June 2001 Newsletter

Tonight’s meeting (1st June) is scheduled to be Chris Heapy and Paul Brierley.  (editor's note Chris and Paul were unable to make it. Dr. Colin Steele stood in with a talk on "Calendrical Systems", see him on the June late breaking news page by clicking HERE). At the time of going to press it was not known what the subject would be but is likely to be on observational astronomy and imaging.  There are no formal meetings for July and August; the next meeting will be on Friday September 7th at 8pm prompt when we will have moved to the upstairs room of the Timperley Village Hall.  That meeting will be the AGM and there will be a talk by Mike Molnar on Pluto.  Paul Clark got an item into this month’s Astronomy Now society page on the Manchester Airport Community Fund award.  The working party took place on 5 May and we managed to tidy out the meeting room, do some painting and re-carpet.  There were some repairs to the external structures and clearing and burning of rubbish.  The fence has been redone and is much more substantial, whilst some of the late-planted hawthorns have taken and should grow quite quickly to give us back the hedge in 3-4 years.  Paul has been arranging with contractors to do the hard-standing- one problem was that they wanted to demolish the new fence and hedge that it had taken us so long to get fixed!  For the next session we’ll need a newsletter editor.  Due to work and studying the current incumbent has a lack of time, energy and inspiration. I’ll still be able to help but anyone interested please contact chairman Chris or myself.

May Observing Reports As hoped for, many of us managed to see Mercury and we had two good Fridays at the obs where we observed it firstly to the right of the brighter Jupiter and then well above it the following week.  Several members at other locations with larger telescopes were able to see the phases of the planet.  Chris Heapy and Paul Brierley have been active with the 16” Dobsonian and Paul’s new 12” Orion out at Siddington.  Paul Clark and Colin H joined them for an evening of galaxies, globulars and planetary nebulae.  Our other dark sky sites remain out of bounds with the continuing Foot and Mouth restrictions.  Elsewhere John Tipping’s homemade and very portable 6” Newtonian has seen first light.  He has already made some difficult observations of the features of Mars with the planet being very low in the sky.  The runes finally held good for the Aten 1999KW4.  Most of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend was clouded-out.  However on Monday 28th the weather cleared, I dashed back from Everest (the Imax film) and was joined by Paul C, Graham C, Peter and Alison Ward.  We got in the midnight hour before the clouds came in again.  The asteroid was visible in the OMC140 and 10” LX200, gradually moving through the head of Serpens at about mag 11.5 var.  As Paul noted it moved quite perceptibly in a minute and was ahead of the 1 April orbital elements.  Radar observations have just found the asteroid to be a binary; one half is at least three times the size of the other.  Both are less than 2 or 3 km across.  It has a very peculiar light curve with brightness fluctuations of 0.1 to 0.2 mag, in about three hours.  Reports now in from Don and John T having got the Aten with 8” SCT and 6” Newtonian on 28/29th.

Diary Dates Gatley Festival July 1.  Priority -Tombola and help needed to staff the ADAS stall. Perseids Star Party currently scheduled for the ADAS Observatory Saturday August 12 UK Space Centre, Leicester to be announced for July/August. Also considered is a trip to Manchester Printworks to see the Imax space film.   During the summer stay tuned to ADAS webpages and Ad.Astra newsgroups.  We will continue to meet at the obs on Friday evenings and at the Quarry Bank PH on Wednesdays from about 9.30.

NorthWest GAS Meeting A meeting of the NWGAS took place on 19th May, hosted by Gynedd AS at the Gard Fon pub, Y Felinheli which overlooks the Menai Straits. There were representatives from Gynedd AS, Chester AS, Liverpool AS, Manchester AS, Don Utton and Graham Cliff on behalf of ADAS. The Campaign for Dark Skies continues with some success, it seems that potential financial savings has the greatest impact. The Federation of Astronomical Societies (FAS) is considering setting up an E-Group for news etc. We mentioned that we already have a group (Ad.Astra) and that it works well. The premium for public liability insurance is likely to increase to around £15 due to a change in insurer. Manchester AS in collaboration with Salford AS are embarking on a group project to make five 16" Dobsonians.  Liverpool reminded everyone that they are holding a convention on 20th October to which we are all invited. There are a couple of slots open for anyone interested in giving a 20-minute talk.  Several societies have visited the factory of Liverpool Telescope Technologies and impressed.  We mentioned that we’d been to Llyn Brenig several times, thought it was the best dark sky site around, and asked if there was any interest in a joint NWGAS session some time - probably late summer. Liverpool, Gwynedd and Chester all said yes. It was agreed that details would be worked out later and it would have to be finalised on the day.  Gerard Gilligan (LAS) said he would try to send details of their local contact. We returned by way of Llyn Brenig, Graham not having seen it before, and Gerard had described in more detail where they go. The sheltered site first found by Paul is now blocked off with a padlocked gate. The exposed site '1' (53deg 6.44' N, 3deg 32.16'W) has a temporary 'foot and mouth' keep out notice. The LAS site (53deg6.25'N, 3deg 31.2'W), which is about a mile away, is at the end of a 1/2-mile long narrow but well paved track. There is plenty of space for around half a dozen cars, a couple of picnic benches, and a locked toilet building. The horizons are reasonable but are somewhat limited by trees and hills however it is clearly more sheltered than the exposed site. I would think a good alternative if it was too windy at '1'.  The next meeting will be hosted by MAS at their Godlee Observatory on 15th September. Varuna   Last November this object was found which was perhaps the largest in the Kuiper Belt except for Pluto and its moon Charon.  Combining data obtained from two different types of telescope, the researchers have calculated Varuna's diameter to be 900 km (550 miles). Varuna's large size threatens Pluto's status as a fully-fledged planet as it now seems to be merely the largest of a swarm of similar large worlds in deep space. Until now, Pluto and its moon Charon were the only members of this ancient ring of icy bodies for which accurate sizes were known. At 900 km across, Varuna is only slightly smaller than Charon (1,200 km), the tiny moon that orbits Pluto (2,400 km). The data also indicates that Varuna is more reflective than most other small worlds for which accurate measurements are available - though it is less reflective than Pluto or Charon. Curiously the object had been photographed in 1953 but not recognised for what it was. Scientists say that Varuna goes some way to vindicate the views held by the late US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. He discovered Pluto in 1930 looking for what he called Planet X. He continued his search after its discovery believing there were other worlds out there waiting to be discovered.  Astronomers are hopeful that further discoveries could be made in the Kuiper Belt, following the launch of the Shuttle Infrared Telescope Facility. It will be deployed in 2002 and is expected to measure the diameters and reflectivities of dozens of Kuiper Belt objects. OBSERVING NOTES Sun   Solstice on 21st and eclipse visible from South Atlantic and parts of southern Africa. Moon  Full 6th, Last Qtr 14th, New 21st,Last Qtr 28th . Mercury  Not visible, inferior conjunction 16th. Venus  Brilliant morning object mag –4.3, max elongation 46 degrees on 8th. Moon nearby on 18th. Mars  At opposition on 13th. Very bright at mag –2.4 but low on border of Sagittarius and Ophuichus. Moon is nearby on 5th and 6th. Jupiter   In conjunction with the Sun on 14th. Saturn Too near the Sun to be observable. Uranus In Capricornus rising by 2300, mag 5.8, Moon nearby on 11th. Neptune Also in Capricornus , mag 7.8 Pluto  In Ophuichus mag 13.7, probably needs a 10” telescope to see it from these light-polluted skies.  As Mike will be talking about the planet in September has any member actually seen it?  Last year I imaged it with a 200mm telephoto camera lens on a CCD but have not caught it visually.  This year Philip Masding and Mike Tyrrell have imaged it with a geostationary satellite trailing across the field. Satellites International Space Station visible in the first couple of weeks in the month.

Click HERE to access May newsletter.

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

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