To study and encourage popular interest in all branches of Science.

Newsletter September 2017

Dear member,

The annual General meeting took place on June 22nd preceded by the traditional wine and cheese party. Our thanks to all those members who contributed food and drink to the feast.

At the Council meeting on April 6th Doug Daniels was once again elected as President but he pointed out that Council should begin to look for a replacement as at 77, he was beginning to feel the effects of ageing, and Julia had suffered several bouts of illness during the past year including a slight stroke which has affected her balance when walking; at our age continuing good health can no longer be taken for granted.

The Secretary reported that she had received no new nominations for Council from the membership, but reported that Alexander Menegas was resigning because he was off to Princeton University in the USA to study physics. We thank Alexander for his help on Council and wish him every success in his studies. His resignation means that we do not need to ask a long-standing member to stand down.

Council agreed the following nominations for the offices with no objections.

Secretary Dr. Julie Atkinson
Treasurer & Membership Secretary John Tennant
Programme Secretary Jim Brightwell
Ordinary Members (Max 5) Dr. Kevin Devine, David Markham, Martin Williams, DAvid Brandt, Anne Watson

Council welcomes Anne Watson to its ranks and the return of David Brandt.



In his report, the President thanked all members of Council for their continued support and congratulated the Programme Secretary for completing next session’s lecture programme in good time. He then said that he was sad to report the death of Brian Bond who was for many years a demonstrator at the Observatory. In recent years Brian became interested in the Sun and observations of solar phenomena using his own Hydrogen Alpha telescope and he could be found up at the observatory on most sunny Sunday mornings entertaining visitors with views of our nearest star. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues in the Society.

The main topic for discussion at the AGM was the proposed increase in subscriptions. The Hon. Treasurer pointed out that the running costs were rising e.g. venue hire, postage & printing, insurance etc. Clearly this situation could not be allowed to continue as it meant the slow erosion of our reserves. He then proposed an increase in the ordinary subscription from £15 to £19 but leaving the junior sub. at £5, Country at £6, Family at £29 and Group at £45. After much discussion, it was decided to increase the ordinary sub. to £20 to save possibly having to revise rates again in a few years time. The new rates were approved by the membership and will come into effect on October 1st.

Changing his hat to that of Astronomy Secretary, the President said that he was sometimes accused of reading too lengthy astronomy reports – this would not be the case this time. He then gave the Astronomy Section report in one short sentence :-

‘The Observatory has been closed for the whole year while Thames Water have been working on the reservoir and in consequence there were no public open nights and no astronomical observations were made.’


Thames Water finished their work on the reservoir at the end of July, exactly a year after they started. This left us with a lot of work to do ourselves, but first we had to liaise with the Met. Office and the Environment Agency about re-siting their instruments. It is a pity that our record century plus of continuous daily met. readings has been interrupted with the loss of a whole year’s recordings. However, Thames’s work has left us with a few benefits. By relaying the concrete pathway from the stairs to the rotunda they have saved us the annual struggle to remove rogue weeds and tree saplings growing in the cracks, and moving the met. instruments further south has given us a much larger outside area for portable telescopes. The cast concrete ‘flange’ encircling the observatory has improved its appearance and the slightly raised level has removed the high step in front of the observatory door which had always been a trip hazard in the dark.

We now have to re-commission the Observatory so that we can resume our public open nights, but it seems pretty clear that we will have to postpone opening, probably until the end of October. We still have to re-connect and upgrade the electricity supply to modern specifications, re-fit the step lights and re-fit and adjust the telescope objective – to name but a few jobs!

When Thames Water finally vacated the site at the end of July, Simon wasted no time and organized a working party on Sunday August 6th and a follow up on the 29th. A good number of members turned up on nice warm sunny days to help. The first activity was to remove the vast quantity of tree bark mulch that Thames Water had spread over 50% of the Met. site. We needed to remove this in order to lay paving stones. In the event, the area proved far from level and will need some more work before we can begin to lay the stones, so we turned our attention to painting the building instead. Our thanks to all those who turned up to help and to Simon for organising the work and buying the materials.


Together with this Newsletter, you will find a programme card for the next session of lecture meetings. More cards can be obtained at meetings. Do take some if you can place them in suitable locations such as Libraries and/or Schools.

The first lecture of the session will take place on Thursday September 21st at 8:15 pm. at which Emeritus professor of bio-engineering, Heinz Wolff, will entertain us with a trio of interesting talks entitled: YOU MAY NOT BELIEVE THIS BUT..... Heinz is an ex-President and has been an HSS member for 60 years.

I hope to see you at the meeting.

Doug Daniels HSS President


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Last updated   27-Sep-2018