Monthly Meeting – 26th May 2023

Date/Time: Friday 26th May 2023 at 19:30

Venue: Newchurch Pavilion

The Ins and Outs of the Milky Way

Prof Sean Ryan (Professor of Astrophysics, Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire)

About the talk

The Sun is one of a hundred billion stars situated in a galaxy we call the Milky Way. It is just 100 years since the boundaries of the Milky Way were recognised, and the spiral nebulae were shown to lie well beyond our system of stars. But how and when did the Milky Way come to exist? This talk traces the continuing development of our understanding of the formation and evolution of the Milky Way, and how the Milky Way as we observe it variously reveals and in equal measure obscures evidence of its past.

About the speaker

Sean Ryan is a professional astronomer with almost fifty years’ experience as an amateur observer. As a teenager, he first learnt his craft using a 16 inch Newtonian telescope under the mentorship of David Buckley (later Project Scientist for the Southern African Large Telescope).

While studying at University, Sean operated the University’s 6 inch refractor on public nights for three years before embarking on a professional career. After completing a PhD in observational astronomy at the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories, where he observed extensively with the 1 metre, 74 inch, 2.3 m and 3.9 m telescopes, he was awarded a Hubble Fellowship one year after the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Countless nights observing at a wide range of North and South American observatories ensued.

Staff posts at the Anglo-Australian Observatory and the Royal Greenwich Observatory followed, including a five month secondment to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan as the 8.2 m Subaru telescope approached completion. In 1999, Sean commenced an academic career at the Open University, with observations continuing on four- and eight- metre-class telescopes around the world.

Sean was appointed Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire in 2006, where he was Head and Dean of the School of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics for ten years. He later developed the University’s optics course for trainee optometrists, and expanded his optical expertise into microscopy.

He has published over 100 research papers on observational astronomy, and has co-authored several textbooks.



Did you know that you can support Vectis Astronomical Society by shopping online?

Every time you shop online via easyfundraising at one of the 3,300 retailers including John Lewis, Aviva, Sainsbury’s and, a donation will be made to VAS, and it won’t cost you a penny extra.

It’s really simple to get started; Go to and sign up for free.

Get shopping – your donations will be collected by easyfundraising and automatically sent to VAS. It couldn’t be easier!

There are no catches or hidden charges and we will be really grateful for your donations.

Thank you for your support.


A Fantastic Moon Picture

Regulars at the observatory will have seen a fair few photos from Simon Plumley. There is no doubt that his views of planets and nebulae are among, if not the best taken by anyone on the Island. Tonight Simon showed a photo of something he openly admits he had previously hated, that thing being the moon.

Well, I’ll let you judge, but I think that this is one of his very best.

Now a little warning! It may take a while for you to see this image as it’s over 110Mb and has an original size of 6120 x 6394 pixels. Believe me it’s worth the wait….

Click here to see the picture.

Technical Details
  • The picture was started on 30th Dec 2014
  • The picture is made from 60 videos of 2400 frames each = 144,000 frames
  • Each video is quality sorted and about 40% of he frames are stacked per video to make 60 single pictures
  • These were stitched together to make mosaic
  • Cloud hindered the captures so it took 3 hours to video and then well over a week to process and put together
  • The final output image with no resizing is 2.25 meters long
  • The video camera was only 0.9 megapixels
  • Telescope was 2,800mm however the small camera used gave a field of view/magnification equivalent of around 13,000 mm
  • Moon was 53% illuminated

Appeal for content…

I have just added a few pages to the site under the “Resources” menu and now I need content to fill them. The intention being to create a section where visitors can find useful and entertaining information about astronomy.

If you have any of the following you’d like to see published then please contact me:

  • Pictures (you can have a whole gallery if you like!)
  • Practical projects you have undertaken
  • Software recommendations and reviews
  • Anything other content you think may be useful…

Of course you are also welcome to let me know about any astronomy related links you would recommend.


John Wilson Smith MBE

John SmithIt is with great sadness that I report the passing of John Wilson Smith MBE.

A founder member and tireless worker for VAS, John died on Sunday 30th December 2012

John was instrumental in the establishment of the Isle of Wight Observatory in Watery Lane Newchurch and will be remembered fondly by all members of the Society as well as the wider community of Newchurch

A celebration of John’s life will be held at the Pavilion (next to the observatory), on January 24th at 11am, followed by a family only interment at Springwood Cemetery

Sir Patrick Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS (4 Mar 1923 – 9 Dec 2012)

Sir Patrick MooreThe BBC has just announced the death of Sir Patrick Moore

A group of his friends and staff said in a statement the broadcaster “passed away peacefully at 12.25pm this afternoon”.  It added: “After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home, Farthings, where he today passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy”.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge or interest in astronomy will surely know the important contribution Sir Patrick made during his life – His Wikipedia entry tells the story far better than I ever will.

Sir Patrick, an honorary member of the Vectis Astronomical Society for many years, will be sadly missed by astronomers everywhere.

Roger Hayward (1942-2010)

Roger 1It is with deep sadness that Vectis Astronomical Society announces the death of  long-serving member and Observatory Director Roger Hayward.
Roger died at St Mary’s Hospital on 21st January. The Isle of Wight County Press obituary is available  here.

The funeral service will be held at St Blasius Church, Church Road, Shanklin on February 3rd. at 2pm, followed by a private service at the crematorium.

Registered Charity Number: 1046091