The Astronomical Unit


Talks for Astronomical Societies

Duration: Talks typically last for about an hour, which includes about 15 minutes for questions/discussion, but this can be varied if you wish.

Cost: I do not charge a fee to Astronomical Societies, but ask that the cost of travel from base (nr Fordingbridge, Hants) at actual public transport cost or AA "running costs" rate — currently 40p/mile (depending on transport used) and, if appropriate, overnight accommodation, is met by the Astronomical Society. My calendar is usually a good indicator of my availability for "short journey" talks, but I am more restricted with long journeys, especially those involving an overnight stay, because of daytime commitments.

Queries/Booking: See the bottom of this page.

Pseudoastronomy: (Complementary and Alternative Astronomy)

Part 1: The Beginnings: Charlatans and Frauds

One way to get famous in astronomy is to have your name associated with a discovery. We tackle "fake news" from the Chevalier d'Angos, Frédéric Petit, Georg Waltemath, Leo Brenner (aka Spiridon Gopčević) & Rudolf Steiner, some of which still affects us today.

Part 2: Planet X, Zetans, and Lost Civilisations

Did the ancient Sumerians describe a planet that will destroy Earth? Can astronomy be used to explain the locations of ancient pyramids and temples? Was there an advanced ancient master-race that was wiped out by a comet in 12,500 BCE? Did the ancient civilisations we know about arise out of nowhere, taught by visitors from Atlantis or other planets?

The clear answer to all these is a resounding "No!" yet the myths persist.

How Old Is It?

Aristotle thought it was eternal; James Ussher dated its creation to 6pm on 22 Oct 4004 BCE; Newton eventually decided that it was infinite, static, and eternal; by 1958 it seemed to be younger than the oldest stars; by 2013, this had all been resolved and we now accept the Universe to be approximately 13.8 billion years old. This talk traces the ideas, evidence and reasoning for the answers to this most fundamental of questions.

Are We Alone?

In 1961, Frank Drake introduced his eponymous equation. In the half-century since then, we have a much better idea of the likely values of some of the parameters. This talk examines the state of play with respect to SETI and potentially habitable exoplanets, and examines our current understanding of the likelihood of there being similar planets to Earth. It "reboots" the Drake Equation in the light of these developments.

The Star of Bethlehem

Theories abound for the Star of Bethlehem. In this occasionally provocative talk, we look at the actual evidence and its cultural context, discuss some recent astrological and astronomical interpretations, and arrive at some definitive conclusions about the story.

Ten Ways the Universe Tries to Kill You

From gamma-ray bursts to asteroid impacts, an overview of cataclysmic events. This light-hearted but scientifically robust approach incorporates a lot of fundamental cosmological processes, from stellar evolution to galactic interaction. It is appropriate for both beginning and intermediate amateur astronomers.

Binocular Astronomy

The binocular is not limited to being a beginner's instrument and an adjunct to a telescope, but is an exceptionally valuable astronomical instrument in its own right. Discover how to choose and use binoculars for astronomy. I will bring a number of binoculars and mounting options for the "hands on" experience. Because of this, quite a lot of space is needed (see video), so the talk may be unsuitable for smaller venues. I also need to be able to park at the venue to unload kit. Please contact me prior to booking if space or parking may be an "issue".

(Video taken impromptu on a cheap point-and-shoot camera, so quality leaves a lot to be desired!)

Time and Calendars

The measurement of time has always been a facet of Astronomy. The phases in the development of the Gregorian calendar most (but not all!) of us use today make a fascinating story which blends science, history, sociology, religion and psychology.

Although it indicates when I am not available, this calendar should not be taken as a definitive indicator of when I am available, especially if overnight stays may be involved, as I have daytime teaching commitments that I need to honour.


If you have any queries prior to booking, please to email me using your default email client.

Which talk are you booking:
Charlatans and Frauds
Planet X, Zetans and Lost Civilisations
How Old Is It?
Are We Alone?
The Star of Bethlehem
Ten Ways the Universe Tries to Kill You
Binocular Astronomy
Time and Calendars

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