We’ve had such a jam-packed AstroSoc schedule that we starting before the academic year began!
Just before Welcome Week, in late September we took the weekend off to visit the Edale in the Peak District for the AstroSoc Annual Camping trip. We had a fantastic time by hiking, visiting nearby towns and taking great night sky pictures with in crystal clear conditions.
We were met with many new faces during the University and College Freshers Fairs and were pleased to welcome both returning and new members to AstroSoc with an Ice-breaker Introductory Quiz in the first week of the term. As is our tradition, we continued to get to know each other while enjoying the food at Jimmy Spices as a part of our Social Schedule.
As usual one of our first events of term is the Astronomy Workshop. This year was no different and the Workshop provide very popular! We taught our members about astrophotography tricks to capture best night sky images, safe solar observing and setting up our society telescopes. We also welcomed the University’s Astrophysics Space & Research Group, and the Sun Stars & Exoplanets Research Group scientists to talk about their research, gravitational waves and asteroseismology. We all had the privilege of learning how listening to the stars can enlighten us about their internal structures, and how we can use gravitational waves to detect black hole collisions.
Many of our members joined us for a spooky Halloween themed Space Race Bar Crawl in October. We also gathered to watch the breath-taking Vale Fireworks on the Bonfire Night. Just before the main event, we made sure we had time to enjoy some cotton candy and the funfair rides!
Later in the term we organised one of our favourite and most popular events: Building Rockets. We shoot our paper rockets to hit targets using a high air pressuriser. We all enjoyed both the challenge of targeting and making the most colourful rocket!
On 11 November we gathered to observe one of the rarest astronomical events, the Mercury Transit. We captured amazing pictures of Mercury crossing between the Sun and the Earth. We were very lucky to enjoy this view with the weather on our side, especially since the next transit won’t be until 2032! Plus our Short Notice Observations (SNO) system, which is built to alert our members on possible night sky observations, has proved very productive. On a clear SNO night, some of us gathered and captured great night sky pictures and as usual, the moon playing a starring role!
Further in the term, we had our Undergraduate Talk by Daniel Hunt who is an AstroSoc member and a 4th year Physics student. He talked about Dark Matter from both a astrophysics and particle physics point of view. It was one of the AstoSoc’s favourite Undergrad Talks!
For our public event Tea, Talk and Telescope, we welcomed Professor Martin Bureau from the University of Oxford. He delivered a fascinating talk about weighting supermassive black holes and both everyone who attended enjoyed the event (and tea and biscuits!) very much.
As time flies by, just before the Christmas break we ended the term with our Chair’s Christmas Quiz which I had the pleasure to chairing. We all had a great time with challenging quiz rounds and closed the term by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!
We have already planned lots of outreach activities for the New Year! We we’ll be hosting our British Science Week event by welcoming school children onto campus, will be visiting schools for observing sessions and organising our second Tea, Talk and Telescope. Plus we have another workshop planned with interesting contents and more interactive games like our famous 'Mars Rover Challenge'!
February will be very emotional for us since we will be electing a new committee on the Annual General Meeting and since the majority of the committee members are graduating. But there’s a while to go yet!
On behalf of AstroSoc, I’d like to thank the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and the School of Physics and Astronomy for their support and to wish everyone Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!
Chair of the University of Birmingham Astronomical Society