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December 1, 2008

Flamsteed Xmas Party

Report by: Roger Geeson

Keepers of the ‘dignified hallows’ !!?? Drs Darren Baskill and Claire Bretherton [Pic: Mike Dryland)

On Monday 1st December, the dignified hallows of the Peter Harrison Planetarium lobby echoed to the happy sounds of some sixty members of the Flamsteed Society, together with distinguished guests from the Observatory, as they gathered to celebrate the Society’s 9th Christmas.

The evening commenced with wine and nibbles served from tables groaning under the weight of a delightful cold buffet, organised by our chair Lin Potter. This tempted many hungry palates but it was guarded firmly and sweetly by Secretary Jane who was insistent that we should restrain ourselves until after the first Planetarium show by Dr Darren ‘Das’ Baskill.

Upon reflection, perhaps wise counsel from Jane — Darren’s demo presentation had us swooping over the pyramids, perusing Van Gogh’ works and doing various virtual aerobatics with which an early dip into the buffet may not have been entirely compatible!

It certainly was a departure from the normal planetarium fare and, so far as I was concerned at least, one which was most enjoyable. We had first been treated by Pat Wainwright to a succinct and amusing global travelogue with some excellent picture evidence of her search to take the ‘perfect’ total eclipse photograph, hitherto not quite fulfilled by her!

She has chased after, and snapped-away at eclipses through various countries worldwide, culminating last year in an epic journey to Novosibirsk in Siberia on the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow. Her efforts to nail the ‘perfect’ total eclipse pic have so far been just slightly marred by weather, dodgy equipment, and even the odd herd of cattle carelessly leaning on the tripods.

Next year however, she is off to China for yet another total and is determined to make sure it’s the perfect pic this time. This is echoed by Lin who is going with her, just to make sure! Good luck Pat you certainly deserve it, for sheer determination, and we look forward to the snaps.

Following the initial planetarium session Jane whipped off the cling film (no comment — Ed.) and we all tucked-in to the buffet which was every bit as good as it looked. Serious inroads were made into the stocks of wine and juices and, strangely enough, no one mentioned the lack of tea and coffee which the two slightly ‘iffy’ (but comely and willing – Ed.) serving wenches were unable to provide.

Then it was back into the embrace of the recliner seats for Das’ ‘Sky Tonight’ planetarium programme, which was both amazing and entertaining.  Das spiced up the proceedings by throwing in a cunning ‘spot the star’ competition to name some well known stars as he craftily faded them out of the heavenly panoply. As Sirius, Betelgeuse, Aldebaran and some others progressively disappeared from view, some of our brighter members showed their superior knowledge (or better luck) by shouting out the star names.

Those judged to have been first to call were rewarded with prizes of astronomical books – which they obviously didn’t need as they knew the answers already – but it all made for a very entertaining interlude. (Looks like we made a pigs ear of the prize-giving.  We lost track of prize winners in the dark and Jim missed out on his rightful award.  Sorry Jim — Ed.)  Mark Duwe was the final winner and got to ‘Fly the Planetarium’ solo, which was doubtless thrilling for him but his understandably erratic aeronautics made for some queasy moments for some of the audience. Don’t give up the day job Mark!

Finally, it was back to finish off the remnants of the buffet and enjoy some sociable chit-chat before dispersing at around 10.00pm.  It was an altogether thoroughly enjoyable celebration for our 9th Christmas.  Our sincere thanks go to Jane, Lin and Mike, Pat (not to forget the serving wenches – Ed.) and, of course Darren, for a really marvellous evening.  Best bash yet — can’t wait for our 10th!!

Posted under: Flamsteed, Flamsteed Lecture, Meeting Report, Xmas Party