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Editors Note..
Welcome to the April 2013 edition of our digital magazine. I hope the weather has been kind for you to see Pan-STARRS comet, I personally did not get to see it. Competition results: The Winners of the signed Geoff Notkin books to be in the next edition od the magazine, winners will be notified via email.

Editor: David Bood Twitter: @AstronomyWise

4. Kielder Observatory 8. Lets Talk Interview 16. Astronomy Wise March event 22. Deep Space Imaging Part 3 24. Constructing A Light Box 32. History Of Solar Astronomy 40. The Night Sky 48. Where on Earth Can You See the Plough? 52.When Stars Go Off Road 56. Race to the Moon 3 60. Asteroid Watch 64. Occultations 68. A Comets Tail 72. In The News Apologies no rogues gallery this month

This month we have a new feature from the Southern Hemisphere. We are hoping to bring the night sky news from the southern part of our planet. Astronomy Wise held its annual event to raise money for Macmillan Caner Support. See Carl Duttons Report on page 18 We are packed with our regular features, Andy Devey talks the history of solar gazing, Mike Greenham talks light boxes, Pepe talks more about the X Ray universe. Julian Onions tells us what happens when stars go off the road. Zantippy looks at a race to the moon. This month Jasmin Evans from Kielder Observatory gives an insight into the Northumberland observatory. So please enjoy.. Dave Bood

Writers Mike greenham Julian Onions Andy devey John Harper Dave Bood Carl Dutton Pepe Gallardo Jason ives Jasmine evans Michael Poll Zantippy skiphop

Jason Ives co founder Events organiser, Rogues Gallery, writer

David bood co founder Magazine editor,writer

Edward Dutton graphic design, adverts, t shirts

Cover Design: Edward dutton

John Harper f.r.a.s Sky notes, articles, advice, public speaking

Contact Details
Editor, Arrangements, Magazine Layout Rouges Gallery: Design:

Background Image : Close-up of comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS as seen from Mount Dale, Western Australia. CREDIT: Astronomy Education Services/Gingin Observatory

As the sun sets slowly in the west, the shadows lengthening with every second, a magnificent structure stretches out from its hillside perch, like a ship ready to set out on its maiden voyagebut this ship is on a journey to the stars. On a clear night, under the inky black skies, a cornucopia of brilliant points of light spill through the sky, gracefully scattering their ancient beams over a modern world. The Milky Way, perfectly arched from horizon to horizon; its bright nebulae lighting up the deck of our celestial voyager, the shadows casting a striking silhouette against the deep darkness of the Kielder night sky. This is the product of one mans dream to share the incredible beauty of the universe with people from all walks of life, to make the science of physics and astronomy accessible to anyone with an interest in the

stars. It all began with Night watch, a casual gathering of avid stargazers each autumn, sharing the secrets of the cosmos against the beautiful backdrop of the majestic Kielder Castle. As the years progressed these events only grew in popularity attracting crowds of over 100 people of all ages, eager to learn more about the universe of which they are part. These gatherings gained momentum and soon turned into regular meetings and it became clear it was time for something a little bigger. For years, there had been a glimmer, a spark of passion which was only for astronomy inside the mind of Gary

Fildes, now the Founder Director of the observatory. He decided it was time to act on this secret dream and create the Kielder Forest Star Camp - a group of amateur astronomers coming together to share stories and their love of the cosmos, gazing through telescopes at the elegant sights offered up by the heavens and camping out under pristine skies. Star camp exceeded all expectations and has become a haven for astronomers of all abilities and is now regarded as one of the top ten star parties in the world. Images: left & top left page 7


Following on from the success of star camp as attendance soared, another plan had started unravelling and unwinding. A dome in desperate need of elbow grease to remove the signs of aging that had accumulated over time in the form of slimy moss had been acquired by Gary, and he had great plans to put it to good use. However, after a very long search and many a funding application, it appeared that there was no one willing to help him finish the project. Anyone else might have given up at that point, but such was his enthusiasm and determination for the observatory to succeed that he carried on the search for a way to move forward. There was light at the end of the tunnel an arts and architecture project was building up its portfolio around Kielder, expanding the tourism profile of the park and searching for more attractions to be added to its already impressive list. It was decided an observatory, as an arts project, would be a valuable and attractive contribution to the project. Suddenly there was a budget of 415 000, a brief and a worldwide competition among architects to design an observatory to fit into the rugged landscape on top of a windy hill in Northumberland. There were over 225 entries from every corner of the world, ranging from the weird and wacky to the absolutely breath taking and completely beautiful, and after drawing up a shortlist the architects behind the final designs were interviewed to find out their motivation and thoughts behind their creations. After a lot of discussion and many a sleepless night, it was decided that the winning design was the stunning building that we have today by Charles Barclay Architects who are based in London. It was designed and built on the romantic notion of a ship, setting out from the hillside within which it is berthed looking out over the lake, and setting sail for a vast cosmic ocean of stars.

The reason we exist is to introduce people from all walks of life from all over the country, even the world, to the wonders of the universe, our main aim and purpose from the very beginning was outreach. Originally it was decided there would be around five events per year where the doors would be opened wide to welcome the general public and show them the beauty of the skies in a way that they had never before experienced. However, on opening in 2008, the popularity of the observatory exceeded everyones expectations with over 40 000 visitors in groups of 40 coming through the doors in the past four years as we run around 25 events per month. Image: Kielder Observatory Posted on Each event we run has its own unique theme for the evening. These range from Aurora night, popular as we head into solar maximum this year, where we teach our guests the science behind the Northern Lights and equip them with the tools and knowledge necessary to go out and witness natures magical light show for themselves, to The Universe; a night where we take a trip through the cosmos to our most distant vantage point upon the cosmic light horizon. For young budding astronomers, we run Family Astronomy events where the focus is on getting lots of time at the eye piece and taking part in activities as we take a tour of the solar system, learning about our closest neighbours as well as these we also hold outreach events at local schools. Although the talks at events are generally given by Gary or one of the team of volunteers, we do host guest speakers. The most recent was 14th Astronomer Royal, Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale, who gave a fantastic talk at the Christmas at Kielder event. Sitting by roaring log fire with a glass of mulled wine, listening to a talk by someone so passionate about their subject was an incredible experience. As asteroid 2012DA14 glided past Earth in its recent close approach, we were joined at the observatory by the Sky at Night team, luckily the skies were clear as the asteroid travelled by and the whole team were able to observe it. The episode featuring The Moore Winter Marathon and the asteroid pass aired in March, the late Sir Patrick Moore has a special place in the heart of Kielder Observatory as we strive to carry on the work which he dedicated his whole life to, and to commemorate this we renamed the observatory housing the 20 Newtonian reflector telescope in his honour, unveiled by Jon Culshaw and Gary. The 0.5 metre telescope is one of two of our permanently mounted telescopes, it was chosen for the observatory as guests are encouraged to operate it for themselves, guiding it around the sky and learning as they observe, seeing the excitement of someone who has found an object for the first time unaided is the

driving force behind the observatory, and why we continue to do what we love. The other telescope we have is a Meade LX200 on a permanent pier mount; in sharp contrast to the Newtonian it is fully computer controlled and we use this for planetary observations and to view galaxies that lie at vast cosmological distances. Kielder Observatory sits above the most remote village in Europe and it is this remoteness which makes it a truly unique place for astronomy outreach. The skies it nestles under are incredibly dark and free from light pollution from horizon to horizon. We are currently embarking on a joint venture in conjunction with the Northumberland National Park in a bid to attain dark sky park status by the International Dark-Sky Association. If we are successful we will be the third largest dark sky reserve in the world allowing us to preserve the inky skies we observe for future generations of astronomers to enjoy. The observatory has been an incredible success, it has taken everyone by surprise and were not finished yet. There are many plans for future growth, the most imminent project being the Kielder Astronomical Village. This spans a major expansion of the observatory comprising of a planetarium capable of seating eighty people so that despite the British weather, everyone will see the stars and experience the true beauty of the cosmos when they visit; a new observatory housing a wheelchair accessible 1-metre telescope, which will be the only one of its kind under a true dark sky, at a public observatory, in the world. As the dark night draws in and envelopes the world in deep cosmic black, the Kielder Observatory slips away to its final destination of the stars. Words: Jasmin Evans Kielder Observatory Observatory Design: Charles Barclay Architects Images: Top: 2nd:

This month I am pleased to interview a Yorkshire man who over the years has given so much to astronomy. With forming a society to work on the radio. He has been active with outreach bringing astronomy to all. I am also pleased he carries out talks for Astronomy Wise, so please let me introduce John Harper F.R.A.S

AW: When did you first become interested in Astronomy? JH: I first became interested in astronomy when I saw, for the first time, a huge 'face' looking at me over the trees, as I was being carried by my father, when my parents got off of a 'double-decker' bus between Leeds and Castleford, in West Yorkshire. I was 3 years old at the time, and was terrified, yet fascinated by this 'face', and I kept peeping at it through my partially closed fingers. My dad told me it was the 'Man in the Moon', and I have been an astronomy 'lunatic', ever since.

AW: How has your interest and career in Astronomy developed over the years? JH: From fastening a couple of telescopes together with garden canes, and having seen through that contraption the fuzzy form of Saturn with its open rings, I eventually joined Batley and Spenborough Astronomical Society, and began using the 18" Newtonian Reflector in their observatory adjacent to Bagshaw Museum, at the top of Batley Park. Subsequently, I started an astronomical society at the college I attended in Lancashire, and on one winter evening plotted

no less than120 Geminidmeteors on a huge star chart which was shown the following month on BBC's Sky at Night program, by a young Patrick Moore When I began teaching in Wakefield at the Cathedral School, I started a school society there and we constructedour own 6" reflector which we fondly named 'Spotty'. The School Society produced its own magazine called 'Vulcan' which came out each month and informed its readers of forthcoming astronomical events. Maybe this was the forerunner of the monthly Sky Notes I prepare each year. On being appointed Head of Religious education at Scalby School in 1975, I went on to broadcast for the newly formed local BBC Radio York as their 'resident astronomer', a term still fondly used to this day, before forming the Scarborough and District Astronomical Society on February 16th 1976. Towards the end of the 1990's I was Appointed Director of the Occultation Observing Section of the Society of Popular Astronomy (one of the three nationwide astronomical societies) , and introduced the observing of asteroidal occultations to the Section, for which I was given life membership, when I retired as Director, a number of years back. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. I have also been privileged to draw up the plans for and align the Scarborough Star Disc, showing the circumpolar stars. This is the largest star disc of its kind in Europe, and I designed the two notice boards which describe its use. The stars are marked by fibre optic terminals of different sizes, to indicate magnitude. I was the writer of a full page weekly article on observational astronomy in the former Scarborough Evening News. AW: Tell us about forming Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society. JH: As mentioned above, I started the town's astronomical society in February 1976, at the Osgodby Community Centre, on the south side of Scarborough, just off the Bridlington Road. There were sufficient interested people turned up, for the Osgodby Community Association's secretary to give us the go ahead to continue meeting there as an astronomical society. this we continued to do , eventually finding


further meeting places at the University College on Filey Road, a large room in Aberdeen Walk the town's public Library, where we put on lectures and exhibitions including showing the town the Lunar rock samples brought back to earth by the Apollo 12, 14 and 15 missions. After a number of years there, meetings took place in the hall at Seamer county Primary School, before moving to the Current meeting place at East Ayton Village Hall on the third Friday of each month excluding August and December. I established a rapport with the Forestry Commission through one of the recreational Rangers who attended my WEA course in Astronomy at Pickering. Through this contact I was able to instigate public observing nights at Low Dalby ,so that the public, and members of the Society could come to appreciate the beauty of the Night sky from a very dark site. away from street lights. Two Observatories were erected there. At about the same time I suggested that an annual Star Festival should be held on a weekend in August so that amateur astronomers for all over the UK could Congregate for a weekend of Astronomy in Adderstone field, which recently was awarded Milky Way Dark Sky status, one of only 3 in the north of England. This year, the 13th of these events will take place. Because of the increased membership from Ryedale, and the observatories being in that District, I proposed the renaming of the society as Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society and designed the logo for it, consisting of a white rose, an ear of Rye, the keep of


Scarborough castle, and the upper part of the constellation Auriga, the Charioteer, in a dark sky. Amongst the stars depicted is Delta Aurigae, the brightest star that culminates overhead each sidereal day, as seen from our latitude of 54 degrees 17 minutes North. AW: Can you tell us about your radio and TV work? JH: From moving to Scarborough in 1975, I have had a good rapport with BBC Radio York, Leeds and Humberside, and am frequently asked to broadcast, on each of those local radio stations. I have also been invited to speak about occultations on BBC Radio 4, and interesting events on BBC Radio 5 Live,, Similarly I am frequently invited to speak on Yorkshire Coast Radio. I have done television interviews with a number of TV presenters about a variety of things including Solar and Lunar eclipses , dark sky area such as Dalby Forest and events staged to coincide with the Star Gazing Live events instigated by the BBC, a couple of years back. AW: What inspires you most? JH: The splendour and the beauty of the Night Sky, a hint of which can be found in Tennyson's delightful description of the 'Seven Sister's star cluster: ' Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising through the mellow shade, glitter like a swarm of fireflies, tangled in a silver braid.' AW: How important is outreach in Astronomy? JH: Reaching out to members of the public and giving them the opportunity to 'tour' the night sky, by being shown the constellations and the various objects contained within them, is in my opinion one of the most important things an amateur astrono-


mer can do. I have devoted my whole life to this challenge and it is good to see that Astronomy- Wise continues with this most important process. AW: What equipment do you use? JH: Five instruments chiefly, these are: 12" Skywatcher Newtonian Reflector, for deep space objects 8 " Newtonian Reflector, general all purpose observing 6" Celestron Refractor, which is my observatory instrument for observing double stars and planetary detail 20 X 80 Astronomical Binoculars for viewing comets 60mm Coronado Hydrogen Alpha Solarscope, for observing prominences and solar flares. AW: Apart for writing and speaking for Astronomy Wise what are you highlights in Astronomy? JH: There have been so many highlights (chiefly because I have been arounda long time!). However amongst my most memorable occasions have been the following observing my first comet, Arend-Roland in 1957, and comet Myrkos in the same year. Giving the people of Scarborough the opportunity of viewing Comet Halley in 1986 through a 6" reflector from Oliver's Mount, and many years later, Comet Hale-Bopp from the same venue. Seeing the Total Solar Eclipse of August 11,1999, from a field to the north west of the City of Reims in the Champagne district of northern France, drinking, what else but champagne of course at the moment of totality when the sky turned turquoise rimmed with yellow as we stood in the moon's shadow --- I was also able to give a commentary for a French radio station ! Observing an Annular Solar Eclipse from the grounds of a Buddhist temple, on one of the foothills of the Himalayas in Yunnan province, China on January 15th, 2010. I enjoyed giving the Chinese tourists visiting the temple there, the opportunity to see the 'Ring of Fire' safely. through mylar filtered shades. Having driven Sir Patrick Moore back from Dalby Forest to his home 'Farthings' in Selsey, south of Chichester, I remember sitting with Patrick watching a late broadcast of 'Sky at Night' with his xylophone keeping us company in the corner, We were each drinking a double brandy at the time ! Watching the 2004 transit of Venus across the face of the sun despite the changeable June weather that year! Finally, observing my first positive asteroidal occultation when Asteroid 1049 Goto, occulted an eleventh magnitude star, and eventually finding out I was the only person in the UK to have done so, and one of only two people on the planet to have observed that particular event.


And Finally.. He who would scan the figured sky, its brightest gems to tell,; Must first direct his mind's eye north, and learn the 'Plough' stars well !


John Harper Gallery


Star Disk: Scarborough





St Marks Brownie Pack with their astronomy Wise Certificates.




Part 3 Deep Space Imaging with a DSLR The Importance of Darks and Flats By Mike Greenham
In this session we will look at the importance of Darks and Flats and Ill show you how to cheaply construct a light box in order to obtain the all important flats. So what is a Dark? Well basically its a image taken at the same settings as the lights but with the lens cap on the telescope. Same exposure, same ISO setting and same temperature. Therefore its always best to take the Darks at the end of the imaging session as the temperature will be the same. A Dark will highlight any hot pixels or amp glow present in the DSLR. If we dont use Darks these will all be present and show in our final stacked image.

The Image on the right shows a cropped section of a 120 second Dark. Ive stretched the levels slightly to make the noise and hot pixels more visible. You can see the amount of noise present! Without the Dark this would make its way into our final image. So what we want to do is take as many Darks as we can (I usually only take between 10 and 20) and these get fed into Deep Sky Stacker when we stack all our images. The software will then create a master Dark and remove this from our stacked image. Flats are taken to highlight any even field illumination along with dust and smudges within the optical path. When taking Flats it is vitally important that nothing is moved from the position it was in when taking the Lights. Focus and camera orientation must be exactly the same so it is a good idea to take them at the end of your imaging session. In order to take a flat we need a evenly illuminated light source. Many people, myself included, hold the laptop screen against the telescope with a plain white document displayed. While this method works its not ideal and can very from laptop to laptop as the LCD screens vary. For this reason Ill show you how to make a cheap simple light box.

The Image on the right shows one of my Flats. Ive picked a bad one with lots of


ger prints and dust and stretched the levels to highlight the problems. Firstly you can see the uneven illumination. The image is brighter in the centre, darkening at the corners. This is what we call vignetting. Also visible are lots of black dots. These could be specs of dust on the camera sensor or finger prints on the telescope lens. In the bottom right is a small semi-circular mark. This turned out to be a tiny hair on the camera sensor. So all these marks along with the vignetting would make there way into our final image if we didnt use Flats.

The image on the left shows M45 with no Flats applied. You can clearly see the Vignetting which makes processing the image very difficult. The picture on the right is the same image with Flats applied.

So to take the flats, after youve made your light box, Simply pop the box onto the telescope, put the camera into AV mode and shoot off 20 or so shots. Feed these into Deep Sky Stacker with our Lights and Darks and thats it.


Constructing the 12volt Light Box This light box is 12 volt DC only!
Materials needed Sheet of White foam Board 5mm thick (Brought mine from Dunelm Mills - 4.99) Roll of Duck tape (2.95 from Wilkos) 8 x 5mm wide angle LEDs (Ebay - 1.69 for 20) 8 x 470 Ohm resistors (Ebay - 0.99 for 50) Some wire and your plug of choice Firstly you need to work out the size of the box you require is. The one Im showing here is for a 120mm Refractor. Im not going to inclue dimensions as chances are yours wont be the same size as mine. I worked out that I only needed one foam board to construct mine (board size was A1 - 841mm x 594mm).

Once youve worked out your sizes mark them out onto your board and cut them all out. You need 4 rectangles for the sides and 4 square pieces for the baffles and end. Measure the diameter of telescope end where you want to fit the box and cut out 2 of the squares with a hole this diameter. Next cut out another one of the squares with a diameter just slighly smaller. The first 2 are going to slide over the telescope and the third is going to act as a stop to prevent the box slipping down and to mount the LEDs. Leave the forth square as this is going to be our end that the LEDs project onto.


Now we need to mount the LEDs. I used twelve, three in each corner. If your building a larger light box Id suggest using more. The board is quite soft so I just pushed them through in the position I wanted. Next we need to solder a resistor to the negative terminal on the LED. The negative is the shorter of the two legs. Cut down the short leg on the LED and one side of the resistor and solder them together.

Now we need to connect the LEDs together. I did this is each corner and then connected all four corners with wire. As you can see from this picture I bent the positive terminal down flat and soldered them together. I then bent the resistors down and twisted them together before soldering them. Make sure that none of the negative sides touch the positive legs. You may need to bend a little dog leg to stop this happening. Now we need to connect the four corners so solder a black wire joining the negatives and a red wire joining the positives. I then soldered a length of twin core wire to one end and fitted a cigarette lighter plug on the other end to supply the box with the 12V. At this stage I would plug it in and make sure everything works.


Once youve established it works start assembling the box. I used Duct tape to fix it but you could use glue if you wanted. Taping it was a little fiddly but possible. I fed my power cable to the back of the box through little cut outs. The pictures below show the finished box without the top stuck on so you can see how it fits. Different size boxes will obviously perform differently so it may be necessary to add a diffuser. I was planning on taping some tracing paper on the section with the LEDs but with my setup this wasn't needed.

Thats it. I hope you found this useful. If you have any questions I am an active member on Astronomy Wises Facebook page so just ask.







A brief history of solar astronomy Part 1

For April, I thought that it might be interesting to trace the roots of modern solar astronomy and revisit some of the milestones of discovery from the start of recorded history, through the advent of the telescope age over four hundred years ago and the advances facilitated by the space age. Prior to the invention and the first astronomical usage of the telescope in 1610, the only means of investigating the Sun and solar features, were made using naked eye observation and the subsequent recording of events such as solar eclipses, sunspots and the changes in the seasons. There have been lots of theories and hypotheses proposed over the years with some later proving to be way off the mark and so I have only concentrated on the theories and discoveries [in date order] that have served to make significant advances in our knowledge and understanding of the Sun, solar astronomy and astronomy in general. With the advances in high resolution scanning and creation of the numerous digital libraries it is amazing as to how many of the monumental and priceless published works can now be read straight from the computer screen. I have compiled a digital library that contains over 150 books and substantive papers since the start of the seventeenth century and they can be viewed on this page on my website. This remains a dynamic document that grows as I discover more of these priceless works. option=com_content&view=article&id=4&Itemid=8 Here are the significant events: The oldest eclipse records are from a clay tablet found in Syria with two dates stated at 3 May 1375 B.C. and 5 March 1223 B.C. and by the eighth century BC the Babylonians were keeping systematic records of solar eclipses. The oldest records of sunspots are from the Chinese Book of Changes compiled around 800 B.C. The first mathematical attempt to determine the SunEarth distance was made by Aristachus of Somos around 300 B.C., he used the first quarter moon and geometry and estimated that the Sun was about 20 Earth Moon distances from the Earth (about 5 million miles). Around 200 B.C., Eratosthenes used data acquired during lunar eclipses, attempted to measure the Earth-Sun


distance and came up with a value of 804,000,000 stadia (about 83 million miles). The first recorded mention of the solar corona was recorded by Leo Diaconus a Byzantine historian from the solar eclipse of 22 December 968 A.D. John Worcester from a sighting on 8 December 1128 made what is possibly the first surviving sunspot drawing. He was a monk and his record forms a part of the Worcester Chronicles. The Russian Chronicle of Novograd records for the 11 May 1185 eclipse The Sun became similar in appearance to the moon and from its horns came out somewhat like live embers the first description of solar prominences? In 1543 Nicholas Copernicus presented the new planetary model placing the Sun at the centre of the solar system with all planets including the Earth orbiting it together with axial rotation and precession of its spin axis. The first telescope observations were made in 1610 and four astronomers almost simultaneously observed the Sun and recorded sunspots. Thomas Harriot the English astronomer made the first record on 8 December 1610 but did not publish his results, Johann Goldsmid [Fabricus] published his results in 1611 and interpreted sunspot movement as evidence of solar axial rotation. Christopher Scheiner published 3 letters in 1612 to infer physical properties of the Sun followed by Galileio Galilei in 1613 in his letters on sunspots. The drawings produced by Galileio were so accurate and all taken at about the same time of the day and as such it has since been possible to make an animated moving sequence of them showing solar rotation dating back to 1611. This work is part of the Galileio project that can be viewed online. Christopher Scheiner continued his investigations and published his massive work Rosa Ursina in 1630 using his very accurate observations to infer that the Suns axis of rotation was inclined to the elliptical plane [that of the Earths orbit around the Sun]. On 7 November 1631 Pierre Gassendi made the first observations of Mercury transiting the face of the Sun. Jeremy Horrocks in 1639 made the first observations and record of the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. Ren Descartes tabled a model in his book Principia Philosophiae published in 1644 that the Sun was just one of many stars. This was soon followed by the period 1645 to 1715 during which despite diligent observations by the newly opened observatories in Paris [1671] and Greenwich, London [1675], very few sunspots were seen during this period that is now referred to as the Maunder minimum. This was coincidental with far reduced sightings of aurora and indicates a general lowering of solar activity during this period. The Royal Society, a fellowship of the worlds most eminent scientists was founded in 1660 and is now the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. It was responsible for instigating many of the foundations of modern science. Its journal Philosophical Transactions commenced publication in 1665 and included many of the astronomical discoveries after. In 1687 Isaac Newton presented a calculation as to the mass of the Sun in his Principia Mathematica. Newton underestimated the Sun-Earth distance because of a Parallax error and hence underestimated the Sun-to-Earth mass ratio by more than a


factor of ten. Newton later used improved estimates of the solar parallax and brought his estimate to within a factor of two of the modern value in his second edition in 1713. An observation report by Stephen Gray described seeing a flash of lightning near a sunspot on the 27 December 1705. This significance of this sighting was not realised until after 1859 with two independent sightings of the first solar flare. Gray had probably seen the same thing but it was not recognised as such at the time. By 1796 and after numerous nebular observations by William Herschel the French mathematician and astronomer Pierre Simon de Laplace put forward his nebular hypothesis that the Sun and the solar system formed from the gravitational collapse of an initially slowly rotating large but diffuse gas cloud. In 1800 William Herschel extended Isaac Newtons glass prism experiment and proved the existence of rays beyond the red end of the visible spectrum he used a thermometer place beyond the red end of the visible spectrum to detect temperature rise there by proving the existence of infrared radiation. A year later Johann Wilhelm Ritter placed paper soaked in silver chloride beyond the violet end that blackened proving the existence of ultraviolet radiation. In 1802 William Hyde Wollaston noticed dark lines in the spectrum of the Sun as viewed through a glass prism while he was investigating the refractive properties of various transparent substances. He suggested that these lines marked the boundaries of natural colours but pursued them no further. This marked the first step towards solar spectroscopy that would later revolutionise Solar Physics. In 1817 Joseph von Fraunhofer independently rediscovered the dark lines in the solar spectrum and saw the possibility to use them as wavelength standards used to determine the index of refraction for optical glass while other physicists realised that these Fraunhofer lines could be used to infer the properties of the solar atmosphere as similar lines were being observed in the laboratory in the spectrum of white light passing through heated gases. Spectroscopy soon turned into a true science which revolutionised astronomy. The solar constant a measure of the Suns luminosity defined by conversion as the amount of energy incident per second one square meter of the outer terrestrial atmosphere, when the Earth is at a distance of one astronomical unit [149,598,500km] John Herschel in 1838 was one of three scientists that used the energy input rate from sunlight to heat water and the inferred value of the solar constant was about half that of the accepted modern value 1367 4 Watts per square meter as they failed to account for the absorption of the Earths atmosphere. Early observers of sunspots had noticed that these spots rarely appeared outside of the longitude band of about 30 of the solar equator. In 1826 Samual Heinrich Schwabe commenced making daily observations of sunspots [weather permitting] while he was attempting to find new planets inside the orbit of Mercury. In 1843 he had found no planets but discovered that the solar cycle increased


and decreased over time with a period that he estimated to be about 10 years he had discovered the solar cycle. The first photographic technique was developed in the 1830's by J. N. Niepce and Louis Daguerre, and it relied on the exposure of a thin iodine layer deposited on a silver substrate and this was subsequently fixed in a mercury bath. This imaging technique was very soon applied to astronomy, by the French astronomer Francois Arago, and the British astronomer John Herschel who first coined the term "photography", as well as "positive" and "negative" images. The first successful photograph of the Sun was made on 2 April 1845 by the French physicists Louis Fizeau and Lon Foucault, they were known for their various pioneering measurements of the speed of light. The exposure was 1/60 of a second. This image shows the umbra/penumbra structure of sunspots and limb darkening. As Schwabes discovery of the sunspot cycle gained recognition, investigations were made as to whether the cycle could be traced farther in the past based on the extant sunspot observations. Rudolf Wolf took on this task by comparing sunspot observations carried out by many different astronomers using various instruments and observing techniques. Wolf defined the relative sunspot number (r) as follows: r=k(f+10g) where g is the number of sunspots groups visible on the solar disk, f is the number of individual sunspots (including those distinguishable within groups), and k is a correction factor that varies from one observer to the next. Wolf succeeded in 1848 in reliably reconstructing the variations in sunspot number as far as the 1755--1766 cycle, now known as "Cycle 1", with all subsequent cycles numbered consecutively thereafter. On the 28 July 1851 Berkowski made the first photograph of a solar eclipse at the Royal Observatory in Knigsberg, Prussia. In 1852 Edward Sabine announced that the sunspot cycle period was absolutely identical to that of the geomagnetic activity data being accumulated since the mid1830s marking the beginning of solar-terrestrial interaction studies. In 1858 Richard C Carrington and shortly afterwards Gustav Sporer independently made two key discoveries, the first was that the latitude of sunspots mainly are seen to decrease systematically from about 40 to 5 latitude as the sunspot cycle proceeds from one minimum to the next. The second was that the sunspots at higher latitudes travel around the Sun more slowly and so Carrington concluded that there was differential rotation on the Sun. This provided further argument of the gaseous or fluid nature of the Suns outer layers. Richard C Carrington was carrying out his daily monitoring of sunspots on the 1 September 1859 when he noticed two rapidly brightening patches of light near the middle of a sunspot group that he was studying. In the following minutes these patches dimmed as they moved across the active region. This event was also independently witnessed by R Hodgson. This was the first clear description of a solar flare. His monumental book on his sunspot observations was published in 1863. To be continued. Have fun with our Sun Andy Devey


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 Facebook page: Follow the Author on Twitter @PMRumsby


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




The Night Sky.. By John Harper F.R.A.S

As April begins, the Sun is in the constellation of Pisces, but crosses the border into Aries at around 18h on the 18th.

The Moon
The Moon is at apogee, the furthest from the earth, on April 15th at 22h21, and at perigee, its nearest to the earth, at 19h48 on the 27th Look for Earthshines faint illumination of the night hemisphere at the time of the waxing crescent moon from the 11th to 16th, and the waning crescent from the 5th to the 9th Last Quarter Moon is at 04h37 on the 3rd in the constellation of Sagittarius. This is another low moon

Aprils New Moon is on the 10th at 09h 36 when the moon passes 1.5 north of the sun in the constellation of Pisces.

First Quarter moon on the 18th takes place at 12h32 on the Gemini Cancer border, and is high in the south at 18h.

Full Moon takes place on the 25th at 19h58, on the Virgo-Libra border. The bright star-like point 5 to the left of the rising full moon is Saturn; and twice as far away, to the upper right, is Spica, Virgos brightest star. On this night, as the moon rises, you may notice a darkening to the upper left of the moons disc, because at that time a slight umbral eclipse takes place. When at greatest eclipse, at 20h08m36, the region around the north pole of the moon dips into earths deepest shadow. Look carefully and you should notice the darkening. This is the only lunar umbral eclipse this year


The Planets
Throughout the whole of April, Mercury rises within half an hour of the sun. During the month the solar systems innermost planet closes in towards the sun for its superior conjunction next month.

During April, Venus begins to appear in the evening skies. A challenging opportunity to spot the planet with the extremely thin crescent of the ten hour old moon occurs on the 10th within 5 of the WNW horizon, which will need to be completely clear of any obstruction and clouds. If these conditions are met, then you may spot the thinnest waxing crescent moon you are ever likely to see, and one of the earliest apparitions of Venus as an evening star. If you manage to observe and record this, then you will have the distinction of holding the record for observing the earliest waxing crescent moon after new moon, which was at 9h that same day. You will almost certainly need to use binoculars to spot the faint crescent moon, with Venus glittering like a gem 2 to the moons lower left in bright evening twilight at 19h; Venus will be just 1 above the horizon. By the end of April, Venus sets an hour after the sun as it draws away from the latter.


Mars is in conjunction with the sun on the 18th and is as far from the earth as it can possibly be this year. The planet will not be visible at all this month.

Jupiter is now most definitely an evening object, setting just before 23h as April ends. You will spot it high in the western sky as twilight fades, with Aldebaran, brightest star in Taurus, 6 below and slightly to the left of the planet, and the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) 14 to the right. Look for the Galilean moons through well-focused and firmly fixed binoculars. There is a beautiful conjunction between Jupiter and the waxing crescent moon during the evening of the 14th, when at 20h30 the moon with earthshine illuminating its night hemisphere, will lie just under 3 to the lower left of Jupiter at an altitude of 25 due west.

Saturn is in opposition and at its closest to the earth on the 28th. It lies in the western part of the constellation of Libra and is 25 in altitude, crossing the south meridian at midnight. Higher above it at that time, at an altitude of 55 is the slightly brighter star Arcturus (Alpha Botis), the brightest star north of the celestial equator. If you look at Saturn with a small telescope when the moon is absent from the sky and around midnight, then you may be able to see Titan, the planets largest moon, which has the appearance of a faint star. In the early hours of the morning of the 13th, Titan is immediately to the north of the planet, and so with a telescope which inverts the image, Titan will appear to be below the planet. Saturn is visible all night at this time, and on the 26th at 00h, the moon, five hours after full, passes 4 to the south of the planet. Uranus, in the morning sky, is lost in bright morning twilight and is unlikely to be visible.


Neptune, because of its dimness and low altitude is also unlikely to be a satisfactory candidate for being observed in the brightening dawn twilight.

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks overnight from the 21st to 22nd, when up to 10 meteors an hour may be seen radiating from the vicinity of the bright star Vega in the constellation of Lyra. The best time to look for them is during the two hours before dawn starts to brighten the sky in the early morning on the 22nd, and stray Lyrids may be seen for several days before and after this date. The Lyrid meteor shower is associated with Thatchers Comet discovered in 1861. Meteor showers are naked eye events and can be seen without optical aid, but remember it can get very cold in April, so wrap up well! Constellations visible in the south around midnight, mid-month, are as follows: The eastern part of Hydra, Corvus the Crow, Virgo, Botes and Coma Berenices. The Plough, in the constellation of Ursa Major, is still near the zenith. All times are GMT, so during Local Summer Time please add one hour to the times given above. 1 is one finger width at arms length. Image Below: April 25th 2013 @ 22:00 hrs




Image: Michael Nicholls



From Where on Earth can you see the Plough?

The Plough is in asterism in the constellation of Ursa Major - the Plough is not itself a constellation. It is generally known in the United Kingom as the Plough but on the continent of Europe it is generally known as the Wagon. In North America it is known as the Big Dipper. One may think that the Plough is strictly northern hemisphere - after all, the seven stars of the Plough are circumpolar (i.e they never set) for all places north of latitude 40 north. But how far south are all of the seven stars visible? One can calculate the global visibility by considering the declinations of the various stars. The declination of a star is the angular distance the star is north or south of the celestial equator, and is the equivalent of latitude on the Earths surface. The celestial equator is the projection of the Earths equator on to the sky. The figures given here are rounded off to the nearest degree.

Stars of the Plough, in the constellation Ursa Major. Alpha (Dubhe) Beta (Merak) Delta (Megrez) Epsilon (Alioth) Zeta (Mizar) Gamma (Phad or Phecda) Eta (Alkaid)

Declination 63 N 57 N 57 N 56 N 55 N 54 N 49 N

Angular distance from Polaris i.e 90 minus declination 27 33 33 34 35 36 41

Thus, of the seven stars of the Plough, Dubhe (Alpha) is furthest north, and Alkaid (Eta) is furthest south. By calculation it can be shown that Dubhe cannot be seen south of latitude 27 S, but Alkaid can be seen as far south as latitude 41 S. The rule is that the angular distance of the star from Polaris (or strictly speaking, from the north celestial pole) is the furthest latitude south that the star can be seen. (The reverse applies with respect to the south celestial pole). The figures in the table show that all of the seven stars of the Plough will be, at some time of the year, visible north of latitude 27 S, but as one moves south


of 27S they will progressively never rise. I live in Pretoria, South Africa, the latitude of which is 25 45' south (my house is 25 41' S - I live about 5 km north of the city centre). Given this latitude, it means that effectively the latitude of Pretoria is the last latitude south that all the seven stars of the Plough are visible, and yes, we do see the all of the Plough from here, albeit low down on the northern horizon. We see it here when it is at its highest in the sky for northern hemisphere viewers, and, for example, this occurs in mid-April at around 21h30, and mid-May around 19h30. (Sunset in mid-May in Pretoria is Southernmost cities at which all seven stars are visible. Pretoria, South Africa Asuncion , Paraguay Sao Paulo, Brazil Alice Springs, Australia Rockhampton, Australia (Brisbane, Australia) Latitude (needs to be less than 27 South) 25 45' S 25 40' S 23 50' S 23 56' S 23 12' S (27 20' S)

Places furthest south where all seven stars of the Plough are visible: In South America the cut off latitude to see all seven stars is at about Asuncion, Paraguay, or Sao Paulo in Brazil. In Australia, Alice Springs would still see all of the stars, as would Rockhampton on the Queensland coast, but Brisbane will just miss out on Dubhe this star has a declination of 62 51' north, which is 26 09' from the north celestial pole. Perhaps if one climbed a hill to the north of the city? Image Left: Places furthest south that any of the stars of the Plough are visible. In practice the question is whether the last star in the handle, Alkaid, is visible. In South Africa, Cape Town is at latitude 34S, so Alkaid would be visible, albeit at a maximum altitude of 7 degrees. The latitude of Cape Town is almost the furthest south any of the seven stars can be seen. In South America the southern limit would be Santiago in Chile, Buenos Aires in Argentina, and Montevideo in Uruguay. In Australia, the furthest south that Alkaid can be seen would be Fremantle, Adelaide, and Sydney. Image Left: Stellarium


Southernmost cities at which Alkaid is visible Cape Town, South Africa Santiago, Chile Buenos Aires, Argentina Montevideo, Uruguay Fremantle, Australia Adelaide, Australia Sydney, Australia

Latitude (needs to be less than 41 S) 33 55' S approx maximum altitude : 7 33 20' S approx maximum altitude : 8 34 48' S approx maximum altitude : 7 34 48' S approx maximum altitude : 7 32 00' S approx maximum altitude : 9 34 58' S approx maximum altitude : 6 33 59' S approx maximum altitude : 7

For observers in low latitudes near the equator, and southern latitudes just south of the equator, when the Plough is setting in the north west in the evenings of July August, the bowl goes down first and the three stars of the handle are left standing vertically. In this position the three stars look like a human leg. The Mayan civilization identified the leg with Huracan or Hunraken, the One Legged God of the Weather. This time of the year marks the hurricane season in the Caribbean, and the word hurricane is derived from Huracan. Michael Poll. (Astronomical Society of Southern Africa, Pretoria Centre)

Practical evenings Our practical evenings are held at Christian Brothers College (CBC) in Silverton, are free, and are open to all. They start just after sunset and telescopes are always provided by members. However, you are more than welcome to bring your own telescope. Bring your own refreshments and chairs and remember to dress warmly for those cold but clear winter nights. Monthly meetings Join us at 19:15 at CBC for our monthly meetings which are free and open to all. Refreshments are served afterwards. Our usual agenda is as follows: Beginner's Corner: We will notify you who the presenter is and also the title of the talk What's Up: What can be seen in our skies during the coming month Main talk Presenter, title and description to be supplied



When stars go off road! By Julian Onions

Weve seen how stars shine, and there are at least a couple of ways they go about converting hydrogen to helium. In the process this conversion releases a lot of energy, which is what makes them shine. Now its often the case that if you mess around with data you start to see patterns appear, and this can be the first stages to understanding something. So you may have heard of the main sequence, which is a portion of a particular type of graph where most stars sit. It is the Hertzsprungsketch of one here, just to Russell diagram, and is see if Ive still got it! the staple of a lot of visual astronomy. It was invented independently by Ejnar Hertzsprung, a Danish astronomer, and Henry Norris Russell, an American astronomer. Its also known as a colourmagnitude diagram (CMD). All astronomy students now have to be able to draw them, and if you study astronomy in detail youll come across many of them in different Below: HR Diagram guises. There is a cartoon


Its a plot of colour along the X axis with brightness along the Y axis of a graph. The colour of a star is tied very closely to temperature, so the bluer the SHELL BURNING star, the hotter it is burning, and in general the bigger it is. Both axes are log scales, so that means that things change greatly over the axis distance. When H&R first did this, they found stars tended to appear in groups, and strips. Brightness, or luminosity as it is more commonly called, can be measured in many ways, but a common way is to use absolute magnitude. This is just working out how bright a star would appear if you were standing a certain distance away from it, 10 parsecs to be precise. There is a big strip snaking across the graph called the main sequence. All the stars on this main sequence are burning hydrogen by one of the techniques discussed. This is where stars spend most of their lives. However as they get older, they start to have issues. There is increasing amounts of helium in the core as the result of fusion, clogging things up like fire ash. As the star gets to the end of its life, this core of helium starts to damp down the reactions, and instead it starts to burn in a shell of residual hydrogen around the core.

This forces the outer regions of the star outwards, and into what is known as a red giant. It swells up hugely, in the case of our Sun, when its turn comes, maybe up to the orbit of the Earth. Its a case of middle age spread gone wild!


Wikipedia diagram showing how big the sun gets.

For small stars this is as much as they can do. However in stars like ours and bigger, things get more interesting. The helium in the core gets more and more squashed, and hotter and hotter. Soon it gets hot enough for the helium itself to start to fuse. Now helium doesnt give as much bang-for-the-buck as hydrogen fusion (well explore why in the next article), but beggars cant be choosers, its all it has left. But - and there is always a but, the most obvious fusion doesnt work. Fusing two 4He atoms together to make 8Be (Beryllium) would seem the obvious step. However 8Be is extremely unstable, falling apart into two 4He in one quintillionth of a second. So this reaction actually consumes energy rather than making it.





Luckily - there is a way, if conditions are hot enough and dense enough, you can get 3 4He nuclei to collide within a quintillionth of a second, and they can make carbon - 12C. It turns out if you do the calculation, this seems very improbable to happen energetically. It was Fred Hoyle who suggested there must be a way this can happen, because there is a lot of carbon around. Eventually it was found there was a special form of carbon nucleus that allowed this to happen.

He + He Be + He C

This process is known as the triple alpha process, a 4He nucleus being also known for historic reasons as an alpha particle. Stars that are burning helium are usually on a special part of the H-R diagram called the asymptotic giant branch, or AGB more commonly as its less of a mouthful. The rate of burning helium is very sensitive to temperature. The rate is proportional to temperature to the 40th power (R ~ T40). This means if the temperature of the star doubles, the rate it burns helium would increase by a trillion times - a truly staggering increase! In stars less than about 2.5 times this size of our own, the ignition of the helium burning phase is quite dramatic. By the time it gets hot enough for the helium to burn, the core is so squashed that it has gone into a funny degenerate state, which once it does start to burn, it goes off at quite a rate. This degenerate matter burns very fast, so the whole core lights up in almost one go, in a process known as a helium flash. Given most solar processes take millions or billions of years, this is one of a few processes that happens in seconds. Despite that, it happens deep in the middle of a star, so nothing is seen outwardly :( As I said, helium burning is not as efficient as hydrogen burning. It needs much hotter temperatures to start it, so it is not for everyone, and there is much less energy returned. It can keep a star burning for a bit longer though, typically about 10% of the time spent burning hydrogen. So for our Sun, thats an extra billion years in the reserve tank.


Race to the Moon 3: Moon Money, the International Lunar Observatory, and Living in Lava Tubes

In the Google Lunar X Prize competitions, teams are competing to be the first privately-funded group to put a lander on the Moon, send a robotic rover 500 meters, and send video and data back to Earth. A few of the groups have progressed really far, testing rovers in the deserts around Earth, picking up other teams and combining their talents, working on communication systems and picking up NASA contracts to keep exploring once the competition is over. The GLXP has definitely jump-started the path of getting humans back on the Moon! An artist conception of the lander of Moon Express - on top is the demonstrator for the International Lunar Observatory telescope. Credit: ILOA/Moon Express.

In December 2012, Moon Express announced that they had acquired the competing team, Rocket City Space Pioneers, along with RCSP's team leader, Tim Pickens. Tim is now the Chief Propulsion Engineer for Moon Express. If you like rockets, you already know Tim Pickens' name - he was the lead propulsion designer for SpaceShipOne, which won the 2004 Ansari X Prize as the first private spacecraft to fly 3 passengers 100 km above Earth and back. He also likes to put rockets on stuff people have in their homes, like bicycles and scooters, to light a fire in the minds of people for space exploration. He says that using humble things that people have right in their homes shows them that they can do it, that it's reachable for them and not something they just see on TV or in movies. In the middle of March, Team Plan B gave their first moon currency to their partners. The silver lunaro is made with 3D printers and is intended as barter money for services off the Earth. Team Plan B is selling the coins to help raise


money for their team. On the obverse side (facing you) the coin shows 1 lunaro and has the text Age of Aquarius. The reverse side has a lunarscape of the far side of the Moon, surrounded by 28 stars. On the team website, they say that starting April 6, the coin will be half-priced every full moon.

This is a Cubesat. Team Frednet plans on releasing dozens of these, in what the GLXP calls a Borg-cube of minisats. Credit: NASA. Team Frednet recently posted that they have evolved into the Open Space Society, a Space Access business. Their approach concentrates on changing our global society's expectations of space exploration, from trepidation at the monumental effort involved, to taking it for granted that off-Earth space is a normal part of our culture. Frednet/OSS just announced that they are accepting costumers for a January 2015 launch of a Small Cubesat Payload, which will release 50-100 Cubesats into Earth's orbit. A Cubesat is a tiny satellite, 4X4X4 inches, that is relatively inexpensive, less than $100,000. They are mostly developed and used by universities and other places of research around the world, to study not only space science but also things like genetics. This generation of students gets to have direct access to orbit, and the effect of that environment on their experiments - something that fits well with Frednet's philosophy of space being accessible to everyone.

Astrobotic's polar rover, Polaris.


Astrobotic's mid-latitude rover, Red Rover.

Astrobotic has named their third rover! Tyrobot is a rover which will be able to explore the caves in the Moon's lava tubes. In 2009, the Japanese lunar orbiter, Kaguya, took pictures of a hole in the surface of the Moon. This hole is a skylight, a surface opening into a hollow channel created by flowing lava. The lunar lava tubes formed billions of years ago while the Moon still had active volcanoes. We have a lot of lava tubes on Earth, in areas where the lava is very fluid and so can move quickly. The top of the flowing lava cools while the rest of the lava keeps flowing quickly beneath it and away, leaving a hollow channel. If the lava tubes on the Moon are like the ones we know of on Earth, we could use them as human habitats. Inside the tubes, people could live in a comfortable temperature, with chambers possibly 300 meters wide, or even over a kilometer. The natural volcanic rock overhead would shield them from solar radiation, cosmic rays, micrometeorites, and the sharp-edged dust that covers the Moon's surface. At the same time, all of that shielding will keep Tyrobot from having regular communication with humans on Earth. It will need to have a lot of autonomy, and autonomy is one of Astrobotica's biggest strengths. The team's CEO, William Red Whittaker, led the


team that won DARPA's 2007 Urban Challenge, running an obstacle course with their autonomous vehicle. Red also has a lot of experience developing subterranean robots for places on Earth, and now he's working under a NASA contract to do this for sub-lunar environments! Valentine Cave in California, an ancient lava tube Artist conception of a lunar base around a skylight. Credit: Richard Kurbis.

Future habitat in a lunar lava tube? This one is filled with plants grown with LED lights. Image courtesy of Forbes.

Zantippy Skiphop




Near Earth objects is a new monthly feature. Each month we will give you a run down of objects zooming past earth. Date (April 2013) 1st 1st 1st 2nd 7th 8th 8th 9th 9th 10th 11th 11th 12th 13th 13th 14th 16th 18th 20th Object Size (m) 20 61 420 52 275 58 270 260 88 610 138 335 122 101 50 480 405 320 350 Distance (Km) 5,041,520 23,023,440 22,858,878 28,708,240 5,849,360 10,591,679 28,079,922 24,833,600 29,396,400 16,680,400 29,142,081 13,793,120 9,290,160 25,731,202 1,481,040 11,354,640 13,359,280 6,582,400 27,481,520


Date (April 2013) 22nd 22nd 23rd 23rd 23rd 23rd 27th 29th 29th 30th

Object Size (m) 290 136 144 50 61 159 165 1,305 48 1,085

Distance (Km) 10,681,440 12,581,360 12,476,640 15,438,721 17,204,000 22,754,158 22,290,402 9,574,400 19,388,160 18,535,440


Brian B Ritchie Scotland





Looking back at the Centre of our Galaxy

Our Universe is big enough that we almost cannot imagine it. But the galaxy we live in (that is, the Milky Way) is also so big that even we cannot exactly say what it limits are, or even where its centre is. We cannot say it exactly but we can approximate so far. Chandray Observatory has been able to take beautiful and useful snapshots of the center. They reveal a crowded region where new stellar objects, from stars to black holes, are continuously creating. These new stars heats a haze of X-ray lights to millions of degrees. This haze lights in some way this region. Just here, there is a supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*. The area surrounding also contains some X-ray filaments and also a huge amount of X-ray sources, such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. It is likely that these filaments represent huge magnetic structures interacting with very energetic electrons. The image contains several interesting objects such as Quintuplet Cluster, the molecular cloud known as Sagitarius C, the object 1E 1743.1 that being one of the strongest X-ray sources it still remains a mystery, or 1E 1740.7 which may be a binary system in which one of the objects that form the pair is a black hole. The beautiful colors show in the image are the following: red (X-rays), green (intermediate X-rays) and blue (high energy X-rays).

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


A Comets Tail.
Back in June 2011 Pan STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) Richard Wainscoat (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii) discovered a non periodic comet.

The comet was named C/2011 L4 or has the media has called it comet Panstarrs. From early March (2013) the comet was visible in both hemispheres and making its closes pass of Earth on March 5th and its closes approach to the sun (Perihelion) on the 10th March.

Images by Mike Greenham. If like me, you have not managed to see the comet due to poor weather (UK cloud, cold & snow) there a couple of nice images taken by our writer Mike Greenham. The comet is predicted to come within 28 million miles form the sun well within the orbit range of Mercury, however it will harmlessly pass without incident.


The comet is a typical comet in size so NASA reports, from the tail (gas and dust) they have estimated the nucleus to be approximately 1Km in size. Pan STARRS Orbit It is thought the comet came from the Oort cloud region and I am sorry to say this is a once in a life time opportunity to see this comet. It has what is called a long elliptical orbit of more than 100 million years. This data comes from astronomers at the Macdonald Observatory at the University of Texas (

Comets What are they? Comets (SSSB) are small solar system bodies they are sometimes referred to as dirty Snowballs, they can vary in size from a few meters to a few kilometres. The body or nucleus makes up the main part of the comet. It is composed of water ice, dust, rock and gases. They are often irregular in shape due to their low gravity.

The comets nuclei may also contain organic compounds (Carbons) such gases may include, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia. Comet when in deep space or not effected by a star such as our sun are basically small bodies moving through space. They are difficult to detect from earth 1) their size 2) not reflective. However they become very noticeable when they approach our sun, the solar winds and solar radiation cause the frozen gases to melt causing a tail. As a comet approaches the inner solar system the gases and ices melt causing a coma and tail, The coma is a haze around the nuclei. As the comet moves a tail is formed this is made up of dust, gases and water. The coma and tail are very reflective and can be easily seen from our planet. Scientists think it is possible that during the great bombardment, comets brought water to this planet. So the difference between an asteroid and comet is basically an asteroid is made up of rock and metals, they can be much larger and some have been know to have smaller bodies orbiting them. A comet is possibly left over material from the formation of the solar system, smaller particles have clumped together with gases and frozen water in the colder outreaches of the solar system.


Pan STARRS Observatory

The panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response system was developed at the University od Hawaii institute for Astronomy. Its job is to detect objects that could pose a threat to Earth. Since the formation of the solar system objects have pounded earth and the other planets. In recent years astronomers observed Shoemaker-Levy 9 collide with Jupiter. The comet formally known as D/1993 F2 hit Jupiter in July 1994, the comet broke up as it approach the planets, however the impacts left massive scars on the plants gas surface. It is thought the energy created was that of many hundreds of atomic bombs. So an impact like that would have devastated our own planet. 65 million years such an impact destroyed most of life on earth including the dinosaurs. On February 5th 2013 a small asteroid passed within the geostationary orbit of our satellites. The asteroid was named as 2012 DA14, however it was discovered on the 23rd February 2012 as it passed earth. This asteroid was a mere 30 meters in size and proves smaller objects are difficult to see and find. With this in mind and the fact extinction level impacts have occurred before it is wise that governments around the world invest in detection telescopes and equipment. And that is what Pan-STARRS is. For more information on Pan STARRS observatory please visit here PAN STAARS Words: Dave Bood Sources:, NASA, Wikipedia, Pan STARRS observatory



In The News. reports that Wieger Wamelink who is an ecologist at Alterra Wageninger UR will form April start researching if plants will grow in Moon dust and Mars soil. If we humans are to venture to the Planets what we can take with is and what we cant will be a big issue. For one way trips the ability to grow or produce food will be critical. The study will compare the requirements of certain species of planets with the mineral compositions of each growing medium. Alterra has a database which can analyse 25 abiotic preconditions per plant species used. SpaceX. SpaceX Merlin 1D engine achieves flight qualification. Hawthorne, CA The SpaceX merlin 1D engine which has undergone a 28 test qualification programme has now qualified to fly on the Falcon rocket.

The database also contains heavy metals. NASA are said to be providing moon dust and mars soil samples once the theory has been tested using computer models. report, Saturn's ring and moon system could date back to the formation of the solar system. NASAs Cassini space craft is using its range of instruments and equipment to analyse the data. Gianrico Filacchione from Italys National Institute for Astrophysics says Studying the Saturian system helps us understand the chemical and physical evolution of our entire solar System. We know that understanding this evolution requiresus not just studying a single moon or rinf, but piecing together the relationships intertwining thse bodies.

Image: SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket




Canon Eos 1100D digital slr with a 300mm lens ISO3200 and f5.6 2.5 seconds exposure 13 frames stacked. Image: Michael Nicholls


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