WADHURST ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER 2007
INDEX: MEETINGS, OTHER NEWS, CONTACTS
CELEBRATES ITS TENTH YEAR!
Astronomical Society will be ten years old this November!
Eleven years ago,
several keen students joined a GCSE Astronomy course at Uplands College run by
At the end of the
year's course these successful students met in the Greyhound pub next to Uplands
College and discussed the exciting possibility of forming an Astronomical
Society in Wadhurst.
It was agreed
that there was sufficient interest and a Committee was set up to run the Society
with meetings to be held in the Drama Studio at Uplands College once a month and
the Wadhurst Astronomical Society was born.
The Society grew
and was a great success.
Rob continued to
lead, giving many talks at the meetings and giving encouragement in both
practical and theoretical astronomy. Other
interested individuals joined the Society, now called the Wadhurst Astronomical
Society and linked together with other groups within the Federation of
obtained two telescopes for members to use and Murray Barber, who joined the
Society soon after it was formed, built another, this time with a Dobsonian
From the original
core we have Joan Grace, Tim Bance and Rob Cray, who still comes to meetings
whenever he can as our honorary member.
Ian Reeves was
one of the original members but sadly died last year.
Ian was very important to the Society in taking on the post of Secretary
at a time when many changes were taking place including the change the of venue
to the Methodist Church Upper Room in November 2005 when it became too expensive
to remain at Uplands.
widow very kindly donated Ian's Konus 120 mm refracting telescope to the Society
and it is available for any full member of the Society to borrow, as are the
other three telescopes.
During the ten
years of the Society, There have been many varied events and speakers.
To promote the interest in Astronomy, we have attended local events,
demonstrating telescopes and providing material and information for the General
The talks have
covered subjects as diverse as archaeological searches for old observatories to
the very latest news from Mars. We
have had a display of actual pieces of moon dust that had been brought back to
earth during the Apollo missions. There
have been demonstrations of telescope building and talks by members on problems
and solutions whilst observing.
included an evening spent on the observatory on the University of
Hertfordshire's Facility at Hertingfordbury, and very recently to see the
private collection of clocks at Belmont House near Faversham under the guidance
of the Curator of Horology at Greenwich Observatory.With the enthusiasm of its
members, the Society looks set to continue well into the future.
The Calendar - A
5,000 year struggle to align the clock with the Heavens - The talk given at the
Society's meeting on October the 17th.
Brackenborough is a member of the Eastbourne Astronomical Society and also is
the current Chairman of SAGAS, the Southern Area Group of Astronomical
He began his talk
by referring to the influence that Astronomy, Astrology and Religion had had on
the development of the calendar as we know it today and how important a common
calendar is in recording historical events such as the Battle of Hastings in
1066 and the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.
In passing Keith also mentioned the millennium and how it was celebrated a year too early because there had been no "year zero".
In the 5,000
years it has taken to develop the calendar as we recognise it, various
influences have brought about many changes such as Stonehenge, religion,
astrology and cultures.
From the earliest
recorded times 12 lunar months were used to dived the year and various methods
of correction were attempted to reduce the conflict between the lunar year and
needed to be able to predict when the Nile would flood and had calculated that
the year had 365 days. At the time
the first sightings of Sirius had been used to measure the year.
Keith told us
that different peoples used different methods of measuring and correcting the
year. The Egyptians used correction
days to attempt to align the lunar and solar year by adding a number of days.
Even this system accumulated an error and every 4 years another day was
added to the calendar.
The Early Romans
divided the year into 10 months, 6 of 30 days and 4 of 31 days making 304 days
beginning in March and ending in December with what seems to have been an
uncounted winter gap. January and
February were later added to fill the gap with 50 days, other days being taken
from some of the other months to add to these months.
The Romans had developed a superstitious dread of even numbers so January
was given and extra day. Their
calendar now had 355 days.
came along later and with advice changed their calendar to the Egyptian system
with 365 1/4 days with the year beginning on January the first.
The Julian calendar had 365 days with an extra day being added during
changed the name of the seventh from Quintilis to Julius (which became July) to
preserve his name. Augustus changed
the name of the month called Sextilis to Augustus (August) for the same reason
and also had the number of days in the month changed so that his month at least
had the same number as Julius.
In 1266 Roger
Bacon criticised the remaining error in the Julian calendar, saying that
eventually summer would be in winter.
calendar was slowly becoming out of step with the seasons.
Pope Gregory attempted to address this problem by introducing a bill
promulgating that three out of every four centennial years should not be leap
years. The Gregorian calendar
that Dionysius in the sixth century devised a system of numbering the years in
Anno Domini when numbering Easter dates. This
system is now recognised internationally.
religious links, King Henry VIII refused to have anything to do with Julian
dates and at one time Scotland and England actually used different systems.
In 1750, England
was out of step by 11 days and Philip Stanhope who on the death of his father
became Lord Chesterfield introduced a bill in parliament, which was passed in
1751, stipulating that the day after September the second, 1752 should be
September the fourteenth. At this
time the English calendar was changed to start the year on January the first
instead of March the 25th.
A member of the
Society said that one man in Thetford died and was buried during this time and
on his gravestone both September dates are shown as his date of death! Another member said that legal documents of the time are
still causing a great deal of confusion. It
was also stated that Nepal is still 57 years ahead according to their
Keith pointed out
one interesting fact that the financial year we use for Tax purposes was still
left as the 25th of March and with the loss of eleven days this became April the
fifth! This was later changed to
the sixth where it remains to this day.
countries to accept the new calendar were Greece in 1923, Turkey in 1926 and
China in 1949, although Chinese New Year is still celebrated informally on the
seventeenth of February (this year would be 4705) .
November 2007. There had to be a
change from the original programme so Phil Berry will be introducing two
half-hour videos. One is called
"The Intrinsic Brightness of Stars" and the other, "The Structure
of the Milky Way Galaxy". They
are instructional videos and part of a structured course.
Phil is keen to hear what Members feel about using other videos in the
begins at 1930 although members are invited to arrive anytime after 1900. The venue as always is in the Upper Room of the Methodist
Church at the east end of Wadhurst High Street, opposite Uplands College.
The room downstairs is used by "Weight Watchers".
MEETINGS & EVENTS
December 2007 NOTE: THIS IS THE
SECOND WEDNESDAY OF DECEMBER Society
Member, Paul Treadaway is giving a talk he calls "Why are we Still
Here?" - Food for thought...
for food! - Mince pies and coffee will be at the meeting to celebrate the
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will be visible in the morning sky for the first part of the month reaching
greatest western elongation on the 8th. It will then rise about an hour and a
half before the sun and shine at magnitude -0.5.
Venus is a
brilliant morning object rising around four hours before the sun. At magnitude
-4 it will display a gibbous phase when viewed through a small telescope.
magnitude -1 is growing in size as it approaches opposition. It lies in the
constellation of Gemini (the twins) and rises around 19.00 by the middle of the
poorly placed for observation this month, setting soon after the sun.
a morning object rising at around 01.00 in the constellation of Leo (the lion).
As I mentioned earlier in the year the ring system is closing up (becoming more
edge on) as seen from Earth and consequently its brightness has fallen to 0.7.
Below are the
events involving reasonably bright stars (down to around 7.5) that occur before
midnight. Times are all GMT. DD = Disappearance on the Dark limb whilst RD =
Reappearance on the Dark limb.
|Date||Time||Star (SAO Catalogue)||Constellation||Magnitude||Phase||PAš|
|Fri 23rd||1646||Epsilon Arietis||Aries||5.2||DD||18|
|Fri 23rd||1646||Epsilon Arietis||Aries||5.5||DD||18|
There are a
couple of interesting occultations in the list. The first is on the 19th
November when SAO 146712 suffers both a disappearance and reappearance within
thirteen minutes of each other. Both of these events occur on the dark limb. The
second is on 23rd November when a star that is a binary double is occulted with
the two components disappearing within a second of each other.
There are two
showers of interest during November. Firstly the Taurids with their double
radiant reach maximum on 3rd November. The shower continues until the end of the
month but with only limited activity although any meteors you see are likely to
be bright and slow.
Leonids are active from 15th to the 20th November with the maximum occurring on
18th at around 05.00 GMT. The Leonids are known to suffer outbursts when the
Earth passes through a particularly rich stream of material left behind by the
comet 55P/Temple-Tuttle. Predictions are that a reoccurrence of the storms of
previous years are unlikely before the 2020's although of course it's difficult
to be certain. However any meteors you see could well be very fast with the
brighter ones leaving ionised trails that could last from a few seconds up to a
minute or so.
there are no evening appearances of the ISS this month; they all occur around
04.00 to 06.00. If you are an early riser you can log on to the web-site for
more details: - www.heavens-above.com
The maximum of
the Geminid meteor shower occurs on December 14th.
The Red (Hot?)
by Patrick L.
Don't let Mars's
cold, quiet demeanour fool you. For much of its history, the Red Planet has been
a fiery world.
volcanoes that dot the planet's surface stand as monuments to the eruptions that
once reddened Mars's skies with plumes of glowing lava. But the planet has
settled down in its old age, and these volcanoes have been dormant for hundreds
of millions of years.
Or have they?
Some evidence indicates that lava may have flowed on Mars much more recently.
Images of the Martian surface taken by orbiting probes show regions of
solidified lava with surprisingly few impact craters, suggesting that the
volcanic rock is perhaps only a million years old.
If so, could
molten lava still occasionally flow on the surface of Mars today?
With the help of
some artificial intelligence software, a heat-sensing instrument currently
orbiting Mars aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft could be just the tool for
finding active lava flows.
such flows would be a phenomenally exciting scientific finding," says Steve
Chien, supervisor of the Artificial Intelligence Group at JPL. For example,
volcanic activity could provide a source of heat, thus making it more likely
that Martian microbes might be living in the frosty soil.
called THEMIS (for Thermal Emission Imaging System), can "see" the
heat emissions of the Martian surface in high resolution-each pixel in a THEMIS
image represents only 100 meters on the ground. But THEMIS produces about five
times more data than it can transmit back to Earth.
usually know ahead of time which THEMIS data they want to keep, but they can't
plan ahead for unexpected events like lava flows. So Chien and his colleagues
are customizing artificial intelligence software called ScienceCraft to empower
THEMIS to identify important data on its own.
decision-making ability of the ScienceCraft software was first tested in Earth
orbit aboard a satellite called Earth Observing-1 by NASA's New Millennium
Program. Earth Observing-1 had already completed its primary mission, and the
ScienceCraft experiment was part of the New Millennium Program's Space
Technology 6 mission.
ScienceCraft will look for anomalous hotspots on the cold, night side of Mars
and flag that data as important. "Then the satellite can look at it more
closely on the next orbit," Chien explains.
Finding lava is
considered a long shot, but since THEMIS is on all the time, "it makes
sense to look," Chien says. Or better yet, have ScienceCraft look for
you-it's the intelligent thing to do.
To learn more
about the Autonomous ScienceCraft software and see an animation of how it works,
visit http://ase.jpl.nasa.gov .
was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of
Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space
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Chairman John Vale-Taylor email@example.com
Phil Berry 01892 783544 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Wyles 01892 542863
Website Michael Harte 01892 783292
Newsletter Editor Geoff Rathbone
Any material for inclusion in the December Newsletter should be with the Editor by November 28th 2007
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