SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR 2012

 

        We have now entered the Society’s new session, and again, the subscriptions remain the same as in recent years.  Membership for the year is still £15.00 and £20 for two members within the same family at the same address.  Children and students are free and always welcome.

        Subscriptions can be made at the meetings, preferably by cheque payable to “Wadhurst Astronomical Society” or can be posted to our Treasurer, Michael Wyles at:

31 Rowan Tree Road

Tunbridge Wells

Kent

TN2  5PZ

 

        Visitors to meetings are asked for a £2 contribution towards costs.

 

MEETINGS

 

DATES OF THIS YEAR’S WEDNESDAY MEETINGS

 

15th February

21st March

18th April

16th May

20th June

18th July

No August meeting

19th September

17th October

21st November

12th December 2nd Wednesday

 

 

JANUARY  MEETING

 

The Annual General Meeting

 

        As the Society’s Chairman, John Vale-Taylor led the meeting, saying the Society has entered its 16th year and is in good shape.

The Secretary, Phil Berry thanked members who had given talks as this saves the Society fees.  He then briefly looked ahead at talks arranged for the coming year and asked for suggestions for further talks.  Phil also said that a concerted effort was to be made to start the meetings on time so as not to delay guest speakers who had often come long distances.  Extra seats would be provided at the back for members who need to arrive late.

John introduced our Treasurer, Mike Wyles who reported that we have 34 members at present.  Our outgoings included the cost of hiring the hall which had remained static, our fees to SAGAS, the Southern Area of Astronomical Societies and to the Federation of Astronomical Societies which includes our Public Liability insurance.

The Committee are looking at buying a modern digital projector for our meetings to replace the borrowed one and also stop watches to aid in occultation observations.

The Chairman then introduced tonight’s speaker, one of our members who has spoken to us on a number of occasions and on a number of subjects.

 

The Multi-universe

Bob Seaney

 

For some time now, Bob has been interested in the way different ages have thought about their place in their “universe”.  Stone Age Man was primitive but intelligent and wondered how their world worked and as an example we were shown a picture of Stonehenge and its astronomical alignments.

Newgrange in Northern Ireland is a Stone Age mound that aligns at the end of a long passageway with the Sun only on the Mid Winter solstice and they believed that the bones of their dead placed at the far end at this moment would be able to link with Heaven.

The Egyptians had similar beliefs using the alignment of the pyramids.  The body of the Pharaohs were placed inside the pyramids and at a certain time, their spirits would enter Heaven.

Bob said the Greeks and the Romans believed in the Underworld and Hades but in Norse mythology it was believed that their multi-universe consisted of nine worlds all on different levels.  He also said that Purgatory was where your sins were accounted for but sinners could buy themselves out of Purgatory and part of the Vatican had been built from these proceeds received from very rich people.

The Scientific Revolution began when in 140 AD Ptolemy said the Planets and the Sun revolved around the Earth.  As more was understood, Copernicus suggested the Sun was the centre of our planetary system, although Galileo was tried by the Catholic Church for daring to publish a book showing Copernicus to be right.

Bob related a very interesting meeting he had at a dinner in Italy when he met a gentleman researching early astronomy.  He had been allowed into the Vatican Library and found that, at the time of the invention of the telescope, the Catholics were very worried that this “Protestant invention” may allow the angels to be seen at the gates of Heaven!  This was their belief at the time and so Galileo was kept in confinement for the rest of his life.

From around 1850 brilliant scientific minds were developing a new era of understanding and a German mathematician produced the idea of a multi-dimensional view that allowed for the possible existence of other worlds.  This led to the spiritualist movement and the belief in possible after-death survival in a different world.  A founding member of the psychical research movement was the author of Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dodgson.  Charles Darwin also joined the movement after the death of his daughter.  The belief in the possibility of other dimensional worlds was growing.  This was the state of belief in a multi-universe towards the end of the Victorian age.

Around that time scientific understanding was just developing; light was then thought to be a wave, people were beginning to understand what was going on in the stars and the Sun.  There were theories of why a beam of light passing through two parallel slits produced blurred bands on a screen.  It was thought this was due to the light being a wave.

Then, as Bob said, the Quantum Universe arrived!

Max Planck proposed that energy was not continuous but came in discrete ‘lumps’.  Einstein went further, suggesting that ‘photons’ were packets of waves of pure energy where the energy level depended on wave frequency.

The next area of Quantum Mechanics we looked at were Probability Waves; a whole new way of looking at the Multi-universe.

We were told that two photons emitted together from an atom shared the same Wave Function, meaning they communicate instantaneously across space!  Bob went further and said that once a particle is detected, the Probability Wave is said to have collapsed.  The particle comes into existence at a point in time and space.   Astonishingly it seems that a particle doesn’t exist as such until it is looked for; before that it can be almost anywhere in the universe.

In 1926, Schrödinger developed an equation that showed where a particle could most probably be in his famous box.

Bob returned to the single light source sending a beam through two parallel slits and how it could be explained in Quantum terms.  One weird explanation was that particles go through slits that exist in a parallel universe.  Another, that particles signal to others that the path ahead is clear and yet another that paths, except those through the slits, cancel out.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity produced even more discussion, suggesting that the brain of a man standing on the rotating earth ages faster than his left toe!

At the Copenhagen Conference in 1927, much disagreement resulted in many amusing comments.  Bob showed a picture from a page in Alice in Wonderland; Alice wondering where her cat had gone; possibly Schrödinger’s cat…

 

    

 

Then research into nuclear physics during subsequent years produced the atomic bomb.

In 1929 Edwin Hubble formulated the theory of the expanding Universe, supported in 1931 by Einstein.  We were shown a diagram of the time scale from the Big Bang which posed the question “Is there a Dark Matter Universe directing expansion?”

We were introduced to the concept of the Standard Universe, made up of Quarks and Leptons, each of 6 different types.

Bob spent some time going through the wonderful world of fundamental particles that make up the universe.  He also looked at some of the mysterious forces such as magnetism, gravity and forces that hold particles together.

Is there a universe of anti-matter? A particle called the Higgs Boson must exist.  Bob explained that this particle holds back acceleration, - but will it be found?

String Theory was mentioned with the prediction that particles could exist that travel faster than light.  Our universe could be considered as 3 dimensional “BRANEs”.   Other parallel universes might exist with different physical laws in up to 11 dimensions!  Then the question posed was “Could there be a way of travelling between two BRANEs; from one universe to another and through time?”

After the Big Bang, the Multi-universe…?

 

        Bob made a complex subject enjoyable and a little clearer.

 

In solace Bob did suggest a book by Roger Penrose called “The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and The Laws of Physics” (1989, ISBN 0-14-014534-6 (paperback)

        A very useful chart of the Standard Model of Fundamental Particles and Interactions can be printed from:

www.particleadventure.org and clicking on “Particle Chart”

 

        After coffee and biscuits, Brian Mills gave his monthly talk about the night sky beginning with Orion, mentioning Barnard’s Loop, the Horse Head Nebula and information about Rigel and Betelgeuse.  There was some talk of the demise of Betelgeuse and what effect it might have on us, although that was thought to be very little; it would be very bright for a time.

        Brian talked about the Pleiades and the discovery that the nebulosity is caused by the group passing through the possible birth place of stars.

 

Then off to the pub; if it ever existed before being detected…

 

FEBRUARY MEETING

 

        Wednesday 15th February 2012 – Our own Jan Drodz has very kindly stepped and is to give a talk entitled “Revolutions in Astronomy”.

        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 also relax before the meeting.

        The venue as always is held 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)

        Anyone is welcome but non-members are asked if they wouldn’t mind contributing £2 towards costs.

 

FUTURE  MEETINGS

       

        Wednesday 21st March 2012 – There will be a talk by Ben Ritchie called “The Life and Death of a Very High Mass Star”.

 

        Wednesday 18th April 2012 – Steve Richards talks about “Making Every Photon Count”.  He has written a book of the same name and is a beginner’s guide to Deep Space Astro –photography.

 

        Wednesday 16th May 2012 – To be arranged.

 

        Wednesday 20th June 2012 – The Society’s Telescope Evening.

 

OTHER NOTES AND INFORMATION

 

SKY NOTES FOR FEBRUARY

 

Planets

 

Mercury suffers a superior conjunction on the 7th but should just be visible very low down in the west at sunset towards the end of the month. Never sweep for Mercury with optical aid until after the Sun has set. Early next month will provide the best evening apparition of this elusive planet.

 

Venus is unmistakable in the south west at sunset and throughout the early evening. At magnitude -4, it moves swiftly from Aquarius into Pisces and then almost to the border with Aries. By the end of the month it sets at 2145.

 

Mars rises at 1900 by the middle of the month and shines at magnitude -1 in Leo. The map shows its position although its reddish hue makes it difficult to mistake. It is currently moving retrograde at the moment and continues to do so until mid April when it begins direct motion (west to east) once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jupiter lies in the constellation of Aries at magnitude -2.3 although its brightness is decreasing slightly. It is still visible towards the west for most of the evening, but by the end of the month it will have set by 2300.

 

Saturn is technically an evening object, rising as it does at 2300h by the middle of the month. It begins February moving directly in Virgo, but on the 8th it reaches its first stationary point and then moves retrograde until mid June.

 

Uranus has a close encounter with Venus on the morning of the 10th of this month. The first map shows the position of Venus, and the second shows the grey square, from the first map, enlarged to indicate the two planets relative to the stars of Pisces.

        At their closest approach the two planets will be around 20 arc minutes apart - slightly less than the disk of the Moon.

 

 

 

Lunar Occultations

        In the table below I’ve listed events for stars down to magnitude 7.0 that occur before midnight although there are many others that are either of fainter stars or occur at more unsociable hours.  DD = disappearance at the dark limb and RD = reappearance at the dark limb.  Times are in GMT.

 

Feb

Time

Star

Mag

Ph

PA °

3rd

1914

XZ 75822

7.0

DD

38

3rd

1914

XZ7203

7.0

DD

38

3rd

2049

SAO 77358

6.4

DD

91

4th

1711

15 Geminorum

6.7

DD

70

4th

1726

16 Geminorum

6.2

DD

140

9th

2137

62 Leonis

5.9

RD

283

24th

1819

SAO109145

6.8

DD

133

27th

2016

36 Arietis

6.4

DD

58

29th

1635

53 Tauri

5.5

DD

95

 

Phases of the Moon for February

 

Full

Last ¼

New

First ¼

7th

14th

21st

-   -   -

 

ISS

        Below are details of passes of the International Space Station (ISS) that occur before midnight and are brighter than magnitude -2.5. The details of all passes including those visible from other areas can be found at:

www.heavens-above.com

        Please remember that the times and directions shown below are for when the ISS is at it’s maximum elevation, so you should go out and look a few minutes beforehand . Times are in GMT.

 

Feb

Mag

Time

Alt°

Az.

15th

-2.6

1909

37

S

17th

-3.3

1850

58

SSE

18th

-2.6

1753

37

SSE

18th

-2.9

1928

59

W

19th

-3.5

1831

78

S

20th

-3.0

1734

54

SSE

20th

-3.5

1919

78

N

21st

-3.5

1812

87

N

22nd

-3.5

185

79

N

23rd

-3.4

1753

78

N

23rd

-3.4

1929

71

SW

24th

-3.5

1831

87

NNE

25th

-3.0

1909

53

SSW

26th

-3.4

1811

77

SSW

28th

-2.9

1751

57

SSW

 

Iridium Flares

        The flares that I’ve listed are magnitude -2 or brighter although there are a lot more that are fainter, occur after midnight or at a lower altitude. If you wish to see a complete list, or obtain timings for somewhere other than Wadhurst, go to:

www.heavens-above.com

        Remember that when one of these events is due it is sometimes possible to see the satellite in advance of the “flare”, although of course it will be much fainter at that time. The events on the 9th and 18th should be worth watching as -8 is about as bright as Iridium flares can get. Times are in GMT.

 

Feb

Time

Mag

Alt°

Az.

1st

1910

-2

37

NNE

2nd

1904

-5

38

NNE

3rd

1702

-3

75

NE

8th

1836

-2

50

NNE

9th

1830

-8

51

NNE

10th

1824

-2

52

NNE

14th

2007

-6

14

N

15th

2000

-7

18

NNE

17th

1750

-6

65

NNE

18th

1745

-8

66

NNE

18th

1944

-7

27

NNE

21st

1931

-7

32

NNE

22nd

1925

-5

35

NNE

28th

1857

-3

46

NNE

29th

1850

-5

48

NNE

 

 

The Night Sky in February (Written for 2200 GMT mid month)

        In the north the bright stars Vega and Deneb from the Summer Triangle are just skimming the horizon. The two bears lie to the east of the pole whilst Cepheus and Cassiopeia lie to the west of it. Looking east the bright star Arcturus has risen, and Mars is nearly 30° up, located just below the hind quarters of Leo. To the south the dominant winter constellations are a little west of the meridian although the twins (Castor and Pollux) lie due south. If you have binoculars or a small telescope take a look at the two open clusters in Taurus (the Pleiades and Hyades) and also M42, the Great Orion Nebula. In the west Perseus is still high but Pegasus and Pisces have begun to set.

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Warning for March

3rd March - Mars at opposition

5th March - Mercury at greatest eastern elongation (best opportunity this year to view it in the evening).

13th March - Venus and Jupiter are three degrees apart.

 

Brian Mills

DEFINITIONS OF TERMS USED IN ASTRONOMY

        Retrograde motion refers to the way in which a planet appears to pause in its gradual west to east (direct) motion and then seem to travel for a period in the opposite direction (retrograde). It is caused when the Earth and another planet, that are both travelling at different speeds, “overtake” one another in their orbits. It is a purely line of sight effect and has nothing to do with the motion of the planets themselves.

        In the example below you can see the effect of the Earth passing one of the more distant planets “on the inside” so to speak and how the loop is drawn out in space. In positions 1 and 2 the motion of the planet is direct but by position 3 the first stationary point is reached as the two bodies close in. By position 4 the motion is retrograde until the second stationary point is reached at 5. After this direct west to east motion is resumed.

 

 

Brian Mills

 

 

NASA’S SPACE PLACE

 

The Nerdiest Video Game Ever

By Dr. Tony Phillips

 

        NASA has a job opening. Wanted: People of all ages to sort, stack, and catalogue terabytes of simulated data from a satellite that launches in 2015. Agile thumbs required.

Sorting terabytes of data? It’s more fun than it sounds.

        In fact it’s a game: Satellite Insight. The Space Place Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory created the entertaining app for iPhones to get the word out about GOES-R, an advanced Earth science satellite built by NOAA and NASA.

        Described by the Los Angeles Times as possibly “the nerdiest game ever,” Satellite Insight may be downloaded for free from Apple’s app store. Be careful, though, once you start playing it’s hard to stop. Some reviewers have likened it to Tetris, one of the most popular video games of all time.

        GOES, short for “Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite,” is the workhorse spacecraft for weather forecasters. NOAA operates two (at a time) in geosynchronous orbit, one above the west coast of N. America and one above the east coast. They monitor clouds, wind, rain, hurricanes, tornadoes and even solar flares.  The GOES program has been in action since 1975.

        GOES-R is the next-generation satellite with advanced technologies far beyond those of the older GOES satellites. It has sensors for lightning detection, wildfire mapping, storm tracking, search and rescue, solar imaging, and more. Many of the sensors are trailblazers. For example, the Advanced Baseline Imager has 60 times the capability of the current imager—16 channels instead of 5. It has twice the spatial resolution and five times the temporal refresh rate, including the 30-second imaging of weather systems over a region of 1000 km x 1000 km. Also, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper can count and pinpoint lightning bolts over the Americas 24/7. It’s the first such detector to fly on a geosynchronous satellite, and it could lead to transformative advances in severe storm warning capability.

        All in all, GOES-R represents a “huge technological leap from the current GOES.” We know this because Satellite Insight tells us so. The app has an informative “Learn More” feature where players can find out about the satellite and the data they have been sorting.

        Which brings us back to sorting data. It’s a bit like eating Cheerios; just don’t tell the kids it’s nutritious, and they love it. Helping GOES-R gather and stash data from all those advanced sensors is just as satisfying, too—a dose of Earth science wrapped in thumb-flying fun.

        More information about Satellite Insight may be found on the web at:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/satellite-insight/id463588902?mt=8

        The game also available in web form (flying thumbs optional) at spaceplace.nasa.gov/satellite-insight.

 

Caption:

New iPhone game is first NOAA app and only the second NASA game app.

Just as with the real GOES-R, the challenge with Satellite Insight is to keep up

with the massive influx of weather and other environmental data.

 

 

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

 

 

CONTACTS

 

Chairman     John Vale-Taylor

                                                      pjvalet1@btinternet.com

 

Secretary & Events                 Phil Berry             01892 783544

                                                      philberryemail@gmail.com

 

 

Treasurer            Mike Wyles                          01892 542863

                                                      mike31@madasafish.com

 

Editor            Geoff Rathbone                         01959 524727

                                                      geoff@rathbone007.fsnet.co.uk

 

 

Director of Observations       Brian Mills    01732 832691

                                                      Brian@wkrcc.co.uk

 

Paul Treadaway                       01342 313799

                                                      paul_treadaway@btinternet.com

 

Wadhurst Astronomical Society website:

                                                      www.wadhurst.info/was/

 

SAGAS web-site                        www.sagasonline.org.uk

 

Any material for inclusion in the March 2012 Newsletter should be with the Editor by February 28th 2012