WADHURST ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
SEPTEMBER NEWSLETTER 2006
INDEX: MEETINGS, OTHER NEWS, CONTACTS
COMMITTEE MEMBERS NEEDED
Any full member who thinks they could contribute to the running of the Society in this way would be made very welcome and can find out more from any of the current Committee Members listed under "Contacts" at the bottom on this Newsletter.
Farm is a good location and in the past, the night sky has been ideal for
observing and much preparation for the evening had been done by downloading star
charts and prediction-tables of the International Space Station, which was due
to appear at 2101 and pretty well overhead.
Joan Grace asked if we might be able to see Iridium Flares.
Michael Harte dashed indoors and reappeared with a computer printout of
this point, it had to be explained to me what Iridium Flares were.
They could have been strange irradiated flares in the upper atmosphere
for all I knew.
Iridium Communications Service had been set up in 1998 to provide worldwide
voice communication using 77 satellites (77 being the atomic number for the
element Iridium, hence the name). Only
66 were launched but due to lack of customers due to the high cost of using the
service, the system failed commercially and now is only used by the USA
Department of Defence and a few large organisations and businesses.
reason for Joan's interest is that the satellites can be observed with
binoculars since they are about +6 magnitude, but because of certain flat
surfaces on the satellites the Sun can produce a glint of up to -8, and since at
times Venus can only reach -4.9, an Iridium Flare would be well worth looking
number of members had brought telescopes, but the clouds were not too
encouraging. In the end only one telescope was set up; - an eleven inch
Celestron Cassegrain with a Losmandy G11 equatorial mount.
Alas, it wasn't possible to use it because of the cloud build-up but
there was plenty of talk about the telescope and astronomy in general.
weather certainly didn't prevent us from enjoying the barbecue but the only
non-earth sightings were clouds being illuminated from the inside by distant
aircraft preparing to land at Gatwick airport.
Although we did get just one quick glimpse of Arcturus through a gap in
it did begin to rain and after reclaiming the Celestron, Michael and Claire
invited us indoors for coffee. Then
came the bonus! They live in a
house, parts of which date back to the 1400s and for the next half hour or so
Michael took us through the house with a fascinating description of the
construction of the building and how it had been added to during the centuries.
places it is still possible to see how the wooden supports in the roof had been blackened
by soot when smoke from the fireplaces had had to find its own way out through
the roof in the past.
was a delight to see how the house had maintained its character during the
history of its considerable development. Michael appears to know and have
thought about every nick, hole and brick in each part of the house, and was able
to explain its intriguing
interesting astronomical thought; Michael's house began its story about the same
time light from the star Regulus in the constellation of Orion began its long
journey to the Earth.
After a very enjoyable and informative evening, one way and another, I left for the drive back to Sevenoaks only to look back and see the "W" in Cassiopeia now quite clearly visible over Wadhurst!
Wednesday 20th September 2006. We welcome back Konrad Malin-Smith FRAS. This time he will be giving a talk about White Dwarfs and remembering his previous visits, this should prove to be both an informative and very entertaining evening.
Wednesday 18th October 2006. Jerry Workman will be paying us another visit and this time he talks about the latest news from Mars.
15th November 2006. David
Rooney, who is the Deputy Horologist at Greenwich Museum, is to give us a talk
called "A Brief History of GMT".
The new Time Galleries opened last February as
part of the improvements to the Museum.
The new Time Galleries opened last February as part of the improvements to the Museum.
13th December 2006. Note that
this will be second Wednesday of the month.
Phil Berry, a member of the Society is giving a talk he calls "The
Trials and Tribulations of an Amateur Astronomer".
This will be followed by mince pies and beverages!
TELESCOPE FOR SALE
number of members have been in touch with Mavis Reeves after Ian's very sad
death. She is bearing up very well
under the circumstances, but she is keen to see if any member would be
interested in buying Ian's Konus refracting telescope.
The telescope is the Big Yellow Konus achromatic
refractor that Ian has on occasion brought along for the benefit of members.
It has always raised many comments on the quality of its optics and is
quite a splendid instrument in its yellow livery. It is a perfect telescope
for someone wanting to start into observing and would be an ideal instrument
for planetary as well as deep sky observing.
telescopes specification is as follows:
Konus 120mm achromatic refractor in yellow
livery with "Konus" logo. It comes with a manual equatorial mount on a sturdy
aluminium tripod and has a star diagonal and it is believed to have a selection
of eyepieces but I don't know the details. It all
seems in very good condition, as one would expect.
telescope is for sale for £150 and any member wishing to know more should
contact Mavis Reeves on 01892 784255 or Phil Berry on 01892 783544.
ASTRONOMICAL FESTIVAL 2006
Friday, 29th, Saturday 30th of September and Sunday 1st of October, The
"Astronomical Festival 2006" takes place at Herstmonceux Science Centre.
There will be various exhibitors and local Astronomical Societies
present, together with lectures, details of which will be available nearer the
time on 01323 832731. www.the-observatory.org.
Three confirmed speakers will be Nic Syzmanec, well known for his imaging
techniques and a past guest speaker to WAS; Bob Fosbury, the chairman of the
European Space Agency Astronomy Faculty; and Stuart Clark, the editor of
Entry is £6.50 per adult, £5.00 per senior adult and £4.75 per child.
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SEPTEMBER NIGHT SKY
Moon has a few notable events this month. Full
moon on the 7th is followed by perigee on the 8th when its orbit is closest to
Earth at 357,000 km and therefore appears to have its largest visible diameter
of 33' 45". At apogee on the
22nd it will then only subtend an angle of 29' 17".
on the 7th of September, the moon exhibits a partial lunar eclipse, which will already
be in progress when it rises as seen from the UK at 1945 BST.
The eclipse should affect the northern region of the full moon.
to the Moon's position relative to the earth, it is seen with its greatest
libration at the beginning of the month revealing more of the moon's western
side than usual.
British Astronomical Society Lunar Section says that the satellite SMART-1
crashed into the surface of the Moon at 0640 on the morning of the 3rd of
September. This event was not
visible from the UK and in any case took place beyond the terminator, but it
will be interesting to see if anyone around the world manages to see or image
any debris thrown up far enough to be illuminated by the Sun against the unlit
surface before falling back.
Andromeda Galaxy, M31, is now high in the Eastern sky.
Take the two right hand stars of the "W" in Cassiopeia, Caph
and Schedar respectively and move down in a line about 20 degrees to Almach. This is the first of three bright stars, Almach, Mirach and
Alpheratz, each 12 degrees apart, in a line to the right.
Look about 12 degrees above the middle star and the same distance above
this again to M31. Its distance is
always under constant refinement and currently stands at 2.9 million light
years. It is by far the most
distant object visible to the human eye.
The Andromeda Galaxy looks like a diffused blob, even in a telescope, but after taking a fairly short exposure with a CCD or film camera begins to reveal M31's outer arms, which spread over a surprising distance.
NASA SPACE PLACE
Patrick L. Barry and Dr. Tony Phillips
900 light years from here, there's a rocky planet not much bigger than Earth.
It goes around its star once every hundred days, a trifle fast, but not
too different from a standard Earth-year. At least two and possibly three other
planets circle the same star, forming a complete solar system.
Interested? Don't be. Going there would be the last thing you ever do.
star is a pulsar, PSR 1257+12, and the seething-hot core of a supernova that
exploded millions of years ago. Its
planets are bathed not in gentle, life-giving sunshine but instead a blistering
torrent of X-rays and high-energy particles.
would be like trying to live next to Chernobyl," says Charles Beichman, a
scientist at JPL and director of the Michelson Science Center at Caltech.
own sun emits small amounts of pulsar-like X-rays and high energy particles, but
the amount of such radiation coming from a pulsar is "orders of magnitude
more," he says. Even for a
planet orbiting as far out as the Earth, this radiation could blow away the
planet's atmosphere, and even vaporize sand right off the planet's surface.
Alex Wolszczan discovered planets around PSR 1257+12 in the 1990s using Puerto
Rico's giant Arecibo radio telescope. At
first, no one believed worlds could form around pulsars-it was too bizarre. Supernovas were supposed to destroy planets, not create them.
Where did these worlds come from?
Spitzer Space Telescope may have found the solution.
Last year, a group of astronomers led by Deepto Chakrabarty of MIT
pointed the infrared telescope toward pulsar 4U 0142+61. Data revealed a disk of
gas and dust surrounding the central star, probably wreckage from the supernova. It was just the sort of disk that could coalesce to form
deadly as pulsar planets are, they might also be hauntingly beautiful.
The vaporized matter rising from the planets' surfaces could be ionised
by the incoming radiation, creating colourful auroras across the sky.
And though the pulsar would only appear as a tiny dot in the sky (the
pulsar itself is only 20-40 km across), it would be enshrouded in a hazy glow of
light emitted by radiation particles as they curve in the pulsar's strong
beauty? Maybe. Beichman points out the positive: "It's an awful place to
try and form planets, but if you can do it there, you can do it anywhere."
for a great place to introduce kids to infrared and the joys of astronomy.
This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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Tim Bance 01732 832745
Phil Berry 01892 783544 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Wyles 01892 542863
Website Michael Harte 01892 783292
Newsletter Editor Geoff Rathbone
Any material for inclusion in the October Newsletter should be with the Editor by September 28th 2006
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