Isle of Wight Star Party

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Thu 6th – Mon 10th March, 2008

The dark skies on the south coast of the Isle of Wight provided a brilliant backdrop for the inaugural Isle of Wight Star Party organised by the island’s Vectis Astronomical Society (VAS) in association with the Southern Area Group of Astronomical Societies (SAGAS). About forty five astronomers travelled from as far as Devon and Cambridge for the event, which was held at the Brighstone Holiday Centre, between Thursday 6th March and Monday 11th March, 2008.

The location offered almost 180-degree southerly views across the Channel, and many astronomers commented on seeing stars, such as the lower half of Canis Major, that were so near the horizon that they are not normally visible from other sites. Unfortunately, the worst storms of the winter made imaging all but the brightest objects very difficult, but visual observing was good on the Friday and Sunday evenings. M42 and M43 were obvious early targets, but later Sirius’ ‘Pup’ was seen, as was NGC 3242 in Hydra – one of the deep south objects visible from the site. M65 and M66 were clear in an 80 mm refractor which was pleasing for at least one attendee, as these are normally swamped by light pollution even in bigger scopes. The equipment used during the event ranged from small binoculars, refractors and Schmidt Cassegrains, to a 14 inch Celestron on a modified mount and a 20 inch Dobsonian.

Daytime activities included visits to Vectis AS’s Isle of Wight Observatory, and the National Trust’s Needles New Battery (Ex-rocket testing site), with a talk by someone who used to work on the secret rocket testing programme there.

The Saturday evening was completely clouded out, but with a very high level of audience participation, John Murrell, Owen Brazell, Richie Jarvis and David Rayner, kindly gave fascinating talks which between them covered rocket testing, deep sky objects, digital image manipulation and eclipse photos.

The holiday centre provided some excellent camping facilities, and there were also heated en-suite chalets for those who didn’t want to brave the elements. A kitchen/tea/coffee room allowed for free hot drinks to be available all night long and lockable rooms were available for the safe storage of equipment and the trade stands. A large dining area provided accommodation, not only for a wonderful cooked breakfast, but also doubled up as a wet weather location and meeting/reception room.

There was a great raffle – with a star prize of a Lanthanum eyepiece donated by Orion Optics. (Thanks also to Springer books, Astronomy Now, David Hinds and BC&F for providing other raffle prizes). Thanks are also due to the ferry company Wightlink, who provided a very good deal on the ferries.

The event was run by the island’s Vectis Astronomical Society (VAS) in association with the Southern Area Group of Astronomical Societies (SAGAS). Information about next year’s Isle of Wight Star Party (around 26th March 2009 (New Moon) tbc) is available on If you would like to be contacted about future events, please email

Fedastro Discussion Forum

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Societies that have recently joined the Federation or new Society Officers may be unaware that the Federation operates a discussion forum using a Yahoo Group. Officers of member societies are encouraged to join up to this egroup to participate in discussions, and share information. It is also used to notify members about up-coming events of general interest.

To join visit the website

Please note your society name and your position in the society when joining, to speed the approval process.

FAS Convention 2008

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The 2008 FAS Convention will be held at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, on September 20th.

A top line up of speakers; Prof. Barrie Jones, Nik Szymanek, Prof. Andy Fabian, Dr. Somak Raychaudhury

+ Trade stands and society displays
+ Tours of the telescopes (construction work permitting)
+ The legendary FAS Raffle
+ Astro-Imaging Competition


Barrie Jones “The Seach for Extra-Terrestrial Life”

Nik Szymanek “Photographing the Night Sky”

Andy Fabian “The Power of Black Holes”

Somak Raychaudhury “Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy – Black Holes, Cosmic Illusions and Dark Energy”

Traders and Displays

Aurora Books
Jack Martin
Sky’s the Limit
Cambridge University Press
Widescreen Centre
Science Replicas

+ Tours of the telescopes (construction work permitting)

Astro-Imaging Competion Rules

Buying Your Telescope

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The Stargazer’s Starter Guide To
Buying Your Telescope 

A new booklet developed by the FAS in 2007 is now available for purchase. This helpful guide explains about telescopes and accessories in simple terms, as an aid to anyone considering purchasing their first telescope.

For pricing and ordering information see our Publications pages

International Year of Astronomy 2009

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The FAS would like societies input on what they feel that we should, as a collective group, be doing towards the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

The FAS is sitting on the IYA2009 UK Steering Group and we want to represent the thoughts of all the societies. If you have any thoughts please let us know. For further info about what is being planned for the IYA 2009 can be found at

Consultation: FAS Regions

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An important issue was raised at the AGM last October. There was a comment from the floor about how did societies find out what was going on at FAS Council meetings.

The answer which I gave is that is where the FAS Regions and the Regional Representatives come in. The FAS has a number of recognised regions and each region is entitled to nominate a person to attend FAS Council meetings to represent their region. The idea is that the Representative can both bring information into the Council and provide feedback to the societies in their region.

The FAS Council is currently reviewing the entire way in which the FAS works. The Council is not presently in a position to enforce such changes onto the existing Regions. Requests for new Regions will in future require a detailed proposal for how the Region will operate. However, it would seem to be a matter of good governance that Regions should operate in a way which is accountable and delivers value to both their own member societies and to the FAS as a whole.

We would like to hear from the Regions what they think about the above, how they currently operate, whether they think that they should or could change the way that they currently operate. Do they believe that the FAS should bear the full cost of running the Regional Representatives?

If you have any comments on the above, then use the FAS Council feedback form.

The FAS is your Federation, help to improve it by getting involved.
Callum Potter – FAS President

2007 AGM & Convention

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The 2007 AGM & Convention will once again be held at the BMI (Birmingham & Midland Institute) on 13th October 2007.


Talks by:

  • Prof Mike Cruise, University of Birmingham
  • Prof Colin Pillinger, Open University
  • Prof Phil Diamond, University of Manchester

Displays & Trade Stands

NEW!! FAS Astro Imaging Competition

The Legendary FAS Raffle.

The BMI is a 5 minute walk from Birmingham New Street station. Further directions soon.
Tickets: £12 on the door or £10 if pre-booked. Advanced tickets can be obtained from Callum Potter. email: or tel: 01684 773256
Advance Ticket Booking Form (PDF) requires Adobe Acrobat

Click here for details of local food, trains, parking etc for the convention (requires Adobe Acrobat). Map Credit: Google Inc.

Provisional Programme

9.00     Doors open to public
9.50     Introductory remarks from FAS President, Callum Potter
10.00     Professor Mike Cruise, University of Birmingham-‘The Search for Gravitational Waves’
11.00     Short Talks

•    Samuel George: The International Year of Astronomy- What’s Happening?
•    Jerry Stone: Running a public star party

12.00     Lunch – over lunch

•    FAS Imaging Competition Display in the lecture theatre
•    Robert Ball Library Tours

1:45     AGM
2:30     Professor Phil Diamond: ‘Jodrell Bank: at the heart of the past and the future of radio astronomy’.
3:30     Tea and coffee Break
4.00    Raffle and Imaging Competition Result
4:15     Professor Colin Pillinger- Space is a Funny Place: 50 Years and more of space exploration
5:15     FAS President: closing remarks

Traders & Society Displays

•    Aurora Books
•    Practical Astronomer
•    Altair Astro
•    SCS Astro
•    Open University
•    Martin Peston – “A User”s Guide to the Meade LXD 55 and 75 telescopes”
•    Amateur Astronomical Spectroscopy by Jack Martin
•    Faulkes Telescope
•    Sky’s the Limit
•    Cambridge University Press
•    Rocket Rights
•    Birmingham University Astronomical Society
•    Birmingham Astronomical Society
•    Society for the History of Astronomy
•    Society for Popular Astronomy
•    Chilterns Group
•    British Astronomical Association
•    Letchworth & District Astronomical Society

+ Colin Pillinger will be signing copies of his new book “Space is a Funny Place”


Imaging Competition

Please click this link for more details about the Imaging Competition

Click for full size poster 2Mb

Publicise your Events

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Help us to advertise your society. If you submit your programme to the FAS website then we can publicise your events on the website and include them in the Newsletter automatically.
The Events page is intended for large events ie Star Parties, full day events whilst the Diary is intended to show societies normal programme of meetings.

To submit an Event go the the Events Page and click the ‘Submit your own Event here’ link below the menu bar. You will be prompted to enter a Title for the Event, The Description of the Event and an End Date to determine when to stop the advertising on the Events page of the website.

To submit a Diary go the the Diary Page and click the ‘Submit your own Diary item here’ link below the menu bar. You will be prompted to enter the year, month and start and end days of the item and a description of the item. Once you have submitted the Event/Diary item it is passed to us for approval, once approved then the Event/Diary item will become visible on the website.