Posted by on Nov 26, 2022 in Main |

Guest speaker Brian Jones with society secretary Dominic Curran

The November meeting of Keighley Astronomical Society was well attended with 30 members present to hear a lecture by Mr Brian Jones. Brian Jones was a founder member of the Bradford Astronomical society and each year he collates and publishes the ‘ Astronomy yearbook’. A publication which was originally written by Sir Parick Moore and has been a continuing feature since 1962.

So what was Brian’s presentation all about?

Well with more than just a splattering of humour it was entitled. ‘The Universe – with apple Pie and Dinosaur wee’.

But basically it was a collection of several short astronomical stories and facts.

The presentation commenced with a beginners guide to observing the night sky, with the naked eye. That is locating and identifying one star or constellation and then using that observation to locate other celestial objects by a process known as’ Star hopping’.

Brian explaind that this process had been used by mankind since the earliest times. The ancients had grouped the stars into patterns and given these patterns or constellations names and background stories.

An influential publication on this subject had been the starting point for Brian when as a very young man he took an interest in all things Astronomy. That publication was ‘Signpost to the stars’ by Frank Edwin Butler (1904-1992).

Frank Butler had been an air raid warden during the second world war. This was a time of ‘blackouts’ as a method of preventing enemy aircraft from location targets to attack. The night skies had no light pollution. So Frank Butler spent his time scanning the night skies from German Aircraft but also for the stars and planets. He published his system for observing the night sky in that book.

Brian Jones then showed several images of the pattern of constellations and showed how by using stars already known to the observer they could look for and identify other stars and star patterns.

Using the stars of Orion to locate other constellations

Moving on to the next section of Brian’s astronomy scrapbook, he looked at the water cycle. It was explained that water does not disappear it just changes form, whether that be vapour, gas, ice or water. So with a bit of hummer Brian pointed out that the water in that first cup of tea or coffee in the morning contained dinosaur wee. Or at least it contained water that had as some time previously passed through the body of an living breathing dinosaur.

The next section in this presentation concerned the late professor Carl Sagan (1934-1996), who said “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are all made of star stuff”.

Prof Carl Sagan

So if you want to make an apple pie, you must first make the universe. Brain pointed out Walter Whitman.(1819 to 1892 who was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was controversial in his time, particularly his 1855 poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which he said “I believe that a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars”. Brian pointed out that the basic elements in a leaf of grass could only be created inside stars.

Brian Jones delivering his presentation to Keighley astronomical society

Brain Jones moved on to another author that had influenced him.The erudite polymath Isaac Asimov. He wrote nearly 500 full-length books during his life. Even if some that “don’t count” are removed from the list; anthologies he edited, short science books he wrote for young people and so on. Asimov’s output still reaches into the many hundreds of titles. Starting with a spate of science-fiction novels in the 1950s, including the now-classic Foundation series, Asimov’s writing eventually ranged into non-fiction with works of popular science, Big History, and even annotated guides to classic novels like Paradise Lost and Gulliver’s Travels.

Issac Asimov

Issac Asimov even wrote about what the universe may have looked like before the big bang. Brian advised all to read his short story called ‘The last question’

Moving on Brian Jones eluded to the NASA space craft Cassini, which on 19th July 2013 trained its wide angle camera towards the planet Saturn. The images captured the planet, it’s rigs as well as several of its Moon’s. In that image is below the rings of Saturn a one pixel blur dot which is the planet Earth.


The Day the Earth Smiled is a composite photograph taken by the NASA spacecraft Cassini on 19th July 2013. During an eclipse of the Sun, the spacecraft turned to image Saturn and most of its visible ring system, as well as Earth and the Moon as distant pale dots. The spacecraft had twice taken similar photographs (in 2006 and 2012) in its previous nine years in orbit around the planet. The name also refers to the activities associated with the event, as well as to the photographic mosaic created from it
Conceived by the planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, the imaging team leader for Cassini, the concept called for the people of the world to reflect on their place in the universe, to marvel at life on Earth, and, at the time the pictures were taken, to look up and smile in celebration.
The final mosaic captured on July 19th , processed at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS), was released to the public on November 12, 2013. The photograph includes Earth, Mars, Venus, and many Saturnian moons. A higher-resolution image, depicting Earth and the Moon as distinct points of light, was taken with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera and was released shortly afterwards.

The Family Portrait, or sometimes Portrait of the Planets, is an image of the Solar System acquired by Voyager 1 on 14th February 1990 from a distance of approximately 6 billion kilometers from Earth. It features individual frames of six planets and a partial background indicating their relative positions. The picture is a mosaic of 60 frames. The frames used to compose the image were the last photographs taken by either Voyager spacecraft (which continued to relay other telemetry afterward). The frames were also the source of the famous Pale Blue Dot image of the Earth. Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was part of the Voyager imaging team, campaigned for many years to have the pictures taken.

The Voyager imaging Team wanted to show Earths vulnerability to illustrate hoe fragile and irreplaceable it is, and to demonstrate what a small place it occupies in the universe.

Brian Jones answering questions from society members

Carl Sagan said “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

After taking that images the cameras on the Voyager space craft were shut down forever……

This unique view of the Earth inspired the title of a book by Carl Sagan about the vision of the human future in space. Earth is the only place known so far to harbour life.

With that all in mind Brian moved onto the work of Al Gore the American politician, businessman, and environmentalist who served as the 45th vice president of the United States from 1993 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. He campaigned to bring the impacts of global warming to the fore of politics and peoples conciseness.
An Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 American documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim about former United States Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about global warming. The film features a slide show that, by Gore’s own estimate, he has presented over 1,000 times to audiences worldwide.

At the conclusion of the presentation society secretary Dominic Curran showed the members a ten minute DVD display on the wonders of the winter night sky and how to use’ Star hopping’ to navigate the heavens.