PeGASus Newsletter Issue #37 – June 1993

  • Editorial Comments
  • May 21 Eclipse
  • The E-Mail Astronomer
  • Meetings
  • In the Sky
  • Observatory News
  • PGAS at Canada Day
  • Image Gallery

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


Editorial Comments:

This has been a particularly busy month for the PGAS with the arrival of new equipment, construction at the observatory, the completion of the first phase of the PeGASus project and the preparation of the second phase, and the arrival of summer and all the things that go with it (planting the garden, spring cleaning, vacations …). Yet, here is another edition of the PeGASus Newsletter.

With all the hustle and bustle it is difficult to say anything else but, ‘Heeeelp!’. Yes, we need help. We have all sorts of interesting jobs for you to do: tour guide, telescope operator, floor sweeper, landscaper, dirt mover, poster hanger, sign painter, wall painter, roofer, carpenter, educator, media liaison, programmer, filing clerk, and the list goes on. What is wonderful about these positions is that they are so exciting that money will not be important to you. You will simply want to do them because … well because they are … priceless. Yeah, that’s it. You will feel fulfilled simply by doing the job. You will forget about that vacation you planned, let your garden go to weed, and ignore your kid’s pleadings to take them to the lake. Trust me. Oh, by the way, did you know that pigs can fly? Oh well, I tried.

You should, however, come out to the observatory and see all the wonderful progress that is taking place. Pack a lunch….and a hammer.

The Editor


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.


May 21 Eclipse: by Matthew Burke

As I woke up on the morning of May 21st my foggy mind tried to work out just why I was awake at 5:00 in the morning. Normally I would dismiss such notions as foolishness and go back to sleep. However on this particular morning I remembered that there was a special reason for getting up. Today there was going to be a partial solar eclipse.

As a boy I could remember the last time the sun’s light was blocked by the moon. My parents, and teachers from school all told me what was going to happen then adamantly informed me not to look at it or I would go blind. I know now that there are several safe ways to view an eclipse: #14 welder’s glass, pinhole cameras, solar projection using a telescope, or solar filters in conjunction with a telescope. Many people ask me why a partial eclipse is dangerous to look at when actually the sun is partially covered and there is less light. The danger is that it does not hurt your eyes as much to look at a partial eclipse yet rays coming directly from the sun are just as harmful. Therefore if you do stare directly into an eclipse during partial phases you will go blind.

My anticipation was dampened when I finally reached the college parking lot, the sky was filled with clouds and it was looking like I would have to wait until May 10th, 1994 before I could view another solar eclipse from this part of the world. After a little discussion with one of my friends and borrowing welder’s glasses, we decided to make our own luck by chasing a window of opportunity.

We immediately raced away in our cars towards the Hart Highway. As we crossed the Nechako bridge I looked up and caught a momentary glimpse of the eclipse through the clouds. I had a strange feeling in my stomach for some reason. It seemed odd to view a crescent sun. Unlike a crescent moon, the 40% of the Sun’s disk that was missing was pitch black. The view through the clouds was fleeting however and I needed to pay attention to the road to avoid ramming into oncoming traffic. We continued down the Hart until halfway to Salmon Valley and it started to rain. Resigned to our fate we turned around to head back to town. Miraculously on the way back the clouds thinned and we finally got a clear view. The clouds were thick enough at times to view the eclipse with the naked eye. However when the clouds thinned the eclipse was too bright to look at. Under these conditions the welder’s glasses were too dark to look through. Turning around to face away from the sun I held up the welder’s glass and used it as a mirror. The black surface absorbed enough light while reflecting enough to give a clear view of the phenomenon.

Overall it was a highly exhilarating experience. There is really something to be said for viewing events for yourself, rather than relying on TV, or books. If you are interested, the next total solar eclipse will occur in South America to the southern Atlantic ocean on November 3, 1994.

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in viewing solar eclipses, we now have some software which shows the eclipses and their paths many years into the future. This software, among much more, will reside on our PGAO computers.

WARNING! Never look directly at the Sun under any circumstances unless your eyes are properly protected.


The E-Mail Astronomer:

Most amateur astronomers in Prince George are aware that they have access to a lovely observatory, clear and dark skies, and pretty good weather (at least in the summer!). But did you also know that a local phone call can give you access to a wealth of astronomy science news, chit chat on astronomy issues, and product evaluations? Well it can, and in this article I explain the nuances of “online” information.

Many of you might very well be aware that if you have a personal computer (any make will do), a modem, and a telecommunications software package you can call other computer systems called Bulletin Board Services (BBS for short). Once connected to the BBS you enter your name and a password (if you’re a new user to the BBS the computer will usually ask you to choose a simple password) and begin to explore the various message databases and computer files the BBS has to offer.

One BBS in Prince George called The Exchange has a message database called “ASTRONOMY” where new messages are entered by users at the rate of about 30 per day. Where do these messages come from?

The Exchange BBS is a member of an amateur computer network called FidoNet. Each night during “echomail hour” all the computer systems attached to this network phone each other and exchange “mail packets” containing messages entered by BBS users from the individual systems. Although the intricacies are a little complex, you might try and think of it as communicating with drums. One clan sends a message to a close-by clan, who then repeats the message to another close-by. Eventually the message travels much farther than possible for the original clan to send. This “echoing” mode of communication essentially reduces the cost of long distance telephone calls and allows a truly international participation to the ASTRONOMY echo.

The ASTRONOMY echo caters primarily to observational amateur astronomers. Reading the message base often provides valuable information about telescope maintenance, eyepiece choice, filters, and general observing tips. There is also quite a bit of debate on things like the plasma vs. Big Bang model of cosmology, radio astronomy, and political issues such as light pollution and sky advertising. Sky and Telescope uploads “Skyline” once a weak, and the IAU (International Astronomy Union) issues their famous “telegrams” about four or five times a week (that’s where I heard about SN 1993J). So what does all this cost? Nothing for a limited account on The Exchange. If you pay $20.00 per year you can get more time per day, but it certainly isn’t necessary to get the gist of the ASTRONOMY echo. How do I connect?

  1. Set your telecommunications package to 8N1 (you can refer to the manual if you don’t know about stopbits and parity etc.!)
  2. Call the Exchange at 962-5971.
  3. Enter your first and last name.
  4. Fill out the questionnaire.
  5. Select a password.
  6. Follow the instructions and main menu commands and make your way to the message section of the BBS.
  7. Select “ASTRONOMY” as the message base you want to read and follow the menu commands that explain how to select messages and how to enter and respond to messages.

There are other message databases even larger than FidoNet ASTRONOMY echo. You may have heard about the Internet and its message database service called USENET. The Internet is a collection of over 100,000 university, corporate, and private computer systems catering to around 2 million users worldwide. The Internet is currently the worlds largest and fastest growing computer network and the range of information available on ‘any’ topic is daunting indeed. A message database that’s similar in form to FidoNet ASTRONOMY echo is available on the Internet service USENET and is called “sci.astro.” sci.astro receives around 75-100 messages per day similar in content and form to ASTRONOMY, but of a more technical nature. There are also newsgroups (they are called newsgroups rather than echoes on USENET) called alt.sci.planetary, sci.astro.hubble, sci.space, and sci.astro.fits. All of these newsgroups are available in the Lower Mainland through services such as MindLink and Vancouver Freenet. Hopefully UNBC will be able to provide public access to USENET at some future time, but until that occurs there is no public access USENET BBS in Prince George.

I hope this article wasn’t too confusing! If you have any questions regarding how to connect to the online world of astronomy electronic mail please give me a call at 564-7965.


Meetings: by Orla Aaquist

The next meeting of the PGAS will be held on the last day of June (Wednesday, June 30) at 7:30 P.M. at the College of New Caledonia in room 2-223.

At this month’s meeting some of our new ‘stuff’ will be on display. This includes a new C-8 telescope, a CCD camera, an H-alpha solar filter, a solar projection system, and some software on our new computer. We have purchased a variety of astronomy posters and post cards which we hope to sell to the public (or you) in order to raise money to buy more ‘stuff’. Our resident graphic artist has painted T-shirts with the PeGASus logo (a flying horse … right side up) which we hope to sell to the public (or you) in order to raise even more money to buy even more ‘stuff’. The meeting will close with a video entitled ‘Flying by the Planets’.

At the last meeting we had a quick look through our new H-alpha filter. Unfortunately, the Sun was setting and the eyepiece was dirty. Since this time, the eyepiece has been cleaned and the Sun re-observed at a higher altitude. The results are spectacular. At the next meeting, if it is clear, someone will have the filter mounted on a telescope outside the front of the college prior to the meeting so that you can have a better look.

Also at the last meeting, Alan Whitman presented an exciting and informative talk on his experiences with solar eclipses. Thanks for the great talk and the wonderful video and images, Al. by Orla Aaquist


In the Sky: by Orla Aaquist

This section is a summary of what the editor finds interesting in the magazine Astronomy.

Mercury is visible shortly after sunset during the first few days of July, near the western horizon. It passes between the Earth and the Sun on July 14, and near month’s end it joins Venus in the early morning sky.

Venus will rise about three hours before the Sun in early July and appears like a beacon in the morning sky.

Mars is in the constellation Leo not far from Regulus, and it shines a little fainter than this star. It is midway up in the west after sunset and sets about three hours after the Sun.

Jupiter lies just slightly east of Mars. This planet is also fading, but it still outshines any nearby star and is therefore difficult to miss. Jupiter is near quadrature, and as explained in the last issue, it is a good time to watch for the disappearance of the moons into the planet’s shadow. Near quadrature, the planet’s shadow is cast at an extreme angle to one side of the planet, and the moons pass alternately into and out of this zone of darkness.

Saturn, rises in the East about three hours after sunset at the start of July. It rises earlier as the month progresses. By the middle of August it will reach opposition when the Earth passes between it and the Sun. On the evening of July 20, watch for Saturn’s moon, Iapetus, traversing the shadow cast by the ringed planet.


Observatory News: by Bob Nelson

Construction at the observatory is progressing at a good pace. However, we are facing a deadline which has us opening our doors to the public on July 1. As of June 22, the classroom walls are up, the floor is down, and the doors are hung. However, there are many things yet to be done before we can run our public awareness program from the site. In particular, the roof of the classroom must be raised, the dome must be sealed, the parking area should be gravelled, walls need plaster and paint, and the optics on the 24″ must be put in place.

As you can see from the above paragraph, the conditions at the observatory are not ideal. As the summer progresses, our hope is to continue making the environment at the observatory more appealing. So,

if you have any spare time, we will appreciate any assistance you can provide.

When the roof covers the classroom and the telescope optics are in place, we will be entertaining the general public at the observatory as part of the PeGASus Project. Volunteers are also needed for this aspect of our activity. At the moment, Orla Aaquist, Ted Biech, and Matthew Burke are involved with the summer public program. Matthew has been hired as a part time assistant through money available from the PeGASus project.

There are many things which we would like to show the public at the observatory this summer. We have obtained some wonderful new equipment, including a solar projection system, a new C8, an H-alpha solar filter, computer system and software, and beautiful posters, slides and videos. We wish to sell the posters and post cards, T-shirts with the PeGASus Logo and other concession items. It will be difficult for three people to effectively manage all of this for four days a week for the entire summer. So,

if you have any spare time, we will appreciate any assistance you can provide.


PGAS at Canada Day: by Orla Aaquist

This year, like last year (and probably years previous to this as well, but I wouldn’t know because I was not a resident of Prince George then) the Multi-Cultural Heritage Society will be celebrating Canada Day on July 1 in Fort George Park. This year, the PGAS will have a booth at the Canada Day celebrations and we are looking for members and friends of the PGAS to give us a hand staffing the booth.

In the booth we will have a variety astronomy posters, post cards, and T-shirts for sale, we will have friendly people to answer inquisitive questions, and will display our new Great Polaris C-8 telescope, Bob’s Big Eye, and a variety of other telescopes. If you have a telescope, bring it down to the booth; the more telescopes the better because people love looking through telescopes, big or small, cloudy or clear. If it rains, we can move the telescopes into our rain proof booth. We also hope to have our new H-alpha filter attached to a C-8 (if it is not cloudy) and a computer to demonstrate various astronomy software which we have acquired.

We plan to assemble the booth at about 11 a.m. If you want to help with this task, just come down to the park; or you can give me a call for more specific information (964-9626). The booth will remain open until at least 5 p.m. and perhaps until as late as the fireworks, if there is enough interest. If you want to help staff the booth, guard a telescope, sell T-shirts (posters and post cards), or answer questions about our club or astronomy, just come down any time (the sooner the better). If not, come and buy a T-shirt, post card or poster. If not, then just drop by to give us some moral support and look at our T-shirts, post cards and posters. Hope to see you there.


Image Gallery

newton1

The galaxy, NGC 891 in Andromeda taken with an ST6 CCD camera by Jack Newton.

The Ring Nebula in Lyra taken with an ST6 CCD camera by Jack Newton.


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