MEETINGS

 

 

COMMITTEE MEETING

 

        There was a meeting of the Committee on 7th of April where the Treasurer, Mike Wyles stated that the Society now has £452.18 in the Current Account and £1169.77 in the Reserve Account.  He also said that making a fee of £2 to visitors had helped very much towards our running costs.  Our Membership now stands as 38.

        Phil Berry announced that he had arranged talks up until September and was thanked for his considerable efforts

        Brian Mills is now regularly submitting astronomical articles to various local publications which not only promotes an interest in astronomy but seems to be well received.

 

APRIL MEETING

 

The Sun Kings

 

Talk and Book by Dr Stuart Clark,        University of Hertfordshire at the 16 April 2009 meeting

 

        The largest key event in the Solar System occurred 150 years ago. It provided the stimulus that gave rise to the whole subject of astrophysics.

        More recently, in 2003, a smaller event was witnessed in detail by the ESA satellite SOHO. SOHO is stationed 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth towards the Sun and constantly watches for any solar activity. On Halloween 2003, a gigantic sunspot came onto view. This in itself was a rare sight especially as it was followed by a second equally enormous spot following behind. Any flares that reached SOHO reached Earth 30 minutes later. Fortunately the largest flares were not fired in our direction but still a weather satellite was lost, the radiation monitor on Mars Odyssey burnt out, (it was meant to be monitoring the risk to humans), and passenger planes were diverted to low levels away from the polar regions.

        But back to 1859, 2 September, when there was the most amazing aurora observed by two thirds of the planet. See the book 'The Sun Kings’ for all the spectacular details as well as the damage worldwide which included magnetic compasses going haywire. The big question was, what had happened? Nobody understood.

        Colonel Sabine had spent a lifetime making magnetic observations. He was aware that the magnetic field shuddered when an aurora occurred. He also knew that if you noted the direction of due North at dawn and again at dusk, there would be a difference. This deviation was not constant over the years but waxed and waned on an eleven-year cycle from low to high. Sabine was attempting to find a correction factor.

        Meanwhile, Heinrich Schwabe was observing sunspots and recording them systematically. After years of work he discovered the Solar cycle of sunspots. Humboldt got involved and by chance the eleven-year magnetic variation of Sabine was found to coincide with the eleven-year sunspot cycle of Schwabe. Then Herschel, Faraday and the Royal Society all became interested as it became evident that they were on the verge of a cosmic discovery, the like of which had never been imagined. It was generally believed that the only force that could operate through space was gravity. As Newton had postulated, it was gravity that kept the planets in orbit. But now it seemed that the Sun with its spots was influencing the magnetic field on earth. This was not gravity, so what was the physics behind it?

        There was more evidence still to come. At exactly the right moment in 1859, Richard Carrington had been in his observatory at Redhill carefully drawing the sunspots on view. Much to his astonishment he saw two beads of white light emerge from two points in the spot. After 30 seconds (while he unsuccessfully sought a witness), the white lights had diminished as they moved across the spot and then disappeared. With great presence of mind he checked that the white lights were not a stray reflection off the scope but were indeed attached to the sunspot. He also checked that the appearance of the sunspot had not been changed by the white lights which led him to believe that the lights had not travelled on the surface but above the surface of the spot. He then calculated that the lights must have moved at 420,000 miles per hour in the sun's atmosphere!

        The next day, Carrington went to the observatory at Kew where there was a telescopic camera for photographing the Sun. He had hoped to find an independent record of what he had seen the day before, but nobody had been observing. However, he did find out something very relevant. In the basement at Kew, in a pitch-black room, there was a magnet with a small mirror suspended by a thread. A beam of light from one corner of the room struck the mirror and was reflected onto a rotating drum in the opposite corner. As the drum turned on a horizontal axis, the light burned a trace. If there were any variation in the earth's magnetic field, the magnet would swing making the light change its path to the recording drum. Not only was there a spike on the scroll for noon the day before, but the magnet was still twisting with its oscillations growing. The big aurora arrived that night, eighteen hours after the white spots had emerged.

        The next bit of evidence was collected during the total solar eclipse of 1860, but was not recognised until nearly a century later. In Spain, Warren de la Rue was delighted to obtain the first photograph of the eclipsed Sun using his photohelioscope. He also made sketches in case the photos were blank. Other observers, from Canada, USA, Spain and North Africa also made their sketches. It was noted that there was some variation between all the sketches. A century later, it has been discovered that if the sketches are put in order along the path of the eclipse, what appears as a flash of light on the first picture develops into a tulip-shaped bloom by the last. Together, they show a solar flare as it happened.

        However, there was no known physical mechanism whereby sunspots could interact with the earth's magnetic field. George Airy, the Astronomer Royal, would not accept there was any connection. He assumed that the Sun sent out magnetic energy in all directions rather than from one spot. Thus, if the magnetic energy that arrived at the Earth was just part of the total energy emitted, then the total energy must be impossibly large, even for the Sun. Luckily, from an eclipse in India in 1898, Maunder obtained a photograph showing only a few faint streamers emanating from the Sun. One streamer nearly reached Venus. We know now that only the streamers sent our direction cause all the havoc.

        Now read the book 'The Sun Kings' by Dr Stuart Clark for the full story. M  Joan Grace

 

        Following the talk and coffee and biscuits John Vale-Taylor gave a fascinating short talk on his portable skeleton telescope made from aluminium tubes and showing how he had carefully machined the assembly at the base to take the mirror.  Also the focus mount for the eyepieces was impressively made presenting a very versatile telescope.

 

        Brian Mills followed with his monthly presentation of the night sky.  This month he talked about the Constellation of Leo.

        Notes on this talk will be available at our next meeting together with previous notes for those who have missed them.

 

MAY MEETING

 

        Wednesday 20th May 2009  - “Sputnik in Context” a talk by John Axtell who is a member of Guildford Astronomical Society, but is better known to members of WAS as the Secretary of the Southern Area Group of Astronomical Societies – SAGAS.

        The meeting begins at 1930 although members are invited to arrive anytime after 1900 as this is a good time to exchange ideas and discuss problems and relax before the talk.

        The venue as always is in the Upper Room of the Methodist Church at the east end of Wadhurst Lower High Street, and opposite the entrance to Uplands College.  (For those with SatNav – the post code is TN5  6AT)

 

FUTURE MEETINGS

 

        Wednesday 17th June 2009  - Telescope Evening.  An open evening where members are encouraged to bring telescopes, attachments or other aids to astronomy they think other members would be interested in.  There will also be short demonstrations of an astronomical nature.  See further note below.

 

        Wednesday 15th July 2009 “Astro-archaeology in the British Isles”; A talk by Bob Seaney, a well known member of the Society who has given a number of talks in the past.  Bob has been doing his own research for some time and reveals what he has learnt.

 

        August  We hope to have another Astro-Barbecue on the Saturday before the August Bank Holiday.  This has been a very pleasant evening for a number of years, when we have the opportunity to socialise and do a little observing at the same time if the weather is kind enough.  More information to follow later.

 

        Wednesday 16th September 2009 – “The Apollo Programme – Missions 13 to 17”  This is a continuation of the talk given by Rob Cray in March when he told us about the beginnings of the US Lunar exploration programme.

 

OTHER NEWS AND INFORMATION

 

THE JUNE MEETING

 

        On June the 17th the meeting is a Telescope Evening.  We have held these in recent years and they have been very successful.  In addition to any telescopes or equipment, It would help if anyone had photographs either of equipment or objects in the night sky which could be put on display for other members to see.

        If anyone is willing to give a short talk on a favourite piece of equipment or an astronomical experience they think would interest members they would be very welcome.  Please let one of the Committee members know.

 

SPRING MOON-WATCH

 

        The Society held a Spring Moon-Watch on the 3rd and 4th of April as part of our involvement with the International Year of Astronomy.  We were guests at the home of Phil Berry and his wife Nicky who provided everything from telescopes to soup and home made bread.

        Friday was overcast and we were unable to view the moon live but Phil had set up many displays related to the moon and he had a PowerPoint presentation running provided by the Society for Popular Astronomy.

        The following night was clear and Phil set everything up again and this time visitors were able to see projected pictures of the moon which had the terminator half way across the face so that shadows and ridges along its length were clearly visible.

        Other telescopes and binoculars were there for people to view for themselves.

        Also present were some local members of the public who were not only impressed with the moon but also with Saturn which was well placed although the rings are almost edge on and not all that visible.  For some of the visitors this was the first time they had looked at the moon or Saturn through an astronomical telescope, so hopefully the Spring Watch helped to promote an interest in astronomy.

        It is suggested that we have another Moon Watch perhaps on the 27th of November.  Announcements will be made nearer the time.

 

NEIL BONE

 

        Sadly we learn of the death of Neil Bone after a long fight with cancer.

        Neil was a well known amateur astronomer in the British Astronomical Association and was a regular contributor to many magazines, particularly Astronomy Now and he was responsible for the “Society Events Page” of that magazine through which we promoted the Wadhurst Astronomical Society whenever we could.

        He will certainly be sadly missed.

 

SKY NOTES FOR MAY

 

Planets

 

Mercury is still just an evening object with inferior conjunction occurring on May 18th. You may be lucky enough to catch it at the beginning of the month but please remember that you should NEVER sweep for Mercury when the Sun is still above the horizon. The diagram shows the planet’s position in the west-north-west with relation to the horizon.

 

Venus is a morning object (in Pisces) at magnitude -4.3 rising just over an hour before the Sun by the middle of the month. If you look at it in a medium sized telescope you will see that it displays a crescent phase. The visibility of Venus will improve only very slowly until by mid July it rises three hours before the Sun with a magnitude of -4.0.

 

Mars at magnitude 1.2 is a morning object rising only an hour before the Sun by mid-month. It will present a very small disk that will make any meaningful observation difficult.

 

Jupiter (magnitude -2.4) in the constellation of Capricornus rises at around 02.30 (BST) by mid May. The situation improves swiftly because by mid June the planet rises at midnight (BST).

 

Saturn is still a prominent evening object in the constellation of Leo at magnitude 0.8. Its position is shown by the cross hairs in the diagram.

 

Lunar Occultations

As usual in the table I’ve only included events for stars down to around magnitude 7.5 that occur before midnight. DD = disappearance at the dark limb and RD = re-appearance at the dark limb. Times are all BST.

 

May

Time

Star

Mag.

Ph

PA °

1st

23.26

SAO 98250

5.7

DD

113

1st

23.48

SAO 98247

5.2

DD

182

2nd

21.27

SAO 98768

7.7

DD

72

4th

22.24

SAO 138216

6.4

DD

159

26th

22.47

SAO 78572

6.8

DD

48

 

Phases of the Moon for May

 

First

Quarter

Full

Last Quarter

New

1st

9th

17th

24th

31st

 

 

 

 

ISS

There are quite a few passes of the ISS as seen from Wadhurst that attain reasonable altitude and occur before midnight. The information given is for when the ISS is at maximum altitude, so it is best to look some minutes before this time. Full details of all passes can be found at:- www.heavens-above.com

Times are all BST

 

May

Time

Mag

Alt°

Az.

11th

22.51

-2.4

58

SSE

12th

21.42

-1.5

30

SSE

12th

23.17

-2.4

88

NNW

13th

22.07

-2.4

61

SSE

13th

23.43

-2.2

76

N

14th

20.58

-1.5

32

SSE

14th

22.33

-2.4

85

NNE

15th

21.23

-2.3

64

SSE

15th

22.59

-2.2

77

N

16th

21.49

-2.3

84

N

16th

23.24

-2.4

88

SSW

17th

22.15

-2.2

77

N

17th

23.49

-1.6

41

WSW

18th

21.05

-2.2

83

NNW

18th

22.40

-2.4

85

SSW

19th

21.31

-2.2

77

SSW

19th

23.06

-2.1

49

SSW

20th

21.56

-2.4

83

SSW

21st

22.22

-1.9

47

SSW

22nd

21.12

-2.3

80

SSW

 

Iridium Flares

The flares that I’ve listed are only the brightest, there are many more that are fainter, occur at lower altitudes and also after midnight. I have included one or two that occur low down, but only because they are very bright. If you wish to see a complete list, go to:

www.heavens-above.com  

Times are all BST.

 

May

Time

Mag

Alt°

Az.

1st

22.41

-3

27

NE

4th

22.32

-5

32

NE

7th

23.13

-3

26

WSW

8th

23.07

-5

27

W

10th

23.04

-3

24

W

11th

22.58

-7

24

W

12th

22.03

-4

45

NE

13th

22.55

-4

22

W

16th

22.46

-6

20

W

16th

23.12

-6

15

NNE

17th

21.42

-4

53

NE

19th

22.47

-6

15

WNW

19th

23.04

-6

21

NNE

21st

21.44

-6

16

NNW

22nd

21.21

-8

61

NE

22nd

22.55

-4

26

NNE

25th

21.09

-3

25

NNW

26th

22.41

-6

33

NE

30th

22.26

-7

40

NE

 

Constellation Recognition

At the April meeting we looked at the area of sky that centres around the constellations of Leo and Ursa Major. A line following the curve of the handle of the Plough can be continued until you come to the first magnitude star Arcturus in the constellation of Boötes (The Herdsman). Close to Boötes lies the crescent of stars that is Corona Borealis (The Northern Crown). Continuing the curved line will bring you to another bright star – Spica in Virgo (The Virgin). If you once again continue the line it will bring you to a small quadrilateral of stars that make up the constellation of Corvus (The Crow). Just to the right of Corvus is a small triangle of faint stars marking out Crater (The Cup).

At an earlier meeting we had seen how to find Castor and Pollux by using the stars of Orion, and had used the stars of the Plough to find Leo. Armed with that knowledge we saw that if we drew a line from Pollux to Regulus (in Leo), it would pass through the faint constellation of Cancer (The Crab) which contained the cluster M44 known as the beehive. We also saw that an imaginary line through Castor and Pollux continued south would bring us to a small group of stars that made up the head of Hydra (The Sea Serpent). The rest of Hydra continues to “snake” its way generally south and east passing close to Crater and Corvus. Lastly we saw that we could use Leo and Ursa Major to help us find the constellations of Leo Minor (The Little Lion) and Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs).

The map and instructions for all the above will still be available at future meetings as will the two earlier constellation recognition maps.

 

The Angus Group

For those who are interested in the more practical aspects of Astronomy (observing or building of equipment) the “Angus” group will be meeting at my home in Hildenborough on May 5th at 19.30 hrs. However, it is not restricted to those who have attended before but is open to any member who would like to attend. It would be an advantage to have a rough idea of numbers, so if you are thinking of coming perhaps you could let me know via the contact details elsewhere in this newsletter. My observatory will be open and, weather permitting; we might get to look through the telescope. For those who have seen Phil Berry’s setup and marvelled at his ingenuity, you will find mine is a little less sophisticated. If it rains in Hildenborough I have to close the doors myself!

 

NASA SPACE PLACE

 

The Swiss Army Knife of Weather Satellites

 

        Spotting volcanic eruptions, monitoring the health of crops, pinpointing distress signals for search and rescue teams.

        It’s not what you might expect from a weather satellite. But these are just a few of the abilities of NOAA’s newest polar-orbiting weather satellite, launched by NASA on February 6 and turned over to NOAA for full-time operations on February 26.

        Formerly called NOAA-N Prime and now renamed NOAA-19, it is the last in its line of weather satellites that stretches back almost 50 years to the dawn of the Space Age. Over the decades, the abilities of these Television Infrared Observation Satellites (TIROS) have gradually improved and expanded, starting from the grainy, black-and-white images of Earth’s cloud cover taken by TIROS-1 and culminating in NOAA-19’s amazing array of capabilities.

        “This TIROS series has become quite the Swiss army knife of weather satellites, and NOAA-19 is the most capable one yet,” says Tom Wrublewski, NOAA-19 Satellite Acquisition Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

        The evolution of TIROS began in 1998 with NOAA-K. The satellites have carried microwave sensors that can measure temperature variations as small as 1 degree Celsius between Earth’s surface and an altitude of 40 kilometers—even through clouds. Other missions have added the ability to track large icebergs for cargo ships, monitor sea surface temperatures to aid climate change research, measure the amount of ozone in Earth’s protective ozone layer, and even detect hazardous particles from solar flares that can affect communications and endanger satellites, astronauts in orbit, and city power grids.

        NOAA-19 marks the end of the TIROS line, and for the next four years it will bridge the gap to a new series of satellites called the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System. NPOESS will merge civilian and military weather satellites into a single system. Like NOAA-19, NPOESS satellites will orbit Earth from pole to pole, circling the planet roughly every 100 minutes and observing every location at least twice each day.

        NPOESS will have yet more capabilities drawn from its military heritage. Dim-light sensors will improve observations of the Earth at night, and the satellites will better monitor winds over the ocean — important information for ships at sea and for weather and climate models.

        “A lot more capability is going to come out of NPOESS, improving upon the 161 various environmental data products we already produce today,” Wrublewski says.

        Not even a Swiss army knife can do that many things, he points out.

        For more on the NPOESS, check out:

http://www.npoess.noaa.gov.

         Kids can find out about another NOAA satellite capability—tracking endangered migrating species—and play a fun memory game at:

http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/poes_tracking.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

 

CONTACTS

 

Chairman     John Vale-Taylor        pjvalet1@tiscali.co.uk

 

Treasurer    Mike Wyles   01892 542863    mike31@madasafish.com

 

Editor    Geoff Rathbone  01959 524727    geoff@rathbone007.fsnet.co.uk

 

Events   Phil Berry      01892 783544    phil.berry@tiscali.co.uk

Sky Notes    Brian Mills    01732 832691    Brian@wkrcc.co.uk

 

Wadhurst Astronomical Society website:        www.wadhurst.info/was/

 

SAGAS web-site www.sagasonline.org.uk

 

Any material for inclusion in the June 2009 Newsletter should be with the Editor by 28th May 2009