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Section Director

- Geoff Elston

I live in Chesham, Buckinghamshire with my wife, Louise, and my daughter, Hannah.

I have been an amateur astronomer since I was about 16 years old, when I received a small 60mm Prinz refractor on an altazimuth mount. The scope was quite good as were the eyepieces, but the mount always wobbled!

I joined the BAA and then the JAS, which I later realised was the wrong way round! I also joined the Croydon Astronomical Society as I lived in south London (Clapham Park, SW4) and they were my nearest active astronomical society - and they had an observatory at Kenley to which I could escape the lights of inner London! I later joined the Royal Astronomical Society as a member becoming a Fellow in 1986 and am still a "FRAS" to this day.

I started a small astronomical society with John Larard, called the Southern Astronomical Society, later the South Astronomical Society. We kept this little society going for many years but it was in vain as our membership never climbed that high and we closed up shop in the early 1990's.

John Larard had special permission to use the 8-inch Fry refractor at Mill Hill Observatory, north London and he and I made several trips there to observe mainly double stars and star clusters. I was lucky to be able to do this as I had never been to a proper observatory before (it was mainly used for teaching the University of London undergraduates how to observe). I will never forget the sight of the Great Orion Nebula through the Fry refractor as M42 rose in the eastern sky just before dawn. 

I became the JAS Solar Section Director in 1991 and stayed in post until about 1994/5. I later joined the BAA Solar Section as Assistant to the Director, Bruce Hardie. Bruce was a great Director and the BAA Solar Section had over 100 members. It was very active. Sadly he died suddenly in 1999 and I was asked to become Director. I remained in post until about 2005 when I gave up the post due to the imminent birth of my daughter in 2006. I didn't want the Section to suffer if I could not give it the attention it deserved.

In 2006 I was lucky to be asked to be a "Tour Astronomer" for a trip to Eygpt to see the 2006 total solar eclipse. I remember the eclipse to this day and even have some digital images of the whole event that show the long streamers of the solar corona and the Diamond Ring.

In August 2013, I became SPA Solar Section Director once again when Richard Bailey, who had been Director for the previous 13 years, had to retire from the post due to illness and other problems, and a growing commitment for caring for his frail wife. I'm very pleased to say that Richard still contributes regular solar observations and images to the Solar Section and long may this continue.  

I also like observing Deep Sky and imaging them too. I also like observing and imaging the planets. I'm also very practical and can make things by hand sometimes out of nothing more than a few bits of wood, some screws and a bit of thinking!  

I also like gardening, meteorology and I love aeroplanes (but I have never learned to fly - too expensive).

When I'm not doing all this, I like to earn a few pennies as a civil servant in the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

Last Updated Wed, 12 Nov 2014 by:  Geoff Elston