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Professor gives whistle-stop tour of periodic table

By Staff Reporter- NOSN

A queue to view Saturn during the latest Caithness Astronomy Group event. Picture: Keith Nicholson
A queue to view Saturn during the latest Caithness Astronomy Group event. Picture: Keith Nicholson

It was a return visit to Caithness Astronomy Group (CAG) for Professor Martin Hendry MBE of the University of Glasgow. He was previously in Caithness in September and last week spent time speaking in schools and giving two talks at the Castlehill Heritage Centre, the CAG venue.

This talk, the latest in the group's series of public events, was planned to mark the International Year of the Periodic Table – the famous diagram used to display the chemical elements that make up our universe. Prof Hendry gave a presentation entitled An Astronomer’s Guide to the Periodic Table which was a whistle-stop tour of the periodic table and how spectra of its elements have helped reveal the mysteries of the cosmos. To a packed hall he showed how the light from distant stars and galaxies can be split into the colours of the spectrum to reveal the composition and type of star and whether it is moving towards or away from us.

In addition to Prof Hendry’s talk, the audience was treated to a full evening programme that included the latest astronomy news presented by Gordon Mackie, chairman of CAG, and the opportunity to view Saturn and its rings through one of the group’s telescopes. This proved very popular and, despite a long queue and the threat of distant clouds, everyone who was keen to see the planet got a look. The cool, clear, dark skies also allowed a spectacular display of the Milky Way.

CAG’s next public event is on November 1. It is entitled Astronomical Alchemy and shall be presented by Gordon Mackie and Mike Lunan. There will also be an opportunity for more observing – weather permitting. Details are on the CAG website.

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