This Saturday was the day appointed for our visit to the Royal Astronomical Society’s library, and by 10:30am 15 of us had gathered at the foot of the stairs in Burlington House. Peter Hingley, the Society’s librarian, showed us around. He had stories to tell about various artifacts (“A piece of Isaac Newton’s apple tree”), portraits, charts and books. The library seems to occupy more than just the room with “Library” on the door. There were cupboards full of books squirrelled away in quite a few of the rooms. Peter had selected a small number of treasures to show us. Among them were copies of Copernicus’ “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium”, a couple of Galileo’s works, “Istoria e Dimonstrazione Intorno” and “Sidereus Nuncius”, and Caius Hyginus’ “Poeticon Astronomicon” which contains some of the oldest printed start charts. It was nearly 1:00pm by the time we emerged into the London drizzle and headed for a nearby pub to get some lunch.
Conveniently, there was a British Astronomical Association meeting in the afternoon, and a few of us stayed in London in order to attend it. There were two main lectures. The first, on “Quasars, black holes and galaxy formation” by Omar Almaini of Nottingham University, included new images of the centre of the Milky Way, which show stars in orbit around the galaxy’s central super-massive black hole. The other, on “Bonneville and Beyond : A Year on Mars with the Spirit Rover” by Doug Ellison, was a fascinating account of the progress of the Spirit Rover on Mars, and included some impressive 3D images of the Martian landscape. It was gone 6:00pm by the time the meeting ended.