WADHURST ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY

NEWSLETTER ISSUE 9 2003

INDEX: MEETINGS, OTHER NEWS, CONTACTS

MEETINGS

LAST MEETING

The last meeting of the society was held on October 15th and was the society's Mars Extravaganza.

The editor has not received any comments about the evening. [Webmaster's comment - it was a stunning success - after a dodgy start with no speaker and then no power lead for the speaker's PC. Greg Smye-Rumsby delivered a blinder of a presentation nonetheless and kept a very large audience enthralled and entertained with a talk on Mars. We must have had 60 or more attending - and the skies were clear, so that the session outdoors was also a great success - with Tim's machine the star! And - perhaps most cheering - quite a few youngsters were excited by what they could see in the skies; many had never really ooked at the moon even with the naked eye]

NEXT MEETING

The next meeting of the society will be on Wednesday November 19 2003. As usual, the doors open at 7.15 and the meeting starts at 7.30 prompt.

The speaker for the evening is Nik Symanek who will be talking about the Mauna Kea observatory on Hawaii

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OTHER NEWS

TREASURERS REPORT

A number of members have already renewed their subscriptions for this year. Anyone who attends the meeting on November 19 can give their subscriptions to either the Treasurer (Ian Reeves) or the Membership secretary (Joan Grace) who will both be in attendance.

The society is in a reasonably healthy financial position despite the raise in expenses for the year due to the increased cost of hiring the hall and the recent acquisition of an OHP. However, it is member's subscriptions that are the main source of income, so please do not neglect paying yours as soon as possible. It is this income that allows the society to continue holding regular meetings and also to enjoy the quality of speakers.

A full report of the current financial situation will be made at the AGM in December.

BELATED NEWS

As there is so little in the Newsletter this month, here is full report of the September meeting from Murray and Valerie Barber. It was held back due to lack of space last month.

The meeting began with notices as our guest speaker was delayed due to train connection problems.

Murray informed the membership of plans for the forthcoming meeting in October. The Mars Extravaganza, a public meeting to celebrate the close approach of Mars this year. Details to follow. The membership is encouraged to hand out publicity leaflets and to bring a friend along to the next meeting as it was felt that this would probably be the best method of advertising the event.

The meeting adjourned early for coffee. The guest speaker arrived, Mr Neil Bone and after a short delay and a frantic search for a OHP, he delivered a very well illustrated talk on 'Atmospheric Phenomena'. The talk began with a series of slides showing local atmospheric phenomena, clouds! One particular photograph of note showed a weather front coming in over Scotland, clearly showing the blue sky on one side and the total cloud cover to the other. An example of lenticular cloud formation was shown, these aptly named clouds can be seen in special atmospheric conditions. We then saw some very good examples of Perihelia close to the sun. They are sometimes referred to as 'Sun Dogs' or fake suns. Often they are very bright with the colours of the rainbow in them. Another phenomena caused by high altitude ice crystals are halos around the sun. The appearance of which is directly related to the geometry of the ice crystals and are seen at positions of 22 degrees and multiples there of from the sun. Under exceptional circumstances they can be seen going across the whole sky. A photograph clearly showed that these effects can be seen with the moon. We then moved on to Noctilucent clouds. Noctilucent clouds are seen after sunset when the sun is still lighting up very high clouds in the upper atmosphere 60 or 70 kilometres high. The best time to observe these clouds is in the summer time. The origin of these clouds is not entirely understood, it may be related to solar activity, it may be related to the depletion in the ozone layer. The fact that these clouds are becoming more frequent may be another indication of climatic and atmospheric changes.

Beautiful examples of Auroral activity were shown. Aurorae are caused by mass coronal ejections shooting away from the sun. The earths magnetic structure protects us from the harmful aspects of these ejections, the magnetic nature of the north and south pole attract the charged ions and that is why the aurora is mainly seen at extreme northerly or southerly latitudes. We are occasionally treated to displays here in the south of England. To find out about the likely hood of an auroral display there is a website which is fed information from a satellite which is in space primarily to warn of these ejections as they can be very harmful to astronauts and satellite equipment. The auroral activity is linked to sunspot activity. When the sun is at it's maximum the mass coronal ejections are more likely to occur although it can also happen at it's minimum but this is rare.

Neil spoke about the difficulty of photographing meteors because of their very short duration and unpredictable nature. For every good photograph he had acres of duff film! He showed us some very good examples of meteors that he had been lucky to capture on film. He predicted that the Leonids this Autumn would be disappointing because of the presence of the moon. He concluded his excellent talk with a beautiful photograph of an Auroral display with Noctilucent cloud formation.

The talk was appreciated and enjoyed by the membership.

EDITOR'S NOTE

The Editor is giving notice that he will not be renewing his membership of the society this year as he finds that he cannot attend the meetings on a Wednesday evening. For this reason he will not be standing for the post of editor at the December AGM and the newsletter at the beginning of December will therefore be his last.

It is hoped that a member will step forward to fill the space left by the departing editor before the AGM. Anyone interested please contact a member of the committee as listed below. The present editor will be happy to assist the incoming editor get started in the role if required.

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CONTACTS

Chairman: Murray R. Barber 01892 654618 murray.barber@virgin.net

Secretary: Ian King 01892 836288

Treasurer: Ian Reeves 01892 784255

Membership Secretary: Joan Grace 01892 783721

Editor: Peter Bamblett 01732 368656 pbamblett@hotmail.com

Publicity & Web Site: Michael Harte 01892 783292 michael@greenman.demon.co.uk

Dir. of Obs.: Sean Tampsett 01892 667092 sean_tampsett@hotmail.com

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COPY FOR THE NEXT EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER TO REACH THE EDITOR BY 29 NOVEMBER 2003