The Dundee Astronomical Society was formed in 1956 and is affiliated to the British Astronomical Association BAA (to whom we send observations). In addition the Society has a number of honorary members throughout the country.
We hold member meetings once or twice a month at the Mills Observatory, Balgay Hill, Dundee in the months October through to March. The first part of the meeting consists of a talk lasting about an hour from a guest or member, followed by a short tea break, then a shorter session for members to make their contributions.
Society members provide talks open to the public, also at the Mills, in the months April, May, June, August and September. These talks aim to provide introductory level information on astronomy suitable for beginners with a bias towards practical observing.
The Society holds a range of astronomical equipment which members may arrange to borrow. Many of our members own their own telescopes and are available at meetings to offer advice to members where required. The Society also has a library available for members. Some books are available for viewing at our meeting place the Mills Observatory. For space reasons other books are kept elsewhere but an up to date list is kept in the members area of our website. By coming along to meetings people have the opportunity to meet others interested in astronomy as well as enjoy the varied lecture syllabus.The list of speakers includes professional and amateur astronomers.
Weather permitting some members occasionally meet for informal observing at the society observatory near Dundee. Any member is welcome to join in these activities.
DAS Meetings - restricted seating
DAS welcomes the new members who have joined since the start of the season. The Society has a healthy membership at present but this means that at meetings there may not be many free seats for visitors to Mills who are non members. We regret if it is not possible to invite non members to any of the Society meetings this season but we may allow a number of visitors to Mills access if there are spare seats after all members have been accommodated.
A member of the committee will check names of members prior to each meeting to ensure all members receive priority. Please accept this slight inconvenience. It is felt that this is the best way to ensure our members have access to meetings.
Sandy Mackenzie Observatory
As mentioned at the last DAS meeting we are hoping to be able to let members use this facility on Tuesday evenings (from 18th October). At present there are only three 'supervisors' and there may be occasions when none is available. The supervisor on duty will be at the observatory at about 7pm. The finishing time will be variable depending on conditions (cloud and cold). The use of the observatory is for members only and will depend on clear sky conditions. High wind may also force the observatory to remain closed.
Whether the observatory is open or not will be posted here between 4 and 5pm on the Tuesday in question so that members will know by that time whether someone will be there or not. This will be posted whether conditions are good or bad. It may take a few weeks to iron out any problems we may find but hopefully the observatory will be fully functional later in the year, then members can decide what they want to view.
Members of staff of the Hutton Institute will be welcome as guests. Bear in mind that the observatory is not very big inside and if numerous members arrive, some may have to wait outside until the telescope is available. Members bringing their own telescopes would be very welcome.
Ken Kennedy Director of Observations
Bill Dow, our late Honorary Vice President. An obituary by Dave Gavine.
William McFarlane Dow, MA. BSc. FRAS (1923-2013) Bill Dow, our Honorary Vice President, died on 20 June, just weeks short of his 90th birthday. His father was an engineer, his mother a primary teacher, and he had a sister Sheila, now deceased, also a primary teacher. Bill was educated at Morgan Academy, Dundee, then entered St Andrews University to study physics and astronomy, but the war interrupted his studies and he enlisted in the RAF. He wanted to become a pilot, but his colour-blindness ruled this out. He tried to outwit the sight tests, but the crafty medics caught him out, and he became a navigator, flying in Mosquitos. He suffered a serious accident, not in combat, which damaged his spleen but he enjoyed good health well into old age. After the war he resumed at St Andrews, taking his BSc with 2nd class honours in physics then stayed on to receive an MA with 1st class honours in psychology. After teacher training he became a physics master back at Morgan Academy. In the 1960s he moved on to be senior lecturer in physics at Dundee College of Education. He was a brilliant and inspiring teacher, especially in 6th form to whom he introduced particle physics and electronics. Among those who enjoyed his classes were DAS members Dave Gavine, Frank Mitchell and Dr Peter Waddell, not forgetting Professor Malcolm Longair CBE FRS, former Astronomer Royal for Scotland then Jacksonian Professor of Physics at Cambridge, and many other distinguished scientists. When the physics got a bit tedious we used to try to lure Bill off the subject by mentioning something to do with aircraft, then off he would go at a tangent, with planes and RAF stories, but always with a scientific slant. In 1956 Harry Ford, Frank and Dave started up Dundee Astronomical Society but had no idea about how such a club might work, so advice was sought from the most obvious “leader” and Bill agreed to become our first President, serving for the first two years. He showed us how to conduct meetings, keep minutes and organise talks, then during the IGY 1957-58 he got a short-wave radio set so that we could pick up the signals from Sputniks 1 and 2. When the Society planned its auroral observatory on Powrie Brae Bill paid for most of the building materials (mostly from scrap-yards, we weren’t well-off) out of his own pocket, arranged transport in his car and was often on hand to lay bricks and concrete. In the mid-60s Bill’s career left him little spare time so he was less active in the Society but after he retired he was always willing to give inspiring and thought-provoking talks until about two years ago when his health began to deteriorate. At the Society’s 50th anniversary celebrations he was elected our Honorary Vice-President. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1969. Bill married mathematics teacher Sandra Moir, a family friend and incidentally one of his former senior pupils, and they had four sons then grandchildren. It has been a great privilege to know Bill Dow, through whose influence the Astronomical Society flourishes to this day. Dave Gavine