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Astronomers Conference Bath

William Herschel Society and the Society for the History of Astronomy Conference at BRLSI, 02nd April 2016

1      John Chuter on Somerset Astronomers – British Astronomical Association

Names in development of astronomy in Somerset:
Roger Bacon 12th-13th century
John Pond 18th century
Observatory at Westbury sub Mendip
John George Hickley 1810-1889
Rector of Walton church, rectory now owned by Millfield School. Sent letter of invitation to astronomical scientific society to local Conservative MP.
Rev Phillips 1868-1942
Had his own observatory on Headley and made some drawings of Jupiter.
Reginald Waterfield
Locally educated, early WHS member
Harold Ridley
Bequeathed £59,000 to BAA for fund in his name.
From treasure trove of items:
Record of total eclipse in Sweden in 1851.
Sir John Hippisley 1804-1898
Another wealthy astronomer with an observatory at Stoneaston Park, whose image is similar to that of Sir John Naismith. He had a friendship with Lessell. Drew the Orion Nebula.

2         Bristol Astronomical Society: Past, Present and Future - Richard Mansfield

There will be a transit of Mercury I about a month’s time - The Transit of Mercury, 2016 May 9 according to https://britastro.org/transit2016 on 03/04/2016.
William Denning 1849-1931 turned down being a Gloucestershire wicket keeper to become great astronomer. Craters on the Moon and Mars named after him.
Sir Bernard Lovell (1913-2012) First Chairman but didn’t do anything.
Colin Pillinger (1943-2014) got the soft landing on Rosetta Philae Landing approved and also was behind failed Beagle 2 Mission to Mars.

3      A Thin Hard Rain from Outer Space: 100 years of Cosmic Ray Astronomy by Roger Moses


Roger’s PhD thesis was on the super heavy particles from cosmic rays, which followed on from Dr Rodney Hillier’s PhD 10 years earlier on heavy particles in cosmic rays.

Father Theodore Wulf, a Jesuit priest interested in the sciences, developed a cloud chamber ionization chamber apparatus for the detection of radiation. He noticed that readings at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris did not decrease as quickly as would have been expected compared to at ground level is all the radiation came from the earth and was absorbed by the atmosphere.
Rudolph Hess, the man hailed for the discovery of cosmic rays, was a wealthy man dressed in a three-piece tweed suit with a professor’s cap. In 1912 he went up in a balloon and measured ionization up in the atmosphere. He found it decreased with height and then increased with height up to a maximum point.
Then came the use of the cloud chamber track of the positron discovered by Carl Anderson in 1933 following Paul Dirac’s – a celebrated Bristol physicist – work on quantum mechanics.
·         First evidence of an anti-particle
·         Discovery of a pi meson
EM shower from particle interaction cascade. Pfotzer maximum at 18km where max radiation from particle shower is released by the cascade – just at the height Concorde used to fly so it had to have a radiation detector on board to descend just in case of a spike in radiation due to a cosmic ray!
Cosmic ray paths used to be detected using stacks of photographic plates using silver emulsion. Equipment needs to be stored in a radiation shelter during solar flares which occur about once per year. 1% of all cosmic rays reaching the Earth are high energy heavy atomic nuclei which come from supernovae. Lithium batteries are cosmic rays that started out as iron and had bits chipped off leaving lithium.
Heavy nuclei arrive on Earth with the incidence of 1 particle per km per year or less frequently than that – need massive detector arrays such as the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina to detect them.

4      William Herschel Society AGM

Science and technology committee advisory body to Bath Preservation Trust, which now owns and operate WH Museum and principal trustee, for events of a scientific flavour in Bath.
Potential PhD in Herschel at local university with a musical focus.
WH work with Speculum Metal was what the journal was previously named.
Fred Schlesinger, treasurer and membership secretary will circulate copy of membership list to committee.
Mike Perkins, member of society, gives thanks for shear quality of Speculum publication.
Changes to proposed statement for the purpose of the William Herschel Society:
Society should not be just local, given the Herschel societies in Japan and Hannover – William Herschel-Shorland, Herschel family member.
Herschel was a musician rather than a composer – Michael Tabb, committee member.
William Herschel Society should collaborate specifically with Bath Spa University as well as University of Bath, stated explicitly in statement – Peter Ford, retiring chairman.
Bristol Astronomical Society is much larger as WH Soc so joint membership would not follow as deal would not be reciprocal due to WH Soc membership being £10 and BAS membership being £30.

5      William Herschel and the Bath Philosophical Society by Prof Francis Ring

Bath was an open society during the Georgian period where people could escape London and have open discussions about what they wanted.
The Octagon Chapel on Milsom Street was built for those seeking to escape the cold, smelly and overcrowding at Bath Abbey. So in 1766 William Herschel arrived as organist at new chapel.
In those days, people would talk about science in tea rooms and coffee houses but only the clergy were really educated. Teachers, poor intellectuals, were considered high class entertainers with equipment to wow the audience.
Agricultural society was formed to improve the crop yield and understanding of farming techniques as before that what little knowledge there was about these things was passed down through families and people generally had little understanding. The subgroup Bath Philosophical Society was then formed. Philosophy in those days meant physics and science of astronomy. This group was for the rich and the intellectuals. This was considered to be a better group than the Royal society of the day, with 25 members compared with 4 members of the Royal Society at the time.
Members included:
William Smith, father of English geology.
Edmund Rack, secretary of the society, found evidence for the existence of space, was called crackers at the time but has later been proven true.
William Falconer – Physician at Royal Mineral Water Hospital. Went on to join Royal Society.
Dr William Oliver – painting in Royal Mineral Water Hospital of consultation between a physician and a surgeon – those two groups didn’t speak in those days due to the circumstances of their training and standing in society. Oliver’s biscuit left out bad things such as fat and sugar, so patients seeking restoration from their ill health caused by a bad diet would then take the spa waters in Bath and go home cured.
Joseph Priestly – 1774 discovered Oxygen. Also Carbon dioxide, ammonia, nitrous oxide, and photosynthesis. He would ride his horse to Bath from Bowood House in Calne everyday, would have taken over two hours. His book on optics is in the WH museum.
John Bryant: worked with WH on constructing a telescope.
Benjamin Smith – optician.
Sir William Watson MD FRS was a doctor and member of the Royal Society through his father. He then introduced William Herschel to Royal Society. They first met in the street when Sir William Watson was observing the sky with a 7 foot telescope in the street as he had no garden in his house. William Herschel came upon him and asked what he was doing and that was the start of a life-long friendship.
Unfortunately, no trace of Bath Philosophical Society journals remains in existence today.

Herschel discovered Uranus, in Bath on 13th March 1781, using hand ground speculum metal mirrors in his telescope.
William Herschel discovered infrared radiation in 1800. This piqued John Leslie, who was Scottish, who wrote angrily that Herschel’s discovery was an outrage to science as John Leslie had been working on radium for last ten years without publishing his work. But at the society meeting William Herschel was able to reproduce experimentally his discovery for the Royal Society.
William Herschel lived in a few different houses in Bath, in Rivers Street as well as another house on New King Street other than the house of the William Herschel Museum.
Dr Allan Chapman, William Herschel Society President:
William Herschel knew how to get on with landed gentry – picked up on English ways and customs and that led him to great success.


6      Kepler and the Universe: How One Man Revolutionized Astronomy by David Love of SHA

David has written a book with this title published in America.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630).
Some background reading:
The Solar System by Sir Patrick Moore. The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler which talks specifically about Kepler.
Since Pythagoras in Ancient Greece, world has been perceived to be at the centre of the universe surrounded by Celestial Sphere. More advanced models were proposed through time to explain observations made of the stars and planets – Ptolemy. Copernicus’ model which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe was attacked by Martin Luther who said the Earth is fixed and the Sun stood still in the Bible – presumably during a solar eclipse. Tycho Brahe said that Earth is at the centre of the universe but other planets appear to orbit the Sun.
Most museums in Germany are closed on a Monday including the Kepler Museum in Weil der Stadt.
Kepler was educated in German initially then Latin at seminaries, education to become a Lutheran church minister. Michael Maestlin was one of Kepler’s teachers and influencers, he revealed Copernicus’ theory to Kepler in Tubingen University. It was after 4 and a half years out of 5 of study here to become a minister that is was decided Kepler was not suitable to become a Lutheran priest because of Calvinism.
He was then posted to Graz as a mathematics teacher instead. Here is developed idea that force drags planets around the Sun and weakens with distance from the Sun. Another thing he notices was the Jupiter and Saturn great conjunction in the sky which happens every 20 years roughly 20 degrees along from the last. Eventually he had to flee Graz because of religious persecution, it being a Catholic dominated society, the school that Kepler taught at now no longer exists.
Prague 1600-1612
Imperial Mathematician to Holy Roman Emperor. His discoveries here were
·         Elliptical orbits
·         Area orbit sweeps in elliptical orbit is the same due to the variation in speeds around the ellipse.
·         Using these insights it is possible to more accurately predict planetary position.
Linz 1612-1626
Kepler had a second marriage. 4 out of his 13 children survived to adulthood which was termed par for the course. There was the 30 Years War. His mother faced a witch trial – she survived due to Kepler’s position of responsibility.
He formulated his 3rd law on Planetary motion about distance from the Sun and the time taken to orbit.
Kepler’s work on optics included:
1.       Explanation of lens corrections of light for short and long sighted people
2.       Inverse square law for light intensity

3.       Realization that image was formed upside down on retina in the eye

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