Scottish Astronomer Group Weekend

By Mark Pollock

Friday 6th September 2002 saw the beginning of this year's Scottish Astronomy Weekend which was held in the West Park Centre of Dundee University.

An informal reception greeted arrivals and allowed some time to meet new faces and re-new old acquaintances before settling down to a mouth-watering dinner - a sure sign of things to come.

The conference facilities were excellent and equipped with state-of-the-art multimedia equipment which provided for a welcome and comfortable weekend where attendees would spend a lot of time (aside from the bar!!). That evening's talk was given, appropriately, by Dr. Dave Gavine, one of the event organisers, after a brief introduction from SAG President, Mark Pollock. Dave outlined in his usual inimitable fashion the history of some of the pioneers of stellar astronomy.

Following on from this was a civic reception attended by The Rt. Hon Charles Farquhar, Provost of Dundee City who was obviously impressed with the nationwide interest in astronomy evidenced by delegates from all over Scotland and a good number from England too. The bar soon beckoned as last orders were at 11 bells, whereupon a sizeable group encamped themselves on the front lawn to enjoy occasional cloud breaks from a light polluted area.

All too soon, Saturday morning alarms were sounding, heralding the start of a busy schedule. Brian Kelly introduced Dr. Bill Samson, another of the event organisers, who gave an enlightening talk on the evolution of stars. After coffee, Dr Harry Ford from Old Royal Observatory, Greenwich introduced Dr. Tom Lloyd Evans who explained a little about the mechanisms involved in planetary nebulae and variable stars.

The afternoon allowed delegates some time for fresh air and a stretch of the legs with organised trips to either Arbroath Abbey or the nearby Dundee Satellite Tracking Station, run by Dundee University.

After yet another first class dining experience, Lorna McCalman (President of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh) introduced the renowned Dr Mary Br'ck who spoke from a historical perspective on the topic of the "Spectra of the Stars".

More fresh air beckoned thereafter with a visit to Mills Observatory in time for some spectacular clear skies and a faint banded aurora to the north. Some delegates headed for the countryside, and were rewarded with an auroral display interspersed with lightning strikes! All too soon though, it got too close to "last orders" time again and another encampment, this time in-doors, was called for prior to a very welcome rest and sleep.

Sunday morning started bright and early back in the auditorium. Mike Fenwick (Chairman of Dundee Astronomical Society) introduced Melvyn Taylor of Leeds A.S. who spoke on "Observing Variable Stars with Binoculars". Ron Livesey (Director of the BAA Aurora Section) took Delegates' contributions (Harry Ford, Russell Cockman (AFA) Alex Pratt (Leeds A.S), Douglas Cooper (Stirling A.S) and Walter Scott (AFA) . before the meeting was closed by Mark Pollock.

Nearly 70 delegates enjoyed what turned out to be a very enjoyable and successful Scottish Astronomy Weekend at a venue which, although perhaps more expensive than some alternative venues, provided the best in terms of catering and facilities. But another very important aspect of this event, which cannot and should not be overlooked, was more than evident: That was the socially interactive nature of the weekend involving like-minded individuals from all over the U.K. The whole weekend was so well organised such that it was difficult not to speak with friends old and new.