Mexborough & Swinton Astronomical Society
Achievements and Performance
- Parent Category: Annual Reports
Community Access Programme & Outreach
The Community Access Programme provides public access to the J.A. Jones Hoober Observatory, a number of events are provided each year. Some events are open to the general public whilst others are provided for specific groups such as schools or scout groups.
In the year ended March 31st 2011 a total of 14 community access events have been provided to 266 participants. One event in particular should be noted as it was something of an experiment; on September 30th 2010 we hosted an event at the observatory for the Pixie Works group
Our Outreach programme takes the society away from the observatory and out in to the community around us. Our outreach activities range from providing a static display in a local library, through to giving presentations to community groups or school, attending local galas and fetes, to offsite observing events.
The society took part in three galas, the Horbury Show, Kilnhurst Gala, and the Wentworth Family Day. These types of events allow us to advertise our services and promote astronomy, we also have an opportunity to offer support and advice to newcomers to astronomy.
In the year to March 31st 2011 we took part in three major observing outreach events, one at Thrybergh County Park and two events the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Old Moor Reserve.
The first RSPB event, held on January 8th 2011 was titled "Starlings and Starlight" and was timed to coincide with the BBC Stargazing Live initiative which greatly stimulated interest, the second was held on March 13th 2011. The RSPB events attracted well over 200 visitors each. We acknowledge with gratitude the contribution of the RSPB staff who worked with us to deliver these successful events.
We are keen to build our relationship with both Thrybergh County Park and RSPB Old Moor, both of which provide excellent facilities and offer the advantage of existing publicity and promotion channels. We also recognise the benefits of working with another charity, in this case the RSPB.
Two of our members gave talks at the British Astronomical Association (BAA) Horncastle Astronomy Weekend, Gary Gawthrope gave a talk entitled "Observatories around the World" and Tony Morris gave a talk "DSLR Astrophotography", attendance at the weekend was 80 persons. Tony repeated his talk to the BAA Winchester Weekend.
We recognise the importance of stimulating interest in astronomy and science in children and young adults not only for direct educational benefits but for wider social benefit. We are therefore pleased to report that we have engaged with four schools in our community to deliver our outreach services; we attended Mexborough Science School Fair, provided presentations to Wath Church of England School, De Warenne Academy and Barnburgh Primary School. We also took our Skylark rocket display to Dinnington Library for their pupil’s achievement day.
Our weekly meeting programme is a core activity, in the year to March 31st 2011 a total of 53 meetings took place, this includes additional meetings held of Friday rather than Thursday to accommodate our guest speakers. The meeting planned for December 2nd 2010 was cancelled due to the severe weather which affected much of the country.
Total attendance at our meetings has been 1,254 with individual meeting attendance ranging from 14 to 42 persons, the bulk of attendees have been society members (1,217).
We are grateful to our guest speakers Dr Allan Chapman, Dr Ed Daw, Dr. John McMillan, Professor Nial Tanvir, Paul Abel, Paul Money, Stuart Littlefair, Dr Sue Cartwright, and Tony Hill. Guest speaker expenses in the year totalled £320.
Our members provide the remaining content of our programme and we acknowledge with gratitude the time and effort members invest to deliver the great variety of content we offer, without their support the meeting programme would not be possible.
The 2010-2011 programme has, as usual, covered a range of topics and levels of knowledge, ranging from current observational "sky notes", guides to the constellations, the basics of observing, using "go to" telescopes, the Messier Marathon observing challenge, the hunt for extra-solar planets, biographical presentations on Fred Hoyle and Yuri Gagarin, to the more esoteric topics of Gravitational Waves and Detectors and Helium-3.
We aim to deliver a programme that is stimulating and wide-ranging; we always welcome suggestions for subjects to be covered or speakers to add to our programme.
Towards the end of the year to March 31st 2011 the trustees undertook a full review of the New Horizons initiative. It concluded that the Celestron C14 telescope purchased, initially, as an interim solution has been very well received by our members and the public and is producing excellent results. It further noted that securing funding for the more expensive RCOS telescope has proved and elusive goal and is likely to prove difficult in the short-to-medium term due to the economic situation. By retaining the C14 as the main instrument at the J.A. Jones Hoober Observatory running costs, mainly insurance premiums, will not undergo a significant rise as we would anticipate if an RCOS instrument were to be purchased.
At the executive committee meeting held in March 2011 the trustees resolved that the remaining monies in the New Horizons fund should be employed as soon as possible to purchase two optical components of the current New Horizons specification; a Takahashi 50mm eyepiece and 2-inch diagonal. The first of these items has been purchased; once the second is completed the New Horizons project will be completed.
By completing the New Horizons project the society will achieve a further milestone in its development and have cause to celebrate its success; a clear end to the project will, the trustees feel, make it easier to communicate what the society has achieved to potential funders in future.
It should be noted that the considerable investment made to date has been achieved from the Society’s own fundraising efforts.
The digital imaging capacity which was originally part of the New Horizons project will be moved to a smaller project which has been given a working title of "Digital Horizons"; this is to be fully scoped and documented in the coming months. It is expected that the costs of this project will be much lower and it is hoped this will open up additional funding avenues to complete this project.
Charities Online Accounts Awards
The Society once again took part in the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) Charities Online Financial Report and Accounts Awards (COFRA). The awards recognise those charities which have demonstrated the highest levels of accuracy and transparency in their accounts and reports and which have communicated most effectively with their beneficiaries, donors and stakeholders.
The awards are designed to encourage charities to make their websites and reports and accounts more attractive and accessible to potential donors.
Our Annual Report & Statement of Accounts for the year ended March 31st 2009 took joint first place in the category of Charities with an income of less that £100K and collected a prize of £2,250 and valuable feedback on our annual report and website.
We have submitted our Annual Report & Statement of Accounts for the year ended March 31st 2010 to the COFRA 2011 competition which is being judged at the time or writing.
All software components of our website have been upgraded to the latest supported versions. Development of an online booking system for our Community Access Programme has progressed very well and final testing is planned for spring 2011 with the intention of bringing the system in to service for the 2011/12 community access events.
The trustees have accepted 12 applications for membership in the year to March 31st 2011 and would like to extend a very warm welcome to our new members and wish you many happy years with us. As of March 31st 2011, total membership was 50.
It should be noted that the bulk these applications were received in February and March of 2011 and the trustees feel this is due, to some extent, to the outreach events held at the Old Moor RSPB reserve. We are pleased to note an increase in the proportion of female members of the Society.
Members of the Society, along with their families and friends, enjoyed a visit to the historic university city of Oxford on Saturday, July 24, 2010. The itinerary for the day included a visit to the Radcliffe Observatory, the Museum of the History of Science, and Wadham College.
The first calling point was the Radcliffe Observatory where we were given a guided tour of the grounds and building by the Observatory's head gardener, Michael Pirie. The observatory was operational from 1773 to 1934.
Our second visit was to the Museum of the History of Science. Our tour guide was none other than respected academic on the history of science and Honorary President and Patron of our Society, Dr Allan Chapman.
The Museum of the History of Science houses an unrivalled collection of historic scientific instruments in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building, the Old Ashmolean on Broad Street, Oxford. The final visit of the day, still in the company of Allan Chapman, was to Wadham College. The college was founded by Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham in 1610 during the reign of King James I. Among its alumni is Christopher Wren, Wren attended the meetings of scientifically-inclined scholars which were held by Warden John Wilkins (Cromwell's brother-in-law) in the college in the 1650s. Those attending formed the nucleus of the Royal Society at its foundation in 1662.
Our Membership Development Programme aims to provide "back to basics" and practical astronomy to give those new to our hobby the knowledge and confidence to participate and make full use of the facilities we have to offer. Back to basics presentations as part of our weekly meeting programme we have been supplemented with hands on training sessions at the J.A. Jones Hoober Observatory. These sessions are delivered by our more experienced members to small groups – not more than 3 at any one time. The aim of these sessions is to promote familiarity and confidence in using the observatory; the trustees have been concerned that enthusiasm for using the observatory has been dampened for some by a perception of complexity.
A total of 10 training sessions have been held in the period of this report, feedback has been positive and the observatory logs show a significant increase in use.
Tony Morris has authored a book, Introduction to DSLR Astrophotography which has been published by the British Astronomical Association. Tony has extensive experience of his subject and has run a number of digital imaging training evenings.
Using two home computers, he spent many a late night analysing thousands of astronomical measurements released by the Santa Cruz-based university in 2005, after hundreds of hours of his spare time from March 2007 onwards, Peter analysed data, working the figures and creating graphs.
Peter’s findings have now been published in Astrophysical Journal, Peter commented ‘It is an honour and privilege to be listed in the journal and I hope that my work will inspire others.’
The Society congratulates both Tony and Peter on their achievements.
Media & Publicity
Peter’s achievements were reported in the local Advertiser newspaper, this was then picked up by CNN, BBC TV, and Yorkshire Television all of which featured appearances by Peter.
The Society website is an important showcase for our work and promotion of our services; visitors from around the world are accessing the site as can be seen below.
We reported in our Annual Report and Statement of Accounts to March 31st 2010 considerable progress on the long-running dome automation project at the J.A. Jones Hoober Observatory and its anticipated completion over the summer or early autumn of 2010.
We are disappointed to report that the rate of progress did not continue and the project has not, at the time of writing, being completed. Our plans were affected by the need to clean and repair the dome which distracted those delivering the dome automation to the more urgent repair tasks, further delays were caused by the severe weather and extreme cold which made work impossible.
Of the milestones we set out in our last Annual Report progress has been made in some areas. Work on assembling and testing the shutter mechanisms has progressed and initial tests have been completed but some assembly work remains to be done.
The dome has been cleaned and a leak found and fixed, the dome has been fully repainted though it is planned to apply a second coat of paint as part of this project. A hole has been discovered in the west shutter which needs to be repaired; this is expected to be done in summer 2011.
The 12-volt power supply has not yet been installed but all dome bearings and the running track have been cleaned and lubricated and the shutters adjusted.
Our current expectation is that the dome automation will be in place by the end of summer 2011.