MEETINGS

 

OCTOBER MEETING

 

        Phil Berry opened the meeting by telling members that the Committee had produced a questionnaire asking members for their views on how the Society is being run and requesting feedback on the meetings.  Every so often it is constructive to know what members prefer and as membership changes over the years we need to keep up to date with their needs.  The form will be available at our next meeting.

        Resulting from the interest shown by a number of members following our clock related visits to Belmont House near Faversham and our guided tour of the Time Galleries at Greenwich it is proposed that we consider either a sub group within the Society on that subject or even if there is enough interest to form a separate Society on clocks.  Phil had prepared a form for members to show their interest.  The form will be available at our next meeting as well.

        On occasion, something may happen such as a new comet, unexpectedly high rates predicted for meteor showers or some other astronomical event that could interest members and with this in mind we are asking how members would like to be informed.  Again, there are forms for members to express their wishes.

        It is hoped to hold an autumn “Moon Watch” in Phil’s garden on Friday the 27th of November 2009 between 1930 and 2130.  At the spring Moon Watch we were unlucky with the weather although Phil had set up a number of related exhibits including the projector which was to have shown live pictures of the moon so there was still plenty to see.

        It is proposed to do something similar again and with the added advantage that this time Jupiter will be in a favourable position to observe.

        Providing it is not actually raining there should be something for all members.

        It would be a good idea to let Phil know if you are interested on coming along and he will be pleased to give directions.

 

        Phil then introduced Bob Seaney who has been a member of the Society for some time and has provided us with some interesting talks in the past; his talk this evening was no exception.

 

Astro-archaeology in the British Isles

 

        For a while now, Bob has been visiting many ancient stone sites in Britain and where there are signs that the original builders had some considerable understanding of the workings of the stars and planets.  It has taken something like eight months for him just to prepare this fascinating talk.

        We were introduced to the subject by watching a video showing a number of stones carved with certain symbols, followed by a series of images showing the rays of the Sun shining down a long stone passageway and passing over a specific spot during the equinox even though the passageway had been constructed over 5,000 year ago.  Bob was to refer to this later.

        To set the scene we looked at the British Isles as they are today, and compared it with a map of Western Europe as it would have been 9,000 BC and which showed one continuous land mass.

        Bob explained how glacial effects had changed the landmass together with the sea having risen an astonishing 80 metres since 16,000 BC and eventually isolating the British Isles.

        About 8,000 BC, colonisation by stone-age people from Spain and Southern France began to take place.  From genetic analysis these people were linked to the Balkan Refuge.

        As early as 6,500 BC hunter-gatherers reached what was to become southern Britain.  Then about 3,000 BC they began to settle, becoming herdsmen and fishermen.  These were the ancestors of west Britain and Ireland, known as Celts.  Amongst these people were sophisticated astronomers who were aware, for example, of the movement of sunrise over the period of a year.

        It is believed that some of them also began to understand moonset which was even more complicated.

        They would have been aware of eclipses, meteors and lunar phases and of Earth’s polar axis.  They were fascinated by the Milky Way which they thought of as a river through the night sky.

        A number of planets were being observed and they were aware that at times some of them moved in the opposite direction to the normal progression of the stars.

        These astronomers noticed that in about 3,500 BC, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus all lined up.

        Now Bob introduced us to the location of the many megalithic sites in the British Isles; a number in Scotland and southern Ireland.  He also mentioned Kit Coty near Aylesford, one of our closest known sites.

        We looked at an impressive stone circle at Castlerigg in Cumbria and at a stone avenue at Callanish on the isle of Lewis in Scotland.

        We were told that Professor Alexander Thom had written a book in 1967 detailing his theory for the alignment of the stones at Castlerigg.  He thinks that certain stones line up with some permanent features on the horizon, indicating various astronomical events such as sunrise at the winter solstice.

        At some megalithic sites, Stone-age man could determine the longest day, the days of the year and even predict eclipses which would have made the “astronomers” very powerful people.  Many of these events were needed by them because of “life beliefs”.

        A remarkable chamber was discovered at Newgrange in Ireland.  A strange box shaped gap above the entrance was a mystery until it was found to allow sunlight to pass through it and shine straight down a stone passageway to light up a chamber at the far end.  This event occurs at sunrise at the winter solstice and it is thought that bones of the dead would have been brought here to be “Reborn”.

        Close by, at Knowth, stone calculators were found that show the phases and cycles of the moon, and even a diagram of the moon’s position over a period of time.

        On another stone were carvings illustrating various features seen on the surface of the moon.

        Bob now turned to Wiltshire and to Stonehenge and Woodhenge (which is only known from signs of wooden posts discovered at the site).  From recent research it is believed that the ashes of the dead were placed in the river and floated to the Avenue which leads to Stonehenge.

        In Cork there are many more megalithic stone circles and standing stones which line up to indicate various astronomical events.  There is also a theory that there must have been a standard measurement called the “Megalithic Yard”.  There is a considerable amount written about this and more can be found by going on the Internet through the “Google” search engine.

        Bob explained that there was no “Celtic” invasion as such but the movement of people from Iberia –Spain, Portugal and parts of southern France – happened over a long period of time and interestingly, people now living in Ireland, Anglesey and even Norfolk show strong genetic links.

        Armed with data from “Red Shift”, a computer programme, Bob has been to the Scilly Isles and brought back data and some remarkable photographs taken at the Megalithic site at Innisidgen on the north east coast of Saint Mary’s.

        For example, by lining up particular standing stones with certain features on the horizon at the Eastern Isles he was able to photograph sunrise at the summer solstice.

        Finally Bob said that at a number of sites on the Scilly Isles, it was possible to predict Sun settings by using many of the standing stones,.

        The talk generated considerable interest and it was helped by a number of diagrams provided by Bob including some of the ingenious stone calculators with explanations on their use.  He also provided a comprehensive list of books for those interested in looking further into the subject.  A copy of this list will be available at the November meeting.

 

        Following Bob Seaney’s talk, there was a short talk on Star diagonals, comparing prism and surface coated mirrors and introducing the Herschel Wedge. better known as a Solar Diagonal.

        Then Brian Mill’s looked at the Square of Pegasus and Cassiopeia with details of how to find M31, the Andromeda galaxy, the most distant object visible to the human eye.

        We looked at how to star-hop to find Pegasus, Pisces and Aquarius and to find Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the constellation of Pisces.

 

NOVEMBER MEETING

 

        Wednesday 18th November 2009 - Just recently there have been quite a few notes in the Newsletter referring to Iridium Flares.  At the November meeting, Phil Berry, a member of the Committee will be giving a talk about “Iridium Flares”; what are they, how do they come to be there and notes on their appearance.

        Meetings begin at 1930 although members are invited to arrive anytime after 1900 as this is a good time to exchange ideas and discuss problems and relax before the talk.

        The venue as always is in the Upper Room of the Methodist Church at the east end of Wadhurst Lower High Street, opposite the entrance to Uplands College.  (For those with SatNav – the post code is TN5  6AT)

 

 

FUTURE MEETINGS

 

        Wednesday 16th December 2009 - Paul Treadaway is giving another of his talks.  This time Paul talks about “Building the T200”.

He will be talking about the 400th anniversary of the telescope; how Newtonian telescopes work and mirror grinding, testing and figuring.

  He will also be talking about telescope making.

 

        Being the month of Christmas, there will also be the seasonal mince pies to go with our coffee.

 

        Tuesday 12th January 2010 – There will be a meeting of the Committee at 1930.  More information in the December Newsletter

 

        Wednesday 20th January 2010 – Jan Drodz is a member of the Society and has spoken to us about the Environment and how the World’s survival as we know, it relies on it.  This time he returns to talk about “Jan and His Instruments”.

        This is also the Society’s Annual General Meeting and all are welcome.

 

 

OTHER NEWS AND INFORMATION

 

        A number of telescopes owned by the Society are always available for members to borrow.  Ask any of the Committee members for further information.

 

SKY NOTES FOR NOVEMBER

 

Planets

 

Mercury is not visible this month due to its superior conjunction on 5th November, which occurs when Mercury is opposite us on the far side of the Sun.

Venus is still a morning object shining at magnitude -3.8 in the east although it is itself moving towards superior conjunction. Its phase is currently gibbous but its apparent diameter is declining all the time.

 

Mars rises before 22.00 by the middle of the month but is not really conspicuous being only magnitude +0.2 although it is gradually brightening. From the diagram below you can see the position of the red planet in the middle of the month, although at the start of November it passes in front of the open cluster M44.

 

 

Jupiter is in Capricorn at magnitude -2.4 and is still a brilliant early evening object although by the end of the month it will set by 22.00.

 

Saturn is a morning object in the constellation of Virgo rising at 02.30 by mid month. The ring system is again becoming visible to us although the viewing angle is still narrow.

 

Lunar Occultations

As usual in the table I’ve only included events for stars down to around magnitude 7.5 that occur before midnight. DD = disappearance at the dark limb and RD = reappearance at the dark limb.

You will notice that on the 20th and 30th there are events (marked with an asterisk) that occur very close together. This is because in both instances a star disappears and reappears within a space of just a few minutes meaning that it is almost a grazing occultation.

Times are all GMT.

 

Nov.

Time

Star

Mag.

Ph

PA °

1st

19.51

SAO 92530

6.2

DD

53

5th

19.41

SAO 77201

5.8

RD

286

20th

17.33

SAO 187483

7.5 *

DD

152

20th

17.44

SAO 187483

7.5 *

RD

169

21st

17.03

SAO 188551

7.5

DD

16

22nd

20.57

SAO 163798

6.9

DD

75

24th

21.46

SAO 145938

7.2

DD

61

25th

23.14

SAO 146412

6.2

DD

19

26th

17.21

SAO 128270

6.5

DD

113

26th

21.47

SAO 128329

7.4

DD

77

27th

20.32

SAO 109195

6.8

DD

55

28th

18.56

SAO 92310

6.9

DD

123

30th

17.36

SAO 75662

5.8 *

DD

148

30th

17.47

SAO 75662

5.8 *

RD

170

30th

20.24

SAO 75715

7.3

DD

79

30th

23.44

SAO 75764

7.6

DD

124

30th

23.56

SAO 75773

7.2

DD

96

 

Phases of the Moon

 

Full

Last ¼

New

First ¼

 

2nd

9th

16th

24th

 

15.47

23.14

07.18

12.32

Rise

06.44

13.10

15.22

23.24

Set

 

ISS

There are so many evening passes of the ISS this month that I have only included those that exceed magnitude -2 in brightness. Please remember that the times shown below are for when the ISS is at it’s maximum elevation, so you should start looking a few minutes beforehand. Details of all passes can be found at www.heavens-above.com

 

Nov.

Mag

Time

Alt°

Az.

11th

-2.1

18.16

32

S

13th

-2.4

17.26

35

SSE

14th

-3.3

17.48

66

SSE

15th

-2.2

16.36

34

SSE

15th

-3.4

18.10

79

WNW

16th

-3.2

16.58

64

SSE

17th

-3.4

17.20

85

N

18th

-3.5

17.42

76

N

19th

-3.4

16.29

86

N

19th

-3.5

18.04

88

WNW

20th

-3.4

16.51

76

N

21st

-3.4

17.12

88

N

22nd

-3.0

17.34

60

SSW

23rd

-3.4

16.21

86

N

24th

-2.9

16.43

63

SSW

 

Iridium Flares

The flares that I’ve listed are magnitude -3 or brighter. There are many more that are fainter, occur at lower altitudes and also after midnight. If you wish to see a complete list, go to www.heavens-above.com   Times are all GMT.  Remember that when one of these events is due it is often possible to watch the satellite in advance of the “flare”, although of course it will be much fainter at that time.

Nov

Time

Mag

Alt°

Az.

1st

17.50

-3

53

NNE

13th

18.42

-7

35

NNE

14th

18.36

-3

36

NNE

15th

16.34

-5

73

ENE

16th

16.28

-4

72

ENE

17th

16.21

-4

73

ENE

25th

17.37

-3

54

NE

 

Meteors - The Taurids

This is a shower with a low ZHR although the meteors seen are often slow and bright. Maximum occurs on November 3rd although the shower is known to be active from October 20th until November 30th.  Unfortunately the Moon will interfere, being just past full on the 3rd. The position of the radiant is shown below.

 

Meteors - The Leonids

The Leonids are more fortunate with respect to moonlight as the Moon is new during maximum on the nights of  the 16th/17th and 17th/18th. The radiant lies within the “Sickle” of Leo, fairly close to the position of Mars as shown in the planets section above. Estimates of the number of meteors varies but a ZHR of between 20 and 40 seems the most likely outcome although there have been suggestions of near “storm” rates of 500. The shower is associated with the Comet Temple-Tuttle discovered in 1865/1866 despite being observed some 165 years earlier without it  being identified as a periodic comet.

 

Advance warning for December

4th - Lunar occultation of Delta Geminorum (magnitude 3.5)

13th/14th - Geminid maximum

22nd - Ursid maximum

31st - Partial eclipse of the Moon

 

Brian Mills

 

 

NASA’S SPACE PLACE

 

Staring at Lightning

 

        There’s something mesmerizing about watching a thunderstorm. You stare at the dark, dramatic clouds waiting for split-second bursts of brilliant light — intricate bolts of lightning spidering across the sky. Look away at the wrong time and (FLASH!) you miss it.

        Lightning is much more than just a beautiful spectacle, though. It’s a window into the heart of the storm, and it could even provide clues about climate change.

        Strong vertical motions within a storm cloud help generate the electricity that powers lightning. These updrafts are caused when warm, moist air rises. Because warmth and lightning are inextricably connected, tracking long-term changes in lightning frequency could reveal the progress of climate change.

        It’s one of many reasons why scientists want to keep an unwavering eye on lightning. The best way to do that? With a satellite 35,800 km overhead.

        At that altitude, satellites orbit at just the right speed to remain over one spot on the Earth’s surface while the planet rotates around its axis — a “geostationary” orbit. NASA and NOAA scientists are working on an advanced lightning sensor called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) that will fly onboard the next generation geostationary operational environmental satellite, called GOES-R, slated to launch around 2015.

        “GLM will give us a constant, eye-in-the-sky view of lightning over a wide portion of the Earth,” says Steven Goodman, NOAA chief scientist for GOES-R at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre. Once GLM sensors are flying on GOES-R and its sister GOES-S, that view will extend 18,000 km from New Zealand, east across the Pacific Ocean, across the Americas, and to Africa’s western coast.

        With this hemisphere-scale view, scientists will gather an unprecedented amount of data on how lightning varies from place to place, year to year, and even decade to decade. Existing lightning sensors are either on the ground — which limits their geographic range — or on satellites that orbit much closer to Earth. These satellites circle the Earth every 90 minutes or so, quickly passing over any one area, which can leave some awkward gaps in the data.

        Goodman explains: “Low-Earth orbit satellites observe a location such as Florida for only a minute at a time. Many of these storms occur in the late afternoon, and if the satellite’s not overhead at that time, you’re going to miss it.”

        GLM, on the other hand, won't miss a thing.  Indeed, in just two weeks of observations, GLM is expected gather more data than NASA’s two low-Earth orbiting research sensors did in 10+ years.

        The new data will have many uses beyond understanding climate change. For example, wherever lightning flashes are abundant, scientists can warn aircraft pilots of strong turbulence.  The data may also offer new insights into the evolution of storms and prompt improvements in severe weather forecasting.

Staring at

(FLASH!)  Did you miss another one?  The time has come for GLM.

        Want to know how to build a weather satellite? Check the “how to” booklet at:

 scijinks. gov/weather/technology/build_satellite.

 

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

 

earth_lightning-med_res.jpg

 

Caption:

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on the next generation of GOES satellites will detect the very rapid and transient bursts of light produced by lightning at near-infrared wavelengths. This image was taken from the International Space Station and shows the Aurora Australis and lightning.

 

 

CONTACTS

 

Chairman     John Vale-Taylor

                                                      pjvalet1@btinternet.com

 

Treasurer            Mike Wyles                          01892 542863

                                                      mike31@madasafish.com

 

Editor            Geoff Rathbone                         01959 524727

                                                      geoff@rathbone007.fsnet.co.uk

 

Events                  Phil Berry                             01892 783544

                                                      phil.berry@tiscali.co.uk

 

Director of Observations       Brian Mills    01732 832691

                                                      Brian@wkrcc.co.uk

 

Wadhurst Astronomical Society website:

                                                      www.wadhurst.info/was/

 

SAGAS web-site                        www.sagasonline.org.uk

 

Any material for inclusion in the December 2009 Newsletter should be with the Editor by 28th November 2009