PeGASus Newsletter Issue #35 – April 1993

  • Note from the Editor
  • The President Speaks
  • Observatory News
  • Meetings
  • Astronomy Day
  • Casino
  • The PegASUs Project
  • In the Sky

Prince George Astronomical Society Executive 1993 :

Bob Nelson 562-2131 President: 563-6928
Alan Pretty Vice President: 562-3562
Brian Potts 565-3625 Secretary: 562-8113
David Sundberg Treasurer : 562-5774/6655
Jim Livingstone Mem. at Large 964-0155
Rod Marynovich Mem. at Large 562-0952

PeGASus Project Directors

Ted Biech 562-2131 Director: 564-2838
Orla Aaquist 562-2131 Programs 964-9626 Coordinator
Bob Nelson 562-2131 Observatory 563-6928 Director


Note from the Editor:

Over the last few weeks, the PGAS has been approached by several individuals interested in astronomy and our society. This correlates directly to our recent flurry of activity and our increased public visibility. For example, our information booth at the Regional Science Fair drew the attention of many of the students and teachers who dropped by to have a look through the telescope and play with Ted’s galaxy collision simulation, and our school presentations are in increasing demand and will likely result in the need for a youth membership. Astronomy day is rapidly approaching and will give us an opportunity to attract more members.

In order to maintain the interest of new members, we need to do more astronomy since astronomy is what draws people to the PGAS. Much of our recent activity over the past year has been concerned with fund raising and observatory construction, with the astronomy side being neglected. I encourage all members to attend the monthly meetings to help us refocus some of our attention towards astronomy. The Editor


The President Speaks:

Hello, everyone!! Well, we have both cheques in our possession (a bird in the hand … ?). I refer, of course, to the $14,400 from the B.C. Science Council for the classroom addition (the remaining $1600 will be awarded on completion) and the $25,000 from the Ministry of Higher Education for the PeGASus project (equipment plus student help for the extravaganza to take place this summer). It’s gratifying to have the money at last. Now we have to make it all work. In a nutshell, things are looking good but there are a few headaches and concerns.


Observatory News: by Bob Nelson

The telescope is now level with the observing room floor (where we want it) with concrete added to raise the pier to the appropriate height (thanks Peter and all). The secondary structure at the top of the telescope ‘tube’ has been modified for the new secondary mirror and awaits installation. Thanks to Al Whitman, the telescope now has a new coat of paint and looks very ‘spiffy’. The next step is to align the axis as well as possible with the Polaris finder that I have. (Precision alignment will have to wait until we get the mirrors in.)

The boxes for light outlets, switches and convenience outlets have been installed and await the wiring. Supplies have been purchased and the College class is scheduled to install the wiring in the first week in May. Insulation and drywalling are next.

The next thing we need is a local burglar alarm. Lance and Mary are working on this and should come up with something soon. Thanks to Vince Hogan, the scrub bushes and trees are being cleared to give the neighbours a clear view of the building and hence give us better security.

Once the security has been upgraded, we will be able to install the mirrors and do the necessary optical alignment (and therefore be back in business!).

The dome needs work; this is occurring slowly. Soon we will be able to rotate the dome all the way around with confidence. We have to fix the 4 bullet holes, do some additional servicing and paint it.

Other work remains to be done on the original observatory building; however, it is proceeding well and we have to start on the classroom addition soon. The good news is that John Morgan, a professional engineer at the College has agreed to help us in the building design, and later in the certification of plans, so that we can get a building permit. At a meeting on April 21, John suggested significant improvements to the layout and alerted us to a radical new building technique that may save us considerable money. Stay tuned.

Soon (after our teaching responsibilities for the semester are finished), Ted and I will hit the phones scrounging for donations. We have yet to ‘test the waters’ this year but the more we can get donated, the better a building and the more equipment we can get. Our goal is still to break ground early in May and we should be on track.

Also, Ted, Orla and I will be getting together to decide on what software, instruments and equipment to order from the PeGASus budget. Look for some neat ‘goodies’ to arrive in mid to late June.


Meetings:

The Prince George Astronomical Society (PGAS) meets on the last Wednesday of every month (except December) at the College of New Caledonia (CNC) in the Physics Laboratory (Room 2- 223). Everyone is welcome to attend these meetings, and you can join the society for an annual fee of $20.00. Members of the PGAS have access to the observatory and equipment therein and receive this news letter on a monthly basis. For more information, contact Bob Nelson at 562-2131 or 563-6928 or write to The Prince George Astronomical Society, c/o 1393 Garvin St.,Prince George, B.C., V2M 3Z1.


Astronomy Day: by Orla Aaquist

The Prince George Astronomical Society (PGAS) and the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum are hosting an evening of star gazing on May 1 in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Astronomy Day. In recognition of this day, the museum is opening its doors to the public from 8:00 p.m. to midnight to give residents of Prince George the opportunity to enjoy an evening of stargazing with the PGAS. It will be an educational experience for all who attend. In addition to the telescope viewing, the PGAS will provide slide and video presentations and stimulating discussions. The event will proceed regardless of the weather. If it rains, the telescopes will be moved indoors to give the participants a chance to inspect the telescopes and talk to the owners. However, PLEASE pray for clear skies! If you plan to attend, bring binoculars, a spotting scope or a telescope if you have one.

Astronomy Day. What a strange thing to celebrate. Astronomy Day has an odd ring to it, doesn’t it? I believe that this is because it originated in California. Twenty years ago several astronomy clubs in California initiated the idea of setting aside one day a year to officially celebrate the wonders of the night sky and to share these wonders with the public. They also wanted draw attention to themselves in order to attract new members into their society. The idea spread to other astronomy clubs across the continent, and now Astronomy day is being celebrated throughout Canada, United States, and Mexico.

Astronomy Day is usually held in late April or early May while the Moon is in its first or last quarter phase. The reason for this is simply that the Moon gets in the way of observing the rest of the sky. Its not that the Moon is big, although it is pretty big compared with other objects in the sky such as the planets. The Moon gets in the way because it is bright and it makes all the other objects (nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters) difficult to see. Astronomy Day is also held in the early spring because it is not too cold. If it is too cold, the event will attract very few people, including the society members themselves. Then, why not hold it in the summer? If you celebrate Astronomy Day in the summer, the sun doesn’t set before 10 at night and it doesn’t get dark enough to see any nebulae, galaxies and star clusters before it is time to go to bed. That leaves the fall but in the fall the leaves fall and that gets too confusing for most of us, especially astronomers.

On May 1, the moon will be past its first quarter by two days, so it is somewhat bright and the conditions will not be ideal. The moon will rise at about 5:30 p.m. on May 1, so it will be quite high in the sky by 8 o’clock in the evening. It will not set before 3:30 in the morning.


Casino:

We have our casino license in hand. The dates are May 13, 14 (that’s right, it’s only two nights this year) – Thursday and Friday. Hopefully, because one night is on a weekend, we may be able to raise as much as, or more than we have previously. We will be looking for some volunteers to staff the event – Bob Nelson will be phoning. people soon.


The PegASUs Project: by Orla Aaquist

On April 15, the PGAS finally received the long expected cheque for $25,000. The cheque was presented to Ted Biech and me at the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum by our local MLA. Unfortunately, the press was not present at this momentous occasion so no pictures will appear in the Citizen, and no hand shaking will be seen on the local news. However, watch for the news release in the Citizen. After deliberating on the advantages of carrying out the PeGASus Project from Hawaii, we lent the money to the Bank of Montreal for safe keeping. The money will be used to carry out the PeGASus Project (see issue #34).

Also watch for a feature story by Ken Bornsen, Citizen writer, sometime within the next few weeks. Ken interviewed Bob, Ted and me on April 20 and took pictures at the observatory (hopefully) on April 24. Let us cross our fingers.


PeGASus needs your input! Please feel free to write letters, articles, book reviews or whatever and submit them to the editor for publishing in our newsletter. Send them to the address on the inside front cover.


In the Sky: by Orla Aaquist

Prince George residents, along with the rest of Western Canada, will wake up on May 21 to a partial eclipse of the Sun. On May 21, the Sun will rise in Prince George at 5:06 and shortly thereafter the moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun taking its first bite out of the north-eastern limb at about 5:30. The eclipse will be at its maximum at 6:15 at which time the Sun is about 10 degrees above the horizon. The encounter is over by 7:10. At the maximum of the eclipse, about 40% of the Sun will be covered. This will not be enough for the casual observer to notice since their eyes are just barely open at this time anyway. If you want to observe the eclipse, then you must be VERY CAREFUL!

NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN! There are several techniques for viewing the eclipse. The method readily available to the typical person is to view the Sun through a piece of #14 welder’s glass. Such glass can purchased at a welding supplies store in Prince George (look in the yellow pages under ‘welding equipment and supplies’). There are other safe methods. If you are interested, give us a call at CNC and ask for Orla Aaquist or Bob Nelson. The best view is obtained if you observe the event through a solar filter fitted over the front end of a telescope. We have one at the college, and if anyone out there is interested, give me a call (Orla at 964-9626).

If you get up before sunrise, have a look to the East at the bright ‘morning star’ Venus. On May 7 it shines its brightest at magnitude -4.5. It is, however, very close to the horizon.

A little higher in the dawn sky is Saturn, now in the constellation Aquarius. On the morning of May 2, Saturn’s most distant large satellite (Iapetus) passes through the shadow of the planet’s ring system. Since the planet glows from reflected sunlight, the planet will disappear and reappear as it passes through the ring’s shadows. You will, of course, need a telescope to see this event since Iapetus is quite faint. When not in eclipse, it shines at magnitude 11. While it is eclipsed by the rings, it will get as faint as magnitude 13 or 14. It will completely disappear when it passes into the planet’s shadow.

On the evening of May 11, Mars begins to traverse the Beehive open cluster in Cancer. The best view is on May 12. On May 13 planet leaves the confines of the cluster. .


Published monthly by the Prince George Astronomical Society.

Prince George Astronomical Society inquiries and PeGASus correspondence may be mailed to: PGAS c/o 1393 Garvin Street Prince George, B.C. V2M 3Z1