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Eddington AS May meeting report

Last night was quite a special night for members of the Eddington Astronomical Society. Not just because we returned “home” to Kendal Museum after our brief – but enjoyable, and very successful – expedition to the Castle Street Community Centre… not just because we had a very special and very welcome guest speaker, Cockermouth AS’s Chris Darwin… but because the 7pm start of our meeting coincided with the planned launch of the space shuttle Atlantis! So I thought I’d try something I’d never tried before – show NASA TV coverage live at a meeting, projected onto the screen, so everyone there could watch the shuttle launch as it happened!

Well, that was the plan.

It didn’t start off well. There was a good enough signal on my mobile broadband dongle… thingy… to allow NASA TV to be viewed, but for some reason it just wouldn’t play, and I ended up – somehow, don’t ask me how! – bringing up a Quicktime viewer with NASA TV showing on it! It wasn’t brilliant quality, and there was no audio, but at least it was there, and it was quite thrilling that we could all see the shuttle on the pad, just two minutes away from launch…

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Woo-hoo! This was going to be great! The seconds ticked away… launch minue one minute… minus 40 seconds… Then the pictutre began to break up, and fracture, and fragment… no, no, no… don’t you dare – !!!!!!

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*******!

And THAT was our view at the time scheduled for lift-off. We couldn’t see a ***** thing!!! TYPICAL!!! 😦 😦 😦 Had it launched as planned? Was everything okay? 😦

Seconds ticked by, and finally the screen cleared…

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Yaay! The shuttle was on its way! 🙂 After that we had a great view. We watched the shuttle climb on its twin pillars of fire… watched the solid rocket boosters fall away…

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…and enjoyed the breathtaking view from the shuttle as it climbed high above the atmosphere, courtesy of one of the small “space cams” mounted on the external tank…

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Unfortunately the camera cut out just before the orbiter was due to fly away from the external tank, but it was still an enjoyable experience, and good to watch the launch as a group. I’m pretty sure it was the first time some members had watched NASA TV, so I hope they enjoyed it.

Then it was on with the meeting proper, and after my usual News Round Up and a break for a cup of tea, it was time for Chris Darwin to give his presentation about “Extrasolar Planets”…

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Chris’ talk was absolutely fascinating, and I know EAS members enjoyed hearing the very latest news about the hunt for, and discovery of, planets beyond our solar system. Chris gave us a very thorough introduction to the subject, describing the search techniques and equipment used in this historic quest to find planets – especially Earth-like planets – circling other stars, far out in space.

Chris’ talk went down very well, and he was good enough to take some questions from the floor too, so I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to come down and speak to us for what I think was the third time. You’re always welcome Chris.

Thanks are also due to our Chairman, Ken Hough, for all the work he’s been doing behind the scenes for us recently. Not only has Ken been busy fixing a problem with the Society website, but he’s been working away at securing some items that can be turned into a Society telescope for members to borrow or use. Thanks Ken!

And thanks to all the EAS members who turned out last night. Trust me, it makes a huge difference – it’s always good for a visiting speaker to see lots of faces looking back when they stand up to give their talk.

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