Castle Point Astronomy Club
1969-2019 - 50th Anniversary Year
Castle Point Astronomy Club Diary
April 2018 by Dave Stratton

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Wednesday 4th April 2018

Andrew said that next week we have a quiz if we are not observing.

Ron announced that we have been given a 70mm refractor to add to our stock of scopes available free of charge to our members.

Peter said there will be an occultation of an 11th mag star on 20/21st April by an asteroid, which happens to have two satellites – details available.

He also said that Saturn is featuring a new white blob.

Apparently Amazon is marketing a solar filter that attaches to the rear of an eyepiece - How dangerous is that?

Mike introduced Gord for his talk:

How do planets move as they do? And Why do planets move as they do?

He also called it ‘EPPUR SI MUOVE’ which I guess is Italian for the lines above.

Well I thought long and hard about how to commit this to paper and in the end chickened out.

It was possibly the best presented talk I have heard – just full of detail and humour - all done without a note and no pictures and even a few equations but totally absorbing.

Very briefly it explained how and why the superior planets appear to have occasional retrograde motion and therefore apparently move backwards in their orbits.

Various learned people such as: - Aristarchus, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton got a mention for their varying views on whether we went around the Sun or everything went around us also why we did not see parallax when looking at stars.

Very simply it is because we are on an inferior planet - we move faster and overtake our superiors and therefore view them from an ever changing place – with regard to the stars’ lack of parallax they are an awful long way away.


Wednesday 11th April 2018

Mike got us straight into tonight´s entertainment by introducing Martine who has organised a quiz for us with Mike managing it.

We were split into four teams – giving ourselves names which Martine would judge at the end.

We had four rounds which were:


1. Who first measured the speed of light in 1676 using transits of Jupiter’s moons? Answer Ole Romer. Transits of moons were earlier than predicted when Jupiter was closer to Earth in it´s orbit and later when farther away.
2. Name the crew of Apollo 1. Answer Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom. An electrical spark in the pressurised pure oxygen environment of the command capsule caused a fatal fire during a pre-launch test on 27th January 1967.
3. Name the commander of Apollo 13. Answer Jim Lovell
4. Why did the Apollo 11 lunar module nearly have problems lifting off from the lunar surface? Answer Buzz Aldrin broke off the ascent engine arming switch when moving around the cabin. They jammed a pen into the switch to flick it into the correct position for ascent.
5. Elon Musk launched his Tesla Roadster onboard a Falcon Heavy Rocket on 6th February 2018 with a mannequin dressed as an astronaut. What was the song playing on the radio? For bonuses – what other notable items were in the roadster (1/2 pt per extra) Answer ‘Space Oddity̵, a dashboard message saying ‘Don’t Panic!᾿ which refers to the sci-fi novel “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. A quartz disc carrying the sci-fi trilogy ‘Foundation’ by Isaac Asimov and a message printed on a circuit board in the Tesla saying ‘made on Earth by humans’
6. An English theologian, Franciscan Friar and logician called William of Ockham (or Occam in the county of Surrey) (1285-1348) proposed a concept that is still in use today to help decide between competing theories and probabilities. What is the name of the concept and what does the concept involve? Answer Occam´s Razor. It advocates if two theories both lead to the same conclusion; choose the theory that involves the fewest assumptions. Einstein’s version of this concept was ‘Things should be made as simple as possible — but not simpler’. Occam’s razor is also known as the ‘law of brevity or economies’.
7. Name the scientist who explained that light, magnetism and electricity were all different manifestations of the same phenomenon? Answer James Clerk Maxwell (13th June 1831-5th November 1879)
8. True or false? Einstein is buried in Ulm, Wurttemberg in Germany. Answer False. He died aged 76 in a hospital in Princeton, New Jersey on Monday 18th April 1955 of internal bleeding. The aneurysm, or enlargement of the abdominal artery, burst. There is no grave. His wish was that his body be cremated on the day of his death and his ashes scattered in an unknown place. His brain was removed by a pathologist, Dr Thomas Harvey, arguably without permission at the time. Harvey dissected the brain into 240 sections. 46 of these sections have been acquired and placed on display by the Mutter Museum in Pennsylvania. Remaining parts were given, by the family, to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland near to Washington D.C. Harvey also removed Einstein's eyes, and gave them to Henry Abrams, Einstein's ophthalmologist. 9. True or False – King Mongkut – the King of Siam in the musical ‘The King and I᾿ - has an asteroid named after him for ‘contributions to astronomy’. Answer True – 151834 Mongkut is named after him)
10. Stephen Hawking was born on 8th January 1942. What did this auspicious date also commemorate? Answer The 300th anniversary of Galileo´s death.


One point for each correct answer. I will say the name of a well known star, you write down the constellation that it is in.
1. Vega Answer Lyra
2. Mira Answer Cetus
3. Procyon Answer Canis Minor
4. Aldebaran Answer Taurus
5. Castor Answer Gemini
6. Sirius Answer Canis Major
7. Name the naked eye double star in the handle of the Plough asterism. Answer Mizar and Alcor (fainter) are second stars along the handle.
8. How many constellations are recognised today. Answer 88.
9. Listing the constellations alphabetically, which would be the final name on the list. Answer Vulpecula
10. Which is the largest constellation in the sky, covering an area of 1303 square degrees. Answer Hydra.

The Solar System

1. What was the name of the proposed planet, supposed to be orbiting between the Sun and Mercury, whose gravitational influence may have been causing the precession of Mercury’s orbit? Answer Vulcan.
2. Name the heart-shaped region on Pluto revealed on 14th July 2015 by the cameras onboard the New Horizons mission. Answer The Tombaugh Regio. Named in honour of Pluto´s discoverer Clyde Tombaugh.
3. What is the name of the volcanic region on Mars which is home to Olympus Mons? Answer Tharsis region.
4. What is the name of the largest feature on Mercury? Answer Caloris Planitia is a large impact basin on Mercury. One of the largest impact basins in the solar system. It is 1,550 km in diameter. The Sun is almost directly overhead every second time Mercury passes perihelion making the site extremely hot. Calor is Latin for heat.
5. Describe the composition and orientation of the two tails of a comet as it passes through the inner solar system. Answer Two separate tails are formed of dust and gases, becoming visible as the comet enters the inner solar system. The dust tail reflects sunlight directly and follows a curved orbital path. The gases in the second tail glow from ionisation, this tail appears to be more straight and always points away from the Sun along the streamlines of the solar wind as it is strongly affected by the magnetic field of the plasma of the solar wind.
6. Which planets in our solar system do not have a significant global magnetic field? Answer Venus and Mars (source
7. Which planet in our solar system has its rotational axis closest to the ecliptic? Answer Uranus.
8. Which planet in our solar system has the largest number of confirmed moons? Answer Jupiter (67), then Saturn (62), then Uranus (27).
9. What is the atmosphere of Mars mainly composed of? Answer Carbon dioxide.
10. What is the orbital period of Halley’s comet? Answer 75 years (75.32) (76 is OK).

Deep Sky

1. What is a planetary nebula? Answer A ring-shaped emission nebula formed by an expanding shell of glowing ionised gas ejected from red giant stars late in their lives. The word ‘nebula’ is Latin for mist or cloud, and the term ‘planetary nebula’ is a misnomer that originated in the 1780s with astronomer William Herschel because, when viewed through his telescope, these objects resemble the rounded shapes of planets. Herschel´s name for these objects was popularly adopted and has not been changed. They are a relatively short-lived phenomenon, lasting a few tens of thousands of years, compared to a typical stellar lifetime of several billion years..
Most planetary nebulae form at the end of the star's life, during the red giant phase, when the outer layers of the star are expelled by strong stellar winds. Planetary nebulae likely play a crucial role in the chemical evolution of the Milky Way by expelling elements to the interstellar medium from stars where those elements were created. 2. What is the Drake equation used to illustrate? Answer Get an idea about how many intelligent alien life forms exist that we could communicate with.
3. In which constellation would you find the globular cluster M13? Answer Hercules.
4. What is the popular name of the object NGC7000? Answer The North America Nebula.
5. M42, is otherwise known as the Orion Nebula. What is its NGC number ? Answer NGC1976 6. What famous dark nebula lies just below the star Alnitak, the left hand star in the belt of Orion? Answer The Horsehead Nebula.
7. What is the popular name of the gaseous nebula M16? Answer The Eagle Nebula.
8. Name the two naked eye open clusters in the constellation of Taurus. Answer The Pleiades and the Hyades.
9. In what year was the supernova seen that created the crab nebula? Answer 1054.
10. What is the common name for M44? Answer Praesepe or Beehive.The best team won of course headed up by our Secretary Andrew.

Full marks to Martine – they were tough!

Wednesday 18th April 2018

Andrew said the GDPR data gathering was getting closer.

Mike said that last weekend was Kelling Heath at which he did a bit of observing and a bit of buying.

He said that this evening was planned to be observing and the weather was rather unusually clear, but we were trying out a new idea as it wasn´t dark enough by having a short talk first - so he introduced Ed for his talk on:

Ed´s Stuff

He began with some unfinished business from his last talk with a double star in the midst of the Bowl of Virgo, Burnham 924. He reminded us of Sherburne Wesley Burnham.

He said he was unable to see the double with his 6 inch but with his 10 inch he saw the secondary using 250x.

He moved to Struve 1523 which is in Ursa Major but he used the Leo star chart as it´s nearer there.

We saw a chart of its orbit from 2000 to 2055 which showed that the separation is still increasing.

He said that actually it is a double double – the brighter pair orbit in 669 days and just 4 days for the dimmer ones. He said he saw it nicely in an 80mm refractor. It is thought there may well be a distant fifth member.

We relocated to the car park for our:

Observing Evening

had several scopes in use headed up by Ed who was showing us his doubles.

Ron was setting up a newcomer´s 5 inch reflector.

It was a good night for showing folk around the constellations.

What a change to have a clear observing session.

Wednesday 25th April 2018

Ron´s said his late friend´s wife wanted to pass on several DIY 10 inch scopes that he had made. He added that they were well made and worth owning and they would be well priced.

Peter said that Venus is great in the West for 2 hours after sunset and Jupiter was up later in the South. He also mentioned Dave Smith´ super clip of the ISS crossing the Sun and said that it would happen again at 08.35 and then a repeat two orbits later.

Mike said he was giving a different talk to the one advertised as that still needed polishing instead he will tell us about:

The Spring Skies

He began by saying how the spring constellations seem to move more quickly than the Autumn ones. He explained that this was because the nights are getting shorter in the Spring and so there is a longer time interval between observing opportunities.

He started with Ursa Major pointing out that the asterism of the Plough is actually only a small part of this constellation. He added that as with most constellations the stars are not gravitationally linked but that 5 of the 7 stars in the Plough share the same proper motion and are ‘together’.

He mentioned M51 the Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (mag 8.4) an interacting spiral galaxy it was the first galaxy to be classified as a spiral galaxy. Its distance is estimated to be between 15 and 35 million light-years.

Lord Rosse (William Parsons) (1800 - 1867) built The Leviathan of Parsonstown. This is the 72 inch telescope at Birr Castle in Ireland the largest telescope of the 19th Century. With this instrument he was able to see the spiral structure of M51. Mike said a modern 16inch or larger will enable some structure to be seen.

M81 is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major (mag 6.5) and M82 is thought to be an edge on spiral also about 12 million light-years away (mag 8.4). It has red material coming out of its centre.

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101 is a face-on spiral galaxy 21 million light-years away (mag 7.8). Mike said it is large but faint.

The Owl Nebula M97 is a planetary nebula located approximately 2,030 light years away (mag 9.9). The central star is mag 14. The nebula is hard to see.

Mike showed us with the aid of a star chart how to find all these objects.

Coma Berenices is not a large constellation, yet it contains a number of famous deep sky objects, it lies between Leo and Bootes, among them M64 the Black Eye galaxy this has a disc of stars and another of dust that rotate in opposite directions. NGC 4565 (also known as the Needle is an edge-on spiral galaxy about 30 to 50 million light-years away has a magnitude of approximately 10. The stars in the cluster are related.

Constellation of Draco has the Cat´s Eye Nebula, a relatively bright planetary nebula. We saw a stunning image from the HST. It is hard to see as it is very small. In 1864 William Huggins used spectroscopy to discover that it is made of gas. Mike showed us a brilliant image of the it with a kind of halo surrounding it. Thuban was once the pole star. M3 is a super globular cluster.

Constellation of Hercules has M13 sometimes called the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules or the Hercules Globular Cluster, is a globular cluster of about 300,000 stars. It is just naked eye at mag 5.8. NGC 6207 is a spiral galaxy is about 30 million light years away. It is located near to M13 but at mag 11.7 it is a challenge to see.

The constellation Leo contains many bright galaxies including M65, M66, and NGC 3628 known as the Leo Triplet. M65 is a spiral galaxy about 35 million light-years away. M66 another spiral galaxy about 36 million light-years away. NGC 3628 a spiral galaxy about 35 million light-years away. Mike said that near to Regulus is Leo 1 a dwarf galaxy that is hard to see due to the brightness of Regulus.

Excellent as always.

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