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December 2001 Newsletter

The December meeting will be held at Timperley Village Hall, 8 pm, Friday 7th December. Instead of the usual monthly meeting format, there will be the yearly Christmas Quiz, featuring members of ADAS, Macclesfield A.S., Chester A.S., and Gwynedd A.S. The quiz will cover a variety of Astronomical topics, and the prize will once again be the coveted ‘Graham Sinagola Silver (foil) Trophy’, lovingly crafted by the man himself, with no regard to time or cost (it didn't cost anything!). Will ADAS keep hold of it for another year, or will one of the visiting teams manage to snatch it away from the incumbents?  Come! ‘The only way we won’t win this will be by losing’…. Vinnie Jones

News and Events

   The last two dark sky trips were unfortunately cancelled due to unsuitable weather, also in the last month cloud has ruined opportunities to see two lunar occultations of Saturn, and also the Leonids maximum.  On a more positive note, Paul Brierley has suggested a visit to Tegg’s Nose on the 13th December, hopefully to view the Geminids maximum, and dark sky trips are planned for the 8th or 15th, and will be either at Llyn Brenig, or more local if the weather doesn’t look too promising. Check the dark sky page on the ADAS web site or call Graham Cliff or Don Utton at around 3 pm on the proposed dates to confirm they are on.  Graham Cliff has been exploring the feasibility of having a live web cam link with a site in Wales, to enable us to check on weather conditions before leaving. Although there is already a site that shows live web cam pictures from Wales, (see thedark sky pagefor its URL) but a dedicated link could possibly be better for us in terms of picture quality and location.

   A computer has been kindly donated to the Society by the Pharmacological Department at Manchester University, who are upgrading their current systems. It is now installed and working at the obs., (thanks to Ged Birbeck, for help in the ‘working’ part of this) and has a donated copy of Sky Map Pro 5 installed. Does anybody have a later version they could donate? It would be nice to eventually see a variety of planetarium software installed, enabling us all to explore the individual merits/weaknesses of each program.  We can now also explore the delights of ‘armchair astronomy’ (i.e. in the warm) at the obs., by attaching a web cam to the 14’’ Newtonian, and watching the results on a monitor inside. Any volunteers to be outside with the scope?….

The Christmas Tree Cluster can be found in Monoceros, adjacent to a mag. 4.6 star, S  Monocerotis, which  is also very close to The Cone Nebula, within NGC 2264. The cone is a dark section of the larger nebula, being 20 arc min. long. Staying on a festive note in Monoceros is The Rosette Nebula, NGC 2237, huge at 80x60 arc min, and containing the mag.+4.8 open cluster, NGC 2244. All these objects can be found using Betelgeuse as a starting point, please see the map below. Monoceros encompasses a wealth of open clusters as listed in the SAC catalogue, you can find a complete database of observable SAC objects in the files section of the ADAS News group, available for download.Moving to Andromeda, NGC 7662, The Blue Snowball, a mag 8.6 planetary nebula, it has dimensions of 17x14 arc seconds. The object is named after its striking blue colour.  See Mark Crossley’s web site (which is listed in the ADASweb site surf links page) for his recent web cam images. Finally finishing festive frivolities for now, last, and most tenuous, The Cork Nebula in Perseus, a.k.a. the mag. 11 planetary Nebula M76.  All these objects can currently be seen in the night sky. I’ve had a look in two different common names listings for any objects with some kind of Yuletide connection, but there don’t seem to be any more. Any missing?

Above is a map for finding the Blue Snowball. The circle represents the field of view in 7x50 binoculars.

Sky Diary

Planetary and Solar rise/set times are given for the 15th of the month, UT. On 15 December, dusk will give way to darkness at 18:02, becoming twilight at 06:09 the following morning.

Q SUN     Currently in Sagittarius, rising at 08:18 and setting at 15:52, daylight time will continue to decrease until Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year as the sun will reach furthest south below the northern horizon on this date) on the 21st. There have been two alerts this month for Earth bound coronal ejecta, and the resultant auroral activity. Possibly the Sun has past the peak of its eleven year sunspot cycle, or it could just be that no solar flares or coronal mass ejections have come in Earth’s direction.

R MOON     There was an occultation of Saturn by the Moon on the night of the 1st at 02:22, lasting for just over an hour did anyone manage to glimpse this through the clouds?

Last Quarter on the 7th, rising 23:34 sets 13:11 New Moon on the 14th, rising 07:46 sets 15:39 First Quarter on the 22nd, rising 12:35 and not setting Full Moon on the 30th, rising 15:36 sets 08:37

S MERCURY     Will be too close to the Sun to observe throughout this month, starts to reach greater elongation in early January.

T VENUS     Closer to the Sun than Mercury, Venus will not be visible this month.

U MARS     In Aquarius, and by darkness will be setting from an altitude of approx. 23 degrees, setting at 22:08.

V JUPITER     In Gemini, will already be 6 degrees above the horizon by dark fall. The giant will be visible throughout the night, setting at 09:54, well after Sunrise. Listed below are dates and times when it will be possible to view the Great Red Spot, and satellite shadow transits:

The GRS takes approx.            Shadow Transits: 5 hours to cross Jupiter’s disc. Here are start times:                     Dec. 3,  Ganymede,  18:23 - 21:21 Dec. 8,   00:22 and 20:13             Dec. 5,          Io,       02:28 – 04:42 Dec. 10, 02:00 and 21:51             Dec. 6,         Io,        20:56 – 23:11 Dec. 12, 03:38 and 23:29             Dec. 10, Ganymede,  22:21- 01:20 Dec. 13, 19:20                            Dec. 11,    Callisto,    17:01 – 19:26 Dec. 15, 01:07 and 20:58             Dec. 13,        Io,      22:50 – 01:05 Dec. 17, 22:36                            Dec. 15,    Europa,   21:58 – 00:46 Dec. 20, 00:14 and 20:05             Dec. 18, Ganymede, 02:19 -05:20 Dec. 22, 21:43                            Dec. 21,       Io,       00:44 – 02:59 Dec. 24, 23:21                            Dec. 22,      Io,        19:12 – 21:27 Dec. 27, 00:59 and 20:50             Dec. 23,    Europa,   00:35 – 03:23 Dec. 29, 22:28                            Dec. 28,      Io,         02:38 – 04:53

W SATURN     In Taurus, Saturn will be 24 Degrees above the horizon by dark, and will be visible all night, setting at 07:16.  Saturn was occulted by the Moon on the night of 1 December, but was not seen in Manchester or North Cheshire due to cloud.

X URANUS     In Capricornus, mag. 5.9 Uranus will be at an altitude of 17 degrees by dark, and will have set by 20:51.

YNEPTUNE     In Capricornus, mag. 8 Neptune will be at an altitude of 8 degrees by dark, setting over an hour earlier than Uranus, at 19:28.

Z PLUTO     In Ophiuchus, Pluto is not presently visible from our latitude.

Comet 2000 WM1 Linear has brightened, and Paul C has mentioned it as an easy binocular sighting from Sale. As it moves closer to the Sun, the tail should become more apparent.  Here’s a map of it’s track across the sky for the coming month:  (as you can see, it won’t be visible for much longer!)

Meteor Showers     The Geminid meteor shower will reach its peak on the 13th and Paul Brierley has suggested a trip to Tegg’s Nose to watch. The Ursid shower will reach its peak on the 22nd, Moonlight will partially obscure this event, which usually displays sparse rates. The Taurids will continue till the end of the month.

Click HERE for November Newletter.

(The links below have been copied over from Roger's December newsletter last year).

The Sun from SOHO. (Dave T. recommended)!:

The Sun as observed this day  through the Mees white light

Stars from ADAS's Sky Map 8 planisphere:

Planets via Sky and Telescope ‘What’s Up?’: 

Asteroids via Heavens-Above: 

Meteors  the IMO calendar via:

Aurora alert  York University:

Satellites from Heavens Above: 

Variable stars, novae and supernovae AAVSO:

by Dave Timperley

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