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April 2001 Newsletter

For tonight’s meeting (Friday 6th) we welcome Ken Irvin from Salford Astronomical Society to talk about electronic imaging.  The last month has seen two new members Julie and Ken.  Julie has a Newtonian f/5 8” and has been trying out the goto capabilities of Graham C’s Celestron.  Ken McConville is rejoining, he was an active member ’some time ago’ and sends his regards to ADAS members.  He’s in Brisbane Queensland!  He won’t be able to come to the monthly meetings but as an associate member has offered to be our southern hemisphere correspondent as we extend the ‘and District‘ to Australia.  Congratulations to Sean on passing the exams to get into Altrincham Grammar, we wish you every success.  ‘Messier Marathon Man’ Paul Clark was successful in doing a Messier half-marathon using the ADAS/MIA binoculars from Llyn Brening followed by a dusk to dawn run of 101 objects, the maximum achievable from these latitudes -is this a first for the society? The council contractors have commenced repairing the observatory site and will provide hawthorns. Communications The society has doubled in size in the last year two to three years and is being quite active.  This makes it important that it stays in touch with what members want of the society and that we let each other know what’s happening.  We don’t want the society to be formal but we have come up with some suggestions on communications that should help. Responsive: Members please let committee members know your views. For junior members Sean Oldbury will act as the representative.  Please tell Sean what you want the society to do.  He will take part in committee discussions as an honorary committee member. Keep in Touch: For major issues let the chairman know. For other significant issues let the relevant committee member know and copy in the chairman as appropriate. Recommend that all committee members join Ad.Astra newsgroup. Members are encouraged to join Ad.Astra to receive news of ADAS events and news items. The newsgroup is working well now and should not produce excessive numbers of e-mails. We will produce a membership form for including optional details such as e-mail, telephone numbers, and postal address to help us keep you informed.  The chairman and treasurer (as membership secretary) will have the list. For those members not on the Internet please let us know what events and news you are interested in and we will try and keep you informed. Events such as dark-sky trips will have a co-ordinator who will inform Ad.Astra and anyone not on it that has expressed an interest in such events. To join Ad.Astra go to Don’t forget that if there is an event spread the news. An aurora, nova, new meteor shower, make a telephone call to those who may be interested. External Communications: We are all representatives of the society and it benefits us to have good relations with those we come into contact with.  For external publicity Paul Clark is the appointed officer. Earthquakes Graham Sinagola has remarked on the recent apparent correlation of earthquakes with the New Moon.  You may recall that a major earthquake in Turkey followed the solar eclipse of 1999.  Since then earthquakes have also noticeably fallen just after New Moon, such as the recent ones in El Salvador, Gujarat and Seattle.  Initially it looked coincidental but the recent pattern looks worth investigating.  Graham is now following this up with some checking on the earthquakes of the last century and the phase of the Moon at the time.  The initial data appears to show that the major earthquakes were more likely around the time of the New Moon.  We predicted the Japanese ‘quake of 24 March, Richter 6.5 UFOs Satellites continually produce a number of UFO reports and recent developments are contributing to these.  Mir has now been lost but this was bright and could flare to above mag –2.  The last three years have seen the ISS grow in size and brightness and many people have now seen it, often without knowing what it is. The Shuttle missions have given the opportunity to see it and ISS close together.  ISS can flare as the sunlight hits the very large solar panels.  The best-known ‘flarers’ are the Iridium satellites have been in the skies for four years and have produced flares up to mag –8 which is bright enough to cast a shadow.  There have been recent reports of double flares, where the flare dies down and then reappears. There are less conspicuous flares from geosynchronous satellites transmitting satellite TV.  From this latitude they occupy a belt of the sky at about declination – 5 degrees.  Usually they are about mag 10 but around the equinoxes they can flare to mag 2. This autumn should see the launch of a ‘super-flarer’; this is the experimental Cosmos Solar Sail satellite. It is expected to produce flashes perhaps reaching mag -12, the brightness of the Full Moon. It will be in a near polar orbit and an altitude of about 850 km, deploying a 30-meter solar sail.  The Solar Sail will use the pressure of sunlight to increase its orbital energy and raise its orbital altitude. The purpose of the mission is to conduct the first solar sail flight and demonstrate the technique for travelling between planets -- and someday, to the stars. Apart from the flares there are numerous other unusual sights in the sky, amongst these are the USA’s spy satellite system NOSS or ‘White Cloud’.  These are a series of triplet satellites that fly in formation and are used to get fixes on ‘enemy’ warships.  They are usually mag 6 so that under good skies they may be visible to the naked eye and can reach mag 3.  Colin Henshaw first saw a triplet in the late 70’s but was ‘warned‘ that he shouldn’t have seen them!  Orbital elements and predictions are now available to enable anyone to find them.  The older triplets have lost formation but NOSS 2-1, 2-2, and 2-3 each form a triangle that fits in the field of view of binoculars. It is quite eerie to see them fly through the stars and particularly when they go into eclipse one by one.  To get predictions the easiest way is from Heavens-Above, Go to ‘select a satellite from the database’, under satellite name enter NOSS% and select one of the later satellites. This takes you to information on the satellite and from here go to ‘passes’. From the plot of the track pick an easy to find group of stars fairly high up and watch at the appointed time using binoculars. The satellites should be right on time and if you can see stars down to mag 7 with the binoculars then you should see NOSS. OBSERVING NOTES Sun             In Pisces and Aries.  Recent large sunspots and aurora. Moon         1st Qtr 1st, Full 8th, Last Qtr 15th, New 23rd. 1st Qtr 30th. Mercury    in superior conjunction 23rd Venus        Emerging as a morning ‘star’ Mars         Rises at midnight, in Sagittarius, Moon nearby on 13th. Jupiter      In Taurus above Alderbaran, Moon nearby 25th/26th Saturn      Also in Taurus, Moon close on 25th. Uranus     Morning object in Capricornus, mag +5.8, Moon nearby on 17th. Neptune   Fainter at mag +8 in Capricornus. Pluto         In Ophuichus mag 14. Comets     McNaught-Hartley in Draco, mag 10/11 and fading.   24P Schaumasse is in Taurus mag 13 and brightening. Meteors   Lyrids 21st/ 22nd with ZHR of 10, Moon favourable Variables R Leonis at max. Delta Scorpii is normally magnitude 2.3, but slowly flared up last July and fluctuated last autumn. It is currently shining at about magnitude 1.8, more than half again its normal brightness, noticeably changing the look of the head of Scorpius. . Delta is a hot giant star of spectral type B0. It is apparently undergoing a long-term, Gamma-Cassiopeiae-type eruption and mass ejection.  Compare it with Beta Scorpii, magnitude 2.6, and Antares, magnitude 1.1.  If it stays bright for a few more months it will bring an altered Scorpius into the skies of summer evenings. Satellites  Mir has decayed but see for an image of it taken with a 10” LX200 from Altrincham!

More information from Roger Livermore on 0161-969-4507 or e-mail at Ad.Astra newsgroup at

by Rodger Livermoore

For the previous newsletter, click here.

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