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The OASCast is launching for the first time this month, produced by Pete Ainsworth and written and presented by Alastair Leith FRAS. The OASCast was suggested by Pete who wanted to try a new project. Alastair, always amenable to new ideas thought, let’s gives it a go. Even though it‘s a bit of a two man band just now with Alastair recording on his cellphone and Pete editing out his (Alastair’s Ums‘and Rrr‘s etc) it seems to be working well. The aim is to produce them monthly to coincide with the release of the OAS Ezine. Topics are short and to the point at the moment aiming to introduce some key articles into the mag, for people then to pop across and read all about it. As always people are invited to contribute (just download the app on your phone or Audacity from the internet. You can find us in iTunes just search OASCast and there we are
Not Always Wishing for Clear Skies!
The Shape Of Things
17 26 34
The Mars Society Part 2
Image by David Bood taken at Dalby Forest North Yorkshire in 2012 during a solar gazing event.
Perseid Meteor Shower
Petition for OU
elcome to the September edition of OAS EZine. Well we have
had some nice clear nights and hot weather throughout August. And the amazing Perseid meteor shower amazed both amateur and professional alike. This month we have some featured articles on viewing experiences on observing the shower and detecting the meteor shower using radio waves.
THE TEAM AT OAS
April Harper Jasmin Evans Mike Woodland FRAS Pete Gow Alastair Leith FRAS Pete Ainsworth Next month a Bio on each of us!!!!
Not always wishing for clear skies just so long as they are interesting skies – by Aprill Harper
An astronomer (amateur or professional) is always looking up and the time of day doesn‘t really matter. You find yourself having the persistent urge to check on the ―by hour‖ weather forecast, specific for the very location you have selected for your dark sky site. And sure, you get excited when you have set up ready for the times when you can look at the stars and bask in their splendour. And then you see the clouds roll in and your heart sinks a little. Disappointing as this maybe initially, what you actually may get is something interesting. I find myself now looking at clouds with an altogether different viewpoint. Whereas I started to look at cloudy skies as an inconvenience, now I find cloud formations remarkable and I came to realise no matter about the stars…I am still looking up. So what can we look forward to? Well, there are breath-taking dawns and fire-breathing sunsets….
here are silly monkey moons….and peek-a-boo suns….
Sighing Cirrus…… and lonely wanderers….
And dramatic storms!!!
And if you are really luck some NLC‘s (Noctilucent Clouds) – I have never captured those (ggrrrrrrrr) – but luckily Jasmin Evans did J.
Online Astronomy Society Story
The Online Astronomy Society (or OAS as it‘s affectionately called) was formed some 5 years ago. Founded by Alastair Leith, who saw a niche for an organisation to take advantage of online facilities and networking. While the OAS is by no means the first online astronomy organisation to have formed in this way (HantsAstro has that flag), the OAS we believe has pushed back the boundaries of how the internet can be used to network with astronomers from all over the world. The beginnings The society itself began life in 2009, the idea conceived from a council bedsit in Northampton, where I had no safe backyard to observe from and could not guarantee the safety of the kit if it were used in public. Politics meant I left other organisations I was member of and physically attended. However it did get me to think about what was there for people who were stuck in high rise blocks of flats, or indeed disabled. The actual name, ―The Online Astronomy Society came from a discussion with a friend, Matthew Lane, who was fellow member of Nene Valley Astronomy Society. Not able to think of a more appropriate one the name stuck. It began its life as a single group on Facebook, Called simply the Online Astronomy Society Group, from which relationships were forged and projects began. Robotic Astronomy One of the first projects we looked at was networking with a Robotic Telescope project as a means of permitting members to carry out observational astronomy via their desktop computer. Something which even I could not argue beats actually getting out there, but it‘s better than nothing. We had some success with various organisations however
Streaming Oberservational Astronomy One of the things which has to a degree replaced Robotic Astronomy is the activities on the Online Astronomy Society group itself. The forum provides a fantastic means about which amateur astronomers can submit their work for perusal live as they are doing it. Indeed its nice to see as people from all across the nation, sometimes even including Europe submit their observations and work live as they are doing it. Almost kind of like a virtual start party. Personally as director of OAS, I have always found this to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the group. I try to compliment and encourage people to stream their live images as they are recording, live for others to see. I have achieved this for Saturn, the Sun, along with a few other objects. Even using the opportunity to record for OASA, that‘s another story!
Online Forums We have built these, however as much of the recruitment for the society has been on Facebook, there has been less interest in the Forums as such. In fact trying to migrate across on more than one occasion nearly broke the group as a whole, a lot of members were hence lost.
Subgroups I don‗t think it‘s possible to write an article on the OAS without mentioning the plethora of affiliate groups we now have, last count, ten in total. The main reason for these is that the OAS main group has grown too large to host the astronomy that it hosts. Member‘s posts getting lost easily bumped down and lost. So for the online Astronomy Society to progress it became necessary to start sub-groups of which we
Now have. Online Astronomy Society Group (main one, numbering some 3600 members and growing!) OAS – Visual Astronomers Group (moderated and run by Michael Nicholls) This largely deals with sketches as opposed to imaging. OAS- Solar Observational and Imaging Group (Run again by Michael Nicholls) Pretty much as it says on the tin any-thing to do with solar work in general Solar telescopes have become very affordable in recent years and the quality of the work has increased ex-potentially with it. OAS Lunar
Our newest group, started at the request of Robert Pickard. I was sceptical at first regarding this group, but have been pleased by its progress, finding I am learning more about the Moon than I thought possible! OAS Asteroid Hunters Group (Run by Pete Gow) This group was begun at the suggestion of Ryan Laird (UKSEDS) who notified me that it was possible to be included in a project searching for asteroids. This has only been going in the past year but has now 5 provisional asteroids discovered, not bad. We should add here that the asteroids are found using images sent from Panstarrs. OAS Spectroscopy Group This group was setup to cater for the growing interest in spectroscopy, a favourite of my own as well when I get back into it (hopefully this winter). Spectroscopy has become a major player in recent years for amateur astronomy, with the availability of cheaper equipment. OAS Beginners group As the name suggests, setup to aid and assist beginners. It‗s a sign of the times that I now need to refer back to Facebook to be reminded of other groups we have which include OAS Radio Astronomy Group (run by Pete Gow)
This is getting a steady following going and a few projects in the making for looking at Radio Astronomy. Something I think still remains with the truly nerdy and needs to be bought into layman‘s realms a little. This is something we are working on. We have a mixture of professional and amateur astronomers who contribute to this. OAS Astronomy Shed This is where the DIY enthusiasts come to discuss their recent projects. There are other groups and various pages which I won‘t mention here as They are for other ventures and staff discussion (this article is not intended to be a plug for our other ventures) The OAS Word In recent years this mag has had a start stop history. It used to be edited by Andrew Dumbleton who did a fantastic job, until he stepped down late last year (after 2.5 years writing it). Due to politics (I won‗t go into here) the magazine needed to be stopped. But I am happy to say the magazine is now back up and running with its third release being compiled (at the time of writing at least). The magazine has a modest global circulation which we look to expand. So with all the above where is the Online Astronomy Society now? The Online Astronomy Society continues to grow at an astonishing rate. We only celebrated accepting our 3000 member just earlier in August 2013, but now astonishingly it‘s heading (at the time of writing) rapidly towards its 4000th member, making it possibly one of the largest and most proactive organisations of its type at least on Facebook. I have to say, I have no idea to this day where these are coming from, but it‘s nice to see. Getting into the OAS Group is easy enough, provided we see some evidence of astronomy on the profile page of the applicant. We welcome people from all over the world (main influx seems to be from the Far East and Asia). However we are bettered and improved by those who join. I think this is part of what makes OAS special, we are a
global organisation with a reputation for nurturing the wider community of astronomers. There are many organisations like OAS, but I think what separates us apart from the masses are The way in which we use the internet to market, educate and spread the word. For which Facebook has played an integral part with to a lesser extend Twitter (we don‗t use Google+ much).
The Mars Society: Humans to Mars in a Decade Part 2 By: Nicole Willett
[Image: The Mars Society]
A long time ago in the Milky Way Galaxy, Chris McKay, Penelope Boston, and Carol Stoker were on Planet Earth contemplating all things Mars. These three scientists, graduate students at the University of Colorado, decided to form a group called the Mars Underground and hold annual meetings to explore the science behind putting humans on Mars. One day, Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer, attended a meeting of the Mars Underground and was inspired to start the Mars Society. In 1998 the Mars Society was officially formed as a non-profit organization whose goals include the human exploration and settlement of Mars. The thought of one day standing on the Red Planet and looking out over the landscape may be beyond the imagination of some, but not to the members and friends of the Mars Society. We at the Mars Society believe that ―it takes a village,‖ and we are utilizing that concept to send humans to the Red Planet. As an entirely volunteer organization, we have accomplished many great things since our inception. The goal is simple – explore and send humans to Mars.
The Journey to Mars The planet Mars has been studied and portrayed in artistic endeavors for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The road to the Red Planet has been long and interesting. It has taken many people collaborating over the past 100 years or so to collect enough data to design and accomplish Mars missions. The first real steps toward Mars began in 1903. On December 17th, Orville and Wilbur Wright took a biplane made of muslin and spruce out to a field in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The brothers accomplished the first human airplane flight, changing life on Earth as we knew it. Since that time, technology has moved at an exponential pace. For instance, by the time World War I broke out in 1914, there was already aerial warfare, and by World War II, Germany had built the Me-262 jets, which first saw combat in 1944. Quickly thereafter Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, was successfully launched in 1957. This was soon followed by Luna 1 in 1959, which was the first spacecraft to fly by the Moon. Next on the spaceflight agenda was Mars. In 1964, the spacecraft Mariner 4 was the first to fly-by and photograph the surface of Mars. Although the pictures were black and white and not impressive to the untrained eye, they were a major accomplishment for the United States. Mariner 4 was followed by Mariner 6 and 7, both flybys in 1969. This co-
incided with and was clearly overshadowed by the Apollo 11 Moon landing that same year. Mariner 9 was the first orbiter to successfully arrive at Mars in 1971. Since the 1970s, there have been many successes and many failures with spacecraft seeking to explore Mars. Some of the most notable missions were the Viking 1 and 2 landers (1975-6), the Mars Pathfinder-Sojourner Rover (1997), the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit
(2004-2010) and Opportunity (2004-still operational), the Phoenix Lander (2008), and most recently and most impressively The spacecraft listed above have carried the Curiosity Rover (Aug 5, 2012). many scientific instruments including spectrometers, rock abrasion tools, cameras, chemistry labs, a drill and even a laser. Together the orbiters, landers, and rovers have made many wonderful and exciting discoveries that have added to our understanding of the solar system by sampling the soil, the atmosphere, and the mineral content of Martian rocks. They have discovered the first meteorite on another planet that water existed on the surface of Mars and in the soil, that the inside of the rocks on Mars are grey (not red!), and that there are simple organic molecules inside the rocks on Mars. Other findings include carbon dioxide (CO2) snow, mysterious globules that shrink and grow near the legs of the Phoenix Lander, interesting geological outcroppings, seasonal fluctuations of methane (due to biological or geological activity), unequivocal evidence of past (and possibly current) water on the Martian surface, as well as many other discoveries. This is just a tiny sample of what has been discovered on the Red Planet in recent years. With the Curiosity Rover, armed with more scientific instruments than any rover or lander that has visited Mars to date, we hope to discover much more.
Basic Mars Facts The planet Mars was named after the God of War from Roman mythology. It is the 4th planet from the Sun, also known as the Red Planet.] Mars has what is known as a superior orbit, meaning that it orbits the Sun outside of the orbit of Earth. Orbit Order: Sun—Mercury—Venus— Earth—Mars—Jupiter— Saturn— Uranus—Neptune. Mars orbits the Sun at an average distance of 1.5 Astronomical Units (1 AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth). Mars is regarded as the 2nd most hospitable planet for the appearance of life, after Earth. Mars is about half the size of Earth, but if you add up the land mass on Earth it is roughly equivalent to the landmass on Mars. A year on Mars is 687 Earth days. A day on Mars is 24 hours and 37 minutes, compared to a day on Earth, which is 24 hours. The axial tilt on Mars is 24o, which gives Mars seasons similar to those on Earth, whose axial tilt is 23.5o. Mars‘ surface gravity is 1/3 of Earth‘s. The temperatures on the Martian surface range from -87oC to 20oC. On the warmest summer day at the equator, it is room temperature.
The Moons of Mars Mars has two satellites (moons) named Phobos and Deimos. The moons are oddly shaped and look like potatoes! They are much smaller than Earth‘s moon. Phobos and Deimos orbit Mars very quickly and are much closer to MaMajor Geographical Features of Mars Valles Marineris – A 3,000 mile long ―Grand Canyon‖ that looks like a giant crack on the surface of Mars. Olympus Mons – The largest volcano on Mars and in the solar system, three times as high as Mt. Everest and covering an area the size of Texas! Mars has thousands of craters covering its surface, ranging in age from billions of years old to others that are much more recent. Water and weather on Mars Telescopic observations from Earth have seen what appear to
be channels on Mars for many years. Many orbiting spacecraft have confirmed these sightings with images taken of dry river channels on the Martian surface. The landers and rovers on Mars have taken measurements, soil samples and images that have led to an overwhelming amount of data that suggests water existed on the surface of Mars, is there now in
frozen form, and occasionally briefly runs across the surface when the conditions are just right. Mars has North and South Poles that are covered in ice caps. The ice caps, which grow and recede through the seasons, are made of H2O and CO2. Mars has Earth-like weather systems, including clouds, wind, dust storms and even snow! rs than the Moon is to the Earth. The satellites are visible through some larger telescopes on Earth. Moon is to the Earth. The satellites are visible through some larger telescopes on Earth. All of these wonderful facts implore us to learn even more about Mars. That glowing red beacon in the sky calls us to her. Mars, beautiful and majestic, lures us in. For those who are more Martian than Earthling, we understand -- that is one of the reasons why The Mars Society was formed.
Mars's atmosphere is only 1 percent as thick as Earth's. Image credit: NASA
Perseid Met 20
Last month, August was the annual Perseid meteor show month we are going to share with you some personally e of observing this wonderful cosmic show.
teor Shower 013
wer. This experiences
The 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower
By: Robert Pickard Meteor showers…. They encourage people of all ages to look up and watch shooting stars streak across the sky. The notable showers of the year are the Quatranids, Perseids, Leonids, Orionids, and Geminids. The Perseids and Geminids in particular are the best of the year by far, producing 70-100 (or more) per hour!!!! This year the Perseids put on a lovely show, with a waxing crescent moon that sets hours before the peak. The shower more than doubled my count from last years shower astonishingly.. I planned the meteor count in advance, and expecting a lot of meteors, I used the tally method to quickly log any meteor as a line (tally). The weather wasn‘t looking good days before the 11th, partly cloudy with a 40% chance of showers. And I was expecting clouds and a turbulent atmosphere…. Sunset arrived, and it was cloudy, but I managed to catch Iridium 72 (magnitude -1.5) in the clouds, I took a break and waited till moonset at 10:30 to start the daring all night meteor count, (It was crystal clear, and a stable atmosphere all night) The count started at 10:38, and stayed steady with about 2 meteors every 10 minutes, with more or less. 50 minutes in, 20 Perseids were seen. After a 45 minute drought of 0 meteors, at 11:54PM, 5 meteors flew by in less than 20 seconds apart!!!! At 12:05-12:10AM, the average was three per minute!!! The count reached 50 at 12:20AM, as the meteors came visible closer to the radiant. At 1:28, my record of 86 Perseids from last year, was tied, ten seconds later, the record was broken. The number reached 100 at 1:49AM, the rate picked up significantly after!! At 3:10 it reached 145, after that, I lost count as the rate picked up to a climax. Around 3:20 to 3:30AM, was the peak of the 2013 Perseids, starting with 5 bright meteors in 10 seconds, then 45 more just started flying everywhere, one here, one there, Perseids are everywhere!! The rate slowed to a crawl, and I recorded the last perseid at 5:13.. as I looked through images from 4:00-5:00, I didn‘t get a single perseid… this will be a memory ill remember forever.. as my total perseid count was 192 on the 11/12th!! My grand total was 231 Perseids over a three day span!! Now lets get ready for the Geminids!!!
Perseid Meteor Radio Detection.
The Sherwood observatory is known for its reflecting 24inch optical telescope built by dedicated members at the observatory. Radio astronomy is also evolving. I joined this astronomical society soon after the hale bob comet encounter. I under took several Radio astronomical courses at Jodrell Bank Manchester University soon after joining. This was to broaden my knowledge in the astronomical field. I learnt that radio meteor detections could be possible given the correct setup using a radio receiver, antenna and dedicated computer software to record the meteoroids events as they pass through our Earth atmosphere. A compressed explanation follows. A suitable radio transmitter has to be chosen that is located below the radio receiving observers horizon and is emitting within 40MHz and 110MHz frequency. The transmitters signal is reflected 90Km above the Earth where (RF) energy off ionised layers is produced by the meteor trails. Distance between the meteor receiver station and transmitter is a factor where approx 800 to 1600km is acceptable.
A lot of analogue transmitters have been phased out due to going digital. After meticulous research I found the Brams transmitter an ideal candidate located in Belgium,
Left: M.Knowles below installed antenna
After thorough research I chose a 5 element yagi antenna to attain the desired radio beam width and gain capabilities. An AOR 5000 receiver is used to enable capture of the radio meteor reflections using FM, USB, LSB, and CW. The receiver cable leads are connected to a computer or lap top running dedicated software (spectrum lab) that decodes and displays radio meteor images giving Meteor counts, Doppler shift, Disintegration traces, Velocity, and Directional data. Given a good received signal the reflected ionisation of a meteor trail the computer sound card emits a varying pitched Doppler ping. This depends on the meteor‘s direction of travel in relation to the radio antenna. The PC sound card takes audio output from the receiver.
Laptop, Speaker system and AOR 5000 radio receiver setup.
Below Captured radio meteor images 14/08/2013.
The meteor radio signature traces are influenced by:
1. Velocity differences of high altitude atmospheric winds. 2. Mass composition of the meteoroid.
The position of the receiver and transmitter affects the illumination angle change of the plasma trail formed by the meteoroid. This governs the received transmitter meteor radio signal. All these factors result in the radio shape trace and duration of plasma trails. Thanks to Andy Smith-G7IZU. for meteor setup config support. Sherwood Observatory members. Roger Banks-GW4WND. PowaBeam Anttena DX shop. Michael Knowles-2E0EVA. Sherwood Observatory, Nottinghamshire.
Petition for the Open University to offer MSc in Astronomy/Astrophysics
With all the recent changes to higher education funding, times are pretty tough with some very uncertain futures for most upcoming science graduates, there is currently a massive ‗Postgraduate Gap‘; the number of postgraduates, especially in the sciences, is dwindling with a quickly increasing average age of academics in the UK. The value of higher education is something that can be clearly visualised and seen; every science and engineering graduate brings back ~£1 million in their lifetime. The demand for such graduates is bound to increase with every decade thanks to advancements in technology, and this is where the postgraduate gap slots into the giant puzzle, there is no funding for postgraduate Master‘s degree programmes unless you were enrolled on one as an undergraduate or received a bursary/ scholarship. Not only is it expensive, but if you have work commitments/family commitments/health problems, then doing one full-time becomes essentially an impossible task, that‘s not even taking into account commuting/living costs if the University is not nearby. The Open University however with its years of experience in part-time distance learning might be a solution, hence why I‘m petitioning the OU to construct a Master‘s of Science degree scheme in Astronomy/Astrophysics, a subject that the OU also has had many years of experience lecturing and teaching. Not only that, but it has quite a few excellent tools in order to perform observations remotely from your own home! The OU‘s robotic telescope, known as PIRATE (Physics Innovations Robotic Astronomical Telescope Explorer), is based in Majorca, Spain and presents an excellent remote interface for communicating with the dome, instruments and telescope itself. There is a planned robotic radio telescope being calibrated and fitted at the moment with the OU, there will even be eventual access to the public thanks to the new ‗Open Science‘ programme. The OU is therefore a perfect and ideal remedy for helping to broaden access to physics and astronomy whilst solving the gap in postgraduates; the courses are cheaper, there are no additional living costs/hassle of moving away (again), latest technology, can do it in your own time (earn while you learn) and you receive plentiful amounts of support as an OU student. So if you value education and giving prosperity to the future minds of Astronomy and Physics, please support the petition for the Open University to Construct an MSc in Astronomy/Astrophysics. Lawrence Bilton
Brown Dwarfs – The Forgotten Stars of the Show By Mark Woodland FRAS
Brown dwarfs are quite often overshadowed by their much more luminous co-stars in the astronomical world. They lie quietly in the darkness of space, mostly unseen and nearly always forgotten about…..until now. It was not until I read a recent article in a well-known popular science magazine, that I truly started to appreciate the wonder of brown dwarfs. They are a potential missing link as I will explain later. Brown dwarfs are normally thought of as the corpses of low mass stars. They have sluffed off their outer layers and have all but exhausted their fusible material. They burn so dimly that they were not discovered from Earth until Gliese 229b was discovered. Brown dwarfs have an amazing array of morphologies, they are generally 13 to 75 times Jupiter‘s size, and still maintain fusion of hydrogen as their power source. They range in temperature from 2100oc all the way down to a very surprising 27oc. The temperature of a Mediterranean holiday resort, in summer. You could theoretically therefore walk (reasonably comfortably) on its surface, if you ignored all the other factors such as Iron rain and clouds made of silicon. Yes that‘s right, brown dwarfs have weather. This links back to my comment about the missing link. Brown dwarfs are stars (as they are still fusing material) but have weather, like gas giant planets. In the very lowest temperature examples, there could be water vapour in the atmosphere. Scientists who have been studying these odd objects have found elements including methane in the atmospheres. Are brown dwarfs really brown? The answer is a resounding no. If you could observe one close up, it would appear a very dark orange. They were named brown to distinguish them from all other stellar objects (they actually started out as black stars, but this was changed some years later). So, when you hear talk of brown dwarfs, spare a moment to think about how odd these lesser known objects are, and that, there could be very strange forms of life originating in their dim orange glow. Follow me on Twitter @mw5868 for more astronomy news.
This month, keep an eye out for a wonderful conjunction between the Moon and Venus in the constellation of Virgo on the 8th. Saturn will be just above, and Spica just below. During early September, Venus will be approximately 10 degrees above the horizon just after sunset. Keep an eye out for the Aurigid meteors between August 28th and September 5th, at an expected rate of 6meteors/hr. Mars will be passing through the Beehive Cluster (M44) on September 8th & 9th, making for great photo opportunities. On the 28th the Moon will pass around 5 degrees south of Jupiter, so another possible photo opportunity. Clear skies, and happy viewing!
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