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November 2012

WHAT’S NEW

Magellanic Clouds The Night Sky

Budget Astronomy Earth V Thea

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AW Meeting 9th Nov

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Contents
4. Public Viewing Night 6. Competition 8. Earth Verses Thea 10. Rouges Gallery 22. Lets Talk.. Paul Rumsby Interview 26. The Seven Sisters 32. Magellanic Clouds 38. Solar Flares 42. The Night Sky 48. Pulsar PSR B1509-58 50. Occultations 54. Budget Astronomy 56. Astronomy In The Community 58. Book Reviews with Paul Rumsby & Edward Dutton 60. Android App Review 62. Astronomy For The Young Astronomer 66. The New Race To The Moon Who Are We?

Credits

Heather Dawn Earth Chris Almey Budget Andy Devey Photogr John Harper The Nig Seven Sisters Pepe Gallardo Pulsar Chris Almey Budget Paul Rumsby Book r Edward Dutton Book Jason Ives Rouges G Young Astronomers David Bood Editor, M The Community, App Zantippy Skiphop, T Moon

David Bood: Editor Co founder Jason Ives: Co Founder

Mike Greenham: Andr Skywatcher ED100. 9 iso800 giving a total o

Cover Image: Mike G

Who Is This?

Each month we will bring you our regular writers. Th from Solar Explorer www.thesolarexplorer.net . Andy star, Sol, The Sun. Each month you can find Andy in Have a look at his site which as some fantastic imag

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Welcome to another edition of Astronomy Wise
online magazine. Well the end of the year is rapidly approaching. The nights are drawing in and the clocks have gone back one hour here in the UK. Last month Astronomy Wise hosted it’s first public event in Sawdon North Yorkshire. Each month, the 2nd Friday, we will be hosting our free viewing night. We have a new email for sending those images to Rouges Gallery astronomywiseimages@gmail.com For new readers the links in this EZine work, just click and you will be taken to the page, video or image. A big thank you to all who write, send in pictures and read the EZine. October was the best month yet for viewing figures with just over 5000 people, reading or downloading the publication. For those who do want to come along to our viewing nights page 4 has more details. So thank you for reading and we hope you enjoy this next edition, if you have any comments please email me at dbood@astronomy-wise.com

h V Thea Astronomy raphing Solar Flares ght Sky, Occultations,

r PSR B1509-58 Astronomy review k Review, Logo, Design Gallery, Astronomy For

Magellanic Clouds, AW In ps Review, Design The New Race To The

romeda with the Canon 500D and 90 to 240 second exposures @ of 120 mins

Greenham

his month we have Andy Devey y has a passion for our nearest n AW talking about all things Solar. ges.

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Astronomy Wise Public Meeting

ALL WELCOME
FRIDAY 9TH NOVEMBER
Sawdon Village Hall Nr Scarborough North Yorkshire Sawdon, North Yorkshire YO13 9DY

COME AND SEE THE STARS WITH ASTRONOMY WISE PUBLIC VIEWING NIGHTS, FREE AND FUN FOR THE FAMILY!!

LOCATED IN THE DARK SKY AREA OF SAWDON FOR THE BEST STARGAZING!
EVERY 2ND FRIDAY OF THE MONTH
CONTACT 07951649024 FOR MORE DETAILS

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Well I hope you have enjoyed the October Edition. So for the first time, Astronomy Wise is hosting it’s first competition. The prize is 3 signed books (as shown above). All you have to do is answer this question.

”what is the closest star to Earth”
Rules: i. Open to UK residents only ii. Answers must be emailed to dbood@astronomy-wise.com iii. All correct answers will be placed into a bucket and drawn out iv. Winner must take a photo of themselves on books for the EZIne v. Winner will be notified by email and/or phone vi. Email Subject line: Astronomy Wise Competition

Good Luck!
Closing date 15th November 2012

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Earth Verses Thea

One clear starry night as I was sliding into my night gown I got to thinking about our Moon and how it came to be Earths companion, I poured myself a red wine and began to ponder! For those that didn't read my previous article I touched upon how the Moon may have been made, it is some planetary academics belief that another planet called Thea followed Earths path within the goldilocks zone billions of years ago when the solar system was forming, its discussed how they shared the orbit around the Sun and eventually Earth and Thea caught up with one another and crashed. Thea was supposedly a smaller planet around the size of Mars that hit our early Earth at such an angle that luckily both planets didn't shatter to pieces but formed like two twin like planets, the impact of the collision shot out enough debris to create what we see today as our Moon which sits astronomically close to Earth. Whilst thinking about this in some detail I also started questioning if this planet Thea that hypothetically impacted Earth at the time could have had some means of life, whether intelligent or microscopic and could it have possessed oceans and an atmosphere at the time it apparently hit our planet? Well given the solar systems so called temperament of vast heat and violent collisions back then it would seem unlikely at best that Thea could have supported life, saying that though I also wondered at this point why Earth harbours such a various and interesting amount of life in this day and age and the Moon is apparently dead given the fact they are both in the goldilocks zone ,meaning potential habitat zone, and being so relatively close to one another. Planet Thea is to some a theoretical atom bomb that collided with our earth billions of years ago but I contemplate whether it could have been our home Earth that actually bombarded Thea! I'd like to point out now that this theory regarding the Moon being formed from a huge celestial crash of planets is still hypothetical. Apparently since the Moon has been with us it has remained largely unchanged and human understanding of it and how it has evolved has altered over the years and thanks to new measurements from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and our landing we have new views of its surface but this does still leave an open question on how exactly it came to be! I hope that certainly in our lifetimes given the technological advancement we will determine how the wonder of the moon came to be and if indeed it was a planet that attacked us all those years ago but until then we have our binoculars, telescopes and eyes to view, appreciate and guess.

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Luckily whatever actually happened all those billions of years ago these two bodies now seem to be in an alliance, I for one am grateful for the Moon as it now helps harbour life on Earth such as you, me and above all our questioning minds! Keep looking up the answers are a moment away...

Heather Dawn Freelance Writer Hdhotwriter@yahoo.com www.astronomy-wise.com

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Ninian G Boyle

www.inthelionspaw.com

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ASTRONOMY Recent Discoveries & Developments
From the Reviews: This book is packed with interesting new topics in easily readable chunks. No maths, just plenty of illustrations in glorious colour, sprinkled with explanations and anecdotes. An excellent read for kids and grown-ups alike, ideal for browsing on a journey. Can't wait for the next edition… …Margarita

Although the lifetimes of stars and galaxies are played out over hundreds and thousands of millennia, the field of Astronomy itself is fast paced, with hardly a week going by without a new discovery or development hitting the headlines. This book delves into the most significant, ground breaking, headline making stories that have come out of Astronomy throughout 2011-12 and presents them in an easy to read, easy to understand format. The Perfect Introduction The Perfect Catch-up Available from Amazon in Kindle and Paperback Formats

For more information go to www.paulrumsby.com Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AstronomyRecentDiscoveriesAndDevelopments Follow the Author on Twitter @PMRumsby

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Paul Halperns new book ‘Edge of the Universe’ A voyage to the cosmic horizon and beyond. The universe is a vast and complex place. It is full of mystery and wonder. We can peer out into the galaxy from our back gardens with small telescopes and see the stars and planets. However have you ever thought when gazing up how did this magnificent spectacle begin? How big is the universe? Is there more than one Universe?

Like you I have asked myself these and many more questions. Dr Paul Halpern who is an American Professor of Physics and a well publisher author may have the answers I am looking for. I downloaded the book onto my Galaxy Pad, using the Kindle app from amazon. Firstly the book is well laid out and easy to follow. It is not over complex and the beginner to Astronomy and those with an interest of the universe will quickly be absorbed into the pages. We soon learn that the universe is full of dark energy and dark matter. There are ideas on multi-universe and unseen dimensions. Download this book, buy this book in traditional form, which ever you choose get yourself comfortable and begin your journey to the cosmos. Astronomy Wise Rating 5/5

http://edgeofuniverse.com/

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Image: Mike Greenham

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Another month is here and we are heading towards the end of 2012. This month I have pulled together another interesting interview. His book has featured in our pages and one is up for grabs in our competition, so Astronomy Wise is pleased to announce Paul Rumsby. AW: Paul when did you become interested in astronomy?

PR: I honestly can’t remember…I think I must have been born interested. I grew up in some remote parts of Norfolk, the son of a gamekeeper, so experienced very dark skies from childhood. I remember going out at night to the outbuildings on errands for my father and standing for the longest times, enthralled with the stars above, totally lost in the beauty. I can recall buying

my first telescope from Exchange and Mart when I was around twelve; it was a tiny little thing on a miniature tripod, a toy pretty much. Growing up during the sixties with the space race and the first lunar landings all had a huge influence as well, I just loved it all. AW: What made you start reviewing books? PR: I started a web site called Best-Astronomy-Books in 2009 and was searching for original content for the site. I didn’t just want to use other peoples work so I

contacted a couple of publishers to see if they would let me review a book or two. Since then I have had a constant stream of astronomy related books through my door. Fantastic! I get most of the new releases, especially from Spring

Books who publish a large number of titles on a wide range of subjects, from Planetary Science to Cosmology. More than I can handle at times. I have been lucky enough to interview some of the authors as well, which I have particularly enjoyed.

My favourite was Michael Carrol who is not only an amazing space artist but has also written some great books, I interviewed him after the release of his title ‘Drifting on Alien Winds’, a look at the atmospheres of planets to which we have sent

Contact Paul via: Twitter; @PMRumsby Facebook; www.facebook.com/paul.rumsby.9 His website; www.paulrumsby.com Emai; paulrumsby@gmail.com Astronomy – Recent Discoveries is available on Amazon The books facebook page; www.facebook.com/AstronomyRecentDiscoveriesAndDevelopments

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probes. His art work also features in the book which adds a nice feel to it, something different. AW: Astronomy – Recent Discoveries your new book, how did it come about? PR: Having reviewed many books on astronomy I found that the contents were always specific to a certain subject, sometimes quite broad but always focused. In three years I had not come across one that just provided an update across the entire spectrum. Astronomy really is fast paced, news stories come out nearly every day, scientific papers detailing new discoveries and developments are constantly being published, for the interested person its difficult keeping up with it all. I thought there was room for a book that did just that, provide an update, in easy language that everyone could understand. I concentrated on an eighteen month period from early 2011 up to the time of release. The book is available in soft-back and Kindle formats, I was surprised how well it transferred to the kindle, I didn’t think a non fiction title of that type would work. I thought the images and diagrams would be small and horrible but they actually look good, they are zoomable as well, something you obviously don’t get with a book. Whether I succeeded with the book is up to the reader to say but I’m reasonably happy with it. I think the second edition will be better, I have a few ideas I’m playing with. AW: What is your favourite object in the night sky? PR: Now that’s a question. I’m tempted to answer The Night Sky but I guess you’ll want more than that. Ok, naked eye? It has to be Orion; on a dark winter’s night is there anything more stunning? Through a telescope? Saturn. With a steady atmosphere Saturn takes the word stunning to a whole different level. I can’t actually think of a word to do the view justice, it’s something everyone on the planet should experience. My all time favourite? The one object I go back to time and again? M42, the Orion Nebular, I just love it. Its great to observe in binoculars or a telescope and it’s a great target to image. I particularly like the core stars, the Trapezium.

AW: What equipment do you use when viewing? PR: My main telescope is a Meade LX200 14” GPS Catadioptric and I have the usual assortment of eye pieces, filters and barlows. I use a DSI II imager for deep sky photography and a web cam for lunar and planetary targets. All this is housed in a home built robotic observatory which I have been working on in between work and other commitments. The observatory’s not complete yet but hopefully will be soon. The aim is to be fully automatic, from checking the weather to running a scripted imaging session unattended. I have been fortunate that a friend and neighbour, who recently retired as an Engineer on the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion reactor, has been helping with the electronics and design elements. It’s an interesting project but has taken a frustratingly long time to do. At the other end of the scale I also have a pair of binoculars, a Christmas present from my partner, which are great for grabbing and heading outdoors on a clear night for half an hour. It is quite amazing just how much you can see with a reasonable pair of binoculars.

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AW: Did you study astronomy or Science at college, university? PR: Unfortunately no, but I am currently studying Astronomy and Cosmology at degree level at the Open University. There is a but though, maths was never a strong point and I have reached that point where maths is everything. I didn’t know some of this stuff existed let alone be in any position to understand it. So to progress my studies I need to go back and bring my maths up to speed which to be honest is daunting. I am anything but a mathematician, I wish I was because I’m fascinated by it, it’s just so hard AW: Tell us about your career so far? PR: Not glamorous I’m afraid. When I left school I had to work as my parents had recently separated, times were difficult, hence no collage or university education. I had a lust for travelling and spent five years wandering around Europe, North Africa and the Middle East in my early twenties. I lived in Israel for a year and in Gibraltar for two before coming back to the UK and settling down. Since then I have worked for a company that design and manufacture marine glazing solutions for luxury yachts. I am currently their Business System Engineer maintaining and improving their management systems. I enjoy my work but would love to have had a career in science, preferable Astronomy. Still it’s never too late. I just need to apply myself to getting my degree and who knows, my latter working days may yet be in an observatory somewhere. If that doesn’t happen amateur Astronomy is great anyway; there is so much worthwhile research that amateurs can do these days and the equipment that is available is amazing if you have the resources to purchase it. AW: Suddenly space exploration seems to have been thrust in the headlines with Curiosity, China and companies like SpaceX, do you think it will take a

global effort to get beyond the moon? PR:I do. Some of the best missions since the moon have been international collaborations. Curiosity, for instance, is thought of as a purely NASA project but many of its instruments are collaborations. The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument for detecting water at or near the Martian surface is a great example of RussianAmerican collaboration. Other instruments come from Spain and Finland. Germany contributed several million dollars to the budget. It’s good to see that whatever else is happening in the world science seems to be able to rise above it. With commercial companies now beginning to provide services such as SpaceX’s resupply missions to the International Space Station the future of space exploration will become more of a global effort than ever before. World economics will play an increasing role as national science budgets are cut and organisations are forced to collaborate with others. This year at COSPAR, the committee for space research, we saw China and America agreeing to pool resources in future missions, something that seemed impossible just a few years ago. Indian and Japanese space programs are gathering pace. When the six large space agencies get together, along with commercial companies, who knows what will be achieved. A manned mission to

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Mars in twenty to thirty, certainly forty years doesn’t seem out of the question. AW: How do you think social media has improved astronomy? PR: Well it’s certainly made it accessible to a huge number of people. Joining groups and participating in events has never been easier. For some it will never replace going out and meeting like minded people at clubs, groups and lectures but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and for some it’s physically difficult. It really is a fantastic resource. There is also a personnel aspect about social media that I find almost incredible, I recently - via twitter – had a conversation with Carolyn Porco, leader of the imaging team on the Cassini obiter, something that just isn’t possible normally. I asked her what it was like to literally have the best job in the world; “actually” Carolyn replied “it’s the best job in the Solar System”. Most mornings one of the first things I do is have a quick glance through recent postings on twitter and facebook etc. This morning, over a coffee, I caught up with the Curiosity rover on Mars, images of the scoop marks in the Martian soil where Curiosity had taken samples, were waiting on my desktop. I checked out numerous images, some from amateur astronomers taken a few hours before and others from Earth orbiting telescopes and bizarrely, discovered that a man wearing a dress had been acting improperly on a Lincolnshire train!! The internet in general is amazing; researching a subject has never been easier or faster. Sites like the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) are staggering, holding something like 8.9 million records on Astronomy and Astrophysical papers, entire lifetimes of reading, on a single web site. Mind Blowing. Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish him all the best with his new book. Finally here are those contact details Contact Paul via: Twitter; @PMRumsby Facebook; www.facebook.com/paul.rumsby.9 His website; www.paulrumsby.com Emai; paulrumsby@gmail.com Astronomy – Recent Discoveries is available on Amazon The books facebook page; www.facebook.com/AstronomyRecentDiscoveriesAndDevelopments

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The Seven Sisters By John Harper
‘Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade, Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.’ Beautiful words written by Tennyson, to be found in his book ‘Locksley Hall.’ These words so aptly describe the Pleiades star cluster, which during this month may be found in the late autumn sky all night long. When I first started being interested in astronomy many years ago, my first attempt at finding the ‘Plough’ ended by my ‘discovery’ of the Pleiades! For a while I thought that this small, tightly packed arrangement of stars I was looking at, was indeed that well known signpost in the sky, made up of seven stars, called in America ‘The Big Dipper’. What I had spotted was perhaps one of the finest star clusters in the entire sky. I later found out that these closely knit stars had excited wonder and interest since the earliest days of civilisation. They were an object of veneration to the Chinese and were first mentioned in oriental writings as early as 2357 B.C. They also figure in the writings of many other civilisations such as the Japanese, Egyptian, Hindu and Aztec. Mention of the star cluster occurs also in the writings of Sappho and Euripides, and has a mention in the Bible too. In classical mythology the Pleiades were seven sisters, the daughters of Pleione and Atlas, who were bathing one day by a pool of water in a clearing at the middle of a small wood. As they were splashing about, enjoying themselves, the great hunter called Orion arrived on the scene and startled the girls. Fearing for their safety, they called to the king of the gods to intervene and save them from the hunter’s attention. Zeus obliged, and turned them into doves, and as such were able to escape the attention of the hunter by flying away up into the sky. Unfortunately, the girls did not know when to stop and flew even higher into the realm of the stars, where they froze together in the coldness of space, and were turned into stars themselves! Later their mother Pleione, and Atlas their father, were both placed with them too, completing the family group. The names of the sisters are rather beautiful and can be seen on the accompanying graphic, so if you are stuck for a less than common name for your newly born daughter (if you have one of course!), here you have seven unusual names to choose from, as you can see! www.astronomy-wise.com

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In reality, the Pleiades known also as Messier 45 to astronomers consists of very hot, rather young stars, only around 50 million years old! So, compared with our star, the sun, which is 4.500 million years old, they are ‘cosmic babies’, that were not around when the dinosaurs walked on the face of the earth. It appears that these stars formed from a huge gas and dust cloud. Remnants of this cloud can be seen well in long exposure images of the cluster, illuminated by these fiercely hot, blue white suns. The cluster lies over 400 Light years from us and occupy a vast area of space, some 12 light years from end to end (1 light year is approximately 6 billion miles!). Look for the Pleiades in the eastern sky at around 7pm during the month and see how many stars you can count in this nice compact group. Most people can see around six or seven stars, but some keen sighted people claim to have seen as many as 14 stars. Through binoculars, the cluster looks magnificent, when up to 50 stars may be seen in the field of view. If however, when you look in the direction of the Pleiades, you see a patch of fuzzy light only, then it may be that a visit to the optician is recommended! Enjoy spotting the Seven Sisters!

Graphics generated using Stellarium software: www.stellarium.org

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http://awesomeastronomy.com

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IMAGES NASA HUBBLE

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Going south………...

When we gaze up and look at the wonders above our heads, we may gaze in awe at the thousands upon millions of stars. Here in the northern hemisphere we can point out familiar constellations and objects. But this is not the whole picture, imagine we could jump on a plane and travel south. So far south that we land in the Southern hemisphere. Two objects that are not present in our northern hemisphere skies are the Magellanic Clouds. We have the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC)

and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). These clouds on a clear night can be seen by the naked eye and have been described has glowing clouds. They could be thought to be small bits of the milky way that have broken way. However research has found that these clouds are in fact recent arrivals and are themselves small galaxies.

The Tarantula Nebula in the LMC. Image from Stellarium

So What Are They?
The Magellanic clouds are dwarf galaxies or irregular galaxies (Irr). It is thought they formed around the same time as our own galaxy (Milky Way) some 13 billions years ago. The LMC and SMC lie about 22° apart.

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Composition
The clouds are not only different in size to our own galaxy, but also composition. They are gas rich, a higher proportion of their mass are Hydrogen (H) and Helium (He) in comparison to the Milky Way. There is also less metal content in proportion to the Milky Way. Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) (Image Left) The LMC in astronomical terms is almost next door to our own galaxy. It’s luminous area is 5° across or 14,000 light years in diameter. It sits at a distance of about 160,000 light years from Earth (Britannica). The LMC was a host to a supernova 1987a which is located just outside the Tarantula Nebula.

Irregular (Irr) galaxies are not uniform or regular in shape. They are mainly small and faint. They Contain gas, dust, nebulae and young stars.

Large Magellanic Cloud in an optical image taken by the Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The bright nebula at the top of the image is 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula. NOAO/AURA/NSF

SN1987a exploded in the LMC on the outer edges of the Tarantula nebula some 160,000 plus years ago and the light reaching earth on February 23rd 1987. Source: Circumstellar rings around SN 1987A, with the ejecta from the supernova explosion at the center of the inner ring. Wikipedia

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Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC)

The SMC is 2° across or 7000 light years in diameter. It sits about 200,000 light years from Earth. The galaxy contains a central bar structure and is thought to be once a barred spiral galaxy.

Background Image: SMC NASA HUBBLE

The SMC forms part of the local group. The local group consists of 54 galaxies which include the Milky Way.

Image Left: SMC taken bt the Digital Sky Survey. Below: Panoramic Large and Small Magellanic Clouds as seen from ESO's VLT observation site. The galaxies are on the left side of the image.

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Light Year (ly) A light-year is a unit of distance. It is the distance that light can travel in one year. Light moves at a velocity of about 300,000 kilometers (km) each second. So in one year, it can travel about 10 trillion km. More p recisely, one light-year is equal to 9,500,000,000,000 kilometers. The Crab supernova remnant is about 4,000 light-years away. The Milky Way Galaxy is about 150,000 light-years across. The Andromeda Galaxy is 2.3 million light-years away. Information NASA Information

Credits: Britannica Encyclopaedia http://www.britannica.co.uk/ NASA http://www.nasa.gov/ Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

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Solar flares – tips to increase your chances of photographing these spectacular events!
By Andy Devey www.thesolarexplorer.net Never point a telescope at the Sun unless you have fully considered and taken all the necessary safety precautions! There is a whole page devoted to safety measures at the top of my website. Hi Guys, for November 2012, I thought I would briefly cover multiple stacking techniques in hydrogen-alpha and then show you how to increase your chances of imaging a solar flare and recording one of the largest explosions in our solar system.

Double and triple stacking a hydrogen alpha telescope
I mentioned in my article last month that I would cover double and triple stacking systems using hydrogen-alpha light. When you buy a dedicated solar telescope its initial band width will be stated as for example <1Å this means that the wavelength of the light that is allows through is within one billionth of a metre and tuned to the hydrogenalpha spectral line [a specific red visible spectral line created by hydrogen with a wavelength of 656.28nm that occurs when a hydrogen electron falls from its third to its second lowest energy level]. To get under <1Å is more expensive with most of the larger commercial solar telescopes delivering <0.7Å however if you wish to get more contrast and crisper detail in your photographs you will need to get to <0.5Å and to achieve this you will need to double stack your solar scope. This www.astronomy-wise.com

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simply means that you are combining two dedicated filter units normally at the front end of your telescope to reduce its band width to the lower level but this also reduces the brightness of the image delivered and this will also affect the speed of your camera during imaging. This double stacking is proportionally more expensive, so I recommend doing your internet/forum research before spending your money! Triple stacking is achieved using 3 units and in many cases is not practical as the image will be too dim to photograph. I have managed to achieve triple stacking and there is a write up on my website.

Solar flares
A solar flare is a sudden brightening that can be observed over the Sun’s surface or on the solar limb. There is no doubt that hydrogen-alpha light is by far the best medium to observe a solar flare with Calcium K telescopes/filters coming in a close second. White light solar flares are very rare and it is only possible to see/capture the very largest X-class flares in this medium. Solar flares are caused when a contorted magnetic field suddenly shears and reconnects causing a huge amount of magnetic energy to convert into heat. They can also be followed by enormous coronal mass ejections [CME], slinky post flare loops structures or even shock waves [Moreton waves]. There is a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength. The smallest ones are A-class (near background levels), followed by B, C, M and X. This scale is similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes and for solar flares, each letter represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. An X is ten times an M and 100 times a C. There is a finer scale from 1 to 9 within each letter class but there is no upper limit for the largest X-class flares. The highest ever recorded solar flare overwhelmed the sensors on 4 November 2003 at X28 with some scientific papers assigning it at a level as high as X45! Any solar flare above an X10 is often referred to as a super flare! The vast majority of solar flares occur in the vicinity of active regions with a small minority resulting from prominence/filament eruptions causing ribbon flares. Within the active regions there is a classification system that serves to indicate its potential for developing flares. In general there are more flares associated while the area is growing in magnetic strength as opposed to its declining phase.

Photo 1 M.7 solar flare on 8 September 2011 photo at 15:57UT Photo 2 a small limb flare on 12 September 2012 at 09:35UT Photo 3 close up of a small flare on 6 October 2012 at 11:22UT

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α β

A unipolar sunspotgroup. A sunspot group that has a positive and a negative polarity (or bipolar) with a simple devision between the polarities A complex region in which the positive and negative polarities are so irregularly distributed that they can't be classified as a bipolar Sunspot group. A bipolar sunspot group but complex enough so that no line can be drawn between spots of opposite polarity. The umbrae of opposite polarity in a single penumbra A sunspot group with a general beta magnetic configuration but contains one (or more) delta sunspots

Alpha Bèta

γ

Gamma

β-γ

Bèta -Gamma

δ β-δ

Delta Bèta-Delta

β-γ-δ A sunspot group with a beta-gamma magnetic configuration but contains one (or more) delta sunspots γ-δ A sunspot group with a gamma magnetic configuration but contains one (or more) delta sunspots.

Bèta-Gamma-Delta:

Gamma-Delta

The active regions with the more complex magnetic structures [7 and 8 above] release the larger flares and a high number of small ones.

Capturing solar flares
Solar flares by their very nature are quite fleeting events with small flares lasting just a few minutes to the huge events prevailing for just a few hours. To become successful at capturing such events is down to using techniques designed to increase your probability for success! I personally have filmed about 100 solar flares over the last two years so here I shall share my techniques for making such captures with you. The best way in my view to capture and present the activity in these fascinating events is through time-lapse photography/presentation. Here is a list and brief explanation of my techniques: Always check the local weather, I use www.sat24.com this will let you view the cloud structures from satellite view so you can tell if the gaps will permit you the opportunity to go out and set up. This should be backed up with a good look at your local sky outside and use a tree or part of a building as a reference point to check www.astronomy-wise.com

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the wind direction via cloud movement. Check the daily sun on www.spaceweather.com website, this shows a white light photo of the sun indicating the position and numbers assigned to the current active regions and underneath is an indication for the days potential for solar flares. Check the http://halpha.nso.edu/ this is part of the Global Oscillation Network Group [GONG] look at the movies immediately preceding your imaging session at the potential targets for solar flares. You can also use this image as a reference – rotate your camera so that your image is at the correct solar orientation. The latest image should be within 2 minutes of real time [subject to clouds over the GONG observing site]. Check the GOES X-ray flux graph on http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ and assess the trend over the last few days this may hint at the regularity at which the current active regions are flaring? This graph is updated every 5 minutes. I have used this numerous times to predict C and M-class flares. Keep the links [in 3 and 4 above] open on your PC while you are out imaging and you will not get caught out if a flare goes off on a different part of the Sun to that where you are imaging! Just beware if your PC processor is too busy this may affect the performance capture/rate of your camera. Some active regions are far more active than others but you can always image successive regions every minute or so by tracking between them. I image up to four separate areas in one imaging session so that subsequent images of the same area are 4-minutes apart. This is how I capture so many close-up views of flares. Make sure that the date and universal time [UT] is imprinted into the name of your video/image file. You now have a useful scientific record of the event and not just a pretty picture! Why not consider joining the http://britastro.org/baa/ [British Astronomical Association] and submit your drawings/photos to the solar observing program? Some amateur flare capture specialists use focal reducers to keep imaging the full solar disc and this is also by far the best way to detect/record solar shock waves. If you are busy inside but have your kit and observing box set up outside keep monitoring 3 and 4 above and go out and start imaging as soon as a hint of flaring starts. You could always develop a remote solar monitoring system but this is beyond my present level of experience. Consider setting up a sudden ionospheric disturbance [SID] detector that gives you an audio alert when a solar flare triggers [I have no experience of such as yet but it is a future project on my to-do list]. Checking the magnitude of that flare that you captured Once you have captured a solar flare you should revisit the GOES graph mentioned in 4 above and this will give you a rough estimate as to the flares magnitude. You may have to wait several hours but you should check this other NOAA link http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpmenu/indices/events.html as a final confirmation and look at the edited events page for the day and time in question. The duty space weather forecaster should have checked all instrumentation and assigned a final flare magnitude [in the particulars column] giving it its designated letter and magnitude number to within one decimal place. I shall discuss white light imaging techniques in the forth coming December issue. Have fun with our Sun Very best wishes Andy Devey

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By John Harper

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The Night Sky…….. November 2012
Until November 23rd at around 04h, the Sun having passed through the constellation of Libra, enters Scorpius for about a week, because on the 29 th at about 15h00, it crosses into the neighbouring constellation of Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer.

The Moon
The moon is at apogee, its furthest from the earth, at 15h31 on the 1st, and again on November 28th at 19h36. Perigee (nearest to the earth) occurs on the 14th at 10h23.

Last Quarter at 00h36 on the 7th is in the constellation of Cancer.

The New Moon in November occurs on the 13th at 22h09, a degree or so below the sun, in the constellation of Libra. First Quarter at 14h32, on the Capricornus-Aquarius border occurs on the 20th. A total eclipse of the sun takes place starting at sunrise in the Northern Territories of Australia, proceeding across Queensland and the city of Cairns into the Coral Sea. From there the eclipse continues eastwards crossing the Pacific Ocean to end at sunset before hitting Chile in South America. Full Moon is on the 28th at 14h47, in the constellation of Taurus, near Jupiter. A penumbral eclipse of the moon takes place, producing a very slight dimming of the moon towards its north pole.

You may be able to glimpse earthshine on the night hemisphere of the waning crescent moon from the 8th to the 12th.

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The Planets On the 17th of November, Mercury passes through inferior conjunction with the sun. This means that it lies at its nearest point to the earth between the sun and us. The planet is 0.25° north of the sun at the time. Its rapid retrograde motion takes it into the morning sky so that by the end of the month, the planet is rising two hours before the sun and is readily visible at the beginning of morning twilight. On the 27th of November, Mercury will be seen 8° above the SE horizon at 07h in the constellation of Libra, almost in line with Venus, with Saturn, a moon width almost above Venus at an elevation of 15° to the upper right of Mercury. Spica, brightest of Virgo’s stars is further to the right of Venus and Saturn – the angular distance between each of these two latter bodies is about 12°. Venus continues to be a resplendent morning object, rising almost four hours before the sun at the beginning, and 3 hours before the sun at the end of the month. Worth looking for is the close conjunction between Venus and Saturn during the morning of the 27th, with Mercury some 10° to the lower left in the SE sky around 07h. The angular distance between Saturn, the fainter of the two objects and Venus is just one moon width (0.5°). Saturn will be seen above Venus and slightly to the left. Earlier in the month on the morning of the 11th at around 05h, Venus and the waning crescent moon, with earthshine lighting up its night hemisphere, will lie side by side as they rise in the SE, separated by 7° (the width across the knuckles of a clenched fist held out at arm’s length). During November Mars sets a couple of hours after the sun and so may be seen in the early evening sky as twilight fades, low in the SW. Look in that direction with binoculars, where you will see the planet approximately 5° above the horizon. The planet continues to fade as earth’s distance from Mars increases and on the 13th, Mars leaves the constellation of Ophiuchus and enters Sagittarius. The planet is beginning to ‘move’ northwards again, and this is the reason why it is easier to spot during November than it was during the two preceding months. At 17h on the 16th, the thin waxing crescent moon, a couple of days past new, is above and 5° to the upper left of Mars, and at that time, Mars is midway between the moon and the horizon. An hour earlier, shortly after 16h, the dark limb of the waxing crescent moon occults (passes in front of) the fairly bright star Mu Sagittarii, and this event can be observed in a small telescope. The moon at that time is 12° above the SSE horizon. www.astronomy-wise.com

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At the start of November Jupiter rises at 18h and rises as the sun sets by the end of the month; the reason for this is that Jupiter is approaching opposition (opposite the sun in the sky) and its closest to earth at the beginning of December. After rising, the planet is visible all night until dawn, and by midnight is very high in the heavens, some 60° in altitude. During the month the planet moves retrograde (from east to west) in the constellation of Taurus, and on the 28th bright Jupiter is 5° above the ‘Red eye of the Bull’, the star Aldebaran, brightest star in that constellation. You will see the beautiful cluster The Pleiades 12° to the right of Jupiter; the three objects forming a right-angled triangle, with Jupiter at the right angle. As always, when Jupiter shines brightly all night, there is a good opportunity to see the Galilean satellites through well-focussed firmly fixed binoculars. During the night of the 28th and 29th, the almost full moon forms a very close conjunction with Jupiter, when, at 01h, the two objects are separated by 1° (two moon widths). As the two separate and the night progresses, the moon is involved in a penumbral eclipse as outlined above. As November proceeds, Saturn becomes visible in the morning sky once again and by the end of November rises over three hours before the sun. The ringed planet’s close conjunction with Venus on the 27th, in the constellation of Virgo, has already been mentioned. On the 12th, at the onset of morning twilight, there is a pleasing quadrilateral in the SE sky between Saturn; the waning crescent moon with earthshine; Spica, the brightest star in Virgo; and Venus, the brightest planet. Uranus is visible for most of the night until the early morning in the constellation of Pisces during this month. It is currently below and exactly in line with the two stars forming the left hand side of the square of Pegasus. These two stars are Alpheratz and Ageib, which are 13 or so degrees apart. If you scan with binoculars the same distance that these two stars are apart but below Algenib, the lower of the two stars, you will come across Uranus, which has the appearance in binoculars as a faint blue-green star. Neptune in Aquarius is very difficult to spot at the present time unless you have a detailed star map of the constellation, with the position of Neptune marked. It is very faint and is only visible before midnight throughout the month. There are two interesting meteor showers this month, the first of these is the Taurid meteor shower consisting of slow moving shooting stars associated with Encke’s comet and peaking during the 3rd and 4th. The gibbous waning moon will interfere, as will pre Bonfire Night fireworks in the sky! The Taurid shower is noted for producing bright slow moving events. Several years ago, another meteor shower radiating from the constellation of Leo produced several thousand meteors each hour. The Leonid shower has now subsided, and astronomers are not expecting to see more than about 20 an hour in the early morning of the 17th. The parent body of this shower is comet Temple-Tuttle, which visits the earth every 33 years. Constellations visible in the south around midnight, mid-month, are as follows: Eridanus, and the Pleiades in Taurus. Perseus is at the zenith embedded in a rich star field – take a look through binoculars and see! All times are GMT 1° is one finger width at arm’s length.

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Pulsar PSR B1509-58

Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.

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One of the most astonishing events in the Universe is called pulsar. It is basically a rotating neutron star with a similar mass to the Sun's but with a diameter of a few 10 km, that is with a huge density. Rotation (or spinnig) produces jets of particles which become beams of light. Due to the rotation, these beams are emitted as the light in a lighthouse. Also, the beams heat the surrounding matter to millions of degrees and this is why we see it in form of X-rays. Pulses vary from several miliseconds to several seconds. Some X-ray pulsars are in binary systems. This kind of system is formed by a neutron star with a companion normal one. The neutron star pulls the matter from the normal one (because a neutron star has a very intense gravitational field). This process gives a very hot material and then produces X-rays aslo. Most of these kinds of systems are found in globular clusters which normally are formed in supernova explosions. A pulsar called PSR B1509-58 is at the center of this dramatic image. Astronomers have estimated that it is about 1700 years old which means that it is a young pulsar. The neutron star at its core is spinning almost 7 times per second. Each time it spins it releases energy into the surrouding space creating those dreaming structures in the image. The blue veil (more energetic X-rays) is created when a powerful wind of ions and electrons is injected and produces an magnetized nebula. You also can appreciate red and green colors. This time they correspond also to X-rays, from less energetic (red) to medium (green). There are still whiter areas in the upper right. The gas is transferring energy to another neighbor nebula (RCW 89) and this process produces such a beauty form. This pulsar is about 17,000 years-light far away in Cicinius constellation. NASA has said that its shape is like a powerful cosmic hand.

Words: Pepe Gallardo (Spain) Twitter @aechmu

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Dione Rhea Occultation: Moons of Saturn

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Occultations By John Harper Key to the Occultation Table
The columns of the table give data specific to each of the Lunar Occultation events listed. From left to right they are: 1 Day of the Week 2 DATE in the format: dd-mm-yyyy 3 Universal Time of the event (add one hour when British Summer Time is in force for Local Time. The predictions are for Scarborough, which lies midway between London and Edinburgh, on the North Sea coast of the UK. (N54.27 deg., W00.43 deg.) 4 Occulted star’s visual magnitude 5 P = Phase tells you whether the event is a disappearance (D) or reappearance (R) or a Graze (C). 6 L = Limb. This indicates whether the event takes place at the dark (D) or bright (B) lunar limb. 7 Al. = the Altitude of the moon at the time of the occultation event. 8 Az. = The azimuth (angular distance along the horizon, measured from the North Point, clockwise. 9 Sun Alt = the angular distance of the sun, below the horizon at the time of the event. 10, 11 & 12 the name or catalogue number of the star being occulted. XZ Cat No. This is the star’s designation in the US Naval Observatory catalogue of over 32,000 stars that can be occulted by the moon. Proper Name. This is the star’ more common name, if it has one! ZC No. The Zodiacal Catalogue of 3539 stars brighter than visual magnitude +7, within 8 degrees of the ecliptic. Some fainter stars are included in this total as well. 13 PA = Position Angle. This is the angular position on the limb of the moon where the reappearance or disappearance will occur it helps you look at the right part of the moon’s limb. Position Angle is measured from Celestial North (the line of Right Ascension running through the centre of the moon’s disc. It is measured clockwise through west, south , east and back to north, a total of 360 degrees.

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Budget Astronomy, a myth ?
Probably the most common misconception is that it takes a lot of money to get started in astronomy. It doesn’t, if you are willing to take the time and learn some of the sky. Let me explain. At the very basic level, to get started in astronomy, all you need to do is look up (preferably at night with clear skies)! Congratulations, you are now an amateur astronomer ! (amateur = someone who does something for the love of it) Using a star map (freely available on the internet, and a version available on this site) you should be able to spot some of the major constellations with relative ease. From any starting point, you can “star hop” to an adjacent constellation, and begin to increase your knowledge of the night sky. Sure you won’t get to see the amazing images seen on the tv and in papers / magazines from hubble et.al. but you won’t get this through a telescope either. The images from hubble etc. are taken over many hours (sometimes 100’s of hours) and processed using software to produce the great images we all love. In reality, what you see through a telescope is (for the main part) in black and white. So, taking a tour of the night sky has whet your appetite for more. Time for a telescope, right ?

Wrong!
The best thing you can get next is a pair of binoculars. Doesn’t need to be anything expensive. A pair of 10x50 (10x magnification with a 50mm lens) is ideal. Get back out into the garden and prop yourself up against a wall etc. (to reduce vibration) or, if your bino’s has the ability, use a tripod. This extra magnification coupled with the wide field of view is a great way to increase your knowledge of the night sky, and take in some wonderful views at the same time. So, you’ve had your bino’s for a while and have been enjoying the sights. Time for a telescope now surely ? www.astronomy-wise.com

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Well, maybe ! If you can spare a £100 or so, you can get yourself started with a telescope. But, you don’t have to yet. Get in touch with your local astronomy club and see when there next observing evening is. Most clubs will run open evenings to let the public view through either the clubs telescopes or members equipment. Astronomy Wise has started this recently. You will find that most amateur astronomers are really keen to share their knowledge and experience with anyone who takes an interest. If after this you are determined to get a telescope, stop! Ask advice from your fellow enthusiasts. It will save you the time, money and disappointment you get when looking through a “cheap” telescope for the first time. So you have followed the guidance of your friends and got a decent, cheap(ish) telescope. Now what? As daft as it may sound, put it up in the front room and play with it! Find out what does what, how this attaches to that, etc. makes for setting up in the garden (or with fellow amateurs) so much easier if you have done it when you can see. But if in doubt, ask for help. Onto the vast world of accessories that you can get whilst stargazing. A red torch is really handy. Allows you to see whilst not ruining your night vision. I got a head torch from a pound shop and put a couple of red sweet wrappers over mine. Not fancy, not pretty, but it works and it’s dark so who is going to see it ! To save kicking the legs of your tripod, bicycle rear lights are good, but a bit too bright. I got some from a pound shop (again!) and put some red electrical tape over them. Works a treat. If you can find one, a pirate’s patch is a good idea. Put over your main observing eye should you need to go inside to retain your night vision. It’s also worth keeping an eye in charity shops and book stalls for astronomy related items. You can pick up some great bargains. One of my friends picked up a nice pair of binoculars from one for just £9! Then there are the online auction sites and the local papers. Keep an eye in your local shop window as well. Many smaller shops let people put cards up with things for sale. As I hope I have shown, you really don’t need to spend £’000 to get started in astronomy (you may want a bigger, better setup later which can be expensive). The biggest resource you have is your fellow enthusiasts, use them! Ask questions, even if they seem really silly (and I still ask the silly ones myself). Ask for advice, but do your own research as well. None of us can know everything so you may stumble upon something that none of us have heard of, in which case, share it! J Just one final piece of advice. Whether observing with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope (regardless of size)NEVER look at the sun directly (please talk to an astronomer if you want to observe the sun as there are safe ways). This will cause instant blindness and cannot be undone. Please don’t use welding goggles or similar as these are still not safe enough. Take care, stay safe and hope you have clear skies J Chris

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Astronomy Wise In The Community October 12th 2012, Sawdon Village Hall, North Yorkshire.
Astronomy Wise held it’s first public viewing night last month. Jason Ives had been planning this night for a few weeks, he arranged the location and the use of the local village hall. Adverts went out to the local radio station and we posted the event on Facebook. The hall provided us with the opportunity to provide hot drinks and run a presentation; which is ideal if the weather was not too good. However we were lucky to have clear skies. Jacqueline Ives, Jason better half, provided some excellent cakes or as they call them in the north east buns. People came with the their children from the local area however two people took the journey down from Newcastle. Carl and Edward Dutton, Father and Son, made the trip down not really knowing what to expect. John Harper who writes for these pages and founder of a local society came along to give a talk about the night sky. His laptop and projector were ready to go. John is a guru of astronomy in these parts and we were extremely honoured for him to come along and offer the public the benefit of his knowledge. Outside the telescopes were setup with a range of different scopes for the public to view through. The night was crisp and clear with a little atmospherics, however this www.astronomy-wise.com

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did not effect looking at deep sky objects such as the ring nebula. The atmospherics only really showed as we viewed a public favourite, Jupiter. The night ran from 20:00 hrs to 22:00 hrs and the people that came along enjoyed the night. A big thank you to Jacqueline for providing the Tea and cakes. Another big thank you to John Harper for giving his time and talking to members of the public about the wonders of the night sky. Thank you to all that setup their telescopes for the public to look through and a massive thank you to all that turned up and braved the cold.

Edward Dutton Writes: With it being such a long journey down from Newcastle I was really quite unsure what the night was going to be like. Never having looked through a telescope before in my life me and my Dad were amazed by what we saw. We were shown through the night sky throughout the evening and learnt so much. I am really excited to meet up again with everyone and everything Astronomy Wise in the following months. Events like this are literally 'Astronomy for All'

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Paul Rumsby reviews The Amateur Astronomers Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs Written by Jerry D Cavin for Astronomy Wise. The Amateur Astronomers Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs is published as part of Springer’s ‘Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series’. The book provides complete listings of the important deep sky catalogs considered useful for amateur astronomy. The listings make up around 80% of the content, the remainder introduces the reader to the people behind the catalogs; those Astronomers and observers throughout history that

have spent large parts of their lives documenting and refining their observations. Catalogs included start with Ptolemy’s Almagest or the ‘Great Book’, Ptolemy performed his observations of the heavens during the second century Anno Domini, and ends with the Caldwell Catalog created by Sir Patrick Caldwell-Moore in the nineteenth century. The book therefore provides nearly two thousand years of documented observations. The catalog listings will make an excellent resource for amateur astronomers giving co-ordinate locations and other information on thousands of galaxies, stars and nebula. The all to brief bio’s provide a delicious taster into the lives of some fascinating characters and will act as a prompt for more in depth research. A thoroughly recommended book for all amateur astronomers. Paul Rumsby October 2012.

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Edward Dutton gives us our second book review for this month. Astronomy Wise is never one to shy away from the big questions and this review and book tackles the question of creation. We all have our theories on the subject and no side can prove or disprove the other or can we? "God and Stephen Hawking - who's design is it anyway?" by John C. Lennox Are you lost between the small sweet fringes of religion and science? Are you curious on someone else's opinion of the constant war between religion and science? This short response to Stephen Hawking's (and co-author Leonard Mlodinow) book "The

Grand Design" really goes into depths and detail about it. The author, John C. Lennox explores sections of the Bible that help describe the creation of the Universe and aggressively compares them to Hawking's book. I personally think Lennox slates Hawking's book too harshly and regularly brings the ideas that Hawking proposes down with extreme and unnecessary exaggeration. Although there is no definite known answer to the creation of the Universe Lennox helps show the advantages and disadvantages of each side and how they expel the other beliefs or theories. With Lennox being a mathematician and neither 'Scientist or Pope' he shows how ideology and theories can be made in comparison to a religious story or reading from the Bible. Throughout the book he uses rhetorical questions to drag you in, keep you involved with the struggle about your final choice. But, this subject cannot be rushed and time needs to be taken to consider all options. For some it takes days, for others it may be years but you need to find what makes sense for you. However, it's unlikely you will stick to it. In my opinion there is no definite barrier between Faith and Science, it all gets a bit mushy - but the human brain hasn't discovered how to accept defeat when we do not understand. There will always be conflict.

Astronomy Wise Rating: 3.5

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Image by Team Android

SkySafari For Android
This month I am going to look at our first Paid For application for Android, Southern Stars Sky Safari. As with all applications we have featured so far I have tested on my Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet. Firstly the App comes in three versions. SkySafari, SkySafari Plus and SkySafari Plus. So depending on your budget and needs depends on what version you require. For this test I purchased SkySafari. This version has no telescope control However for me this was not a requirement I needed. So what do you get with the basic version? The basic version of SkySafari shows you 46,000 stars, plus 220 of the best-known star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies in the sky. It displays the Solar System's major planets and moons using NASA spacecraft imagery, and includes the best-known 150 (or so) asteroids, comets, and satellites. It lets you find objects in the sky using your Android's builtin compass and accelerometer, and identify stars and planets by holding your phone up to them. (Southern Stars) If you have used and like Stellarium on your PC then I think you will like this application. Once downloaded and setup for my location I found the software easy to use. I like to star hope when I am out and sometimes I like to go out without my scope and just look up. With this software installed on my tablet I could quickly find constellations, planets and stars. A quick note to mention the other versions do have telescope control. If you are out with you telescope the App can easily be switched to night mode. www.astronomy-wise.com

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This is useful when out, having it in night mode means your eyes are not constantly trying to adjust from the glare of the screen to darkness.

Modes

Once you have set up your location you can use the App to see what’s in the night sky at that particular time, or the can put it in compass mode and point your device towards the sky looking North, East, South or West. You can also search for objects from the search function. Type in your object and press search, firstly a scree will be displayed with the object info. Press centre and the object will be found. You can customise your screen and display object names if you wish. Overall I was very impressed with the software and found it easy to use. Mostly suited for tablets where you will get a good graphical display. It should be mentioned that SkySafari is available on iOS (I Pad) systems. Astronomy Wise Rating 5/5

http://www.southernstars.com Images Southern Skies

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We, everyday people, will be able to go to outer space soon. Not just the superwealthy or specially-picked private people who go through years of training. The space tourism industry will be starting soon, jump-started by the combined dreams and efforts of engineers, financial backers, motivating prize money, and a supporting cast of artists, writers, lawyers, teachers, and scientists who are combining their shared dream of seeing an ongoing and permanent human presence not just in space, but on another planetary body. The Moon has not had a significant human presence since the 1970s - none in terms of actual humans, and only sporadic unmanned instruments, which essentially once placed there, have had no way of being monitored in person. Google recognized the surge in innovative technologies and interest in space from the competitions of the Ansari X Prize in 2004 and of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge X Prize in 2009. The Ansari X Prize was meant to inspire the development of technology for regular,

sub-orbital flight, and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge X Prize was meant to stimulate tech development for soft lunar landings. Google started the Google Lunar X Prize as the next step in taking humans back to the moon, for widespread lunar exploration. So GLXP is a competition whose mission is to jump-start a new age of exploration on the Moon, an age Google refers to as Moon 2.0. They see the Moon 2.0 age as growing a financially stable and consistent human presence on the Moon by inspiring new technologies to follow on the commercial space flights already happening. Many people involved are also looking forward to a fast-paced development of space tourism! This mission of the Google Lunar X Prize has inspired many people around the planet to be personally involved, people who have dreamt of having a space career but most of whom have not pursued those dreams till now, simply because of a lack of government-led missions and jobs to put humans beyond

Earth's own immediate orbit. And for most of the citizens of Earth's countries, their governments have never started a space program. This competition has brought together 25 teams, each with a unique personality, each with their own goals that go beyond the competition. And not only engineers are involved: teachers, artists, lawyers - the spectrum of talents in human ability is represented by people who all share a passion for space exploration and see this as not only a way to help make it happen, but to be part of it themselves.

The main Google Lunar X Prize of $20 million will go to the first team who lands on the Moon by the end of 2015, sends a robotic rover at least 500 meters across the surface, and sends video and still images back to Earth. The team who comes in www.astronomy-wise.com

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second will receive $5 million, and there are 5 $1 million bonus prizes for the teams that: Beyond being inspired to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize, all of the teams plan to be part of space exploration, and see the prize money as only one possible source of funding. 90% of the money raised for each of their projects has to come from private sponsors and donors and not from governments, although the teams are allowed to have government contracts as costumers. Selling payload space for scientific and prospecting instruments is not just a way to pay for the project now, but as a way to make profit in future missions. Customer payload space on a spacecraft can go for $2 million/kg. This is being done by a few of the more financially competitive teams, who plan on being a part of lunar mining, especially in water ice. Water ice is seen as a major motivating reason for the more commercially-minded to have a successful Moon venture business, since water ice could potentially be used to break apart into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. Planetary geochemist Larry Taylor says that there may be around 600 million tons of water ice near the poles (according to NASA there may even be over a trillion) and that using this as a fuel source could one day make the Moon “a gas station in the sky” for spacecraft. Competing along with the future ice minors are many other teams who are more interested in encouraging space tourism, education, basic science, and simply being a part of this step in putting humans beyond low Earth orbit. These teams have unique personalities that show through their designs and in the way they raise money. Their excitement and heart for space exploration just shines! *find an ice deposit *land near an historic artifact *survive the lunar night, which lasts for 2 weeks *travel more than 5 km over the surface *promote ethnic and other diversity in the field of space exploration.

Synergy Moon is an enthusiastic partnering of people from at least 15 different countries, creatively combining the work of space tech engineers and artistic types. This synergy is embodied in their little rover surveyor, Tesla, part of whose mission will make many artists light up in joy. Tesla will carry the Art Capsule, which will carry art projects from all over the world, and show the art to planet Earth in ways yet to be announced. They put out a call for video and 2D art, inviting artists from around the planet to be part of this space project. The larger Tesla prospector rover will have the geology job of identifying minerals on the Moon, and it also will be carrying “microbots”, which will be released to do art and science projects.

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Top left: Synergy Moon's little robotic surveyor, Tesla, bearer of art and science. And maybe the most adorable lunar rover. Credit: Synergy Moon Team Puli, based in Hungary, is an example of how much national pride this contest is inspiring. Team Puli wants to help push forward Hungarian science contributions on Earth and in the solar system. They compare their attitude to the character of the smallest prince, known from Hungarian folk tales: “With hard work, endurance, humility, perhaps a pinch of luck, we aim to go high, and we hope that many Hungarian people will look at the Moon differently in the future.” They also push science education for everyone. The planned outer design of the rover. Credit: Team Puli

Team Puli's test rover, walking over small hills of gravel and sand at a bauxite mine. The test rover is off soon to the MARS2013 event in Morocco, where it will spend a month in a simulated Mars environment being run remotely over hills. Credit: Team Puli

It looks amazingly like Team Puli's namesake dog breed, the Puli:A Puli dog in a hurdle competition. Credit: free-extras.com

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Euroluna's rover, Romit, the “Spacedog”. Euroluna is based in Denmark, with team members also in Switzerland and Italy. They have contributing members that span the ages between 16 and 60 - one teen member runs the MoonRaker program, which is responsible for calculating trajectories that can be used to get to the Moon. Credit: Euroluna

The Chilean team Angelicum's rover, Dandelion. They went through many ideas based on different animal designs, picked an insect, and improved on it in terms of what will be needed in the lunar environment. Dandelion's shape and lack of jointed legs were designed to deal with conditions like the lunar dust. Angelicum has partnered with Earthrise Space, Inc.'s team Omega Envoy, which is building the lander, Sagan. ESI wants to develop transportation to support future lunar industry infrastructure. Credit: Angelicum

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These are the planned landing sites so far of 15 of the teams. You can see that Synergy Moon plans on working for the bonus prize of landing near an historic artifact, by landing near the Apollo 11 landing site. Credit: GLXP. If Synergy Moon does land near the Apollo 11 site, one of the rovers will be able to take a picture to send home - required proof for the prize, but a fun postcard, really! In order to do this, they will be following guidelines written by NASA. While not legally enforcible, the guidelines are consistent with the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty, and are meant in part to protect historic sites on the Moon of shared human history. NASA says of the Apollo 11 area: “Project Apollo in general, and the flight of Apollo 11 in particular, should be viewed as a watershed moment in human history and humanity. It was the first instance in human history in which emissaries from this planet visited another body in the solar system. It represented the culmination of years of effort, the significant expenditure of life and resources, and the opening of a new age in human history. The site of that first landing requires preservation; only one misstep could forever damage this priceless human treasure.” To help preserve this site, NASA recommends that the Apollo 11 and 17 sites be exclusion zones with Artifact Boundaries. They suggest that a team's spacecraft land below the horizon to minimize how much dust disturbs the sites, and then have the rover drive slowly up to no further than the Artifact Boundary. NASA sees a benefit in having the rover take pictures and see how the artifacts have weathered the bombardment of high energy particles from the Sun. www.astronomy-wise.com

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The guidelines also say that it will be helpful for rovers to inspect the artifacts and working instruments like the multiple Lunar Laser Ranging Retroreflector arrays, in terms of possible damage from the lunar dust, which the Google Lunar X Prize refers to as “tiny, sharp particles of pain in the butt”. NASA says that the dust is of sandblasting quality. The problem, even without the dust being kicked up by activity, is that the dust has been ionized by the solar high energy particles and so is electrostatic, so it just sticks to anything available. The rovers can help to inspect the instruments, and problems may be able to be handled in the planned continual visitation to the Moon. NASA also suggests that the rovers could get involved in some actual geological and gravity experiments: “Push biggest possible rock over edge of crater or rille: Tracks of boulders rolling down slopes have been used to infer geotechnical properties of the surface layer....Soils that develop in slopes may well be metastable, such that avalanches could be easily triggered. Also, it would be fun to push a big rock over a cliff. It is a question whether a rover could push a rock and also observe the descent, but it is worth thinking about.” Let's hope a rover gets to have the fun of pushing a big rock over a cliff, and watching it fall!

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Astronomy for all

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