Preston Montford 2019 – Messier’s Heritage

22–24 November 2019

Preston Montford Field Centre, near Shrewsbury

There are over 100 deep-sky objects in the sky discovered by the 18th century French observer Charles Messier – the ones with M numbers – and they are a great favourite with amateur astronomers. So on this year’s practical residential weekend course we’ll be looking at what they are, finding out how to observe them with binoculars and telescopes, and how to draw and take pictures of them.

Our guest speakers will be Prof Ian Morison, Robin Scagell and Pete Williamson. Between them they have a wealth of experience of observing, drawing and imaging deep-sky objects. The weekend is aimed at both beginners to observing and those who are more advanced, so we’ll be covering the basics as well as more detailed topics.

There will be the opportunity to observe in relatively dark sky conditions if it’s clear, and from Preston Montford the Milky Way is easily visible. Participants are encouraged to bring their own binoculars or telescopes, though equipment will be available for those without.

Aspects covered will include:

* How to find and view the Messier objects – plus the ones Messier missed

* Nebulae, clusters and galaxies

* Drawing, and imaging using both conventional and specialist cameras

* Remote observing under dark skies.

In addition, if it’s clear during the day we’ll be taking a safe look at the Sun with a variety of telescopes during the break times.

The location

The society has been holding a weekend course at Preston Montford almost every year since 1977. The location is in the heart of the Shropshire countryside. Click here for more details of the venue and its location


We hope to observe on the Friday and Saturday nights if it’s clear. There will be telescopes available and participants are welcome to bring their own instruments. Help will be given on setting up and using telescopes if required. The waning crescent Moon doesn’t rise until around 4 am. Saturn is visible low down in the early evening. Solar observing may be carried out after lunch on Saturday and Sunday.


Numbers are limited to 40 participants. There is no age limit in either direction, but we do not provide special care for participants under 18.


The course runs from 6.30 pm on Friday 22 November, but if anyone expects to be later food will be kept for them. The course sessions begin at about 8.30 pm on Friday 22 November, and end at 3.30 pm on Sunday 24 November, though people may leave earlier if necessary.

Cost and participation

The cost, which includes full board and accommodation from Friday evening (arrive 6.30 pm) until Sunday afternoon (course finishes 3.30 pm), but not travel to Preston Montford, is £205.00 per person. Some shared rooms are available for families etc at a cost of £185.00. Participants under the age of 18 are welcome, though close supervision is not provided. Please let us know if you require a special diet or vegetarian food.

Bookings have now closed, so applications are now being accepted by email only to

How we use your data Personal data supplied when booking will only be used for the purposes of administering the course and will never be disclosed; data will be held securely until the course is complete when it will be deleted (paper records will be shredded).


Cost: £205.00 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Balance of payment: Bookings must be paid in full by 23 September 2019.

Payment methods: We accept payment by cheque, postal order, credit card (Visa and MasterCard) and debit card (Maestro).

Cancellation: If a booking is cancelled, the deposit will not be returned. If the balance due has already been paid when the cancellation is made, the balance will be returned only if the place on the course can be allocated to another person. If cancellation is made seven days or less before the course starts, no refund will be made for whatever reason. It is recommended that all applicants consider the purchase of holiday insurance cover to guard against such contingencies; holiday insurance is widely available from travel agents and multiple store chains.

Personal property: The Society for Popular Astronomy cannot accept responsibility for loss or damage to course members’ belongings such as baggage, money, astronomical instruments, etc. These should be covered by members’ own domestic insurance or holiday cover.