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The Sun is not behaving quite as expected. We have all heard about the solar cycle, and how its activity, indicated by the number of sunspots, rises and falls every 11 years. This year was supposed to be solar maximum, yet activity is way down. This follows on from a minimum around 2009 when for virtually a year there was hardly a sunspot to be seen, not even tiny ones. People started to talk about another Maunder Minimum, as happened about 300 years ago, when there were no spots to be seen for years on end and the Earth’s weather plunged into a Little Ice Age.
So what’s going on? And how does the Sun affect our weather anyway? The person to answer these questions is Dr Lucie Green, of Mullard Space Science Laboratory. Since Lucie last visited us in 2006, she has of course become well known as a presenter of The Sky at Night on TV but she is first and foremost a solar researcher, studying the effect of the Sun’s magnetic fields on space weather. She will be telling us the latest news of the Sun’s varying activity, and giving us details of her research at our meeting on Monday, 9 December at Christ Church, Redford Way, Uxbridge, starting at 8 pm.
Future meeting dates
13 January – Members: November's Amazing Solar Eclipse
10 February – To be announced
10 March – Graham Marett: Calendars
14 April – Libby Jackson: The ISS Columbus laboratory
12 May – To be announced
Meetings are held every month (except August) alternating between Christ Church, Redford Way, Uxbridge and St John's Ambulance Hall, North Harrow. Admission to meetings is free to members, and non-members are welcome to attend one or two meetings before deciding if membership is for them. Meetings begin at 8 pm sharp and finish at 10 pm.
Each meeting begins with the talk by the main speaker, which usually lasts 60-75mins. This is followed by a slot where we show astronomical observations made by members. The meetings close with society notices and we often have time for refreshments afterwards. Here you can socialise with other members, speak to WOLAS committee members, or even talk directly with the main speaker.
As an incentive for members to contribute their observations to the monthly observing slot, a small prize is awarded by a process of a lucky dip. We also run an observing competition over the year and whether you win the lucky dip or not, each month's entry also adds a point to a member's points tally. Attendance at a Piggotts observing night also adds a point. In September of each year, a trophy is given to the member with the most points. This is the Geoff Smith Award which commemorates a former secretary of WOLAS who was a very keen observer of the night sky. As a member you can read more about the trophy by logging in and clicking here.