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Contact the adviser

Thank you for visiting my Astronomy Advice page.

My main 'qualification' is as an amateur with my own small observatory, and knowledge of practical back garden astronomy.  I was Secretary of the York Astronomical Society for 5 years and remain an active member.  I am a good organiser, with a professional background in Adult Education, Youth Work and Community Development.  I was an early member of my local U3A, and our Speaker Secretary for 5 years.

I have been interested in Astronomy and Space exploration for 70 years, inspired by Patrick Moore and Arthur C. Clarke. 

I hope no one will feel that they know nothing about astronomy and so are inhibited about asking me for advice. The simple questions are often the best.

I cannot answer highly technical questions - but I know people who can.

Most of you will already have enough to get started: very warm clothes and a pair of binoculars. Go out and look at the Moon.  If you never have, you will be amazed. 

If you are thinking of buying a telescope, please visit my  Buying a telescope (240 KB)


Astronomy is also a very sociable activity - sharing the experience of seeing Saturn or the Great Globular Cluster for the first time is very special.  In a group you share and learn from each other, and it’s fun.  As U3A Astronomy Adviser I am asked where to get information for Study Groups to consider because the range of topics within the catch-all “Astronomy” is so huge.  The simple answer is the Internet, but where to start ?!  Here is a list of good websites :-

https://www.youtube.com/user/astrumspace/videos  Very good shortish videos on astro' topics.

http://britastro.org/baa/    -  The British Astronomical Society
http://www.popastro.com/   -  The Society for Popular Astronomy
http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/   -   Make a Solar System model
http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases_calendar.phtml  -  Moon phases’ calendar
http://www.stellarium.org/   -  Free planetarium for PCs and smart phones. 

http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/   Get email alerts of aurora which could be visible in the UK

https://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime-images.html   Real time images of the Sun in various light wavelengths.  One of the unexpected outcomes of setting up SOHO was seeing comets nearing the Sun.

Sign up for email from  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   for  Astronomy Picture Of the Day, or go to  http://www.apod.nasa.gov/ - wonderful !

 http://heritage.stsci.edu/    The best images from the Hubble Space Telescope

 www.bis-space.com  ,  www.esa.int    &  www.nasa.gov/   3 Spaceflight sites.

There are 200 Astronomy Societies across the UK and U3A members should consider visiting them for talks or observing evenings. To find your nearest Society - Google the name of your town and ‘Astronomy’.  If you go when they have their telescopes operating – wear very warm clothes !  Members of Astronomy Societies are all a bit nerdy but all are committed to outreach and making astronomy interesting for the public.

For speakers at your U3A General Meetings of all members, not small groups, contact Physics Departments in local Universities - they are likely to have lecturers and PhD students who could come to visit you.  They normally do not charge a fee but sometimes ask for travel costs.  Also The Federation of Astronomical Societies  http://fedastro.org.uk/fas/ has a list of speakers.

Don’t miss the BBC TV “The Sky At Night” for a monthly update of all things Astronomical.  There are several magazines worth reading as well.

As with any U3A Group, the Leader should not do all the work for the group; s/he could get each member to research a topic and make a presentation. 

Clear Dark Skies.  Martin Whillock FRAS  U3A Astronomy Adviser

Buying a telescope