Mid-Kent Astronomical Society
The James Irwin Observatory is
Currently Closed
and Due to Reopen

on 2nd June 2017

Check here after 19:30 on the day to get final confirmation before travelling in case clouds prevent us opening.
See EVENTS page for details


Dr Robin Catchpole: Are We Star Dust or Nuclear Waste?
Bredhurst Village Hall

Every thing around us, apart from hydrogen and helium, was made inside stars. The Earth and Sun contain elements made in generations of stars that were born and died before the birth of our Sun and planets. The story of the birth and death of stars is the story of the battle of matter against the force of gravity.
In this talk Robin will tell this story and show how gravity always wins, as stars die with either a whimper or a bang.

Dr Robin Catchpole

Currently works at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University.
Retired as Senior Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in September 2003.
Joined the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) in 1962. After obtaining a BSc at University College London, he was posted to the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, S Africa (now the South African Astronomical Observatory) and spent the next 24 years, working first in Pretoria and then Cape Town.
Obtained his doctorate at the University of Cape Town. In 1991 he returned to the RGO in Cambridge, until it closed in 1998, when he moved to Greenwich as Senior Astronomer.
Has authored and co-authored over 120 research papers and articles and used a number of telescopes around the world including the Hubble Space Telescope. Research interests include, the composition of stars, exploding stars, the structure of our Galaxy and galaxies with black holes at their centres.
Has given numerous popular lectures and radio and TV interviews.
Originated the design of the 33 ton bronze truncated cone at the new Astronomy Centre in Greenwich, completed and opened by the Queen, in 2007.
Is currently part of the team intending to build the Solar Pyramid, which will be the largest sundial in the world.
In 1981 Robin married the sculptor Gill Wiles (1940-2014)


Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury

These take place on Fridays when we do not hold a meeting at Bredhurst (except at Christmas).
Check this page or home page after 19:30 on the day to get final confirmation before travelling, in case clouds prevent us opening.

Nik Szymanek: A Tale of Two Observatories
Bredhurst Village Hall

Nik is well known for his amazing astro-photographs of the night sky.
But Nik recently moved house... and consequently moved his Observatory. Not a simple task.
He will talk about the trials and tribulations of such a mammoth task especially the dismantling and reassembly of the dome, showing photos of the journey and the amazing results.

The talk is suitable for all and will of course feature lots of new pretty pictures.

Nik Szymanek

Nik Szymanek is an amateur astronomer based in Essex. He is a keen astrophotographer and regularly travels to dark sky observatory locations abroad, such as La Palma, Hawaii, Spain and Tenerife. These sites are perfect for deep sky astrophotography and Nik has also liaised with observatory staff to produce public-relations pictures taken with the professional telescopes at those locations. Back in the UK, Nik is a regular monthly columnist for Astronomy Now magazine and has appeared on the BBC's 'The Sky at Night', 'Inside Out' and 'The Final Frontier' television programmes.

Other interests include lecturing to astronomical, photographic and science societies. Nik is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire's Centre for Astrophysics Research and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. In July 2004 he was invited to Berkeley, California, to receive the prestigious Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Amateur Achievement Award for 2004.

Recent projects include the installation of a remote robotic telescope in the mountains of southern Spain. Nik is the author of 'Shooting Stars' a book designed to help people get started in astrophotography. He has also written a book including many great images called 'Infinity Rising'

Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury
Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury

Summer Social
Bredhurst Village Hall

Back by popular demand is the MKAS Social Evening around the BBQ where you can take it easy and meet other like-minded astronomers and water rocket enthusiasts.

Entrance is free to MKAS members and their friends. All you need to bring with you is your food for the BBQ and some buns plus any alcoholic drinks that you may like. MKAS will provide tea, coffee and squash.

Don’t worry about the weather as we will definitely have the BBQs lit.

If you would like to take part in the Water Rockets competition then please make sure that you bring your rocket with you all ready to launch we will supply the Dihydrogen Monoxide rocket fuel (aka H2O aka water).

Rules for the water rocket competition are few but the rockets must be made from a plastic fizzy drinks bottle (normally 2 litre size is best) and must have the standard 21mm internal diameter neck with lip that the top normally screws down onto. Furthermore the placing of cannon balls in the nose cone is definitely not allowed (you know who you are!).

It is advisable to attach some fins at the neck end to stabilise the rocket in flight. These need to be kept well clear of the neck as the launcher needs to locate just behind the lip on the neck of the bottle.

If you are really clever you could fit your rocket out with a re-entry parachute that deploys once the rocket has reached maximum altitude and starts its return to Earth.

Don’t forget to decorate your rocket as well!

Small prizes will be awarded for: Highest flight, longest flight, best parachute return to Earth and most attractive rocket. So get building your rockets as the countdown to blastoff has already begun!

Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury
Bredhurst Village Hall

Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury
Bredhurst Village Hall

Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury

Ashdown Forest

The 2017 AstroCamp will be held on Saturday 5 to Sunday 13 August.

A perfect opportunity to relax in the very picturesque Ashdown Forest, read, go on country walks, visit the local quaint shops, visit nearby Pooh Bridge and other Pooh-related places, socialise with other like-minded amateur astronomers, and do some astronomy in the darker skies of mid-Sussex.

The popular barbecue will be held on Saturday 12th, with many more people visiting just on this evening, sometimes as many as 100 people in attendance. Bring your own food and drink (alcohol permitted).

All members of MKAS are invited, along with their guests.

For details, speak to Naz Rajan.


Solarsphere Astronomy & Music Festival
Builth Wells, Powys, Wales LD2 3RD

Click here for details of this exciting entertaining event

Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury
Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury
Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury
Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival: 1-3 Sep
Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux

For details, see:

Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury

MKAS at the USA Total Solar Eclipse
Bredhurst Village Hall

Some photos and stories from our MKAS members who went to the USA to see the Total Solar Eclipse


Will Adams Festival
Gillingham Park, Canterbury St, Gillingham ME7 5LA (11am-4.30pm)

MKAS will be supporting this event with a display stand and solar telescope

Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury
Public Observing Open Evening
James Irwin Observatory, Canterbury

Rolf Williams: Never mind the Shuttle, look at the wildlife
Bredhurst Village Hall

Did you know that there were people who went to see a Shuttle launch, but looked in a different direction at liftoff? Why? They went to see the wildlife and what happens to the them during a launch.

Kennedy Space Center is filled with a great variety of wildlife species and Rolf will share what effect they have on the Space programme.

Rolf Williams


Bredhurst Village Hall

Hurstwood Road,
Bredhurst, Gillingham,
Kent ME7 3JZ
(Close to J4 off the M2)
There is a car park on site.
Starts 7:45pm for 8pm.

James Irwin Observatory

Meet in the Conservatory at:
Victoria Hotel
59 London Road,
Canterbury, Kent
You will then be escorted to the observatory at 8:30pm (Oct-Mar) / 9pm (Apr-Sep)
Following the presentation there will be a tea break giving a chance to talk with other MKAS members and then an observing session in the field behind the hall (weather permitting) and a telescope workshop in the hall, so if you are having problems with your telescope (or just want to show it off) bring it along.

The meeting is open to non-members who are welcome to attend for free on their first visit.
Everyone of all ages and levels of expertise is welcome, including complete beginners.

There is a small entrance fee for each meeting to cover costs for tea and coffee.

Please dress appropriately for the weather, and be ready for observing, if it is clear. Remember that it can get very cold, especially in winter, so bring several layers or your warmest winter coat, as you feel appropriate.

All of our public meetings are held on the second and last Friday of each month, except August and at Christmas, when there are no meetings.
All Public meetings are held at Bredhurst Village Hall unless otherwise stated.
Meetings normally start at 7.45pm for 8pm.
Bredhurst Village Hall : Hurstwood Road, Bredhurst, Gillingham, Kent ME7 3JZ
Bredhurst is close to J4 off the M2. There is a car park on site.

See our website EVENTS page for details of our forthcoming public meetings.

All persons under 18yrs must be accompanied by a parent/guardian or responsible adult.