Charles Piazzi Smyth is rightly famous as the man who convinced the world that we should study the Universe from the tops of mountains rather than from smokey cities. At the top of Mount Teide, you are above one third of the atmosphere. Even better of course is to get above the atmosphere entirely, by going into space. CPS could never have dreamed such a thing was possible, but now here we are, launching telescopes into space. A series of upcoming talks is looking at this amazing story.
The Wandering Astronomers
CPS believed that eventually all astronomers would become “peripatetic”, i.e. that we would wander the globe, taking our telescopes with us, to find the best observing locations. He was half right. The astronomers do wander the globe, from mountain-top to mountain-top – but the telescopes are already waiting there. Modern telescopes are much too big to move around!
However, this golden age of peripatetic astronomers is coming to a close… why is this? To find out, you need to hear the talk by Professor Andy Lawrence on July 5th – Wandering Astronomers: the past, present and future of mountaintop astronomy.
Read more about this event on our events page here
The move into Space
Since the 1970s, humanity has slowly struggled into Space. This struggle has always been fuelled by a mixture of the instinct to explore, romantic dreaming, national pride, and military ambition – but also by scientific opportunity. From above the atmosphere the stars are even sharper, and you can see even deeper, than Piazzi Smyth dreamed possible. While the UK has not led the way in building rockets, we have always been a world leader in designing and building the scientific instruments that get launched.
Scotland in Space
Launching into space has always been very expensive – something that only national governments can think about. But that is all changing, partly because of improved technology, and partly because commercial interest is driving costs down. Its not just Elon Musk – here in Scotland we have a some very exciting Space companies, and there is a plan for a Scottish Spaceport! Read all about those things here
The North West Highlands Space and Astronomy Tour
Matjaz Vidmar is pulling all those threads together in a very nice series of talks this summer, touring around the Northwest Highlands and Islands, especially with his talk entitled From Charles Piazzi Smyth to Scottish Spaceport: 200 years of reaching for the stars. He is talking on June 25th in Portree, on June 27th in Stornoway, and on June 30th in Lochinver Hall. If you are in one these areas, get yourself along!