History of the Birmingham Astronomical Society

Founded in March 1950 as the Birmingham Astronomical Group by a number of local academics and enthusiasts including Dr MacDonough of Saltley College and Dr Martin Johnson of Birmingham University, the Group became a Society in the mid 1960s. Initially meeting in the old Birmingham University buildings in Edmund Street, the Society was offered rooms at the nearby Birmingham &; Midland Institute (BMI) where they stayed for the next few years

In these early days, the emphasis was centred around amateur telescope making. One particular project involved the grinding and polishing of a 21 inch mirror. Unfortunately, there was no suitable site to be found for it locally and it was eventually transported up to the Conder Brow Observatory in Lancashire.

Observing, of course, was also an integral activity and much use was being made of the observatory located near a covered reservoir at Waterworks Rd in Edgbaston. This had kindly been given to the Society by the BMI who themselves had acquired it as a donation from a local chemical company, Albright &; Wilson. The observatory housed a 12 inch reflector with a Calver mirror.

When Apollo 11 successfully landed on the Moon in 1969 the public's fascination with Space was at its height. The BAS organised the "Moon and beyond" exhibition and managed to involve many UK companies and institutes. It was very popular and attracted 5,000 visitors including Patrick Moore who gave a talk to an audience of several hundred. An Astronomy symposium held at Aston University in Birmingham was another successful event when the BAS hosted many distinguished guest speakers.

When redevelopment closed the Waterworks Road site in 1979 a new observatory was built at Wasthills, South of Birmingham. It took five years to construct and was completed in 1984 but was burnt down by vandals shortly afterwards. The Society was, once more, without an observatory.

For several years, the Society's home was the clubroom in the basement of Aston University where an extensive library, computer facilities and a well equipped workshop was available for the use of members. The clubroom was eventually moved to the roof of the University where members now also have an observing platform.

In 2000 the Society marked its fiftieth anniversary by issuing a First Day cover to all of its members and one of the asteroids discovered by member, Dr. Brian Manning, was named 'Basfifty' to celebrate the occasion.

In 2003 the Society held the official opening of the new BAS Observatory at the Priory School in Edbgaston. Several years in the planning and over a year in actual construction, hopes were high for a long and happy association with the School. But, tragically, the Society was dealt a second bitter blow when, twenty one years after the Wast Hills observatory had been destroyed , this one, too, fell victim to vandals and was burnt down in July 2005.

Despite these heartbreaking setbacks, the Society continues to be committed to promoting and enjoying amateur astronomy. Membership is maintained at around 80/90 and there is now a keen interest in astro imaging spurred on by the Society's involvement in the Faulkes Telescope Project.

Highlights of recent years included visits from distinguished astronomers Br. Guy Consolmagno, Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the legendary John Dobson.These events together with our association with the new Birmingham Planetarium at Thinktank, continue to encourage and inspire..

As to the future, the BAS looks forward to the further development of astronomy and to the wider exploration of Space, believing that the best is yet to come!.



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