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Society History & Records

This web page is being developed to record the history of the Aberdeen Astronomical Society (formerly the Aberdeen and District Astronomical Society).   Please email , or contact directly,   if you have any information or leads to assist this task.
Society History
Society Records - Newsletters, Journals and Magazines


Society History

Society Formation - November 1969 
The Aberdeen and District Astronomical Society (A.D.A.S) was started at the instigation of Mr W.D. Cooper - a member of staff of Robert Gordon's College - who organised a preliminary meeting of interested parties at his house in November 1969. It was then decided to attempt the formation of a society and a committee was elected to organise the first meeting.     The initial committee was :-
Chairman    Dr. N.H. Langton
Secretary   Mr W.P. Cooper
Treasurer   Mr H.K. Wray
    Dr A.C. Jason
    Dr A.M. Flett
Hon. President   Professor R.V. Jones
Membership of the society was to be open to all who are interested in astronomy. In general the activities of the society were to be at a non-technical level, although facilities for more advanced work were to be available for those members who wish to go deeper into the subject.  

Permission to base the Society in the School of Physics of Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology was sought and subsequently obtained from the Governors of Robert Gordon's Colleges.  

A provisional programme of lectures was drawn up covering a variety of topics and it was intended to organise practical sessions for members who wished to learn how to use telescope equipment, and learn about such topics as astronomical photography and telescope making. The society planned to organise practical and theoretic project study groups if enough members are interested.  Other activities of the society were to include film shows, visits to observatories, and talks by visiting speakers if funds allow.

Above all, it was intended that all members have ample opportunity to observe the heavens for themselves through the telescopes which will be mounted on the roof of the St Andrew Street building. It was hoped that the Society would take part in the observing activities that would be of use to other astronomers and play some part in the national programmes of work.   Patrick Moore suggested that the Society concentrate upon the topics of aurorae, variable stars and surface features of Jupiter

[ Information Sources - Opening Letter, Jan 1970First Newsletter, Oct 1971 ]

Inaugural Meeting - January 1970
The inaugural meeting of the A.D.A.S was held on 22nd January 1970 in the Physics Department of King's College, University of Aberdeen. An attendance of about 50 had been anticipated by the Committee. However the actual attendance was over 120 and the audience had to move to a larger lecture theatre.  At this first meeting the provisional constitution was adopted and the first members enrolled.  First annual fee was 10s (50p), with an additional levy of 2 for those taking part in more serious observing programmes.  

[ Information Sources - First Newsletter, Oct 1971 ]

Inaugural Lecture by First President of the Society - October 1970
Professor R.V.Jones agreed to act as President of the Society and gave his inaugural lecture in October 1970 (subject unknown).

[ Information Sources - First Newsletter, Oct 1971 ]

First AGM - January 1971
As a result of elections and a recommendation to have a representative of many younger members, three additional members joined the original committee. The new committee members were :-

Dr. H.I. Ellington
Mr N.T. Nicoll
Mr. D. Tytler

[ Information Sources - First Newsletter, Oct 1971 ]

Activities 1970-1972
The Society had a very active initial phase judging by the content of "Orion" Newsletters produced in Oct 1971 & Feb 1972.  During the first year membership of the Society reached a total of 113 (87 Associate and 26 Full Members), and for a period it became one of the largest astronomical societies in Scotland.  Seven special groups were started :-

- Construction Group
- Photographic Group
- Observing Group
- Aurorae Group
- Meteor Group
- Astronautics Group
- History Group

A library of books and slides was assembled with Dr. A.C. Jason acting as librarian. 

The society was based at the School of Physics, Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology, St Andrew Street, because not only was this central, but it had a flat roof available for mounting telescopes.  Initial equipment comprised a 4 inch refractor telescope loaned by Dr. Jason and a 6 inch reflector that was available on occasional loan from the Department of Physics, Aberdeen University.   An 8.5 inch reflecting telescope owned by the School of Physics (RGIT) was also to become available for use by Society members.

Initially the 4 inch refractor and 8.5 inch reflector were housed in a temporary observatory, but eventually a permanent brick building with dome was constructed to house the equipment.

The Society carried out a lecture service to schools in the district. It also active within the Scottish Astronomical Societies Group.  

Mr. David Gavine of the History Group produced a monograph entitled "Notes on the History of Astronomy in Aberdeen and the North-East" [Q. does anyone have a copy of this monograph on North-East Astronomy History ? ] 

[ Information Sources - First Newsletter, Oct 1971 , Second Newsletter, Feb 1972 ]


Temporary Disbandment 1972-74
In 1972 the Society temporarily disbanded to allow work to be carried out on the new permanent observatory.  It was decided to do this as the Society no longer had an observing site and an alternative was not available.  Although initial indication was that the observatory would be ready and functioning with a year, a series of snags meant that it was approximately 2 years before the Society was allowed back to Robert Gordon's Institute and into the observatory.  During this time the Society had lost about half its total membership. 

[ Information Sources - "History of the ADAS"  in ADAS Journal, Issue 1, 1985-86 ]
Activities 1975-1984
No information covering this period.  [Q. does anyone have any information or journals covering this period ? ] 
Activities 1985-1987
Journals through this period indicate a spurt of activity at this time  

[ Information Sources -   ADAS Journal, Issue 1, 1985-86 , ADAS Journal, Issue 2, 1986-87 ]

Activities 1988-1996
No information covering this period.  [Q. does anyone have any information or journals covering this period ? ] 

[ Q. When did Society move from St Andrew Street to the CTO, Kings Street. ? ]


Activities 1997
Magazine from 1997 records Society activity at this time. 

[ Information Source : SHUTTLE, ADAS Magazine,Issue 2 (Dec 1997) ]   
 [Q. does anyone have a copy of SHUTTLE Issue 1 from 1996 ? ]

Activities 1998 -2006
After the winter of 2003 when Torcuill Torrance and Phil Hart set about in earnest to establish the Dark Sky Site, it was becoming awkward to pronounce the Society name to various agencies, so it was suggested that we rename the Society to be Aberdeen Astronomical Society. The Committee and Membership agreed, and we have moved onwards with AAS from Sept 2004.


Between ?2001 and mid 2007 AAS held informal observing/social chat meetings once a month on fourth Tuesday of the month at Shell's Woodbank facility in Cults. Informal observing was performed from the front lawn when the weather allowed. AAS are grateful to Shell for the use of this facility during this period



AAS Dark Sky Site (2003-2008+)

An account of the founding and use of the AAS Dark Sky Site by Phil Hart has been published in Crux - the newsletter of the Astronomical Society of Victoria.
(see copy : Tales from Scotland: The Value of a Dark Sky Site By Phil Hart )

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Society Records - Newsletters, Journals and Magazines

Looking back at the various newsletters and journals which were written in years gone by reveals the society's rich heritage. However there are many years for which no records were kept. We and future members can only guess at what the society did then.   

The known records are as follows :

Jan 1970    ADAS Opening Letter & Constitutional Details (Jan 1970)
Oct 1971   ORION, ADAS Newsletter Number 1 (Oct 1971)
Feb 1972   ORION, ADAS Newsletter Number 2 (Feb 1972)
1985   Journal of the ADAS, Issue 1, 1985-86
1986   Journal of the ADAS, Issue 2, 1986-87
1996   SHUTTLE, ADAS Magazine, Issue 1 (1995 or 1996?)
Dec 1997   SHUTTLE, ADAS Magazine,Issue 2 (Dec 1997)



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