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March 2001 Newsletter

At tonight's meeting (Friday 2nd March), Colin Steele (congratulations on the new addition to the family) will be speaking on Meteor Astronomy. Paul Clark will also be demonstrating planetarium software.  This month's newsletter has been edited by Dave Timperley, standing in for Roger, who hasn't been very well, but is happily now on the mend.

Dark Sky Observing The past month has seen more visits to both Tegg's Nose and Llyn Brenig by ADAS members. Friday 16th saw 10 members visiting Tegg's Nose:  Don, Paul, Peter, Geoff, Graham and Pauline, Kevin and Norman, Mark and Chris. Here is a short extract from Graham Cliff's report: 'Those that went got there disappointed. We were met with mist, cold and poor night sky visibility. But it just got better. By the time we looked at M42 through the 20x100 binoculars, the only word that described the view was STUNNING!' I had visited Tegg's' twice that week myself, and with the Skysensor now behaving properly, concentrated on a search through the Messier galaxies in Leo, Virgo and Coma Berenices, with a lot of first sightings for me; two other first sightings were Ganymede's shadow transiting the face of Jupiter on Mon. 12th, and Io on Sat. 17th. Information on these events is available in all the popular monthly astronomy publications, and, for myself, are definitely in the 'not to be missed' list. There have also been 2 visits to Llyn Brenig, an excellent dark site in North Wales. It is easily 1.5 (perhaps 2) magnitudes darker than Tegg's', although the tree line makes for a more limited range of objects to view. Don Utton has been back during daylight and apparently found a slightly more open spot, with the downside of a little sky glow on the horizon, perhaps from Colwyn bay, or Liverpool. Friday 23rd saw 4 members visiting. A quick note from Roger: 'On the 23rd Don, Colin H, Paul C and Roger went to Llyn Brenig. Open clusters, galaxies, nebulae and planetaries. Colin was busy doing variable star estimates including rho Cas back from last year's dramatic fade, and eta Gem where he compared visual and binocular estimates.' It has been suggested to make more frequent visits to both regularly used sites, perhaps along the lines of Tegg's' on the Friday around the Moons' final quarter, and Llyn Brenig around the time of the New Moon, to take advantage of the more distant site at its darkest.

Messier Month March is the best month for observing Messier objects. Theoretically, it is just possible to see all of them from the UK, although Paul Clark, a particularly knowledgeable observer, has commented that to get 100 would be an achievement. With dark sky trips become more frequent and successful, it is suggested that we have a couple of attempts at 'The Messier Marathon' this month. Again, the first could be Tegg's' Nose around the last quarter, and Llyn Brenig around the time of the New Moon. Perhaps there are some of us who will attempt the full marathon from dusk to dawn.

New Binoculars and other Equipment Both Dave and Roger once again have functioning Goto 10” telescopes following recent repairs (fingers crossed that'll remain so).  Roger thanks Stockport Binocular and Telescope Centre for their chasing. Dave was none too impressed that it took four revisits to Orion Optics to rectify his mount problems, although everything is now working well. Mark Crossley also now has a Meade LX200 that has been kitted out with a power supply enabling it to be operated mobile.  Mark has gone a step further by setting it up for control from a very compact palmtop using The Sky planetarium program.

The new 20x100 binoculars have been a big success with everybody who has used them, with their light gathering capability and wide field of view. Below are extracts from reports published on the ADAS web site by Don Utton and Paul Clark:

Don: The Orion Nebula was impressive, best seen with averted vision and definitely worth another look at from a dark sky site. Jupiter was bright as usual with the four Galilean Moons tightly grouped around it. Not far away the Pleiades were the best view of the evening, the 2 1/2 degree field of view really showing them off well. Finally a quick look at Saturn, the rings were just resolvable and Titan could be clearly seen to the west. So just a quick initial look which promises good viewing with a darker site and a sturdier tripod. Definitely a major asset for observations. Paul: With the binoculars at Llyn Brenig: ' I have to say this is probably the most amazing hour and a half of observing I've ever had!’ ‘The views to be had through the 2.5 degree field coupled with significant light gathering power are absolutely stunning!’ ‘The Pleiades were just magnificent set against the darker, wider sky!’ ‘M42, the Great Orion Nebula just spanned across the field, certainly more than 1 degree. M43 and the 42 Orionis nebulae were very obvious just above.’ ‘Moving on, M41, down below Sirius was just, ha, brilliant. I cannot believe it!’ M79, a mag. 8.4 globular could be picked up low down in Lepus, higher up the bright nebula of M78 along with another nearby NGC something were easily swept up.' ‘The Rosette Nebula was unbelievable in these!’ Using the UHC filter over one eyepiece the ghostly wreath extended for 2 degrees around the central cluster. ‘It was just stunning!’ 'The Xmas Tree was perfect. M35, magnificent, really rich. The Beehive was superb. M46 and M47 in Puppis looked lovely, M46 a beautiful haze. A third nearby mag. 6 cluster adding to the view. Slewing over to Cassiopeia I chanced upon NGC 7789, my favourite cluster, good in a finder, excellent in these binoculars and superb in almost any power amateur telescope.'

Observatory Developments Paul Clark has confirmed, in a mail to the Adastra news group on 17th Feb, receipt of the Cheque for £2815, from Manchester Airport Community Trust Fund, made payable to ADAS. This is a really great achievement, and the society owes its thanks to both Paul and Roger for putting together the proposal. The binoculars have already been purchased, and soon to follow will be the parallelogram mount. The supporting letter apparently is urging us to spend it as soon as possible! The other part of the donation is for improvements at the observatory itself, and so it is a shame that just as the funding arrives, Council sub-contractors have caused extensive damage to the hedging that provided such good security, and to the grounds of the observatory itself. On the brighter side, following a visit to a council meeting by Graham Cliff, Don Utton, Peter Baugh, Paul Clark, and Chris Suddick the news is better.  A positive result was obtained, and the council have offered to make good the damage previously caused by the sub contractors.

OBSERVING NOTES Sun          In Pisces. Moon      1st Qtr 3rd, Full 9th, Last Qtr 16th, New 25th. Mercury   Poor apparition in low in morning skies, not visible from UK Venus      From setting at 2100 at start of the month the planet swoops back towards the Sun with conjunction on 30th.  It will also quickly become a morning object. Mars        Rises just after midnight, mag –0.2 in Ophiuchus, Moon close on 16th. Jupiter      Mag –2.1 setting by midnight, in Taurus. Saturn       Mag 0.2 in Taurus, Moon nearby on 16th. Uranus      Morning object mag 5.7 in Capricornus. Neptune   Also in Capricornus mag +8. Pluto         Difficult morning object in Ophiuchus Comets     McNaught-Hartley, mag 9 in Hercules/ Draco.  Within the range of large binoculars or small telescopes. Meteors    Virginids visible in the early month. Variables  R Leonis at maximum and well placed for observation of this deep red star. Satellites   Mir is visible in the evening skies during the first week of the month.  It has hung on to life for a few extra weeks and is due to have a controlled decay due 15th March.  This should definitely be the last chance to see what has become an old friend.

More information from Roger Livermore on 0161-969-4507 or e-mail at Page updated 6th April 2001. Go BACK in browser to page return.

The links below have been copied over from Roger's December newsletter. 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 Rodger Livermoore

For the previous newsletter, click here.

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