Professor Colin Pillinger, 1944-2014

British planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, best known for his 2003 attempt to land a UK spacecraft on Mars, has died aged 70, it was announced this morning.
British planetary science has lost one it’s corner stones, and without Colin the UK would still be well behind many European countries in exploring the solar system. He will be sadly missed.

Liverpool Astronomical Society sends its sincere sympathy to his family and friends at this very sad time.

New Events Calendar – some tests

Hello everyone,
As I hope you’ll have recently noticed, we have recently implemented an Events Calendar (very kindly donated at a significant cost by a generous company called Modern Tribe, who also offer some free plugins, so if you run a WordPress site, do please check them out.)

Anyway, recently some extra functionality has been added to the Events Calendar, including a filter bar. It can be incredibly specific so by choosing a set of filters which don’t tally, you could end up seeing no events listed. If you find you cannot see an event you think is there, click the “Reset Filters” link at the bottom of the filter bar and that should resolve the issues.

I’m aware that the colouring of the new elements doesn’t quite fit into the normal theme of the LAS website at present, but this is temporary and I’ll be amending this shortly.

Kind regards,
Mark Galvin
Website admin team

Event Report: Leighton Observatory Open Day 8th March 2014, by Brenda Jones

Thanks to Brenda Jones for sending us her report of our National Astronomy Week 2014 open day/evening at the Leighton Observatory.

I just wanted to express our thanks to the Liverpool Astronomical Society & their members. Although we live in Cheadle, Greater Manchester we’d found out about the event at Pex Hill via my brother who is the editor of Prescot Online. It had been quite cloudy & we weren’t sure if we’d see anything but when we came to leave we could see some stars we decided to go & I’m so glad we did!

We had a great time. When we got there we could see lots of telescopes so we just kind of wandered around & then we were approached by someone who explained to us what we would be able to see through the telescopes. First we got to see Jupiter. It was amazing- I’ve never seen a planet ‘close up’ before, only on TV & I’m not sure that counts! The people were really great & explained to the kids (& the adults!) what they were looking at & giving them little bits of information.

Just when we were thinking of going we decided to go & see what was happening in the observatory. I’m so glad we did – it was the highlight! We had a bit of a wait but it was fine – the kids played iSpy with ‘Telescope Dave’. When we went into the observatory there were quite a lot of people but we all got a turn to look at the moon. The man speaking, also called Dave, was really good at explaining what we were looking at & answering all of our questions. After we’d looked at the moon, Jupiter & it’s moons & the Orion Nebula some of the other people needed to go so Dave asked us if we wanted to stay. My Daughter, Iona-Mae, wanted to see the moon again so we said yes. Who wouldn’t say yes to their own private viewing? We got to see the moon at a higher magnification & it gave the kids a bit of a chance to speak to Dave.

I’m so glad we went. The people were great & very friendly & approachable. ‘Telescope Dave’, who I think was from near Manchester, gave us some details of some astronomical societies a bit closer to where we live & I’ve liked the LAS page on Facebook so I can keep up with any other events.

Brenda Jones

Event Report: Leighton Observatory Open Day 8th March 2014, by Hayley Parr

I arrived at this event around 3pm, nice drive, no disasters. Disappointingly, Galileo had already left because he was poorly, I haven’t seen him for a while and was looking forward to a catch up! Get well soon!
Although this event was cloudy at first we persevered waiting for Mr. Sun to show his face. He didn’t disappoint.

Curious members of the public approached to ask what on Earth we were looking at in the middle of the day. Their faces, a delight when the response, “The Sun” came. I appointed myself ‘dog holder’ while they went into the forest of solar scopes. I should have thought twice on this decision, as one of them was the size of a horse and twice as determined (there were biscuits knocking about).
Night time descended and we had an early view of the moon. Its was at this point I decided to climb the ladder up to the 30″ reflecting telescope eye piece.
I played it cool but I was petrified, as I gingerly ascended my awkward body up the ladder a little boy shouted “FFFFFFAAAAALLLLL!!!” so cheers to that kid!
However I made it and I don’t think Buzz Aldrin himself had a better lunar view! Breath taking!
Some stunning views of Jupiter (the theme of this yea’rs National Astronomy week) were to be had. However the absolute HIGHLIGHT of this event for me is when
Brian went to the chippy!


P.s Thanks to Brendan for asking me to move my car. Dave was just about to get me to navigate the dome telescope to Jupiter ;)

Clear skies tonight – please count the stars and help us save them

We have received an update from Emma Marrington (Senior Rural Policy Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England), regarding the Star Count for National Astronomy Week 2014 (which runs until 8th March).

Campaigns updateCampaign to Protect Rural England

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Good afternoon

Last weekend, I went out and took a look at the night sky to see how many stars I could count in the constellation of Orion. I counted seven in outer London. I’ve added my result to our Star Count survey which will help us create a map of England showing where the most stars can be seen and where light pollution is spoiling our view of the night sky.

Constellation of OrionTake part in our Star Count

Thank you to the hundreds of you who have already taken part in our Star Count and submitted your results. We’d love to see more of you join in. With some clear nights ahead there’s no better time for some stargazing.

Can you spare just ten minutes one evening this week to take part in a spot of citizen science? Just look towards the south after 7pm and tell us what you can see within the four corner stars of Orion – see the picture. If you count more than thirty stars then you are lucky enough to have truly dark skies. A count of fewer than ten stars means your view of the night sky is blighted by light pollution.

Astromaster 21064 telescopeTell us your result and enter our prize draw

Your results will give us the evidence we need to illustrate how light pollution is affecting views of the night sky across the country. When you submit your results, you’ll also have the chance to enter our competition to win a stunning telescope.
Tell us your results
If you are suffering from light pollution you’ll also find information on our website about how you can take action about light pollution problems in your area.

Thank you so much, I really do appreciate your support for our campaign.

Best wishes,
Emma Marrington
Senior Rural Policy Campaigner
Campaign to Protect Rural England

PS: Spread the word

Please forward this to your friends to encourage more people to take part in our Star Count challenge

Campaign to Protect Rural England, 5-11 Lavington Street, London, SE1 0NZ
Tel: 020 7981 2800 Fax: 020 7981 2899

Rating of items now restricted to Registered Users of the site

Due to an unfortunate abuse of the ratings system by some mean-spirited people hiding behind anonymity, only logged in users of the website will now have the option to rate items on the site such as articles and events.

We’re not saying “Don’t rate an article/event with a low score”, however unless you explain the reason you gave a low score (preferably in the comments section at the bottom of every article), then we have no way of knowing how to improve things.

Likewise, if there’s something you liked about a particular about an item, please give it a rating you think it deserves and if you have time, add a comment at the bottom.

LAS Website Team

Event Report: Wirral Star Party, 1st March 2014 by Hayley Parr

On Saturday the 1st March I attended the Wirral Star Party with Liverpool Astronomical society. Not coming from Liverpool myself and being a St. Helens girl, I thought I would avoid the pesky £1.60 charge on the Mersey tunnel and drive around it all instead. This journey took me 3 hours, caused me to go petrifyingly low on fuel and my blood pressure to sky rocket for the fear of being stranded literally in the middle of nowhere.

However after this crisis was averted by a friendly man from a pub who got me to a Sainsbury’s for petrol, I was there.

At first the skies didn’t look as though they would like to play ball. I was starting to think of myself as the event curse, as all of mine thus far had been cloud soup. However all of a sudden, as if by magic *millions and MILLIONS AND MILLIONS… (Yes I’m doing Brian Cox) of stars appeared. *Not millions but a lot. The party had begun. You could see astronomers making darts to their cars for telescopes and within the blink of an eye a forest of them appeared.

Shouts of “Who wants to look at Jupiter… Orion Nebula… clusters…” rang out as though it was a London market. As well as approximately every 12 seconds a member of the public shouting “WWWWOOOOWWWW!!!”

I think the highlight of this event for me was just how engaged the children were. I heard a girl of around 8 while standing on a ladder say “Is that Io? The volcano moon?” I obviously asked if I could adopt her but her mother wasn’t keen ;)

All in all a fun and interesting event.

I took the Mersey Tunnel home.


Images from Wirral Star Party, 1st March 2014

Below are some of the images we’ve been sent from last night’s Star Party at Wirral Country Park.

As we receive more, the gallery below will update.

If you have images you’d like to add, please get in touch!
You can contact us in any of several ways: In the comments at the bottom of this page, via our forum,  with our Contact forms, via flickr not to mention Twitter and Facebook!
If none of those suit, there’s good old fashioned e-mail (but if you don’t already have our direct e-mail address, you’ll need to make an initial contact via one of the other methods so we can give it to you).

In case you’re worried about sharing your images, be assured that you retain all credit for and copyright on your images – the only thing we ask is that we are allowed to display them, with attribution to you of course!

[RFG_gallery id=’1′]

Message of thanks re: Wirral Star Party (National Astronomy Week 2014)

Just a message of thanks, once again to all the LAS Members who helped with last night’s Wirral Star Party, which was attended by approx 125 members of the public.

The weather tried to crash the party with rain and cloud, but we did get some clear spells, to enjoy Jupiter, and lots more.
Special thanks to Wirral Ranger Dave, who gave up his night-off to open the Wirral Country Park visitor centre for the event.

The LAS Leighton Observatory Open Day/Night is next Saturday March 8th from 1pm, but we do it all again on the Wirral on Saturday November 1st, 2014 see you there.

Cheers, Gerard

Update: Click here to see some images from the event.

Mr Gerard Gilligan
Hon Secretary,
Liverpool Astronomical Society

Star Count 2014 – Count stars, win a prize

The Campaign to Protect Rural England‘s Dark Skies division and the British Astronomical Association have partnered with National Astronomy Week 2014 to run Star Count 2014.

From the website:

By taking part in our Star Count you will be helping us to find out which part of the country has the darkest skies where the most stars can be seen. The results will help us highlight the problem of light pollution which is spoiling the natural beauty of the night sky.

Taking part is easy:
On a night between 26th February 2014 and 8th March 2014, using just your eyes count the number of stars you can see within the constellation of Orion and submit your results!
You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, and you could win a prize.

For full details, please see the Star Count 2014 website at: