Welcome to the Highlands Astronomical Society

Highlands Astronomical Society (HAS) is where amateur astonomers and others with an interest in astronomy share their passion for the stars, planets and all other wonders of the Universe.








There is something for everyone, from talks to observing sessions, suitable for all - from absolute beginners to the more advanced astronomer. Most of our activities take place in and around Culloden, where we meet every month and have our own observatory.

"Astronomy For Beginners" At The Orkney International Science Festival 2020 Online


The Orkney Night Sky For Beginners


“May Your Constellations Ever Glitter”

(Howie Firth MBE to Eric Walker on 9th September 2020)


Here you can link to a series of short talks and a one hour-long interactive presentation given to the 2020 Orkney International Science Festival Online in September.

The aim of the talks is to show absolute beginners how to find their way around the night sky and pick out a few well known, and beautiful, objects to observe.

It is designed so that no telescope is needed – naked eye observing and a pair of standard binoculars is all that is required.

My virtual observatory for the Science Festival was located on the small island of North Ronaldsay and all the talks are relevant for anyone observing in the Northern Hemisphere.  If you live further south, all the objects will be higher in the sky.  If you live further east or west then objects will be visible earlier or later respectively.

Don’t be too concerned if you are viewing these talks a few weeks or months later – most of these objects are observable throughout the autumn and early winter.  They will be located in different positions and rise & set at different times from those given in the talks but the techniques shown will enable you to account for that.

For the short talks, I have a 5- to 7-minute slot and I was always the last person to be presenting, so, if you slide the viewing bar to about 8 or 9 minutes from the end you should be close to the start of the astronomy segment.

The short talks contain more detail than the single long talk, but the long talk has everything in one place and there’s no other topics to distract you.

Hope you enjoy them and that they encourage you to get out, look up, and start observing the beautiful night sky

Clear Skies!

Eric Walker

Highlands Astronomical Society - Chair


The Orkney Night Sky For Beginners (55m07s)



Peedie Kirk Lunch – Selene’s Chariot (The Moon) (17m28s)



Peedie Kirk Lunch – The Triangle & The Plough (Constellations & Asterisms) (15m24s)



Peedie Kirk Lunch – A’m An Orcadian … Get Me Oot O’ Here (Navigation Stars) (14m00s)



Peedie Kirk Lunch – The Wanderers (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, & Venus) (19m28s)



Peedie Kirk Lunch – The Ash Of Yggdrasill (The Milky Way) (16m22s)



Peedie Kirk Lunch – Clusters & Clouds (Seven Sisters, The Double Cluster, & The Andromeda Galaxy) (18m25s)


Arthur Milnes

25/06/30 - 14/08/20

It is with overwhelming sadness that we learned that Arthur died on Friday morning.


Arthur had been a stalwart of our Club virtually since its inception and had been very supportive of, and kind to all members, and people in general.  He had an extraordinary intelligence, with an ability to explain difficult astronomical concepts to beginners and he could always answer any question put to him.

Despite turning 90 in June, he was still on the Committee and had agreed to run our Christmas Quiz yet again. His last talk to us was in January last year and he gave a couple more to another club later on in the year.

His passion for space, for flying aircraft in his youth (and what stories he could tell!) as well as aeronautical engineering, ran deep. His practical skills came into their own when it came to both observatories, playing a major role in the taking down, and the erection of, our first observatory, and also making a large contribution to the maintenance of our current Observatory which included  instigating the raffle in order to raise enough money to run the Observatory.  

He gave so much of himself to make the Highlands Astronomical Society as successful as it is and he will very much be missed by us all. 

We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Lorna, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The HAS Committee




Monthly Club Meetings

Open to HAS Members and Associated Club



This Tuesday, 1st September 2020 - Zoom Meeting
Room Opens 7:15pm         Meeting Starts - 7:30pm


Following our very succesful Monthly Club Meetings via Zoom we are very excited to repeat the process for September!


It is being held on Zoom and if you are a non-member and wish to attend please use the Contact option just below the banner and we will get the Zoom link details to you.


The programme is -

- Chairman’s Chat

- Main Talk then Q&A

- Club News (incl. astropics, targets of the month)

- Club Q&A


The main talk is by Professor Ineke De Moortel,  a professor of applied mathematics at the University of St Andrews, and who will be speaking to us on "Solar Storms and Atmospheric Effects on Earth's Communities"

Hope to see you there.


Although our face-to-face meetings are cancelled for the foreseeable future we are replacing them with Zoom webinars.

All our members* will be emailed in advance to let you know when they are and how to take part.  We can also run targeted mini-tutorials & practice sessions to help you get comfortable with the software.

* including Associated Clubs - Aberdeen Astronomical Society, Caithness Astronomy Group, Moray Astronomy Club (SIGMA), and North Ronaldsay Astronomy Group




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NORMALLY we hold our meetings in Smithton Free Church Cafe and you can find the exact spot by clicking on this “what3words”locating link ///absent.lizard.front

(This 3 word address refers to an exact 3m x 3m location. Tap the link or enter the 3 words into the free what3words app to find it.  Zoom/scroll out & click on the satellite view and it'll take you to the exact spot!)

                                                                        - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 -

  The Orion Nebula (M42) through our Observatory Astrocam Link


Find out about your local astronomy club, what we get up to, where we meet, and how to join your local astronomy club!

You can easily contact us on FB, Messenger, or via our CONTACT menu button on this website.


Observing Sessions


Although our face-to-face observing sessions are cancelled for the foreseeable future we are replacing them with online Zoom webinars so you can still view objects live in the night (and day!) sky guided by our enthusiastic observing team.

All our members* will be emailed in advance to let you know when they are and how to take part.  We can also run targeted mini-tutorials & practice sessions to help you get comfortable with the software.

* including Associated Clubs - Aberdeen Astronomical Society, Caithness Astronomy Group, Moray Astronomy Club (SIGMA), and North Ronaldsay Astronomy Group



Dark Sky Sessions (September through March)

There are public evening observing sessions scheduled on Fridays & Saturdays each month throughout the winter at the JSL Observatory located at Culloden Battlefield, opposite the NTS Visitor Centre.  We also open the observatory for special events which will be notified via this website, Facebook, and Instagram when they occur.  Please be sure to visit the JSL Observatory page before joining us - it will help you to get the most out of your observatory visit.

Open to everyone although recommended for children age 8 and over.

A voluntary charitable donation in the region of £5 per adult would be greatly appreciated to enable us to operate & maintain our Observatory.

FREE to HAS & SIGMA Members

View & click on the Dark Sky Observing panel in the right-hand column for the date, time and status of our next observing session.  This is updated in the hours before a session as observing is weather dependant, so do check back before setting out.

Location of JSL Observatory:    (what3words) ///cosmetic.measuring.caressed


Monthly Meetings

We meet monthly, on the first Tuesday of each month at Smithton Culloden Free Church (second Tuesday in January) from 19:15 (for 19:30) - 22:00. All welcome. Your first visit is free (thereafter £5 per meeting for non-members).

The Youngstars, for ages 8-14, meet at the same venue, prior to the Main Meeting, from 19:00 - 19.30.


Directions to Smithton Free Church:     Car     Cycle     Walk     ///absent.lizard.front

See the Meetings and Events page for more information.

Solar Sessions (April through August)

We also host Pop-Up Solar Observatories through the summer months where you can SAFELY view the Sun with specialist equipment.  These are usually on Saturdays and they literally pop up at popular venues throughout Inverness-shire and Ross-shire.

If you attend one of our public observing sessions, enjoy the experience, and wish to thank us in a practical manner, you can actually help by making a contribution to the Society’s collection box. The Highlands Astronomical Society is a registered charity (number SC 037209) and it depends on fund raising and donations to keep the observatory running.

Joining HAS

Click here to find details about Member Benefits and How to Apply for Membership of your friendly, local Highlands Astronomy club.

Contact us via our Enquiries page if you need further information.  We want this to be as simple a process for you as we can possibly make it.



Our Image Gallery with high resolution images and details of image capture & processing is located on Flickr

Latest Images

Also see our social media for more images:

Our older images can still be viewed at

HAS Archived Gallery Index

Space Exploration News Update – August 2020 by Pat Williams

  • First laser detection of space debris in daylight.
  • Lucy mission one step closer to exploring the Trojan asteroids.
  • NASA selects proposals for new space environment missions.
  • Mammal Cells May Not Fight Space Germs.
  • NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission nears completion.
  • Links to other space and astronomy news published in August 2020.

This and all previous editions can be accessed HERE



Click for Map

Upcoming Meetings & Events

Dark Sky Observing

STATUS: All Observatory Events Cancelled For The Forseeable Future

However ..... see front page for alternative Zoom webinar hosted online sessions!

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