MEETINGS

 

THE ASTRO-BARBECUE

 

There was no meeting of the Society in August but on Saturday 29th of August Society members were guests of Michael and Claire Harte at an Astro-barbecue.

        The skies were clear and with the main view to the south and very little light pollution we were presented with excellent conditions for an evening’s observing.

        Thirteen members were there with a number of telescopes.  There were two Catadioptric telescopes, a 5-inch reflector and the Society’s own 4-inch “Ian Reeves” telescope, all were used to great effect.

        The moon was perfectly placed to the south when we arrived and was observable even before it was dark.  The terminator produced spectacular results on all the telescopes.

        A few of our more knowledgeable members were able to point out certain lunar features such as the edge-on crater of Copernicus and the rill in Mare Imbrium, now perfectly enhanced by the low angle of the light from the Sun.

        Another use of the moon during daylight hours is to allow finder scopes to be aligned on something nearing infinity instead of the furthest tree or television aerial which always leaves an annoying slight error until the first star appears, allowing that final alignment.

        During the barbecue Jupiter rose above the trees to the east and a quick view revealed one of its moons emerging. Judging from the distance of the other moons at the time, this had to be Io whose orbit is closest to the planet.  Checking afterwards, this did indeed turn out to have been Io having passed over Jupiter’s surface.

        Following our banquet we daren’t look at the moon for fear of ruining our night vision.  Io had become well clear of Jupiter.

        Phil Berry and Ian McCartney used their Catadioptrics to locate and view M31, the Andromeda galaxy, although at 2.2 million light-years the middle looked more like a fried egg.  M31 can be found by star-hopping, using the two right-hand stars of the “W” in Cassiopeia to locate the bright star underneath called Almach and then moving one star to the right, then up two faint stars.  The fuzzy blob above can often be seen with the naked eye.

Brian Mills found M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra.  This fascinating object is often difficult to find but is well worth the effort.  It is estimated that a star that exhausted its hydrogen fuel over 1,500 years ago, collapsed and began to form a white dwarf.  From Earth we are looking down a “tube” of gasses thrown off to look like a ring illuminated by the central star, although this is about magnitude 15 and requires really good conditions to be able to be seen using a large telescope.  Below Vega are two fairly bright stars, Sheliak and Sulafat and about midway between them is the Ring Nebula.  Failing that, have a word with Brian.

All this time the skies were getting darker revealing the Milky Way stretching from the eastern horizon and up over our zenith.  We used the Society’s 4-inch refractor to see the astonishing number of stars in our own galaxy.

This telescope also revealed the equatorial rings on Jupiter although the giant Red Spot was not visible that night.

Finally we looked at the blindingly bright surface of the moon which really was worth leaving until last when we didn’t mind losing out nigh vision.

During the evening we were also rewarded with the passing of several satellites although no Iridium Flares were predicted for that evening.  We even saw two meteorites whose direction suggested that they could still have been associated with the tail of Swift-Tuttle, the old comet that the earth passes through every August in what is known as the Perseid meteor shower.

We were very grateful to Michael and Claire Harte for their hospitality and as we were leaving Michael even invited us back next year.

 

SEPTEMBER MEETING

 

        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 fascinating US Lunar exploration programme.  Many will be aware of what happened to Apollo 13 but remembering Rob’s last visit we are in for another informative tale and then continuing right up to Apollo 17.

        Meetings begin 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 21st October 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.

 

        Wednesday 18th November 2009 - Just recently there have been quite a few notes in the Newsletter referring to Iridium Flares.  At the November meeting, Phil Berry, a member of the Committee will be giving a talk about the “Iridium Flares”; what are they, how do they come to be there with a few notes on their appearance.

 

 

OTHER NEWS AND INFORMATION

 

TRANSITION WADHURST

 

        Last March one of our members, Jan Drozd presented a talk about our place in space and ended by reflecting on the way we are wasting the world’s resources at a remarkable rate.

        Jan tells us that there is to be a meeting on Thursday 10th September between 1930 and 2130 at Uplands Community College main hall which will have displays, resources and talks about local projects and how solutions to the problem are being developed, not only in Wadhurst but around the world.

        The event is called Transition Wadhurst.   

        Everyone is welcome.

 

HERSTMONCEUX ASTRONOMY EVENT

 

        This year’s Astronomy Event at Herstmonceux is over the weekend of 11th, 12th and 13th of September 2009.

        Several trade stands will be there together with various astronomical societies including SAGAS, the Southern Area Group of Astronomical Societies of which we are a member.

        There will be Tours of the Space Geodesy Facility, informal talks by the BBC Sky at Night Team, and other talks by people such as Nik Szymanec, Chris Lintott and others.  A full programme and details of entry can be found by visiting the website at:

www.the-observatory.org/

and selecting “Events” for September.

        SAGAS has asked for any member of WAS interested in helping out with their display, which would include free entry to the event, should contact John Axtell through the SAGAS website whose address is shown in the Contacts list at the end of the Newsletter.

 

 

THE SOCIETY’S 4-INCH REFRACTOR

 

        The Society owns a very good 4-inch refracting telescope, used at the Astro-barbecue and is called the “Ian Reeves Telescope” in his memory.

        This telescope is available amongst other instruments owned by the Society, for members to borrow at any time.  It is boxed and has its own tripod and eyepieces.

        Although it doesn’t come with a drive it is a wonderful instrument for any beginner to borrow and learn to find their way around the night sky.

        The telescope is held by Phil Berry and any member of the Committee would be happy to arrange for it to be set up and its operation explained.

 

 

SKY NOTES FOR SEPTEMBER

 

Planets

 

Mercury suffers inferior conjunction on the 20th and is then a morning object and may just be glimpsed near the eastern horizon at the very end of the month. An inferior conjunction of Mercury occurs when the Earth, Sun and Mercury are in a straight line with Mercury in the middle. If this line up were precise then we would see a transit, but as the orbits of the planets don’t lie in exactly the same plane the planet in question passes either above or below the Sun. Only the two inner planets can suffer inferior and superior conjunction because they lie within the Earth’s orbit (see the note on Saturn later).

Venus is a brilliant morning object in the north east at magnitude -3.8. Although it’s phase is increasing it’s apparent diameter is decreasing as it draws back towards the Sun.

 

Mars will soon be an evening object, rising at midnight (BST) by the middle of the month. It lies in the constellation of Gemini at magnitude +0.9 although it’s brightness and apparent size will both continue to increase for the rest of this year. By the end of December it’s apparent size will have doubled from what it is at the start of this month.

 

Jupiter  at magnitude -2.8 is unmistakable in the south east once the sky is dark. If in doubt use the Square of Pegasus (as shown below) and extend a line from the corner stars westwards about twice the width of the square curving down slightly. The planet rises at sunset and is visible, although never very high, until around 02.00 (BST).

 

 

Saturn passes through conjunction on the 17th and is effectively invisible to us. It reappears later in the morning skies although by the end of the year it will be rising before midnight (GMT).

 

 

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 = reappearance at the dark limb. Times are BST.

 

 

Sept.

Time

Star

Mag.

Ph

PA °

1st

21.25

SAO 163811

7.3

DD

27

5th

21.03

SAO 128336

4.5

RD

237

25th

19.09

SAO 185826

7.0

DD

146

28th

20.07

SAO 163545

6.8

DD

38

28th

21.33

SAO 163568

7.6

DD

359

 

 

Phases of the Moon for September

For convenience I have included the rising and setting times (in BST) for the phases listed below.

 

 

Full

Last ¼

New

First ¼

 

4th

12th

18th

26th

 

18.14

22.05

05.15

14.40

Rise

05.02

14.53

17.33

22.06

Set

 

 

Meteors

There are several minor showers this month whose radiants lie in the constellation of Pisces. Both showers have very low expected ZHR’s with maxima occurring on the 8th and the 21st.

 

 

ISS

There are quite a few passes of the ISS as seen from Wadhurst this month that occur before midnight although I have only included the brightest. The times given are for when the ISS is at it’s maximum altitude so it is best a look a few minutes beforehand. Times are BST. Details of all passes can be found at www.heavens-above.com

 

 

Sept

Mag

Time

Alt°

Az.

9th

-2.3

21.38

27

SSE

10th

-3.3

22.03

54

SSE

11th

-2.2

20.52

28

SSE

11th

-3.0

22.27

62

WSW

12th

-3.2

21.17

56

SSE

13th

-3.4

21.42

89

NE

14th

-3.1

20.31

58

SSE

14th

-3.3

22.07

76

N

15th

-3.4

20.56

88

N

15th

-2.1

22.31

41

WNW

16th

-3.3

21.21

76

N

17th

-3.5

21.46

89

N

18th

-3.3

20.35

76

N

18th

-2.6

22.10

49

WSW

19th

-3.4

21.00

90

SSW

20th

-3.0

21.25

55

SSW

21st

-3.3

20.14

87

WSW

22nd

-2.8

20.39

53

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. If you wish to see a complete list, go to www.heavens-above.com   Times are all BST.

 

 

Sep

Time

Mag

Alt°

Az.

1st

21.57

- 8

41

ENE

2nd

20.15

- 4

68

ESE

6th

21.36

- 5

47

ENE

7th

21.30

- 3

46

ENE

9th

19.42

- 3

68

SSE

11th

19.33

- 6

68

SSE

12th

21.09

- 4

53

E

13th

21.03

- 3

52

E

19th

20.36

- 7

56

ESE

 

 

Advance warning for October

October 20th - Orionid meteor shower maximum (ZHR of 25).

October 21st - Lunar occultation of Antares with disappearance at 15.55 (BST) and reappearance                        at 17.10 (BST).

October 25th - BST ends at 02.00

 

 

 

 

NASA SPACE PLACE

 

A Planet Named Easterbunny?

 

        You know Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. But how about their smaller cousins Eris, Ceres, Orcus, and Makemake? How about Easterbunny?

        These are all names given to relatively large “planet-like” objects recently found in the outer reaches of our solar system. Some were just temporary nicknames, others are now official and permanent. Each has a unique story.

        “The names we chose are important,” says Caltech astronomer Mike Brown, who had a hand in many of the discoveries. “These objects are a part of our solar system; they're in our neighborhood. We ‘gravitate’ to them more if they have real names, instead of technical names like 2003 UB313.”

        Nearby planets such as Venus and Mars have been known since antiquity and were named by the ancient Romans after their gods. In modern times, though, who gets to name newly discovered dwarf planets and other important solar-system bodies?

        In short, whoever finds it names it. For example, a few days after Easter 2005, Brown and his colleagues discovered a bright dwarf planet orbiting in the Kuiper belt. The team’s informal nickname for this new object quickly became Easterbunny.

        However, ever since its formation in 1919, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) ultimately decides whether to accept or reject the name suggested by an object’s discoverers. "Easterbunny" probably wouldn’t be approved.

        According to IAU guidelines, comets are named after whoever discovered them—such as comet Hale-Bopp, named after its discoverers Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp. Asteroids can be named almost anything. IAU rules state that objects in the Kuiper belt should be given mythological names related to creation.

        So Brown’s team started brainstorming. They considered several Easter-esque names: Eostre, the pagan mythological figure that may be Easter’s namesake; Manabozho, the Algonquin rabbit trickster god.

        In the end, they settled on Makemake (pronounced MAH-kay MAH-kay), the creator of humanity in the mythology of Easter Island, so named because Europeans first arrived there on Easter 1722.

        Other names have other rationales. The dwarf planet discovered in 2005 that triggered a fierce debate over Pluto’s status was named Eris, for the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Another dwarf planet with an orbit that mirrors Pluto’s was dubbed Orcus, a god in Etruscan mythology that, like Pluto, ruled the underworld.

        Brown says he takes “this naming business” very seriously and probably spends too much time on it. “But I enjoy it.” More tales of discovery and naming may be found in Brown's blog MikeBrownsPlanets.com.

        Constellations have also been named after ancient gods, human figures, and animals. Kids can start to learn their constellations by making a Star Finder for this month at:

spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/st6starfinder/st6starfinder.shtml

        There you will also find a handy explanation of why astrology has no place in science.

 

 

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

 

Director of Observations       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 October 2009 Newsletter should be with the Editor by 28th September 2009