January 2001 Newsletter

The Newsletter of the Altrincham and District Astronomical Society. Society News January 2001. Tonight’s meeting (5th January) we hope to have Mark Adamson, subject Astrophotography. The Christmas quiz was an outstanding success thanks to the organisers Chris, Chris and Derek and Don together with our resident caterers the Oldburys (a question for Sean-where were the Keane prawn sandwiches?).  The event was memorable for seeing other societies join us, particularly the far-travelling Gwynedd team from Bangor, and the prizes for all teams given by Gavin.  It did of course also produce the right result as the Hale-Boppers ran in as narrow winners.  I’d feared a home loss due our lack of training and our waterlogged pitch.  But now the ADAS trophy sits proudly (!) on my sideboard and Sean, Paul, Colin S and I have our NASA T-shirt prizes. Kevin won the audience participation constellation quiz and the collective of Joan, Helen and Kirsty won the cartoon caption competition (click HERE to have a look at the cartoon AND their winning caption!?).  The annual European Astrofest takes place in London at Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall Feb 2nd and 3rd.  Away from observing, Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs made a rare excursion into astronomy when it shipwrecked Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, the discoverer of pulsars (click HERE to access the page of photos from  her IAU lecture in August).  In addition to the tale of discovery which some of us heard in August she also gave insights into the status of women in science during the 60’s and 70’s.  From a Quaker perspective she gave a gentle balance of religion and science, which accommodated both.  Also at last there has been recognition for Patrick Moore who received a knighthood in the New Year’s honours list for his services in popularising science.  Indeed there can be few who have had such an influence in any field. Lapwing Lane. Paul Clark confirms this site at Monks Heath near Chelford, 822 724 as a good dark sky site. ‘After the December meeting I drove out to the site at the end of the lane overlooking the disused quarry and woodland.   Keeping at a reasonable elevation (above 30 degrees) I could see Planetary Nebulae down to mag. 13 and 12.8, Open Clusters to 11.5 & 10.2, Galaxies to a surface brightness of 13.6 and a diffuse Globular Cluster at mag. 10.4.  All seen with a 140mm Mak-Cass.  Many of the showpiece objects showed up very well. The Orion and Eskimo nebulas, the Messier clusters etc. I set my telescope up on the road, not over the gate. This was more than adequate with the trees providing shelter from the wind and some of the Manchester light pollution.  It is about 30 minutes drive from Timperley and a good alternative to the exposed and cosmopolitan Teggs Nose.  Promisingly Don has found a good site. December Observing. December saw some observing between the clouds and rain with Graham C using his digital video camera on the 14” Newtonian.  Good images were obtained of the Moon, Jupiter’s cloudbelts, and Saturn.  A case is being made to purchase a colour system for £130 from Peter Drew of the Amateur Astronomy Centre plus an additional monitor for the clubhouse.  A two monitor system would enable the thin-blooded society members to sit in the clubhouse watching the screen whilst the hardy workers find and focus the objects from the observatory roof out in the elements.  I still get this impression of us moving towards imitating the Royle family, all sat around watching television.  The fact that they live within our catchment area just compounds the image.  As was sensed Christmas did give some good observing with the Moon out the way. Our pre-Christmas observing gave a good night with the 14” and Paul’s Maksutov.  There was an Ursid on the night of the maximum and Kevin set the scope up with good contrast views of the Orion Nebula and of the open cluster M36 in Auriga with a field full of stars and a bright red star at the centre.  Paul set about a festive tour where we tried to find objects with a seasonal connection. We first got the Rosette nebula cluster NGC 2244 near Betelgeuse and followed it with the Christmas Tree cluster NGC 2264, in Monoceros near 15 Mon.  Next was the Snowball cluster, Cassiopeia followed by the Eskimo planetary nebula, NGC 2392 near delta Gem. Then the imagination ran out, - any other suggestions?  Mark took images of Jupiter and the Orion Nebula using a hand-held digital camera, the Nikon Coolpix 880, on the 14”.  For more of Mark’s images visit his very popular site at http://www.carmine.demon.co.uk/astro/astro.htm.  The Christmas holiday did bring some clear skies and excellent views of the major planets, and the star fields of Orion and Monoceros.  The national press and BBC gave good predictions of the International Space Station, which must have meant that many more would have seen it.  The ISS has increased in brightness since the fitting of the larger solar panels, though the difference is variable depending on their angle relative to us. TV and radio gave good coverage of the passes.   The morning of the 27th gave a first sighting of the long period comet McNaught-Hartley at mag +8 near alpha Librae. Party. In considering a joint event with other societies we are now planning to hold an August meteor watch for the Perseids from Teggs Nose.  The shower peaks at 15h on the Sunday 12th so a watch on the night of Saturday 11th should be productive - skies willing.  There is the option of a BBQ if we have the equipment and there are no local byelaws against it.  We have plenty of time to contact other societies via NWGAS and to make arrangements. The Astronomy Centre star party takes place on Easter Saturday George Alcock. The death of George Alcock has been announced by the RAS (according to Colin H, FRAS).  He was a successful amateur astronomy responsible for comet and novae discoveries. The most famous of these was Nova Delphini, also known as HR Delphini.  Many of us will remember seeing the nova in 1967 when it rose to +3.5 before slowly fading.  It is currently about mag 12.5 and still within reach of amateur ‘scopes.  It is at RA 20 40.1 Dec + 18 59  Starchart from me. Comet C/2000 WM 1(LINEAR) A comet discovery by LINEAR has given us the promise of another naked-eye comet later this year. C/2000 WM 1 was originally thought to be asteroidal when first picked up on November 16 but by a month later was seen at mag 17 with a 10" coma and a broad, faint tail some 10"-20" long in p.a. 45 deg.  It will only come within binocular range during October and November when it will be swooping south through Perseus, Aries and Cetus brightening to around mag 4 or 5 as it moves well south and is lost to us. OBSERVING NOTES. Earth   At perihelion 4d 09h, 147 million km. Sun   In Sagittarius / Capricornus. Moon  Total eclipse on 9th, totality between 1948-2052, it enters the umbra at 1842 and leaves it at 2200. Click HERE to access a SkyMap Pro7 composite of the predicted eclipse detail. There are also occultations visible at the same time. ZC 1125 mag +6.5 at 1947, ZC 1129 mag 5.3 at 20.21 but marginal if visible from here, Timperley.  1st Qtr 2nd, Full 9th, Last Qtr 16th, New 24th. Mercury  Visible in the evening skies, greatest eastern elongation on 28th, near the Moon on 25th and 26th Sets about 1.5 hrs after sunset about the 20th, low in the south-west. Venus Brilliant object mag –4.5 in the western evening skies, greatest elongation of 47 degrees on the 17th. Near the Moon on 28th. Mars  Morning object and brightening to mag 1, moves from Virgo into Libra by the end of the month. Rises by 2am at end of the month. Moon nearby on the 18th. Jupiter, mag –2.5 in Taurus, stationary point 27th. Sets by 3am, Moon close on the 6th. Saturn mag 0 also in Taurus, stationary point 27th. Moon nearby on the 5th. Uranus +6 and very low in evening twilight in Capricornus Neptune +8 and also in Capricornus Pluto  Emerging as a difficult morning object in Ophiuchus.

Meteors  The Quadrantids took place on the 3rd but there are no reasonable showers now till April’s Lyrids.  However this year should be a good year for meteors with the Moon missing the major showers, unlike last year.  It will also be a year to try for the Leonids, which could storm in November. Comets  C1999 T1 McNaught-Hartley is now visible in the morning skies moving northwards in Serpens at around mag +8 and so within binocular range Asteroids 16 Psyche +10.1 in Taurus and 64 Angelina  +10.5 in Gemini. Variables Mira-type variable Chi Cygni at maximum of about +5 ~24th. Satellites Mir is visible in the early evening for the first part of the month.  This could be the last chance to see the space station before it is due to be brought down in February.  It has been in our skies for the last fourteen years and has probably become the most seen man-made object.  Mir is due to re-enter between 26 & 28 February (hopefully) east of Australia.

The Sun from SOHO. (Dave T. recommended)!: http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov

The Sun as observed this day  through the Mees white light

telescope in Hawaii: http://www.solar.ifa.hawaii.edu/MWLT/mwlt.html

Stars from ADAS's Sky Map 8 planisphere: http://www.adas.u-net.com/skymaps.html

Planets via Sky and Telescope ‘What’s Up?’: http://www.skypub.com/sights/sights.shtml 

Asteroids via Heavens-Above: http://www.heavens-above.com 

Comets BAA: http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~jds

Comets NASA: http://encke.jpl.nasa.gov/whats_visible.html

Meteors  the IMO calendar via: http://www.imo.net

Aurora alert  York University: http://www.aurorawatch.york.ac.uk/

Satellites from Heavens Above: http://www.heavens-above.com 

Variable stars, novae and supernovae AAVSO: http://www.aavso.org

by Rodger Livermoore

For the previous newsletter, click here.

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