Scottish Astro-Fest 2000

By Malcolm Gibb

The Scottish Astro-Fest organised by Wigtownshire Astronomical Society was held over the weekend of 24th/25th November in the County Buildings. Walter, his wife and two children, Russell, future wife and dog, Jim and dog and myself (Malcolm) set off on the Friday after lunch and headed for the dark skies of Wigtown. The weekend opened on Friday evening with a speech by Helen Macdonald the main organiser of the event. Her enthusiasm was evident right through the weekend but her remark that when she came to stay in Wigtown and saw the dark skies there, she 'just had to share them with as many people as possible' summed it up. Helen then introduced the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Professor John Brown of Glasgow University who gave a most interesting talk entitled 'Black Holes and White Rabbits'.

Association of Falkirk Astronomers standSaturday morning saw our group setting up our stand with three telescopes, cameras, a computer, a Scotch Mount and lots of photographs on display. The computer was used to demonstrate the enhancement of photographs along with the mini-workshops on astro-photography conducted by Jim. It was also used to show our embryo web site, which is under construction at present. The other societies taking part were Stirling, showing photographs, Renfrew with a competition, photographs and posters for sale, Borders with a demo of a motorised Scotch mount and computer guidance programme and Wigtown showing their two new telescopes.

The other attractions in this hall were Cambridge University Press with a display of books which could be ordered at discount prices, a second-hand bookstall and South Tyneside College selling books, posters and educational material for the younger astronomer. In a separate room, Armagh Planetarium had come over and were selling books, slides, planispheres, moon globes and videos.

AFA standIn another small hall Charles Frank Ltd. had a display of telescopes and binoculars, new and second-hand, for sale. Braithwaite Telescopes also had a big display of telescopes and accessories and Wigtown Computers were demonstrating software such as RedShift 3 and one which impressed us, Starry Night Backyard. Upstairs Glasgow University had their Starlab, a mobile planetarium, from the outside it looks like a bouncy castle but once inside you sit on the floor and go on a journey to the stars. This was showing every hour and a quarter throughout the day and was fully booked for every show.

There were six talks given during the day. Ken MacKay from Stirling talked about sundials (he's coming to us in January), Neil Grubb gave his excellent talk on CCD photography, (don't miss him at Laurieston in December) and our own Russell gave his usual polishSociety stands in main hall.ed show, this time on 'Basic Astro-Photography'. The other talks were, Mark Pollock 'The Size of Space', Brian Kelly 'The Daytime Star' and Border A S 'Society Activities and Observatory'. A mention must also be given to the ladies who served up delicious tea/coffee/scones/pancakes/soup and filled rolls in the upstairs hall in aid of the County Buildings Restoration Fund.

The weekend finished off with an excellent dinner at the Caf' Rendezvous on Saturday evening and a few drinks in The Grapes afterwards where Neil Grubb was 'interrogated' about CCD photography and the problems of the world were solved! Unfortunately, as is usual at astronomy events, the weather was not conducive to viewing the Wigtown dark skies, but at 00.45 on the road home from the hostelry, the clouds cleared for ten minutes and three of us had a wonderful taste of what dark skies really are!