Castle Point Astronomy Club
Castle Point Astronomy Club Diary
March 2018 by Dave Stratton
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Wednesday 7th March 2018

Peter got us going this evening as neither Mike or Andrew were able to be present, he said that he and Ed would be in charge for the night.

Ted said that there was to be a History of Astronomy Conference on 21st April. Please talk to him if you are interested.

MikeB said that the Club´s Astro Camp was the week after next and he had 10 booked so far.

Peter said that both Mercury and Venus were currently on view low in the West about 30 mins after sunset. Mercury is above and to the right of Venus.

Ed got us started on the subject of our evening which was:

Gadgets and Gizmos that members found useful for their observing

Ed began with a picture of his generous collection of Planispheres. He explained how they were used and demonstrated with his latest which he had printed off and pasted onto card with help from Ron.

We learnt that they were dependant on the latitude that you wanted to use them in. At the poles and in the southern hemisphere special ones were needed.

He also said he found filters to be very useful to block certain wavelengths of light to help observe certain objects. He had modified some of his kit so that an eyepiece could be changed without having to move the filter.

Mike B had made a gadget that allowed a red dot finder to be attached to the ‘Hot Shoe’ pad of a camera.

He also had a Sky Quality Meter that could measure how dark the sky was.

He had made a device to control the dew heater on his various bits of kit as he had a problem with battery life so come up with his own fix.

He also use an app on his phone called ‘Go Sky Watch’ when he held the phone up it would show the piece of sky it was looking at.

Ron had made a rather clever Observing Stool such that the seat height could be as low as a few inches or about three feet. It included a dew cover for the seat and had a storage box for eyepieces etc.

He also had a Hand Warmer that could be charged via a USB port and the output could be varied – made by Hot Rox and also a evice for creating a flat field which was useful to clean up astro images.

Dave Sm had a gadget that attaches to a finder mount and allowed two devices to be used at the same time. He also used his bins with different filters on each side to allow a quick comparison of which will work better in a given situation.

He often uses a Monopod, a camera/scope support but with a single stem so it is very portable and quick to use. He has a very versatile device that attaches to the monopod to further enhance its use.

He also showed a simple device that was great for lining up on the sun which he donated to a member of the audience.

Andy T showed his own home made device for aligning the Sun.

He spoke of Sirius and its Pup and gave the fascinating fact that millions of years ago the pup would have been 100 X brighter than Sirius. And currently Sirius is 100 X brighter than the Sun.

Ken showed a lens that attaches to a phone to allow astro photography.

I mentioned that I had recently got an app on my phone called the Northern Lights Camera that allowed the phone’s camera to image much fainter objects.

Pete was back on talking about the problem of an image being brighter at the centre than the edges and said that this situation could be overcome with the use of a flat field that was spoken about earlier. He had made his own device to achieve this end.

He used an image of a galaxy to demonstrate the effect.

Very well done.

Next week we have Astronomers´ Question Time.

Wednesday 14th March 2018

Peter said that the coming weekend was our regular Astronomy camp at Haws Wood. Although the forecast was poor he had decided to still go despite some having already got cold feet.

He added that Mercury was still good with tomorrow the 15th being the greatest elongation – it should remain well placed for two weeks.

Ed had an Astronomy Almanac which he offered to the first taker.

Mike got our planned entertainment going:

Astronomers´ Question Time

Gord got us started with – What is the temperature of the Moon and where do we measure it?

The top layer would vary in temperature greatly, but deeper layers would be stable, it was thought that the surface range would be from 1000C to minus 1000C.

Andy T - Why is it that whilst the Sun has a core temperature of 15 million K if we want to create nuclear fusion in the lab we need 100 million K?

The pressure in the Sun is very high and Quantum Mechanics is involved. There was discussion about whether the figure of 15 mK for the Sun´s core was indeed accurate. Neutrino generation indicates that the current estimate is correct.

Ted – Do we know why the Sun´s Corona is so much hotter at 1mK than the surface temperature of 60000K?
It is thought that magnetism is involved. On Earth we have the phenomena of the thermosphere with a temperature of 10000K wWhich rather hotter than Venus.

Peter – How do astronomers decide what to look at?

A much involved response resulted in: - planning, random, old favourites, grabbing the opportunity and keep it easy, double stars and galaxy hopping.

Peter – What is the best binocular power?
10 X 50, 15 x 50, 15 x 70, 2.1 x 40 (this seems rather low power but it´s still more than twice our unaided eye). Zoom bins are not recommended as they take out too much light from the image being viewed. There was some spirited discussion about exotic devices made from two telescopes.

Rob – How difficult is it to see Pluto?
It´s about 13th mag so is doable in a 10 inch scope. It was agreed that it was hard to see – only a handful of the audience had managed it.

Allan – In the future it is planned to decommission the ISS – What should we do with it?

Drop it over the UK so we could enjoy the fireworks. Preserve is as a wonderful example of modern engineering it will only need fuel. Send it off to survey the solar system.

Excellent as per usual.

Wednesday 21st March 2018

Ron said he had kit to lend if anyone needed it.

Mike said that the coming weekend was our Open Night – he will email during Saturday PM after reviewing the weather.

Mike said that next week, if it was cloudy, he would be giving a talk: ‘A Hitchhikers´ Guide to the Solar System’.

He also said that GDPR changes are going to hit us shortly and he and Andrew are currently considering our position.

Mike introduced Peter for his talk:

Observing Highlights

He started with a nice video clip of Northern Lights recorded by his friend in Scotland. He added that although it is great to see the display it is a tad odd because the Sun is in a quiet period so we would not expect aurora. There is speculation that there is a ‘tear’ in our magnetic shield which is allowing the solar wind in.

He showed a strange image of aurora that was an example of Strong thermal emission velocity enhancement – known as ‘Steve’. A group of citizen scientists in Alberta, Canada, weren´t sure what the glowing purple (sometimes green) arc in the night sky they had been photographing was.

He said that last weekend he was at the Club Astro Camp and they looked at Mercury and Venus in daytime. Mercury has a nice phase – image courtesy of Dave Sm.

Peter added that Mercury will remain good until the end of the month. Venus improves in the coming weeks. In the late evening Jupiter is in the SE about 23.30. We are getting closer to Jupiter on our orbit and it be will at its best in early May.

He showed a clip of Jupiter and its moons also the GRS was there which is currently quite red.

Pluto is in the SSE at midnight in Sagittarius just above Mars which makes it much easier to find – a ten inch scope will be needed. Saturn is in the SE close to Mars in the early morning.

Peter said that Spring is galaxy season and the Virgo area is crammed with them. A nice wide field scope will show lots of faint smudges – just point the scope, no drives, just let them drift past. He said that by just looking William Herschel and his sister discovered 74 objects in just 40 minutes.

Mike introduced Jane for her:

News Update

TESS, launch date 16th April, is designed to carry out the first space borne all-sky transiting Exoplanet survey. It is equipped with four wide-angle telescopes and associated charge-coupled device (CCD) detectors. Science data will be transmitted to Earth every two weeks.

On 17th March the HST did a Messier Marathon on the 110 objects and released 12 new images.

CNEOS Scout provides trajectory analysis and hazard assessment for recently detected objects on the Minor Planet Centre´s Near-Earth Object Confirmation Page (NEOCP). Objects on these pages are unconfirmed; their designations are user-assigned and unofficial. These objects could be real asteroids.

OSIRIS-REx will travel to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu and bring a small sample back to Earth for study. The mission launched Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As planned, the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

JAXA | Asteroid Explorer ‘Hayabusa2’

Hayabusa2 will target a C-type asteroid ‘Ryugu’ to study the origin and evolution of the solar system as well as materials for life by leveraging the experience acquired from the Hayabusa mission. To learn more about the origin and evolution of the solar system, it is important to investigate typical types of asteroids.

´Oumuamua is the first known interstellar object to pass through the Solar System. Formally designated 1I/2017 U1, it was discovered by Robert Weryk using the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii, on 19 October 2017, 40 days after it passed its closest point to the Sun. It is now thought to have originated in a binary star system.

This year, the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), otherwise known as the Chang´e Program, plans to launch the Chang´e 4 Mission. The program has previously sent two orbiters and one Lander to the Moon, and now, they plan to study its geology while exploring the effects of lunar gravity

Using NASA´s Eyes on the Solar System and simulated data from the Juno flight team you can ride onboard the Juno spacecraft in real-time at any moment during the entire mission.

Jupiter. Juno Makes Eighth Science Pass of Jupiter; Images of Jupiter´s poles were released on 7th March – interesting.

Mike introduced Ed for:

Ed´s Stuff

Ed began by telling us how using his star hopping technique you can hop from the Plough right down to Corvus.

One of the stars in Virgo´s bowl is Porrima a mag 5.6 and 10.1 Ed said that sadly he could not see the secondary, but he had in the past with his 6 inch by cranking up the power to 300X.

He showed a pic of Sherburne Wesley Burnham (December 12, 1838 – March 11, 1921) was an American astronomer. He was born at Thetford, Vermont. His parents were Roswell O. and Marinda (nιe Foote) Burnham. He graduated from the academy in Thetford.

Ed showed a chart indicating the positions of the double from 2000 until 2160 it has a period of 168.68 years. He said they are almost the same type and brightness. Their distance varies from 3AU to 70AU. The radial velocity is 12 miles per sec and they are getting closer to us.

He discussed the merits of different scopes with the larger instrument resolving better and showing a small point of light whilst a smaller one will show a ‘fatter’ image.

What a full evening.


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