Flamsteed Astronomy Society
One of the great pleasures of being a member of the Flamsteed Astronomy Society is the opportunity to chat to other members of the society about an incredibly wide range of topics. The knowledge of our membership never ceases to amaze me and has again been demonstrated by the quality of debate on our new online discussion forums.
The most visible aspect of this knowledge is our annual “members’ talks” evening, traditionally the last lecture of the Flamsteed season. At these events, we open the floor to Flamsteed members to give a talk about a topic of their choice, the only proviso being that the talk relates to astronomy (we are, after all, an astronomy society… though I’m quite certain that we could find members to talk about pretty much any topic you could think of!).
Our members’ talks lecture for the 2013/14 certainly didn’t disappoint, with three quality presentations.
Under Brazilian Skies – an Astronomers Experience in N.E. Brazil – by Brian Blake
First up, we had Brian Blake, who gave us a talk about his recent trip to Brazil. Brian visited the north-east of Brazil, around the area of Recife, and briefly gave us a history of astronomy in Brazil, first talking about Dom Pedro II, the last emperor of Brazil. He seemed to be a very interesting character, a great lover of science and culture, he insisted that Brazilian children had an education that was science based and appears to have had the respect of many European scholars.
Dom Pedro II was also a photographer and an astronomer and took many hundreds of astronomical plates throughout his life. He also had an astronomical observatory constructed (the Torre Malakoff Observatory), where he took photographs of the night sky.
Brian then talked to us about his visit to the city of Olinda. Olinda also has an observatory, although this is no longer used for research and has become more of a tourist attraction. Brian met up with the local astronomy society in Recife – the Sociedade Astronomica Do Recife, where he did a talk about the history of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the Flamsteed Astronomy Society. One striking feature of the Recife Astronomy Society is the age of its members… they do have a very young membership, which is hugely encouraging for the future of astronomy in Brazil. Brian found himself to be the oldest person in the room!
Unfortunately, weather conditions meant that Brian was unable to do very much observing, but this didn’t dampen either his enthusiasm or the enthusiasm of the amateur astronomers that he met. He urged Flamsteed members to get in touch with the Recife Astronomy Society, at firstname.lastname@example.org . It would be great to forge some links with this society and hopefully welcome them to Greenwich one day.
Brazilian astronomy is certainly going from strength to strength, with plans to join the European Southern Observatory being debated at present. A very prescient time to talk about Brazilian astronomy, and we thank Brian for a most enlightening presentation.
Variable Stars – What They Are and How to Observe Them by Chris Mann