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Woolsthorpe Manor Visit - June 25 2016


A great day out to this historic site.  Thanks for organising it Jerry.


At the recent committee meeting we discussed a number of venues for other trips for the future, and more details will be sent out in due course.


Trip to Woolsthorpe Manor, near Stamford, Lincolnshire - the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton.  25 June 2016

The Distant Past, The Distant Future:  Time travel on or near the A1, with Jerry, Andy, Hans, Martin and Neil, by Martin Taylor.


On arriving at our rendezvous at The Fairway Tavern I was surprised that only half the original fourteen members of Hertford Astronomy Group were actually going. At least the weather looked reasonable.

During the ninety-minute journey up the A1, we had a great discussion about the colonisation of space.  This was of course led by Jerry, the society’s Head Spacenik, an FBIS and the head of the UK chapter of The Mars Society.

We talked about space stations, space colonies, Lagrange positions, geostationary  elevators and the Skylon spaceplane. Concerning the last, like a lot of people I like to kid myself I’ll go up to a space station in Skylon in my old age.

The restless weather continued, though it was fairly sunny when we reached Woolsthorpe Manor.

First we went into the Science Discovery Centre.  There was a short film about Newton’s life and work.  It was alright but I couldn’t hear the soundtrack to well as it was under-amplified and I am a little hard of hearing.

Then there was the main hall and cafe.  This was full of delightful scientific toys.  They demonstrated the three laws of motion and the properties of light.

I had a slight brush with my strengths and weaknesses.  First I had to have someone show me how to chuck the bean-bags in the double vertical centrifuge turntable.  Then I could see how the one in the outer circle stayed put for ages - higher speed, higher g-force - whilst the one in the inner circle fell off quickly.  I’m quite poor at mechanics!

I got on much better when I talked about eyes and vision to one of the tutor-assistants.  He was talking about the three types of retinal cones - red, green and blue - and their corresponding forms of colour blindness.  I also stated how the cones are concentrated in the centre of the retina, in the fovea; the rods - light receptors - being distributed across the whole of the retina and depressed in the fovea.

This causes the phenomenon, well known to amateur astronomers, of seeing a faint star cluster or nebula much better but looking slightly away from it. [This is known as “averted vision”.]  I’m much better at biology!

After lunch we went into the orchard and took photos of ourselves, with and without the HAG banner, by the famous ancient apple tree.

At about this point Daniel finally turned up.  Finally we went into the Old Manor House with its beautiful, lovingly preserved os recreated artefacts.  Looking at all these ancient scientific instruments, clothes and furniture, I thought of how Newton’s genius and discoveries has led, after centuries, to the present era of early space exploration.  Then there was the feedback process between telescopic astronomy and space exploration.  I looked, dumbfounded, at the replica of the world’s first reflecting telescope, a Newtonian Reflector, and thought of what Jerry had been saying while we were travelling up.

After we came out of the Manor, we sat in the courtyard and had refreshments.  We talked at some length about telescopes before setting off home.  Inevitably this got us into how little we had been able to get out with our telescopes last winter because of the poor weather.

Thanks for the account Martin