Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)

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Message From Ken Goward, FRAS, On Election As Chairman

KJG_chairman.jpg Ken Goward, FRAS.

It was a considerable honour at our 2003 AGM to be elected Chairman of OASI. I am conscious that my predecessor, David Payne, will be a hard act to follow. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how, without David's guiding hand during his extraordinary 23 year term of office, OASI could have evolved from a small club into a 100 plus member group with an excellent reputation both within and outside the astronomical world and into a registered charity operating what an internationally renowned science historian has described as a splendidly restored Victorian Observatory. Thank you David, your contribution to the Society has been of seminal importance, and your future help and advice will always be as welcome as it will be appreciated.

Perhaps I should introduce myself, as the majority of members will not know me personally. An "armchair astronomer" for more years than I can remember and like so many in the hobby, drawn into the science by Sir Patrick Moore's influence. I got off the metaphorical armchair in the early 90s, when a spot of heart trouble forced me into early retirement from the police service. Something still works though - and twin sons were born a couple of years after that so-called retirement… Nowadays I find myself working harder than ever in the role of "house husband"! Unlike my predecessor, I am anything but a regular, knowledgeable or proficient observer and my 10" Newtonian almost never collects photons - well its just easier to get out the binoculars…

There are many facets to astronomy and my particular bent is towards the study of the history of the great science. My current research endeavour in this field is the history of Orwell Park and the lives and observing endeavours of local astronomers from the nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Within the past year it has been my privilege to provide assistance to OASI's President, Dr Allan Chapman, and others, in the foundation of a new national body, the Society for the History of Astronomy (of which organisation I am also Treasurer). Each to his own, I can almost hear you groan! A member of OASI for a mere five years, the latter three of which I have served as Treasurer, you may discern that I really am a "new boy" in the broadest terms.

Having laid out my personal interests in astronomy, may I state categorically that in the best traditions of our Society, all facets of the hobby and science of astronomy will be encouraged on an equal basis during my term of office. As with any new broom, I hope to bring about a few changes in the general administration and running of the Society, but not so radically as to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water! For that matter, I would certainly appreciate hearing your views on where we are and where we as a Society ought to be going. If you perceive a problem, or can see a way of improving some aspect of running the Society, please do not hesitate to pass on your thoughts to any Committee member or to me. OASI has a proud heritage and is, I believe, by and large a happy band. David has handed me the helm of a well-found ship - I'll try not to capsize it.

That's enough of me - what else is new? Well, we have a new Treasurer, Garry Coleman, and it has to be said there is a certain attraction in having a canny Scot looking after our cash! Many of you will know Garry through his previous sterling Committee work organising visits to the Observatory by outside groups. Roy Gooding remains as Secretary - and mighty glad I am about that too. If ever there was a "Mr OASI", then Roy surely would be the man and to his considerable credit, 2003 will be his 23rd year in office. We also welcome Paddy O'Sullivan onto the Committee. Any regular attendee at the Observatory on Wednesday nights will know Paddy and his recent work on the Millennium Telescope project stands out as a model of aptitude, dedication and determination by someone who has taken up the hobby comparatively recently. James Appleton has made a welcome return to the Committee and, alas, Joe Walsh has had to stand down through pressure of work. Thank you Joe for all your effort over many years. I am delighted that Martin Cook, Eric Sims, Mike Whybray and Ted Sampson have remained in office. Without Martin's engineering know-how the Tomline Refractor would be a pale shadow of the fine instrument we all know and love. For the first time in a very long time the Committee was elected by ballot as we had eight members standing for six places. A very healthy sign indeed and I hope those who were not elected this time around will try again next year. All members of OASI have the right to attend Committee meetings and I encourage everyone to do so; we are all members together, the Officers and Committee are merely members who have taken on the task of running the Society from day to day.

We are blessed with members who quietly contribute in the background to the overall well being of the Society and scarcely receive a mention. Of particular merit is our octogenarian artist, Leslie Lamb. For a number of years now, Les has drawn the cartoons that front our Newsletter - even though he has lately been rather unwell. Those cartoons are what most members read before anything else in the Newsletter, and they display Les' incisive wit and ability to make us laugh at ourselves. For that matter, you'd have to search a long way to find another astronomical society that can boast of having a monthly newsletter in constant production for over 20 years. Our editor, Eric Sims, deserves full marks for making it happen.

This coming year we shall be seeking a renewal of our licence with the school and, hopefully, the library refurbishment work will near completion. There is a potentially expensive problem on the horizon, which will need to be addressed: the Observatory fabric is suffering water ingress and although David Payne and Martin Cook have made excellent temporary repairs, it looks as though some major work will sooner or later have to be undertaken around the base of the dome and the gutter where the original lining has rotted away.

We look forward to the evening of Friday 07 March 2003 when Dr Allan Chapman will deliver his first Presidential lecture on the singularly appropriate theme of the Victorian Amateur Tradition - and the evening is a "must attend" for all our members… There is every possibility that our long awaited Millennium Telescope will achieve first light later this year, thanks to the previously mentioned effort by Paddy, along with Mike Harlow (mirror grinder/polisher), Neil Morley (project manager) and others. The annual barbeque will be held in my garden at Tuddenham in July, but there is some doubt over the future of the annual coach outing, which was rather poorly attended last year and consequently heavily subsidised - a case of use it or lose it! Due to the availability of planets during the next few years, we will have to shift the annual Open Weekends into the late winter/early spring period. Given that we have only just staged a large event, it may be expedient to make this year's show a small affair - just the Observatory with no supporting exhibition - and begin to plan for the larger kind of event we have got used to in the past couple of years for spring 2004. Talking of planets, we have the closest recorded opposition of Mars to look forward to this summer - building upon the success of James Appleton's recent Pleiades observing project, there is surely scope for another observing project? Mercury will transit the Sun's disk on the morning of Wednesday 07 May and we may open the Observatory to members to observe this comparatively rare phenomenon. An offshoot from our enormously successful workshops organised by Ted Sampson are the Small Telescopes Evenings and I am pleased to see that they have proved popular enough to allow us to expand our observing by two Mondays per month, in addition to the usual Wednesday evening meetings. Lastly, but by no means least, Roy Gooding is looking into the possibility of OASI hosting a one-day seminar in the late(ish) Spring in co-operation with the Society for Popular Astronomy to celebrate its 50th anniversary…

We have much to think about and lots to look forward to. Time, then, to GET ON WITH IT…

Best wishes,

Ken Goward, FRAS,