As part of my commitment to sharing the wonders of the night sky with a wider audience, I regularly give talks on astronomy and related topics to local and community groups.
At the moment, I give the following talks. I am also working on a few more. All of the talks are suitable for beginners, though they will be of interest to those with more experience, too.
Observing the night sky: An introduction
This illustrated presentation introduces the audience to the allure of the objects in our night sky, such as the moon, the planets and deep sky galaxies and nebulae. We learn how easy it is to get started in astronomy and what we can see with the naked eye, with binoculars and with telescopes. We then consider in a bit more detail how telescopes work and conclude by looking at some of the resources available to those who would like to learn more.
Messier: Insights into the deep sky
The name Messier is well known to all deep-sky observers. But how did one astronomer’s eighteenth-century scribblings come to have such an impact on how we think about the night sky? In this talk, we learn about how the Messier catalogue came into being and the continuing role that it plays in modern astronomy. We also explore some of the fascinating objects contained in the catalogue and consider how we can best observe them.
The Constellations: Using images to find our way around the night sky
Most of us are able to pick out a constellation or two in the night sky. But how did these giant images in the sky come into being? And what can they tell us about our stargazing past? In this talk, we learn about the history of the constellations and their ongoing importance today. We also explore the stories behind some of the major constellations and the wonders that they contain.
John Dobson: One man and his legacy
John Dobson was a pioneer of astronomy outreach, bringing the night sky firmly into the public realm. He’s also a bit of a personal hero of mine. In this talk, we learn about John Dobson and the unusual life that he led. We consider the telescope that bears his name and that allows people around the world to engage with the deep sky. And we reflect on the ‘sidewalk astronomy’ movement that he inspired – and that is the lasting legacy of a most exceptional life.
Some general information about my talks
My talks are illustrated and last about an hour, though I can be flexible on timing if necessary. I use PowerPoint slides, though can bring my own laptop and projector. I usually try to bring along some of my telescopes, too, so that people can see what they’re like. And if the sky is clear, we can do a little bit of observing afterwards.
I don’t charge for my talks, but would appreciate reimbursement of travel expenses if I’m travelling outside the West Country. And if you feel that you simply must pay me, then I’ll happily accept a donation to support our work at the Bristol Astronomical Society (which is a registered charity, number 299649).
If you’re interested in me giving a talk to your group, please don’t hesitate to contact me.