YorkAstro Planning Recommended for Refusal

The Orion Nebula, as viewed from the Green Belt in York.

We’d love to show you Astronomical views such as this Orion Nebula over winter, but it is looking possible that York Council may not let us.

Our Planning Application has had a recommendation for refusal by York Council’s Officers and the Planning Committee will meet this Thursday to decide on our application.

The York Press has written about it here and we’re getting a lot of strong support in their comments:


If anyone is able to comment in support of our move to Beetle Bank Open Farm, it would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s the Planning Officer’s report:


If you are able to help in any other way, don’t hesitate to contact us via email at info@yorkastro.org.uk

Bulletin – September 2018

It’s nearly here. The new season with so much to look forward to and challenges ahead

The 1000th Meeting!

After a lot of planning and some ups and downs, the YAS 1000th meeting will take place this coming Friday, 7th September at 19:00 . Don’t forget that, as a YAS member, you do not need a ticket but non members do and they can be obtained free of charge from St Peter’s.
There will be 4 short lectures showcasing the best of YAS and a free buffet. Enormous thanks to St Peter’s School for hosting this event for us.

Moving to Beetle Bank

The time for submitting comments about the planning application has now closed. We understand that the decision will be made by the City of York Council Planning Committee on September 13th. When we know the outcome there will be a special bulletin issued.

Once again, we are appealing for members with building or engineering skills to help with the move to Beetle Bank. If you would like to help in either an advisory or practical capacity, please contact us at a meeting or by email.

Membership Fees Due

Annual membership fee are now due. Following a resolution over a year ago, the 2018/19 fees have increased to £25.00 adult membership, £12.50 concessions (unwaged, over 60 or full time education) and under 16’s continue to be free.
Payment can be made by cash, cheque or card (PIN or contactless) at meetings or enquire by email. If you are a UK Taxpayer you could also GiftAid it. Forms available at meetings.

Rievaulx Terrace Event

September 15th sees a return visit to Rievaulx Terrace for a “Stargazing and Nature Walk Night” with the National Trust. Martin Whipp will be doing a talk and we have a couple of volunteers already. If you would like to help out (bring a scope or manage the crowds) please let us know ASAP here.

Knavesmire Star Parties

The first Knavesmire Star Party will be on Thursday 20th September. Come along to the Knavesmire for 19:00. Bring your scope. The next one will be on 18th October.

New Meetings Season

The first ‘normal’ meeting will be on Friday 21st September at Priory Street (usual start time 20:00) when Paul Money returns to educate and entertain us.

Forthcoming Event at Beetle Bank

We intend to hold a free event at Beetle Bank, currently entitled “A telescope is not just for Christmas” on November 17th. This is intended to guide prospective purchasers of telescopes either for themselves or as gifts. We will offer advice on what to look out for: the good and the bad, types of telescope, what they can realistically do and so on. We need your help if you are willing to bring your scope (beginner, mid range or advanced) and would be prepared to say a few words on why you chose the scope, what you use it for, what you see and how much it cost. We need three or four people to do this. We will also need several members to bring their scopes to show further examples and provide an opportunity to view the sky. Please get in touch ASAP by email so that the programme can be finalised and the event publicised.

Annual General Meeting (AGM)

The AGM will take place on October 5th 2018. At this meeting, the Annual Financial Report and the Trustees’ Annual Report will be presented for approval,
The meeting will also have the opportunity to vote for Trustees within the rules of the constitution. Three existing Trustees will be standing down and hopefully standing for re-election. There are also currently three vacancies. If you are interested in becoming a Trustee of YAS (with a term of three years) please look out for a specific email about this or if you would like more information please email.
There will also be a call for members to come forward to fill roles within the Management Committee. We intend to try to spread the workload as we start to establish ourselves at Beetle Bank. Please think about volunteering for either a specific role or as a committee member.

Some useful links
BAA Observing Calendar September 2018
BAA Bimonthly Sky Notes
SEASKY Astronomy Calendar
Aurora Watch

Bulletin – August 2018

Just a few items this month as we reach the end of the current season. July saw the last two formal talks and a first for YAS. Don’t worry though as we kick off the new season in September in style and have the Annual YAS Perseid BBQ to look forward to in the meantime. Of course probably the most important thing to face YAS for many years is the proposed move to Beetle Bank and the Planning Application.

Lunar Eclipse Night

Friday 27th July saw the first YAS event at Beetle Bank Farm, the much anticipated Lunar Eclipse Evening. Dave Armeson gave his talk on the Solar System which went down well. Martin Whillock followed this up with some demonstrations to illustrate the scale of the Solar System.
Derek and Suzanne Farmer brought along the ‘crater maker’ and children of all ages had a go.
Graham Moore entertained small groups with info on his array of telescopes and he finished the evening with a short talk on Astrophotography

The special event and observation session at Beetle Bank Farm was to learn about and hopefully experience the total lunar eclipse visible that evening. Unfortunately, the sky was 100% cloudy with some rain and thunder for the entire evening so we saw nothing. However, there were some good talks and telescope displays, and fun space activities for the youngsters. We did kind of see the eclipse due to a live hook-up we established to the Dubai Astronomy Group in the United Arab Emirates. Over 45 members of the public came to Beetle Bank and nobody asked for their money back so that can’t be bad!

Beetle Bank Farm

The planning application to locate the YAS Observatory at Beetle Bank Farm is well and truly under way, with the planning notices finally being posted at Beetle Bank. Our planning application is accessible on the York City Council web site.

We will shortly be issuing some guidelines on commenting. You may wish to wait a few days,

When you wish to comment, please log onto the site and register your approval by following these instructions.
1) Go to this YCC website.

2) Click the Comments tab.

3) Click the “Register here” link.

4) Once you’ve registered and logged in, follow the instructions

July 6th

Observing Jupiter and Tour of the Jovian Moons

A fact filled talk by Dave Armeson accompanied by stunning images of Jupiter from the Juno mission along with amazing images of Europa (left), Ganymede, Io and Callisto

July 20th

Fantastic Planets and How to Find Them

Dr Emily Brunsden of York University gave a very interesting talk entitled “Fantastic Planets and how to find them”. Dr Brunsden is the Director of Astrocampus and an accomplished and experienced lecturer. Her talk covered how exoplanets are discovered by spectroscopy (parent star wobbling) and photometry (planet transits parent star), and revealed that through the wonderful Kepler space telescope and now, the TESS space telescope, we now know that there are more planets in the galaxy than stars! She went on to specifically mention these discoveries, all of which are worth reading about on Wikipedia.
The “super earth” HD40307g
Kepler 16b
The Trappist-1 system (amazing, and includes three planets in the Goldilocks zone)
Kepler 90 with eight planets!
PSO J318.5-22, a free-floating planet with no parent star. 60 such planets have now been discovered.

For more information see https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/

Upcoming events

August 11th – Annual YAS Perseid BBQ. This year at Beetle Bank Farm. You bring the Meat, we provide the Heat. Of course bring other food and drink items as well. Start time 17:30.

Upcoming event

September 7th sees YAS celebrate its 1000th public meeting. It will be hosted by St Peter’s School on Bootham. Tell your friends and family that free tickets can be obtained here .The start time is 7:00pm (not 8:00pm)
Current YAS members do not need to book as tickets have already been allocated, just say you are YAS and preferably have your membership card ready.

In the Sky in August

The most important event of the month is the Perseid meteor shower, which will peak around the 12/13th. The moon will be only a slender crescent and will have set hours before the Perseus radiant climbs into the sky. If you can bear to stay up until midnight or later, that’s when you’ll see the best show, and against a very dark sky.

The first half of the month is the last chance to see Jupiter before it’s swallowed by the sunset glow.

Catch Saturn and Mars, low in the south. Mars is very close and is 24 arc seconds in diameter on the 1st, reducing to 21 arc seconds by the 31st.

Venus and the Moon will be a fine sight at about 9pm on the 14th, low in the WSW. Three days after that, Venus will be at greatest eastern elongation and will appear as a mag.-4.5 perfect “first quarter moon” shape, 24 arc seconds in diameter.

Finally, August is when the sky starts to get dark at a reasonable time of night. The summer triangle of Altair, Vega and Deneb is riding high by 10pm, and the wonderful Milky ay star fields stretching from Sagittarius through Cygnus and on to Cassiopeia and Perseus will be well seen. Go out, relax in the warm summer evenings and enjoy the spectacle

Click here for SEASKY Astronomy Calendar

Click here for BAA Bimonthly Sky Notes

YorkAstro Planning Application Published

City of York Council have finally published our planning application to site the YorkAstro Observatory at Beetle Bank Farm.

The application can be seen here:

Alternatively, visit the Planning site here:
And use the reference number “18/01411/FUL” as the search term.

If you wish to comment (and please do) you will need to register etc. Please comment ASAP as the decision is due on 13th August! There are location plans and our planning statement on the CYC website.

Bulletin – July 2018

Society News

You will have realised by now that we are moving the YAS Observatory to Beetle Bank Farm (more info below and this is taking up much of the committee and trustee’s time.

We have also organised our first event at the new location on 27th July.
The YAS Annual BBQ is ON – more details below on all these.

Last Month’s Society Events – June

June 1st

Priory Street meeting. Mike Terzza of our society gave a well illustrated talk entitled “A Journey into Astrophotography”. In his talk, Mike described how he started and developed this very rewarding activity and advised us how, with a bit of dedication and a willingness to experiment, we can start down the same road.

June 9th

The planned working party to decommission the Observatory took place. The warm room was emptied (except for the battery storage and the kitchen fitments).

June 15th

Priory Street “Informal Night” meeting.

Members presented short talks.

Martin Whipp gave a lively report on his recent visit to Hamburg with an ultimate astronomy related twist. One of the highlights on the way was a visit to Miniatur Wunderland the world’s largest model railway. Martin enthused over the attention to detail and showed a series of photos to illustrate this along with a video of model planes taking off.

Martin then progressed to the main purpose of his visit which was to take a short trip on the Cunard Cruise ship RMS Queen Mary 2. This is the only cruise ship with a planetarium on board. Martin was able to get a behind the scenes tour. We were treated to an explanation of how a full size dome is able to rise up above an auditorium and only take up half the expected height!

Graham ‘Bodger’ Moore presented a number of tips and tricks to utilise household items and various spare parts; for example to make a table attachment for a scope tripod, suggestions as to how to prevent having to contort in order to polar align and other tips, too many to mention.

Gerry Fisher presented his views on the risks of using leisure batteries to power your scope, without using sensible and cost effective solutions. Gerry warned of the dangers from an accidental short across exposed terminals that could cause significant injury or even cause the battery to explode showering you or others in battery acid.Gerry has offered to help any member to make a safe, fused connection system to use with their battery. If you want to make your own power supply please speak to Gerry. As we do more outreach, safety will become more important.

June 17th

We were invited to have a presence at the recent Astronomy Day at York University as part of the York Festival of Ideas.


June 29th

Committee / Trustee meeting took place on Friday 29th June. Here are some selected highlights. Not surprisingly, the main topic of discussion was the rapidly approaching move to Beetle Bank Farm. Derek Farmer reported on the planning application made to York City Council on 13th June. At the time of writing, the application had not been published on the YCC website. However, we are told the 8 week target for a decision would still count from application date. When the application is published for comment we will let you all know and would encourage you to comment positively on the application. We should know the outcome by mid August.

Based on this, the likelihood is that we will be moving the containers on either the first or second Tuesday in September. This target date has been communicated to the YGC. The move date has to be a Tuesday as Beetle Bank is normally closed on Tuesday.

When planning approval is received, in mid August, the foundations for the containers and the concrete pads for the scopes will need to be dug and a few tons of concrete poured. At the same time, an electrical supply will probably be prepared. We will be calling for volunteers to help with this nearer the time. If you are willing to help with this and potentially other observatory works please let us know at info@yorkastro.org.uk .

Discussion took place regarding the draft lease and the negotiators Gerry Fisher, Mike Terzza and Derek Farmer were given some parameters within which to negotiate.

Forthcoming events and level of commitment from members during the year were discussed.

Society Events Coming Up in July

The current York Astro photo challenge “The Summer Triangle” set by Freda Rockliffe is still open. Submit your entry via YAS Facebook chat group or by email to info@yorkastro.org.uk by noon on July 6th.

July 6th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting

Dave Armeson – Observing Jupiter and Tour of Jovian Moon

July 20th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. Dr Emily Brunsden of York University will give a talk entitled “Fantastic Planets and how to find them”. Dr Brunsden is the Director of Astrocampus and is an accomplished and experienced lecturer. This talk should not be missed.

July 27th (Friday)

Special event and observation session at Beetle Bank Farm to learn about and hopefully experience the total lunar eclipse visible that evening. See detailed eclipse timings below.

Tickets for the public can be booked at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lunar-eclipse-night-tickets-47413676583

A number of members have already volunteered to assist here and help raise funds for YAS. At this event, we hope to include a live video feed and commentary from the desert east of Dubai where the deepest phase of the eclipse will be seen against an ink-black sky. We are also hoping to relay NASA images of the Earth looking back at it from an orbiting lunar satellite, showing the ring of fire round the Earth as light from the sun filters through Earth’s atmosphere and the Moon experiences an eclipse of the sun. There are, of course, a number of technical difficulties to overcome!

Society Events Coming Up in August

Saturday August 11th

The YAS Annual Perseid BBQ will take place at Beetle Bank Farm from 17:30 . As usual, we shall provide the heat, you provide the meat (or vegetarian). Also bring whatever ypu want to eat and drink with the meat. Again, as usual, bring your chairs to view the Perseids and scopes etc. Free to members and their families.

Weekend of 17/18th August

Beetle Bank Farm are holding a camping weekend with a band, BBQ etc. A number of members have volunteered to help at this by bringing a few scopes. Actual night to be decided nearer the dates.

In the Sky in July

A few interesting things are happening in July. None of them is outstanding but they are all worth a look, especially the eclipse.

Firstly, Saturn. Whilst all eyes have been on Jupiter during June, the opposition of Saturn on June 27th has passed unnoticed. If you don’t mind staying up late to see Saturn as it transits (crosses the meridian and is therefore highest in the sky), July is when it’s at its nearest. It transits at just before 1 a.m. on the 1st, 2350 on the 15th, and 2240 on the 31st. Unfortunately, the planet is in Sagittarius and only rises to an altitude of 13.5°. However, Saturn’s northern hemisphere is tilted towards us and the rings are just about as wide as they can be so it’s still worth having a look at what must be the most beautiful planet in the solar system.

Next, Mars. This planet comes to opposition on the 27th. Mars’ orbit is more elliptical than most planets, so its distance from us varies quite a lot from opposition to opposition. This year, it comes just about closer than it can ever get, and at a distance of 35.8 million miles can be seen as a 24.3 arc second diameter disc. This is more than half the angular diameter of Jupiter, and we know how big that looks in a telescope. That’s the good news. The bad news is that like Saturn, it’s in the southern hemisphere and not only that, it’s 4° south of the ecliptic. The bottom line is that Mars only climbs to an altitude of 10° so will suffer from bad seeing. If you happen to be going to the Atacama, Rio, Pretoria or Alice Springs, find a local observatory, and Mars will be at magnitude -2.8 and dead overhead at midnight!

Finally, a total eclipse of the Moon will take place – coincidentally – also on the 27th. The eclipse will be the darkest and longest this century, as the Moon passes almost through the centre of the Earth’s shadow. Don’t get too excited though, because from the UK we will not be able to see the eclipse from start to finish. Here are the timings (BST)

Time Event Comment
1924 1st contact (with umbra) Moon is below horizon and sun has not yet set.
2030 2nd contact. Moon now completely in umbra.
2108 Moon clears horizon And the sun sets, but it’s still daylight.
2122 Mid eclipse Only quarter of an hour after sunset.
2157 End of civil twilight Eclipsed Moon may be seen if sky very clear.
2213 3rd contact. Moon begins to leave umbra. Sky has been slowly darkening for the last hour. Moon will definitely be seen as it emerges from Earth’s shadow.
2303 End of nautical twilight. At last, the background sky is dark.
2319 4th contact, Moon leaves umbra.

Doubtless the media will go mad in the days leading up to this event and describe it as the “Blood Moon eclipse of the century”, but fail to point out that we will not see the deepest part of the eclipse against a dark sky. You can see from the table that the time the Moon is in the deepest shadow (mid eclipse) is only quarter of an hour after sunset. The sky will still be bright and the Moon will hardly be 2 degrees above the horizon (roughly in the SE at azimuth 127°). I may be wrong but I’m predicting it will be very difficult to spot such a deeply-eclipsed “blood red” moon at that time against a relatively bright sky. We’ll see it later of course, but by then the Moon will have moved towards the edge of the umbra. It will be interesting to see when the eclipsed Moon first becomes visible. For certain, a deeply coloured Moon will be seen from 3rd contact onwards. At 3rd contact (2213) it will be almost due SE at an altitude of 7°. This low altitude should give photographers ample opportunity to shoot the partially eclipsed Moon behind various terrestrial foreground objects. By 4th contact at 2319, the Moon will be at an azimuth of 152° and an altitude of just over 12°.

A final thought: from about 2230, it may be possible to see Mars about 5° below and 3° to the right of the Moon. Could make for an interesting shot.

Click here for SEASKY astronomy events

Click here for BAA Bi-monthly Sky notes

Bulletin – June 2018

Society News

Most of the behind the scenes activity in May was related to the issue of relocating the observatory. We have a number of sites to which we may be able to move, none of which ticks all our boxes. Negotiations with the owner of our first choice are imminent. There will be an update in the July Bulletin.

We should like to express many thanks to Martin Whipp for his work with YAS in various roles over many years. Martin recently resigned as Chairman, but will continue as an active member of YAS

The committee recently met and agreed to continue without a Chairman for the time being.

Last month’s Society Events – May
May 4th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. Brian Jones from Bradford AS gave an enjoyable talk entitled “The Astronomical Scrapbook”. Taking his cue from the book The Astronomical Scrapbook, Brian took us through a number of vignettes ranging from the correct pronunciation of Halley (which does not rhyme with ballet or daily but does rhyme with sorely), through the names and history of some old constellations (e.g. Argo Navis and Robur Carolinum), issues of astronomical stamps, and where our space probes have got to. See Voyager 1.

May 6th (Sunday)

Observatory clear-out day at Rufforth. We made a start on sorting out items we want to keep, and those we wanted to throw out or sell.

May 18th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. This was an EGM at which members were informed about the sites to which we may move the observatory. There was an initial discussion regarding whether we really had to vacate our current site, then the facts that were known about each alternative site were presented. As the known facts indicate at the moment, we do have to move, and the recommended destination site was Beetle Bank Farm. At the end, those present were asked to indicate their preference, and there was overwhelming support for Beetle Bank. Although there was no motion and no binding vote, the strong indication of preference must guide the trustees, who ultimately have the authority to decide. Whichever site we go to, it will only happen if and when we can negotiate a satisfactory agreement with the owner.

Society Events Coming Up in June

June 1st (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. Mike Terzza of our society will give a talk entitled “A Journey into Astrophotography”. After buying his first telescope at the end of 2014, Mike has been hooked on taking photos of space and the night sky. Join us to learn about the journey he’s taken striving to learn the craft of Astrophotography.

June 9th (Saturday)

Working party at the observatory. We will be dismantling equipment and beginning the task of readying the containers for relocation. Any help you can give will be much appreciated. Please bring tools and contact the project manager, Mike, via observatory@yorkastro.org.uk in advance.

June 15th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. Informal night, where members give short talks and practical hints on different astronomical topics.

June 29th (Friday)

Committee/Trustee meeting at the observatory. This should result in more news about the move.

In the Sky in June

Not exactly the best month for astronomy, as at least from York, the sky doesn’t get astronomically dark (sun 18° or more below horizon) at all during the month. Nautical twilight is when the sun is 12° below the horizon, and this is from 2343 to 0224 BST on the 1st and only lasts for 84 minutes centred on about 1 am at the summer solstice on the 21st.

However, there is still something worth observing this month that’s easy to see from 40 minutes after sunset onwards, and that’s Jupiter.

Jupiter was at opposition on 9th May and is still close and conveniently observable for the whole of June. It is due south and highest in the sky at 2315 at the beginning of the month, 2215 on the 15th, and 2115 at the end of the month. Throughout the month, it only reaches 21° altitude so viewing may suffer from imperfect seeing, but nevertheless, apart from the Moon, Jupiter is the easiest and most satisfying object to observe. Even a reasonable pair of binoculars will show its four Galilean satellites, and a half decent telescope will reveal its cloud belts. Higher resolution instruments will show the shadows of the moons as they transit the planet’s surface. Here are some of the most convenient transits to look out for.

In all cases, the moon in question will be seen very close to the limb of Jupiter 10-20 minutes before “Moon transit starts”. It will then move in front of the planet’s surface where in all but the very highest resolution telescopes, it will disappear. The moon’s shadow will then begin to transit the planet’s surface at the time stated. Please note all dates are June and all times are approximate ( 5 mins).

Moon Moon transit starts Shadow transit starts
Io 1st @ 2205 1st @ 2235
Europa 6th @ 2130 6th @ 2250
Io 8th @ 2350 9th @ 0030
Europa 13th @2350 14th @ 0130
Io 24th @ 2150 24th @ 2250

The other conspicuous object to observe is of course Venus. This brilliant (magnitude -4.0) planet can be seen from shortly after sunset in the west to north-west. Venus is still on the far side of the sun, so through a telescope will show a gibbous phase. Its angular diameter is 13.2 arc seconds on the 1st, increasing to 15.7 arc seconds on the 30th. We will have to wait until mid August to see it as a 24.4 arc second diameter “quarter moon”. There will be a nice pairing of Venus and the Moon on the 16th. In case you haven’t kept up with the discoveries about Venus (e.g. its surface temperature is hotter than Mercury’s), the Wikipedia Venus entry is well worth a read.

Click here for SEASKY astronomy events

Click here for BAA Bi-monthly Sky notes


Bulletin – May 2018

Society News

Most of the activity by society members over the last month has been focused on searching for a new site to which we can move the observatory. We have also issued a press release and individuals have been interviewed on radio and local TV in which we appealed for help in finding a new site. So far, no-one has offered help as a result of these appeals but we do have two potential sites that have been visited on at least two occasions and are under seriously consideration. We also have two more as possible fall-back options.

There are two dates for your diary that relate to the upcoming relocation. The first is an observatory clear-out on Sunday 6th May. The second is an Extraordinary General Meeting on Friday 18th May. Members are earnestly requested to attend, particularly the EGM. See below for more details.

Last month’s Society Events – April

April 6th

Priory Street meeting. Martin Whipp gave the second part of his interesting and well-illustrated talk, “Reverse Through the Universe”. He began at the edge of the solar system and took us out to the edge of the known universe. On the way, we saw nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, galactic groups and even gravitationally linked galactic super groups. Quite fascinating stuff.

April 19th

Public star party on the Knavesmire. A successful evening attended by a number of members of the public. The crescent moon was well seen along with Venus.
This was the last Knavesmire meet of the season. From now onwards, it doesn’t get dark early enough. We will recommence in September.

April 20th

Priory Street meeting at which Rod Hine from Bradford AS gave a most interesting talk on “The Life and Works of Edward Emerson Barnard”. Rod is an excellent speaker and took us through Barnard’s life, from his poverty-stricken and unschooled youth, to his astronomy professorship at Chicago University and his use of what still is the largest refractor in the world – the 40-inch Yerkes. He is of course most famously known as the man who spotted the star with the fastest proper motion, Barnard’s Star. Many other astronomical objects have since been named after him, and I recommend you follow this Wikipedia link to read more about him.

Coming Up in May

May 4th – Friday

Priory Street meeting. Brian Jones from Bradford AS will give a talk entitled “The Astronomical Scrapbook”. Brian has been an astronomy enthusiast, collector and author for many years. He currently compiles and edits the Yearbook of Astronomy. In his talk he will be presenting a number of astronomical oddities, such as the pronunciation of “Halley” and “Uranus”, and also how some of the more unusual asteroids got their names.

The meeting starts at 8 pm. Click here for directions.

May 6th – Sunday

Observatory clear-out day at Rufforth, from 10 am. We need to gather together items we want to keep, and throw out or sell what we want to discard. If you have something of yours at the observatory, please come and do what you want with it else it may go! If you could bring boxes or bags that could be used to collect stuff, that would be useful. If you have a trailer that could be used to take scrap metal to Clancey’s (YO19 5UF) to sell, that would be excellent. (Clancey’s are closed on Sundays.)

May 18th – Friday

Priory Street meeting. This is an EGM at which members will be informed about the sites to which we may move the observatory. The pros and cons of each site will be described and there may then be a recommendation from the committee as to which one is preferred. There will then be an opportunity to discuss the matter. Whether there is a recommendation or not, members present will be asked to vote for their preferred site, and this vote will be the decider. Please recognise that this decision is a very important matter that could affect the society for years to come, so you are urged to attend, participate in the discussion, and vote. (If time permits following the vote, there will be a quiz.)

Click here for SEASKY Astronomy events

Click here for BAA Bi Monthly Sky Notes

Bulletin – April 2018

Society News

The main news is that after 10 successful years, the tenure of our observatory site near Rufforth is coming to an end and we need to find an alternative location.

The society has recently been awarded charitable status, and we are hoping that this move, though challenging, will provide the perfect opportunity for us to grow and offer the public improved access to and facilities at our observatory.

The society has shortlisted alternative sites for consideration but would welcome any suggestions or offers from anyone with a parcel of land onto which we could place our portable observatory. What is needed is a dark sky site that could allow access by invited members of the public, with good views in primarily the arc from east through south to west and not too far from York.

If you think you may be able to help, please contact Derek Farmer, the society secretary by email at info@yorkastro.org.uk

Last month’s Society Events – March

March 2nd

Priory Street meeting. Martin Whipp gave an interesting and well-illustrated talk, “Reverse Through the Universe Part 1”, in which he began with a view of the inside the human eye and progressed in jumps of x10 outwards, each view encompassing an area 10 x 10 times larger than the one before. This talk took us to the edge of the solar system, with many interesting stops on the way. We look forward to Martin’s “Part 2” talk in April.

March 16th

Priory Street meeting at which Paul Money presented a view of the cosmos from the point of view of our home city, York, and explained what we observers can expect to see, along with a few local historical references. One thing’s for sure – you will never fall asleep during one of Paul’s exhilarating talks!

March 22nd

Public star party on the Knavesmire. Some interest from the public, who brought their telescopes for help and advice. The moon was well seen through gaps in the clouds.

Coming Up in April

April 6th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. Martin Whipp F.R.A.S. our chairman, will deliver the second of his two talks, “Reverse Through the Universe Part 2”. If it’s anything like his April talk, it’s one not to be missed. The public are welcome to attend. Meeting starts at 8 pm; doors open 7:30 pm. Click here for directions.

April 14th (Saturday)

Society trip to the Mullard Radio Astronomy Centre in Cambridge. This may now be fully booked. To check, contact Derek on info@yorkastro.org.uk

April 19th (Thursday)

Public star party on York Knavesmire. Click here for directions. Society members will be there from about 7:45 pm. Sunset is at 8:15 pm, after which Venus and the Moon will be ideally placed for observation.

April 20th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. ***


US Group Detect Evidence of Alien Life

Researchers from Louisiana’s Lower Bayou Community College (LBCC) have used their time on the French Federation Astronomique (FA) space research group’s Kuiperbelt Explorer telescope (KE) in solar orbit at the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point L5 – to make a remarkable discovery.

The LBCC group, led by Professor Jed Knight, were awarded remote access time on the FA telescope after winning a competition to devise innovative ways of using space telescopes. Instead of using the telescope’s unrivalled imaging capabilities for its intended use – detecting Earth threatening Kuiper belt objects – Professor Knight’s team decided to examine our nearest exoplanet, Proxima b. Since its discovery in 2016, the planet has been the subject of much speculation as it is in the habitable zone round our nearest star, Proxima Centauri and is only 4.25 light years away.

Professor Knight (who prefers to be called by his middle name, Ian) explained.

“My 2nd year students wanted to do some original research so programmed the KE telescope to focus on Proxima b and perform photometric and spectroscopic analysis of its light. To our utter astonishment, after final alignment tests were completed, we detected a series of light signals coming from the planet. These were in the form of long (L) and short (S) pulses separated by pauses (P), the pattern being


This pattern was repeated about four or five times on three successive nights. Spectroscopic analysis showed the light to be close to a wavelength of 589 nm, corresponding to the Sodium D line in the spectrum. No known natural phenomena can explain the pattern and no natural process on a temperate planet exists that produces that pure Sodium D emission spectral line.

We reported this to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The IAU have not yet replied to our email but SETI have. They came up with the only plausible explanation given the light-gathering ability of the KE telescope. They replied, and I quote:

This is the most important discovery in the history of mankind and proves we are not alone. The only way the KE telescope could have detected the signal from such a distant planet is that Proxima b has planet-wide low pressure sodium artificial lights and that all those lights were turned on and off simultaneously in an attempt to communicate. It is also not unreasonable for sodium lights to be used by the inhabitants of a planet circling a cool M6 star, as their eyes will have evolved to be most sensitive to light much nearer the red end of the spectrum than the sun. Further, computer analysis of the signal has shown that it is actually Morse code, and reads, “HELLO”. This in turn means that the Centaurians have been monitoring our radio transmissions and can now speak English.

Professor Knight’s final comment was, “This discovery has really put LBCC on the map, and will doubtless increase our student intake and revenue. That will enable us to buy more time on the FAKE telescope to look for further signals”.

SETI emailed the White House, who contacted President Trump immediately during a National Rifle Association (NRA) dinner at Gun Barrel City TX, at which he was the guest speaker. Although he was only part way through the rattlesnake hors-d’oeuvre, he immediately tweeted:

“We want nothing to do with these Centaurians. It’s obvious that they’re way behind us technically because we started replacing sodium street lights with LEDs years ago. And if they think they can come here and flood us with cheap alien imports, they can go screw themselves.”

“We are going to build a space wall, and who’s going to pay for that wall? The Centaurians.”

Later that day, the National Crime Agency arrested a 17-year old “moral crusader” member of a hacking collective working out of his bedroom in Swaffham when he copied the following email onto Facebook then contacted the White House to ask how much they would pay to find out how he hacked it. The email reads:

Date: April 1 2018

From: donaldt@whitehouse.org

To: vladimirp@newkremlin.ru

Subject: Centaurian Invasion


Hi Vladso,

Donald here. I hope you and Alina are well. Melania and I often think about you. We’re still eating the beluga caviar you sent us at Christmas.

Can we meet up some time to discuss the Space Wall? If you could do the eastern hemisphere, we’ll nail it in the west. Fair enoughski?

Ever your friend,


P.S. Thanks a bunch for the leg up last year by the way. Much appreciated.


It has just come to our notice that the group at LBCC made a couple of minor errors.

Firstly, the measurement of 589 nm was provided by a freshman who later admitted to having thrown the spectrometer at a fellow student for calling his girlfriend a tub of lard. The instrument became misaligned and the correct wavelength was actually 532 nm. This wavelength is emitted by green laser pointers.

Secondly, due to the Americans setting the telescope using imperial rather than metric units, it was actually pointing back at the Earth, bringing it within detection range of any 5mW laser pointed directly at it.

A 12-year-old boy, Chuck Eagleburger, from Tucson has now admitted to pointing his amateur astronomer father’s green laser towards Lagrange Point L5. When asked why, he replied, “If extra-terrestrials are going to come here, they’ll park up at the Lagrange points and study us before revealing themselves. Pop told me where the L5 point was and I’ve just learnt Morse so thought I’d give it a go. Sorry.”

That lad will go far once he comes out of the State Penitentiary.

Professor Jed I Knight was last seen boarding a flight to Kathmandu. Colleagues believe he may be heading for a Tibetan Buddhist retreat.

And remember, if your laser is becoming a pain in the ass, don’t carry it around in your back pocket!

Happy viewing from the YAS.


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