martian rocks and soil, there was also a presentation on "Lunar Basics" - Gordon Mackie.

These talks took place at the RSPB Field Centre in Forsinard.

 

Caithness Science Festival Family Day​​​ at Wick High School (23 March)

 

Members Observing Evening (29th March)
Observing session plus "An Insight Into Type 1a Supernovae"​​​ (Iain Darby)...

....."Astrophotography Tips" (Maciej Winiarczyk)....

....including how, with a little know how, you can manipulate RAW images to make dramatic improvements as the before and after images below show....

& to finish off we found out "What Makes Sirius Twinkle" (John Hilton)....

As well as covering the science behind how atmospheric effects cause stars to twinkle in a miriad of colours, John described how you can generate your own abstract colourful star art with a DSLR and tripod.

 

Zodiacal Light at Strathy Point - Photo Outing (9th Apr)

A few members took advantage of some clear skies to venture to the fabulous dark location of Strathy Point with the intention of imaging the Milky Way and Zodiacal Light. They were treated to a bonus when the northern lights also made a brief appearance....

 

Public Moonwatch Event (12th April)
This public event was Moon related in celebration of the Apollo 11 moon landing taking place almost 50 years ago.

As well as the audience getting the opportunity to observe and photograph the moon through CAG telescopes at various points during the evening......

Below are images of the Moon taken by Gordon Mackie at the event....

There were also talks by CAG members Carole Whittaker on "Apollo Expeditions to the Moon".....

.....& "The Apollo Moon Landings - Debunking the Hoax Conspiracy Theory" by Mark Gibson......

So hopefully by the end of the evening attendees went home with no doubt that the Apollo moon landings did actually take place.

 

CAG Members Giving Talks Across Northern Scotland (1)

In May, CAG Chairman Gordon Mackie visited SIGMA Astronomy Club in Elgin to give an International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements linked talk on the formation of the elements in astronomical processes.....

He took along some samples of chemical elements and a selection of meteorites for attendees to examine....

 

Geological Field Trip to Stoer to See Asteroid Impact Evidence (May)

In advance of his visit to Caithness, a couple of CAG members joined Dr Mike Simms and the Highland Geological Society on a field trip to see some of the evidence supporting an ancient asteroid impact in northern Scotland 1.2 billion years ago.

The stunning scenery and fabulous weather made this fascinating field trip all the more enjoyable......

Dr Simms spent time at the Stac Fada complex at Stoer highlighting the evidence in the rocks supporting a massive impact in the northern Highlands. 

In the image below Dr Simms can be seen pointing out the presence of spallation ejecta in the Stac Fada rocks - which were blasted out from the impact site and crash landed, embedding into the ground many miles away,

Below CAG Member Jim Johnston can be seen standing beside a thick layer of the asteroid impact deposit.....

 

"In search of a giant impact crater in Scotland" - Dr Mike Simms (14th May)

Following the geology field trip to the Geopark in the NW of Scotland Dr Mike Simms​, Curator of Palaeontology at the National Museums Northern Ireland​​ made his way to Caithness to give a public talk about an ancient Asteroid Impact Event in northern Scotland. In one of the most interesting talks CAG have had, Dr Simms told the fascinating rock based scientific detective story where studies by numerous parties confirmed that a massive impact happened in the area 1.2 billion years ago.

He explained that the impact site is not clearly obvious due to geological processes dramatically changing the landscape since then, but that he has uncovered evidence he believes supports the impact crater being located in the part of the Earth's crust where the highland village of Lairg is. He did point out however that other scientific theories exist on where the impact site is located.

The above photo shows Dr Simms holding a chunk of rock from the Stoer coastline, which provided some of the crucial evidence that an asteroid impacted nearby 1.2 billion ago.

 

Highlighting Dark Sky Tourism Opportunities

From late spring into the early summer CAG members Gordon Mackie and Bill Eaves supported workshops being run by the Thurso Community Development Trust, to highlight that one of the many things the local area has to offer visitors is dark skies and stargazing opportunities...

The TDCT produced a number of online guides detailing what to see and do in the local area. Even if the skies are cloudy, or the northern lights don't make an appearance, Caithness and Sutherland still has plenty to offer visitors.

 

Members and Imaging Equipment Evening (14th June)

 

CAG Members Giving Talks Across Northern Scotland (2)

Maciej Wniarczyk gave a presentation for the Highlands Astronomical Society that has been in significant demand in recent years - imaging the night sky with a DSLR and tripod.

The above photo was taken by Maciej Winiarczyk

 

Orkney International Science Festival (7th Sept)

This year Christian Wilhelm and Iain Darby represented CAG at the Orkney International Science Festival. They had a busy time at the Family Fun Day.....

The above photos was taken by Iain Darby

 

“Charles Piazzi Smyth: The Man Who Was Proven Right” - Matjaz Vidmar (12th Sept)

Matjaz Vidmar based at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh spent the afternoon at Wick High School speaking to pupils about work in Scotland in support of astronomical research and developments in support of the Space Industry....

In the evening he gave a presentation about Charles Piazzi Smyth the second Astronomer Royal for Scotland, who made significant contributions in a number of areas including promoting locating observatories at altitude - something that is the standard approach these days.

After the talk those attending had the opportunity to observe the almost full Moon, Jupiter and Saturn through a CAG telescope....

 

“From Standing Stones to Blasting Rockets – Scotland is Off to Space!”​ - Matjaz Vidmar (13th Sept)

After spending the day at Farr Primary and High Schools, Matjaz Vidmar (ROE) joined CAG at the RSPB Field Centre in Forsinard where he talked about the role of Scottish astronomers over time where there is considerable involvement in astronomical research and the space industry...

The wonderfully dark skies that the local area has due to very low levels of light pollution were also highlighted.....

Unfortunately the weather was not suitable for venturing out to enjoy views of wonderful star filled skies at this event, but there was time the following day to visit a popular observing spot - the local RSPB Observation Tower, which was recently designated a Dark Sky Discovery Site......

 

Family Space Activities at Forsinard - CAG & M Vidmar (14th Sept)

Before ending his visit to Caithness and Sutherland Matjaz Vidmar was assisted by CAG at a family friendly event at the RSPB Field Centre where attending families learned about our solar system and the stars beyond through a variety of interactive activities....

 

Members Q&A Session with Prof Martin Hendry (3rd Oct)
Members were treated to an informal and very informative evening where Prof Hendry answered questions on a wide range of astronomy topics....

 

"An Astronomer’s Guide to the Periodic Table" - Prof Martin Hendry MBE (4th Oct)
In celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT 2019) Professor Martin Hendry MBE took those who had attended and filled the venue on a whistle-stop tour of the periodic table, and how its elements have helped us reveal the mysteries of the cosmos....

The above photo was taken by Maciej Winiarczyk

 

Clear skies also allowed some stargazing, including viewing of the Moon and Saturn through a CAG telescope....

The above photo was taken by Maciej Winiarczyk

School Visits - Prof Hendry

Whilst in the county CAG also arranged for Prof Hendry to visit Wick and Thurso High Schools where he gave an abbreviated version of his "Astronomers Guide to the Periodic Table" presentation to pupils studying Physics and Chemistry....

The last two images were taken by Duncan McLachlan (DSRL)

Video footage of the Thurso High School presentation was captured by Duncan McLachlan (DSRL) to enable it to be made widely available for STEM educational purposes.


Space Activities with Halkirk Guides (9th Oct)
CAG members (& STEM Ambassadors) Gordon Mackie and John Hilton paid a visit to the Halkirk Guides to carry out some space and astronomy related educational activities. Topics covered included telescopes, rockets, constellations and the Solar System.

 

"Astronomical Alchemy" - Gordon Mackie & Mike Lunan (1st Nov)

Despite the poor weather a healthy audience turned up for an evening an evening celebrating the Chemical Elements hosted by chemist and amateur astronomer Gordon Mackie and all round science enthusiast Mike Lunan. The evening started with an introduction to the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements and why 2019 was designated the International Year of the Periodic Table.....

Then the importance of the chemical elements in our everyday lives was illustrated by showing how most have at least one key role in modern living......

The presentation then outlined the cosmic origins of the chemical elements before finishing with a look at the astronomical significance of a small selection of them....

 

CAG Members Giving Talks Across Northern Scotland (3)

Chairman Gordon Mackie took a trip to Inverness to give a shortened version of the Astronomical Alchemy presentation for the Highlands Astronomical Society.....

Above photo of Gordon with a few members of HAS was taken by Donald Boyd (HAS)

 

 

Images shown are by Gordon Mackie unless otherwise specified

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