I went to Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on Thursday visiting the astronomers of HMNAO. Had a really useful time catching up on all things astronomical. I was particularly tickled by a chat between two of them when one of them stated "ah yes, Steve, you are far further out than me". On explanation I was told that Don only does planet orbits whereas Steve is interested in stars - the 'way out' guy. I am so local, Mrs Terrestrial as I am.
Had an interesting chat about orbit modelling and how it is impossible to obtain a perfect answer when you work with datasets of varying quality and time span. For example, Don was trying to model the orbits of Uranus using datasets which were (a) high quality, but only 6 months' worth and (b) low quality but over a long period. Both datasets are vital but you have to know how to use/weight them. Ah, now there's the connudrum and depending how you weight, and which long/short wavelengths you choose, it can completely alter the answer.
Met with their RAL boss at lunchtime who is keen on telescope pointing. So that kick-started a discussion about deviation of the vertical, Hawaii and Tristan da Cunha. So I shared my salad with a planetary modeller; a stellar guru and a telescope pointer. Makes for a fun lunch. And we honestly didn't mention Patrick Moore too much...
That evening attended the ceremony of Beating the Retreat at the Denison Barracks, Hertimage, Newbury [42 Royal Engineering Unit and Royal School of Military Survey]. I've been there many times with the RN 'Long Course' studying GPS and least squares but this time was pure pleasure. Well, pleasure with a lot of networking and catching up with old colleagues.
My favourite old friend though was not where I expected it. The last time I saw it, it was proudly perched in the middle of the bar area but they have been moved to a corner between and ladies and gents toilets. Such salubrious surroundings!
I think it's a Cooke's theodolite but not sure which one. Anyone know?
As ever, I am immensely impressed by Beating the Retreat. How the band plays and moves in strictly choreographed moves is a wonder. Perhaps it's dead easy and you just follow the person in front but, ahem, what if you are the one in front? The band of the Royal Engineers were great.
After a sensibly early night I headed off to Worcester on Friday to attend the 2008 graduation of the survey school.
Was delighted to see 24 students graduate with an NVQ Level 3 Spatial Data Managment - well done! My only disappointment was that there was only one female amongst them all. Where are all the women?
Again, a great chance to catch up with friends and colleagues, in particular contacts from the Institute of Civil Engineers who are on the road to getting a Royal Charter. Well done them.