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David Southwood CBE - Magnetic Saturn
Virtual presentation via ZOOM

Few will disagree that Saturn is one of the most spectacular planets in our solar system. Nearly everyone remarks "Wow" when they see it for the first time through a telescope and even seasoned observers still find it a majestic sight.

As well as its spectacular ring system it also displays magnificent aurorae although these are only observable from a satellite above the poles.In this talk David will tell us about the magnetic nature of Saturn. The unseen feature and the source of the aurorae and provide other mysteries.

Magnetic fields may be invisible but they are extremely important in ordering the environment of planets (and stars, indeed very many astronomical objects). The exploration of the solar system by spacecraft has routinely showed up surprises about planetary magnetic fields. Saturn was no exception. Its field is generated by a dynamo in the interior of the planet. However, the field has a property that was thought impossible before its discovery, the internal planetary magnetic field is symmetric about the planet’s rotation axis. A dynamo field should not be axisymmetric. Einstein once said the dynamo problem was one of the hardest in physics; it is probable he was right. However, the exterior magnetic surroundings of Saturn also generated lots of surprises. Geysers on the small moon, Enceladus, just outside the rings were discovered initially by the magnetic effect of the material being injected into space continuously from the interior of the moon. It turns out the material liberated by the geysers populates much of the enormous planetary magnetosphere around Saturn.

Moreover, although the magnetic field itself may be invisible, yet that field controls some very visible phenomena like the aurora. The aurorae at Saturn are generated by dynamic interactions between the magnetosphere and the fast rotating planetary atmosphere. We’ll go over some of the great discoveries about Saturn magnetism by the Cassini space mission, some of what we now understand and some of the puzzles that remain.

Prof David Southwood CBE

David was formerly the Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency (2001-2011) and President of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) 2012-2014. He received a CBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Before going to ESA, he was a space scientist at Imperial College, London. At ESA, he oversaw building and launching spacecraft to Venus, Mars and the Moon as well as the Rosetta probe with lander Philae to comet Churymuov-Gerasimenko, in addition to several major space telescopes. He led the team that landed a European probe on Saturn’s largest moon Titan in 2005. An instrument he built at Imperial operated in orbit around the planet Saturn aboard the NASA Cassini spacecraft from 2004-2017. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and won the 2011 Sir Arthur C. Clarke award for space achievement. He was chairman of the Steering Board of the UK Space Agency 2016-2019. He is currently a senior research investigator at Imperial College.


Dr Stuart Clark - Beneath the Night: How the Stars have shaped the history of humankind
Virtual presentation via ZOOM

From Stone Age to space age, people have looked up at the stars and been inspired by their beauty, their patterns and their majesty. Beneath the Night is a history of humanity, told through our relationship with the night sky.

From prehistoric cave art and Ancient Egyptian zodiacs to the modern era of satellites and space exploration, Stuart Clark explores a fascination shared across the world and throughout millennia. It is one that has shaped our scientific understanding; helped us navigate the terrestrial world; provided inspiration for our poets, artists and philosophers; and it has given us a place to
project our hopes and fears.

In the stars, we can see our past – and, ultimately, our fate. This is the awe-inspiring story of the universe
and our place within it.

Dr Stuart Clark

Stuart Clark is a widely read astronomy journalist. His career is devoted to presenting the complex world of astronomy to the general public. Stuart holds a first class honours degree and a PhD in astrophysics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a former Vice Chair of the Association of British Science Writers. On 9 August 2000, UK daily newspaper The Independent placed him alongside Stephen Hawking and the Astronomer Royal, Professor Sir Martin Rees, as one of the ‘stars’ of British astrophysics teaching.

Currently he divides his time between writing books and, in his capacity of cosmology consultant, writing articles for New Scientist. He is a consultant and writes for the European Space Agency where he was Senior Editor for Space Science for some time. Over the years Stuart has written for amongst others: BBC Sky at Night, BBC Focus, The Times, The Guardian, The Economist, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Daily Express, Astronomy Now, Sky and Telescope and Astronomy. He has written text for an issue of stamps for the Royal Mail. He writes an online blog for the Guardian called Across the Universe, read all around the world.

His latest books, published by Birlinn Polygon, are novels set around the times of greatest change in mankind's understanding of the Universe. The first book in the trilogy, The Sky's Dark Labyrinth, tells the stories of the lives and work of Galileo and Kepler against the backdrop of the extraordinary times in which they lived. Published in 2011, there is one fictitious character but almost everything written about the other men and women is based solidly in truth. Stuart spent five years reading letters and documents from the time. The second part is The Sensorium of God, published in 2012. It relates the life, times and work of Isaac Newton and his contemporaries in The Royal Society: Christopher Wren, Edmond Halley, Robert Hooke and others. Again one of the characters is fictitious to carry a story arc, but almost everything else in the book is true, drawn from letters and documents created by the men and their contemporaries. The trilogy's third book, The Day without Yesterday was published in 2013. For this account he leapt forward into the twentieth century to set the scene for the achievements of Albert Einstein and a Belgian priest, Georges Lemaître, who found so much more in Einstein's work. Lots of other scientists play their part and Stuart has found so many records of this particular era that no fictional character was needed to propel the story.

Stuart has two new book projects in the pipeline, returning for a while to non-fiction.

Stuart's book The Big Questions: The Universe, published in 2010 by Quercus, has now been translated into several other languages and is still easily obtainable in the UK. The Sun Kings, published by Princeton in 2007, is another of his current books and was written for the general reader. This book recounts the true story of a phenomenally powerful solar explosion that hit the Earth in 1859 and paints the picture of the Victorians who witnessed the awesome event. The Sun Kings was shortlisted by the Royal Society for their 2008 general science book prize and has been translated into Italian, Greek, Chinese, and for the Brazilian market, Portuguese.

Voyager, a big picture book published by Callisto exclusively for Waterstones for Xmas 2010, sold out and was reprinted for Xmas 2012. Earlier huge picture books such as Galaxy, a companion volume to Deep Space, both from Quercus, also take the reader from the furthest reaches of space and time to the beauty of the nearby celestial objects. Upon publication Deep Space was chosen by UK supermarket giant, Sainsbury, as their non-fiction book of the month. Some copies are still available on

Until 2001, Stuart was the Director of Public Astronomy Education at the University of Hertfordshire. There he taught undergraduates, postgraduates and the general public, whilst researching star formation, planetary habitability and the origins of life. In a paper published by Science in 1998, he helped develop the current paradigm that the left-handed amino acids necessary for the origin of life on Earth were synthesized in star-forming regions spread throughout the Galaxy. In 2001, Stuart decided to increase his part-time writing to a full-time occupation. He remains a Visiting Fellow promoting the University and contributing to observatory open nights. Having crossed from mainstream science into science journalism, he now spends his working life translating astronomy, space research and physics into comprehensible language for the general public.

Thirteen other books written by Stuart Clark have been published to date, selling more than 250,000 worldwide and three of which he subsequently updated for second editions. Universe in Focus: The Story of the Hubble Telescope (Barnes and Noble, 1997) sold more than 100,000 copies. One of his children's books, Journey to the Stars (Oxford University Press, 2000), has sold more than 50,000 copies and was OUP's lead title for the 2001 Bologna Book Fair. These books have been translated into eight languages so far - German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Czech, Swedish and Danish. Stuart has made contributions to six other published books.

Stuart has written for BBC science programmes and co-wrote the script for a DVD about the Hubble telescope. He contributed to, as well as performing in, a National Geographic programme Storm Worlds. His other numerous television and radio contributions in person include Radio 4's Material World, Radio 3's The Essay, BBC's Tomorrow's World and Nine O'clock News, and Channel 4's Big Breakfast. Promoting his novels, The Sun Kings and Storm Worlds he has been interviewed on radio stations around the globe. He has made individual podcasts and a series of 12 based on The Big Questions: The Universe. Stuart has been the accompanying astronomer on a cruise ship and on an eclipse tour to China. He frequently lectures to the public up and down the UK and, increasingly, across the world.

In his sparse spare time his joint passions are cooking and playing rock guitar, but not at the same time.


Prof Ian Morison - Wonders of the Southern Skies
Virtual presentation by Zoom

Ian Morison makes a welcome return to give us a talk about the wonders of the Southern skies which will be accompanied by some of his own wonderful images. Of course, Ian will also be explaining the astronomical significance of the images.

A number of astronomers, including the late great Sir Patrick Moore, regard the Southern skies as being superior to those of the Northern hemisphere. So with Ian's relaxed and authoritive presenting style and some fantastic pictures this will be an enjoyable evening.

Prof Ian Morison

Ian Morison joined the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory as a research student in 1965 before becoming a staff member in 1970. Initially working on data acquisition systems for the observatory's own instruments including the Lovell and Mk II radio telescopes, he went on to play a key role in the development of MERLIN, an array of radio telescopes with a resolution in the radio spectrum comparable to that of the Hubble Space Telescope in the optical.

On 1 August 2007 Ian was appointed as the 35th Gresham Professor of Astronomy, a position previously held by Christopher Wren. In this role he delivered a series of 25 public lectures on astronomy and astrophysics. The four-year period of Gresham Professorship came to an end in August 2011.

Ian is a founding member and now patron of Macclesfield Astronomical Society, a former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy and patron of Ewell Astronomical Society.

Ian has written several books:-
Astronomy (2004, w. Margaret Penston)
Pocket Guide to Stars and Planets (2005 w. Margaret Penston)
Introduction to Astronomy and Cosmology (2008)
An Amateur's Guide to Observing and Imaging the Heavens
A Journey through the Universe: Gresham Lectures on Astronomy (2014)
The Art of Astrophotography (2017)

His easy to follow style of writing reflects his relaxed and entertaining style of spoken presentations.

Main belt asteroid 15727 Ianmorison was named after Morison.

Time to celebrate 45 years of MKAS!
Virtual Presentation by Zoom

MKAS was formed in September 1976 so this will be a great opportunity to celebrate our 45th birthday and to look back on how the Society has evolved. Despite Covid the Society is as strong as ever!

Amateur astronomy, along with the surrounding technology, has changed considerably over that time and as a Society we have made enormous progress too. We will be looking back at some of the fun times, remembering some sadly missed individuals, but also looking to the future with pride and optimism.

Whilst Ian and Naz will lead proceedings we hope many Members will also add their own recollections. So please join us with a glass or two to of your favourite tipple to celebrate.

Ian Hargraves

Ian has been observing for more than 30 years and has his own observatory equipped with an 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope that he uses for both visual observing and astro-photography. Ian has given many presentations including beginner's astronomy talks and introductions to astro-imaging.

Naz Rajan

Naz has been a member of MKAS since 1979, and is currently a Life member and committee member.

He has a passion for Spaceflight, and witnessed three Shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral, including the first and last launches of the Shuttle, all from close by viewing sites amongst other astronauts and their families.


Greg Smye-Rumsby: Solar Eclipses
Virtual Presentation by Zoom

Popular speaker and long term friend of MKAS, Greg Smye-Rumsby, returns to provide another entertaining presentation, this time on the subject of Solar eclipses. Viewing a total Solar Eclipse is regarded as one of life's most spectacular experiences and should be on everyone's bucket list.

So with total solar eclipses visible in North America in 2022, 2024, 2026 and 2027 - two of which are visible from Europe too - this talk will provide a lot of interesting and useful information and will hopefully inspire us to try to observe one.

Greg Smye-Rumsby

Greg is a highly skilled technical illustrator and is a regular contributor to the UK's leading astronomy magazine, Astronomy Now. He is also on the staff of the Royal Greenwich Observatory and is co-author of 'The 3d-Universe' and inventor of the innovative RolloScope portable telescope.


Will Joyce - The outer planets
Virtual presentation by ZOOM

In this presentation Will summarises our current understanding of the outer planets in our Solar System and their most interesting natural satellites using recent imagery from telescopes and spacecraft. The atmospheres, interiors and local space environments of the gas and ice giant planets will be discussed along with their roles in the evolution of the Solar System. A major surprise of the early Space Age was the discovery that several outer planet moons are, or were, active worlds in their own right, and this talk will also explore some of these fascinating objects.

William Joyce

Bringing astronomy and space to the public is William Joyce’s passion. He has been fascinated by astronomy since the age of six, and enjoys sharing the wonders of the cosmos with the public, amateur and expert astronomers, and schools.

William has spent time as an astrophysicist, a spacecraft engineer, and until recently a planetary scientist. He provides outreach talks and short courses for astronomy societies, the public, schools and special events in the UK, overseas, and on-board cruise ships. He is a Chartered Physicist and a STEM Ambassador.

William is always delighted to share his enthusiasm for astronomy and diverse knowledge and experience with people of all ages and backgrounds who wish to learn more about fascinating areas of modern science, so please do ask him any burning questions you have on anything to do with space.


Rodney Buckland CBE and Prof David Rees - A virtual observing session with the Open University robotic telescope in Tenerife
Virtual presentation by Zoom

As amateur astronomers we are often frustrated by the variable UK weather. If only it would be clear more often and for longer! If only we could live somewhere with clear skies and virtually no light pollution!

Well for tonight we all have that rare opportunity as Rodney Buckland and David Rees explain how we can have free access to the Open University robotic telescope situated under the clear dark skies of Tenerife.

And as a SPECIAL BONUS they have managed to book a slot so we can observe a number of stunning objects in real time. There will also be a back up plan in the unlikely event of technical problems with the telescopes or with UK weather turning up in Tenerife!

Rodney Buckland

Rodney was a digital computing engineer in NASA's Deep Space Network in the late 60s, before becoming an expedition scientist in Antarctica and manager of science mission studies at the European Space Agency.

In recent years, he has been a Research Fellow and part-time Lecturer at The Open University, and is one of the founders of Lunar Mission One. He is currently supervising students carrying out research projects in the Open University’s MSc Space Science and Technology programme.

Prof David Rees

Prof David Rees has designed and built instruments for NASA, ESA, JAXA and other space organisations around the world. He designed and largely built the MSASI instrument that is part of the Bepi-Colombo payload that ESA/JAXA launched successfully toward Mercury in October 2018.

David is Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at Utah State University, USA. He has a network of contacts that include some of the biggest names in astrophysics and therefore he is up to date on all the latest theories and research.

David is also conducting leading edge research on our atmosphere using his sophisticated LIDAR system. He uses LiDAR systems from Salehurst in Sussex to undertake cutting-edge research into the Earth's atmosphere and the wind, also atmospheric particulates like dust from the Sahara.
David is currently working on the Aeolus Calibration / Validation Programme for the Aeolus wind-measuring Lidar Satellite launched by ESA in August 2018.

David is an active member of MKAS and regularly observes using a 16” ODK from his back garden in Salehurst, under some of the darkest skies in the UK.

He is a keen cricketer and plays regularly for the Kent Seniors team.


Lorne Whiteway - The not so constant Hubble constant
Bredhurst Village Hall

The Universe is expanding - but how quickly? In this presentation Lorne will describe how our understanding of the rate of expansion has evolved over the last 100 years, and how there is still disagreement over its value. Finally, he will describe what the future holds for the expansion rate.

Dr Lorne Whiteway

Lorne Whiteway studied mathematics first in his native Canada, then at the University of Oxford where he completed his doctorate in 1987. He then moved into the business world, designing and writing computer programs. His interest in astronomy started in 2004, and led to his purchase of an LX90 telescope. In 2010 he started taking distance learning courses in astronomy at the University of Central Lancashire, and in 2013, following an early retirement from business, he began a Master’s course in astrophysics at University College London. Since completing his MSc in 2015 he has worked as a researcher in UCL’s cosmology group.


Steve Tonkin FRAS - Two eyes are better than one!
Virtual presentation by Zoom

Binoculars are an ideal way of observing the night sky. Many beginners start off with binoculars and even if they eventually buy a telescope they will still use binoculars. Indeed, depending on the object being observed, binocular views can surpass the view from telescopes. Using two eyes is very often better than just using one!

In this talk Steve, who has used binoculars as his main observing instruments for decades, will guide us through the different types of binoculars and also the pitfalls to avoid when buying a pair.

This talk will be particularly useful to anyone thinking of buying a pair of binoculars for the first time or for those contemplating upgrading to a larger binocular or even a binocular telescope.

The talk will cover the objects most suited to binocular observation as well as other useful information to help get the best binocular views.

Stephen Tonkin

Steve Tonkin is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and has been using binoculars for astronomy since the mid 1960s. He still uses binoculars as his main observing instruments. He runs his website which contains copious advice about choosing and using binoculars with detailed sky maps showing the best objects to observe. The website also has helpful reviews of many binoculars.

Steve is also the author of two books "Binocular Astronomy" and "Discover the Night Sky through Binoculars". Steve writes regularly for the Sky at Night Magazine where he both reviews binoculars and also produces a monthly guide with detailed charts showing the objects that are visible to observers with different size binoculars.

Steve also has a very popular Facebook page

In addition to giving talks about binoculars Steve has a wide range of other interesting astronomy talks.


Christmas Social
To be confirmed

An opportunity to get together, hopefully in person, but if not virtually, to discuss anything and everything. Hopefuly, a fun quiz and maybe a short presentation too. Final details will be confirmed in due course


  Regular Meetings

Regular meetings are held on the second and last Friday of each month, except August and at Christmas, when there are no meetings. Meetings normally start at 7:45pm for 8pm.

All Regular meetings are held at Bredhurst Village Hall unless otherwise stated.
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.

These meetings are open to non-members who are welcome to attend and 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.

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.

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.

  Observing Open Evenings

The James Irwin Observatory is
Confirmed CLOSED
It will remain closed until further notice.

On the Fridays when we do not hold our regular meetings at Bredhurst, and depending on the weather, we open our James Irwin Observatory in Canterbury for those who wish to do some observing.

We first meet at the Victoria Hotel from 8pm (Oct-Mar) / 8.30pm (Apr-Sep). Thirty minutes later, you will be escorted to the Observatory. Venue details are found on the left of this page.

  Outreach Events

MKAS often get asked to hold Astronomy events for various schools, councils, scout groups and other groups. The committee and other supportive members are very actively organising and holding events from small shows or talks to Spectacular Events where several thousand members of the public typically attend.

  Member Events

We organise various astronomy-related events and trips for our members. These are often subsidised.

  Other Events

Members may also be interested in other astronomy-related events, run by other groups and societies, that our members are welcome to attend.

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

If you wish further information on MKAS or any of the meetings, events and activities of the Society, please contact us, using the details on the CONTACT page.

»Regular Meetings 
»Observing Open Evenings 
»Outreach Events 
»Member Events 
»Other Events 


The James Irwin Observatory is
Confirmed CLOSED
It will remain closed until further notice.


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)

Click here for details

Mid-Kent Astronomical Society
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