National Astronomy Meeting

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National Astronomy Meeting
Simon White at RAS NAM 2012.jpg
Simon White addressing the 2012 National Astronomy Meeting
Genre Academic conference
Frequency Annual
Venue Varies, usually within the British Isles
Years active 70
Inaugurated 1948 (1948)
Previous event April 2018, Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool
Next event 2019, Lancaster University
Participants approx. 600
Activity Astronomy, solar physics and related fields
Organised by Royal Astronomical Society

The National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) is an annual scientific conference of astronomers, usually held in the British Isles. It is sponsored and coordinated by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), and functions as the primary annual meeting of the society. NAM is one of the largest professional astronomy conferences in Europe,[1] with typically around 600 delegates attending.[2]

Each NAM includes a variety of plenary and parallel sessions discussing the latest research in astronomy (and related fields), public lectures, community sessions and a press office to promote the results presented at the meeting to journalists and the public.[2]

The meetings began when the RAS decided to hold some of its scientific meetings outside London, where the society is based. Known as the 'out of town' meetings, the first was held in 1948. The meetings ran in most years until 1966, when they were discontinued.[note 1]

The RAS resumed the series in 1976.[3] An expanded format was adopted from 1992 onwards; to reflect this broader remit the name was changed to the 'National Astronomy Meeting'.[4] Since 1976 the meeting has been held every year, except in 2000 when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union was held in the UK instead.[3]


The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) was formed in 1820, and from the very beginning one of its major activities was to host scientific meetings.[5] Typically eight meetings each year were held at its headquarters in London (a practice which still continues). The growth of astronomical research throughout the UK and concurrent increase in the number of RAS Fellows beyond the London area lead to a demand for meetings outside the capital. Although occasional meetings were held in other locations to mark special occasions, no regular programme of meetings outside London was instituted until after the major disruption to RAS activities caused by the Second World War.[3]

The solution was to move one of the society's meetings outside London each year, terming them 'out of town' meetings. The first of these was held in Edinburgh in 1948.[3] There was reluctance to move any of the regular eight meetings, which ran from October to May, so the 'out of town' meetings were held as an additional ninth meeting during the summer break in the academic year. They were held in the summer or early autumn in most years until 1966, when the RAS Council decided to stop asking groups to host them.[3] The subsequent lack of meetings outside London[note 1] was unpopular with Fellows, so the 'out of town' meetings were reintroduced in 1976, but moved to April.[3] They replaced the usual monthly RAS meeting for that month,[6] and were usually held during universities' Easter holidays.

There was no set format to the out-of-town meetings, which were originally held over a single day, but during the 1960s some lasted three days.[3] They were often limited in topical scope. Ken Pounds, the President of the RAS from 1990-2, proposed expanding their remit into a more general meeting, inspired by the large meetings of the British Association and the American Astronomical Society.[4] The goal was to attract a broad section of the UK astronomy research community and provide a focus for media attention on the discipline.[4] To reflect this newly expanded format, the series was re-named the 'National Astronomy Meeting' (NAM) from 1992 onwards.[7][4]

The meetings continued to be held around Easter until 2012,[4] except in 1999 when NAM moved to August to coincide with the 1999 solar eclipse, visible from the venue.[4] From 2013 onwards NAM has been held in late June or early July, during universities' summer holidays.[6] Since 1994, each meeting has lasted four or five days.[4] There was no NAM in the year 2000, because the much larger General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union was being held in Manchester and thus was the major UK astronomy meeting of that year.[7]


Each NAM lasts four or five days and normally includes:[2][1]

  • Plenary talks every day on topics of broad interest to astronomy.
  • Parallel sessions on specialised areas of research every day, with several running concurrently. Fellows of the RAS can propose topics for the sessions held at each meeting, in exchange for the proposer organising and chairing the session.
  • The annual meetings of the UK Solar Physics (UKSP) and Magnetosphere Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial physics group (MIST), usually running as parallel sessions.
  • A 'town hall meeting' to discuss science policy and funding issues with the Royal Astronomical Society, Science and Technology Facilities Council and the UK Space Agency.
  • Public lectures aimed at local members of the public.
  • Presentations of the annual awards of the Royal Astronomical Society.
  • A 'teachers day' for school and/or university educators.
  • Various community discussion sessions or networking lunches on topics such as careers, diversity etc.
  • A social programme for delegates, including a formal conference dinner and a five-a-side football tournament.[4]
  • A press office and media relations team for journalists.

Meetings are usually held in a UK university or research institute active in astronomy, who organise and host the meeting.[2] The RAS provides financial sponsorship, advertising, media relations etc. and run some sessions within the meeting.[2] Universities see hosting the meeting as an opportunity to promote their astronomical research and attract undergraduate students in the discipline.[4] However in some recent years (e.g. 2011, 2015) the RAS has taken on the full organisation of the whole meeting itself, which is then held at a conference centre rather than a university.[4]

The meetings are open to anyone who pays the registration fee; although membership of the RAS is not required, Fellows of the RAS do receive a reduced price. Most attendees are professional research astronomers or postgraduate students, but interested amateur astronomers, undergraduates, school teachers, journalists etc. are also welcome. Typically there are around 500-600 registered attendees, but the 2009 event (which was combined with the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society) drew a record of 1100 delegates.[8][4]


Start End Host Notes Reference
1948 Edinburgh [7]
1950 Royal Irish Academy, Dublin [3]
1951 University College of the South West, Exeter [3]
1952 University of Leeds [3]
1953 University of Durham Actually held in Newcastle [3]
1954 Not held, due to an expedition to view the Solar eclipse of June 30, 1954 in Sweden [3]
1955 University of Glasgow [3]
1956 University of Bristol [3]
1957 Not held [7]
1958 University College of North Staffordshire, Keele [3]
1959 Not held [7]
1960 Institution of Civil Engineers, London Dedicated to the topic of British space research [3]
1962 Queen's University Belfast [3]
1963 Royal Society of Edinburgh [3]
1964 University of Newcastle [3]
1965 Royal Irish Academy, Dublin Joint symposium to celebrate the centenary of William Rowan Hamilton's death. Held over three days. [3]
1966 University of Exeter Three day meeting [3]
1967 Not held, due to a joint meeting with the Institute of Physics at Jodrell Bank [3]
1968 Not held [3]
1969 Royal Institute of Navigation Held at the Royal Geographical Society, London [3]
1970 Not held, instead a set of Celebration Lectures were given at the RAS to mark 150 years since the society was founded [3]
1971 Not held [7]
1972 Not held [7]
1973 Not held [7]
1974 Not held [7]
1975 Not held [7]
9 April 1976 University of Manchester [7][2]
6 April 1977 University of Edinburgh [7][2]
14 April 1978 University of York [7][2]
11 April 1979 University of Durham [7][2]
16 April 1980 University College, Cardiff [7][2]
16 April 1981 University of Bath [7][2]
7 April 1982 Royal Irish Academy, Dublin [7][2]
8 April 1983 University of Keele [7][2]
12 April 1984 University of Leicester [7][2]
11 April 1985 University of Liverpool [7][2]
10 April 1986 University of Leeds [7][2]
9 April 1987 University of Manchester [7][2]
30 March 1988 Lancashire Polytechnic, Preston [7][2]
30 March 1989 De Blije Werelt [1], Lunteren, Netherlands First meeting outside the British Isles [7][2]
5 April 1990 University of Glasgow [7][2]
4 April 1991 Armagh Observatory [7][2]
1992 University of Durham First to use the 'National Astronomy Meeting' name. Attendance was ~300 [7][4]
1993 University of Leicester [7][4]
1994 Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh [7][4]
1995 University of Cardiff [7][4]
1996 Liverpool John Moores University [7][4]
1997 University of Southampton [7][4]
1998 University of St Andrews [7][4]
1999 Guernsey Coincided with the Solar eclipse of August 11, 1999, visible from the venue[4] [7]
2000 Not held, due to the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Manchester [7]
2001 University of Cambridge [7]
2002 University of Bristol [7]
2003 Dublin Castle Organised by a group of five Irish universities [7][4]
2004 Open University, Milton Keynes [7]
2005 University of Birmingham [7][4]
2006 University of Leicester [7][4]
16 April 2007 20 April 2007 University of Central Lancashire, Preston [7][2]
31 March 2008 4 April 2008 Queen's University Belfast Attendance was 650 [7][2]
20 April 2009 23 April 2009 University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield As part of the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS), combined with the European Astronomical Society's Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting (JENAM). Part of the International Year of Astronomy. Attendance was over 1100. [7][9][8]
12 April 2010 16 April 2010 University of Glasgow Celebrating the 250 year anniversary of the Regius Professor of Astronomy [7][10]
17 April 2011 21 April 2011 Venue Cymru, Llandudno Organised by the RAS itself [7][11]
27 March 2012 30 March 2012 University of Manchester Combined with the annual meeting of the German Astronomische Gesellschaft. Attendance was 800. [12][4]
1 July 2013 5 July 2013 University of St Andrews Attendance was over 600 [13][1]
23 June 2014 26 June 2014 University of Portsmouth [1]
5 July 2015 9 July 2015 Venue Cymru, Llandudno Organised by the RAS itself. The awards ceremony was presented by comedian Jon Culshaw.[4] [14]
27 June 2016 1 July 2016 University of Nottingham (Jubilee Campus) Held a few days after the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016, which dominated discussion at the meeting[15] [16]
2 July 2017 6 July 2017 University of Hull [17]
3 April 2018 6 April 2018 Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool Combined with European Week of Astronomy and Space Science; local organisation by Liverpool John Moores University. Attendance was over 1300. [18][19]
30 June 2019 4 July 2019 Lancaster University

See also[edit]

Notes & references[edit]


  1. ^ a b The only 'out of town' meeting during the period 1967-75 was actually held in London, albeit in a different location to usual, in 1969.


  1. ^ a b c d "National Astronomy Meeting 2014". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 2014-07-02. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "Standing Order 21: Organisation of RAS National Astronomy Meetings". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Tayler, Roger, ed. (1987). History of the Royal Astronomical Society: Volume 2, 1920-1980. Blackwell Scientific. ISBN 0-632-01792-9. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Pounds, Ken (2016). "25 years of NAM". Astronomy & Geophysics. 57 (4): 4.28. Bibcode:2016A&G....57d4.28P. doi:10.1093/astrogeo/atw149. 
  5. ^ Dreyer, J.L.E.; Turner, H.H., eds. (1987). History of the Royal Astronomical Society: Volume 1, 1820-1920. Blackwell Scientific. ISBN 0-632-02175-6. 
  6. ^ a b "RAS Meetings". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 18 May 2015. In April, the meeting is usually subsumed into the annual week-long RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM). 2013 and 2014 are exceptions, as NAM has been moved to July for both those years. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at "Previous meetings". University of Manchester. Archived from the original on 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  8. ^ a b Bowler, Sue (June 2009). "NAM: Is bigger better?". Astronomy & Geophysics. 50 (3): 3.12–3.13. Bibcode:2009A&G....50c..12.. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4004.2009.50312.x. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  9. ^ "European Week of Astronomy and Space Science 2009 - University of Hertfordshire". University of Hertfordshire. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "RAS NAM 2010". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  11. ^ "National Astronomy Meeting 2011". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 2015-05-18. taking place at Venue Cymru, Llandudno, North Wales, from Sunday 17 April to Thursday 21 April 
  12. ^ "UK-Germany National Astronomy Meeting NAM2012". University of Manchester. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  13. ^ "National Astronomy Meeting 2013". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  14. ^ "National Astronomy Meeting 2015". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "NAM 2016: Looking forward with optimism". Astronomy & Geophysics. 57 (4): 4.8.1. 2016. doi:10.1093/astrogeo/atw130. 
  16. ^ "National Astronomy Meeting 2016". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  17. ^ "National Astronomy Meeting 2017". Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  18. ^ European Astronomical Society. "EWASS 2018". 
  19. ^ Türler, Marc. "EWASS 2018 Participants". European Astronomical Society. Retrieved 18 April 2018.