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The first of our “Steve Adams” lectures was a great success, thanks to the incredible enthusiasm of our speaker, Professor Vik Dhillon, and the large turn-out of members and visitors.
Vik’s talk concentrated heavily on on the sheer complexity and engineering that is required to construct the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), as well many aspects of the funding, the science, and the choice of location. One of the most staggering facts was that, when complete and housed in its dome, it will be as tall as the Sheffield University Arts Tower. Another incredible fact was that the combined surface areas of all the world’s largest telescopes from the last hundred years would be smaller than the area of the E-ELT.

Thanks to Vik and to everyone who helped out. I am sure Steve would have been very pleased and proud.

You can find out about the E_ELT here:

A profile of Vik Dhillon can be found here:

Despite the inconsistent weather forecast, we had a good day observing the Sun in Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

Sungazing Setup

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sungazing Equipment

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sungazing Hydrogen Alpha

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sungazing White Light

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sungazing White Light with Labels

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley


Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

At the Transit of Mercury event, Stephen Jackson brought along his telescope and the Raspberry Pi camera. This is no normal astronomical imaging device.

The setup of this camera allows anybody armed with an i-device (eg. iPhone, android phone, tablet PC, etc) to view the live image from the telescope directly on their device. The Raspberry Pi acts as the interface to the camera, a web server and a wireless access point. Observers simply connect to the access point, point their web browser at the web server and view the images.

It is an excellent way of doing outreach and Stephen is going to add more functionality to this as there is a new 8MP Raspberry Pi camera recently released which will only improve what we have already seen.

It’s brilliant.

Raspberry Pi Camera installed in the telescope

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Image from Raspberry Pi Camera

Credit: Stephen Jackson

I met Mike Mills at 09:30 at our top-secret location where we store the Telescopes. Mike was extremely organised with his comprehensive check-sheet of required equipment and paraphernalia. We took about 30 minutes to load up, checking and double-checking everything. We were due to meet Mike Gover and Andy Noble at Hallam Square around 11am; as we had an hour or so to kill, we went for a coffee to discuss the game plan for the day – “Set up the scopes and see what happens”.

Gaining a preferential parking spot on Arundel Street ensured that we didn’t have too much work lugging the kit around. Then Darren Swindells and Stephen Jackson showed up, both armed with their own telescopes and imaging equipment, Steve with the Raspberry Pi camera and wireless access point.

Setup was fairly straightforward, although positioning of the newtonian side-by-side with the hydrogen alpha was more art than science, the problem being getting the positioning of the eyepiece easily viewable on both telescopes.

The day was blue skies from horizon to horizon. Sun cream was an essential. First contact was at 12:12, where Mercury started it’s journey across the face of the Sun. Some good sunspots and prominences were also visible.

All the equipment performed well, and special mention should be made of the new Televue and Explore Scientific eyepieces we have recently acquired. The view through the Howitzer/Baader Herschel Wedge/Televue Delos combination was simply spectacular. The new Orion Optics 8″ Newtonian proved to be an excellent purchase with the Seymour Solar glass filter on the front and the Explore Scientific eyepiece, although the focuser did require an extension tube.

We had several hundred visitors through the course of the day including a number of Sheffield Hallam University faculty members, students, commuters (a number of whom I suspect missed their trains), and general passers by. It’s a good location because of the amount of people passing by.

We closed the day when the Sun retreated behind the Saint Paul’s Tower at around 18:30, so we didn’t see last contact. All in all, we had an excellent day.

– Andrew Gilhooley

Image of Mercury Transit on the Synscan hand controller

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Setting up the telescopes at Hallam Square

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Solar alignment of the Howitzer telescope

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Aligned Howitzer Telescope

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Newtonian and Hydrogen Alpha solar telescopes

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sun Box

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sun in Sun Box

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sunspots and Mercury

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Sunspots and Mercury with Labels

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Solar Telescopes at Hallam Square

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

The Sun disappeared behind Saint Paul's Tower

Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

Transit of Mercury
The 2016 Transit of Mercury occurs on Monday 9th May. We will be in The Amphitheatre at Sheffield Hallam University, Hallam Square with our solar telescopes. First contact is at 12:12, with the planet Mercury crossing the disc of the Sun reaching last contact at 19:42.
As always, take care when observing the Sun. The Sheffield Astronomical Society use specialist equipment with which the Sun can be observed safely. Please do not observe the Sun using any optical instruments unless you know EXACTLY what you are doing – you only have one pair of eyes, so let’s stay safe and do this properly folks. Hope to see you there at some point during the day!

Under 18s can now join FREE!

A delighted Buzz Aldrin at last meets his hero, Steve Adams (Credit: Simon Howard)

A delighted Buzz Aldrin at last meets his hero, Steve Adams (Credit: Simon Howard)


In his will, our late, former President Steve Adams bequeathed the sum of £300 pounds to the Society with express purpose of paying the annual subscriptions of junior members (currently £6 for a year). The society has also contributed an equal amount, and set up the Steve Adams Bursary, starting at £600. Steve was always extremely keen to encourage an interest in astronomy and spaceflight in the young, and the fund we have established will make it cheaper for young people or families to join us.

How it works

The Bursary will pay the renewal costs of existing junior members and the subscriptions of new junior members. A junior member is anyone who joins or renews their subscription before their 18th birthday. This scheme comes into operation on January 1st 2016 and will continue until such time as the fund is fully used up.


Junior members under the age of sixteen must be accompanied by an adult at our society meetings (this does not apply to our free public observing events).

After the disappointment of cancelling the Stargazing evening of the 14th, we met a week later at our usual Stargazing venue of the Sportsman Inn on Redmires Road. The weather forecast was with us this time, showing clear skies until around 23:00. We arrived at 17:30 to set up, and although there was a fair amount of snow and ice around, we set up the Meade 10″ SCT and the Pashley 10″ Dobsonian without much trouble.
This left us with about an hour to kill before the event was due to start. The skies were slightly hazy which was disappointing, so we retreated to the warmth and comfort of the Sportsman Inn for a pie and an pint which as always were excellent.
With outside temperatures dropping, we headed back out to set up the tracking mount before the start of the event. The waxing gibbous moon offered no help for observation of any faint objects to the south, however we had some excellent views of the Ring Nebula (M57) through the 10″ Meade. We also observed the Pleiades (M45) and the Orion Nebula (M42), however the moon was bleaching out most of the faint fuzzies and no planets were suitably positioned for observation. The moon offered some excellent views with many craters along the terminator.
The clouds closed in on us at 21:30 which was a little earlier than the forecast, however we had a good evening with plenty of visitors a few of whom brought their own equipment and were conducting observations and imaging until we were clouded out.


Credit: Andrew Gilhooley

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Weather Forecast

Sheffield England United Kingdom
December 2, 2016, 19:44
Intermittent clouds
current pressure: 1030 mb
humidity: 94%
wind speed: 2 mph N
wind gusts: 4 mph
sunrise: 08:00
sunset: 15:50
Forecast December 2, 2016
Partly sunny
max. UV-Index: 0
Partly cloudy
Forecast December 3, 2016
Partly sunny
max. UV-Index: 1
Partly cloudy