With our social groups temporarily suspended at the moment, we’ve invited some of the scheduled guest speakers to tell us a bit about themselves and the incredible work they do. This week we hear from Astronomer, Peter J Williamson FRAS:
I embarked on my astronomical journey in 1967 when I started Hagley RC Secondary School and noticed an observatory in a garden near the school playing fields in the village of Churchill Worcestershire. After several attempts of knocking on the door of the owner and being told to go away I was eventually allowed in to take a look. The observatory was owned by Mr Brian Manning a noted discoverer of asteroids (https://en.wikipedia.org/
We joined the Kidderminster Astronomical Society where I had to a travel 46 miles round trip by bus to the meetings, I was now 11 years old and very keen to observe and learn. My Grandfather bought me a 2″ Tasco Refractor for starters and at the age of 12 years old I went on to build my own 6″ Reflector grinding my own mirrors, building the skeleton tube and butchering a microscope for an eyepiece.
We were living in Blackheath West Midlands at the time and the only things I could really see were the Moon and Planets. On the odd occasion I could see deep Sky objects as it was the time of the 3-day week and power cuts which I looked forward to because it gave me really dark skies.
After leaving school 1973 I continued with astronomy and Kidderminster Astronomical Society still using my 6″ Telescope and was getting quite proficient in the art of Astro Photography using hypered film and dark room techniques. As time moved on relationships, work in the music business and the IT sector forced astronomy to take a back seat and eventually sadly had no place in my life at this time.
In 1989 we moved to rural Shropshire and the first thing I did was to go out and buy a 10″ Astro Systems reflector and have it mounted on a permanent pier in the centre of the garden, astronomy was again high on my agenda with good dark skies and a beautiful setting.
I had a major accident later that year and ended up being unable to work for over 12 months or get out to the telescope. It was around this time I looked for a local society to join and found none listed in Shropshire. I set about forming the Whittington Astronomical Society with the help and assistance of Sir Patrick Moore, the society grew quickly with the help of my wife Sybil and Daughter Sarah, we renamed the society to The Shropshire Astronomical Society which is still in existence today. My work in astronomy started to make headways and had media attention, to that end in 1994 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society hence FRAS.
In 1991 I set about building and founding the on line service Starbase Four a bulletin board which exchanged early Astronomical Shareware and early versions of email plus posting Astronomical News. This was way before the internet and operated on direct dial in. One of the first subscribers was Dr Brian May and many other people who I am still in contact with today.
As time went on and work situations changed with my work in the music business astronomy again had to take a back seat but kept my hand in with observations whenever possible and still wrote and had articles published in many journals.
In 2012 things changed as far as music was concerned enabling me to concentrate on astronomy in earnest again. I went back to University (home study) and obtained full astronomical certification with UCLAN & Planetary Geology with John Moors University. I purchased many new pieces of equipment and found a new calling which is Solar Astronomy. Not being one to sit on the sidelines I looked for work within the world of astronomy and before long was presenting BBC Radio Shropshire Eye On the Sky, a regular sky guide with features for the beginner plus any other astronomical events the BBC require.
I now do solar imaging, Deep Sky Imaging with robotic Telescope workshops for organisations or the individual and not just in the UK, I also have many images published in the major Astronomical Journals and books around the globe plus I write articles for publications when asked to do so.
In 2015 I created and built an internet based radio station entitled Astro Radio and now have many people working as volunteers within the organisation with sponsorship via Astronomy Now Magazine , Faulkes Telescope Project & iTelescopes Australia.
Solarsphere Astronomical & Music Festival is another one of my projects along with my Daughter Sarah in which we try to bring the world of astronomy and music together and in doing so introduce the world of astronomy to a new audience whilst enthusing the young to take up science.
I still do the occasional bit of planetary imaging but am not very proficient in that area. I have got a few Lunar, Planetary images I also still go out with the telescope and just star hop to find objects in the night sky, not using any go to as I find it much more fun finding the objects for yourself, I also find it relaxing and calming to be out there in the heart of the natural world.
I am a DEEP SKY Imaging consultant with the Faulkes Telescope Educational Project that has 2 metre, 1 metre and 0.4 metre class telescopes across the globe in both northern and southern hemisphere locations. Recently I have started working on a European project through Cardiff University Astro Physics Department.
Now also working with Cardiff University on a part time basis on the On – Line Observatory Project linked to the EU Erasmus.
My membership’s are honorary member of 8 astronomical societies across the UK & Ireland and a Fellow of The Royal Astronomical Society & European Astronomical Society.
I am available for talks and workshops throughout the UK and Ireland, always willing to offer advice via email and telephone. Please take a look at my work on flickr and if you like what I do or can see ways I can improve let me know as feedback is always appreciated and we are all here to help each other. A couple of my most recent talks are a speech at The Lord Mayor of London’s Livery Banquet, a talk at Herstomceux ( RGO ) Observatory East Sussex and a teaching session at Cardiff University.
I have an on-line shop for all my astrophotography at www.petewilliamson.photography
Please follow my Astrophotography at www.flickr.com/photos/pjwastro
I can also be heard on Astro Radio . www.astroradio.earth