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

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Wednesday 7th November 2018

Peter said that on 13/14th December we have the Geminid Meteor Shower which will peak at 08.00 on 14th so a club trip is planned for 13th - details nearer the time.

Andrew introduced MikeB for his talk: Space Exploration Technologies aka SpaceX.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp is doing business as SpaceX; it is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. SpaceX has since developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family, which both currently deliver payloads into Earth orbit.

SpaceX´s achievements include the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008), the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010), the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012), the first propulsive landing for an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2015), the first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017) and the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the sun (Falcon Heavy's payload of a Tesla Roadster in 2018). SpaceX has flown 14 resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA. NASA also awarded SpaceX a further development contract in 2011 to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon, which would be used to transport astronauts to the ISS and return them safely to Earth.

Mike said that due to his work involving him getting up close and personnel with the space industry he has been priviledged to get into both Atlantis and Discovery – we saw pics to prove it.

Mike said that Elon Musk´e;s goals were to reduce the cost of space exploration by streamlining development, improving reusability and ultimately to colonise Mars – his main goal.

Mike listed the source of funds:- $100m Elon Musk, $20m Misc Funds, $100m Private, $1b Google and Fidelity, $500m NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), $3b NASA Cargo Resupply (CRS), $3b NASA Commercial Crew Development (CCDev).

Mike showed us many stunning videos of launches of which there was a mix of successes and failures.

The rockets were recovered by landing vertically on their tails as in the old comic books in one sequence we saw two boosters landing at the same time! They could land on the launch pad or on a moored barge with uncanny accuracy.

We saw images of the various launch pads that were used.

Mike finished with the fact that the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket I the world.


Wednesday 14th November 2018

Well tonight there was a chance to hear DaveSm´s talk about Exoplanets, but it was a clear sky so we had to go and do some observing – so Dave put his talk away for the time being.

We had a good selection of scopes from Abby´s 6 inch instrument through Ed´s trusty 10 inch Dob to Ron with the club´s 17 inch Dob and Mary had her amazing bins with image stabilising capability.

I started with Ed´s instrument looking at NGC 7662 which is a planetary nebula located in Andromeda. It's also known as the Blue Snowball Nebula or Snowball Nebula and at apparent magnitude 8.6 is one of the brightest examples of its type and therefore a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers. It is positioned 0.5 degrees southwest of star 13 and mag 5.7 and was discovered by William Herschel on October 6, 1784. It's best seen from Northern Hemisphere latitudes and appears high in the sky during the months of October, November and December.

We looked at M31 the Andromeda Galaxy - with Mary´s special bins – it’s a fuzzy blob. With a scope it´s a bigger fuzzy blob. At 2.54 million light years from Earth it is the most distant naked eye object you can see in the night sky. It is incredible to see this vast object – this evening I could not quite see it naked eye but Dominic (a tad younger - could). Even a scope can only manage the bright centre that is only a fraction of its full extent.

Mars and the Moon were also great targets – Mars was made difficult due to the trees – but it´s always great to see this small world.

Messier 36 is an open cluster in the Auriga constellation. It was discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654. M36 is at a distance of about 4,100 light years away from Earth and is about 14 light years across. There are at least sixty members in the cluster. The cluster is very similar to the Pleiades cluster (M45) and if it were the same distance from Earth it would be of similar magnitude.

Messier 37 is the richest cluster in Auriga. It is the brightest of three open clusters and was discovered by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna before 1654. M37 was missed by French astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil when he rediscovered M36 and M38 in 1749. French astronomer Charles Messier independently discovered it in September 1764 but all three clusters were recorded by Hodierna.

Messier 38 is an open cluster in Auriga. It was discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654 and independently found by Le Gentil in 1749. Open cluster M36 and M37, also discovered by Hodierna, and often grouped together with M38 its distance is about 3,480 lya from Earth.

The Double Cluster is the common name for the naked-eye open star clusters NGC 869 and NGC 884 in Perseus. These star clusters lie at a distance of 7,500 light years.

There are more than 300 blue-white super-giant stars in each of the clusters and both are approaching Earth at a speed of 24 miles per second.

The Pleiades also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45 are an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky.

The cluster is dominated by hot blue and luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. A faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster but is now thought likely to be an unrelated foreground dust cloud in the interstellar medium through which the stars are currently passing.

Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. It has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System it is just a delight to see this distant world as a distinct bluish disc.

Gamma Aries (Ed is very fond of double stars) is a binary star in the northern constellation of Aries. The magnitude is 3.86 which is visible to the naked eye and makes this the fourth-brightest member of Aries. Based upon parallax measurements obtained during the Hipparcos mission the distance is 164ly.

Great fun.

Wednesday 21st November 2018

Andrew said that next week we have a talk from Mike on material from space or something similar. He added that he was looking for ‘volunteers’ to give talks in the coming programme.

Peter said he has a free tripod to give away – we saw images of it, he said it was well made with adjustable feet.

He also said there was Comet 2018V1 low in ESE at 05.30 in Virgo - it was found by Arizona comet hunter Don Machholz - he did it again! He discovered his 12th comet only two mornings ago. Set your alarm, grab your scope, and take a look.

With all the automated searches busily looking for anything crawling across the sky, it´s a wonder an amateur can still discover a comet. Yet that´s exactly what happened when Don Machholz, the most successful living visual comet hunter, visually picked up a new comet in Virgo near the break of dawn from his Colfax, California home. Two Japanese observers — Shigehisa Fujikawa and Masayuki Iwamoto — independently spotted the object around the same time and potentially will have their names added to the comet&acte;s final, official name.

Peter said it had taken Don 250hours of looking. We saw a sketch Peter had drawn plus a pic which showed a good ion tail and a faint dust one.

Mike introduced Ed for his talk: An Introduction to visual Observing.

Ed began by asking the question ‘Why do it?’ when it´s easier to get images from the internet and do imaging yourself. He said it was very rewarding to set out and find an object he found the preparation in planning was good fun.

He emphasized the need for warm clothing – always take more than you think you will need.

Second question was ‘How?’. The most important device was your eyes they were great for the planets and their motion against the background stars.

However when it came to optical aids binoculars were up front as being pretty much essential. The power jump from unaided to 7 times for his pair was the very large change and perhaps the biggest and easiest there was - he said you could go up to 10 times but this was the most for hand held. You would also need a Planisphere and a basic sky atlas.

The next step he had to show was a Vixen 80mm refractor – he had his set up at the front on a tripod to show us. He said this was a big jump up from the bins beyond this the improvements were less remarkable. It was mounted on a simple tripod and moved in alt /AZ or up and down and to the side.

The next instrument we saw was his favourite an 8inch Dobsonian Newtonian reflector which is also alt/az.

The next scope belongs to Len and Chris and is another Newtonian reflector but this time mounted equatorially. This means that with the major axis pointing at the Pole Star and the angle set to 52.50 you could follow an object with only one motion required. He emphasized that for visual observing the polar alignment was not too fussy. He added that with this set up it was sometimes necessary to rotate the tube in its rings to get the eyepiece in the correct position.

His next instrument was pretty high tech. a Meade ETX90 with GoTo that had been kindly given to the club by the wife of Bruce who was a keen member until he passed away. (It carries a plaque to commemorate this). Ed said it was a Maksutov design which meant that despite its very compact form, has the longest focal length of the instruments on show. He mentioned that the device had a very large in built catalogue of objects that it could find – once it was set up!

He said the next thing needed was the accessories – all the paraphernalia – such as eyepieces, sky atlas etc – he thoroughly recommended a case such as his trusty aluminium job that he had compartmentised so everything had a place and could be found even in the dark.

How to do it? He used the club’s overhead projector to show a simulation of the Plough constellation and explained how the technique of star-hopping could be put to good use. He specifically showed how to find the Owl nebula, M101 and Mars.

He said that another way to find stuff was to use a scope's setting circles – a scope can be set up to the position given by a star atlas and found that way.

He mentioned that dobs could be equipped with Go-To capability these days as Ron has equipped the club´s 16 inch.

Where from? Your garden was a great place to start he said the club has two dark sites (He personally signed up the Wallasea Island one this very morning). Which were available for club events as published in our programme or the various specials.

He handed out a map with printed details of the latest site for everyone to keep.

Totally delightful.

Wednesday 28th November 2018

28th November 2018

Andrew said that next week we have ‘Explorers of the Night Skies’ with Martine and others.

Ted said that we were still waiting for some ‘members’ to pay their subs.

Mike introduced Ed who handed out a chart of the close approach of Mars to Neptune on 7th Dec.

Ed spoke about our new Dark Site at Wallasea – in the near futures club trips were planned for the Geminid Meteor Shower on 13/14th Dec. It was not clear yet which site would be used – perhaps both, but nearer the time this would be decided.

Mike introduced Peter who said that the comet 46P/Wirtanen is a short-period comet with an orbital period of 5.4 years. He said that was it would be visible shortly. The comet is relatively small in size with an estimated diameter of just 1.2 kilometres. The object was the original target for ESA´s Rosetta spacecraft. It is currently in Cepheus the Whale at about 21.00 but will be moving into Taurus and getting brighter.

Mike said he was giving the talk this evening : Collecting Space II

Mike said that Cartophilly was the name for someone who collected cigarette cards. Steve was such a person.

Mike said his subject was about a set of 50 cards issued by WD and HO Wills called Romance of the Heavens.

These cards were and still are very collectable and they can be mounted in special cases where the image on the front and the words on the back ca both be displayed courtesy of a special case with the cards mounted in a frame such that both sides can be seen in the double fronted case.

  1. Halley´s Comet which was the first to be correctly predicted to return in 1531, 1607 and 1757.
  2. Formation of the Moon – there was a thought at the time that the moon was thrown off the Earth by its rapid rotation!
  3. Neap tides when the Sun and Moon pull from different directions.
  4. High tides when Sun and Moon pull in the same direction.
  5. Meteor showers and mentions the involvement of the Earth crossing the track of a comet.
  6. Lunar Corona and Glories which are caused by defraction in our atmosphere.
  7. Lunar Craters.
  8. Craters formation – they were wrong on this one - they were thought to be volcanic in origin, but following the lunar missions we know they are caused by impacts.
  9. Earth as it would appear from the moon – 13 times bigger.
  10. Earthshine – the Earth is 30 times brighter than the Moon and illuminates a new Moon.
  11. Mock moons, haloes and glories.
  12. Moon phases.
  13. Moon surfaces.
  14. Dumbbell Nebula and the Ring Nebula they realised it was a sphere of matter.
  15. Spiral nebulae – they were confused by them they thought our solar system was a spiral nebula itself.
  16. Inner planets.
  17. Outer planets.
  18. Jupiter.
  19. Mars – they thought there were seasonal changes caused by vegetation and that the sky there was blue, but in fact it’s red but blue at sunset whereas ours is redder at sunset.
  20. Skipped
  21. Surface of Mercury - they thought it had an atmosphere.
  22. Saturn.
  23. Saturn´'s Rings.
  24. Saturn´s rings two views.
  25. Phases of Venus.
  26. Surface of Venus.
  27. Skipped
  28. Cassiopeia and Pole Star.
  29. Composition of a star – the science of spectroscopy allowed the make up to be understood.
  30. Evolution of a star.
  31. Two giant stars Betelgeuse and Aldebaran.
  32. Leo.
  33. Milky Way.
  34. Orion.
  35. Pleiades.
  36. Pole Star and the Plough.
  37. Skipped
  38. Variable Stars.
  39. Aurora Australis.
  40. Aurora Borealis.
  41. Cause of the Aurora.
  42. Polar Corona.
  43. Electrical discharges from the Sun.
  44. Skipped
  45. Eclipse of the Sun from the Moon.
  46. Midnight Sun.
  47. Rainbows and ‘Spectre of the Brocken ‘. This is where in mountainous areas an individual can see their shadow surrounded by a rainbow against the background.
  48. olar Prominences.
  49. Typical sunspots with their umbra and penumbra.
  50. Zodiacal Light this is pyramid of light seen after sunset.
  51. Fascinating.

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