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Drawing on 40 years of experience and innovation, Meade Instruments introduces the latest in a long line of advanced astronomical products: the LX800. Using revolutionary new technology, every aspect of this amazing telescope system has been designed to deliver the new standard in astrophotographic and visual performance.

The LX800 employs a fast f/8 ACFTM optical system with high-contrast baffling that assures crisp, pinpoint imaging to the very edge of the field. The all-new OTAfeatures an internal Crayfordstyle, zero image-shift focusing system with a twospeed, 7:1 control that eliminates the need for a mirror lock. In addition, with the LX800s optional large-format, threeelement f/5 focal reducerlfield flattener, you gain even wider fields, faster exposures and a photographically flat field even on larger sensors.

Constructed of machined stainless steel and aircraft grade aluminum, the LX800 mount presents a rock-solid platform with precision roller bearings on both axes and a 1.75" stainless steel R.A. shaft. Its .68" diameter brass worms and 5.8" diameter, 225-tooth aluminum gears deliver smooth, precise movement with up to a 90 pound instrument load. A fully-computerized GoTo mount with GPS, the LX800 comes with a database of over 144,000 objects. All this sets atop a new super-stable tripod.



StarLock is the revolutionary new technology that makes target acquisition on your imaging sensor and accurate guiding during exposures completely automatic. StarLock uses an 80mm f/5 optic and a super wide-angle lens in a two camera system that automatically finds your target in high-precision, immediately captures a field star as dim as 11th magnitude and then guides to an accuracy of one arcsecond. There's no need for a separate guider or computer and the StarLock requires no user focusing or guide star selection. Star Lock automatically programs periodic error correction and then corrects for any other errors down to virtually zero. With the combination of the finest optics, robust mount and revolutionary new StarLock, the LXBOOfrom Meade Instruments is the most complete astro-imaging solution available. For more information on the LX800, or any of Meade's advanced astronomy products, just visit meade. com or contact an authorized dealer.

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8 Spectrum
Getting Involved in Science

February/March 20]2 Vol. 8, No.2


By Greg Bryant 12 News Notes
• • • • Near-Earth Asteroids Planet in the Making Uncertain Age of the Moon and more ...

16 5 Years Ago By Greg Bryant 18 New Product Showcase 20 Cosmic Relief
Losing Venus

By David Grinspoon 22 Discoveries
Elusive Vulcan

By David Ellyard 24 Gemini School Astronomy Contest
A Student's View of a Spiral Galaxy

By Christopher Onken 26 Supernovae: Who's The BOSS? By Greg Bryant 28 Starscapes 30 Dawn's Early Light: A Vesta Fiesta!
NASA's Dawn mission is giving scientists their first close-up look at a giant asteroid.

By Jim Bell 36 Exploring the Southern Stars with SUSI
The sizes of distant suns are being measured close to home.

42 Galaxy Zoo and the Wisdom of crowds By turning to legions of citizen
scientists, astronomers have gained new insight into galaxy evolution.

By Michael Ireland and Gordon Robertson

By Kevin Schawinski

50 Binocular Highlight
Underobserved M93

By Les Dalrymple 52 Tonight's Sky
Reflections on a Supernova

By Greg Bryant 54 Sun, Moon, and Planets
A Trio of Planetary Delights

By Greg Bryant 58 Celestial Calendar
One for Each End

By Steve Kerr 59 Celestial Calendar

By Alan Plummer 60 Exploring the Moon
Giant Lunar Shield Volcanoes?

By Charles A. Wood 62 Exploring the Solar System
Ruddy Mars Returns

By Roger Venable 64 Double Star Notes
Sailing by the Big Dog

By Ross Gould 66 Targets
Oddities in Northern Orion

By Sue French 70 Going Deep
The Galaxy Group AWM1

84 AS&T Test Report: Lunt's New 80-mm Hydrogen-alpha Solar Scope
This compact solar scope packs a punch.

By Steve Gottlieb 72 Deep Sky Delights
A Minor Part of the Sky

By Sean Walker 88 Telescope Workshop
The Dob Buster

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope acquired these images as part of the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey (SINGS).







By Les Dalrymple

By Gary Seronik 90 Gallery

76 Residual Bulk Image: Cause and Cure
Understanding the subtleties of your CCD camera will help you create better images and scientific data.

96 Manufacturer and Dealer Directory 96 Index to Advertisers 98 Focal Point
Why We Should Build Webb


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By Richard Crisp 80 Let's Talk About Imaging
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AUSTRALIAN SKY & TELESCOPE (ISSN 1832-0457) is published 8 times per year by Odysseus Publishing pty Limited, PO Box 81, St Leonards, NSW, 1590. Phone (02) 9439 1955. fax (02) 9439 1977. © 2012 Odysseus Publishing Pty Limited. All rights reserved.



THE ESSENTIAL MAGAZINE OF ASTRONOMY ISSUE NO 59. FEB/MAR 2012 EDITORIAL EDITOR Greg Bryant DESIGN Tony Temple CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Adrian Ashford, Les Dalrymple, John Drummond, David Ellyard, Ross Gould, Steve Kerr, Steve Lee, Alan Plummer, David Seargent EMAIL ADVERTISING ADVERTISING MANAGER Greg Bryant EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES TEL 02 9439 1955 EMAIL ODYSSEUSPUBLISHING PTY LIMITED ABN 39 122 001 665 TEL 02 9439 1955 FAX 02 9439 1977 ADDRESS Level 1/6-12 Atchison Street, St Leonards, NSW 2065 PO Box 81, St Leonards. NSW 1590 PUBLISHERS Ian Brooks and Todd Cole


Getting • Involved In Science

t's njoyable to see when an astronomy-related discovery hits the mainstream e media. The speed of light is a fundamental constant of our understanding of the universe. Nothing, according to Einstein, can travel faster than light. And so, when news broke in September of the apparent detection of neutrinos travelling faster than light in a particle physics experiment in Europe, it got lots of people talking. Sometimes our understanding of the universe can be shaken up in a big way (accelerating universe?), and if it does turn out that muon-neutrinos do travel that fast (they are a different type to those detected from Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud), it will open the door to a whole new world of physics. It's been said many times that astronomy is one of the few remaining sciences where amateurs can play an active role. Not all of us get to play with neutrino pulses, and there's an element ofluck (and a lot of hard work) in discovering supernovae (see page 26), minor planets, or comets, but now we all have the opportunity to participate from home in helping scientists, thanks to the internet. You may have heard ofSETI@home, which was launched to the public in 1999, allowing anyone's computer to help process radio signals quietly in the background. As our cover story on page 42 details, other disciplines of astronomy have opened up and people can now actively participate in helping astronomers process data and make discoveries, contributing as little or as much as time allows - a true hobby. Other projects abound. The New Horizons team is looking for help in identifying a Kuiper Belt body that the New Horizons spacecraft can visit after its 2015 encounter with Pluto ( Here in Australia, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has launched theSkyNet (www., which will allow you to assist in processing data from Australian radio telescopes. With the rising flood of astronomical data comes a wave of opportunities.

Australia distribution by Network Services. TEL: 1300 131 169. New Zealand distribution by Gordon & Gotch. TEL: 02 9625 3000. © 2012 Sky Publishing Corporation and Odysseus Publishing Pty Limited. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated. or converted into a machine-readable form or language without the written consent of the publisher. Australian Sky & Telescope is published by Odysseus Publishing Pty Limited under licence from Sky Publishing Corporation as the Australian edition of Sky & Telescope. Australian Sky & Telescope is a registered trademark of Sky Publishing USA. Articles
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News Notes

Fewer than Expected
umanity has more immediate threats to consider, but if you worry about a giant asteroid hitting Earth, the already slim chance of that happening in a given millennium just dropped by nearly half - thanks to the much-awaited asteroid survey carried out by NASi\:s Wide- field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope. The WISE team finds that there are less than 60% as many nearEarth asteroids, or NEAs, as earlier estimated. "Near- Earth" asteroids are defined as those whose orbits bring them within 0.3 a.u. (45 million kilometres) of Earth's orbit. Astronomers realise that for every big one they find, there must be many smaller ones. Moreover, judging the size and mass of a given space rock isn't easy. It depends on a guesstimate of the albedo (reflectivity) ofthe object's surface. A small white body and a big dark one can appear as equally bright points oflight, as illustrated at ight. Past tallies have assumed a dark-grey albedo averaging 14%, representative of asteroids in general. WISE can do better. Its primary mission was to map mid-infrared sources in the deep universe. But it's also very good at detecting the feeble heat glow from asteroidal surfaces - and this is about the same per square metre regardless of whether the surface is chalkwhite or charcoal-black at visible wavelengths. Thus was born NEOWISE, a mission add-on coordinated by Amy Mainzer (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). "WISE had four infrared channels ranging from 3 to 22 microns, and we detected most of the NEAs in the two longest channels, 12 and 22:' she explains. "We didn't find every single asteroid out there, but we did find a good, representative sample:'

Near-Earth Asteroids:


Visible-light images aren't enough to determine an asteroid's diameter. A small, chalk-white body can appear the same brightness as a large, charcoal-dark one. But views in the mid-infrared tell the true story. At these wavelengths, we're seeing the asteroids glowing due to their own temperatures. Once the temperature is known, the amount of glow tells the object's size. NASA / JPL

"Nothing seen so far is on a collision course with Earth ..."
The NEOWISE team concludes that there are a total of about 19,500 "midsize" NEAs, those with diameters between 100 metres and 1 km, far fewer than the pre- WISE estimate of35,000. For astronomers trying to keep tabs on them, this is a really big deal. "NEOWISE is the most important project of my career:' exults Timothy Spahr, who directs the lAU Minor Planet Centre not only because WISE spotted so many objects (585 NEAs and some 150,000 main-belt asteroids) but

also because it got enough looks at them over time so astronomers could compute their orbits. Nothing seen so far is on a collision course with Earth, and especially nothing more than 1 km across. Such a large NEA would wreak global havoc. "The good news here is that, with NEOWISE, the worldwide community of astronomers - both amateur and

professional - has now found more than 90% of all these really big asteroids:' says Mainzer. She and her team now estimate there are 981 ± 19 such biggies in all, of which 911 have been found. So, astronomers have achieved the Project Spaceguard milestone established by NASA and Congress in 1998: finding 90% of the NEAs larger than 1 km. Still in the works is WISE's estimate of how many comets pass through our part of space. These are less predictable.


To get astronomy news as it breaks, visit

Pinning Down A Supernova's Nature
In the year 185 AD, a supernova appeared in our southern skies, in what is now the constellation Circinus. Recorded by Chinese astronomers at the time, and possibily by the Romans, it is perhaps the oldest supernova recorded by humans. The gaseous cloud RCW 86 is believed to be what is left of that supernova, and astronomers have been studying it to gain clues as to what type of supernova the 185 explosion was. A new study, combining X-ray images from ESKs XMM-Newton Observatory and NASKs Chandra X-ray Observatory, and infra-red images from NASKs Spitzer and WISE telescopes, suggests that a Type Ia explosion (the death of a white dwarf star) is the most likely, due to the chemical composition of the remnant and the lack of evidence of any neutron stars or black holes.

Newbies landing on the Planet Hunters page are walked through a tutorial.

Random Volunteers Find Two Possible New Planets
Many astronomers were skeptical when the Kepler exoplanet-search team rolled out Planet Hunters - a citizen-science project that asks people to examine noisy light curves of stars and spot any slight dips in brightness that may have slipped past the statistical prowess of computer analysis. A big problem is that the human eye and brain notoriously overinterpret noisy data and see patterns that don't exist. Planet Hunters is one of the Zooniverse projects (zooniverse. org), as told in our cover story on page 42. By 2nd November, volunteers for Planet Hunters had examined 5 million light curves and were reporting lots of false patterns as expected. But when the same uncatalogued pattern is flagged by five or more people independently, Kepler astronomers take a closer look. In October, exoplanet specialist Debra Fischer announced that the volunteers may have found two transiting planets that computer analyses had indeed overlooked. The potential discoveries circle two stars in Cygnus about 500 and 3,000 light-years away. One object seems to be a mini-Neptune with 2% times Earth's diameter; the other is roughly Saturnsized with 8 Earth diameters. Astronomers are planning followup observations to look for telltale radial-velocity wobbles that could prove the planets real. "I was skeptical whether the project would work, since computers are very efficient;' says Fischer, a Planet Hunters founder. "But the users are actually amazing. It's astonishing how sophisticated they are:'

This multi-wavelength view of the gaseous shell RCW 86, the likely remains of a supernova seen in 185, combines data from four space telescopes. NASAl

News Notes

A Planet In The Making
There's plenty of evidence for young planets circling young stars, but now two astronomers have recorded one actually assembling itself. Adam Kraus (University of Hawaii at Manoa) and Michael Ireland (Macquarie University) examined the infant star LkCa 15 using the 10-metre Keck II telescope in November 2009, August 2010, and November 2010. Located about 450 light-years away in the dusty Taurus- Auriga star-forming region, LkCa 15 was already known to be encircled by a massive dust disk with a big empty gap. Kraus and Ireland used Keck II's adaptive-optics system and an interferometric trick to obtain the sharpest possible infrared images ofLkCa IS's dusty disk as close to the star as possible. What they found was a changing blob of glow - a planet drawing streams of material from its surroundings - orbiting within the disk's clearing. "LkCa 15b is the youngest planet ever found, about five times younger than the previous record holder;' says Kraus. Ireland adds, "LkCa 15 b is a gas giant, similar to Jupiter. There have been quite a few detections of Iupiter -like planets in recent years, but we've caught this one at the beginning of its life-cycle and orbiting a young, relatively nearby star. That's something special to see:' The discovery turned up in a survey that is examining 150 young dusty stars with Keck's powerful optics.
Above: An artist's impression of the planet LkCa 15b forming within the hole in the disk surrounding LkCa 15.

A previous millimetre wavelength image of the disk around LkCa15 with an inner cleared region (left) and the new images using infrared wavelengths (right) which zoom in to the cleared inner region. The blue feature comes from the planet itself,
Left: while the red feature

comes from the

gas and dust around the planet. s.

Nominations are being called for the

David Allen Prize
for exceptional achievement in astronomy communication

an award of the Astronomical Society of AustralJe the winner receives $5,000
The prize is awarded for the best piece or series of media that presents an astronomical theme in an exciting and educative manner. The work must have been published in the last 3 yeats. Nominations olose: 23rd March 2012 For entry details go to:





The Newly Uncertain Age of the Moon

The 12 Apollo astronauts collected 382 kilograms of rocks and dust during their six lunar landings from 1969 to 1972. Three robotic Luna missions netted Soviet scientists another 0.3 kg. Since then hundreds, if not thousands of analyses on these precious samples have proved without doubt that, geologically speaking, the Moon is very old and very dead. But a Single pea-size nugget of anorthosite, collected during Apollo 16, now has lunar geochemists in a tizzy. A team led by Lars Borg (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) used the best modern techniques to date it, independently by three means, to an accuracy of better than one part in a thousand. The group concludes from it that the Moon has been fibbing about its age of its crust. Instead of being at least 4.43 billion years old, as earlier assays had shown, the group found an age of 4.360 billion years, give or take just 3 million. A change in the Moon's age of 70 million years -less than 2%might not seem like a big deal. But it makes a huge difference in the context of the fast-evolving early solar system. Nearly every lunar researcher now accepts that the Moon formed after a Mars-size protoplanet ploughed into the newly formed Earth, splashing white-hot debris into orbit that rapidly coalesced into a sizable satellite. Borg and his team assert that either this happened late, long

after the rest of the inner solar system's major chaotic collisions had quieted down (contrary to the dating of many other lunar samples) - or that the mystery rock represents some kind of large-scale remake oflunar crust that remelted and recrystallised later. A second satellite of Earth doing a late splat into Moon might play into this story. There's another way out: force the Moon's original magma ocean to cool very slowly. In 2010, MIT researchers Jennifer Meyer, Linda Elkins- Tanton, and Jack Wisdom proposed that the infant Moon, being much closer to Earth than it is now, would have experienced tidal flexing strong enough to keep it hot and molten. Bottom line: the Moon's birth story may be quite complicated. With luck, NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory), launched on lOth September, will succeed in mapping the gravitational structure of the lunar interior finely enough to sort out the correct sequence of events. The GRAIL craft will orbit the Moon in formation from 60 to 220 kilometres apart, continuously monitoring the distance between them to a precision of 0.2 micron, nearly one part in a trillion. This data will reveal gravitational irregularities that should improve the quality of the Moon's density maps by a factor of 100 to 1,000 from crust to core, laying bare the Moon's interior structure.

News Notes

5 Years Ago
January/February 2007

Saturn's Satellite Tally Climbs
"Using the 8.2·metre Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, David Jewitt and Jan Kleyna (University of Hawaii), along with Scott Sheppard (Carnegie Institution of Washington), have discovered nine more satellites orbiting Saturn. All the moons are about 6 to 8 kilometres across. They travel on moderately to highly eccentric distant orbits and go around in retrograde paths - opposite the planet's rotation. These irregular satellites must have been captured by Saturn's gravity, probably very early in the solar system's history. The finds bring Saturn's total of known moons to 56, second only to Jupiter's 63." The team discovered a further three in 2007, and another three have since been found in images taken by the orbiting Cassini spacecraft, bringing Saturn's official count to 62. Jupiter is still slightly ahead with 64. Both planets of course have ring systems, so it's getting harder to draw the line as to what constitutes a moon (moonlet) of these gas giants.

Music For Astronomers
Renowned Canadian ensemble Tafelmusik will be touring Australia in March to perform The Calileo Project: Music of the Spheres: an exciting programme of classical music, from composers such as Vivaldi, Purcell, Bach, and Handel, in conjunction with wonderful images from the Hubble Space Telescope, to set the scene for what astronomers of centuries past may have been listening to. When they performed in Canada, local astronomy clubs collaborated to bring telescopes to show the night sky to the audience each night. A similar experience is hoped for here, and Musica Viva is contacting clubs to explore the possibility. For bookings, visit

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Cosmic Relief

David Grinspoon ~~


Losing Venus
By neglecting Venus, we could lose valuable knowledge about Earth.
ven while human spaceflight goes through a period of uncertainty, robotic interplanetary missions persevere. NASA has spacecraft at Saturn, Mars, Mercury, and Vesta, and others are en route to Jupiter and Pluto. And yet there is something missing. NASA has no spacecraft at Venus, and there's little chance of a new U.S. mission to Earth's sister planet for at least a decade. At some point Venus apparently suffered a runaway greenhouse, when solar heating triggered irreversible ocean evaporation. Nobody knows exactly when this happened and how this relates to changes in Earth's climate. New missions could go a long way toward filling in the gaps by revealing how sunlight is converted into heat and motion and solving the mystery of if, how, when, and why our sister planet went through its ancient transformation from more mild conditions. Without such missions, we're losing vital knowledge of how climate works on an Earthlike planet. I fear this loss may be irretrievable. NASA research support goes where the missions go. Support for basic research about the geology and climate of Venus has declined, which results in fewer grad students pursuing Venus science. Consequently, the community within NASA advocating for new Venus missions has been shrinking, which makes it harder for new missions to compete against those with larger constituencies. In general, I think NASA does a good job at selecting missions. But this feedback loop works against new missions to a planet that has not been recently visited. NASA, which hasn't launched a Venus mission since 1989, just selected its new round of missions for preliminary funding, and of seven serious Venus proposals, none made the cut. Venus research is in serious danger of a death spiral. Some of us have been advocating new Venus missions for decades only to get



repeatedly shot down. Now we have to face the prospect of no missions to Venus within our careers. Perseverance can be admirable, but doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is, well, you know. The international community is aware of this gap, but nobody else has NASA's resources and experience. The European Space Agency's Venus Express mission, launched in 2005 and still in orbit, is humanity's one remaining climate-monitoring spacecraft at Venus, but even the bestcase scenarios show it dying before any other spacecraft joins it. Japan launched Akatsuki in May 2010 but a malfunction caused the spacecraft to miss Venus and it remains unclear whether mission controllers can steer it back into Venus orbit (July issue, page 20). There is no anti-Venus conspiracy

at work within NASA - all the recently selected missions are worthy and there is not enough money to fund all of the good ones. But the worsening prospects for Venus research are unfortunate when considering the lessons that Venus has to offer about climate and the origin, survival, and loss of life-supporting conditions on Earthlike planets. One small ray of hope is that in NASA's recent Decadal Survey, an ambitious orbiter, the Venus Climate Mission, is recommended for consideration if more expensive plans fall through. As a Venus guy I would love to participate in such a mission, but I also think it would be good for our country and the world ...
Noted book author David Grinspoon is Curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. His website is


David Ellyard Discoveries

Elusive Vulcan
It was long thought that a planet lay inside Mercury's orbit.


Owmany planets are there? The ancients thought there were five: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. When added to the Sun and the Moon, that gave a total of seven heavenly bodies, underlining the mystic power of the number seven. In more modern times we have learned to count the Earth as a planet, and with the aid of the telescope added several more to the total: Uranus, Neptune, and (for a while) Pluto. With no similar magical power in the resulting number nine, there seemed no reason why the count should stop there, especially when any number of minor planets was now known. Perhaps another planet, orbiting very close to the Sun, might be the explanation for some observed peculiarities in the path of Mercury. Through the early 19th century, as the techniques of astronomical measurement improved, it was clear the Mercury was not behaving quite as it should, if Newton's laws of graVity were to be believed. Around 1840, the puzzle drew the attention of the famous French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier, whose latter calculations on the oddities on the orbit of Uranus would lead to the discovery of Neptune. He thought Mercury would behave as it seemed to do if it was being influenced by the gravity of an unseen planet closer to the Sun. He took up the topic again 20 years later, with a much more rigorous study based on analysis of a number of transits of Mercury across the face of the Sun. This revealed an unexplained discrepancy of 43 arcseconds per century in the movement of the point in the orbit of Mercury where it was closest to the Sun ("perihelion precession"). He predicted where the planet causing the discrepancy might lie, and even gave it a name, Vulcan, after the ancient god of volcanoes. Given that the new planet, if it existed, would be baking hot, it seemed appropriate. Given his international eminence following the discovery of Neptune, the

With no Vulcan found, Mercury - seen here in this mosaic from the MESSENGER spacecraft remains the innermost planet.


predictions were taken very seriously and astronomers went looking for the new planet. The first to report a possible sighting was Edmond Lescarbault, a French country doctor and amateur astronomer. In a letter to Le Verrier following the publication of the predictions, Lescarbault claimed that on 26 March, 1859 he had seen a small black spot move across the face of the Sun, taking a little over an hour. Le Verrier was sufficiently interested to pay the doctor an unannounced visit and quiz him about his sighting. The answers convinced him, and the next year Le Verrier announced to the astronomical world that Vulcan had been found. He used the observation to work out the details of the new planet's orbit, calculating that it orbited the Sun every 19 days at a distance of 21 million kilometres. The previously obscure discover had his reward too, an honour from the French government and invitations to appear before learned societies. Not everyone was convinced. For

example, Emanuel Lilais, a French astronomer working in Brazil, reported that he had been observing the Sun at the very moment the French doctor claimed to have observed Vulcan in transit but had seen nothing, despite having a considerably more powerful telescope. Nonetheless, other reports of transits began to reach Le Verrier, generally coming from amateurs and some referring to observations from many years earlier. None of them were very reliable. Le Verrier refined his figures and often announced that Vulcan would be transiting on a particular time and date, but none of these predictions proved true. For half a century or more, the hunt for Vulcan continued. Many reported observations were probably of sunspots. During total eclipses of the Sun, stars lying close to the Sun could have been mistaken for planets, even by experienced astronomers. Certainly nothing conclusive emerged. At times, to make sense of conflicting observations, more than one new planet was postulated. Until his death in 1877 Le Verrier remained convinced he had discovered a new planet, but with his passing the enthusiasm for the search declined, and most astronomers doubted Vulcan existed at all. Perhaps that initial "transit" had been of a wandering asteroid or comet making a fortuitous pass by the Sun. The postscript to the story came in 1915, when Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity. This new understanding of gravity provided an alternative explanation for the advance ofthe perihelion of Mercury, matching exactly the observations. Einstein calculated that all the planets should show the same phenomenon, but it is most obvious in the case of Mercury which is closest to the powerful gravitational influence of the Sun, and its more eccentric orbit makes the very small shift easier to detect ...
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a Spiral Galaxy

A Student's View of
Australian students choose a target for the Gemini South telescope to image.
for being the contest runners-up came from Ryan Soares of Trinity College (East Perth, Western Australia), and a team submission by Eugenie PuskarzThomas, Rachel Augustyn, Phoebe Duncombe, Brooke Henzel, Matilda Williams, and Louise Graham, from St. Margaret's Anglican Girls School (Ascot, Queensland). The winner and two runners-up each earned their classes an interactive video link to the Gemini Observatory headquarters in Hawaii. The student contest was run by the Australian Gemini Office (AusGO), which is operated by the Australian Astronomical Observatory, a division of the Department ofInnovation, Industry, Science and Research. The telescope time for the contest was granted to AusGO out of Australia's share on the twin Gemini telescopes. AusGO is hoping to conduct another student contest in 2012. http://ausgo.


n enormous maelstrom is being stirred up in the nearby galaxy NGC 7552. Dark wisps of gas and dust can be seen spiralling toward the galaxy's centre, where such material gets condensed into new generations of stars. A burst of star formation 50 million years ago left a number of hot, young stars at the core of the galaxy, which is heating a ring of leftover dust. The above picture was taken as part of Australia's 2011 Gemini School Astronomy Contest. Benjamin Reynolds, a Year 10 student at Sutherland Shire Christian School, was judged to have made the best case for where the S.l-metre Gemini South telescope in Chile should spend some of its precious time observing. Ben's choice of target was NGC 7552, and his

prize was to have Gemini image his galaxy and then to have the picture unveiled in front of his classmates. Shortly after taking the picture of NGC 7552 in visible light, Gemini South took an image of the galaxy with mid-infrared light (right). Light waves in the mid -infrared part of the spectrum are about 20 times longer than light that can be seen by the eye, and the mid-infrared picture shows the ring of dust clouds in the galaxy's centre glowing from the heat of the young stars buried inside. Combining studies in different parts of the spectrum helps to improve our understanding of these distant objects, and the ability to perform such research is one of Gemini's strengths. The two entries that earned honours




Christopher Onken is the Deputy Australian Gemini Scientist and is a postdoctoral researcher at the Australian National University. He can be reached at: AS&Ts editor Greg Bryant was one of the contest judges.





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Amateur Discoveries

Supemovae: Who's The BOSS?
A team of Australian and New Zealand amateurs are discovering more and more supernovae. By Greg Bryant
wo years ago, in the April 2010 issue of Australian Sky & Telescope (page 46), we profiled New Zealand amateur astronomer Stuart Parker, who had discovered seven supernovae in just six months. Since then, Parker has gone on to discover another 12 confirmed supernovae, the most recent last November, and a further 2 from mid last year that are in all probability true blue supernovae, but have yet to be spectroscopically confirmed and thus officially announced. It hasn't just been a solo effort across the Tasman, though. Parker is part of a team known as BOSS (Backyard Observatory Supernova Search), the other members being Peter Marples, Greg Bock, Colin Drescher, Brendan Downs, and Pat Pearl. When a team member discovers a possible supernova, the team is notified to try to confirm the suspect, measure its position, and report it to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, the official world clearinghouse for new discoveries of supernovae. The latest Australian amateur discovery comes from Greg Bock, who discovered his first supernova on 19 October last year in the galaxy IC 4901 after having searched more than 50,000 galaxy images over the last 10 years or so. It was a lucky find for several reasons, as Bock describes: "[IC 4901, which lies deep in the southern sky in the constellation Pavo] is only high enough above the trees and [my] house for about 1 hour per night. My normal PC was being rebuilt, so I didn't have the usual image blinking program and other software to help me find it and analyse the discovery image. "I wasn't running my normal search program. Instead, I was running a test program in an effort to try to isolate an ongoing software problem that I had had for months that was stopping me from searching more effectively. "The supernova was in the third image of about 50 for the night of



which only the first 15 were OK. The others were no good due to my software problem and I deleted them. Just before deleting the remaining 15, I glanced through them as a quick check to see if anything was obvious, and the bright object near IC 4901 caught my eye:' It's testament to the hard work of this team that the supernova tally is growing. They are building collaborations with professional astronomers to ensure prompt spectroscopic confirmation. It's a bright future for the BOSS team ...


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e've seen our share of dramatic mission events over the past few decades of planetary robotic exploration: violent launches on giant rockets, critical main-engine burns, and heartstopping planetary landings. None of this is routine, and for those of us directly involved in the missions, it's painfully dramatic and gut wrenching. I felt a normal sense of nervousness and excitement, when, last July 16th, I waited eagerly for the news about NASA's latest critical planetary-mission event - the capture of its Dawn spacecraft into orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. This would be humanity's first mission to orbit a main-belt asteroid. From telescopic studies, we knew this Tasmania-sized world had an interesting shape and composition, and that it's a possible example of the building blocks from which all the terrestrial planets formed 4.6 billion years ago.


Dawn's capture into Vesta orbit turned out to be anticlimactic. The mission uses a new ion-propulsion technology that, over several years of interplanetary cruise, gently shaped the spacecraft's orbit to nearly match that of Vesta. There was no dramatic mainengine "slam-on-the-brakes" event needed for orbital capture. Rather, as Dawn crept closer, it simply crossed the threshold from being primarily guided by the Sun's gravity to being primarily guided by Vesta's gravity. There was no fanfare, no party, no smiling mission controllers on TV. Still, the event represents a historical milestone - the culmination of more than 200 years of astronomical research and speculation about the nature of minor planets.

Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the first asteroid, Ceres, on 1 January, 1801 as part of his work creating the Palermo Star Catalogue, an unprecedented precise survey of more than 7,600 stars. Some astronomers, including professionals and amateurs, thought that Ceres might be the tip of an iceberg of new planets that roamed between Mars and Jupiter. Among the most capable and meticulous amateurs was Heinrich Wilhelm Matthaus Olbers, by day a physician in Bremen, Germany, but by night the director of his home observatory. Using a modest 3.7S-inch (9.S-cm) achromatic refractor and some of the best star charts, he

Vesta's story as an object of human interest goes back to the early 19th century. Professional astronomer

"The enormous south polar crater first seen in Hubble images is turning out to be a fascinating structure ... "

VESTA DISCOVERER Heinrich Olbers (17581840) discovered Vesta on 29 March, 1807. He is also famous for posing the Olbers paradox: Why is the sky dark at night when there should be a star in every direction? 5&T

systematically searched the ecliptic for more ofPiazzi's minor planets, and was quickly rewarded for his efforts with the 1802 discovery of the secondknown asteroid, which he named Pallas. After German professional astronomer Karl Ludwig Harding bagged the third asteroid, Juno, in 1804, Olbers again struck asteroidal gold with his 29 March, 1807 discovery of a fourth one. Mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss helped calculate its orbit and it was he, with Olberss blessing, who named it Vesta after the Roman virgin goddess of the hearth. No new asteroids were discovered for nearly four decades, because Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta turn out to be by far the largest bodies in the main belt. Indeed, we now know that these four bodies comprise about 50% of the main belt's entire mass. It's perhaps no surprise that early-19th-century astronomy textbooks commonly referred to them as "planets:' Today,

SOUTH POLAR REGION Taken on 24th July at a range of 5,200 kilometres, this image from Dawn's framing camera shows a peak at Vesta's south pole at the lower right. The mountain rises 18 km above the floor of a surrounding crater, and 3 to 5 km above the terrain outside the crater. The equatorial grooves on the left are an astonishing 10 km wide. NASA / JPL-CALTECH I UCLA IMPS / DLR / IDA

some call them "minor planets" or "dwarf planets" or just "large MBAs" main-belt asteroids. Some heretics (like me!) even deign to still call them "planets:'

A Unique World
Vesta is the brightest MBA, partly because it's one of the largest asteroids, but also partly because its surface intrinsically reflects more sunlight than most other asteroids. That higher albedo is also a clue that Vesta's surface composition is different than most other asteroids. Spectroscopic studies over the past several decades have been particularly exciting because they confirm that Vesta's composition is unlike most asteroids. Vesta's surface 31

Asteroid Rendezvous

A CHUNK OF VESTA This 6-cm-wide, 175-gram eucrite meteorite fell near Millbillillie, Western Australia, in 1960. Like many dozens of other meteorites, its composition appears to closely match that of Vesta's surface. These rocks might have been blasted off Vesta in the large impact that excavated the asteroid's large south polar crater. These ejected chunks went into orbit around the Sun and eventually fell to Earth. H. RAAB / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

appears to have the kinds of volcanic rocks and minerals that we find in the crusts and mantles of Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars - minerals such as olivine, a common iron- and magnesium-bearing silicate found in deeply formed volcanic rocks. Vesta's spectra match those of a class

of meteorites called the HEDs (for "Howardites, Eucrites, and Diogenites"). These space rocks appear to have formed within the crust or mantle of a large planetesimal and were later violently ejected into interplanetary space during a large impact. Scientists have studied HEDs in great detail in the lab, and their connections to Vesta are strong and well established. If Vesta is indeed the HEDs' parent body, then Vesta must have differentiated sometime in its distant past: radioactive elements and other internal heat sources melted the body's interior, enabling it to segregate into a core, mantle, and crust. Because of its rocky composition and likely history of differentiation and volcanism, many planetary scientists refer to Vesta as the "smallest terrestrial planet:' despite the fact that the International Astronomical Union has not officially designated it as even a dwarf planet (like Ceres and Pluto). From ground-based telescopic observations, astronomers have determined that Vesta has a fast rotation rate (only about 5.3 hours), and that it has brighter and darker regions. The Hubble Space Telescope

resolved Vesta into a roughly spherical world, with a diameter of about 530 kilometres and a gigantic crater that appears to have been gouged out of the asteroid's south pole. This crater may be the source of the HED meteorites and a population of smaller nearby inner-main-belt asteroids with similar spectra that are often referred to as Vestoids. Astronomers estimated Vesta's mass by the way Mars, Jupiter, and other asteroids perturb its orbital motion. Combined with an estimate of its volume from Hubble imaging, astronomers have calculated that Vesta has a relatively high density of 3.4 grams/em", implying a rocky, terrestrial-planet -like nature. Vesta's size, albedo, composition, and relationships to other asteroids and meteorites all make this world an intriguing and perhaps unique solarsystem body, and potentially an important bridge in the continuum of evolution between small planetesimals, protoplanets, and full-fledged terrestrial planets. Planetary scientists have long recognised that Vesta is worthy of up-close exploration. In the late 1990s, a team of scientists and engineers led by principal investigator




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VESTA-LIKESPECTRA Above: Vesta's near-infrared spectrum is compared to the eucrite meteorite Bereba, the diogenite meteorite Shalka, and the Vestoid asteroid 1929 Kollaa. The similar spectra suggest a common origin, probably the latter three objects coming from the giant impact that formed Vesta's south polar crater MIKE KELLY, ET AL. Right: This 6th August image shows cratered terrain with hills and ridges. Despite the impressive resolution of 260 metres per pixel, images taken from closer orbits will provide much finer detail. NASA / JPL·

Chris Russell (UCLA) proposed a mission in NASA's "better, faster, cheaper" Discovery program to orbit first Vesta and then Ceres with an ionpowered spacecraft. The proposal ultimately prevailed against stiff competition, and Dawn was selected for flight.

The Mission
Dawn is a quintessential example of a relatively low-cost (about $360 million) spacecraft and instrument package. The mission employs cutting-edge technology, such as the ion engines for propulsion and trajectory maneuvers. But it also uses a lot of tried-and-true technology, such as CCD cameras and spectrometers. Dawn launched on a Delta II rocket on 27 September, 2007, into an outwardly spiralling trajectory that included a February 2009 Marsgravity-assist boost into the main asteroid belt, and then the Vesta rendezvous in July 2011. Three ion thrusters use electricity generated by the solar panels to accelerate ionised xenon atoms through a rocket nozzle. The ions provide a much gentler thrust than a chemical rocket, but by running the engine over a long period of time, they can produce the same nett force with less mass and risk. Dawn's design builds upon two previously successful ion-

DAWN'S INTERPLANETARY CRUISE Using three ion-propulsion thrusters and a gravity assist from Mars, Dawn travelled a curved path 2.78 billion km (18.6 astronomical units) long to reach Vesta. After orbiting Vesta for about one Earth year, it will travel another 1.49 billion km (10 a.u.) for its Ceres rendezvous in February 201S. When it goes into orbit around this second large asteroid, Dawn will become the first spacecraft to orbit two separate deepspace destinations.


Asteroid Rendezvous

VESTA In FALSECOLOUR Scientists processed this framing camera image in false colour to
reveal variations in surface composition. The different colours indicate that Vesta is probably

not a uniform chunk of rock such as some of the smaller asteroids that have been previously studied up close. Specific details about Vesta's surface composition will have to await further data acquisition and analysis, but scientists already know from earlier telescopic observations that its bulk composition differs considerably from most other asteroids. NASA /

propelled missions: NASA's Deep Space 1 and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa. The Dawn team's primary science objectives are to study two large asteroids in order to better understand the conditions under which these planetary building blocks formed, and to clarify the role played by planetesimal size and water content in determining the evolution of Earth and other planets. To achieve these goals, the spacecraft carries a colour camera for high-resolution mapping and stereo imaging, a visible to near-infrared

spectrometer for mineralogic mapping, and a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer to determine the abundances of major rock-forming and radioactive elements as well as to search for evidence of water ice or hydrated minerals on the surface. Scientists will also track Dawn's radio signals as the spacecraft orbits Vesta and later Ceres, which will enable the researchers to accurately measure the asteroids' masses and infer details about their internal gravity and structure. Scientists will compare Vesta and Ceres to each other, with major

classes of meteorites, and with other terrestrial planets and small bodies. Since Dawn's gentle capture into Vesta orbit, mission controllers have lowered the orbital altitude to conduct a month-long survey orbit phase for initial global geologic and compositional studies. Last spring, they further lowered the spacecraft into a 660-km-high mapping orbit for higher-resolution studies, and then sometime this summer they will lower it even more, down to a lSO-km-high mapping orbit that will last six months. From that altitude, the cameras will resolve features as small as 15 to 20 metres across. The mission design is flexible, so surprising discoveries may lead to changes in the nominal orbit plan in order to maximise the scientific return. The Dawn team plans to raise the orbit to 660 km in late autumn 2012 for another round of highaltitude mapping, and then the spacecraft will thrust out of Vesta orbit in July 2012 for a Ceres rendezvous in February 2015.

Initial Results
Dawn's initial results are enticing. Scientists are using images and rotation movies to refine estimates of Vesta's shape and volume, which will enable them to pin down the asteroid's density. As expected for an ancient world, Vesta is heavily cratered, and the crater distribution is enabling scientists to map the relative ages of different parts of the surface. Many craters appear remarkably fresh, with sharp rims and little evidence of erosion,

DAWN DESTINATIONS Left: Prior to Dawn's arrival, the best images of Vesta came from the Hubble Space Telescope. These colour-enhanced Hubble images, taken on 28 February, 2010, clearly show Vesta's potato-like shape and surface colour variations NASA / ESA / J.-Y. LI/ LUCY MCFADDEN. Centre: Using Hubble data, scientists constructed this 3-dimensional shape model of Vesta, which accurately predicted the south-polar crater and high central peak BEN ZELLNER / PETER THOMAS / NASA. Right: This colour-enhanced Hubble image will probably be the best picture we will have of asteroid 1 Ceres until Dawn's arrival in early 2015 NASA / ESA / J. PARKER, ET AL .• 34 AUSTRALIAN SKY & TELESCOPE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012

THE SNOWMAN Mission scientists affectionately named the crater grouping on the left across. The two big craters might have been gouged by the impact of a binary asteroid.

"the Snowman," for obvious reasons. The largest crater is about 65 km





while others appear to have been partially filled in by fine-grained material, perhaps from landslides that also generate dark streaks similar to those seen in several Martian craters. The enormous south polar crater first seen in Hubble images is turning out to be a fascinating structure, with a dome-shaped interior mountain that might be a giant central peak caused by the impact, or perhaps it's a Vestaspecific volcanic construct. A series of weird ridges and grooves surround the crater and extend widely across the equatorial regions. Some of these ridges and grooves look like enormous slump or landslide features, while others resemble the long grooves seen on various small bodies with giant impact craters, such as Mars's moon Phobos. Some grooves have huge cliffs that are reminiscent of some of the most dramatic topography on other worlds, such as the ice cliffs of Uranus's

moon Miranda or the steep canyon walls of Valles Marineris on Mars. Higher-resolution images will surely reveal even more spectacular landforms. Scientists are particularly interested in the results from Dawn's spectrometers, which will provide critical details about Vesta's composition and mineralogy. The early views from the camera's colour filters confirm previous findings that Vesta is not a uniform chunk of rock (like the much smaller asteroids Eros and Itokawa). But what kinds of minerals lie on the surface, and can they confirm the hypothesis that Vesta has differentiated? Is Vesta's chemistry really like that of the HED meteorites? Will Dawn find any evidence of hydrated minerals or subsurface ice? The infrared spectrometer's initial data reveal albedo, colour, and

temperature contrasts, but it will take more time to build a complete picture. Similarly, the gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers will need many months in lower-altitude orbits to collect their specific data sets. Dawn's mission is a marathon, not a sprint, and so we'll all have to be patient as the instruments and team collect their data over the year-long orbital tour. Still, even these early glimpses confirm Chris Russell's observation that Vesta is a "beautiful and exciting small world:' +
S&T contributing editor Jim Bell is a professor of astronomy and planetary science at Arizona State University. He was involved in the NEAR-Shoemaker mission to the asteroid 433 Eros, and is the leader of the Mars Exploration Rover Pancam team. He is the recipient of the American Astronomical Society's 2011 Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science. 35

Stellar Astrophysics

The sizes of distant suns are being measured close to home.
n1988, as the ribbon was being cut at Australia's newest world -class astronomical facility, the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near Narrabri, a team led by two Sydney astronomers was busy assembling the southern hemisphere's first long baseline optical interferometer in a dusty paddock nearby. Over the years, astronomers and locals alike have scratched their heads and wondered just what this complex collection of cameras, pipes, and mirrors does. The answer is a remarkable blend of 19th century science mixed with the latest cutting36 AUSTRALIAN SKY & TELESCOPE FEBRUARY/MARCH





edge photon-counting detector technology. Flash forward to 2012, and The Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUS!) is now at the forefront of discovery in stellar astrophysics, and beginning a program that may lead to extrasolar planet discoveries. SUSI is used to find the sizes of stars and the separations of very close pairs of stars. Stars are extremely small compared to their distance from us, so the angle covered by the disc of a star is tiny. This is why SUSI is quite unlike other optical telescopes, and instead consists of small telescopes (actually flat

mirrors called siderostats) spaced tens or hundreds of metres apart. Light from two separated siderostats is combined and enables SUSI to see details as fine as those visible to a hypothetical giant telescope with a diameter of up to more than 100 metres. This use of separated telescopes is similar to the way ATCA operates, except SUSI uses visible light while ATCA uses radio waves.

An old idea
The use of interference fringes to measure properties of planets and stars was proposed as early as 1868 by the French physicist Hippolyte

The Southern Cross and The Pointers low on the horizon and climbing just after sunset as SUSIgets ready to observe.

"SUSI is now at the forefront of discovery in stellar astrophysics... "
Fizeau. In 1921, Nobel prize winner Albert Michelson and his assistant Francis Pease used an interferometer to measure the size of Betelgeuse, finding it to be 0.047 arcseconds wide and finally getting a firm handle on the real scale of the points oflight that have been inspiring our imaginations since antiquity.

It is possible to demonstrate the basics of stellar interferometry with any telescope of more than 20- mm diameter, a piece of paper, a ruler, and clear skies. Cut out a circular piece of paper large enough to stick over your telescope to block the entrance. Cut 2 holes in the paper, 15mm apart and about 8mm in diameter (e.g. with a hole punch, or just by pushing a pencil through the paper). If you have a choice of eyepieces, use one with approximately 20x magnification. Observe Alpha (a) Crucis (the

brightest star in the Southern Cross) through your telescope, with the paper stuck on to the front of your telescope and the two holes aligned north-south, i.e. along the long axis of the Southern Cross. You should see a faint circle crossed by lines called fringes, and unless you are at an exceptional site, the fringes will be dancing back and forward a little due to atmospheric turbulence (seeing). The high contrast of these fringes means that Alpha Crucis is not well resolved in a northsouth direction. 37

Stellar Astrophysics

View of SUSIlooking from north to south. The small huts contain the siderostats - when in use the roof is rolled off from one such station on the north of the array and another in the south. The long white structure is the vacuum pipe in which the light beams are fed back to the central laboratory, which is in the half-cylindrical building. The two siderostat stations at the extreme ends of the array are 640 metres apart.

Now remove the paper, and stick it back on with the two holes aligned in an east-west direction, i.e. along the short axis of the Southern Cross. The fringes should mostly now go away, indicating that you've resolved Alpha Crucis, which is a multiple star system where the brightest two stars are aligned in a nearly east-west direction. This is the principle used by stellar interferometers including SUSI - the disappearance of fringes indicates that an object has been resolved. But for a serious stellar interferometer the separation of the two apertures, which is known as the baseline of the interferometer, is tens or hundreds of metres - far beyond the size of an affordable 'normal' telescope with a circular primary mirror. The interferometer achieves the angular resolution of a giant telescope but has the light gathering power of a small telescope, still sufficient for the bright stars which are its target objects.

sus I as Originally
Building a stellar interferometer is not easy. Just as the primary mirror of a single telescope must be figured to an accuracy comparable to the wavelength oflight so that light reflected from different parts of the mirror combines correctly (coherently) at the focus, so must the separate beams in an interferometer be combined with similar precision. This means that a moving Optical Path Length Compensator (like a big model train with mirrors as shown on page 39) needs to be in the right place with an accuracy comparable to the wavelength of light. To make matters worse, random 'seeing' fluctuations in the atmosphere cause variations in the optical paths. The advent oflaser metrology systems, electronic detectors, and computers in the 1970s meant that several teams attempted to restart

"The interferometer achieves the angular resolution of a giant telescope"

Observers setting up some of the optics on the beam-combiner tables. Very careful alignment is required in order for the light beams to follow the correct paths all the way from the siderostats out in the field to the digital camera. The green tubes on the left carry cooling water to the camera.

stellar interferometry. One of these key players was Bill Tango working from Monte Porzio (near Rome), who then joined John Davis at the University of Sydney to build a prototype interferometer in the early 1980s. Davis had been working with the Narrabri stellar intensity interferometer - an instrument more akin to radio telescopes that electronically correlated starlight intensity fluctuations from very large dishes. Even in an optimistic scenario, a larger intensity interferometer would barely be able to observe Sth magnitude stars, but a modern Michelson interferometer could in principle observe stars fainter than 7th magnitude. It had to at least be attempted. In 1986, Davis and Tango managed to put together a functional system, culminating in an angular diameter measurement of Sirius to the same precision as the intensity interferometer, but in 2% of the observing time. This was enough to ensure a $2.4 million injection of money from the Federal Government for a full-size Michelson interferometer. One of the main challenges in building a stellar interferometer lies in the detector to be used to observe the interference fringes after the optical system has brought the two beams of light together. The difficulty is that the rapid fluctuations of the atmosphere mean that individual exposures must be no longer than about 1/100 second, otherwise the fringes will be blurred out. So long exposures on photographic film or CCDs are useless, and indeed the development of SUSI has paralleled the development of rapid-readout lownoise detectors. As originally designed, SUSI used blue-sensitive photomultipliers and enjoyed some success. One of the first results was a measurement of pathlength fluctuations: the effects of seeing on large spatial scales. It was hoped that the amplitude of these fluctuations would become limited on baselines just a little larger than the world's largest telescopes at that time (-Sm). Although evidence was found for reduced turbulence at large scales, the reduction was not as much as anticipated. Two key astronomy results were published from the as-planned system: a precise angular diameter for Delta (8) Canis Majoris and the orbit of the Beta (13) Centauri system.

Light is received at one siderostat on each of the north and south arms (20-cm flat mirrors, not telescopes) and directed via carefully steered mirrors along the vacuum line. After reaching the laboratory building, the most critical step is to equalise the path lengths travelled by the light from the two sidercstats, and this is done by reflection from a carriage accurately positioned along the Optical Path Length Compensator track. An infrared laser precisely measures where the carriage is at any time. The two beams are then brought together ('interfered') in the beam combiner optical system and finally the light is detected using a rapid-readout digital camera. Data is then logged to a computer and analysed off-line to find the sizes of single stars or the separations of double stars.

Sydney University

Stellar Interferometer of light paths



North arm

South arm

Light from star Beams in vacuum pipes

Light from star



f= 35 miens



Atmospheric compensator

dispersion Beam combining optics

The tracks of the Optical Path Length Compensator. On the left track is the movable carriage.


Stellar Astrophysics

The interior of one of the siderostat huts, showing the steerable 20-cm mirror. Inside the blue housing on the right is one of the periscope mirrors which directs the light downwards to the vacuum pipe. (The siderostat hut roofs are normally on during the day)

However, there were two key technological barriers to SUSI reaching its envisioned potential. The promise of near photon-counting detectors based on silicon did not eventuate, with CCD readout noise limiting their usefulness. Optical coatings and surface figures also did not come up to expectations, costing a couple of magnitudes in sensitivity. Between 1995 and 2008, a small team of dedicated astronomers and keen students moved the instrument forward in small steps, waiting for technology to catch up and publishing a dozen key astrophysical results on bright stars in the meantime.

"It is through studying other stars that astronomers have come to better understand our Sun..."
also means that it is ideally suited for studying multiple star systems, where the fringe contrast changes with changing wavelength (colour).
SUSIcan be operated remotely, using motors to drive the siderostat hut roofs off and on and computer controls for all the set-up and datataking functions. A webcam to check the sky for clouds, a rain sensor, and surveillance cameras in the siderostat huts complete the remote operation capability. Here we see co-author Michael Ireland running SUSIfrom a specially set up room at the School of Physics at the University of Sydney.

Answering the Big Questions
The reason it is important to measure the angular size of a star is that it can be combined with measurements of the star's brightness to give its temperature, while measurements of the orbital motion of a double star give the masses of the stars. Both temperatures and masses are essential to a complete understanding of the structure and evolution of stars. It is through studying other stars that astronomers have come to better understand our Sun and what its future holds. Astrophysicists are more or less happy with the precision achieved in understanding hot star atmospheres, which was one of the drivers for the 640-metre baseline (the angular resolution achieved with the stations separated by 640 metres is equivalent to measuring the size of a 10 cent coin viewed from a distance of 4,300 km - edge onl). But the understanding of stellar atmospheres is not sufficient to fully utilise measurements in one of

Driving Design with Technology
The advent of photon -counting CCD detectors, the "Electron -Multiplied" CCD, meant that it became possible to measure the stellar fringes at many wavelengths at once. This possibility drove the design of the Precision Astronomical Visible Observations (PAVO) instrument, which has its twin in operation at the CHARA array at Mt Wilson in California (the same location where Edwin Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe). Instead of scanning the Optical Path Length Compensator back and forward to find fringes, PAVO can track the atmospheric fluctuations. Its simultaneous multi-wavelength operation from 530nm (green) to 790nm (near-infrared) in the spectrum

SUSI's other key science goals, namely the direct observations of Cepheid pulsations. SUSI has measured the tiny change in the angular diameter of Cepheid variable stars, which can be combined with trigonometry and spectroscopy to directly measure distances in the universe. However, the achievable precision is limited to about 5% by stellar atmosphere models, which is not enough to compete with other distance measuring techniques. As these models improve and are better tested, data from SUSI and other interferometers could again provide a key benchmark in distance measuring techniques. SUSI now focuses on two key areas of astrophysics: high-mass multiple star systems, which offer the key to understanding the star formation history of the nearest stellar associations, and the search for planets in binary star systems. This second science goal is rather ambitious, and requires PAVO to work in tandem with a new system called MUSCA, precisely measuring starlight and laser fringes simultaneously for two stars in a binary system separated by 0.1 to 4 arcseconds. SUSI will remain the highest angular resolution instrument in the Southern Hemisphere for the foreseeable future, so it promises to continue to answer key questions in astrophysics .•

Michael Ireland is now a lecturer in astrophotonics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Macquarie University. Gordon Robertson is the Director of SUSI and a senior lecturer in the Sydney Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney.





"SAO has taken me on a wonderful magical carpet ride through the universe. It has been the most exciting, exhilarating and fun-filled time of my life. " "The beauty of studying online is that you only need to travel as far as your computer. It's incredibly easy to work around your job or social life - it's the ultimate in flexibility. " "The dedication, guidance and encouragement from the instructors made the SAO experience so worthwhile and rewarding. "

Swinburne Astronomy Online is produced by the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, one of the largest research groups in Australia. The Centre is engaged in research into star & planet formation, stellar dynamics, pulsars, globular clusters, galaxy formation & evolution, and cosmology & large-scale structure. SAO is located at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

Further enquiries: Dr. Sarah Maddison email: fax: +61 392148797

Trends in Pro-Am Astronomy

GalaxyZoo and tlie Wisdom of crowds
eeking advice from an expert can be dangerous. Experts may know more about their area than anyone else, but they're still human. How can you tell if they are correct if you're hearing just one opinion? That's why astronomy researchers have been turning to the collective wisdom of crowds on the internet to help answer some of the most compelling questions in modern astrophysics. One would not want to randomly pluck people off the street to perform open-heart surgery, but in certain cases, the consensus of a group of laymen is more reliable than the

By turning to legions of citizen scientis~s, as.tronomers have gained new Insight Into galaxy evolution.


opinion of a single expert. For example, fill a jar with jellybeans and ask a Ph.D. engineer to estimate how many beans are inside the container. The engineer might make some brief calculations and add a dose of experience and give you an answer that will probably be way off the mark. But if you turn to a large crowd and ask each person to guess the number, and then take the average, you will probably get much closer to the truth. Astronomy has many questions where the nuanced response of a large group of people is very helpful indeed. One major challenge is sorting large galaxies into their basic types - spirals


and ellipticals - and then dissecting them into finer classes. Ever since Edwin Hubble first divided galaxies into these two classes, astronomers have wondered how the two relate to each other. Does one type turn into the other? Can galaxies move back and forth as they evolve, or is it a one-way street? For most of the 20th century,
BASIC GALAXY TYPES These Sloan Digital Sky Survey images show the elliptical galaxy M87 (left) and the classic spiral galaxy M10l (right). M10l shines brightly in the predominantly blue light of massive young stars. In contrast, M87 stopped forming stars in appreciable numbers billions of years ago, so its colour is dominated by the redder light of old stars. SLOAN DIGITAL SKY







Trends in Pro-Am Astronomy
GALAXY ANALYSIS Visitors to the Galaxy Zoo website would encounter pages such as this. The Zooite would see a large central frame with a Sloan image of a galaxy, and buttons on the right that would allow the citizen scientist to select a specific galaxy type from several basic categories. Links at the top of the page could take the visitor to any number of related sites, including blogs and forums.

astronomers classified galaxies by eye, first into spirals and ellipticals, and then into increasingly elaborate schemes that still colour the debate. With the rise of large-scale surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), astronomers had to cope with such large numbers of galaxies that classifying them all by eye appeared impossible. They developed new computer algorithms to classify galaxies, but they could never fully reproduce the human ability to tell galaxy classes apart. Even the most sophisticated computer programs trying to mimic the way the brain works would often miss an obvious set

of spiral arms and declare a beautiful spiral to be an elliptical. Instead, the computers generally measured "structural parameters" that conveyed useful physical quantities, but they didn't provide the same information as a human classifier.

The Power of the Human Brain
As part of my own graduate research at Yale University, I had classified almost 50,000 galaxy images by eye in search of an evolutionary missing link: a blue elliptical galaxy. Young, massive stars shine brightly in blue wavelengths, so blue is the characteristic colour of
BIRTHPLACEOF GALAXY ZOO Author Kevin Schawinski and astronomer Chris Lintott hatched the idea for Galaxy Zoo while downing pints of fine British ale at The Royal Oak, a pub in Oxford, England. JONATHAN

a galaxy that's still forming stars. But most ellipticals shine red with the light of old stars. The human eye and brain proved to be the most reliable classification tool, but 50,000 galaxies proved to be just scratching the surface. Many of the recent insights in galaxy evolution have come from statistical analyses of hundreds of thousands or even millions of galaxies. To figure out which galaxy properties are important, we needed to group galaxies into categories by characteristics such as mass, environment, star-formation rate, and shape. Thus the idea of Galaxy Zoo was born in the northern spring of 2007 at a pub in Oxford, England, as Chris Lintott (Adler Planetarium and Oxford University) and I tried to come up with a better way to classify large numbers of galaxies by eye. We were inspired by the success of the Stardust@home project, which had enlisted the help of people across the internet to hunt for comet dust collected by NASA's Stardust spacecraft. If people were willing to look for dust particles, we thought, perhaps we could persuade them to classify gorgeous images of galaxies. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey's (SDSS) 2.5-metre robotic telescope in New Mexico had been scanning the skies for years, and it was clear to us that if human eyes could classify the nearly 1 million galaxies it had observed, we could produce exciting new insights into galaxy evolution. After classifying 50,000 SDSS galaxies by myself, I realised that analysing a million would require a lot of help. Turning to the internet seemed an obvious route, so Chris and I hoped to excite a group large enough that we could classify everyone of the million galaxies in a few years. Things moved quickly and went live on 12 July, 2007. The start quickly went viral on the internet. The global response was so enthusiastic that the Fermilab servers providing SDSS images soon struggled to keep up and finally crashed when a cable melted. Just a few hours after launch, had died. Fortunately, our colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University mounted a quick rescue operation and cloned the SDSS SkyServer on some spare machines to cope with the demand. When we first summarised our goals






GREENPEAS Thanks to citizen scientists, the Galaxy Zoo project discovered a new class of compact galaxy whose members shine at greenish wavelengths. These "green peas" are living fossils with no counterparts in our local universe. Exactly how they fit into the overall evolutionary sequence of galaxies remains a mystery.



"The start quickly went viral...Just a few hours after launch, had died"
for Galaxy Zoo, we hoped that each of the 1 million galaxies in the SDSS sample would be viewed and classified once, and estimated that this would take perhaps as many as five years. We were off by orders of magnitude. Within hours, citizen scientists had made 1 million classifications, and the torrent of clicks continued. Just over a year into the project, when we decided that further clicks were no longer improving the results, each galaxy had been viewed more than 70 times.

When our international Galaxy Zoo science team had collected enough clicks to start analysing the results, we turned the user classifications into science while using a blog and forum ( and to interact with the citizen scientists. We considered

this crucial because we viewed the citizen scientists as our collaborators who deserved credit for discoveries and to be fully informed with what we did with their hard work. This caused some consternation with academic journals when we inquired whether we would be allowed to submit papers with more than 100,000 coauthors. The journals said our request was unfeasible, so instead each paper links to a web poster where we list everyone who volunteered to have their username made public (http://zool. galaxyzoo.orglVolunteers.aspx). By the time we decided that Galaxy Zoo had completed its objectives, we had accumulated enough clicks for every galaxy that we had the consensus vote for each one (survey says: it's a spiral!) and a measurement of how certain the classification was (for example, only 55 out of70 citizen scientists agree that it's a spiral). Our main goal was to classify galaxies by shape alone and thus find the odd galaxies that can perhaps teach us the most about galaxy evolution. We quickly found large numbers of

Trends in Pro-Am Astronomy


50 40 30 20 10 0

s:::: 0

RAPID RISE This graph plots the unanticipated rapid rise in the number of galaxy classifications made by citizen scientists. It took less than two weeks to hit the 1 million mark. S&T: LEAH TISCIONE, SOURCE:



s:::: 0 u

ro ro ......








Days since launch of Galaxy Zoo
galaxies that did not fit the traditional profile of passive red ellipticals and blue star-forming spirals. When spiral galaxies collide, the interaction can destroy their disks, resulting in an elliptical galaxy where all the gas is used up in an intense burst of star formation that produces a "red-anddead" elliptical. Alternatively, galaxies can slowly exhaust their gas supply or perhaps lose it as they enter galaxy clusters, leading to a more gentle transformation as the spiral arms fade. Blue ellipticals that are currently forming stars, sometimes at prodigious rates, showed up rapidly in the Galaxy Zoo data and may constitute 5% to 10% of all ellipticals, most of which are gas poor and can no longer form stars. But unlike most elliptical galaxies, which are much larger than our Milky Way, none of the blue ellipticals are particularly massive. Since the most massive ellipticals formed in the early

universe, perhaps these less massive blue ellipticals are scaled -down versions of those resulting from the processes that formed their massive cousins. Many of these elliptical galaxies show indications of debris and tidal tails, suggesting one or more recent major mergers. Their star formation seems to have come to a rather rapid halt. Similarly, red spirals abound. While many spirals have a plentiful supply of gas to form stars, these red spiral galaxies no longer appear capable of forming stars. But unlike the elliptical galaxies, the red spirals seem to have experienced a protracted period of declining star formation. As they move from sparse environments to denser ones such as galaxy clusters, they gently slip from active growth by star formation to lower and lower starformation rates over at least a billion years or so. Dramatic events such as galaxy collisions do not appear to be involved. The user classifications also helped






reveal some surprising results about the galaxies that feed their central supermassive black holes, and those that do not. We asked a simple question: What kind of galaxies feed their central black holes, and does the energy given off by the feeding black hole affect the gas and dust in the host galaxy? The answer, it turns out, depends on whether the galaxy is a spiral or an elliptical. Ellipticals feed their black holes when they are passing from star formation to quiescence, suggesting that the black hole plays a role in this transformation. In contrast, spirals randomly feed their black hole, and the energy from their black holes does little to change their evolutionary trajectories. But we were most surprised when we asked what kind of galaxy is most likely to feed its central black hole. It turns out that relatively massive spiral galaxies with rather anemic star-formation rates - in other words, galaxies like our own Milky Way - are the most likely. This is consistent with recent observations by high-energy space telescopes such as INTEGRAL and Suzaku that show that the Milky Way's central black hole was much

more active in the very recent past.

Citizen Science
The Galaxy Zoo citizen scientists, or Zooites as they soon called themselves, quickly built a community around the Zoo on our message board. The forum became a place for participants to share their favourite objects, organise their own science projects, and come up with astronomy-related puns. One project that brought together all of these elements was the search for the "pea galaxies:' The Zooites began spotting small, round, and green galaxies that they naturally called "peas:' They formed the "peas corps" to give these unusual peas a chance. Upon closer inspection, Yale graduate student Carolin Cardamone, in collaboration with the citizen scientists, discovered that these peas are compact galaxies undergoing very intense bursts of star formation. They are very much unlike any galaxies in the nearby universe. Since the gas being turned into stars in the peas has not been polluted with heavy elements from previous episodes of star formation, they emit powerfully in doubly ionised oxygen, giving them their characteristic greenish colour. Because the peas have an uncanny

resemblance to galaxies in the early universe, the Zooites discovered living fossils. A great advantage of humans over computer algorithms is the ability of the brain to spot something unusual or new. So when Zooite Hanny van Arkel, a teacher from the Netherlands, was shown the image of the galaxy IC 2497 and asked to classify it, she instead wondered about a neighbouring blue blob (some images show it as green). The blob had been in publicly available data for years, yet it went unrecognised by sophisticated computer programs. She quickly posted a link to the image to the forum where the strange blog was named Hanny's Voorwerp ("object" in Dutch). When our team was alerted to this strange object, we made the decision to post as much information as possible on our public blog as we investigated it. Data came in from a variety of telescopes and we simply reported what we saw on our blog. Hanny's Voorwerp turned out to be a large cloud of gas that is fluorescing after being energised by a quasar jet (July issue, page 16). Citizen science is more than just asking the public to help with science


Trends in Pro-Am Astronomy

"The data flood in the coming decade is going to be one of the great challenges of astronomy."
projects; it's also about getting people around the world involved in research and to inspire them to pursue their own interests. On the forum, people with common interests got together to pursue projects and discussions. This involved amazing amounts of self-organisation, from people creating their own classification interfaces to citizen scientists organising their own meetings across the globe. Several citizen scientists were ultimately inspired to take their interests further and return to education. In the meantime, the citizen scientists told us that what they really wanted was the opportunity to classify galaxies in more detail than just sorting them into a few broad categories. Thus Galaxy Zoo 2 was born, where we asked users a series of questions about each galaxy to investigate features such as the number of arms and bars in spiral galaxies or the presence of dust lanes indicative of recent mergerinduced star formation. Work by Karen Masters (University of Portsmouth, England) using Galaxy Zoo 2 results showed that bars are more common in red spirals. It's unclear yet whether the bars are responsible for turning spiral galaxies red, or whether they appear as a consequence of the slow shutdown of star formation. Struck by the huge numbers of citizen scientists that joined the Zoo, we wondered why so many people around the world volunteered their time. Surveys sent out to users revealed the answer: people got involved because they wanted to actively contribute to research; they wanted to take part in the actual science.
ZOOITES During a meeting in 2009, members of the Galaxy Zoo science team posed with other interested scientists and citizen scientists in front of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England. Hanny van Arkel is in the front row, wearing a solid green shirt. WILLIAM

Although Galaxy Zoo I and 2 have officially come to an end, the wisdom of the crowd of citizen scientists across the internet has proved to be a powerful new tool in the arsenal of scientists trying to understand the universe. Inspired by the success of the Galaxy Zoo, new projects were born, first in astronomy but then spreading to topics further afield. The immediate successor of Galaxy Zoo is the Hubble Zoo (still at www.galaxyzoo. org), where users classify images of galaxies in the early universe taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Citizen scientists can also explore the plane of

the Milky Way Galaxy with the Milky Way Project (www.milkywayproject. org) and hunt for planets around other stars at Planethunters (www. The data flood in the coming decade is going to be one of the great challenges of astronomy. Professional astronomers will need to become proficient database managers and develop sophisticated statistical tools to cope with the output of facilities such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which will image the entire sky visible from its location in Chile every three nights. In order to make full use of the torrent of data, professionals will have to turn to citizen scientists for help in exploring it and making discoveries. Crowd-sourced data mining will be a growing part of astronomy's future, especially after LSST comes online around 2020. I predict these projects will become a major way that new people find out about astronomy as a hobby and learn about science in general. Ultimately, citizen scientists will have to be an integrated part of the scientific process oflarge facilities, not just in astronomy, but in other fields as well..
Kevin Schawinski is an Einstein Fellow at Yale University. He works on the formation of galaxies and supermassive black holes and their coevolution.




Binocular Highlight '
Les Dalrymple .

Late January Early February Late February Early March Late March These are daylight times. Subtract if daylight applicable. lam Midnight llpm lOpm 9pm saving

one hour

saving is not

Go outside within an hour or so of a time listed above. Hold the map out in front of you and turn it around for the direction right-side represents so the label is you're facing

(such as west or northeast) the horizon, and

up. The curved edge

the stars above it on the map now match the stars in front of you in the sky. The centre of the map is the zenith, the point overhead. in the sky directly

M93 T
hough M93 is in Puppis, I tend to connect it with Canis Major as it is proximate to the hindquarters of the large dog. Plainly, Charles Messier also associated it somewhat with Canis Major, at least going by his description: "Cluster of small stars, without nebulosity, between the Greater Dog and the prow of the ship': From Sirius, first locate 3rd magnitude Omicron' (0') Canis Majoris about 8° southeast. M93 is almost 10° due eastward from Omicron' Canis Majoris, in the same field as 3rd magnitude Xi (~) Puppis. Viewing with 10x50 binoculars, M93 is 1Yz0 northwest of Xi Puppis, itself a nice optical triple of 3rd, 5th, and 8th magnitude stars all on a short, curved line with the brighter two light yellow. Xi Puppis is a massive, distant beacon we see during a brief transitional stage between brilliant blue star and red supergiant. Over 1,300 light-years distant, it is almost 10,000 times more luminous than our Sun. M93 is a small, strong haze about 1),0 across but definitely longer along the southwest-northeast axis with some few resolved points near the centre. Stepping up to 15x70 binoculars, it is obviously oval and about a dozen stars are involved, resolved mainly through the centre of the cluster along the major axis. The surrounding haze concentrates moderately to the central bar with an excellent, well-populated Milky Way backdrop. M93 is about 3,400 light-years distant and contains 100-odd stars spread over about two dozen light-years. Heading decidedly in the direction of middle age, it is about 100 million years old. Though several other clusters in Puppis and Canis Major love to hog the limelight in both binoculars and telescope, make sure you drop by on M93 too, a decidedly underobserved binocular highlight! +

map around "Facing About

Turn the up.

so the label of the way Go

SW" is right-side one-third

from there to the map's centre is the bright star Achernar. of the way to straight out, face southwest, about one-third from horizontal overhead. and look

There's Achernar!


The map is plotted (for Sydney, Buenos

for 35° south latitude

Aires, Cape Town). If you're far north of there, stars in the northern part of the sky will be higher and stars in the south lower. Far south of 35° the reverse is true.

You can get a sky chart customised location skychart for your 2 Star 4 magnitudes at any time at

Galaxy Double star Variable star Open cluster Diffuse nebula Globular cluster Planetary nebula


Greg Bryant Tonight's Sky


Reflections On A Supernova
25 years have passed since Supernova 1987A
re you old enough to remember observing Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud? I was a teenager in high school when it exploded in our sky on 24 February, 1987. The evening's news saw a nice image of the supernova next to NGC 2070, the Tarantula Nebula (see page 28), and I realised it would be easy to find. From my backyard in the northern suburbs of Sydney, I could see the "new star'; and even from the very light-polluted skies of the inner suburbs of Sydney it could be made out against a grey background. From a dark sky, it was a wonderful sight, delightfully punctuating the diffuse glow of the Large Magellanic Cloud over several months. The supernova has long faded, though some amateurs have been able to observe the remnant in large telescopes, and so the Large Magellanic Cloud looks like it has to centuries of sky watchers. Some 160,000 light-years from us, the Large Magellanic Cloud lies in the constellation of Dorado (the Goldfish), overlapping slightly into Mensa (the Table Mountain). Both constellations are relatively faint. Dorado only has one star of 3rd magnitude, 3.3-magnitude Alpha (ex) Doradus, and only three stars of 4th magnitude, while Mensa has nothing brighter than 5th magnitude! From suburban skies, it's a difficult region of the sky to locate, so our all-sky chart on pages 50- 51 will be useful to get your sense of direction in tonight's sky. The Large Magellanic Cloud forms a wide triangle with the bright stars Canopus and Achernar. Although Southern Hemisphere people have been able to see the Magellanic Clouds for millennia, the first recorded sighting from the Northern Hemisphere was by a Persian astronomer in the l Oth century. However, it was the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan's writings


Ever since supernova 1987A exploded in the LMC, astronomers have continued to study it. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006, shows a ring where the shockwave
from the supernova

is heatin~ up surrounding interstellar material. Two prominent but unrelated LMC stars are also visible.

"From a dark sky, it was a wonderful sight, delightfully punctuating the diffuse glow .."
about the "Clouds' during his 1519 sea voyage that saw them firmly enter the conscience of celestial cartographers of the time. Astronomers have identified dozens of supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud that date back several thousand years, although one is only around 400 years old. We're well overdue to see another supernova in our galaxy - wouldn't it be interesting if the next naked-eye supernova was not from the Milky Way but from one of the Magellanic Clouds!

In the meantime, take the time to seek out the Large Magellanic Cloud from a darkened sky, explore its many clusters and nebulae (particularly the exquisite Tarantula Nebula), and reflect on a stellar event that took place "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..:' •

Observing Tips This Month
50: 51: 52: 54: 58 59 60 62 64 66 70 72 M93 in Puppis Evening sky chart The Large Magellanic Cloud Where to find the planets Lunar occultations The variable RS Puppis Lunar volcanoes Mars at 0 osition Double stars in Puppis Dee sky in northern Orion Cancer's AWM1 galaxy grou Odd constellations in the sky



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Sun, Moon and Planets Greg Bryant

A Trio of Planetary Delights
Venus and Jupiter pair up, while Mars is at opposition
hat a wonderful period of planetary observing is in store! Venus and Jupiter will be spectacular in the evening sky, and Mars is at its brightest in two years. To begin with, though, Mercury is in superior conjunction with the Sun (ie. on the opposite side of the Sun to Earth) on 7 February. It then moves into the evening twilight sky, but it's a poor show for Southern Hemisphere observers, not climbing high at all. Mercury hugs the solar glare into March, before moving through inferior conjunction on 22 March and reappearing in the morning dawn sky. Uranus is very low in the evening sky in early February, and will be lost from view by mid-month as it heads towards conjunction with the Sun in March. On 10 February, Uranus will be just 0.5 from Venus, but some 10 magnitudes fainter. Venus is eye-catching as it shines at magnitude -4 in the early evening and slowly gains altitude. Jupiter closes in on Venus, and just 3 will separate the two beacons of light on March 14. It will be a wonderful sight in a pair of binoculars. The Moon will be near the two planets on 25 - 27 February and 26 - 27 March. In addition, on 27 March Venus will be at greatest elongation east from the Sun (46°) Mars is at opposition on 4 March and will be unmistakeable as it shines brightly at magnitude -1.2. It's a poor opposition for Mars, alas, as the planet is near aphelion in its orbit and thus farther away from Earth. As such, the planet's disk diameter will be smaller. Still, there can be details readily observed in good seeing. Turn to page 62 for a guide to observing Mars this season. On 10 February and 8 March, the Moon will be near Mars. Saturn is rising in the evening as it heads towards opposition in April. Remaining within a handspan of 1st magnitude Spica, Saturn is the one that is trailing. On 12 February and 11 March, the Moon will be near the two, forming a nice grouping in the sky. Pluto is rising in the middle ofthe night. Moving ever so slowly through Sagittarius, the 14th magnitude dwarf
0 0


Sky positions In Sun, Moon, and Planets, most descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith - including directions like up, down, right, and left - are written for skywatchers in the world's mid-southern latitudes. Configurations of the Moon with specific planets are a special case because they also depend on longitude, and these are given for Australia. FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012




December solstice

• Earth



June solstice

.Venus Mercury

Left: The curved arrows indicate each planet's movement during February and March, as if you were looking down on the inner solar system from the constellation Ophiuchus.

planet will be within a couple arcminutes of the 6.7-magnitude variable V4401 Sagittarii in early February, making Pluto relatively easy to find. Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on 20th February, and thus won't be visible until mid-March when it returns to the morning sky, where it will be lying in Aquarius. In addition to the above planetary conjunctions, the Moon will be 2° south of Spica on 12 February, 4° north of Antares on 16 February, 5° north of Aldebaran on 1 March and on 28 March, 2° south of Spica on 11 March, and 5° north of Antares on 14 March. The Autumn Equinox is on 20 March. At this point, the Sun is directly above the equator, and day and night are roughly equal. From here on, for the next six months, as the Sun lies north of the equator, nighttime hours will be longer than the day.•

Events Of Note
Feb Aldebaran 6° south of the Moon 611 Pollux 10° north of the Moon Full Moon (8:54am) 81 Regulus 6° north of the Moon 91 101 Venus 0.3° north of Uranus ! Mars 10° north of the Moon 121. Spica 1. r north ofthe Moon 131 Saturn 6° north of the Moon 151 Last Quarter Moon (4:04am) 161 Antares 4° south of the Moon 22U. New Moon (9:35am) 261 Venus 3° south of the Moon 31

1 4 5 7



8 ;;;;;;;;; ... 11 14 15 23

&.II lIItr.'II'I'!'!·no~


==26. 27 28 31

Aldebaran 5° south of the Moon First Quarter Moon (12:21pm) Mars at opposition Pollux 10° north of the Moon Uranus 3° south of Mercury Regulus 6° north of the Moon Mars 10° north of the Moon Full Moon (8:39pm) Spica 1.5° north of the Moon Saturn 6° north of the Moon Antares 5° south of the Moon Last Quarter Moon (12:25imlm) Venus 3° north of Jupiter New Moon (1:37am) Jupiter 3° south of the Moon Venus 1.9° north of the Moon Venus at qreatest elonqation east (46°) Aldebaran 5° south of the Moon First Quarter Moon (6:41am)
Times are listed in Eastern Australia Daylight Savings Time


Sun, Moon and Planets

Jupiter's Red Spot Transit February - March 2012 (Universal

21:32 07:28 17:24 03:20 13:16 23:12 09:07 19:03 04:59 14:55 00:51 10:47 20:43

Eris and Astraea at Opposition
25: 26:



3: 4: 5:

6: 7:


07:30 17:26 03:22 13:18 23:13 09:09 19:05 05:01 14:57 00:52 10:48 20:44 06:40 16:36 02:32 12:27 22:23 08:19 18:15

9: 10:

11: 12:

13: 14:

15: 16:

04:11 14:07 00:02 09:58 19:54 05:50 15:46 01:41 11:37 21:33 07:29 17:25 03:21 13:16 23:12 09:08 19:04 05:00 14:56


18: 19:

20: 21: 22:

23: 24:

00:51 10:47 20:43 06:39 16:35 02:31 12:26 22:22 08:18 18:14 04:10 14:06 00:02 09:57 19:53 05:49 15:45 01:41 11:37

27: 28: 29:

Two asteroids of note reach opposition during February and March. The first is (433) Eros, which will reach magnitude 8.6 around the time of opposition on 7 February. Eros, discovered in 1898, was the first asteroid to be orbited by a spacecraft, NEAR-Shoemaker, in 2000. During February and March, Eros will be moving through the constellations of Sextans, Hydra, and Antlia. A month later, (5) Astraea is at opposition on 11 March, at which time it will be magnitude 9.0. Astraea, though, will be magnitude 9.5 or brighter from mid -February through to late March as it moves through Virgo and Leo. Astraea was discovered in 1845, the first one to be found after Vesta in 1807, and it was then realised by astronomers that there must be many more asteroids, and so the search began. For finder charts, visit the website of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (

1: 2:

3: 4: 5:

6: 7:


06:38 16:34 02:30 12:26 22:22 08:18 18:13 04:09 14:05 00:01 09:57 19:53 05:49 15:44 01:40 11:36 21:32 07:28 17:24


10: 11: 12:

13: 14:

15: 16:

03:20 13:15 23:11 09:07 19:03 04:59 14:55 00:51 10:46 20:42 06:38 16:34 02:30 12:26 22:22 08:17 18:13 04:09 14:05


18: 19:

20: 21:

22: 23: 24:

00:01 09:57 19:52 05:48 15:44 01:40 11:36 21:32 07:28 17:24 03:19 13:15 23:11 09:07 19:03 04:59 14:55 00:50 10:46

25: 26:

27: 28: 29:

30: 31:

20:42 06:38 16:34 02:30 12:25 22:21 08:17 18:13 04:09 14:05 00:01 09:57 19:52 05:48 15:44 01:40 11:36 21:32

Satellites of Saturn
With Saturn now rising in the evening, as it heads towards opposition in April, there's more time to seek out some of its brightest moons. 8th magnitude orange Titan is the easiest to spot, and a small telescope will readily reveal it. Titan spends most of its time far away from the glare of Saturn. With a diameter of 5, 150 km (the largest satellite of Saturn), Titan orbits Saturn every 15.9 days, and during February/March it will be at its greatest elongation east on 12 February, 27 February, 14 March, and 30 March. The next easiest to see is 10th magnitude Rhea, Saturn's second largest satellite with a diameter of 1,530 km. It revolves around Saturn every 4.5 days. Dione, at lOth magnitude, resides inside Rhea's orbit. The fourth largest of Saturn's satellites, it completes one orbit in just 2.7 days. Also at 10th magnitude is Tethys, Saturn's fifth largest moon. It lies closer to Saturn than Dione does, and it's slightly smaller. Yet, it's also just a touch brighter than Dione, due to a higher icy albedo. Enceladus at 12th magnitude is very challenging. The sixth largest Saturn ian satellite, it whips around the planet in just 1.4 days, so it's very close to the glare of Saturn. Iapetus orbits well beyond the above five satellites, taking 80 days to revolve around Saturn, but it's an enigmatic satellite worth mentioning. With a diameter of 1,500 km, it's Saturn's third largest moon. One side ofTapetus is dark coloured and the other is light. As such, it varies from lOth magnitude (when west of Saturn) to 12th magnitude (when east of it). Key dates for Iapetus during February/March are: > 8 February: Greatest elongation west > 28 February: Superior conjunction > 19 March: Greatest elongation east

These predictions assume the Red Spot is at Jovian System II longitude 173°, If it has moved elsewhere, it will transit 12/3 minutes late far every lOaf longitude greater than 1730, or 1 2/3 minutes early for every 10 less than 1730, Check for updates.






Satellites of Jupiter
Jupiter is starting to get low in the evening sky, setting before midnight, so you'll need to observe it early to watch the movements of Jupiter's four largest moons. The innermost of the four, 10, zips around Jupiter in 1.77 days, closely followed by Europa in 3.55 days. Ganymede takes 7.15 days, basically a week, and Callisto is almost leisurely with an orbital period of 16.69 days. These moons are quite bright, ranging between 5th and 6th magnitude, and are easily seen in small telescopes. Room doesn't permit us here to display the changing pattern they present, but it's worth seeking out Jupiter each night to see how they're moving. Can you identify which moon is which?

Moon, February 2012
Full Moon February 7, 21:54 UT

Moon, March 2012
First Quarter March 1, 01:21 UT

Last Quarter
New Moon

February 14, 17:04 UT February 21. 22:35 UT

Full Moon Last Quarter
New First Moon Quarter

March 8, 09:39 UT March 15. 00:48 UT March 22, 14:37 UT March 30, 19:41 UT

Perigee 367,922 km

Februar~ 11, 19h UT diem. 32' 28" February' 27 14h UT diarn. 29' 30" Perigee 362,400 km 6QQ_gee 405,777 km March 10, lOh UT diam. 32' 58" March 26 6h UT diam. 29' 26"

404,862 km

February February 1 7 Min. libration Max. libration (SW limb) (NW limb)

March 5 Max. libration Min. libration (NW limb)

March 12 March 19 March 26

(NE limb)

February 15 February 28

Min. libration (NE limb) Min. libration (SW limb)

Max. libration (SE limb) Min. fibration (SW limb)

The table at right gives each object's right ascension and declination (equinox of date) at Oh Universal Time on selected dates, and its elongation from the Sun in the morning (Mo) or evening (Ev) sky. Next are the visual magnitude and equatorial diameter. (Saturn's ring extent is 2.27 times its equatorial diameter.) Last are the percentage of a planet's disk illuminated by the Sun and the distance from Earth in astronomical units. (Based on the mean Earth-Sun distance, 1 a.u. equals 149,597,870 kilometres. For other dates, see almanac.




Celestial Calendar

One for Each End
Steve Kerr
y their nature, occultations are only visible from certain areas and not others. In choosing which events to cover, this column has to play favourites. This time, we are going to cover two events that will cover everyone across Australia and New Zealand ... well almost everyone. On the evening of 4 February, the Moon will be a little over three days short of Full when it occults Eta (11) Geminorum - also known as Tejat Prior, Praepes, or Propus. This occultation will be visible across Tasmania, Victoria, parts of New South Wales close to the Victorian border, the southern half of South Australia, and Western Australia from just south of Carnarvon. With a waxing Moon phase, it will be the disappearance that will be the most easily observed as the star blinks out behind the dark unlit edge or limb of the Moon. Given that the Moon is close to Full and so quite bright, it is realistically going to take at least a small telescope to comfortably observe the disappearance of the 3.3-magnitude star. The reappearance will be on the bright limb and will require large aperture telescopes with high magnification pointed at exactly the right spot on the edge of the lunar disk - a challenging observation. There is an opportunity for a grazing lunar occultation along the northern edge of the occultation zone where the star will appear to blink on and off as the mountains on the edge of Location Adelaide (ACDT) Auckland (NZDT) Brisbane (AEST) Cairns (AEST) Canberra (AEDT) Christchurch (NZDT) Hobart (AEDT) Melbourne (AEDT) Perth (AWST) Sydney (AEDT) Townsville(AEST) Wellington (NZDT)


Tejat Prior (TlGeminorurn) February 4 - 5 Disappearance Reappearance 23:28 0:13

Mu (m) Sagittarii March 15-16 Disappearance Reappearance





3:43 0:25



1:46 4:04

4:42 1:17 1:10 2:10 4:31

0:06 0:11 20:00


0:S9 0:52 21:01






2:14 1:12 4:39

the Moon's disk pass in front. Again, moderate aperture telescopes will be needed to make this observation. As noted in the November/December 2011 issue (page 61), Eta Geminorum is a fascinating triple star system that may be resolved as "Step" events during occultations. Unfortunately, the geometry of the disappearance does not favour observers spotting the companions separate from the primary star in this event, except when observed from within the grazing occultation zone where reappearances may be visible. Nevertheless, carefully recorded video observations of this occultation could go a long way to resolving the complexities of this system. Just over a month later, after midnight on 15/16 March, a Last Quarter Moon is crossing the predawn Milky Way fields of Sagittarius. It will occult Mu (u) Sagittarii for observers in New Zealand north of Oarmaru, and Australian observers approximately north of the Murray River and Port Augusta and east of a line from the head of the Great Australian Bight to Princess Charlotte Bay in far north Queensland. Mu Sagittarii is a slightly variable blue giant star around magnitude 3.8 and the waning lunar phase means that the main action will be with the reappearance as the star springs out from the unlit upper edge of the Moon's disk. The earlier disappearance will require at least a moderate aperture telescope and will be difficult to observe from Australian sites due to the lower altitude at the time. A grazing occultation will be visible along the southern boundary of the occultation zone passing near Oarmaru in New Zealand and Albury and Port Augusta in Australia. Mu Sagittarii has a number of listed companions but most are much fainter and well separated from the primary to produce any observable effects during an occultation. There is however a reference to a possible close companion measured using optical interferometry that might be able to be confirmed through careful video observations of the reappearance. You will never know unless you look .•
Steve Kerr is a Queensland-based amateur astronomer and active occultation observer.








RS Puppis






e've looked at a couple of Cepheid variables in this column; pulsating cosmic lighthouses, they light the way along the spiral arms and helped map the galaxy. RS Puppis, some 6,500 lightyears away, is a good target for both visual and photographic observers because it has a high amplitude (6.5-7.7 magnitude) and long period (41.4 days). The period of this one has slowly changed over the years, as the star loses mass and drifts across the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, making it an important astrophysical target for observers. You can use the chart provided here, or grab one of your own preference. Go to the AAVSO website http://www.

W and in the 'Observing' section find 'Variable Star Charts' then the 'VSP~ Here's a gold mine: In the appropriate field enter 'RS Pup', or the coordinates of a galaxy, comet, or anything else, and generate charts from as big as 20 degrees field of view, progressively down to 7.5 arcminutes and 20th magnitude stars. There is nothing you won't be able to find, so long as you have coordinates. This star is a part of the Bright Cepheids Project run by Variable Stars South http://www.variablestarssouth. org/ and interested observers are encouraged to participate there also ...
Alan Plummer can be contacted at alan.


Charles A. Wood

Exploring the Moon



Giant Lunar Shield Volcanoes?
They were strangely missing - until now. Spacecraft altimetry suggests that the Moon has low, broad structures similar to the Hawaiian Islands.

ackyard Moonwatchers and lunar scientists tend to have different interests. The scientists are most interested in how and why things happened: in ages, compositions, and processes. Observers tend to be most interested in lunar geography: identifying features and perhaps searching for challenging craterlets or rilles. But often, amateurs have a chance to look in on lunar research discoveries for themselves. Such is the case with recent claims of seven big lunar shield volcanoes. "Shields" are wide volcanic mountains built by long tongues of very fluid lava. Over time (up to a few million years for large shields on Earth, such as Hawaii's Mauna Loa), lava flows will run in all directions away from a vent, building up a massive, roughly circular mound. The biggest one in the solar system is Olympus Mons on Mars, 600 km wide and almost 22 km high. Because runny lavas flow far from their vents, shields


Rings mark the approximate areas of the seven low-profile shield volcanos proposed by Paul Spudis, Patrick McGovern, and Walter Kiefer.




do not build steep cones (think Mount Fuji) but rather form broad, very gentle slopes, often with a collapse caldera at the top. Although large shields are common on Earth, Mars and Venus, geologists long ago noted that there are none on the Moon. The Moon did experience plentiful volcanism between about 3.8 and 2.5 billion years ago, but most of it formed the flat lava plains we see as the maria, sporting only low wrinkle ridges. The Moon also has some small-scale volcanic features - sinuous rilles, dark halo craters, and domes (October issue, page 24). Enter the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, one of the instruments on NASAS Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter going around the Moon. LOLA can measure elevation differences of only 1 metre, so scientists are now discovering undulations of the lunar surface that were previously unknown. Three lunar scientists at the Lunar and

Planetary Institute in Houston have used LOLA-created maps to identify giant shield volcanoes - giant in diameter, but low in height. Paul Spudis, Patrick McGovern, and Walter Kiefer have described seven possible large shields, some of which were already known to have unusual volcanic structures. The most convincing one underlies the swarm of about 300 small cones and domes known as the Marius Hills (top left, next page). These were probably the vents for numerous lava flows that combined to build a shield that LOLA shows to be about 330 km wide and 3.2 km high. If you observe when the illumination is low at the Marius Hills, you may notice the relatively abrupt edge of the Hills' northern flank. That marks the front of repeated lava flows. Spudis and his colleagues propose that the Aristarchus Plateau and the nearby Prinz region, well known to backyard observers, are also shields. These areas are elevated about 1.6 to 2 km above the surrounding mare surface.


Left: The abundant domes of the Marius Hills, visible in backyard telescopes, are famous leftovers from ancient lunar volcanism. Do they stand on an enormous, low shield volcano only recently revealed? Right: Cinder-cone domes topped by central pits dot the mare floor around Cauchy and its famous fault and rille.

Each has sinuous rilles (including the largest on the Moon, Schroters Valley), as you can observe with even a small scope. But these may not be true volcanic shields; they look more like uplifted blocks of crust. Fractures in them may have allowed magma to pour onto the surface.

The two largest of the possible shields lie near the small crater Cauchy, in eastern Mare Tranquillitatis, and west of Copernicus in the domeland near Hortensius and Tobias Mayer. The Cauchy area is famous for a fault and rille on either side of the crater and for many small volcanic domes in

and around the region. The six domes near Hortensius and a larger one at T. Mayer are classic dome examples. Careful observing at times of grazing illumination will reveal these small features. Telescopic views do not indicate the subtle rise in elevation: about 2 km spread over 300 to 400 km, a slope ofless than 1°. The proposed giant shields have the merit of explaining something that was previously a mystery: why are swarms of small volcanic features concentrated in the places they are? Similar minor volcanoes are often seen dotting large terrestrial shields. And the Spudis group points out that the seven proposed shields are located near basin rims, where modelling suggests the lunar crust may be deeply fractured, providing conduits for magma to rise preferentially. The next time the lighting is good, see what you can spot at these locations ...
For a daily Moon fix, visit Charles Wood's Lunar Photo of the Day: lpod.wikispaces. com.



Exploring the Solar System Roger Venable

Ruddy Mars Returns
Make the most of the coming apparition.
nce again, Mars is beckoning to us from the night sky, using the same magic that enthralled Schiaparelli, Lowell, and Antoniadi. Perhaps it's the Earth -like character of this distant world that captivates us its clouds and seasons, ever-changing polar caps, or its vast deserts with their unpredictable dust storms. Like far-off places on Earth, it seems to be a place that we could someday visit, like Timbuktu in the hot, shifting Sahara. Is our wonder the result of our having read fictional tales of adventures on the Red Planet? No. Rather, the fictions were inspired by wonder. The mysteries of the Red Planet that entranced the great observers of old are nearly palpable, enlivened rather than buried by the knowledge we've accumulated since their days. Is there,


or has there been, life on Mars? What causes the long-term changes in the shapes of the planet's dark albedo features? Are there complexities of the water and wind cycles of which we have no inkling? While we don't have the answers to these questions yet, we do know these things: Gazing across the void from the humble perspectives of our backyards, we can peer directly upon the surface of Mars. You can imagine that the dark albedo markings are vast continents and islands made of something unknown - not oceans, despite their provocative names, nor

vegetation, despite the yearnings of Lowell, but something still unknown. Now in Leo, Mars's ruddy beacon is slightly brighter than any star in the surrounding constellations. You can plot its progress across the sky from month to month using our table of positions on page 57, or you can use your favourite computer planetarium program to localise it more precisely. Its diameter will subtend more than 6 arcseconds from early November 2011 through mid-July 2012, the minimum necessary to begin to resolve surface features visually. But dedicated

"You can increase your chances of satisfying views this apparition by following a few simple techniques. "



Phoenicis Lacus Cerberus I


Trivium Charontis


Hyblaeus Extension

'<i~ '<i~
Ismenfus Lacus

+60' +90' 180'


















With Mars transiting the meridian before dawn, it's the perfect time to start observing the coming apparition. The map compiled above by Damian Peach displays the major features visible in modest telescopes. This year, the planet's north pole will be tipped prominently toward us, giving observers a great view as the North Polar Cap slowly recedes as spring progresses in the planet's northern hemisphere. 62 AUSTRALIAN SKY & TELESCOPE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012

Above: Massive dust storms occasionally erupt during Martian springtime, and they can spread to obscure large areas within days. Alan Friedman captured a light-coloured storm in Aurorae Sinus on 19 October, 2005 (left), which spread north into Mare Erythraeum by 21 October (right). Left: In addition to prominent albedo markings, Mars displays an ever-changing array of subtle clouds and fogs. Most notable are orographic clouds that form around the prominent volcanoes in the Tharsis region visible in the bottom-left photo. Don Parker

planetary observers have already been monitoring it carefully for months. This will be an aphelic apparition of Mars; Mars is on the outer arc of its oval orbit when Earth overtakes it. Thus its apparent size is smaller than it was in recent apparitions. But don't be discouraged by the Red Planet's diminutive disk. Near opposition during a few past aphelic apparitions, I could glimpse the polar caps and a few dark features with a telescope as small as a 60-millimetre (2.4-inch) refractor. An 8-inch (20-cm) SchmidtCassegrain will begin to reveal most of the classical albedo features, but in large amateur instruments, the detail will be mesmerising. Mars's small apparent size hardly matters for serious planetary imagers these days. Advances in camera sensitivity, combined with increasingly efficient stacking software, have produced more detailed images each apparition since 2003, even as each opposition has been farther than the previous one. Unfortunately for Australian Sky & Telescope readers, the Red Planet continues to favour Northern Hemisphere observers until it finally slips south of the celestial equator in July. Throughout this period of observing, its North Polar Cap (NPC)

will be tilted toward Earth. By odd coincidence, Mars's northern hemisphere is always one season ahead of Earth's Northern Hemisphere at opposition, so this apparition we will witness late spring in the planet's northern regions. Watch the polar cap's shrinkage as it retreats over the next few months. Mars will appear largest near 4 March, 2012, the day of opposition, with an apparent diameter of 13.9 arcseconds, and it will shine at a modestly bright magnitude -1.2. For visual observers, inexpensive colour filters are an important aid to gleaning the most detail. A red filter enhances the contrast of surface features, and any dust storms present will appear bright in red. Surface frosts and fogs are often brightest through a green filter, whereas blue obscures the surface and makes most clouds stand out brightly. Under favourable conditions you can see so much detail in the surface markings that it's more than one can draw! You can increase your chances of satisfying views this apparition by following a few simple techniques. Set up your scope after dark, and try to limit the buildings and concrete beneath your line of sight. Allow your scope to cool for at least two hours

before observing. Collimate your optics on a star near Mars, then slew over to the Red Planet. Observe for long periods; you won't see much for a few minutes until your eyes become accustomed to the planet's subtle contrast. If you see something unusual, such as a bright dust storm, send your observations to the website of planetary groups such as A.L.P.O., the B.A.A., the l.S.M.O., or the International Mars Watch. While spacecraft continue to monitor the planet's global weather, there's no telling how long these spacecraft will continue to operate. Contributing your images, drawings, and observations to these organisations provides an important service to anyone monitoring changes on the Red Planet in near-real time. Make sure to note the time of your observation as well as a description of your equipment. As the only terrestrial planet whose surface we can clearly observe from Earth with seasons that resemble our own, it's no wonder that Mars continues to captivate humanity's imagination .•

Roger Venable is the coordinator of the
Mars section of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. 63

Ross Gould

Double Star Notes


his month's doubles come from an area of Puppis adjacent to Canis Major. Two years ago we looked at doubles in a southern area of this constellation (February/March 2010 issue, page 63). Puppis is the most northerly of the groups into which Argo Navis was divided in lS77, and begins not far below the celestial equator. As a result many of its doubles were discovered by northern hemisphere observers. Being within the band of the Milky Way, the starfields are often rich. The multiple star STF 1097, located 12° east-northeast of Sirius, was originally catalogued in the 19th century by Friedrich G.W von Struve as a wide pair, the other three companions being found a half-century later by Sherburne W Burnham (BU 332). A small telescope readily shows the Struve pair - described by Admiral Smyth as "yellow, violet': Viewed with my 7-inch (IS-em) refractor at 100x, companions C and D were obvious, while dim E was a glimpse star. Putting the magnification up to 330x allowed detection of the very close B star, as an elongation of the primary, becoming an uneven figure-S in the steadier moments of seeing. AB has shown little change since discovery. Some 3.Sosouth ofSTF 1097 is STF 1104, nicely described by Ernst Hartung: "Clearly divided by 7S-mm [3-inch], this beautiful golden pair lies in a profuse starry field': The 7-inch refractor added a couple of faint wide companions. The bright pair is a long period binary, the preliminary orbit calculation suggests a period of 6S6 years. 6° south ofSTF 1104 is the fainter, colour contrast pair HJ 3973. Seen with the 7-inch refractor at 100x, it's a fine little pair, nicely separated, though not bright. The colours are white and red, matching John Herschel's description. It needs reasonable aperture for the best colour effect due to the modest brightness of the stars. 2° eastward from STF 1104 is the bright open cluster M47, containing a number of doubles, the most obvious

Sailing by the Big Dog T

being the yellow STF 1121, a bright easy pair, slightly eastward from the wide uneven pair STF 1120. The Washington Double Star Catalogue lists many wide faint companions for STF 1121 effectively all cluster stars that are near it. On the eastern edge ofM47 is the bright and much wider S 557. To the east of M47 is another open cluster, M 46, and less than 1°east of M46 is the bright, easy pair STF 1138 (2 Puppis), pale yellow stars contrasting with the bright white 4 Puppis in the field, making a fine pair for small telescopes. 2.Sonorth-northeast from 2 Puppis is the close pair STF 1146 (5 Puppis). If you read Hartung's description in his classic observing manual, youd expect a relatively easy double. But it's no longer within reach of7.S-cm telescopes as it was SOyears ago - the separation then was 2.2'; down from 3.3" at discovery in IS31, and it has since decreased further to 1.2'; suggesting 12-1S-cm (S-6-inches) of aperture is needed for splitting it these days. The IS-cm refractor separated it neatly at IS0x. There's no orbit calculated yet as the change in angle has been relatively slow, only 3Soin ISOyears, though it's been changing faster in the last SOyears. This is a long period binary, and the faster rate of change since Hartung suggests it's moving towards the minimum separation. Colours? The primary is pale yellow; and the fainter star has been

described as "light blue" (Smyth) and "ruddy" (Webb). Try it and see what colour you perceive. It's an attractive pair in a good starry field. 2° south -southeast from S Puppis is our feature binary, 9 Puppis (BU 101), which has the quite short orbital period of 22.7 years. The stars were near

maximum separation at the time of Burnham's discovery in IS73. The pair is very yellow and in 1997 it appeared probably elongated with the l S-cm refractor at very high power, at only 0.4" separation. It's now widening again towards maximum separation (which will only be 0.6") over the next few years. Back in 1967, when it was approaching maximum separation, it was featured in Sky & Telescope as an interesting short -period pair in a brief article by Leif ] Robinson, who wrote "To recognise 9 Puppis as a double in a 6-inch to 12-inch [If-ern to 30cm 1 telescope, select a night when the air is particularly steady, and use a magnification high enough that the tiny spurious disks of stars are distinctly seen:' It's good advice. IQ suggest powers above 300x, perhaps 400x or more, to enlarge the image enough for the eye to see elongation or separation. As Robinson pointed out, there are different levels of resolution - separated stars, then figure-S, followed by notched or elongated, and round (no sign of being double). Elongation is possible well below the Dawes' Limit for near-even pairs. The next few years are a good time to attempt 9 Puppis - it's already at 0.5" and will be slightly wider in the next few years. Incidentally, since 1967 the orbit has been recalculated and the orbit diagram given here is based on the more recent calculation. In the same field as 9 Puppis is a very easy pair, H 3 28, one of William Herschel's doubles. It's a bright, deep yellow star with a well-separated, fairly dim companion that should be visible even with 7.5-cm telescopes on moonless nights. Our next two doubles are in the same telescope field. About 7° east of 3.0-magnitude Omicron" (02) Canis Majoris is H N 19 (n Puppis), visible with 6-cm (2.4-inch) telescopes as a neat pair of pale yellow bright stars. 15' south is the white pair Hwe 18, much fainter and fairly close, and needing a bigger telescope, perhaps lO-cm. Farther south, nearly T east of l.S-magnitude Delta (8) Canis Majoris is the bright, easy pair k Puppis (H 27), suitable for any telescope - bright white stars and good separation in a starry field make for a fine object. And to finish, further eastwards and about 2.5° northwest of2.S-magnitude

Star Name EmII'iI!'fJ BU 33;iJ

RightAsc:ensionI Declination hhmm OJ

Cruising Through Some Fine Doubles in Puppis
Magnitudes ~.21!'R ImD629R ABlII.1 iz. 4 ABEI.27.4 ImBaItD 169m Separation (arcseconds) Position Angle (') IRS 155) r.'ll4!'m 17~ 038 2. liD





229" .2m" m.7"

200S 2001l!l 21i!101l!l



I!IJ 39!TJ3 IDwdliJ


073~.3 I'iFE'a 0!D3~9



-is oo




056 -2!i142 -23RiS

•. m.
6B .•.

01ll3m _3SIl'I




- 'E.l'iI

mI'lIlIm 111m I!IiEFJ
EI'!'II!'B IEI!I. 1i1'i'E1.
IBICIFJ.2&6 AB 7.2,9.2 s.z. &3


SS 5.9

E" DI"


lIlIo. Roi!iJ





1i'17E121a. 080i'JI3 ODFJ9

4.6 m- 1II!8





E'II II'iIImilIIl\'I
E12m'1 BU 333



-iRiI2 -2220



12" 1i'B" 1iF.F.l1. " 11126" 1.6"

Em Em Em
22m 3E1i3

200iiJ 2002

r:!i6il11n1 B;T;nD FSmV B!m



lRIooiT!1 &II
29Tii1 998 1991 2010

B9!l111 B6l'JB6'!m rAi2!DA'J 65








Rho (p) Puppis is the triple star BU 333. A small telescope will show it as an easy pair of 7th magnitude stars - American amateur Sissy Haas describes it as a colour contrast pair, pale yellow and ruddy; as seen with a 6-cm refractor. The brighter star is also a close pair, much more difficult with a two magnitude brightness difference between the stars.

The first measures were by Burnham in IS7s - since then the wide pair has widened further, and the close pair has become a bit tighter ...
Ross Gould has been a long-time double star observer from the suburban skies of Canberra. He can be reached at


Oddities in Northern Orion
Look beyond the constellation's well-known showpieces.
Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest, Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West. - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall rion draws our gaze with its splendid panoply of stars and alluring deep-sky wonders. Yet many intriguing marvels go unnoticed, lost among the constellation's glorious riches. Let's explore a few of these littleknown treasures, starting near Orion's belt and wending our way northward. We'll begin with the little star group FSR 983. In 2007 astrophysicists Dirk Froebrich, Alexander Scholz, and Claire Raftery listed it as a possible cluster based on star-density maps derived from the Two Micron All Sky Survey. However, current catalogues indicate that the stars are not moving together through space. The asterism was brought to my attention by French amateur Alexandre Renou, who independently discovered it the following year. FSR 983 is located halfway between 22 and 25 Orionis, which share a fmderscope's field of view, and it's bracketed by a nearly east-west set of 8.8-magnitude stars 11' apart. At 23x with my 130-mm (S.l-inch) refractor, the group merely looks like a small hazy area with 4 stars, but 102x reveals a nice little gathering of a dozen stars cosied together in 4%' x 2V2'. Next we'll visit the perfectly matched double star 52 Orionis, which shares a finder field with Betelgeuse in Orion's shoulder. Each pale yellow-white component shines at magnitude 6.0. They're aligned northeast-southwest and only 1.1" apart. Although it's easier to split equal pairs than unequal ones, this is a challenging test for small telescopes. With the exceptional seeing (atmospheric steadiness) prevalent at the Winter Star Party in Florida, I've separated the twins with my 105mm (4.l-inch) refractor at 203x and my 130-mm at 234x. Even at those magnifications, they looked very snug. Do you have seeing good enough to part this pair? In an e-mail two years ago.British amateur Sakib Rasool suggested writing about young stellar objects with



The cometary nebula Cederblad 59 is embedded in the inconspicuous dark nebula Barnard 35. A subtle band of light lines 835's western edge POSS-III CALTECH I PALOMAR OBSERVATORY. Above: The bright spot at the southwestern end of NGC2022 is a faint star superposed on a concentration in the planetary nebula's outer ring. North is to the upper right. ADAM BLOCK / NOAO / AURA / NSF






cometary reflection nebulae. One such object is the star/disk combination known as FU Orionis and its associated nebula Cederblad 59. The star is in the early stages of its evolution, still girdled by a disk of gas and dust. Near the close of 1936, inflow of material from the disk must have increased dramatically. The inner disk greatly brightened, far outshining the star, and swelled the amount of matter being dumped onto the nascent star. Disk and star brightened from 16th to 9th magnitude over the course of a few months. FU Orionis has hardly faded since then, but it varies irregularly between about magnitude 9.3 and 9.S on a timescale of weeks or days. FU Orionis and Cederblad 59 sit 2.10 east of deep yellow Phi' (<p') Orionis. In my 105-mm refractor, they simply look like a fuzzy star embedded in the inconspicuous dark nebula Barnard 35. The view is much improved with my lO-inch (25-cm) reflector at 70x. B35 is a nearly starless region about 25'

long and one-third as wide, elongated west-northwest to east-southeast. Near its heart, small faint Cederblad 59 enfolds FU Orionis and broadly fans northeastward. Bipolar outflows from FU Orionis sculpt two bowl-shaped hollows in B35. The light from the yellowish inner disk and its star is scattered by the remaining dust and the walls of these hollows. We see one of them as comet-shaped Cederblad 59, but the corresponding nebula on the far side of the disk is heavily obscured. On images of the area, a semicircular arc of nebulosity starts 7' south of FU Orionis, runs around the western side of B35, and ends 19' north of the star. T didn't see this thin ribbon of light. Can you? Just 48' west ofFU Orionis, NGC 2022 is the brightest planetary nebula in Orion. My 105-mm refractor at S7x shows a small, round, blue-grey disk, while 275x suggests a slightly darker centre and brighter patches on the

nebula's northeast and southwest edges. My lO-inch scope at 220x confirms the view and makes it clear that the nebula is an oval tilted north-northeast. The part ofNGC 2022 visible through my telescopes is about 21'x IS', but it has an outer halo Wacross. Folks with IS-inch (46-cm) telescopes have been able to see traces of this halo as well as a sparkle that may be the dim star superposed on the southwestern rim of the bright annulus. Pinned to Orion's western shoulder, the planetary nebula Kohoutek 1-7 was discovered in 1962 by Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek while examining Palomar Sky Atlas prints. It sits 10 north of 32 Orionis in the slanted (western) side of a 5' trapezium of stars, magnitude 10'h to 12Y,. K 1-7 is visible in my l30-mm scope at 102x as a small, faint, round glow with a very faint star close to its south-southeastern edge. Averted vision helps the nebula stand out better, as does boosting the magnification to 164x. A nebula filter makes the view too dark, but an 0 III filter offers significant improvement when I use my lO-inch reflector. K 1-7, also known as Abell 10, is a relatively easy catch for folks who enjoy collecting Abell planetaries yet Orion contains an even brighter one. There's a good chance that the planetary nebula Abell 12 would have made it into the New General Catalogue (NGC) if it weren't hiding in the glare of Mu (u) Orionis, just 50' to its eastsoutheast. To view Abell 12, I affix a thin strip of aluminium foil to the field stop of my eyepiece with rubber cement. A



Lower's Nebula is thought to glow from the energy of the brightest of the blue stars nestled near its core.





strip of electrical tape works fine, too. When Mu Orionis is hidden behind this occulting bar, Abell 12 is very easy to see as a moderate-size, roundish planetary with my 10-inch reflector and an 0 III filter at 147x. This same trick lets me glimpse the nebula through my 130-mm refractor at III x. Climbing 49' north of Mu Orionis brings us to the ancient open cluster NGC 2141. A 2009 journal paper deduces an age of2.2 to 2.4 billion years. Only very rich clusters can hold their stars together for such a long time, but since the cluster is 13,000 lightyears away, its many stars appear quite faint through a backyard telescope. Through my 130-mm scope at 63x, NGC 2141 is an 8' granular patch adorned with a dozen very faint stars and framed by a wheel of brighter ones. At 102x the cluster has a delicate charm, with many stars popping in and out of view as I shift my gaze. Quite a few of these may be foreground stars, because the cluster's brightest possible members are 12th magnitude. Our final target is Lower's Nebula

(Sh 2-261), discovered on a photograph taken with the 8-inch (20-cm) fll Schmidt camera built in 1935 by California amateur Harold Lower and his father, Charles. Lower's Nebula is perched 1° northnortheast ofNu (v) Orionis. In the mirror-reversed view of my 130-mm refractor at 23x, the Y20 nebula is a fairly faint, very fat C with a trapezium of stars nestled in the C's dark indentation and several lesser stars strewn upon the haze. The brightest trapezium star is the intensely hot, blue-white star (spectral type 07.5) thought to be the energy Little-Known
Object FSR983 520rionis Cederblad NGC2022 Kohoutek Abell 12 NGC2141 Lower's Nebula
varies according

source for this huge emission nebula. A narrowband filter nicely enhances contrast between the backdrop of the sky and Lower's Nebula, which is softly wispy, and brightest in the south. Star clusters and asterisms; double and newly emerging stars; planetary, cometary, emission, and dark nebulae - Orion has them all! Take a little time to discover some of Orion's unsung wonders before he slopes below your western horizon in coming months ... Sue French welcomes your comments at

Treasures of Orion
Magnitude 9.3 6.0,6.0 11.6 14.0 12.0 9.4 8.4

Type Asterism Double star 59 1-7 Cometary Planetary Planetary Planetary -nebula nebula nebula nebula


RA 5h 23.1m 5h 48.0m 5h 45.4m 5h 42.1m 5h 31.8m 6h 02.3m 6h 02.9m 6h OS.8m
and declination are

Dec. +0° 38' +6° 27' +9° OS' +9° OS' +6° 56' +9° 39' +10° 27' +15° 47'
for equinox

- .4'12' x 2'12'



29" x 28" 37" x 36" 37"

Open cluster Emission nebula
and magnification of the


10' 33' x 29'
Right ascension


Angular sizes and separations are from recent catalogues. Visually, an object's size is often smaller than the catalogued
to the aperture viewing

value and



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The Galaxy Group AWM 1
Explore this little-known cluster in Cancer.
his is a wonderful time for galaxy hunting, with a countless supply of targets stretching from Ursa Major in the north to Centaurus in the south. As a seasoned deep-sky observer, r generally chase challenging prey, but let's warm up with an eye-candy treat. NGC 2903, easily located IS south of 4.3-magnitude Lambda (A) Leonis, is an unusual starburst spiral containing "hot spots" of energetic star formation surrounding the nuclear region, and a central bar studded with scores of H II regions. In my IS-inch (46-cm) Dobsonian


this luminous galaxy extends 9' x 4', sloping north-northeast to southsouthwest, with a slightly brighter bar running through the major axis. The centre is sharply concentrated, with an intense, clumpy core due to the hotspot regions. A faint H II knot sparkles at the south end of the bar, and a spiral arm emerges sweeping clockwise to the east. A brighter knot is visible near the north end of the bar and just beyond a fainter, ill-defined arm curves a short distance to the west. This arm structure carries its own catalogue designation, NGC 2905, as both William and John Herschel assumed it was a separate adjacent nebula. Now let's scoot 3.So southwest, crossing into Cancer to the small galaxy cluster AWM 1. In 1977 this group caught the attention of Yerkes Observatory astronomers Elise Albert, Richard White, and William Morgan during a search for giant elliptical galaxies that reside outside their usual environment - the core of a

rich Abell cluster. AWM 1 is the first entry in a short list of 7 galaxy groups meeting these criteria. The 25' field containing AWM 1 is packed with a dozen galaxies and several 9th- to 11th-magnitude stars. NGC 2804, the dominant 12.3-magnitude elliptical, is immediately recognisable in my IS-inch Dob at lOOx. Bumping the magnification to 2S5x reveals a bright core embedded in a nearly uniform outer envelope extending 1.2' x 0.9'. An S-inch (20-cm) scope should nab NGC 2S04 along with slightly smaller, l2.S-magnitude NGC 2809, which lies about 9' southeast. Its oval halo spans 0.9' x 0.7' and gradually increases to a small core punctuated by a faint, starlike nucleus. Several faint companions ofNGC 2S09 huddle nearby, including 16th-magnitude IC 2457 just 1.6' to the northwest. I missed this diminutive galaxy, possibly mistaking it for a dim star. Just 2.5' south-southwest ofNGC 2S09lies 15th-magnitude NGC 2807,


As a seasoned deep-sky observer, I generally chase challenging prey, but let's warm up with an eye-candy treat. "





•• s





. +220


• IJ zsos



CIJ "0


NGC2903 is one of the most prominent barred spiral galaxies in the sky, The inner region is very bright, but the faint outer arms are rarely spotted through the eyepiece of a telescope.





. .2804

VI ::l




~7· E8 9

9h 30m• I

9h 20m

9h 10';1






The AWM 1 galaxy group is cradled by three 9th-magnitude stars (see the chart on the facing page). The field shown here is 35" wide.





a weakly concentrated glow, perhaps 24" x 20". With careful viewing at 285x, a very close companion, PGC 26212, can be detected as a 15" hazy knot just west of the south edge of NGC 2807. Several sources, including the Uranometria 2000.0 Deep Sky Atlas, misidentify PGC 26212 as NGC 2806. So wheres the real NGC 2806? John Louis Emil Dreyer, the compiler of the NGC, logged this object in 1876 using Lord Rosse's 72-inch (1.8-metre) speculum-metal reflector while making micrometric measurements of stars near NGC 2807 and 2809. His description reads: ''A very faint star or considerably small, extremely faint nebula preceding (sky bad), forming an equilateral triangle with [NGC 2807J and [NGC 2809]:' At precisely this position (2.4' due west ofNGC 2809) is a l Sth-rnagnitude star that Dreyer thought might be nebulous in

poor seeing conditions. PGC 26226 is a 15" feeble ember 5' north-northeast ofNGC 2809. Using averted vision, this 14th~ magnitude galaxy wasn't difficult to snag 1.4' southwest of an l l thmagnitude star. Now shift to the southeast side of the cluster where 9th-magnitude SAO 80743 resides. This relatively bright star nearly overpowers NGC 2813, a 25" pale glow just 2' to the northeast. With direct vision, I can tease out a faint stellar nucleus within a tiny brighter core. NGC 2813 forms a close pair with 15th-magnitude NGC 2812, one of the more challenging members of AWM 1. Look for a ghostly, slender streak, 0.5' x 0.15', hiding in the glare of SAO 80743. Even tougher is 16th magnitude PGC 26239, a featureless 6" dust mote 2.4" southwest of the star. I tracked down three more

members to the west of SAO 80743. I picked up PGC 26221 with averted vision as an 18" x 12" oval, just 40" north-northwest of a 12.5-magnitude star. This galaxy forms the eastern vertex of an equilateral triangle with similar PGC 26182 6.0' southwest and NGC 28016.7' northwest. NGC 2801 is a uniform 25" patch with a very low surface brightness. In 1865 Albert Marth discovered NGC 2801, 2812, and 2813 using a 48inch (1.2-metre) f/9.4 equatorial at Malta but missed nearby PGC 26182, 26221, and 26239. Take a look and see how many of these challenging galaxies you can ferret out. ..

Steve Gottlieb has observed more than 10,000 deep-sky objects with his IS-inch Dob and other scopes. He will rotate authorshop of Going Deep with Ken Hewitt-White and other well-known deepsky observers in future months. 71

An outlying HII region with an embedded cluster of the SMC, NGC 602 is easily the highlight of Hydrus.


A Minor Part of the Sky
For something different, seek out these targets over coming months.
Breathtaking. I shall call him ... Mini Me! Dr Evil- Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. and places to commemorate among the stars, one has to wonder why so many constellations amount to no more than a copy or a "mini-me". Even among today's constellations that were "rationalised" and tidied up by Eugene Delporte in 1929 on behalf of the International Astronomical Union, there are still six "mini-rues": Bears, Dogs, Horses, Water Snakes,


oran evil genius bent on world domination, Dr Evil showed little imagination when it came to names - and it could well be argued the same applies to many astronomers over the centuries, Given the fantastic breadth of mythology, people, creatures,

Crowns, and Lions. Before Delporte's clear out, we could have added to the list: Bulls, Crabs, Telescopes, Flies, Triangles (two copies mind you), and Mountains! About one in ten constellations (both present and defunct) are copies or miniatures. Throw in three similar tools used to measure angles of stars above the horizon (Sextant, Octant,

and Quadrant) and there's a strong case that astronomers display a singular lack of creativity when it comes to the name game. Very few of these copyconstellations have any bright stars (Procyon and Polaris are exceptions), but is there anything of telescopic interest within their boundaries? You be the judge from this eclectic yearround observing list from some of the "minor" parts of the sky. Hydrus, the diminutive male counterpart to the giant constellation of (female) Hydra that sprawls one third of the way around the sky, debuted on a star globe by Petrus Plancius in 1598. It was drawn from observations of the southern skies by Dutch explorers Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Fredrick de Houtman. Bayer quickly adopted it (as well as many other constellations of Plancius's invention) in his Uranometria of 1603. Hydrus has a smattering of distant galaxies and overlays faint outlying sections of both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. NGC 602 is a bright, nebulous SMC cluster about 2.7 southeast of the heart of the Small Cloud. Not difficult to see in moderate apertures, in a 46-cm (IS-inch) telescope it is an obvious, 5-arcminutediameter, round cloud of good surface brightness, concentrating to two close knots well off-centre to the southwest. Many 12th to 14th magnitude stars are scattered within and around it. On the opposite side of the constellation is the LMC globular NGC 1466, found 2'12°due north of the only star in Hydrus possessing a proper name - Gamma (y) Hydri has the Chinese name of Foo Pih. Viewing with a 25-cm (lO-inch) telescope from suburbia, the globular cluster is fairly easy to see, just 4 arcminutes west of a cold-white 6th magnitude star. At 181x, the small, hazy, l-arcminute orb is unresolved and brightens moderately to the centre. Easily the best galaxy in Hydrus, NGC 1511 is 4.2° north-northeast of NGC 1466. A shapely, elongated, oval spiral, a 25-cm telescope shows it as about 2.5 x 0.6 arcminutes in PA 120, brightening moderately to the centre with a small, moderately brighter spot or short streak in the nucleus. Two further galaxies for large telescopes are in the same field: NGC 1511A is 11 arcminutes southeast and NGC 1511B is 5 arcminutes east. Both are small,

NGC 1511 is a beautiful almost edge-on spiral galaxy about 60 million light-years distant. NGC1511A is top left and NGC 15118 is bottom.

waif-like streaks of gossamer with NGC 1511A somewhat the better. Moving to the north, Canis Minor is one of the four "mini-rnes" of ancient origin. Besides being home to Procyon, the night sky's 7th brightest star (and 14th closest stellar system to our solar system), there is little else apart from one faint, but interesting, planetary nebula. Abell 24 is exactly 3,%°southeast of Procyon, to the south of a couple of distinctly orange 6th magnitude stars. In a 30-cm (12inch) telescope under a rural sky, its

4-arcminute-diameter round, softedged disc isn't too hard to see with a narrowband filter. It envelopes two small, faint, symmetrically-placed condensations off-centre to the east and west, almost 2 arcminutes apart, with the latter somewhat the brighter. No central star is visible and without filtration, it vanishes. Leo Minor, an invention of Hevelius in 1687, is sandwiched between Leo and Ursa Major - both great galaxy hunting grounds. Despite its diminutive size, Leo Minor possesses a good share

"very few of these copy-constellations have any bright stars ... but is there anything of telescopic interest within their boundaries? "


Deep Sky Delights

Like so many galaxies in this part of the sky, NGC 3254 in Leo Minor is about 50 million light-years distant.

"Of the defunct mini-mes, only Taurus Poniatovii could possibly justify the sky it occupied ..."
of medium-bright galaxies too. A little over 6° east-northeast of Zeta (S) Leonis is the bright, face-on spiral NGC 3344. Using a 25-cm telescope at 138x, it has a 2Y2-arcminute, lowish surfacebrightness, round halo, brightening slightly to the centre with a small, round core and faint stellar nucleus. A trio of faint stars adorns the halo east of centre. NGC 3245 is likewise best found from Zeta Leonis, a little over 5%° north -northeast. It appears a little north of a thin diamond of 9th and lOth magnitude stars stretched eastwest as a good surface-brightness oval about 2.5 x 1.5 arc-minutes in PA 0, with a bright, grainy core and a spot nucleus. 9 arcminutes to its northwest is the slender sliver ofNGC 3245A, which in a 46-cm telescope at 247x is a spectacular but extremely faint streak, almost 4 arcminutes long and a few arcseconds wide in PA 150. Just over a low-power field northeast from the NGC 3245 pair is the candle74 AUSTRALIAN SKY & TELESCOPE

Discovered by de Cheseaux in 1745, NGC 6633 is a scattered and bright open cluster very suitable for small telescopes. sr5CI

(courtesy of Delporte) has consigned them to the celestial dustbin. The only thing that saved Equuleus from a similar fate was its ancient origin in Ptolemy's Almagest. Its handful of 4th and 5th magnitude stars and 14th magnitude galaxies certainly wouldn't have helped much. Of the defunct mini-mes, only Taurus Poniatovii could possibly justify the sky it occupied, a small pocket wedged between 2.8-magnitude Beta (~) Ophiuchi (sometimes known as Cebalrai) and the constellation of Serpens. It includes a small but distinctive aster ism of stars resembling the constellation of Lyra - sans Vega. Martin Poczobut ofVilna Observatory created this second Taurus in 1777 to honour Stanislaw II Poniatowski, King and Grand Duke of the PolishLithuanian Commonwealth. Three bright and coarse open clusters (Cr 359, IC 4556 and NGC 6633) lay within its borders, but of these, only NGC 6633 is an effective object for the telescope. The others are too large and sparse. Superb in small telescopes, NGC 6633 is faintly visible to the naked-eye under a dark sky, and in a 10-cm (4-inch) telescope it is a large, long splash of 7th to 11th magnitude stars stretched east west and filling most of a medium-power field 11° east of Beta Ophiuchi. Using a 25-cm

flame-shaped halo ofNGC 3254. Elongated in PA 45, through a 30-cm telescope its faint halo appears 4 x 1.5 arcminutes long with a small, slightly brighter core that occasionally seems mottled at 186x. Lastly in Leo Minor, about two lowpower fields northeast of its brightest star to carry a Bayer designation - 4.2-magnitude Beta (~) Leo Minoris - is NGC 3294. In moderate apertures it has a fairly bright halo of consistent surface brightness, about 3 x 1 arcminutes in PA 110, which at 181x occasionally seems to have faintly mottled core region. So what shall we say of the long defunct constellations of Cancer Minor near Gemini or Musca Borealis within Aries, Mons Maenalis beneath Bootes (an invention of Hevelius that actually pre-dates de Lacailles Mensa) or Telescopium Herschelii near Auriga? Probably the less said the better! As dull as their feeble stars, they contain nothing of Significance and history

Exploring some of the sky's lesser objects
NGC602 NGC1466 NGC 1511 Abell 24 .t'lGC3344 NGC3245 NGC 3254 NGC3294 NGC6633 NGC6572 Barnard's Star NGC6025

Open Cluster Globular Cluster Galaxv PlanetaDNebula Galaxv Galaxv Galaxv

Magnitude ?
11.4 11.4 13.6!l!J 10.2 10.8 11.6 11.2 4.6 8.1 9.5 5.1

Size 3.4' 2.3' 5.0 x 2.0' 6.0x 5.5' 7.1 x 6.5' 3.2 x 1.8' 5.0 x 1.6' 3.5 x 1.8' 20' 16x 13" stellar 12

RA hhmmss
012926.4 034433.4 035936.9 075139.3 104330.7 102718.4 102919.9 103616.5 182715.2 181206.3 175748.5 160317.0



-733326 -714018 -673807 +030029 +245519 +283026 +292931 +371928 +063030 +065113 +044136 -602554

Ooen Cluster PlanetaDNebula Nearbl!l.lStar Open Cluster

telescope at low power it is 25 x 10 arcminutes in PA 45 with about three dozen white stars evenly scattered over a faint Milky Way ground. Not quite 4° due west ofNGC 6633 is the bright planetary nebula NGC 6572. In a well-packed Milky Way field, it recalls the "Blue Planetary" (NGC 3918 in Centaurus) and in a 25-cm telescope it is a very small, high surface brightness, 10"-diameter, turquoise disc that grows slightly in brightness to the centre. At 290x with a UHC filter, it is round with well-defined edges but no sign of a central star. At 13th magnitude, the progenitor star might be barely within the grasp of very large telescopes at high magnifications.

While you're there, why not also seek out 9.5-magnitude Barnard's Star, the 2nd closest star system to our Sun? To round off, let's return south to Triangulum Australe. An invention of Plancius, it is the second (and brightest) of three triangles in the sky along with Triangulum and defunct Triangulum Minus. NGC 6025 is a wonderful cluster 3° north-northeast of Beta (~) Triangulum Australis. Small telescopes at medium power show fifty-odd stars of 7th to lith magnitude in a attractive spray about a quarter degree in diameter with no concentration to the centre. I have to admit that individually, there is little in these "minor" parts

Very large for a planetary nebula, Abell 24 requires a large telescope with a UHC filter but most importantly, a dark sky. STSCI

of the sky to get excited about, but collectively there is certainly an interesting year-round observing project. Drop me an email to let me know how you went with the sky's "mini-mes"! •
Les Dalrymple can be contacted via email at



CCD Inner Workings

Cause and Cure
Understanding the subtleties of your CCD camera will help you create better images and scientific data.
ffordable CCD cameras with large scientific-grade sensors offer astrophotographers unprecedented imaging opportunities. But these sensors also present challenges that must be carefully considered if we are to exploit their full potentiaL One of these challenges involves a phenomenon known as residual bulk image, or RBI, which is CCD jargon for something photographers might simply call "ghost" images. While RBI can degrade an otherwise beautiful photograph of a nebula or galaxy, it has an even more insidious side. It's not uncommon for advanced astrophotographers to be fooled by RBI and think that they've captured a nova or uncatalogued nebula. And even when RBI doesn't leave a visible image artefact, it can compromise scientific data recorded with a CCD camera.

Residual Bulk Image:
What Causes RBI?
Light striking a CCD creates electronic charge that accumulates in the sensor's pixels. When the exposure is complete, this charge is read out and converted into an image. RBI arises when some of the charge becomes trapped in the region below the pixels and is left behind during readout. But the trapped charge doesn't remain trapped; it eventually leaks back into the pixels and is read out as part of subsequent exposures, including calibration frames. Because the trapped charge can leak into a number of subsequent frames, pixelrejection algorithms used for image processing will not remove it from the final composition. Some image sensors are more susceptible to RBI than others. Many front-side illuminated full-frame CCDs, including some of the very popular fullframe chips in Kodak's KAF series, suffer
Image artefacts caused by RBI can appear similar to nebulosity or other faint deep-sky objects. Consider, for example, the fuzzy object in the left image. The author wasted several hours searching catalogues in an attempt to identify this nonexistent nebula. The object was simply an RBI artefact of a bright star that was earlier used to focus the telescope. The image using the light-flood method at right eliminated the artefact.

from RBI. The problem is not cameraspecific; it is a CCD property arising from the silicon wafer manufacturing process. A CCD is made on a highly pure and uniform crystal of silicon. The uniformity of the crystal lattice affects how electronic charge moves through it, and any lattice disruption can create regions that will trap electrons. Light penetration depth into silicon is wavelength-dependent: longer wavelengths penetrate deeper. That means RBI is more problematic for red and near-infrared light than it is for blue light. The CCD's temperature is also a factor, since it influences the rate that trapped electrons leak back into pixels. The more aggressively you cool a CCD, the slower the RBI charge leaks into subsequent linages. Pretty pictures are frequently ruined by RBI. For example, an astrophotographer might snap a few twilight pictures of the crescent Moon, and then find a ghost image of the crescent contaminating deep-sky exposures for the next several hours. Trapped charge leaking into images also introduces an unacceptable uncertainty into photometry data. In astrometry, a residual artefact from a bright star in an earlier exposure can confuse the results.

How to Deal with RBI
Because the rate at which trapped charge leaks back into pixels is strongly regulated by temperature, one solution for reducing the effects of RBI is to operate the CCD at warm temperatures. This may be an acceptable approach for short exposures, which don't require deep cooling since there is little time for dark current to accumulate in the pixels. But long exposures made at warm temperatures can suffer from excessive





"Some image sensors are more susceptible to RBI than others. "
dark current and the associated noise that goes with it. Another method of reducing RBI is to simply wait for any trapped charge to dissipate before taking the next exposure. But this has the obvious disadvantage of wasting precious imaging time, especially when a CCD is running at very cold temperatures, slowing the rate that trapped charge dissipates. One of the best solutions for deepsky astrophotographers is the same one used for the custom-made CCD sensors on NASA'sGalileo and Cassini space probes: flood the sensor with nearinfrared light and then "flush" it (read out the chip) just before every exposure. This floodlflush/integrate protocol (or "light-flood") eliminates RBI artefacts by completely filling all the CCD's traps before any exposure. This obliterates any remnant image prior to taking a new one. The trapped charge that arises from the light -flood leaks into the next exposure just like any other RBI, but has a consistent pattern in every frame. Nevertheless, the leaked charge still contributes noise to subsequent exposures, so it is best to use aggressive cooling to slow the rate ofleakage. When a light-flood is used, light and dark images will often reveal arclike swirling patterns or other visible features that appear permanently fixed in the CCD. These are normal and are caused by a nonuniform distribution of trapping sites that arise during the chip's manufacturing process. Proper dark subtraction can remove these fixed patterns. If you don't see a fixed pattern in dark frames made with alight-flood
To take deep, detailed images like this narrowband composite of NGC 7000, astroimagers will benefit from an understanding of the inner workings of their cameras. Many of today's popular front-illuminated CCO chips suffer from a phenomenon known as a residual bulk image (RBI), which can leave "ghost" images of bright objects from one exposure to the next. Understanding its cause and ways to eliminate the problem will lead to better Images and scientific data recorded with a CCOcamera. All images are courtesy of the author.

Gate structures"


of a CCO Chip
Pixel wells

Insulator-.--tr--oooo--oO device layer

~~~!!!!!I! 5'1' IIcon
Base silicon wafer

Most RBI traps are formed in CCOdetectors at the interface between the silicon device layer and the silicon base wafer. Additional traps are formed by slight Imperfections in the device layer.


CCO Inner Workings

Trapped Electron Dissipation for Kodak KAF-09000


E ..o ;:;

c 10,000 :::s



OJ c,




»> ..-.~
Sensor temperature




An RBI "ghost galaxy" (arrowed) is clearly visible in this 5-minute dark frame taken two hours after the conventional light exposures were made of the galaxy. Above: This graph for a Kodak KAF-09000 CCOplots the measured time necessary for trapped electrons to dissipate at temperatures decreasing in 100 increments. Even when operated at a relatively warm 100C, the RBI charge did not completely drain for nearly an hour.

protocol, it may be an indicator that the traps were not sufficiently filled during the light-flood and that the flooding time needs to be increased. Occasionally, the fixed pattern will remain in the image after calibration. This is often caused by calibrating with dark frames that have been scaled. Because the rate at which trapped electrons leak back into pixels decays with time, dark frames made with a light-flood protocol should not be scaled. The simple solution is to avoid scaling calibration frames and use dark frames that are made with the same exposure time and temperature as the light-flooded exposures they are being used to calibrate. I often use cloudy

"FortunateIYJ it's really only necessary to use this method for science images ..."
nights to build a library of dark frames at the same temperature and duration as I typically use for my light exposures. This avoids the issue of scaled dark artefacts, as well as reducing the time needed on clear nights to generate dark frames.

Noise Considerations
The preferred way to light-flood a CCD is to install a group of near-infrared LEDs inside the camera to provide a uniformly distributed flood signal.

Several manufacturers of high-end CCD cameras build flooding LEDs into their CCD chambers. Cameras that don't have this feature can have their chips flooded manually using an external light source (for example, a flashlight shined into the telescope's aperture during a brief exposure through a clear or luminance filter) combined with several manual read outs (bias frames) to flush the chip. A typical light-flood would create electrons that exceed 100 times the full-well capacity of the CCD's pixels. This is followed by several flushes to guarantee the pixels are empty prior to making a data exposure. Since it can take as much as 5 seconds of exposure

This textbook example demonstrates the tenaclty of RBI artefacts when operating a Kodak KAF-09000 CCOcooled to -250C. The initial exposure (left) is clearly visible as a ghost image in a dark frame made immediately after it (centre), and still remains apparent in a dark frame captured one hour later (right). 78 AUSTRALIAN SKY & TELESCOPE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012

to properly flood a chip, and several read outs to completely flush a saturated array, a significant amount of time can be consumed by the light-flood protocol. Fortunately, it's really only necessary to use this method for science images and their calibration darks. When filled traps leak charge, they add to the CCD's dark current. But unlike thermally generated dark current that is constant with time, the traps have a finite capacity. When the trap's charge is completely dissipated, it can't contribute further to the dark signal. At typical CCD operating temperatures, the rate that electrons leak from a trap decreases with time and is about 5 to 10 times greater than the thermally generated dark signal at the beginning of an exposure. The total dark signal can therefore be significantly higher when using a light-flood protocol unless preventive steps are taken. For this reason it's desirable to operate a CCD camera used for long exposures with aggressive cooling to keep the noise due to the total dark signal (thermally generated electrons plus RBI leakage) below your target limits for the planned maximum exposure time. For example, the Cassini cameras operate at -100°C. A commonly used criterion is to limit noise from the total dark Signal to be less than the read noise of the camera. Since thermally generated dark noise grows with time, for any given operating temperature there will be a maximum exposure time for which this constraint is satisfied. Longer exposures will therefore require greater cooling. While a light-flood protocol may be time consuming, it can prevent having all the images from a perfect night being ruined, and save you many hours of searching catalogues for nonexistent objects that appear in your images as RBI artefacts. Knowing the inner workings of your CCD camera can lead to better images, and accurate scientific data ...
Avid astrophotographer Richard Crisp is a research and development professional in the semiconductor industry.

Top: When a lightflood protocol is used to obliterate the effects of RBI, dark frames will often display arc-like swirling patterns caused by a non-uniform distribution of the trapping sites in the CCO created during the chip's manufacture. Centre: These fixedpattern artefacts can appear in a processed image if the dark frames used for calibration are scaled. Bottom: This image used the same calibration frames with dark scaling disabled.




Let's Talk out Imaging
Astroimagers from around Australia gathered for three wonderful days of talks on improving your shots.

Attendees at the 2011 Fli Australian Astro Imaging Conference.



he Crowne Plaza Hotel in Surfers Paradise was the venue for the inaugural Finger Lakes Instrumentation Australian Astro Imaging Conference held on 8 - 10 July 2011. The event was a first of its kind locally, bringing together imagers of all levels from all states of Australia and New Zealand with the theme of knowledge dissemination for all levels of imagers. The major sponsor, Finger Lakes Instrumentation, manufacturers of some of the world's finest CCD cameras, was represented by their General Manager, Greg Terrance, who arrived at the Gold Coast after a four leg flight from New York and impressed everyone with both his personal and professional manner. His presentation displayed the diverse uses of their cameras and the amazing quality achieved by imagers from around the world using FLI products. Gold level sponsors included Sirius Observatories, Griffith University, and

"The presentation topics covered ... equipment selection, image acquisition, and processing techniques. "
Australian Sky and Telescope, while The Binocular & Telescope Shop also showed great support as a silver level sponsor. An associate sponsorship category was also included with Sirius Optics, Star Optics, Global Rent A Scope, Startools, Pixinsight, and Engineers Australia providing either support or prizes to be given to attendees at the closing ceremony. As the Conference Chair, I would like to thank all sponsors for their participation and support as the conference would not have gone ahead without them. The keynote presentation was delivered by Professor David Malin on the Saturday morning with a talk entitled "From the Microscope to the Telescope", highlighting his career and

techniques he developed for image capture and processing. His closing comments stressed the point to all imagers to respect the light, every photon counts, which has become a catch cry amongst attendees. Malin also assisted with an extra presentation at the end of the conference, filling a spot due to illness. His talk, entitled "The Colours of the Night Sky", was greatly appreciated by the organisers and attendees alike. The conference was also fortunate to be supported by two visiting international astrophotographers, Ken Crawford and Rogelio Bernal Andreo. Both these gentlemen won a lot of Australian friends during their visit, thanks to their friendly, affable natures and their willingness to discuss and

educate attendees on the finer points of their world class image capture and processing techniques. Ken Crawford delivered a workshop on the Friday of the conference entitled "Digging Out the Detail", explain his processing techniques in understandable terms to all attendees. He also provided as a gift to all attendees, his latest video tutorials, which were provided in the data DVD supplied to everyone after the conference. Ken spent a solid week recording and editing these tutorials for the conference, and it was greatly appreciated by everyone involved. Ken also gave a presentation on his collaborative research with David Martinez- Delgado on "Stellar Tidal Streams in Spiral Galaxies of the Local Volume". This work was intended as a pilot survey with modest aperture telescopes and is currently producing publications in scientific journals as prestigious as the Astrophysics Journal. This work caught the interest of several imagers at the conference and there are searches going on at the moment for suitable cameras and equipment to allow some Australian imagers to also participate. Rogelio Bernal Andreo is one of the few imagers whose distinctive imaging and processing style make his work instantly recognisable. He has taken wide field imaging to new levels by taking a fresh look at this style of imaging and putting his own unique stamp upon it. Rogelio took all attendees through a processing

example of a section of Barnard's Loop during a workshop on the Friday of the conference using his software of choice, Pixinsight. During the workshop, the image was seen to develop with the Andreo stamp firmly upon it. Rogelios second presentation, on the Sunday, was entitled "Wide Field Imaging" where he presented his capture and processing techniques as well as the philosophy behind his imaging style. He pointed out that his images are intended only to be

Greg Terrance (Finger Lakes Instrumentation) addresses the Conference.

THE GAll LEO PROJECT: MUSIC OF THE SPHERES Canadian Baroque Orchestra, Tafelmusik will take you on an epic space odyssey, performing exquisite period music from memory before stunning images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Combining music, photography and story-telling, The Galileo Project brings to life the brilliant minds of the early astronomers and the music that inspired them, as a large-scale, ever-changing backdrop of stars and planets unfolds. Be transported to another time and place by the beautiful music of Bach, Handel, Monteverdi and Vivaldi.

"During the workshop, the image was seen to develop with the Andreo stamp firmly upon it."

Touring Australia 1 - 14 March 2012
BOOK TODAY! Visit tafelmusik or call 1800688482.

Attendees at the conference have an impromptu discussion about imaging hardware.


Astroimaging Conference

aesthetically appealing 'pretty' pictures of the night sky, however if they cause one child to look up and wonder and that child goes on to become a professional astronomer, then his images have achieved their aim. The presenters' list oflocal astrophotographers read like a who's who of Australian imaging. including Mike Sidonio, Jason Jennings, and Eddie Trimarchi to name a few. Space constraints prohibit me from providing a full list of presenters and topics; however I encourage the reader to visit where the full list can be seen as well as more conference photos. The presentation topics covered a wide range of subjects and levels, from equipment selection, image acquisition, to processing techniques. Presentations were also given on scientific applications of astro imaging, including the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search team (see page 26) and their amateur / professional collaboration, as well as a presentation on the manufacture and operation of

a cost effective spectrograph by Julian West, which won excellent praise from David Malin. The finalists of the inaugural FLI AAIC Award for Outstanding Achievement 2010 /11 were Steve Craft (M8 image), Greg Bradley (Horsehead Region Mosaic), Trent McDougall (Moondance - Clear Sky Detection System), and a collaboration between Phil Hart and Fred Vanderhaven on animation capture and hardware. The award was judged by the visiting international imagers with Phil Hart and Fred Vanderhaven being awarded the cheque and certificate. Audience feedback judged the award for best presentation, which went to Terry CuttIe for an excellent presentation on total solar eclipse imaging and the Chairman's Choice Award was given to [ulian West for his presentation on amateur spectroscopy. The conference was hailed by all that attended as a great success and it achieved the aim of information dissemination that will lead to improvement in the techniques of all

Ken Crawford, who presented at the conference, is currently the President of the Advanced Imaging Conference, held annually in the United States.

attendees. Thanks also go to Chris Malikoff for his tireless work in preparation of the conference logo, web page, and conference booklet, as well as, in conjunction with Humayan Qureshi, the photos shown here and on the web page. We can now look forward to the next conference to be held in mid 2013 at a city hopefully near you."
Mark Bolton, the Conference Chair of the 2011 Astro Imaging Conference, is a Lecturer at the Griffith School of Engineering.

Astronom ica I Association Queensland


I,: :,:
The 25th NACAA will be held over Easter 2012, from Friday April 6 until Monday April 9 and is hosted by the Astronomical Association of Queensland with support from all other astronomy clubs in South East Queensland. NACAA will take place in the historic Grand Court of the University of Queensland at St Lucia in Brisbane. The NACAA XXV committees invite all amateur astronomers to attend this rich and varied feast of astronomical excellence!

Hear talks about: • variable stars, and supernovae • astroimaging and processing • education, outreach, local activities and events • telescope making and instrumentation • comets, eclipses, and occultations • pro-am collaboration • astronomical history • double stars and much more!

With the North Queensland eclipse of the Sun in Nov 2012, come along for the special Eclipse Astrophotography Workshop. NACAA will also host the Variable Stars South Symposium (VSSS) on April 6 with the Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTS06) on April 9.



So there is lots to do! Registrations are now open





..... -

~l •


Ask AS&T Alan MacRobert

The editors of Australian Sky & Telescope answer your astronomy questions.


Transit of Venus
with David Malin,
3 - 6 June 20 I 2

Ideal Lube for Telescope Mounts When I try to centre something in my telescope eyepiece at high power, the mount sticks and jerks so much that it's almost impossible. I oiled the mount and that made it worse. What's wrong? - William Turley Take the mount apart, clean the oil off the bearings, and replace it with ChapStick or some other soft wax. Oils and greases are generally the wrong lubricants here. They're meant for reducing moving friction and wear, like in your car engine. A telescope mount is not a car. What the mount needs is smoothness and controllability of very tiny motions. More precisely: a telescope mount needs the minimum possible difference between moving friction and static friction (what amateur telescope makers call "stiction"). Waxes are good for this. An old standby is to rub candle wax on a mount's metal bearings. But candle wax can be pretty stiff. ChapStick is

a softer mix of wax and oils. Vaseline is even softer. Experiment and see what works best; situations differ. Also, make sure the telescope is nicely balanced on both axes. An off-balance load makes any mount stickier and jerkier. To keep both axes balanced at all orientations, you may need to rig an off-centre counterweight on one side of a telescope tube to counterbalance the focuser and finderscope on the tube's other side. An optical tube assembly's centre of gravity needs to be close to the tube's centreline. Dobsonian mounts, whose bearings have broad, wide motions, need a different strategy. The accepted wisdom is that Dobsonian bearing pads should be Teflon or, better, Teflon's relative PFA (perfluoroalkoxy fluorocarbon). The weight on a Dobsonian's azimuth pads often needs to be lightened a bit by adding rings of thin plastic, such as you can cut from plastic milk jugs, around the centre bolt to carry some of the load. The usual advice is don't lubricate Teflon or PFA, but there's no harm experimenting. You can always clean it off."

"-EcliPSing the Dinosaur
with Paul Willis,
5 - 9 November 20 72

Australian Eclipse
with Fred Watson and Ray Norris,
9 - 75 November 2072

Atacama and Peru
with Fred Watson,
78 March - 4 April, 2073

More information at:

Send your questions to for consideration. Unfortunately, due to the volume of mail received, we can answer only those questions chosen for publication

Info(rMredwotson com or 9450 2746




AS&T Test Report Sean Walker

Lunt's New 80-mm Hyd'9Qen-alpha SOlar Scope
This compact solar scope packs a punch.

Lunt Solar System's new LSBOT H<X dedicated solar telescope features an BO-millimetre f/7 objective and a pressure-tuning etalon. With the exception of a mount, the scope comes standard with everything you need to start observing the Sun in hydrogen-alpha light. S.T, DENNIS DI CICCO

t's hard to believe that barely a decade ago, dramatic views of the Sun at the hydrogen-alpha (Hu) wavelength was beyond the reach of most amateur astronomers. Few of us could afford the multi-thousand-dollar cost of the complex Ha filters that revealed stunning activity on the Sun's disk. We might get a look through one at a school or planetarium, but most of us could only dream about personally owning such a setup. How times have changed! Today, at least four manufacturers specialise in Ha filters and dedicated telescopes that bring dynamic views of the solar chromosphere within reach of the


typical amateur. One up-and-coming player in this field is Lunt Solar Systems. The company's principal optical designer is Andrew Lunt, son of the late David Lunt, who readers may recall as the founder of Coronado, a company that revolutionised the solar-astronomy scene by perfecting Ha filters that didn't require complex heaters. Andy continues to build upon his father's legacy with Lunt Solar Systems. For this review we borrowed the LS80T Ha telescope that uses the company's new patented pressuretuned etalon. The LS80T Ha is sold as a package that includes a foam-lined hard case,

a l S-cm Vixen-style mounting bar, a Tele Vue Sol-Searcher solar finder, and a 7.2-to-21.S-mm zoom-eyepiece. New equipment showing up at our S&T offices usually attracts a gathering of editors, but a telescope that can be used immediately during the daytime rallies everyone outside. As luck would have it, the sky was clear and we were enjoying fascinating views of a very active Sun within an hour of unpacking the scope. Assembly of the LS80T Ha is straightforward, since you only have to attach the mounting bar and SolSearcher. The IS-cm-long Vixen-style dovetail bar includes two \4-20 threaded

holes, which proved particularly helpful on my first day with the telescope. Because the scope's pressure-tuning cylinder extends from the right side of the telescope immediately above the two ',4-20 mounting holes on the tube, I couldn't mount the tube directly to myoId Tele Vue Up-Swing mount (the pressure tuner wouldn't fit within the mount's cradle). Adding the dovetail bar to the setup, however, allowed me to offset the pressure tuner outside my mount's cradle, though it put the scope out of balance.

The LSSOT Hu's SO-millimetre f/7 objective produces clear, sharp views at high magnifications, allowing you to zoom in on small features such as the thin filaments around sunspots or delicate prominences shown above. 5&7: SEAN

A Tuning Twist
Once outside, I began exploring the nuances of the pressure- tuning device. The manufacturer suggests unscrewing the black cylinder completely to equalise pressure in the system before tuning the scope for the first time. You need to be careful when threading the cylinder back on since it has a fourstart thread that can be difficult to engage. You have to push the piston back in while turning the cylinder at the same time to get it back on. I had difficulty doing this at times, especially since I was concerned about cross threading. After using the scope for a few weeks, I found that it was occasionally necessary to equalise the system. For example, taking it to observing locations with elevations that differed by only a hundred metres or so usually required equalising the pressure-tuning system. Once the system is equalised, to tune the scope I simply kept turning the pressure cylinder until

prominences started to appear around the solar limb. One word of advice here - the LSSOT Ha is a relatively heavy scope for an SO-mm refractor, weighing in at 6.4 kilograms. Though it can be used on a mid-range photographic tripod, you'll have a much better observing experience if you opt for a heavy-duty tripod or a telescope mount rated for at least this much weight. This is because the tuning system requires you to wrap your entire hand around the pressure cylinder and crank it inward with some force. With a lightweight mount this can lead to very shaky views,

which make it difficult to establish the best tuning to see both prominences and details on the solar surface simultaneously. Although my Tele Vue Up-Swing held the scope for quick glances, in general I preferred using the scope on a heavier Vixen Great Polaris DX mount, particularly when I set up the system for imaging. After everything was together and tuned up, I was able to enjoy the views, and I do mean enjoy! TIle scope is advertised as having a bandpass of just 0.7 angstrom at the hydrogen-alpha wavelength of 656.2S nanometres, where solar prominences, filaments,

Left: Though adequate for visual work, the Crayford-style focuser with 10-to-l speed reduction included with the basic package required occasional adjustment to prevent slipping S&T SEAN WALKER. Right: Equalising the pressure in the system's eta Ion is occasionally necessary, requiring you to completely unscrew the pressure cylinder, then thread it back on. 5&T: DENNIS DI CICCO 85

AS&T Test Report

Although the scope has two v..-20tapped mounting holes on the bottom of the integrated clamshell. users with cradle-style mounts may still need to attach the included dovetail bar to accommodate the pressure-tuning cylinder.


active regions, and occasional flares are readily visible. I lucked out during my testing - in late July the Sun displayed a series oflarge, active sunspots, treating me to some spectacular views, which continued through August. The basic scope comes with a 2-inch Crayford-style 2-speed focuser with a 10-to-1 reduction ratio, and 4 centimetres of travel. While adequate for general use, the focuser often required adjusting the tension to avoid slipping when using the scope on cooler days, and mine had a slightly "scratchy" feeling when racking it back and forth. Lunt offers the scope with an optional Starlight Instruments Feather Touch focuser that, in my opinion, is a worthwhile upgrade, especially for anyone contemplating imaging with heavy cameras. The scope is supplied with its Bl200 blocking-filter assembly mounted in a I %-inch diagonal permanently attached to a 10-cm-Iong drawtube used to achieve rough focus. Eyepieces are securely held in the diagonal using a compression ring tightened with two knurled thumbscrews set apart by 90°. Also, the outer edge of the eyepiece holder is threaded to accept T-adapters, so you can attach a DSLR or CCD camera directly to the unit; a very nice touch.

Sweet Spot
All the Ha systems that I've used have a "sweet spot" in the field of view where you see the maximum amount of contrast in detailed solar features. In some scopes the sweet spot appears as a curved region. which sweeps across the field as the filter is tuned. The Lunt scope has a large sweet spot that radiates outward from the centre of the field and doesn't appear to move as the filter is tuned. The only thing that makes you aware of the sweet spot is that some solar features became more pronounced when moved to the middle of the field and fade slightly when placed near the edge. The scope has an extendable dew cap, but I'm not sure why. Usually these are intended for night observing to block the scope's objective from stray light and ward off dew. There certainly aren't any stray-light issues when observing the Sun, and since when is dew a problem during the day? Furthermore. I noticed that when the dew shield was extended its blackened interior would heat up very quickly and produce objectionable air currents that degraded the view. Retracting the dew shield eliminated this problem almost immediately. The views through the LS80T Ha were stunning, but images taken through the scope were even better.

Lunt offers a version of this scope with a larger Bl800 blocking filter intended for imaging applications, but I had great success with the basic Bl200 filter. As mentioned earlier, the T-thread on the outer edge of the eyepiece holder allows direct coupling of a DLSR or CCD camera. Although this is handy, the LS80T Ha used at prime focus with a DSLR records the Sun as a very small image only 4.9 millimetres across. The setup really calls for a Barlow lens or other optical amplification. The basic LS80T Ha is, however, ideal for imaging with the high-speed video cameras popular with todays planetary imagers. I spent many days shooting close-ups of active regions and large prominences with an Imaging Source DMK 2lAU618 video camera and a variety of Barlow lenses. With a 2x Barlow, for example, I could create a superbly detailed image of the entire solar disk by overlapping nine frames captured with the camera's small chip. Overall, I found the Lunt Solar Systems LS80T Ha a joy to use, especially given the fine adjustment that's possible with the scope's pressure-tuning system. Marketed as an intermediate-level instrument, the scope performs like a top-of-theline system. Andy Lunt is certainly carrying on his father's legacy of technical innovations for solar observers, while making a name for himself in his own right. ...

Sky & Telescope imaging editor Sean Walker has been hooked on solar observing for nearly a decade.

The LS80THa includes T-threads on its diagonal to directly attach CCOand OSLRcameras. but the Sun is a paltry 4.9 millimetres across at prime focus seen in this uncropped image made with a Canon Rebel XS DSLR camera. S&T: SEAN WALKER



Gary Seronik Telescope Workshop



The Dob Buster

Customization is the key to making a telescope that is truly your own.
here are two kinds of telescope builders - those who adhere to well-established designs, and those who view such designs as mere starting points when they set out to build a new instrument. One look at the pictures here should make it clear that San Diego, California, telescope maker Norman Butler is definitely in the latter group. His lO-inch (25-cm) f/4 "Dob Buster" is a veritable buffet oftwists on familiar themes. The scope's Dobsonian DNA is apparent in its bearings and general functionality, but Norman's specific needs and preferences play out in the details of the instrument's construction. The conspicuous bowling-ball counterweight is one example. "Conventional short-focus Dobs tend to wear out my 6-foot frame after a few hours of observing;' Norman explains. "So I decided to build a user-friendly Newtonian with a comfortable eyepiece height:' To achieve this, he had to position the scope's primary mirror near the mount's altitude bearings, which made the instrument very front heavy. The 7-kilogram bowling ball mounted on pipe fittings at the rear of the mirror box serves as a removable counterweight that balances things out. Another feature is the scope's collimation setup. Located at the front corners of the mirror box are four brass knobs - three to adjust the collimation by changing the tilt of the primary mirror and a fourth to lock down the mirror once the collimation is set. The knobs turn l4-inch-diameter, 12inch (30-cm) long shafts that engage pairs of pulleys linked with rubber O-ring "belts:' Seen in the far right photograph on the facing page, the large pulley on three of the pairs rotates
Dubbed the "Dab Buster," Norman Butler's unconventionallO-inch f/4 Newtonian has a primary mirror that he ground and polished himself, as well as a host of custom features that make the telescope a joy to use. Among the more obvious is the bowling-ball counterweight that helps place the eyepiece at a comfortable observing height. ZHENG







The back of the mirror box conceals the pulley system (operated by knobs at the front of the box) that turns the collimation bolts. The central pulley engages a bolt that bears against the back of the mirror cell for locking down the collimation. Also visible is the pipe fittings for attaching the bowling ball counterweight. ZHENG XIANG

One of the Dob Buster's unusual features is the mirror-fed, right-angle finder, which attaches to the telescope tube with magnets. Another is the low-profile sled focuser. Both are described in the accompanying text. NORMAN BUTLER

a collimation bolt, while the forth controls the locking bolt. Thanks to this arrangement, Norman can align the optics of his scope while looking into the focuser - a huge plus as anyone who has spent time trying to collimate a large Newtonian surely knows. Convenience is also a hallmark of the Dob Buster's periscope-style finder, which attaches magnetically to the main telescope tube. It is a conventional rightangle model with a 30-mm objective lens that is fed by a front-surface mirror tilted at 45°. The finder is aligned by simply adjusting the tilt of the feed mirror, and its eyepiece position is conveniently located near the scope's eyepiece, so no awkward neck craning is needed. Because the feed mirror adds a second reflection to the system,

"Convenience is also a hallmark of the Dob Buster's periscope-style finder ... "
the finder's image is only inverted, not reversed left-to-right as it is with rightangle finders that have just a single reflection. Perhaps the most interesting feature of Norman's scope is its "sled" focuser. Seldom seen today in amateur scopes, the design has some interesting advantages over conventional rackand-pinion models. Norman notes that the focuser provides a smooth-moving platform capable of handling just about any 2-inch eyepiece, regardless of its weight or focus position. It also has an

inherently low-profile, which allows the scope to have a smaller secondary mirror. The focusing mechanism consists of an inner slide captured within a wooden frame. The slide moves up and down the tube, parallel to the primary mirror's optical axis, and it carries the eyepiece (in a 2-inch PVC-pipe fitting). The scope's secondary mirror is also carried by the slide and is attached to it with a single, rigid stalk. The slide's focusing motion is precisely controlled by a finepitch Y4-28lead screw made of stainless steel, and a pair of spring-loaded ball bearings that push the slide against the top of its housing. "There is no slop whatsoever and no dead play even when you reverse focusing direction;' Norman reports. He kept friction to a minimum by sanding the slide with fine sandpaper, and coating it with smooth, clear epoxy. All of these features add up to a scope that is as pleasurable to use as it is convenient. "It's as user-friendly as Id hoped it would be;' Norman notes, "but when I go to star parties and show the scope to other observers, well, that's when the real fun begins!" Readers wanting to know learn more about the Dob Buster can contact Norman at ...

Contributing editor Gary Seronik has made some odd-looking telescopes, but nothing quite like the Dob Buster. Some of his scopes are featured at his website, www. 89



Astrophotos from our readers


away. CDK telescope

Martin Pugh Far in the northern sky in Cygnus is The Pelican Nebula (IC 5070), a gaseous H II region 1,800 light-years Details: Taken with an Apogee U16M camera with Astrodon filters through a PlaneWave 17-inch (43-cm) Paramount ME mount. Exposure times were Ha: 5.5 hrs, 511: 5.5 hrs, 0111: 7 hrs 50 min.

on a

Each month Gallery showcases the finest astronomical Images made by our readers We encourage you to submit your best Images. For details on how and where to send them, see the box on page 92 Readers who have an Image published In Australian Sky & Telescope will receive a gift 3 Issue subscription






Martin Meupelenberg The brightest globular cluster in the sky, Omega Centauri is a showpiece sight through amateur telescopes. Details: Taken with a QHY9 camera through an ED80 refractor on an EQ6 mount. Exposure times were Luminance and RGB 30 x 1 minutes. 71 x 1 minutes



'YNGC 4945
David Collis-Bird Centaurus is home to some wonderful galaxies, including edge-on NGC 4945. Details: Taken with a OSI 583wsg camera through a modified VC200L telescope on an MI 250 mount. Exposure time was R:G:B:C 40:40:40:300



Grant Bisset The glorious star clouds and dark nebulae of the southern Milky Way are a backdrop to the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo. Details: Taken with a Canon 5D camera and a 35 mm lens at f/2.8. Exposure time was 25 seconds.

Images should be sent electronically. Please first send a low-res JPG version to contributionseoaustskyandtel com au, and we'll get back to you with Information on how to send your hi-res versions Please provide full details of all Images, eg date and time taken; telescope and/or lens used, mount; Imaging equipment type and model; film (if used); filter (if used); exposure or Integration time; and any software processing employed.





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Focal Point Heidi B. Hammel

Why We Should Build Webb
By pushing beyond Hubble's limits, Webb will inspire a new generation.
zinged the project for poor management; NASA responded with substantial management changes and in 2011 Webb has hit all of its milestones. For Webb, $3.5 billion has already been spent, much of it inventing cuttingedge technology. About 75% of the telescope is complete, in production, or undergoing testing. In addition, the European and Canadian space agencies are providing the launch vehicle, the guidance system, and several of the scientific instruments, for a total investment of $1 billion. But we still have to put the telescope together, and here's the catch: Webb is so large that there is no facility where it can be assembled and tested all in one piece. A challenging new engineering strategy is required to test the various components separately, and still ensure with high confidence they will work together in space. Innovation costs real money. Why bother? Because great nations do great things. Webb's new technologies have implications far beyond space science, including national security applications. But for me, the real reason for Webb is deeper. The grandeur of space provides a fundamental shift in human perspective. Just as Hubble images have inspired the world, Webb's images will enable us to rise above our daily interests, sparking the creative thinking needed to solve todays difficult Earth-bound problems. Completing, launching, and operating Webb will require NASA to reallocate $3.6 billion over the next 12 years. That's roughly $12 per U.S. citizen, or $1 per person per year for the world's most amazing telescope. Surely this is a worthwhile investment of 1/30 of NASA's budget, which itself is less than 0.5% of the US federal budget. Given Hubble's inspiration, science, and leadership, the tiny fraction of federal funding for its successor is an investment that Americans should be proud to make .•


'm a Hubble Hugger. It started when I led the Hubble team that watched Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 plough into Jupiter in 1994. The detailed images of black smudges on Jupiter cemented Hubble's reputation as the finest telescope ever crafted. Yet over the next 4 to 6 years, Hubble's complex machinery will inevitably succumb to the harsh environment of space, and no servicing missions remain. To fill the looming void, NASA is developing the James Webb Space Telescope. Hubble could almost reach the very first galaxies; Webb will see those galaxies, and maybe even the first stars. Hubble spotted planets orbiting nearby stars; Webb can detect water in the atmospheres of planets just a few times larger than Earth. Like Hubble, Webb will return remarkable images, from our solar system to the edge of the visible universe. But Webb's machinery

" The grandeur of space provides a fundamental shift in human perspective. "
will be complex: multi-segmented adaptable optics will operate at cryogenic temperatures at the L2point, more than a million kilometres from Earth. Building something this innovative doesn't come cheap. The last official total cost in 200S was $5.1 billion. After a Congressional Review in 2010 indicated this was not enough, NASA re-evaluated Webb's full cost: it may be closer to $S.7 billion for a 201Slaunch with at least five years of operation. To put that in perspective, though, Webb will cost less than Hubble (about $13 billion in current dollars) and yet it will be 100 times more powerful. The Review also

Astronomer Heidi B. Hammel is the Vice President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and an Interdisciplinary Scientist for Webb.

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The Sky-Watcher EQ6 Heavy-Duty Equatorial Mount is the first of its kind. It is a precision instrument capable of carrying massive loads but at the same time it is very reasonably priced. Recommend for deep sky observing


The venerable Dobsonian reflector design has recently undergone some important upgrades and improvements: SkyWatcher is pleased to introduce the all-new Collapsible Dobsonian complete with Crayford focuser - the ultimate in large aperture portability and performance.