CAS/SPA Lectures - Saturday, 29th September 2018

The Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA) held a special meeting in conjunction with the Cardiff Astronomical Society (CAS) on 28th September 2018. The meeting was held at the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University. The aim of the day was to bring the societies together, meet members old and new, promote what each of the societies do and to enjoy an afternoon of talks.

The Society for Popular Astronomy has been in existence for over 60 years and has around 1500 members. Its main aim is to encourage an interest in astronomy and help beginners of all ages to get a step on the ladder of this amazing subject. They offer meetings and events, courses and every member gets a copy of their bi-monthly magazine, Popular Astronomy.

Doors opened to the public at 12.30pm and there was a chance for enthusiasts to meet members of both societies beforehand. Robin Scagell, the President of the SPA and Osnat Katz, the new editor for Popular Astronomy were on hand to answer questions and to sell a variety of interesting and exciting astronomy merchandise. There were leaflets and copies of Popular Astronomy for free which delighted many people.

A display board had been set up by Cardiff Astronomical Society, providing information about the Society which showcased prints of astrophotography from their members and informative posters on stars and planets. There were planetariums and almanacs and some interesting books for people to look at. A fantastic visual display had been set up presenting video footage from the UKMON camera which CAS have at their observatory in Dyffryn Gardens on the outskirts of Cardiff.

A brief introduction to the day's talks was given by Robin Scagell and Phillip Wallace, the Chairman for the Cardiff Astronomical Society, before the first speaker of the day, Professor Ian Robson from the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh took to the stage to talk about 'The Changing Scene of Astronomy'.

This was a fascinating talk with some incredible photos of how telescopes have developed throughout the ages, how their discoveries have given us the knowledge of the universe as we know it today and what changes and challenges face astronomers in the future especially the incredible amount of data that can now be sourced daily from imagery taken in space.

Following on from Professor Robson, Phillip Wallace provided an informative talk on 'The Birth and Death of Stars'. His presentation took the audience through the stages of star formation, how they progress through their life depending on mass and what will happen once stars have used up all their fuel....which led him on to describe the end of our universe, a solemn topic for some!

The final talk of the day was given by Dr Megan Argo from the University of Central Lancashire. Her lecture 'When Galaxies Collide' was fantastically delivered and she provided some exciting and engaging photos to assist her presentation. Dr Argo discussed the Milky Way, what happens when galaxies pass too close to each other and what happens when they collide and the results of such a strike. She covered topics from what galaxies are composed of and explained how astronomers obtain high resolution images of them through a network or array of telescopes spanning the UK and worldwide.

As the day drew to a close, people milled around the stalls outside and had a chance to talk to the speakers and ask any questions about their presentations. The CAS library was open giving people the chance to peruse the selection of books on offer. It was a tremendous and successful day for both Societies and they look forward to a future joint meeting.

Katrin Raynor-Evans