Last Friday night I went to London for the Astrofest 2010. While I dont know alot about Astronomy I still have maintained my intresting in knowing all things science, and have been looking for a new hobby since I stopped playing Warcraft. I recently started talking with the lovely people on the forums of GalaxyZoo.org and one of them suggested I join them at the conference in London.
I got into London latish in Friday night, and it was later when i arrived at my hotel in Earls Court. As the rest of the ppl had gone back to their own accommodations (some where in London) I stayed in the hotel and decided to have a reasonably early night.
Saturday morning I was up at 7.30 and left the hotel after getting directions to the venue just before 8:30. Arrived at the venue at about 8.45 and joined the queue to enter. Went in at 9.00 and expecting Alice to be arriving in a few minutes and only vaguely knowing what Alice looked like decided to let her know I was there, only to be told she had fallen victim to the the Circle line not running and would be there close to 10.00 for the first lecture. I decided to look around anyway. There were lots and lots of telescopes, books, magazines etc there, I might have taken alot more of an intrest if I knew more about the subject but decided I would keep my mouth shut and look like I knew what everything was. At about 9.40 when I was buying Bang for the possible signing by Brian May and Patrick Moore that afternoon, I noticed a possible familiar face from the forums: Hanny!!. When she was finished at the stand she went back to 4 or 5 other people and I edged up to one of the people and asked if they were from Galaxy Zoo. I was lucky that the one person I asked didn't live up to her forum name of scary (I know how she got her nick name but still not worked out what was so scary about her). She introduced me to Hanny, Els, Tommy and Infinity (ah the joy of being known by a forum nickname - I wonder if Thunderbay in Canada still knows me by mine?). I followed this group into the talk then.
In the talks I ended up sitting between some rather patient guy at the end of the row and Els. She soon pointed out the others that were there in another row, Geoff, Capella, Budgieye, Paddy, the infamous Stellar and her mum (apologies to others who i am sure were in that row but cant remember names). The first talk was on Solar Storma, and the 2nd was on Supernovas. Both were very intresting talk and while I am not that knowledgeable on Astronomy yet I was able to understand most of both talks. We then had a break for 30mins where I talked to Els a bit more and explained who I was and the fact I had only been on the forums for about 2 weeks, not sure if she thought I was brave or stupid for turning up at the event knowing basically no one there. I also introduced myself to Stellar, I had talked to her a bit on twitter and I did get a puzzled look when i said hi.
The 3rd talk of the morning was on "Did the Earth Move for Henry VIII?". It was probably the best talk I have ever been to, Mike Edmunds who was giving the talk, seems to be one of those people who could talk about paint drying yet still keeping everyone intrested. The talk was tracing the possible spread of the ideas of Copernicus had reached Henry VIII before he broke from the catholic church and how it possibly might have helped with the break from the church. (Well if Rome was wrong about the Earth being the centre of the universe what else could it be wrong about?).
The final part of the morning session was the Q & A session with Dr Brian May (finally received his doctorate after a small break with a certain rock band) and Sir Patrick Moore. The questions were answered well and quite often humourously (like all those blissful moonlanding sceptics - if you werent there you might be able to guess the saying that it was based on), you could see that both men loved this topic. Brian May also talked about his new book. He explained how stereography was around before regular photgraphs and also how a certain person done a series of images around a town in the 19th century and how he had eventually tracked down this village and tried some then and now stereographs. (intrestingly enough it was the internet that helped him find the town (might have this arse ways) but he thought they were in Berkshire and it turned out to be in Oxfordshire, but only due to a change of county boundry).
When the Q&A was over it was time for lunch. We were waiting outside for the rest of the people and I finally got to meet Alice. When everyone who was going for lunch from Galaxy Zoo we walked to Edwards Square or Garden - cant remember which and into the pub there. There was alot of talking there and some good laughs, unfortuneately the pub didnt allow under 18's in so Stellar had to stay outside, but dont worry alot of us were outside too so we dont form any images of a poor cold girl staring in enviously at us in the warmth. While I was inside the pub I got to talk to Anders and Tony (Gargleblaster) for a while and then joined the others outside. I got to taste Geoffs Biltong (only read about it for a week) and also talked to Paddy and BlackProjects some too.
A short while later I left to head abck to get my book signed by Brian Patrick and Chris. The next 2 hours seemed long but there was still joking with other complete strangers in the queue. When I was about 25th from the top of the queue the signers were taking a break for 15mins or so. When I finally got to get the books signed I got a person autograph from Chris (had met him for a few mins in the pub with teh Zooites, not sure is it good or bad that I made such an impression that he remembered). Sir Patrick was signing but he looked very tired from it - not sure I was surprised, after 2 hours of signing my name legibly I would probably be tired too (if you see alot of my writing you will see what i mean :p). I got Brian Mays then, and took a picture for the guy infront of me (him, his daughter and Brian - I think the kids was about 6 and she didnt complain at all during the queue - not sure I would have done the same at her age).
So with my book signed I went back down stairs for the remaining talks. Luckily I happened to cop Alice at the door and went and sat ebside her for the 3rd talk of the session. While the talk was intresting I was finding it hard to stay focussed - I blame the long stand, so I only remember the main points from the talk. The final talk for the conference was on SETI. It was quite intresting where they intend to bring it to and also all work they do for it. Also alot of work for open source programmers in the pipeline.
After the show we went to some other pub where all the other zooites had disappeared to. Got to talk to especially Budgieye and the others some more. Before too long though we were heading for a nice Italian restaurant on Cromwell road called Bella Vista. The food and desserts were lovely, the company was brilliant and there was ALOT of laughs. I did learn apperently in Belgium you get 7 years bad sex if you dont look the person in the eye where going cheers, I know our table was very careful for the rest of the night ;-) Unfortuneately the night ended too soon as people went to make there own way home.
Somewhere along the way I got a poster to mind, not sure why exactly but I did, but now apperently I have to use it as a prop in many intresting places :/. Flying home on Sunday was a bit of an eye opener. I wont name the airline but I am glad that the gate staff made alot of use of template for allowable bag sizes thus we ended up leaving Heathrow about 40minutes late as bags needed to be put in the hold.
It was a brilliant weekend and well worth the trip, even if it was a bit mad of me to go :)