Society Lecture – The Andromeda Galaxy Enigma: A new face for an old friend – Andy Stephens @ Willingdon Memorial Hall
Jun 1 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Title: The Andromeda Galaxy Enigma: A new face for an old friend – Andy Stephens


On the night of 27–28 September 2015, during the total phase of the ‘supermoon’ lunar eclipse, Andy experienced some exceptionally transparent dark skies at his home just outside Cheltenham. Using his 16×70 Fujinon binoculars he was surprised to see the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) displaying a totally unfamiliar countenance: in place of its normal symmetrical aspect, he was now observing a twisted and distorted object which seemed to have an almost three-dimensional appearance. Andy was seeing the Galaxy as never before and was puzzled, as he could recall no similar observations from the historical record. With a strong feeling that corroborative evidence for his strange observation must lie ‘out there’ somewhere, waiting to be discovered, Andy embarked on what ended up as a three-year research project. Gradually the surprising truth unfolded.
This talk tells Andy’s story by reference to over a 1000 years of observation of this, the most wonderful of the great ‘island universes’. We will meet many of the great observers of the past, the work of whom has given us insight to its true character. However, by the end of the talk, Andy will be inviting us all to question whether the descriptions of the visual appearance of M31 in modern guide books are correct.


Andy Stephens – Andy is a retired IT and Internet specialist. He has been a keen amateur astronomer and astronomical historian for over 50 years. During this time he has used a great variety of different instruments, including refractors up to 10″ aperture and reflectors up to 24″; however, he is happiest when sweeping the Milky Way with a simple pair of binoculars. Since his teens he has been collecting books on the history of observational astronomy and has accumulated an extensive reference library to support his various research projects.  He is a past Chairman of the Bristol Astronomical Society and a current member of the British Astronomical Association (BAA), the Society for the History of Astronomy (SHA) and the Webb Society.

David Godfrey Lecture – Charting the Heavens – Wil Tirion @ Willingdon Memorial Hall
Jul 6 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Title: Charting the Heavens (Uranography – Yesterday and Today) – Wil Tirion (Capelle aan den Ijssel, The Netherlands – the world’s foremost celestial cartographer, whose works include Bright Star Atlas 2000.0Star Atlas 2000.0 and Uranometria 2000.0)


The presentation will lead you through the history of uranography; the charting of the heavens. You will hear something about the origin of the constellations, also the southern ones, and I will tell you about some old star atlases and their curiosities.  The pictures will also show the changes in stellar cartography from the beginning until today.

In the second part I will tell you how I became interested in star charts, how I started creating star charts as a hobby; how this hobby evolved and finally transformed into a real profession. I will also tell about how the computer changed my work… Everything illustrated with a lot of pictures.


Wil Tirion never had any education in astronomy. His education was focused on graphic arts and design, although the starry sky and especially star maps have always fascinated him. In the field of astronomy and uranography (mapping the sky), he is what they call autodidact.

In 1977, just for his own enjoyment, he started making his first star atlas, with stars down to magnitude 6.5. It was published in the Encyclopedia of Astronomy, edited by Colin Ronan, (Hamlyn, London, 1979) and in 1981 as a separate set of maps by the British Astronomical Association (B.A.A. Star Charts 1950.0).

In 1978, still as a hobby, he started working on a larger atlas: Sky Atlas 2000.0., showing stars down to magnitude 8.0. Its publication, in 1981 (by Sky Publishing Corporation, USA, and copublished by Cambridge University Press), resulted in requests from several publishers for star maps for different purposes. In 1983 he decided to quit his job as a graphic artist and designer, and became a full timeuranographer. Since then he has created several star atlases, like the Bright Star Atlasand the Cambridge Star Atlasand has cooperated with other people on larger atlases like Uranometria 2000.0. He als created numerous star maps for astronomy books and magazines.

In 1987 he was honored by receiving the ‘Dr. J. van der Bilt-prize’, a Dutch award for amateur astronomers.

In 1993 this was followed by a second, more international ‘award’, when a minor planet was named after him: (4648) Tirion = 1931 UE.

 Wil Tirion’s website: