Speakers 2019-20

Next Meeting:


Thursday 5th November 2020 : AGM followed by Members' Talks

Steve CunningtonThe AGM is expected to be quite short as a lot of it will need to be conducted beforehand by email but there will be some online voting (this has been already tested to work).

AGM start time 7.45pm sharp - ESAS members only

Talks start at 8.15pm - Open to ESAS members & invited guests

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members.

Lester Selmes : “How to make a constellation” A light hearted talk with no more information so that it gets people guessing!


Peter Bolwell : ""Querying Dark Matter”


Mark Jarvis : “Lockdown Astrophotography” Showing and talking about some of his favorite images taken during this difficult summer.


Dave Williams : “The 9th Planet” Postponed to a later date due to time constraints.


Coming Up:


Thursday 3rd December 2020 : Stephen Wilkins : “Update on James Webb and associated science”

Steve Cunnington

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members.

Stephen is currently a Reader in Astronomy in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS). He is an STFC Public Engagement Fellow and currently serves as a Director of Outreach and Public Engagement for MPS. His research focusses on the formation and evolution of the first galaxies in the Universe.


Thursday 7th January 2021 : Andrew Hindmarch : “The Saturn V Programme” 

Steve Cunnington

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members.

Andrew Hindmarch is a keen amateur astronomer who is passionate about sharing his knowledge at outreach projects.  He is a committee member of the Edenbridge & District Astronomers, a small but enthusiastic bunch of people.  

We hear much about the astronauts who went to the moon and what they found when they arrived, but we don’t hear that much about the vehicle that got them there.
Following the announcement by President John F Kennedy in 1961 to land a man on the moon within a decade, the Saturn V rocket became the means to fulfil that challenge. Using his highly detailed model, Andrew will explain more about the rocket, how it was designed and operated, plus some of the problems the rocket encountered during its lifetime. The use of ZOOM software for this talk will allow Andrew to show you details of the rocket via the camera on the laptop.
Sleek, slender and astonishingly powerful, the Saturn V was visually arresting. Yet this creation of the US space effort severely taxed the NASA engineers who envisaged it, and the five contractors who built its major components.
The design and engineering of the Saturn V required the generation of enormous forces along with the application of exquisite finesse to control them. At launch it weighed as much as a naval destroyer and the five engines of the first stage generated combined power as great as the UK’s peak electricity consumption. Each pump ran at 5,500rpm generating 53,000 bhp, pumping 2.5 tonnes of fuel per second.
The second and third stage burned liquid hydrogen which was so cold that it was also the only liquid that could lubricate the engines.
Not only was the combined power of the eleven engines fitted to the three stages enough to accelerate the Apollo spacecraft – a payload as heavy as an articulated truck – towards the moon at 11km per second, it also had to carry all the technology to actually navigate the rocket and the three astronauts safely to their destination.
Much of the technology developed during the Apollo missions still forms the basis of rocket launches to this day.


Thursday 4th February 2021 : Will Joyce : “Ask an Astronomer”

Steve Cunnington

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members.

A ‘question and answer’ meeting with ESAS’ very own professional astronomer.

Format of meeting TBC but likely have the main questions emailed beforehand with some Q & A at the meeting on each topic.  So get your thinking caps on!


Thursday 4th March 2021 : ESAS Patron, Professor Chris Lintott : “The Croud and the Cosmos”

Steve Cunnington

Note: Hopefully this will be a live meeting at the bowls club rather than an online ZOOM meeting. This is to be confirmed.

Chris was originally booked for our July 2020 meeting, but this was postponed due to the pandemic. His topic was to have been based around his book “The Crowd and the Cosmos”, but he may wish to chose a different subject.


Thursday 7th October 2021 : Professor Lucie Green : Talk subject TBC

Steve Cunnington

Hopefully this will be a live meeting at the bowls club.

Lucie Green’s talk has been postponed from October 2020 to this date, by which time we should be able to offer a ‘live’ meeting at the Bowls Club.




Thursday 1st October 2020 : Pete Williamson FRAS : “Whirlpools in Space”

Steve Cunnington

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members 2 - 3 days before.

“Whirlpools in Space"

The talk looks at the work of the Parsons Family situated at Birr in Ireland, looking at the development of the world’s largest telescope of its time and the breakthrough in telescope engineering and optics. 

We also take time to look at the breakthroughs in astronomy made by William Parsons, the Third Earl of Ross; the ground-breaking work carried out at the eyepiece of this telescope known as The Leviathan.

After leaving Ireland we look at other large telescopes of their day and how observations made with these telescopes compare with the drawings made by William Parsons.

To finish we look at a project that I undertook in Birr Ireland alongside the Leviathan Telescope and what else Birr has to offer.”


Wednesday 2nd September 2020 : Danny Thomas: “Modelling the Constellations in 3D”

Steve Cunnington

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members.

"Modelling the Constellations in 3D” covers a challenge that I set myself to model constellations so that they could be displayed from the sides without changing the scale.

A few years ago I did a programming course related to computer generated art. To test my knowledge I wrote some code to model the constellations using galactic coordinates from publicly available data. Unlike a planetarium program, that in essence projects the stars onto a screen, I wanted to be able to move the viewpoint so I could understand the relative position of the stars in the direction stretching away from our solar system.

Once the code was working, I looked at various constellations and started to learn more about their history, future, mythology and some interesting facts that I would not have come across otherwise. Telling this side of the story gives the talk a broad appeal to an audience of mixed knowledge and interests.

The talk is in two parts, a brief presentation about the way the program works to orient the audience and then a live demonstration of the program. I will use about a dozen different examples of well know constellations where I found an interesting story to tell.


6th August 2020 : Pete Williamson: “Myth to Moon”

Steve Cunnington

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members.

Myth to Moon takes you on a journey from the formation of the moon to the landing of Apollo 11. We explore some ancient Myths concerning the moon and the journey humans took to eventually land on the Moon with stories and memories from astronauts that were involved.

Pete runs Astro Radio, which is available on Alexa, Google, SIRI, smart phones, smart TV and iPhones via Tunein, Radio Line and many more Apps. During the Pandemic he has been running “Locked Inn show”, with guests such as Jim Al-kahili, Dallas Cambell, Mike Maasimini, Alan Stern, Chris Lintott and Alan Hale, discoverer of Hale Bopp. This talk is sure to be both informative and entertaining.


2nd Jul 2020 : Professor David Rees: “Noctilucent Clouds - A Rare Atmospheric Phenomenon”

Steve Cunnington

Note: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members.

June and July are open season for spotting one of the rarest and most unpredictable of sky sights: clouds that glow in the dark. They are called noctilucent clouds, which is Latin for “night-shining".
Since early June, night owls all over Britain have reported see delicate clouds rippling low in the north, glowing bluish-white against the dark night sky. Noctilucent clouds are made of layers of tiny ice crystals, near the Mesopause, at altitudes of around 85 kilometres. They are 10 times higher than the next-highest clouds, the familiar “mare’s tails” of cirrus clouds at the Tropopause. We can only ever see these clouds from the UK during the summer months.
There are three reasons:
Firstly, the Sun is not far below the horizon around midnight, thus its rays can illuminate these very high-altitude clouds, while it is still quite dark at the surface. It is just as we can see a high-flying plane lit up by sunshine even after sunset;
Secondly, to see these NLC events, you need to be at a latitude between 50 and 70 degrees north – that makes the British Isles an ideal observing spot;
Thirdly, these clouds only exist when the mesopause (85 – 90 km) is extremely cold – and this only occurs (paradoxically, perhaps) around the Summer Solstice!
The talk will cover visual and Lidar observations from the ground as well as measurements from rockets and satellites.
NLCs are observed from UK these days much more frequently than, say, up to the early part of last century. This is very direct evidence of global change on our atmosphere. In addition to observations, the theoretical basis of NLC will also be described – in particular related to the rather paradoxical situation that they only occur in the very coldest region of the entire atmosphere which in turn is actually in the vicinity of the SUMMER Polar Mesopause!


4th Jun 2020: CANCELLED ESAS Telescope and Imaging Fest Telescope Fest

We’re having a repeat of our successful practical evening when members (and non-members) can bring their equipment to discuss their problems – and find solutions - with more experienced fellow members.

Don’t worry that your equipment problem is too trivial to bring up – any problem that stops you enjoying your hobby is a problem needing a solution – and we can provide it!

More expert astronomers, whom we would love to see to help other less experienced members, please come along with equipment if possible.

Even if you don’t (yet) have equipment of your own, come and see the Society’s loan equipment and discuss its loan to you to help you in your hobby.

So, equipment or not, come along and have a relaxing evening with like-minded people.



Steve Cunnington 4th Jun 2020: Will Joyce :  Stopping by at La Palma (and Tenerife) Observatories

NOTE: This is an online ZOOM meeting. Access to the meeting will be emailed to members. 

Last Autumn,while Will Joyce was booked to talk on a cruise trip to the Canaries which was to visit La Palma, Will thought “why not arrange a visit to the observatory there to gather experiences to share in future outreach events and to complement the historical work done by the Royal Greenwich Observatory”. Since the multi-national telescopes on the summit of La Palma are professional operational installations, they are not normally open to the public, but that didnʼt stop Will from approaching the Isaac Newton Group Office to ask to visit. The astronomers there were extremely helpful and made all the arrangements for a smooth and informative visit to both the Isaac Newton and the William Herschel Telescopes. In this talk, Will will (!) share his experience with you, while outlining the setup and operation of these observatories, mixing in a little astronomy and a few anecdotes along the way.

Oh yes, on the neighbouring island of Tenerife there aremore telescopes, some of which are open to public tours, so Will also joined up with one of these tours and the talk he has for ESAS will include this visit too.
This talk hopefully complements the short talk about a visit to La Palma given last Autumn by Rosemary Selmes


Steve Cunnington 7th May 2020 : Stephen Tonkin :  Ten Ways the Universe Tries to Kill You

NOTE: This was an online ZOOM meeting.

From gamma-ray bursts to asteroid impacts, an overview of cataclysmic events. This light-hearted but scientifically robust approach incorporates a lot of fundamental cosmological processes, from stellar evolution to galactic interaction. It is appropriate for both beginning and intermediate amateur astronomers.


2nd Apr 2020 : CANCELLED : Melanie Davies : Living in Space Melanie Davies

Due to health concerns, the April 2020 meeting has been cancelled. 







5th Mar 2020 : Greg Smye-Rumsby: “Space, what’s it all about? Greg Smye-Rumsby

Details to be made available soon







Steve Cunnington 6th Feb 2020 : John Fox : Astrophotography using a DSLR and a normal photographic mount

John is Chairman of Wealden Astronomers and is a STEM Ambassador doing astronomy outreach and the stargazing evenings at the OSC. He is also a volunteer driver on the Volk's Electric Railway in Brighton—his great, great uncle was Magnus Volk who built the railway in 1883!

John has spent over 53 years in the professional photographic arena and has practical experience in all formats of film equipment up to and including 5”x4” plate cameras.

He won “Photographer of the Year” in the 1983, 'Southern Press Radio and Television' Awards and has also won three 'Ilford' awards during his 32 years as a press photographer working both in Sussex and Manchester. Outside of his press photography adventures John has also photographed over 1,400 weddings during his long career.

John switched to digital in 2003 and has embraced the freedom of shooting and editing digital imagery. Now semi-retired, John has taken the opportunity to pursue his passion for astrophotography, panorama and 360 VR along with his love of all things video including SFX editing techniques


William Joyce 2nd Jan 2020 : Will Joyce :The Search for Intelligent Life in Deep Space


An extremely thought-provoking and entertaining overview of the arguments for and against the probability of other ‘intelligent’ life in the Milky Way or the wider universe.




Jan Drozd 5th Dec 2019 : Dr. Jan Drozd : A Pale Blue Dot – Earth from an Alien’s Perspective

Dr Jan Drozd is a retired biological (microbiology and biochemistry) scientist who has worked in academia, industry and government. He was once the recipient of a Royal Society European Research Fellowship. He is a member of Wadhurst Astronomy Society and is interested in many aspects of astronomy. He has written several articles for Popular Astronomy, the magazine of the Society for Popular Astronomy.

In this Decembers' meeting, Jan considers how intelligent and advanced aliens who study exoplanets, in a similar way that we do, might piece together the history of the Earth’s formation, the evolution of life and its impact on the environment on this “pale blue dot” we call home.
Many of us will be familiar with the opening mission statement from the original Star Trek TV series:
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
We are so used to looking outwards from our planet, that it is interesting to consider how curious and dispassionate aliens, from a more scientifically advanced civilisation than ours, with a similar mission statement to the above, might piece together the history of the Earth’s formation, the evolution of life and its impact on the environment on this “pale blue dot” we call home.


Members Talks

7th November AGM and Members' Evening : Lester Selmes, Rosemary Selmes, Peter Bolwell, Mark Jarvis

SPACE JUNK, by Peter Bolwell Peter’s talk concerns the risks posed to space flight - both manned and unmanned - by discarded pieces of debris from previous missions which have been left in orbit, and the continuing disregard for the problem as ever more satellites are launched into space.

Then two founder members of ESAS:

MY TELESCOPE PROJECT, by Lester Selmes Lester’s talk is about a telescope installation at his home, which I believe contains some reference to road works!

ISAAC NEWTON TELESCOPE VISIT, by Rosemary Selmes Rosemary will recount a holiday trip to the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma where the INT was moved from Herstmonceux in 1984.

Then last, but by no means least: CHASING THE ISS, by Mark Jarvis. Mark will briefly cover how to find out when and where the International Space Station will be visible and how to photograph transits of the Sun and Moon.


Steve Cunnington 3rd Oct 2019 Dr Stephen Wilkins :  James Webb Telescope and associated science

Talking about the technical background and history of the JWT project. About the technology and about the problems encountered that has led to the delays that we are all aware of.  

Dr Stephen Wilkins also informed us about https://www.brightonwonderfest.com/ and the involvement that we could all provide. 





Ian Whiteley 5th Sept 2019 Ian Whiteley : The Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux

Ian has thoroughly researched the RGO’s history, especially its time at Herstmonceux and will be using unique video interviews with RGO staff to illustrate his talk.

Astronomers who worked at the RGO in its Herstmonceux years share their memories of discovering the first stellar mass black hole, job interviews with the Astronomer Royal and earning 'a bob a night' on observation duty (video presentation).









Find us

May Meeting:
The Manor Barn,
4 De La Warr Road, Bexhill on Sea, TN40 2JA

Other Meetings:
Egerton Park Indoor Bowls Club,
Egerton Road,
Bexhill, East Sussex TN39 3HL

(Meetings: first Thursday of each month [excl. Aug] 8-10:pm)


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