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January 2002 Newsletter

The Monthly Meeting will be held at the usual time and place on Friday, 4th January. Presentations will be given by Bin Wu, speaking on Chinese constellations and the Chinese New Year, and Mark Adamson from Manchester A.S. will be showing his photographic work, well worth seeing, if you remember his presentation last year.    A meeting was held at the obs. on Thursday 13th December, to discuss possible purchases to be made with both existing society funds, and hypothetically what to do if our bid to The National Lottery ‘Awards for all’ fund is successful. The outcome of the meeting was posted by our Chairman, Chris Suddick on the Yahoo! Newsgroup the following day, and this subject will be discussed further at the January meeting. General areas of discussion included purchasing imaging equipment, digital projector, an 8’’ SCT, a 10’’-12’’ Dobsonian scope, digital setting circles, and improvements/repairs to observatory structures and the 14’’ scope. The bid for lottery money is being arranged by Observatory Director, Paul Clark, who has mentioned there is some urgency in coming to a decision on what to include in the application, due to the approaching end of the financial year.

Dark sky observing   The last visit ‘en masse’ to Llyn Brenig on the 8th December was very successful, as already mentioned on the ADAS website. The sky was totally clear, and many hours were spent viewing and imaging celestial objects. Graham C acquired some good images of M31, Orion and Gemini, putting his new 85 mm F1.4 lens to the test. I was less successful on this occasion due to a stupid mistake, forgetting to switch my shutter speed to ‘B’, resulting in blank prints. The following weekend was more successful for myself, and I obtained some good images of the North America Nebula, and I’m still awaiting slides of M44, 45, and the Rosette Nebula from the processing lab, fingers crossed. This night also produced a good number of Geminids meteors, the shower having peaked the previous night. Quite a few were extremely bright, one in particular arcing right across the sky to the Western horizon where it broke up into a number of separate pieces.  Paul Clark and myself also went to Llyn Brenig on the weekend of the 22nd, and after a bit of a false start due to an unexpected influx of cloud, had a good night, which was incidentally the night the Ursids Meteor Shower peaked. Some meteors were noticed, but they were fewer, and generally not as bright, certainly nowhere near as dramatic as the Geminids of the previous weekend. On a personal level, I have noticed a huge benefit going to Llyn Brenig as opposed to my back yard, which is not as badly light polluted as Altrincham. It’s like having a bigger telescope. The views I have had from there in my 8’’ Cassegrain surpass results obtained at sites in Cheshire with my previous 10’’ Newtonian. The next trip is planned for the weekends of the 5th and 12th January. Please call Graham Cliff on 0161 969 7995 No later than 3pm on the day to confirm if the trip is on or not, or if you would like to go, but need a lift there.

The fast - moving Aten class asteroid 1998 WT24 recently passed by the Earth, closest on the night of Dec.15th-16th, at a distance of approx. 1.25 million miles, or 5 Earth-Moon Distances. Moving through Gemini, Auriga and Perseus at a rate of approx. 1 degree per hour, brightest visual magnitude being 9.5.  This object is classed as a potentially hazardous asteroid, (or PHA) it’s orbit crossing the Earth’s path very closely. It moves quickly, orbiting the Sun every seven months.( it had dimmed to mag.16 within 13 days of passing the Earth) It is due for another pass (not as close) in November 2004. Below is an amateur image of the Asteroids’ trail, set against a background of static stars. Paul Brierley is the only ADAS member to report observation of the object.

Observing Notes...

Q SUN      With The passing of the shortest day on the 21st December, the Sun will again begin to rise a little earlier and set a little later, although the nights will not become significantly shorter for a while yet. Sunrise is at 08:17 on the 15th, setting at 16:23. Graham C recently posted over a photo showing sunspots on an image from the Mees white light solar obs. There have been recent warnings from Astroalert regarding Aurora, but no-one has reported anything happening locally, although the past 2 warnings have come out when the moon has been near full, making any auroral activity hard to discern.

R MOON      Currently in Virgo, Moving to Capricornus on the 13th. 6/01/02  last quarter, rising at 00:09, sets 12:10 13/1/02 New Moon, rising at 08:37,  sets 16:02 21/1/02 first quarter, rising at 11:22, sets  00:04 28/1/02 Full Moon,  rising at  15:56, sets 08:10 S MERCURY     In Capricornus, should be visible in the first part of the month, in the Southwest shortly after sunset. Rises at 09:04 and sets at 18:05 on the 15th.

T VENUS     In Sagittarius, and within 5 degrees of the sun, will not be visible this month.

UMARS     In Aquarius, moving to Pisces mid-month. Will be setting from an altitude of approx.34 degrees on the 15th, finally reaching the horizon at 22:20.

V JUPITER     In Gemini, and still visible throughout the whole of the Night, and at an altitude of approx.18 degrees by dark on the 15th, setting the following morning at 07:38. Below are times when it will be possible to view the Great Red Spot, and the Galilean lunar shadows transiting the surface of the planet:

Shadow Transits:   Great Red Spot (takes approx. 5 hours to Date   Moon   Start   Finish                                                                   cross the face of the planet, start times below) 5th         Io       23:01  01:16 7th         Io       17:29  19:44 9th       Eur.      19:06  21:55                                                                     Date        Start 13th       Io       00:55  03:10                                                                     5th           23:14 14th       Io       19:24  21:39                                                                     6th           19.05 15th     Gan.     18:17  21:21                                                                     8th           00:52, 20:43 16th     Eur.      21:43  00:32                                                                    10th         22:21 21st        Io       21:18  23:55                                                                    12th         23:59 22nd     Gan.    22:16   01:21                                                                    15th         21:29 24th      Eur.     00:20  03:08                                                                     20th        20:36 28th        Io      23:13   01:28                                                                    22nd        22:14 30th      Cal.     23:00   02:02                                                                    29th        23:00

Good seeing conditions are required to see the GRS, but it can be plainly seen with direct vision. I observed it on 1st January from my home location in an 8’’ scope and returned periodically to it during its passage across the face of the planet, to discern it’s movement.

W SATURN     In Taurus, and at an altitude of approx. 35 degrees by dark on the 15th, setting at 05:04 the following morning. The Cassini Division is easily seen in my 8’’ scope given good seeing conditions, even from my light polluted home location.

X URANUS     In Capricornus, at an altitude of approx. 12 degrees by dark, setting at 18:57.

Y NEPTUNE     In Capricornus, only 2 degrees above the horizon by dark, most probably not visible.

Z PLUTO     In Ophiuchus, at a challenging mag.13.9, will rise at 04.44, reaches an altitude of 5 degrees At approx. 05:25, being lost to the dawn twilight at 06:10 on the 15th.

Comet 19p Borrelly  moving slowly in Canes Venatici, in the general direction of Ursa Major, at a dim mag 12.2 on the 15th, is still theoretically visible, although no-one has reported a sighting. I’ve added this to my target list for the next dark sky trip, here’s a map of its movement throughout this month: If anybody has any information or announcements they would like to be included in next month's  newsletter, please email me at The links below were originally set up by Roger Livermore. We hope they are useful.

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

For the previous newsletter, click here.

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