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THE PLANETARY GROUP
This is an informal group originally formed by a few members, following a talk by (Alan Longstaff?) on the origin of the solar system. Members wanted to debate and explore the subject further but felt there wasn't enough time at the regular meeting so decided to meet somewhere informally. The first ever meeting, suggested and encouraged by Bob Oseman, was in the Copperfield pub, between Gravesend and Higham, as those attending that first meeting were from Gravesend and Gillingham (Bob Oseman, Peter Parish, Mike Phillips).
Though this was a large and friendly pub, the tables and layout being more conducive to pub meals, the new group moved a little way along the Gravesend Road to the Sir John Falstaff pub. Many members have joined and the regular meetings, usually on the first Monday of the month, have allowed for lively debate on a range of topics connected with planetary matters. Members often bring books, maps, academic papers and journals, astronomy magazines, rocks for identification (including meteorites), globes, and anything else they feel may be of interest.
The group as mentioned is informal in that there is no Chairman, minutes are not taken, the idea being to create an open and friendly environment to discuss interesting subjects relating to the solar system, and it is not focused strictly on planets. Some of the subjects that have been discussed include origin of the solar system, features on Mars, features on the Moon, movement of the planets over time, asteroids and meteorites, robotic and human space missions, and how to draw or record images of solar system objects.
Over time the group has grown to a regular attendance of around 10-15, and outgrown the Falstaff pub so fairly recently moved a to the See Ho pub in Shorne. The group's success has in itself created a minor problem in that having a larger group makes it difficult to keep the whole group - who can be spread around long tables - on one subject, and being able to hear each other. Recently the group has been looking at ways to make the meetings slightly more organised with a set subject or subjects, whilst still remaining informal.
Sometimes members bring a telescope, binoculars or laser pointer if it's a clear night and show the night sky to the customers and staff of the pub.
There is no fee to join and all are welcome, even those who just have something to bring along, or to listen. It is not compulsory to be a planetary scientist! Nor do members have to raise a topic, so if a member wants to just listen, they can. The group has a mixture of people with technical and academic backgrounds and others with totally different careers who simply have a passion for planetary matters.
A word of warning - the topics can sometimes be on controversial theories and can result in rather lively debates with much noise, disagreement and enthusiasm!
Finally, the group has recently started a file folder sharing system called SSOLAR to allow the sharing of research papers, articles and documents, that may be discussed at these meetings.
Please contact Mike Phillips or Bob Oseman for more information.