Castle Point Astronomy Club
Castle Point Astronomy Club Diary
September 2018 by Dave Stratton
Castle Point Astronomy Club


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Wednesday 5th September 2018

Tonight was our welcome back social evening where members met for a chat.

Wednesday 12th September 2018

Andrew said that next week we had our AGM but we this would not take too long – our best time was just short of a few minutes!

Peter said that Comet 21P was in Auriga in NNE and was viewable with bins.

MikeB said that the next club camp at Haw Wood Farm was 5-7th October £12 per night. It would be exclusive to astronomers.

Mike said that our Open Night at Hadleigh Country Park required us to be there for 19.00.

Mike said that as it was cloudy we would have to put up with himself giving a talk on: The Discovery of Neptune

He began by telling us about William Herschel´s discovery of Uranus on 13th March 1789. It was thought to be a comet, but had the wrong orbit it was near circular and beyond Saturn.

He initially named the planet after King George who awarded him a retainer of £200 per year, but in due course it was given the name Uranus.

Unfortunately its orbit behaved strangely. It was not always where it should have been and conjecture led to the view that there was another planet affecting its position.

John Couch Adams FRS was a British mathematician and astronomer. His calculations were made to explain discrepancies with Uranus´s orbit and the laws of Kepler and Newton. At the same time, but unknown to each other, the same calculations were made by Urbain Le Verrier. Le Verrier would send his coordinates to Berlin Observatory astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle, who confirmed the existence of the planet on 23 September 1846, finding it within 1° of Le Verrier´s predicted location.

The planet Neptune was mathematically predicted before it was directly observed. With a prediction by Urbain Le Verrier, telescopic observations confirming the existence of a major planet were made on the night of September 23–24, 1846, at the Berlin Observatory, by astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle (assisted by Heinrich Louis d´Arrest), working from Le Verrier´s calculations. It was a sensational moment of 19th-century science, and dramatic confirmation of Newtonian gravitational theory. In François Arago´s apt phrase, Le Verrier had discovered a planet ‘with the point of his pen’.

In retrospect, after it was discovered, it turned out it had been observed many times before, but not recognized, and there were others who made various calculations about its location which did not lead to its observation. By 1847, the planet Uranus had completed nearly one full orbit since its discovery by William Herschel in 1781, and astronomers had detected a series of irregularities in its path that could not be entirely explained by Newton´s law of gravitation. These irregularities could, however, be resolved if the gravity of a farther, unknown planet were disturbing its path around the Sun. In 1845, astronomers Urbain Le Verrier in Paris and John Couch Adams in Cambridge separately began calculations to determine the nature and position of such a planet. Le Verrier´s success also led to a tense international dispute over priority, because shortly after the discovery George Airy, at the time British Astronomer Royal, announced that Adams had also predicted the discovery of the planet. Nevertheless, the Royal Society awarded Le Verrier the Copley medal in 1846 for his achievement, without mention of Adams.

Mike mentioned that le Verrier was a rather strange man, but that when John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier eventually met up they got along famously.

Wonderful talk that I have been unable to do justice to.

Wednesday 19th September 2018

Annual General Meeting

Mike gave his Chairman´s report: He gave a glowing report thanking all the committee, but mentioned Andrew for his work on the website and the programme and Peter and Ed for their observing. He said that his highlight was the recent Family Day.

Ted gave the Treasurer´s report: He said that the news was not good as we had expenditure greater than our income.

Andrew gave his Secretary´s Report: - He said he had particularly enjoyed the Church Open Day. He was in the process of updating our website. He thanked everybody for their support.

At this point the committee was dissolved and promptly resolved with the exception of Ron who is stepping down from his role as Equipment Director, being replaced by Jim. Ron will stay on the committee as his experience should not be lost.

Mike announced that there was to be a change to the subscription charges. This has become necessary because there is a majority of members qualifying for the senior rate. So starting next year there will only be standard membership and junior membership. Mike added that if special circumstances for individuals became evident then the rules would bend.

He said that we were considering another Dark Site at Wallasea Island. This will be trialed for a year to see how it works out. There is also the possibility of charging members who go to either site. The practicality of administering this is to be assessed.

Mike closed our AGM – the longest ever.

He introduced Jane for her News Update.

Jane began by recommending us to watch the 9th September Sky at Night on iPlayer - it´s all about the asteroid missions.

The OSIRIS-REx is a NASA asteroid study and sample-return mission. Launched on 8th September 2016, its mission is to study asteroid 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid and return a sample to Earth on 24th September 2023 for detailed analysis. The material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System, its initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds that led to the formation of life on Earth. If successful OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Literally ‘National Research and Development Agency on Aerospace Research and Development’) is the Japanese national aerospace and space agency. Through the merger of three previously independent organizations, JAXA was formed on 1st October 2003. JAXA is responsible for research, technology development and launch of satellites into orbit and is involved in many more advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible manned exploration of the Moon It´s motto is One JAXA and its corporate slogan is Explore to Realize.

On January 24, 2018, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) met to exchange their views on space exploration. The agencies signed a joint statement affirming their strong mutual interest in continued future cooperation in space exploration.

Both agencies have established a strong and committed partnership throughout the many years of cooperation in all mission areas, including human exploration, Earth and space science, fundamental aeronautics and especially through the ISS Program.

Both agencies affirmed to expand this partnership in the field of space exploration, upon sharing their long-term vision for expanding human presence deeper into the solar system, by starting with extending human presence to an orbiting platform around the Moon, that can benefit from contributions and technological expertise from both agencies, acting as an important piece of infrastructure for human access to the lunar surface and eventually to Mars.

Both agencies welcome on coordinating with their governments to enable an innovative and sustainable exploration program.

BepiColombo is Europe´s first mission to Mercury. It will set off in 2018 on a journey to the smallest and least explored terrestrial planet in our Solar System. When it arrives at Mercury in late 2025, it will endure temperatures in excess of 350°C and gather data during its 1 year nominal mission, with a possible 1-year extension. The mission comprises two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). BepiColombo is a joint mission between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), executed under ESA leadership.

Jane showed us a chart of the monies various countries spent on space exploration – we were not near the top.

She said that Japan was very industrious in its involvement with space we saw a map showing the many locations of sites in Japan. All of which are open to the public.

The Parker Solar Probe is a NASA robotic spacecraft en route to probe the outer corona of the Sun. It will approach to within 8.86 solar radii from the photosphere of the Sun and will travel, at closest approach, as fast as 700,000km/h. The project was announced in the fiscal 2009 budget year. The cost of the project is US&$1.5 billion. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory designed and built the spacecraft, which was launched on 12th August 2018.

Jane showed the NASA astro pic of the day for 8th September – it was a stunning fireball video clip.

Next we had a stunning image of Jupiter taken by Junocam on 6th September.

Then we had the somewhat dissapointing news that Albireo that long known classic double star is in fact a mere line-of-sight effect!

Pluto and Charon - these two objects have been together for billions of years, in the same orbit, but they are totally different, said Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

Charon is about 750 miles (1200 kilometers) across, about half the diameter of Pluto - making it the solar system´s largest moon relative to its planet. Its smaller size and lower surface contrast have made it harder for New Horizons to capture its surface features from afar, but the latest, closer images of Charon´s surface show intriguing fine details.

Newly revealed are brighter areas on Charon that members of the mission´s Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team suspect might be impact craters. If so the scientists would put them to good use. ‘If we see impact craters on Charon, it will help us see what´s hidden beneath the surface,’ said GGI leader Jeff Moore of NASA´s Ames Research Center. ‘Large craters can excavate material from several miles down and reveal the composition of the interior.’

2014 MU69, previously designated PT1 and 1110113Y, and nicknamed Ultima Thule by the New Horizons team, is a trans-Neptunian object from the Kuiper belt located in the outermost regions of the Solar System. It was discovered by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope on 26 June 2014. The irregular shaped classical Kuiper belt object is a suspected contact binary or even close binary system and measures approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) in diameter.

In August 2015, this object was selected as the next target for the New Horizons probe.

Space Net is a UK initiative designed to clear space debris. The first experiment designed to demonstrate active space-debris removal in orbit has just reached the International Space Station aboard SpaceX´s Dragon capsule.

The RemoveDebris experiment, designed by a team led by the University of Surrey in the U.K. as part of a €15.2 million ($18.7 million), European Union (EU)-funded project, is about the size of a washing machine and weighs 100 kilograms (220 lbs.).

It carries three types of technologies for space-debris capture and active deorbiting — a harpoon, a net and a drag sail. It will also test a lidar system for optical navigation that will help future chaser spacecraft better aim at their targets.

‘For this mission, we are actually ejecting our own little cubesats,’ Jason Forshaw, RemoveDebris project manager at the University of Surrey, said last year. ‘These little cubesats are maybe the size of a shoebox, very small. We eject them and capture them with the net.’

NovaSAR will consist of four state of the art SAR satellites able to operate day and night in all weather conditions. The first of these satellites is being funded by the UK government and is currently in development.

The satellites will provide Earth observation data for environmental management and disaster monitoring.

Making synthetic aperture radar more affordable would help place the UK at the forefront of a new and exploitable global market. Economic benefit to the country will result not only from jobs in the industry building the space infrastructure and the associated supply chain, but also from the creation of business opportunities in downstream service sectors and across the wider economy.

For more information about NovaSAR visit the Surrey Satelite Technology Limited website.

Mission Facts

This will be a technology demonstration on a much smaller spacecraft than traditional SAR satellites, dramatically reducing cost. The NovaSAR system uses commercial off-the-shelf technologies.

These instruments can be used for regular monitoring of specific areas which makes them ideal for monitoring:

To finish Mike asked us where we would most like to go in space.

We had quite a varied response including:- Mars, Jupiter´s moons, Moon and even the Oort Cloud!

Great stuff even with the AGM.


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