Ilkeston & District Astronomical Society
A Background History
Founded in October 1981, IDAS was the brainchild of a small band of like-minded amateur astronomers, led by the late Bernard Wheeldon. Bernard had the foresight to recognise that there was a large geographical gap between the Nottingham and Derby astronomical societies - a gap that was large enough to warrant the need for a new astronomical society to cover Ilkeston and the surrounding Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire towns.
The very first informal meetings were held in Bernard's own home, but with a growing membership it meant that a more suitable meeting place was needed. After some investigation, the Hayloft at Erewash Museum in Ilkeston town centre became IDAS's new meeting place - and we have met there, on the second Tuesday of each month ever since.
At our monthly meetings members are entertained by either a Guest Speaker or by one of the more knowledgeable members. We always try and organise a good mix of talks that are suitable to all levels.
From February 2005 the Society began an additional monthly meeting, and this is held on the last Wednesday of each month (except December) at the Shipley County Park Visitor Centre, Slack Lane, Heanor, Derbyshire. Starting at 7:45pm in the Green Room, these informal meetings are open to all members, but they are mainly aimed at beginners and those less knowledgeable members.
Long ago, Bernard Wheeldon and his wife Betty would open up their home to members on Friday evenings. From Bernard's modest home-made observatory, which housed a Fullerscopes eight inch reflector, he would show members the delights of the night sky. The highlight of the night was Betty bringing out the oven baked jacket potatoes, and the mugs of hot tea and coffee, which members would eagerly devour under the starlit skies.
These days, IDAS holds regular observing sessions at nearby Shipley Park and these events continue to play an important role within the Society. They not only give the opportunity for members to learn something new about the night sky, but they also serve as a social get-together. So, even if the sky does cloud over there's always something interesting to talk about!
The Society currently owns an Orion eight inch Schmidt-Newtonian telescope, which is available for members to use at their own homes - free of charge. Some members do not own a telescope, and by using the Society's instrument it allows them to gain valuable experience in using a telescope before they decide to buy one with their hard earned cash. The telescope is also used at public observing sessions.
Society trips are a popular feature with members. Over the years Jodrell Bank has been a firm favourite, and in 2008 we made our sixth visit to the facilities. Other places of interest have included the Institute of Astronomy (in Cambridge), the Old Royal Greenwich Observatory, the Science Museum, and the Astronomy Centre (in Lancashire). Many members also attend various popular astronomy conventions that take place throughout the year. These include the SPA Convention, FAS Convention, Webb Society Convention and the Leeds Astromeet. In recent years the Autumn Equinox Sky Camp (in Norfolk), and long weekend visits to AstroAdventures (in North Devon) have also become very popular events for members.
From almost the very beginning, members have received a regular Newsletter that gives details of up and coming astronomical events, and all the latest Society news. Articles and observations that have been submitted by members are occasionally included in the Newsletter, and are of great interest. Members now have the option of receiving the Newsletter either in printed form or as a pdf file.
IDAS also promotes astronomy to the wider community, and has done so since its inception. Exhibitions, Open Days, and public observing sessions are our main activities. We have helped out at Shipley Park's Night Watch event for over 15 years, and when the weather has been kind to us, members have had the opportunity to show the public the wonders of the night sky. This event has always been popular, and often attracts large crowds. In March 2009 we helped out at the very first Wollaton Park Skywatch event, which brought together the Sutton & Mansfield Astronomical Society, Nottingham Astronomical Society, the University of Nottingham and ourselves, to celebrate astronomy and to show off the wonders of the night sky to the wider public.
Even though IDAS has remained fairly small in size, our membership is not only lively and enthusiastic, but also very friendly as well. Members range from complete beginners, to armchair astronomers, through to knowledgeable seasoned amateurs. Everyone with an interest in astronomy is most welcome to join us.