WADHURST ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
JANUARY NEWSLETTER 2007
INDEX: MEETINGS, OTHER NEWS, CONTACTS
Wishing all members of the Society a great New Year with lots of really clear skies!
is a meeting of the Society's Committee at 2000 on Monday 8th January 2007 in
the Abergaveny Arms in Frant.
There is an open invitation to any member of the Society to come along to meet the Committee and as always any suggestions are very welcome. The direction of the Society depends on the views of its members and fresh ideas are always very welcome.
Trials and Tribulations of an Amateur Astronomer
talk by Phil Berry, a member of the Society
of us have experienced the trials and tribulations of the amateur astronomer,
but in Phil's fascinating talk, he related many of the problems he has
encountered and described how he developed his experience in resolving them.
He also talked about astronomy courses he had taken part in.
began by describing his first telescope in the late 1960s - early 1970s, which
was an 80 mm Achromatic Refractor accepting 0.965-inch eyepieces and the
instrument had a manual equatorial mount. He
used Norton's Sky Atlas and pursued his interest in astro-photography.
objects he observed were the Moon, the stars and planets.
The main difficulty with this telescope was the time it took to get
up-and-running. Another problem he
found was actually locating objects, not helped by the quality of the optics,
and the non-standard eyepieces.
1999 Phil saw his first "goto" telescope, which at one stroke cured
most of his previous problems. He
purchased a Next-Star-5 that was quick to set up with built in star atlas; it
had good optics, accepting standard 1.5-inch eyepieces, was easy to transport
and could be battery or mains powered.
came WAS (The Wadhurst Astronomical Society) where Phil attended a talk given by
George Sallet on Web-Cams, and a whole new universe opened up before him.
got hold of a Philips Trucam Webcam with a 1.5-inch adaptor, enabling it to fit
his Next-Star-5 telescope. There
was also free software available all for less than £100.
Using a AC378 adaptor and removing the webcam's own lens, the telescope
focussed directly onto the CCD.
free software was "Registax" and Phil uses version 3, although version
4 is now available. Google Search
took me to the website www.astronomie.be/registax/
to download either version, although there are many sites enabling free
downloads of this software. There are also tutorials available.
was explained that the software picks out the best images from a set and then
lines them up to produce the final processed image.
next part of Phil's talk followed the route he has taken in learning more about
astronomy starting with a free GCSE course offered a few years ago by Uplands
College. A course, "Planet Earth", run for the Education Centre for
Astronomy and costing around £150 plus the fee for the exam is available.
There is course work, a constructional project.
The exam is set by Edexcel. We
were shown part of Phil's "Lunar Photography" project which was very
clear and was labelled using Photoshop. We
also saw a drawing of Lunar Craters where he began with an outline then dappled
in graded shading.
looked at a number of Internet sites in an attempt to discover what courses were
available on line. One site he
visited was the Open University website at: www.open.ac.uk/science/
From here one is able to browse through the various courses and
qualifications offered but the website that attracted him most was the Swinburne
University Online Virtual Global Class based in Australia.
Information for this facility can be viewed by visiting: astronomy.swin.edu.au/sao/
(note: no "www")
student becomes part of an online class, where they can ask and answer questions
via the computer. Bsc = 8 units; Msc = 12 units where 1 unit lasts about 14 weeks.
The courses cost more than the Open University but they last longer.
The cost was £440, which Phil pointed out, worked at £31 per week. The course material consisted of a CD - Internet environment
- Reference book. There were three
online tests; class forums and an essay to submit.
The main project was selected from a list with assessment and feedback.
project chosen by Phil was Project 101 - Wide-angle mosaic.
The object he was given to observe was the Pelican Nebula close to the
North American Nebula. The Pelican
covers about 1.5 degrees so is quite a wide field.
problems were; clear nights, the moon, shortening nights at the time of the
project, the trouble of focussing a 200 mm lens and then problems with the Field
of View of an f7 scope. With a
non-permanent base the complex set-up took up a lot of time.
least Phil managed to use WiFi to enable him to control everything from indoors,
once set up!
of the ladies on Phil's course was Anousheh Ansari who was to become the first
female "space tourist" aboard a Soyuz flight to the International
Phil talked a little about the Charged Coupled Device itself and its operation
and began by saying that the definition obtainable with today's CCDs now exceeds
that of film and can achieve 20 times more sensitivity.
To explain how the chip works, he used the analogy of buckets filling up
to represent photons collected by each pixel.
At the end of an exposure the buckets then transfer their contents to the
next row on command, stepping back until the edge of the chip is reached.
The line of buckets then transfer their contents along the line in steps
and there, each bucket's contents are measured to represent the signal, rather
like a TV signal.
exposures of several minutes can bring out faint objects and by using
filter-wheels, certain features can be enhanced and the effects of things like
light pollution can be considerably reduced.
showed a photograph of his garden, showing where his ideal position for an
observing dome should be and he promised to keep us informed of his progress.
An excellent talk containing lots of encouragement and advice, taking us in many directions.
17th January 2007 The talk is by
Bob Seaney, one of our Society members and the title of his illustrated talk is
"The Astronomical Art of Chesley Bonestell - Destination Moon (1953)
Highlights". Chesley Bonestell
is regarded as the father of modern space art.
This will be followed by the Society's Annual General Meeting, which takes place in January for the first time.
The meeting takes place in the Upper Room of the Methodist Church at the end of Wadhurst High Street and opposite Uplands College and begins at 1930.
21st February 2007 Ian King
presents a talk he calls "The GranTeCan" which might have something to
do with a trip he took recently.
21st March 2007 Our guest
speaker will be Dr. Stephen Serjeant and his talk is called "The Big
Questions in Cosmology".
Wednesday 18th April 2007 Jerry Workman will return to update the Society with the progress of Mars Express.
GO TO INDEX
Subscriptions for the coming year become due on the 1st of January 2007. Subscriptions remain the same as previous years at £15 per member and £20 for two members within the same family.
the end of January, both Venus and Mercury are visible just after sunset.
Mercury is always quite elusive, but will be visible for a short time
after the Sun has set with an apparent magnitude of -0.5 and 52% phase.
Beware the Sun! 6 degrees above Mercury will be Venus; much more easily
spotted with a phase of 90% and magnitude -3.9.
will have a magnitude of -0.1 and is just 7 degrees west of Regulus at the
bottom of the sickle in the constellation of Leo.
The rings of Saturn are still wide enough to be able to make out the
Cassini gap towards the outer edge. Titan,
Saturn's largest moon will have a magnitude of +8 and should be seen quite
easily through a small telescope, being obvious because of its daily motion
through its orbit.
Always well worth observing at this time of year is the constellation of Orion, no matter whether seeing the contrast in colour temperature between the main stars with the naked eye, or looking at the Orion Nebula below the three stars forming his belt, even trying to locate the Horse Head nebula, 30 seconds below the left hand of the three stars, with a larger telescope.
may like to note that the European AstroFest takes place on the 9th and 10th of
February at Kensington Town Hall, Horton Street, close to Kensington High Street
tube station on the District and Circle lines in London.
is £5 per day and £2 for children to see the exhibition that covers three
floors. There are many exhibitors
covering computer software, many telescopes and attachments, books and
Societies. Doors open at 0900.
latest information and advance tickets can be obtained by telephoning 01732
446106 or by checking out:
NASA SPACE PLACE
Dr. Tony Phillips
it. Whenever you see a new picture of Mars beamed back by Spirit or Opportunity,
you scan the rocks to check for things peeking out of the shadows.
A pair of quivering green antennas, perhaps, or a little furry creature
crouched on five legs...? Looking
for Martians is such a guilty pleasure.
you can imagine the thrill in 2004 when scientists were checking some of those
pictures and they did see something leap out.
It skittered across the rocky floor of Gusev Crater and quickly
disappeared. But it wasn't a
Martian; Spirit had photographed a dust devil!
devils are tornadoes of dust. On a
planet like Mars, which is literally covered with dust, and where it never
rains, dust devils are an important form of weather.
Some Martian dust devils grow almost as tall as Mt. Everest, and
researchers suspect they're crackling with static electricity-a form of
is keen to learn more. How strong
are the winds? Do dust devils carry
a charge? When does "devil
season" begin-and end? Astronauts
are going to want to know the answers before they set foot on the red planet.
problem is, these dusty twisters can be devilishly difficult to catch.
Most images of Martian dust devils have been taken by accident, while the
rovers were looking for other things. This
catch-as-catch-can approach limits what researchers can learn.
more! The two rovers have just
gotten a boost of artificial intelligence to help them recognize and photograph
dust devils. It comes in the form of new software, uploaded in July and
activated in September 2006.
software is based on techniques developed and tested as part of the NASA New
Millennium Program's Space Technology 6 project.
Testing was done in Earth orbit onboard the EO-1 (Earth Observing-1)
satellite," says Steve Chien, supervisor of JPL's Artificial Intelligence
Group. Scientists using EO-1 data
were especially interested in dynamic events such as volcanoes erupting or sea
ice breaking apart. So Chien and
colleagues programmed the satellite to notice change.
It worked beautifully: "We measured a 100-fold increase in science
results for transient events."
that the techniques have been tested in Earth orbit, they are ready to help
Spirit and Opportunity catch dust devils-or anything else that moves-on Mars.
we saw Martians, that would be great," laughs Chien.
Even scientists have their guilty pleasures.
out more about the Space Technology 6 "Autonomous Sciencecraft"
technology experiment at:
the use of the technology on the Mars Rovers at:
do a New Millennium Program-like test at home to see if a familiar material
would work well in space
This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
GO TO INDEX
Tim Bance 01732 832745
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 February Newsletter should be with the Editor by January 28th 2007
GO TO INDEX