Members Evening – 26th June 2008

After the usual run of society notices, Mike McRoberts gave us his observing notes and astrophotography challenges for July. Tony Buick gave us a talk about Tardigrades and the TARDIS experiment, which was launched on the Russian FOTON-M3 mission in September 2007. Tardigrades are very small animals which can take on an extremely hardy form to survive prolonged periods in hostile environments, and then “come back to life” once conditions become more amicable again. The TARDIS mission exposed some unfortunate tardigrades to the vacuum and radiation of Low Earth Orbit, and then returned them to Sweden. We’re waiting to hear whether they survived the experience. Tony brought along a microscope and some live tardigrades for members to see.

After coffee Mark Shelley gave us a talk about using digital SLRs for astrophotography. This included tips on how to get images into sharp focus, and on “modding” a digital SLR to remove the manufacturer’s IR and UV filter in order to improve its H-alpha response. He illustrated the effects with a number of astrophotographs, some of which can be found in the Society’s gallery.

Mike McRoberts then brought the evening to a close with a talk about the Phoenix Lander, which has (at the time of the meeting) been on the surface of Mars for 31 Martian days. Reports from this mission will be well worth watching out for in the next few months.

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