WADHURST ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
JANUARY NEWSLETTER 2008
INDEX: MEETINGS, OTHER NEWS, CONTACTS
A Very Merry
Christmas to all Members and a Great New Year
Members of the
Committee are respectfully reminded that there will be a meeting on Monday the
7th of January 2008 at the Abergavenny Arms, Frant starting at 1930.
As always, any
full member of the Society is very welcome to join us.
Christmas meeting, members were welcomed with coffee and mince pies on a very
cold night. The mince pies having
survived the journey up the stairs and passed the Weight Watcher's meeting
Why Are We
Talk by Paul
Treadaway at the Society's meeting on Wednesday 12th December
Paul is a member
of the Society and he began his talk by saying that it was due to very many
circumstances that human beings are here at all and that there are many other
considerations to explain why we are STILL here!
formula for the relation between energy and mass is e = mc²
and shows that matter conversion produces vast amounts of energy.
To illustrate this, just 1 gram of pure fissionable material was employed
in the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
The Big Bang
occurred 13.7 billion years ago and it is believed that there was about a
billion times more matter than there is now although the reason for this
imbalance is not yet known.
first three minutes after the Big Bang there was a period known as
Nucleosynthesis, which lasted for the next 17 minutes during which time the
light element of hydrogen and some helium atoms emerged but no heavier stable
The elements that
make up the human body were not around then so we could not possibly have
existed that early.
elements came about during star explosions known as Supernovas.
We were shown an
image of M98 taken in 1998 when a bright and energetic supernova was discovered
at a distance of 11.2 parsecs from Earth. The
supernova was visible for only a very short time, but to demonstrate how a
supernova develops Paul referred to the Veil Nebula, which is the remnant of a
supernova that occurred some 30,000 years ago.
cycles of supernovas heavier and heavier elements are produced resulting in the
elements found today in the Periodic Table.
The Sun is made
of the remnants of past supernovae and here on Earth we stand on solid matter, -
another reason we are here.
About half of all
stars are in fact binary pairs, which would make like on planets orbiting around
them very unstable. The Sun is a
single star; another reason why we are still here!
luminosity also depends on its mass. If
the Sun were twice the mass it is today, it would have 16 times the luminosity. Also if the Sun was just 2.3 times its mass, its life would
be reduced from its predicted 5 billion years to only 0.86 billion years.
Life on Earth would, in any case, become intolerable well before the end
of our Sun's life.
Another threat to
human life is the presence of asteroids, which may be the remnants of planets
that might have collided. Then Paul
mentioned that Pluto might well be a rocky planetoid that is a captured comet.
At least the Earth is relatively stable - at present.
This could not be
said of Venus, which is very hot with a tilt of 177o and a very acidic
atmosphere. Jupiter and Saturn each
have huge gravity that helps them mop up much the debris in space.
consideration was our Moon. The
Moon's rocks match those of the Earth indicating that it had its origins on the
The Earth owes
much of its stability to the influence of the Moon and also it is responsible
for the tides, without which life might not have emerged from the seas.
Water is very
important to us but has some unusual properties.
Hydrogen combines with many elements but its combination with oxygen is
very strong forming water and this is difficult to break.
Water is dense enough to gouge out rock and has very many properties
essential to human life.
We rely on energy
from the Sun, which has a staggering output of 386 billion billion megawatts of
which the Earth receives 1.3 Kw/m². There
is also 0.6 watts/m² at the Earth's surface from fission in its interior.
Our atmosphere is
controlled by gas emitted from volcanoes, although it can also cause disastrous
results at times of eruptions. Paul
talked of an eruption that took place in 1783 on Iceland that caused the death
of 9,000 people not because they were gassed or enveloped in material from the
eruption but because of starvation due to sulphuric acid in the atmosphere
causing a failure of crops and a consequent lack of food.
Many Europeans also died of starvation at this time.
his talk by tabling the threats to life on Earth.
He referred to the Sun's evolution and eventually becoming a Red Giant.
The threat from asteroids, comets and material from the Oort cloud and
Kuiper Belt presented a never-ending danger.
Then came volcanoes and Climate Change.
All together, we
are very lucky to be here at all but we are also constantly under threat of
generated considerable of interested discussion but the general conclusion was
that we should go over to the pub as quickly as possible!
Wednesday 16th January 2008 Phil Berry talks about "The Strasburg Astronomical Clock". The talk will be followed by the Society's Annual General Meeting.
There will also be a "Help List" at the meeting. Anyone, whohas any suggestions, queries or requests for help, can use this list t seek help; then we can see if any other member can help. There is plenty of time before the next meeting and it might be something others are having trouble with but haven't thought of bringing up.
begins at 1930 although members are invited to arrive anytime after 1900. This is a good time to exchange ideas and discuss problems.
The venue as
always is in the Upper Room of the Methodist Church at the east end of Wadhurst
High Street, opposite Uplands College.
MEETINGS & EVENTS
February 2008 John Vale-Taylor will be talking to Tim Bance, an amateur
astronomer with a host of experience in astronomy and telescope building. "The Tim Bance Interview".
March 2008 A welcome return of Konrad Malin-Smith with his talk "The
Magellanic Clouds". This takes
us just outside our own galaxy to two of the Milky Way's closest neighbours in
April 2008 Greg Smye-Rumsby gives a talk he has entitled "Bits and
Wednesday 21st May 2008 Our own Brian Mills, who contributes the excellent Sky Notes each month is giving a talk about Occultations.
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A visit to
Phil Berry's Observatory
December meeting, Brian Mill's and I cheekily asked if Phil Berry would
invite us back to see the observatory he has been working on for the past few
It was a very
clear evening but bitterly cold and frost on the ground was thick underfoot as
we were taken across Phil's lawn towards the silhouette of his newly built
observatory. As we approached the
dome, the first of his security features sent beams of red light across the
Inside was a
dehumidifier and also a heater to stop the humidifier freezing up, but then we
saw something to make any amateur astronomer's mouth water.
In the centre of
the observatory was an 80 mm Williams Optics Fluorite Triplex refracting
telescope on a Vixen GDPX equatorial mount which itself was secured to a
concrete base kept separate from the observatory and its floor.
Also on the
mount, Phil uses an 80 mm Skywatcher refracting telescope as a large
The CCD camera
Phil uses is the Starlight Express SXV/H9 monochrome camera with a remote
controlled filter wheel.
All this was
linked to equipment mounted on a crowded trolley also built by Phil, using a
laptop computer to control imaging and nearly everything else.
The dome itself
rotated in a perimeter groove on top of the walls on a set of soft-rimmed wheels
so that the dome moved with relative ease.
Phil even talked about having it motorised at some time in the future.
The aperture slid
back revealing a gap of just over half of the dome's roof leaving a very useful
view of the sky. The sliding part
of this aperture was prevented from hitting the backstop hard by incorporating a
modification that included springs to prevent any sudden vibration.
Tracking of the
scope could be kept to within pixel accuracy and focussing could be done very
finely indeed using "Robo-Focus".
All moving parts
of the dome had been left open on the observatory as it had been delivered but
again Phil had taken great care to completely seal them in.
In case of a
mains supply failure, essential equipment would be kept running for up to an
hour using a USP.
an evening object at magnitude -0.5, setting around 11/2 hours after the sun. It
will be best seen during the second half of the month but even then it will not
be easy to locate.
magnitude -4.0 is still a brilliant beacon in the morning skies and cannot be
mistaken for anything else. At the end of the month it still rises 2 hours
before the sun with its phase becoming more gibbous.
very obvious on the Gemini/Taurus borders due to its colour and also its
magnitude of -1.6. During January its brightness will diminish as it moves
further away from the Earth. This will have been the best opposition of Mars
magnitude -1.9 may just be visible low on the south east horizon in the morning
skies, rising around an hour before the sun at the end of the month.
lies in the constellation of Leo (the lion) at magnitude 0.6. The rings are
still becoming more "edge on" as seen from earth which means they
reflect less sunlight and so the planet is fainter. Around the middle of the
month Saturn will rise at around 20.00hrs GMT.
|January||Time||Star (SAO Number)||Constellation||Magnitude||Phase||PAº|
From the 1st to
the 6th of January, the Quadrantid meteor shower will be active with the maximum
occurring on the 4th at 06.00. This shower has a very brief maximum when rates
can reach around 100 meteors per hour. The radiant, which lies between the tail
of Ursa Major and northern Boötes, is actually circumpolar from these latitudes
although in the early/late evening it is very low in the sky.
At the time of
writing this Comet 17/P Holmes is still a naked eye object in Perseus and was
easily found by some of us after the December meeting.
|Jan 5th||1h 51.1m||+9º 38'||4.9|
|Jan 15th||2h 18.3m||-20º 38'||5.3|
almost all passes of the ISS this month occur in the early morning. Details of
visibility can be found at www.heavens-above.com
sees a total lunar eclipse lasting from 01.43 to 05.09.
Totality lasts from 03.00 until 03.51.
As I mentioned in
the last newsletter, there will be a grazing occultation of a 6th magnitude star
on 14th March which will be visible from our part of Kent. It occurs on a Friday
evening at 21.43hrs and will require anyone who is interested and has a portable
telescope to assemble at a yet to be determined location. Please let me know if
you may be interested.
Brian Mills 01732 832691 BRIAN@wkrcc.co.uk
by Patrick L.
Barry and Tony Phillips
How would you
like to visit a universe full of exotic stars and weird galaxies the likes of
which astronomers on Earth have never seen before?
Now you can. Just point your web browser to:
address of the Galaxy Evolution Explorer image archive, a survey of the whole
sky at ultraviolet wavelengths that can't be seen from the ground. Earth's
atmosphere blocks far-ultraviolet light, so the only way to see the ultraviolet
sky is by using a space telescope such as NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer.
About 65% of the
images from the all-sky survey haven't been closely examined by astronomers yet,
so there are plenty of surprises waiting to be uncovered.
Evolution Explorer produces so much data that, beyond basic quality control, we
just don't have time to look at it all," says Mark Seibert, an astronomy
postdoc at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in
This fresh view
of the sky has already revealed striking and unexpected features of familiar
celestial objects. Mira is a good example. Occasionally visible to the naked
eye, Mira is a pulsating star monitored carefully by astronomers for more than
400 years. Yet until Galaxy Evolution Explorer recently examined Mira, no one
would have guessed its secret: Mira possesses a comet-like tail 13 light-years
us that even well-observed stars can surprise us if we look at them in a
different way and at different frequencies," Seibert says.
In April, scientists announced that galaxies such as NGC 1512 have giant
ultraviolet spiral arms extending three times farther out into space than the
arms that can be seen by visible-light telescopes.
It would be like looking at your pet dog through an ultraviolet telescope
and discovering his ears are really three times longer than you thought!
The images from
the ultraviolet space telescope are ideal for hunting new phenomena.
The telescope's small, 20-inch primary mirror (not much bigger than a
typical backyard telescope) offers a wide field of view. Each image covers 1.2
degrees of sky-lots of territory for the unexpected.
combing the archives does find something of interest, Seibert advises that she
or he should first search astronomy journals to see whether the phenomenon has
been observed before. If it hasn't, email a member of the Galaxy Evolution
Explorer science team and let them know, Seibert says.
So what are you
waiting for? Fire up your web
browser and let the discoveries begin!
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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Chairman John Vale-Taylor
Phil Berry 01892 783544
Treasurer Mike Wyles 01892 542863
Publicity & Website Michael Harte 01892 783292Newsletter Editor Geoff Rathbone 01959 524727
Any material for inclusion in the February 2008 Newsletter should be with the Editor by January 28th 2008
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