WADHURST ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY

AUGUST NEWSLETTER 2006

INDEX: MEETINGS, OTHER NEWS, CONTACTS

IAN REEVES

Very sadly I have to report that on July 13th, Ian Reeves, the Society's Secretary, passed away after a short illness with cancer.  He was 76 and during the past few years, when others would have been enjoying their retirement, he spent a great deal of time caring for the Wadhurst Astronomical Society, and with great enthusiasm.

Ian was born at Poynton in Cheshire, close to the Derbyshire hills where he spent a lot of his time when growing up, and he never lost his love of the countryside.

It was in Cheshire that he met Mavis whom he eventually married, although he was then to spend much of his time away whilst working in banking.  He was to work for much of his time abroad in such places as Nigeria, the Caribbean, Israel and other places.

Mavis and Ian had two daughters, Maxine and Julia whom he was very proud of, and who also exhibit that same sense of humour.

After he retired, he hardly settled down but instead became involved with so many things that he claimed were to keep the wheels of his mind from sticking, as he put it.  Ian was involved with various aspects of the University of the Third Age, U3A, and it was one of these subjects that brought him into astronomy, about which he was always unduly modest.

After completing a GCSE course in astronomy at Uplands College, he and other members from the course decided to form the Wadhurst Astronomical Society, meeting once a month in the college's drama studio where the Society was to meet for a number of years.

It was here that I first met Ian when I became a member of the Society in 2000, and realised that his humour was rather unusual and very enjoyable, always looking at things from another angle.  On one occasion, I rang him up about something, and he mentioned that he'd been trying to get hold of a particular member of the Society but had been told he was having a bath.  He took a moment to look out of his window, which overlooks Bewl Reservoir, to see if the water level had gone down, confirming that the member must have just had his bath and it was now probably ok to ring him again.

He was always very modest, but his knowledge of astronomy was quite acute and he had retained everything he had learnt during his studies at Uplands, and would call upon it at the most surprising moments.

Ian had used his accounting skills as the Society's Treasurer from the beginning, only recently handing over to the very able hands of Mike Wyles, but even then, Ian took on the reins of Secretary to WAS and ran the Committee with great precision but always with that twinkle in his eye.  Without doubt, he put a lot of work into it, but always gave the impression everything happened of its own accord and we were always very grateful.

Ian Reeves will be sadly missed, and I will never forget his voice when he answered the telephone, saying - "Hello Geoff.  I've got something for you for the Newsletter."

On behalf of the Members, The Wadhurst Astronomical Society has made a donation of £50 in Ian's memory to the Macmillan Cancer Relief fund, which helped him so much.

MEETINGS

ASTRO-BARBECUE

As usual, there is no August meeting of the Society, but there is something very special to replace it.

As mentioned in previous Newsletters, Michael Harte and his wife are again kindly holding an astro-barbecue evening on Saturday 26th August 2006.  Last year it was a very pleasant evening with members bringing telescopes and binoculars or just coming to join in and enjoy the chat.

The barbecue evening will be held at Greenman Farm, Wadhurst - which is on the south side of the B2099 immediately to the west of the railway over-bridge, but ignoring Buckhurst Lane.  All Society members and families are invited and Michael suggests that members aim to arrive at 7.00 pm.

You will only need to bring your own food and drink, as everything else will be provided.

Although it will still be late August, it can be quite cold later in the evening and it might be a good idea to bring some warm clothing.

  On the night of Saturday 26th August the Sun sets at 1959 so there will be plenty of time to set up telescopes and enjoy the barbecue before the sky is dark enough to observe.  The moon is only three days old so won't be a problem. On the other hand it won't be there to view, either.

Whilst we are waiting for the sky to darken, Jupiter may just be visible but sets at 2208.

To the south and just above the horizon is the centre of our own galaxy, and last year we had an excellent view of it, and only one or two felt the effects of the supposed black hole nestling there.

Overhead it may be possible to find M57 mentioned later in the Newsletter and if it is a good evening, would be well worth looking for.

Last year we had a clear view of M31, the most distant object visible to the naked eye.  The Andromeda Galaxy is just to the right of the "W" in Cassiopeia.

Hope to see you there if you can make it.

FUTURE MEETINGS

Wednesday 20th September 2006.  We welcome back Konrad Malin-Smith FRAS.  This time he will be giving a talk about White Dwarfs.

Wednesday 18th October 2006.  Jerry Workman will be paying us another visit and this time he talks about the latest news from Mars.

Wednesday 15th November 2006.  David Rooney, who is the Deputy Horologist at Greenwich Museum, is to give us a talk called "A Brief History of GMT".

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OTHER NEWS

AUGUST  NIGHT SKY

This month, the Perseid meteor shower peaks on the 12th and 13th although the moon rises soon after 2130 with a phase of about 50% so could be a problem.

Almost overhead during August is the Ring Nebula in Lyra, M57.  This is a well-known favourite but always worth taking the trouble to look at.  It is fairly easy to find with a small telescope, although not with binoculars unless under really clear skies.  It lays just about half way between Beta and Gamma Lyrae, known as Sulatat and Sheliak respectively, in the constellation of Lyra.  These are the two third-magnitude stars, six degrees south of Vega.

The Ring Nebula itself is magnitude 8.8 with a central hot white dwarf of magnitude 14.7 which I have never been able to see.  The nebula is about 2,300 light years away and although it looks almost like a ring, 70 by 150 arc seconds, it is in fact a barrel shaped cloud of gas, which is end on to the earth and believed to be expanding by about 1 arc second a century which is about 20 to 30 kilometres per second.

It is thought to be about 6,000 to 8,000 old as we see it today, and is the result of an exploding red giant, not powerful enough to have been a supernova but exposing the hot white core, whose radiation ionises the material, thrown out.

Mercury is at greatest elongation on the morning of the 7th of August.

Saturn is on the far side of the Sun on the 7th of August but Venus and Saturn are both visible just before sunrise at the end of the month, but on the morning of the 27th of August, they are only 12 seconds of arc apart although they may be rather elusive.

Now is an opportunity to observe both Uranus and Neptune.  They are both binocular objects although the best time to view them is towards the end of the month when the moon is not a problem. 

Uranus is at present in Aquarius at RA 22h 53m Dec-7 30', or at mid month at about midnight, and will be at Altitude 26 Azimuth 146.  The gas planet has an apparent magnitude of 5.7 and is recognised as a green disk.

Neptune is 23 to the west of Uranus.  This blue gas planet has an apparent magnitude of 7.8 and will need large binoculars to see it.  A telescope will be needed to resolve it as a disk but it is well worth the effort.  The planet's position is at RA 21h 33m Dec -15 Azimuth 173 but is more difficult to find.  The August edition of "The Sky at Night" magazine  suggests star hopping from Altair to Capricornus and Deneb Algedi, magnitude 2.9, which is about 25 degrees south and 30 degrees east of Altair.  Once you have found Deneb Algedi, look to the west by about 1 45' to find Nashira, magntude 3.69.  Another 4 to the east is the magnitude 4.28 Iota Capricorni.  Look above this by 1 15' and there you should find the blue planet Neptune.  (These instruction need to be inverted if looking through an astronomical telescope).

Just three degrees beneath Deneb, the top left star of the Summer Triangle, is the North American Nebula.  It should be possible to find it with a large pair of binoculars or a small telescope.  It is spread over several degrees and I find the best way to confirm that I have found it when using binoculars is to slightly move them and the nebula becomes more obvious by its movement in the eyepiece.

M31, The Andromeda Galaxy is visible to the right of the "W" in Cassiopeia.  Andromeda is the most distant object visible to the naked eye at 2.2 million light years.  With binoculars and a clear night, it may be possible to see the outer arms which spread out far from the central "blob".

NASA SPACE PLACE

From Thunderstorms to Solar Storms...

by Patrick L. Barry

When severe weather occurs, there's a world of difference for people on the ground between a storm that's overhead and one that's several kilometres away. Yet current geostationary weather satellites can be as much as 3 km off in pinpointing the true locations of storms.

A new generation of weather satellites will boost this accuracy by 2 to 4 times. The first in this new installment of NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites series, called GOES-N, was launched May 24 by NASA and Boeing for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). (A new polar-orbiting weather satellite, NOAA-18, was launched May 2005.)

Along with better accuracy at pinpointing storms, GOES-N sports a raft of improvements that will enhance our ability to monitor the weather-both normal, atmospheric weather and "space weather."

"Satellites eventually wear out or get low on fuel, so we've got to launch new weather satellites every few years if we want to keep up the continuous eye on weather that NOAA has maintained for more than 30 years now," says Thomas Wrublewski, liaison officer for NOAA at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Currently, GOES-N is in a "parking" orbit at 90 west longitude over the equator. For the next 6 months it will remain there while NASA thoroughly tests all its systems. If all goes well, it will someday replace one of the two active GOES satellites-either the eastern satellite (75W) or the western one (135W), depending on the condition of those satellites at the time.

Unlike all previous GOES satellites, GOES-N carries star trackers aboard to precisely determine its orientation in space. Also for the first time, the storm-tracking instruments have been mounted to an "optical bench," which is a very stable platform that resists thermal warping. These two improvements will let scientists say with 2 to 4 times greater accuracy exactly where storms are located.

Also, X-ray images of the Sun taken by GOES-N will be about twice as sharp as before. The new Solar X-ray Imager (SXI) will also automatically identify solar flares as they happen, instead of waiting for a scientist on the ground to analyse the images. Flares affect space weather, triggering geomagnetic storms that can damage communications satellites and even knock out city power grids. The improved imaging and detection of solar flares by GOES-N will allow for earlier warnings.

So for thunderstorms and solar storms alike, GOES-N will be an even sharper eye in the sky.

Find out more about GOES-N at goespoes.gsfc.nasa.gov/goes.

Also, for young people, the SciJinks Weather Laboratory at scijinks.nasa.gov now includes a printable booklet titled "How Do You Make a Weather Satellite?"  Just click on Technology.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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CONTACTS

Chairman   Tim Bance  01732 832 745

Secretary Phil Berry  01892 783 544

Treasurer  Mike Wyles  01892 542 863

Publicity & Website  Michael Harte  01892 783 292

Newsletter Editor  Geoff Rathbone  01959 524 727

Any material for inclusion in the September Newsletter should be with the Editor by August 28th  2006

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