IYA 2009 MALTA
  Godfrey BALDACCHINO
 




With Dr Alex Gatt and his son Daryl

My interest in astronomy started from casual observations of the constellations as a 10-year old and the self-imposed challenge of being able to recognize all the constellations visible from my latitude. At age 16, I determined to sit for the external University of London examination in Astronomy. This, by the way, required a practical project, and this naturally led to me making a pitch for buying a small telescope to my parents. They were surprised, and then concerned with the expense - but we did conclude with a compromise solution, where I had to fork out 25% of the cost from my savings.

Astronomy helped me develop and sustain so many good friends and colleagues in my youth (some of which persist today, after more than 30 years) as well as developing leadership, committee, secretarial, editorial and public presentation skills that I (and my younger brother, Alex) would find to be extremely useful later on in our social and professional lives. With my University student colleague and mentor Alex Gatt, we set up the Students' Astronomical Circle (SAC) in 1978; and later merged with the Astronomical Association to become the Astronomical Society (of Malta). With the indefatigable Brother David Mizzi, I helped to set up the La Salle Astronomy Society at De La Salle College, Cottonera. Along with my wife Anna (who got to know me better at and through my astronomical pursuits as we dated) we pioneered an exciting national astronomy competition called AstroMind, and then set up a Junior Astronomy Club as a nursery for eventual astronomy enthusiasts. I wrote the Meteor Observer's Handbook in 1980; and founded and edited the SIRIUS Astronomy Magazine from 1979 to 1982 (a stencilled hard copy precursor of The Big Bang that saw many hours of struggles with Gestetner ink copiers) Within the SAC, I set up the Meteor and Eclipse Section (SACMES), which combined rigorous naked -eye observations of sporadic and shower meteors with lunar and solar eclipses, as well as regular meetings and lectures that took place in members' private homes, plus the annual exciting week-long summer observation camps, lovingly known as GASP (initially Gozo Astronomical Summer Project). Our meteor observations and reports, in particular, started making their way into international publications through our affiliation with such bodies as the British Astronomical Association, the Junior Astronomical Society (both of the UK) and the International Meteor Organisation (IMO). I was privileged to serve for one term as a Director of the IMO (1996-2000). I now maintain a casual interest in all things astronomical.




Godfrey Baldacchino (holding the folder, standing on extreme right) and other amateur astronomers at the Gozo Astronomical Summer Project (GASP Camp of August 1990, held at San Lawrenz, Gozo). A Statue of St Lawrence lies in the background. His wife Anna and son James are sitting on the steps, bottom right. Guess who the others in the photo are?

 
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