Our first year has been busy and exciting, with lots to enjoy for WDAS members. WDAS was formed in 2001, bringing together past and present adult students of Astronomy courses run by City College Manchester at its Fielden Centre. From humble and uncertain beginnings, WDAS ended the year with an enthusiastic membership of over 30 members, plus a further 17 GCSE student associate members.
Society activities have covered a fascinating range of topics and activities. WDAS meets generally on the second Monday of the month (except August when the College is closed), and then informally adjourns to the local pub, The Woodstock. Activities have ranged from an inspiring series of excellent speakers, through local observing sessions, trips to darker sites remote from the Manchester area, to visits to other astronomy centres.
The aim was to have a balance of interest for the monthly meetings, with invited speakers for some of the meetings, interspersed with other activities and opportunity for observing.
Starting in June 2001, John Thomson guided us through the setting up and use of the College's telescopes. The following month, members had the opportunity to look at and use Astronomy software on laptops. The Autumn term session kicked off with Tony Hill, from the Stockport Binocular and Telescope Centre, giving us advice on choosing and using Telescopes and Binoculars. In October, we were allowed to use Simpson's Restaurant by special arrangement. Andrew Greenwood, Macclesfield AS’s Vice-President, gave a fascinating illustrated talk on Astrophotography, from conventional film to digital photography, and showing us the spectacular eclipses he witnessed in Turkey and South Africa. Dave Hawdale also told us about WDAS's web-site and email facility. Sue Metcalfe and John Thomson followed Andrew’s theme with a practical Astrophotography Workshop for the November meeting.
For our Christmas presentation, Duncan Steel from Salford University alerted us to the risk to Earth from Asteroid impact in his talk entitled "Project Spaceguard - saving people from going the way of the Dinosaurs". This meeting was also held in Simpson's Restaurant, and attracted an audience of over 40 people.
In January, we held a fun AstroQuiz to keep the members who had been away on the Hardraw weekend awake. The next month, Nigel Marshall spoke about GCSE Astronomy from the Chief Examiner's viewpoint. In March, the local geologist Fred Broadhurst got us to look at "the Earth as a Planet". Our final speaker was Dave Ogden from Macclesfield AS, who gave a presentation on Comets, including recent images of Comet Ikeya-Zhang.
WDAS’s first AGM and ‘birthday’ was held in May.
The first observing session was held near Jackson's Boat in the Mersey Valley in July 2001. Some members joined Macclesfield AS at Pott Shrigley for an August 2001 Perseid meteor watch. Roof-top observing is possible at Fielden Park on clear non-meeting Monday nights during term-time by ringing Lionel Cox. Off-site, a dark(ish!) location has been reconnoitred between Kenworthy Woods and Chorlton Water Park.
The annual field trip to Hardraw (a truly dark site in the Yorkshire Dales) with the GCSE students took place on the weekend of 11 to 13 January. The 23 participating members also indulged in additional activities of a choice of walks, visits to the Wensleydale Cheese factory and the Green Dragon, and amazingly, completed a thousand piece 'glow in the dark' jigsaw of the celestial sphere over the weekend.
By invitation of Duncan Steel, a number of members went to Salford University to hear Paul Roche, the National Schools Astronomer, talk about the Faulkes 2-metre Telescopes, which will be located in Hawaii and Australia. These internet-based robotic telescopes will be made available for real-time use by UK schools, colleges and amateur societies. Several members were guests of Macclesfield AS on their day trip to the National Space Centre at Leicester. An informal Christmas meal was held at The Woodstock on 17 December. Finally, WDAS took part in Macclesfield AS’s "AstroDay" at Jodrell Bank as part of National Science Week on 16 March.
Looking back over the year, we feel that WDAS has achieved its aim of providing a balance of interest with speakers, visits and other activities. We look forward to providing an even more varied and exciting programme in the year ahead.