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OAS Sky Notes

Dec 13 /Jan 14
In this months Look up we look at Pegasus, Triangulum, and Andromeda

Top Ten Physicists: No 10 Paul Dirac

Welcome 3 OAS Sky Notes Triangulum 6 Andromeda 7 Estimating Angles Courtesy Lunar Calendar Jan 2014 OAS competition time! 11 Meteor Showers - The Lunar Map 13 Comets 14 3 4 Square of Pegasus


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The 10 best physicists no. 10 Paul Dirac 16 An Interview - Dr Space Scoop

Rhodri Evans 17

OAS competition 19 20 Gallery - A selection of your images 22

GCSE Astronomy - By distance Learning

Why not get qualified with the Online Astronomy Society Academy and get a GCSE in Astronomy? For a mere 180 you get Access to our Portal 24/7 Access to worksheets Expert Tutor Support by a professional astronomer Text Book For more details see

Welcome OAS Sky Notes

fter some thought we reckoned a resource mag would be better than the standard mag we were producing. Articles are interesting, however for many its a mag they can use, containing useful information that people need. So we are trying here to fill that gap. During the course of the months the new Sky Notes will expand more and more to offer more useful data, tips, and ideas. Not only advising you of whats up but also how to look up. This is different from from the standard Ezine, it is hard to keep providing such quality on a monthly basis. However this format allows us to still include articles without relying too heavily on them for good content So thats said whats in this mag?

Following on we have featured Scoop from Ryan Laird of UNAWE where we hope to continue to include articles from him. Our night sky guide looks at the delights that are in Andromeda, Pegasus, and Triangulum and some celebrated objects in those constellations. In this edition we look at how to observe them. Going forward contributions are most welcome, please send any articles for consideration to onlineastronomysociety@gmail. com, we are also happy to receive images for publising and observations.

Want to get involved? There is no better way to help increase your profile and get experience as a journalist by getting involved in Dr Rhodri Evans, research this mag. We welcome anyone who would fellow at university of like to. Cardiff is a popular and Write regularly for us well known blogger. We Gather much needed data should apologise here as we Help publish (any good with publisher?) included an article of his Or even help canvass and market our mag. in Novembers Magazine that was not credited. However plenty of exposure in this new We have an open door policy, if you want mag as hes been kind enough to allow us to to help, just get in touch and well see where publish his top ten Phyiscists. We begin this your skills can fit in month with a look at Paul Dirac. Rhodri Evans is also featured in this months Contact: interview. Rhodri also writes a blog that can be seen here http://thecuriousastronomer.

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Look Up
Square of Pegasus
Globular clusters are cemetaries of old stars. We have a few decent ones in the night sky which are good binocular objects, including M13 and M92 both in the constellation of Hercules. Both binocular objects, M13 is particularly cool to see in binoculars. However at this time of year neither are well placed for viewing, so we look at M15 another celebrated globular star cluster in Pegasus. First a bit of background M15 (M stands for Messier) is 33.600 light years from us. That means it takes 33,600 years for light from the cluster to reach us (so we see it as it was 33,600 years ago!) It was discovered by Jean-Dominique

Maraldi in 1746. The object is visible in a small telescope and binoculars as a small fuzz. The object is also reasonably easy to find using star hopping techniques. Also these make ace objects to view in the summer or in light polluted skies!

M33 ---->

<------ M31

M15 ----->

A very unassuming constellation, as the name suggests, made of three stars. However it contains one of the most celebrated galaxies in the night sky M33, M (meaning Messier) is one of our closest galactic neighbours. You can see it with a pair of binoculars as a fuzzy object, about the size of the full moon. M33 is pictured below left

Tip: Did you know its often better to start with a pair of binoculars when you get started in Astronomy. Using a pair of 7x50s or 10x50s (any heavier you will need a mount). You can start learning the constellations taking in the star names and more effectively find objects. Many people like to use a go-to, which is fine, but not the best way to learn the sky!

Contains an amazing naked eye Galaxy M31. Commonly known as the Andromeda Spiral its 2.25 million light years away and arguably the remotest thing visible to the naked eye. A brief backgound, M31 is part of our local group of galaxies, as discussed with M15 above, M31 appears to us as it would have looked 2.25 million years ago (so not in realtime, its taken the light from the galaxy that long to reach us.) The Galaxy is also on a collision course with our own Milky Way galaxy, but dont worry thats not going to happen for many millions of years yet! M31 is seen opposite right, though it will NOT appear like that through a small telescope. That photo was the result of a larger telescope and longer exposure, through a pair of binoculars it appears as a faint smudge. Best tip for trying to view it is to use peripheral vision that is a averted gaze. You will never FULLY see the structure of the galaxies (the arms etc) through a smalll telescope but you will make out the smudge that is part of the main body of the galaxy. I have seen this with reasonable ease using a 60mm refractor

ISS Passes (from Middle England)

Tip: You can see the rings of Saturn, belts and moons of Jupiter with a small telescope

Estimating Angles Courtesy of

Lunar Calendar Jan 2014


OAS competition time!

Competition time. Weve teamed up with Starry Night and the Online Astronomy Society Academy to offer you A FREE copy of Starry Night Complete Space worth 50 A FREE OASA Passport worth 30 Access to: Beginning Astronomy Spectroscopy for Beginners Imaging with a webcam Imaging with a DSLR camera, plus bonus material (please note this does NOT include GCSE Astronomy or copies of Eyes on the Skies DVD or such) To enter, well if youre reading this you have already fulfilled one condition, youre looking at the OAS Ezine. The other two conditions a) You need to get the code from David Boods magazine (not the Ezine) page 4 b) You will need to like our Astronomy Courses Page Then all you need to do is pop us a message by the page with the code from the mag, and youre entered! Winners will be announced end of March 2013 In association with planetarium software


Meteor Showers - The Quadrantids

Meteors are often seen as tiny streaks of light that briefly tear across the sky, usually in under a second. What they are is tiny fragments (no bigger than a grain of sand) coming into contact with the earths atmosphere. Where do they come from? Simply put, orbiting comets. As comets orbit the Sun they throw off dust and ice as they move leaving behind them a trail. Which from time to time the Earths orbit will intersect with them and we see a meteor shower. How rich the meteor shower is depends on how densely packed the trail is and where we pass through the trail. If it is on the outskirts, we may only see a few meteors, if it is through the centre, we could see loads! The showers are named after the constellation they appear to come from. That is, even though a meteor might seem to fly across another constellation, if you trace its path back, it will intersect with that constellation. The Quadrantid shower is named after the defunct 19th century constellation Quadrans Muralis Meteors should not be confused with fireballs which are completely different While on the subject we have a meteor shower for you to observe this month January 2, 3 - Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 2nd and morning of the 3rd. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what could be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky. The best way to observe them is simply to sit back in a comfortable reclining garden chair, nicely wrapped up with a flask of hot drink and simply count off how many you see. While youre out there dont be surpised to see other tiny slow moving objects. These are often satelites


Lunar Map


We have a few comets in the sky at the moment. Unfortunate that ISON is no longer with us. But Love Joy continues to put on a show for those who can view it. Here weve used Starry Night to plot paths of this and another new comet, Nevski Comet Lovejoy 2013 R1 (Lovejoy) is a new discovery by Terry Lovejoy of Australia on September 9. Comet lovejoy is now very promient in the night sky, however a little low in the horizon now after Sun set.


Visible on 16 Dec from 17:00

We described what comets are in the meteor section. However it is nice to see a reasonable crop of them here. There is usually a comet floating around in the night sky somewhere most are pretty faint short period comets. Comet Encke is one such short period comet.


Comet 2013 V3 (Nevski) is a new discovery on November 8

16th December 20:00

ISONS Last hours

At first it seemed reasonably promising for comet ISON as it appeared to swing around the Sun. We were aware it had fragmented but were unclear as to the extent. It soon became clear ISON was in serious trouble and then utlimately disappeared as the above images from SOHO show


The 10 best physicists no. 10 Paul Dirac

Dr Rhodri Evans University of Cardiff http://the- At number 10 in The Guardians 10 best physicists is English theoretical physicists

Diracs brief biography Dirac was born in Bristol in the south-west of England in 1902. He died in 1984. He was brought up in Bristol. His father was SwissFrench, his mother was English. He did his undergraduate degree at Bristol University studying engineering. However, he was un-

The theoretical prediction for which Dirac is most famous to people outside of physics is his idea of antimatter, which of course has become a firm favourite of science fiction. His basic idea was that every fundamental particle has an anti-particle. So, for example, an electron has an anti-particle which would have the same mass and the opposite electric charge. We call this anti-electron apositron. A proton would have an anti-proton and so on. Anti-matter was predicted by Dirac in 1928 and was experi-


able to find work as an engineer, and so instead undertook a second degree, this time in mathematics, at the same institute. He then went to Cambridge to do his PhD, working on General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, under the supervision of Ralph Fowler. The title of his PhD thesis was simply Quantum Mechanics.

mentally verified in 1932 with the discovery of the positron.

Dirac is most famous amongst physicists for what is now known as Diracs equation. This is an equation which describes the relativistic behaviour of an electron, and therefore unified quantum mechanics with special relaDiracs main achievements tivity. Relativistic means travelling near the Diracs place in this top 10 list is due to two speed of light. main things, his prediction of the existence of The terms in this equation need a little exantimatter, and for the equation which deplaining. Rather than explaining them in this scribes the motion of a fundamental particle blog, I will do so in a series of future blogs, such as an electron when it is travelling near as I will need to give some background. Not the speed of light. Both of these will be deonly do I need to explain the terms in this scribed in more detail in future blogs. Dirac equation, but this equation cannot be underwon the Nobel prize for Physics in 1933, he stood in isolation, one has to also understand shared it with Erwin Shrdinger for the Schrdingers equation. discovery of new productive forms of atomic is the soFor example, the term theory. called wave-function of the particle, and is the so-called Laplacian .

The Dirac equation

now you see why some background was needed

An Interview - Dr Rhodri Evans

Dr Rhodri Evans - Research Fellow University of Cardiff

basis during this time. As I lived only 2 minutes walk from the Observatory I would use it pretty much whenever it was clear.


What first got you interested in astronomy? - I first became interested in astronomy at about the age of 9-10. A few years ago I found a primary school project I had done as a 10-year old on the planets. I grew up in Pembrokeshire, so was always able to see the stars as it is such a dark place. I could see the Plough from my bedroom window at night when I lay in bed. I would leave my curtains open and lie in bed watching the Plough rotate around the Pole star!

What was the most memorable thing you have seen ? I think it would have to be the 2004 and 2012 Transits of Venus, because they are so rare. I organised the largest public observing event of the 2004 Transit in South Wales, and in 2012 I travelled to the Gobi Desert to see the last one before December 2117. What was your first telescope? - Remarkably I didnt actually own my own telescope until I had just turned 40. As a teenager I had a friend who had an 8-inch Meade, so I would use that with him. Once I started my PhD in Astrophysics in 1988 I got to use professional telescopes, including the 41-inch at Yerkes Observatory where I was based for 6 years. This almost became my telescope, as I was one of only 2-3 people to use it on a regular

What inspired you to write, the Curious Astronomer? Two things really. Firstly, I enjoy talking about and explaining things which interest me. I put a lot of effort into my university lectures, so wanted to share some of that effort with a wider audience. Secondly, I was inspired to a certain extent by Peter Coles excellent blog (, and like him I enjoy blogging about a variety of subjects, not just astronomy or physics. You are just as likely to find blogs about Welsh rugby or even Welsh poetry or politics on my blog as you are blogs on astronomy. What is your specialist area in astronomy? - I did my PhD on the amount and extent of interstellar dust in normal spiral galaxies. This is still an un-solved problem. Over the last 20 years I have broadened my research to include many topics, from star-formation to gamma-ray bursters to cosmology. I am the only UK astronomer involved in the airborne observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy.



Q What does your work as Professor of Astronomy at Cardiff University involve? - My current position at Cardiff University is as a Research Fellow. This presently allows me the luxury of fulltime research, which is useful as I am currently writing two books. In the past, as a Lecturer there, I have taught courses in astrophysics, physics and mathematics at BSc and MPhys (Master of Physics) levels. Lecturing duties also involve running tutorials with a small group (typically 4-5) of students each week, administrative duties, and exam preparation and marking duties. What do you think to Britains current status as a nation of research - First of all, as a Welshman, I think of Wales as a nation and Britain as a political state :) Neither Britain nor Wales spends enough money on science. I do not know the figures, but as a percentage of GDP both Wales and Britain spend far too little. Research in the USA has shown that for every dollar NASA has spent in the last 50-odd years, $7 is generated in the economy. Our politicians, both in Cardiff and Westminster, do not realise that spending money on science not only creates people with good technical and scientific skills, but it also creates high skill-level jobs, and actually creates wealth. So, we could do a lot better than we are currently doing.


universities which offer non-physics based degrees in astronomy. I headed up one of these degree programmes several years ago, and many of my ex-students now have jobs in astronomy related fields. If you could go back and do it all again, is there anything you would change? - I wouldnt change anything. Even things which at the time seem to be set-backs are all part of a learning process. Once, in 2003, a colleague dropped an instrument that we had spent over 18 months developing, and broke it! It was hard to take at the time, but we all learnt from it. I have had disappointments as well as successes in my career, but you cannot appreciate the good without having experienced the not-so-good.

If people wanted to go into astronomy for a career what advice would you give them? - Do it! It is the best thing in the world, to do a job that you love and which you would gladly do even if you were not paid. To get up each morning excited about the job you are doing is the best feeling there is. There are many routes into a career in astronomy, and not being gifted at physics or mathematics neednt be an obstacle. There are several post-92

Where do you see Astronomy in the next ten years? - We live in an incredibly exciting time in Astronomy. In the next ten years we will just be completing some of the 30-metre class telescopes currently at the planning stage, and we will be getting closer to sending our first humans to Mars. In addition, extra-solar planet research may well have found strong evidence of planets elsewhere suitable to supporting life. We may have made good progress in understanding dark matter and dark energy. There has never been a more exciting time to be an astronomer!

OAS competition January 2014

The season of good will, its competition time. Weve teamed up with Starry Night and the Online Astronomy Society Academy to offer you A FREE copy of Starry Night Complete Space worth $50 A FREE OASA Passport worth 30 Access to: Beginning Astronomy Spectroscopy for Beginners Imaging with a webcam Imaging with a DSLR camera, plus bonus material (please note this does NOT include GCSE Astronomy or copies of Eyes on the Skies DVD or such) To enter, well if youre reading this you have already fulfilled one condition, youre looking at the OAS Ezine. The other two conditions a) You need to get the code from David Boods magazine (not the Ezine) page 5 b) You will need to like our Astronomy Courses Page Then all you need to do is pop us a message by the page with the code from the mag, and youre entered! Winners will be announced end of Feb 2013


This is an ambitious blueprint that aims to use astronomy to foster education and provide A childs early years are widely regarded to skills and competencies in science and techbe the most important for childrens develop- nology throughout the world, particularly in ment and education. The idea behind Universe developing countries. Awareness (UNAWE) is to educate children aged 4-10 years (especially those from under- We produce a wide range of educational maprivileged communities) about astronomy, terials which are because it embodies a unique combination of available without charge (Creative Commons Licence scientific and cultural aspects. by-nc-sa/3.0/) and you are also free to adapt Our awe-inspiring Universe captures the these. I introduce you to one of our resources imagination of children, making it a great step- called Space Scoop. ping-stone to introduce youngsters to science and technology. Indeed, many scientists can Space Scoops are trace their interest in science to a moment as short news articles (~250 words) about astroa young child when they were first introduced nomical discoveries, written in a child-friend-

Space Scoop

to the wonders of the cosmos. Considering the vastness and beauty of the Universe and our place within it provides a special perspective that can help broaden the mind and stimulate a sense of global citizenship and tolerance. UNAWE is endorsed by UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and it is now an integral part of the IAU Strategic Plan 20102020, which is called Astronomy for the Developing World.

ly language. And each story comes with a stunning astronomical image. The articles are adapted from adult press releases provided by partner institutes. European Southern Observatory (ESO) was among the first astronomy institutions that joined up with this service and had its press releases translated into kids language. This has since expanded to a number of other organisations including: NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory, European Space Agency (ESA) and

National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), to name but a few. Space Scoop is a versatile resource, which can be adapted to many different formats and digested by many audiences including various age groups, visually-impaired, illiterate, no internet access, etc. Space Scoop is already being used all around the world, by children, teachers, astronomers, museums and more. For further information about Space Scoop, how to use it where to access it visit: For further information, please contact: Ryan Laird, Intern at UNAWE laird@strw. Universe Awareness International Office Leiden Observatory J.H. Oort Building Niels Bohrweg 2 NL-2333 CA Leiden The Netherlands Tel: +31 71 527 8419 | @unawe | unawe Useful links: Space Scoop storytelling activity http:// activity_spacescoop_storytelling/ Writing Space Scoop in Seven Steps by Sarah Reed -- CAPjournal, No. 13, April 2013 issues/13/13_12.pdf Space Scoop: Bringing News From Across the Universe to Children Around the World by Sarah Eve Roberts, pre-


Gallery - A selection of your images

each month we will select some of the highlights from our groups and post here

Image of the Sun, Using a PST and DMK41AU (cameras) This image shows a a load of sunspot activity. Note too the flares coming off the Suns Surface. This is taken with H-Alpha.

Chris Carabela, USA

Gareth Harding M45, in Taurus

Final image with Lighs, Darks, Flats, Dark Flats & Bias all done Scope: Orion Optics VX6 with 1/10 PV upgraded optics Guide: Skywatcher ST80 & QHY 5 Mono Mount: Skywatcher HQE5 Camera: Nikon D5100 Exposure: 18x5 Minute Subs, 10x Darks, 10x Bias, 20x Flats, 20x Dark Flats Technical: ISO 800, 750mm f/5 Software: DSS, Photoshop CS6

Note how there is gas surrounding the stars, Gareth has done well to bring that out. This is actually an old nebula the new stars which have formed are blowing away the gas.


Mike Greenham, Wellingborough

Crater Copernicus

Skywatcher Explorer 300PDS DMK21AU618 Camera

Copernicus is a very prominent crater, visible through binoculars (see the image from the Wiki to the right. you can learn more about this crater here

Billye Cheek The September Corn Moon

Plato ---->

Taken September 16, 2010 in Addison, Texas With Kodak EasyShare C643 6.1 MP digital camera, auto exposure Eratothenes -----> Hardin Deep Space Hunter 6 inch Dobsonian telescope Plssl 25mm eyepiece The Eratothemes is nicely visible in this one Note Also Plato Clavius ----->