Guildford Astronomical Society


Aerial view of the University with labels

Our meetings are held in Lecture Theatre L in the Lecture Theatre Block (Level 2) of the University of Surrey, Guildford.

Click here for a map to show you directions to the University Main Car Parks. If you’re travelling using a SatNav the postcode is GU2 7XH.

A detailed map (available here) shows the location of the Lecture Theatre Block (pale blue and near the middle of the map), Main Car Parks 1-4 and Bus Stops next to Senate House and North of the Austin Pearce Building. There are also more convenient car park spaces available for disabled drivers at various nearby locations. The University also has a web page here for newcomers to the campus.

Meetings start at 7.30pm on the first Thursday of each month (except August when there is no meeting) and usually finish around 10pm. One or two meetings in the year, (including the AGM), are set aside for members only; these are indicated in our list of Talks for upcoming meetings.

Note for Visitors: To help cover the cost of the room hire, we charge just £5.00 (£4.00 for Junior/Student guests) per meeting. On arrival, please introduce yourself to any member of the Committee (look for their badges) — you’ll be very warmly welcomed!

Tea/Coffee (biscuits included) available in the break for just £2. However, we respectfully ask that you don’t bring any food or drinks into the lecture theatre.

If you have any special access requirements, please contact the Secretary, .

See you there…

Meeting Format

Meetings generally take one of two formats:

  • An invited expert gives a talk/presentation – illustrated and/or animated – of an aspect of astronomy. Subjects are chosen because they’re topical, practical – or just interesting to astronomers. Each year we arrange a balanced mix, covering a wide range of topics. and levels.
  • A ‘members evening’, in which members present short talks on their own interests, projects, and topics of general interest.

Occasionally, invited speakers have to cancel, (usually at extremely short notice), and at these times the meeting often takes the form of an informal quiz, a question and answer session, or a hands-on Workshop.

Typically,the main talk of the evening lasts for an hour or so, after which we have a 15-20 minute comfort break. Tea, coffee and biscuits are available from the adjoining refreshments room.

A view of the Duke of Kent Building across the lake

Following the break, the remaining time until 10pm usually features Society news and business, (such as the latest reports from the Observatory, Observing Evening Reports, etc), and a short ‘What’s on?’ feature describing events happening later in the current month.


If there’s time at the end, some members go for a drink and chat. You’re welcome to join us in the bar at The Astolat (Directions).

The 2017-2018 Session

Subject to change

DateTalk/Presentation TitleSpeaker
7 Sep 2017The Gaia RevolutionDr George Seabroke
5 Oct 2017From Quark to the CosmosProf Ian Shipsey
2 Nov 2017Diamonds in the Sky – The Importance of White Dwarfs in Modern AstrophysicsProf Martin Barstow
7 Dec 2017The Story of Water on Early Mars: Rivers, Lakes, and Seas on the Red PlanetDr Joel Davis
4 Jan 2018Ten Ways the Universe Tries to Kill YouStephen Tonkin
1 Feb 2018Dark Future?Bob Mizon
1 Mar 2018TBATBA
5 Apr 2018Lucky PlanetProf David Waltham
3 May 2018Twinkle: An Alternative Approach to Science Space MissionsDr Marcell Tessenyi
7 Jun 2018Astrobiology; The Cradle of LifeProf Nigel Mason
12 Jul 2018Members OnlyGAS Committee & Members
Aug 2018Note: There is no meeting in August 

The 2018-2019 Session

Subject to change

DateTalk/Presentation TitleSpeaker
6 Sep 2018Hawking, Black Holes and the Edge of Physics

Einstein’s theories that nothing could ever escape from a black hole troubled the young researcher Stephen Hawking leading him to publish his 1976 paper bringing together General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics for the first time. This paper revealed, in Stephen’s own words, that ‘Black holes ain’t so Black!’ which shocked the scientific world.
Paul guides the listener through these ideas in straightforward terms step-by-step.

Paul Fellows is co-presenter of the public observing season at the University of Cambridge leading the live outdoor shows every week (or giving indoor presentations when the clouds get in the way!). Either way these attract audiences of 200+ on a regular basis and are aimed to appeal to people of all levels from the complete beginner who wants to know where to start, yet also adding something even for the more knowledgeable.
He is also a regular speaker on cruise ships.
Having built his first telescope aged 14 and experiencing the “wow” moment of seeing the rings of Saturn for the first time, he has been stargazing for some 40 years and has his own private observatory where he images the sky, taking pictures of galaxies, clusters, nebulae and planets. Many of his own images will appear in his talks. .

Paul Fellows
1 Nov 2018The intimate lives of stars

Stars are our intimate connection with the cosmos and exploring them is an exploration of our own cosmological heritage. They live eventful lives then fade away and die, donating matter back to the Universe, matter which may form new stars and planets one day.
How do we study them?
What do we know about them and what mysteries do they still hold?
That’s what the talk will unfold.

Ghina M. Halabi, BSci., MSci., PhD, is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute of Astronomy and a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge.
She is the first person to obtain a PhD in Astrophysics from a Lebanese institution, the American University of Beirut, where she worked as a lecturer before coming to Cambridge.
Her PhD investigated the lives of stars and the formation of the chemical elements in the Universe.
She is a mentor, educator, blogger, TEDx speaker and a published scholar. She is an invited speaker and panellist at several international astronomy conferences and interdisciplinary forums.
As a member of the United Nations Space for Women Project, she advocates gender equality in STEM. She frequently engages in outreach projects including the Cambridge Science Festival. She is the founder of “Scheherazade Speaks Science”, a science platform to improve the representation and visibility of female scientists.

Ghina M. Halabi
7 Feb 2019The Antikythera Mechanism

1. What is the Antikythera Mechanism?
In which I'll explain how the Mechanism was found and how it got there; what it looks like now and what the most recent scans have revealed; what the inscriptions on the Mechanism tell us and the conclusions we can draw from them.
2. How did astronomy develop in Ancient Greece? In this part I'll explain how early theories about the nature of the universe evolved, how data was obtained to support those mathematical models and how they were gradually refined through the period from 450BC to 150AD.
3. But what does the Mechanism do?
I'll then walk through each part of the Mechanism, explaining the design objectives and the technical challenges encountered by the engineers. I'll demonstrate how the complete Mechanism operates and consider what it could have been used for.
4. How could it have been calibrated?
One of the most difficult challenges is to work out how to calibrate a new Mechanism so that it gives accurate readouts in the present day. This hasn't been done before. I'll look at how to start the lunar calendar which drives the Mechanism and then consider how to translate our post-Newton heliocentric data for the planets into the geocentric model deployed in the Mechanism.

John Lancashire BSc ACA graduated in Mathematics from Bristol University, where he studied general relativity and quantum mechanics in his final year. Torn between an academic career or a life in business he chose the latter, although he always retained his enthusiasm for science and mathematics. He spent many years working in IT for international companies as a software designer, risk manager and programme director. He retired 3 years ago.
His interest in the Antikythera Mechanism was sparked back in 2006 and he has been following the developments and research ever since. In his project to create a modern reconstruction of the machine he's bult on his expertise in computer aided design and learnt much about modern manufacturing and prototyping techniques.
He believes the Mechanism is a fascinating instrument which still has relevance and value today. Although a small number of bronze reconstructions of the Mechanism have been built by researchers, these are all now sitting in glass cases in museums. People cannot see the engineering inside or explore the functionality of the machine.
Hence his aim has been to bring the Mechanism to life by creating a version using modern materials which can be reproduced in small numbers. He would like people to be able to "get inside" the mechanism, understand how it works and actually use it in real life.

John Lancashire
Aug 2019Note: There is no meeting in August 

Click here to see the profiles of past and forthcoming speakers.

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