Castle Point Astronomy Club
1969-2019 - 50th Anniversary Year
Castle Point Astronomy Club Diary
December 2015 by Dave Stratton

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Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Members' Activity Roundup

Mike got us started with notices:

Ted's plaintive cry was for subscriptions to be paid.

Peter said he was planning a Geminid Meteor Watch details to be sent around the group. He added that if individuals wanted they were welcome to take their kit and do regular observing. He said that Comet 2013 - US 10 (Catalina) was getting brighter.

Andrew said there was to be a good ISS pass so we should keep ourselves up to date.

Stik Fest

Mike was on first with some very good solar images courtesy of a solar scope and his phone. He also had a moon pic and some general snaps of the recent Astro Camp.

He also had some excellent sun dog and halo pics.

We also saw a picture of his new camera on its new tripod and he said the software was untried so it was with some difficulty that he got what he did. The images were amazing.

Phil was up next with an image of the moon with a halo, a sunset in Wiltshire, a crop circle, Venus and Jupiter. An image of the Sun in misty conditions so that you could see a couple of sunspots. He also had the ISS and some aurora shots from SWF and he finished with some pics of Patrick Moore's house.

Mike B had a nice image of M42, the Heart Nebula with and without colour - he explained the procedure he had used. Similarly with the classic galaxies M81 & 82. He also had the Leo Triplet, M51, The Bubble nebula and M13, Venus & Jupiter, NGC3718 a spiral galaxy, the Cygnus Wall (part of the American Nebula), M45, a lunar eclipse, an excellent shot of the Milky Way plus the Horse Head Nebula. He had captured the Flame Nebula very well, the Fish Head Nebula which is part of the Heart Nebula and he finished with M52 and the Veil Nebula. Great pics.

Ed had a celebration of scopes that he had come across - pic of a 39inch F3 Dob at an astro camp he had a peek through it and was able to see spiral structure in M33. He showed us the detail of its roller bearings ILO Teflon. He also had a pic of a 20 inch Dob plus the club's 16 inch. We also saw an ultra lightweight 20 inch Dob with its proud owner/maker, a 6 inch solar scope, a binocular pair of Newtonian reflectors and he finished with a typical imager's instrument bristling with stuff and gadgets.

Peter had his current favourite Comet 2013 US10 (Catalina) and then a selection of some old classics. Comet Halley from very nearly 30 years ago, 1987PI Bradfield, Hale Bopp from 1997 - one very large comet, Hyakutaki - with an enormously long tail, Comet 73P Schwassman Wachmann fragment C (it had broken up). He rounded off with 2006 P1 McNaught. All his own work.

Dave H had some interesting pics from a holiday in Sicily where some churches had charts on the floor where the Sun's path was traced. Also the Sun with a halo.

Kevin had some drawings - his first was a depiction of the Perseid Meteor Shower with all those he had charted drawn in their correct track against the starry sky. He had this both in positive & negative. He also had a moon with a halo and the sketch included the detail of Jupiter, Gemini and Orion. He had the Venus transit of the sun on 8th June 04 he talked us through the way he had tackled the task to show the detail - he added that this was a very expensive drawing as it was the one that got him back into astronomy after a lapse.

Mike asked for suggestions from the floor for talks: - ideas included a bring & buy sale, asteroids, history of space travel, quiz night, orbits, building a simple scope and collimation.

Mike ran through some of the planned talks for this session.

In addition to the above we also managed to give Jennie some instruction into how to use her new scope.


Wednesday 9th December 2015

Private Enterprise in Space

Mike got us started with notices:

Andrew said that next week was our Christmas Social.

Ted said that the Christmas meal was a great success and expressed thanks to Phil for organising it.

Mike said the programme was looking good for the coming year.

He introduced Mike Barrett for his talk:

Private Enterprise in Space

Mike began by saying that almost all of space development (SD) is private enterprise (PE).

Although organisations like NASA manage and plan they contract out all the work.

Telstar launched 10th July 1962, a communication satellite, was the first commercial satellite. The major contractor was Bell Telephone Laboratories.

The early ones from the 60s were mainly communication - TV, telephone and faxing. Telstar 1 and 2 are no longer in use, but are still up there.

Mike said that space is said to begin at 100km altitude.

Deke Slayton one of the original NASA Astronauts got involved with pioneering launches. An early payload was 40lb of water.

PE and the military helped develop rocket technology.

Mike showed us a chart of an Atlas rocket - he explained all the components.

Boeing has a space wing; they developed the first stage the Saturn V.

Lockheed Martin joined forces with Boeing to develop Rocket Boosters.

Mike said that satellite spacecraft covered the following tasks: Communication, Navigation, Imaging, Weather, Earth Observation and Exploration.

Current Launchers were:United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, ILS, Orbital ATK, Blur Origin and Virgin Galactic.

Their Cargo: SpaceX's Dragon Capsule and Orbital ATK's Cygnus Capsule.

Crews: - Boeing's Orion Capsule, SpaceX's Dragon Capsule and Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser.

Supplying companies include: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Surrey Satellite Technology, E2V in Chelmsford plus others.

Mike said that one very interesting technology coming along is Cubesats. These are small spacecraft that are 4 inch cubes. They are easy to launch and can be done by small companies.

A current supply delivery to the ISS costs $10m Virgin Galactic are proposing $250,000.

Mike said that the problem with commercialising space is the cost, difficulty of raising the finance, and of developing the technology and at the end of the day who owns it?

The only satellites that are financially viable are communications.

Mike said that there have been a few expensive failures and showed us a video of one that just made it to the top of its tower and exploded dramatically. SpaceX had one that went a whole lot further but still failed. Virgin Galactic had a crash put down to pilot error when switching the wing format from space to atmosphere it was done too early with catastrophic damage - the crew of two died.

SpaceX tried out a tail first landing on a floating platform. They made the platform but then failed -video clip of this event.

Mike said that future ventures included colonising Mars, mining asteroids, space tourism and next generation launches, developing habitat modules - Bigelow have an expandable one.

Google have announced that anyone to get a robot to work on Mars by 2017 will win their $30m prize.

President Obama, on 25th November announced his Property Rights Bill which attempts to sort out some issues of ownership.

Mike showed us a video about NASA's OSIRIS-Rex mission which is due to launch in 2016. It is a probe that will geologically examine an asteroid - it is planned to be able to take a sample of the asteroid and send it back to Earth via a Lander for analysis.

SpaceX and Blue Origin are working on reusable boosters.

Thought is being given to new fuels perhaps using Methane which is fairly available in the Solar System.

Space Planes are back on the drawing boards - planes that can takeoff from a runway go into space and come back to land again and be reused. One has been tried but it needed a rocket boost.

Blue Origin this year have launched a device into space and managed to achieve a soft vertical landing.

Morpheus tested a device that took off and landed successfully vertically.

Skylon already exists in design form it can take off and land on a runway. For takeoff the engine operates as a jet breathing air when this is no longer possible due to its altitude it switches to rocket mode. All it needs is funding.

Mike showed us a video of the concept. It would be unmanned and could service the ISS or similar. If a higher altitude was required then an extra stage was available to achieve a higher orbit. The turn-around time is to be 48 hours.

Splendid talk filled with super graphics, great videos and excellent sound.

Wednesday 16th December 2015

Christmas Social

And now for something completely different.

It is the annual Christmas Social.

Ted and Eileen were the ringleaders ably assisted by Mary, Cynthia and Allan.

It was an excellent event and this time they got the quantity of foodstuff just right - it was very well done.

Mike took the opportunity to get various individuals signed up for talks in the coming season.

Delightful way to end the year.

Wishing everybody a Happy Christmas and New Year!

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