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

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Wednesday 6th June 2018

Andrew said that next week we have Mike doing stuff with rockets. The week after we have Telescope Zoo. Also Ed will be observing after the talk tonight.

Mike said we had three speakers sharing the evening telling us about their individual experiences at the Great American Eclipse last year. First up was Gord with his: Great American Eclipse 21st August 2017.

He got started with a novelty sticker that he attached to a cup of hot water and it changed from a view of the Sun to the Sun in full eclipse with a corona.

He said the event was all American as it did not touch any other land mass.

We saw a map showing the track he pointed out the point of greatest duration – mentioning that he has seen 12 total eclipses and 1 annular.

He told us about the Saros cycle - The periodicity and recurrence of eclipses is governed by the Saros cycle, a period of approximately 6,585.3 days (18 years 11 days 8 hours). The last one was 11th August 1999. The next would be 2nd September 2035.

Gord explained the route he took to get there. He flew 437 0miles and drove 2835miles in a car. He gave us a splendid travelogue of his journey to the town of Kearney.

We saw his kit – he had special glasses but said he preferred a hand held filter as this could be used very quickly and stowed to enable other tasks to be progressed.

He said that a phenomena of an eclipse is that it appears to be sunset in all directions he showed a series of views demonstrating this.

He showed us his personal pic taken with a simple Point-and-Shoot camera. Then backed it up with some splendid images extracted from the web, including sunspots and a fiery limb and of course the corona.

His last astro pic was a superb collage series from first to last contact.

He had some fun images from Car Henge which is a take on Stonehenge, but is uses actual cars instead of the great stones.

He listed a bunch of future eclipses all over the world and said there would be one in SOS on 14th June 2151.

Mike thanked Gord and introduced Steve for his experiences:

Steve said it was his third eclipse trip but he has only seen two due to clouds.

His journey to Wyoming took him through Atlanta, Cheyenne and on to Lorraine.

He mentioned the horrors of the journey getting through Customs and terrible traffic jams.

He was trying to recover the lost time on route to Cody when he got a speeding ticket which he showed us.

We saw some lovely pictures from Hulett. Steve said the population had risen from 205 to 100,000.

He then headed further West to gain a super shot of Sentinel Rock a granitic peak in Yosemite National Park. He also had an image of Devil´s Tower in Wyoming - the iconic mountain that was used to such effect in the Close Encounters of the Third Kind film.

Steve then showed us a series of images from first contact including the colander effect, the diamond ring and during totality he got the Milky Way and of course stars.

He finished with the news that the next US eclipse would be on 8th April 2024.

Mike thanked Steve and introduced Andy:

Andy said his initial experience had been terrible. He booked very early to gain a prime site on the track but got gazumped by the person he had booked with, who clearly wanted maximum profit from the event, so he ended up booking with a group which he said went very well as he got to share the excitement with others.

His route took him West to Oregon, Madras and Portland; we saw good scenery shots and wildlife.

The observing location was actually a school sports field.

Prior to setting out he had been advised to watch the eclipse not try to image it. However he decided he wanted images so decided to automate it. He tried using software called Moonglow ,but found it too slow so he ended up doing it manually. He had to polar align in daytime – he had a compass but there is a 140° difference from True North to Magnetic North.

He ended up using a system of automatic exposures taking a series of three sets of five images altering his camera settings after each set as the eclipse progressed and the light levels fell whilst observing at the same time.

He explained how he processed the results using PhotoShop.

He showed us the results from 1st contact to Diamond Ring including an excellent sight of the Bailey’s Beads effect caused by the light coming through mountains on the Moon. With the full eclipse coronal image he had added earthshine to great effect.

His final image had great detail in the corona including magnetic lines.

We saw his full sequence of images and finally a video of the entire event.

After wards we had a bit of fun on the field outside with a little bit of testing of the rockets for next week. Basically this was a two litre plastic drinks bottle with some water in (non essential) but good fun. Pressurised on a contraption made by Ron and then released by pulling a release string.

In addition we had several scopes looking at Jupiter plus a vain attempt to see the ISS, but the pass was too low for our location.

Wonderful evening.

Wednesday 13th June 2018

Andrew said that next Thursday was the longest day so we traditionally have our Telescope Zoo evening. He encouraged us to bring along an instrument for all to see. It would be held outside if the weather was fine, but otherwise in the hall. He also handed out copies of the FAA Newsletter.

Ted said he still had not had the new form from all members.

Mike said that our Family Day was on 28th July which involved rockets so he was going to give part of his talk: A History of Rockets

He said that men had dreamt of flying for many years: In Greek mythology, Icarus, son of the master craftsman Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth. Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus´ father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea´s dampness would not clog his wings or the Sun´s heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father´s instructions not to fly too close to the Sun; when the wax in his wings melted he tumbled out of the sky and fell into the sea where he drowned, sparking the idiom ‘Don´t fly too close to the Sun’.

He also mentioned Archytas who made a bird out of wood The first steam-powered ‘pigeon’, was created around 400 to 350 BC by the ancient Greek mathematician. Archytas constructed his robo-bird out of wood and used steam to power its movements.

Then he told us about Hero. An aeolipile, also known as a Hero´s engine, is a simple bladeless radial steam turbine which spins when the central water container is heated. Torque is produced by steam jets exiting the turbine, much like a jet or rocket engine. In the 1st century AD, Hero of Alexandria described the device in Roman Egypt and many sources give him the credit for its invention.

Mike said that gunpowder was invented by Chinese alchemists in the 9th century. Originally, it was made by mixing elemental sulphur, charcoal and saltpeter (potassium nitrate).

A lot of their early trials, exploded but some turned into rockets – not very effective but frightening for the enemy.

According to one ancient legend a Chinese official named Wan-Hoo attempted a flight to the Moon using a large wicker chair to which were fastened 47 large rockets. Forty seven assistants, each armed with torches, rushed forward to light the fuses. In a moment there was a tremendous roar accompanied by billowing clouds of smoke. When the smoke cleared, the flying chair and Wan-Hoo were gone.

Mike said the first two stage rocket was in the 16th century.

In 1687 Isaac Newton´s third law stated that for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is a very important step in our understanding because it explains how a device that expresses matter will move in the opposite direction and lead the way to space ships.

Robert Anderson was an English mathematician and silk-weaver who wrote a book in 1696 called ‘The Making of Rockets’ in two parts up to a weight of 1000lbs.

We even had Indians using rockets against us.

Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet KCH FRS (20 May 1772 – 16 May 1828) was an English inventor and rocket artillery pioneer distinguished for his development and deployment of rockets, which included incendiary devices.

Even the American national anthem contains reference to the British using rockets against them in its first verse:

‘;Oh, say can you see by the dawn´s early light?
‘What so proudly we hailed at the twilight´s last gleaming?
‘Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
‘O´er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
‘;And the rocket´s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
‘Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
‘Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
‘O´er the land of the free and the home of the brave?’

Our troops under Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo even had a Rocket Brigade.

During the 19th century, rocket enthusiasts and inventors began to appear in almost every country. Some people thought these early rocket pioneers were geniuses, and others thought they were crazy. Claude Ruggieri, an Italian living in Paris, apparently rocketed small animals into space as early as 1806.

Mike said he tried to use a small child but was fortunately stopped.

At the turn of the 18th century rockets were being developed in Cornwall to get lines to ships wrecked on the cliffs - many lives were saved.

‘From the Earth to the Moon’ is an 1865 novel by Jules Verne. It tells the story of the Baltimore Gun Club, a post-American Civil War society of weapons enthusiasts and their attempts to build an enormous space gun and launch three people—the Gun Club´s president, his Philadelphian armor-making rival, and a French poet—in a projectile with the goal of a Moon landing.

Mike finished his talk with: Edward Everett Hale was an American author, historian and Unitarian clergyman who wrote ‘The Brick Moon’ a novella that is the first mention of the concept of an artificial satellite.

At this point he announced that the next stage was for us to make our own versions of air propelled rockets for about 15 minutes, then we would adjourn to the field and have a go at launching them.

Martine equipped each of our groups with a box of bits including scissors (round ended so we couldn´t hurt ourselves) coloured card, templates for making fins, sticky tape and of course the all important 2L plastic drinks bottles.

We set to and each table produced its two rockets all decorated.

We then went outside where Ron had his launch device which we pressurised with my compressor to 30psi and then released. The release didn´t always work so Ron had to get in there and encourage them – he got a bit wet as each bottle had some water in to make them more efficient.

They were spectacular – some better than others but very good indeed.

Ron had his own rocket that he had made earlier which was larger and boasted very good fins and was longer than ours, but he still used the same 2L bottle. It was most impressive. So it bodes well for 28th July.


Wednesday 20th June 2018

This is a very special day and we have Telescope Zoo to mark it. Well it´s almost the longest day of the year.

On the day when you are least likely to look through a telescope we look at them.

We had a splendid array:

John (our American) had his Meade ETX LX 8 inch Schmidt Cassegraine

Ella (our youngest) had a SkyWatcher 130mm 900mm fl Newtonian Reflector

Ted (our Treasurer) had his trusty and heavy 6 inch f6 Newtonian Reflector

Ron (our Equipment Director) had the Club´s 16 inch Dob f4.3. The scope was made by several members including Ron and me, after Brian B donated a mirror in 2003 and Jim reground it to alter the focal length and we wrapped a scope around it.

Andrew (our Secretary) had his 130mm Celestron Newtonian Reflector

Allan and Angela had their 12 inch Dob

Rob had a tripod with an AstroTrac fitted with a 200mm lens on a fully automatic camera

Jim (our mirror grinder) had his 20 inch Dob which was entirely his own work

Jack (our regular guest) had his Coronado Solarscope

Alan had a 150mm SkyWatcher f5 reflector and a Vixen ED103 100mm f7.7 refractor

Ken had a Celestron 8 inch 2350 fl Newtonian Reflector

Chris had a 90mm SkyWatcher on an equatorial mount

Dave Sm had a SkyWatcher Flextube 250mm Dob

Abby (newest member – today) had a 4 inch achromatic refractor f5.9v

Ed had his Orion Optics 10 inch f4.8 Dob

Steve (just rejoined – was chairman for quite a while) with a Zemax 70mm 900mm fl refractor

Barrie had a rather neat Watec camera and GoTo with a monitor and 500mm lens he said he liked because it was so quick to set up and see stuff

Trevor had an 8 and 3/4 inch f6 Dob he also had its original Fullerscope mount that was robust to say the least

As it got to twilight we had a look at Jupiter and its four large moons and the Moon.


Wednesday 27th June 2018

Mike said that on 28th July we have our first Family Space Day. Next week we have ‘The Astronomer´s Guide to Strange Things in the Sky’ by Andrew.

Mike introduced Ed for his: Observing Highlights for July.

He began by announcing the splendid news that the nights are drawing-in at last.

He made the point that despite the long days there is still stuff to see. Mercury gets to its greatest elongation on July 12th. Venus will be near the new moon on 15th and 16th. Jupiter was still well worth a look even before dark. Saturn is at opposition today.

He said that Saturn was well worth looking at – as it happens today is a special day when the rings appear brighter than the planet. Ed showed us some pictures from an old book called The Planet Saturn – at the time they were unsure what it was - they did not of course know about rings then. There was a series of sketches of what they thought they were seeing.

Ed said the rings are currently wide open - he had bought a model along to show us how the ring appearance to us changes with time and our relative positions. Saturn is tilted at 260 and precesses as does Earth but it takes 412,000 earth years to do so.

He handed out a small chart showing the position of Titan throughout July. Titan is 50% larger than our moon and has a thick atmosphere. A small telescope at 22 times will be able to find it.

Next Ed showed us a star chart centred on Hercules – it contains several globular clusters including M13 and M92. M13 was discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1777. The cluster was independently rediscovered by Charles Messier on March 18, 1781. He found it with a 12 inch long scope he said at the time that it did not contain any stars! M92 is at a distance of about 26,700 light-years away from Earth.

Ed added that there are about 150 globular clusters in a halo around the Milky Way.

Rasalgethi is a nice double star; we saw an image showing the colour difference.

Ed said that the next time he will talk about a total lunar eclipse.

Mike introduced Jane for her: News Update

The ISS has a new commander: - Dr. Alexander Gerst is a German European Space Agency astronaut and geophysicist, who was selected in 2009 to take part in space training. He was part of the International Space Station Expedition 40 and 41 from May to November 2014. Gerst returned to space on June 6, 2018, as part of Expedition 56/57. Apparently astronauts are allowed to take something with them on the mission - he took a piece of the Berlin Wall!

New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as a part of NASA´s New Frontiers programme. Engineered by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute, with a team led by S Alan Stern, the spacecraft was launched in 2006 with the primary mission to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system in 2015, and a secondary mission to fly by and study one or more other Kuiper belt objects in the decade to follow.

lan LaVern Bean was an American naval officer and naval aviator, aeronautical engineer, test pilot and NASA astronaut; he was the fourth person to walk on the Moon. He was selected to become an astronaut by NASA in 1963 as part of Astronaut Group 3. He has just died on 26 May 2018 (age 86). He became a talented space artist.

On 1 October 2003, three organizations were merged to form the new JAXA: Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan and National Space Development Agency of Japan. JAXA was formed as an Independent Administrative Institution administered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

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 8th 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As planned the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

The three primary types of asteroids are C-type, M-type and S-type. Asteroids are categorized according to their composition. C-type asteroids are carbonaceous, M-type asteroids are metallic and S-type asteroids are silicaceous.

NASA´s Eyes on the Earth. Welcome to NASA´s Eyes, a way for you to learn about your home planet, our solar system, the universe beyond and the spacecraft exploring them.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich has been pivotal to astronomy and navigation since the beginning of time. Well international standard time at least. But what few people realise is that the observatory has not actually observed anything for more than half a century.

Astronomers were forced to abandon their work in the 1950s as London smogs grew so bad that they could no longer see the stars through their telescopes.

As the railways expanded nearby, the rumble of trains also made it impossible to take accurate readings with sensitive instruments, while the ever-growing capital brought increasingly dazzling light pollution.

Now, after more than 60 years a new telescope has been installed at Greenwich to restore its status as a working observatory once again. Not only is London´s air cleaner now, but modern telescope filters can tune out the pollution to hone in on the stars, planets, nebulae and even galaxies.

Annie Russell Maunder (14 April 1868 – 15 September 1947) was a Northern Irish astronomer and mathematician. She received her secondary education at the Ladies Collegiate School in Belfast, which later became Victoria College. Winning a prize in an 1886 intermediate school examination, she was able to sit the Girton open entrance scholarship examination, and was awarded a three-year scholarship. She studied at Cambridge University (Girton College) and in 1889 she passed the degree examinations with honours, as the top mathematician of her year at Girton and ranked Senior Optime (equivalent to second class at other universities) in the university results list. However the restrictions of the period did not allow her to receive the BA degree she would otherwise have earned.

In 1891 she began work at the Greenwich Royal Observatory, serving as one of the lady ‘computers’ assigned to the solar department at a salary of four pounds per month. This was a special department set up in 1873 to photograph the sun. There she assisted Walter Maunder and spent a great deal of time photographing the Sun. The solar maximum of 1894 resulted in a high number of sunspots, the movements of which Annie also tracked.

Maunder and Annie were married in 1895, Walter´s second marriage Annie was required to resign from her job due to restrictions on married women working in public service. However the two continued to collaborate, while Annie accompanied Walter on solar eclipse expeditions. In 1897 Annie received a grant from Girton College to acquire a short-focus camera with a 1.5 inch lens which she took on expeditions. She used this camera to photograph the outer solar corona from India in 1898.

The Maunder Minimum, also known as the ‘prolonged sunspot minimum ’, is the name used for the period starting in about 1645 and continuing to about 1715 when sunspots became exceedingly rare, as noted by solar observers of the time.

Mike introduced Peter our Imaging Director

Peter said he would only talk to us about two things tonight – Noctiluscent Clouds and Meteors.

Night shining 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. We saw some images of the phenomena.

Peter showed us a star chart of the Persius area which contains the Radiant of the Persius shower. The Perseids are prolific meteor showers associated with the comet Swift–Tuttle. The Perseids are so called because the point from which they appear lies in the constellation Perseus.

Peter said he was planning a meteor watch for 13/14th August – he expects there to be 60/70 per hour. He said this event would be at our Dark Site and advised that because we have a licence to use the site we have to travel as a group because there is a zapper to open an electronic gate coming and going and the site is 5 miles beyond the gate.

What a lot we got.

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