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

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Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Our scribe was away this evening so no diary entry was recorded. In brief Mike Barrett gave a very interesting talk called ‘Building my Observatory’ where he described how he constructed an ingenious obervatory with a roll off roof and storage space.

Wednesday 9th May 2018

Andrew spoke about the GDPR changes that are imminent and handed out revised copies of our Membership Form for us to fill in and pass to Ted.

He got us started on the business of the evening which was:

Membership Roundup or Stikfest

First up was Andy D with a super image of the Californian Nebula which he said was an RGB plus HA image. He explained how he used PhotoShop to manipulate the image and bring out the ιwispy᾿ bits. He said that he removed all the stars prior to doing the processing and then replaced them afterwards. The nebula is in Perseus, although it is two moons across it is very hard to see visually.

Ed commented that he had managed to see it using a Horsehead filter and 18x magnification.

Peter was next and said that Jupiter was at opposition and at its best it is visible before sunset.

He showed us he image of Comet 74P Smirnova–Chernykh is a periodic comet. He imaged it in 2016 and recently got it passing through a galaxy. He explained that he keeps a record of its precise location which he sends for publication – he said that his image also contained several asteroids that he pointed out to us.

Next he had the comet C/2016 M1 (PANSTARRS) which he said it was a very faint object. He showed us his details in the Minor Planet data of its position. His latest image shows it to be currently the brightest comet in the sky.

He explained that he uses some software to establish the location by using plate solving techniques that use star positions. It is accurate to 0.1 seconds of arc.

He finished with a fine pic of M1 the Crab Nebula.

Andrew introduced Ed for his talk on:

Me and My Scope

Ed set up a tripod with a rather weird reflecting scope. He said it was an Astroscan from Edmund Scientific. It was a tabletop Newtonian reflector modified to sit on a tripod. Ed said 90,000 were made between 1976 and 2009.

The secondary is mounted on a glass plate so the whole thing is effectively sealed so the collimation is fixed. The mirror is 105mm with a focal length of 445mm.

Ed said it would go to 80 to 100 times magnification but was intended for low power use.

The body is moulded in red plastic as they all are and apparently the material was used prior to this model.

He showed the simple line of sight finder but said that a red dot device could be used.

Andrew had taken some pics of a rather nice sunset with his iPhone from the upstairs of his home through double glazed windows. He himself was amazed at how good they were.

Well we certainly squeezed a lot in.

Wednesday 16th May 2018

Andrew said he had a 20inch monitor - free for the taking. He also said that the GDPR forms are still required if not yet dealt with.

He told us that Peter and Ed had switched roles and that Martine was now on the committee as Outreach Rep.

A Space Day is planned in July - details to follow.

Ed said that Venus was in the West in the evening and Jupiter in the South.

Peter said he had looked at Jupiter in twilight and it was stunning.

Mike introduced Ted for his talk:

La Palma - Another Reprise

He began by telling us about his 16 inch Newtonian in his observatory in 1994 we saw several pics of this rather large device.

He said that he made lots of trips to La Palma in 1995, 97, 98, 99, 2000, 02 April and Sept, 03, 04 and 06.

He travelled with fellow members at the time Nik and Ian; they took a vast amount of kit with them.

We saw a map of the island which is part of the Canary Islands off Africa they are generally cloudy so the fact that the site is high helps a lot as they are above the clouds!

He showed a map of the island and explained the route they took and the various places they stayed.

We saw a superb image of dust blowing off the Sahara towards the Canaries.

Ted had lots of pics of the professional observatories that dot the landscape he outlined the individual details and pointing out their location.

For some of the time they stayed in a flat that was part of the Carlsberg Meridian Telescope, 17.8cm objective and 266cm focal length. It is a robotic device.

The William Herschel Telescope (WHT) – completed in 1987. When it was built, its 4.2m mirror made it the third largest telescope in the world.

The Nordic Optical Telescope is 2.5m dia.

The Italian Astronomical Observatory has a 3.5m mirror

The Isaac Newton Telescope is 2.54 m

The Mercator Telescope is 1.2m

The Gran Telescope Canarias is 10.4m.

The Liverpool Telescope is a 2m fully robotic telescope.

MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov) telescope with a diameter of 17m.

Ted said the journey was complex involving planes, two taxis and a hire car to drive up the mountain to the Residentia. We saw lots if pics at the airport and the accommodation. Also their set-up at location. Their site was at 2369m altitude or 8000feet.

He showed us shots of the large boxes of kit they took with them. Ted said his one was originally designed to carry nuclear warheads!

We saw some superb images from inside the WHT (known as Big Willy).

Sometimes it was so windy they had to use the cars as windbreaks.

Once he left a camera out in heavy rain such that it was full of water but amazingly when the water was tipped out it still worked. The good old days of film.

They had extremes of weather including arctic conditions in April.

He said the skies were just remarkable with so many up there it was almost impossible to see where you wanted to see.

He had some tremendous star trail shots to show the problem.

He also showed some nice deep sky shots of M31, M42 and M8. We also saw his Horsehead Nebula image that actually won a prize. He told the story of how various friends from both here and the US helped in this endeavour.

He finished with a picture of himself in a ‘Glory’ - when the low sun throws a halo around your shadow on the lower cloud tops. He said it makes you feel as if you are at the Centre of the Universe.


Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Andrew said that next week we have Jack leading a debate entitled ‘Should we go to Mars?’ Rob will be responding.

Mike said that GDPR forms will be sent out by email.<

Ted said he needs completed forms from everybody and he has some leaflets about a Leigh Art Trail.

Peter said that tonight at 21.10 the ISS will be overhead and again at 22.50 and tomorrow at 00.20.

Mike introduced Jane for her: News Update

Jane said that TESS has four identical, highly optimized, red-sensitive, wide-field cameras that together can monitor a 24° by 90° strip of the sky. By monitoring each strip for 27 days and nights, TESS will tile the southern hemisphere sky in the first year and the northern hemisphere sky in the second year. TESS is scheduled for launch no earlier than March 2018, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and will go into a very eccentric, inclined orbit around the Earth. TESS will discover thousands of planets and is further specially designed to find a pool of small planets transiting small stars. TESS will deliver fifty rocky planets with measured masses for a lasting legacy. The TESS data has no proprietary time and the data segments will become public four months after observations.

The Insight Mission - NASA´s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to study the deep interior of Mars is targeting a new launch window that begins May 5, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018.

InSight´s primary goal is to help us understand how rocky planets – including Earth – formed and evolved. The spacecraft had been on track to launch this month until a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument prompted NASA in December to suspend preparations for launch.

BepiColombo is a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to the planet Mercury. The mission comprises two satellites to be launched together: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. Jane said there is a replica in the Science Museum.

Gaia´s book of the heavens will not be complete until the 2020s, but when it is the map will underpin astronomy for decades to come. It will be the reference frame used to plan all observations by other telescopes. It will also be integral to the operation of all spacecraft, which navigate by tracking stars.

The Space Barons Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos. The historic quest to rekindle the human exploration and colonization of space led by two rivals and their vast fortunes, egos, and visions of space as the next entrepreneurial frontier.

Back to the Moon is a science fiction novel and Homer Hickam´s first fictional book. Published in June 1999, Hickam wrote Back to the Moon using insider information he learned from NASA.

An aurora as you´ve never seen it before: Stunning NASA infrared image reveals the northern lights over North America from space. Captured on April 21, the image shows the aurora borealis over North America. Another image was taken using the Suomi NPP satellite and shows after effects of April 19th solar storm.

Sentinel-1 is a space mission funded by the European Union and carried out by the ESA within the Copernicus Programme, consisting of a constellation of two satellites. The payload of Sentinel-1 is a Synthetic Aperture Radar in C band that provides continuous imagery (day, night and all weather).

Jane said that a lake underneath the ice may help our understanding of the situation on Europa.

NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s – goals outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.

Engineers at the space agency´s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, are developing a 2.2-lb. (1 kilogram) helicopter drone for Mars that measures 3.6 feet (1.1 metres) from blade tip to blade tip. This aerial system could be deployed by NASA´s 2020 Mars rover, and would work in partnership with the six-wheeled robot.

Nasa is reporting on the women that work there.

An interstellar visitor B2 has been has discovered orbiting Jupiter.

Mike introduced Ed for: Ed´s Stuff

He began by saying that despite the lighter evenings there was still plenty to see.

Venus was very good in the West to North West and on June 13th the new Moon will be next to Venus plus it´s a very good time to look at the Moon. Jupiter can be readily seen in twilight.

He showed us a star chart and pointed out the Alco and Mizar multiple star in the Plough. People with good sight can see two stars with naked eye, whilst a scope will show Myzar to be a double.

Joseph Ritter von Fraunhofer 6 March 1787 – 7 June 1826) was a Bavarian physicist and optical lens manufacturer. He made optical glass and achromatic telescope objective lenses, invented the spectroscope, and this helped in 1814 to discover that in fact there were six stars in this system. So each of the three is a double.

Ed showed a chart with the ecliptic showing that the planets along with the Moon and the sun were largely on it. This forms a curving line across the sky. He explained that sometimes the line is higher than others – he said this was due to the Earth’s tilt of 23.50.

He had made a model in the form of a large tube of cardboard with the various objects positioned on it – he then cut it and opened it into a curved strip and when held up to the chart you could readily see how and why the ecliptic and therefore the objects changed their elevation.

He gave out a small chart to everyone depicting the positions of the Jovian moons throughout June.

He pointed out NGC6210 in Hercules - a planetary nebula. He said that it is hard to see because it is tiny at 40x. At higher mags it appears as a greenish disc – this is why this type of object is called a planetary nebula. He showed an HST image of the object for comparison. He described seeing it at Kelling through a 30 inch DOB.

Noctiluscent cloud. Night clouds or Noctiluscent clouds are tenuous cloud-like phenomena in the upper atmosphere. They are made of ice crystals and are only visible in a deep twilight. Noctiluscent roughly means night shining in Latin. They are most commonly observed in the summer months at latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the equator.

He said the Sun itself was a worthy object for observation – he took time to explain the serious hazards of doing this – but with the right kit and the knowledge it was facinating. Sunspots are very interesting phenomena. However he admitted that at the weekend there were none to see. It is likely the Sun is in a quiet phase.

He finished with the news that the Village Faire is on 14th July and on 28th we are having a Space Day at Hadleigh Country Park. Dates for the diary.

A very full evening.

Wednesday 30th May 2018

Andrew said that next week we have Gord, Andrew D and Steve talking about eclipses.

Ted said he was still waiting for GDPR forms.

Peter said that the ISS was due at 23.04.

Jack had a load of books and other stuff for sale.

Andrew introduced Jack for his debate: Should humans colonize Mars?

Andrew said that Rob would give the case for going:

Rob spoke first:

We should go for it. He said it was a certainty that an asteroid would hit Earth – not if but when. If that didn´t get us we would do it ourselves via war or disease.

New technologies would be found to improve the power of space travel. We are already there in robotic form. It will become more affordable. People will always be better than rovers.

Big companies are interested which will result in a big boost to global confidence.

He said that an internet search indicated that 69% were in favour and 31% were not. Another asking the specific question ‘Should we go?’ resulted in 48% yes and 53% no.

Jack responded that it would cost loads of money and where would it come from? The US has canceled manned space exploration. Russia has cut spending by 33% and is it affordable in the long term?

It would be sensible to develop robotic missions as there are enormous issues with getting there and establishing a habitable base. Keeping the crew healthy would be an enormous task and costly. Whereas robots would just carry on. Would we be able to adapt to the large risk of technology failure? The resources on Mars are unknown. Can we adapt and we will contaminate Mars if we have not done this already.

Should we not put the money to use closer to home?

Would you want to go? The Moon is nearby Mars is not.

Mars is almost certainly already contaminated – so does it matter?

Perhaps the enormous cost should be considered an opportunity for employment.

Perhaps the travelers will be robots or hybrids. What will the future bring?

Andrew called a vote:

Should we go at all? 100%.

Should we go to colonize? 55% yes 45% no.

Well that was different.

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