PeGASus Newsletter Issue #42 – Nov. 1993

  • Editorial Comments:
  • Lunar Eclipse Party
  • Astronomy is Easy
  • Monthly Meetings
  • Announcements
  • A Handsome Prince
  • In the Sky
  • Observatory Access
  • Membership List
  • Image Gallery

Prince George Astronomical Society Executive 1993/94

President Orla Aaquist 562-2131/964-9625
Vice President Bob Nelson 562-2131/563-6928
Secretary Jon Bowen 563-9869
Treasurer David Sundberg 562-5774/6655
Members at Large Ted Biech 562-2131/564-2838
Matthew Burke 964-3889

Nominated Positions

Technical Director Bob Nelson
Observing Director Jon Bowen
Promotional Director Orla Aaquist
PeGASus Editor Shannon Austman
The Observatory phone number is 964-3600. This is a party line, so if it rings busy, it does not imply that someone is at the observatory.


Editorial Comments:

Contrary to popular belief, the editorial comments are not written by the editor. They are written by various editorial staff which help out at the PeGASus office. We have a large transient staff, not all club members, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to control what ends up in this newsletter. We would prefer devoting this newsletter to only local astronomy and PGAS activities, but for that we need input from our membership. When there is not enough astronomical input, we have to go elsewhere. The story that appeared last time about the partially digested mouse was written by our janitor who comes in after hours. The janitor slipped in the story just before the last printing of the newsletter. Thanks to Chris Brougham for bringing the non-astronomical value of this story to our attention. We will try not to let this happen again. If any or our readers are interested in a janitorial position at the editor’s office please give us a call.


Lunar Eclipse Party:

On Sunday evening, November 28th the moon will enter the Earth’s shadow. The eclipse will occur high in the sky after twilight. It has been many years since such a favourable eclipse has occurred in western Canada. The PGAS is taking advantage of this event and opening the observatory to the public and, of course, to club members.

On the evening of the eclipse, the observatory will open at 8:00 PM, just in time for the first faint penumbral shading. Our concession stand will be open to serve coffee and cookies, and astronomical videos or slides will be playing while we wait for the moon to enter the umbral shadow at about 8:40. At 10 o’clock the total eclipse begins, and it ends 50 minutes later, shortly before 11 o’clock. After totality, we begin cleaning up and closing down.

According to Alan Whitman, your unaided eye, binoculars and low-power telescopes will give the best view of the event. Therefore, the 61 cm and the GPC-8 will not be used to look at the moon, however we plan to have them in operation to look at other celestial objects.

This is a great chance for members to get together and for the public to visit our new facility. To keep the cold out, we are renting a gas heater, and hopefully the classroom will be insulated by then. The observatory will be open regardless of the weather, except if the roads are too treacherous from the snow. If you have any doubts, call someone on the planning committee: Jon Bowen, Matthew Burke, Orla Aaquist, or Bob Nelson.


Lunar Eclipse Party:

On Sunday evening, November 28th the moon will enter the Earth’s shadow. The eclipse will occur high in the sky after twilight. It has been many years since such a favourable eclipse has occurred in western Canada. The PGAS is taking advantage of this event and opening the observatory to the public and, of course, to club members.

On the evening of the eclipse, the observatory will open at 8:00 PM, just in time for the first faint penumbral shading. Our concession stand will be open to serve coffee and cookies, and astronomical videos or slides will be playing while we wait for the moon to enter the umbral shadow at about 8:40. At 10 o’clock the total eclipse begins, and it ends 50 minutes later, shortly before 11 o’clock. After totality, we begin cleaning up and closing down.

According to Alan Whitman, your unaided eye, binoculars and low-power telescopes will give the best view of the event. Therefore, the 61 cm and the GPC-8 will not be used to look at the moon, however we plan to have them in operation to look at other celestial objects.

This is a great chance for members to get together and for the public to visit our new facility. To keep the cold out, we are renting a gas heater, and hopefully the classroom will be insulated by then. The observatory will be open regardless of the weather, except if the roads are too treacherous from the snow. If you have any doubts, call someone on the planning committee: Jon Bowen, Matthew Burke, Orla Aaquist, or Bob Nelson.


Monthly Meetings:

Last Meeting

At the last meeting of the PGAS Bob reported that work is once again progressing at the observtory. The eaves are closed, the interior of the main room is framed (thanks to Carrier Lumber for the donation of wood). Still to be done are the little rooms to be framed, wiring, insulating, lighting, and-so-on. Orla reported that Alan Whitman will be running the next set of NOA workshops (see report elsewhere in this newsletter). He also suggested that the club have an open house at the PGAO on the evening of the lunar eclipse (Sunday, November 28). On the financial side, it was reported that the club has about $4000, that we should be applying for a Casino Night in the near future (January or February of next year).

Also at the last meeting, we held the PGAS executive elections. The results were as follows:

  • President Orla Aaquist
  • Vice President Bob Nelson
  • Secretary Jon Bowen Treasurer
  • David Sundberg
  • Members at Large Matthew Burke Ted Biech

After the election, Brian Potts gave a superb presentation on astrophotography and showed us some of his astrophotographs. After the presentation, the beginnings of a astrophotography group was formed (Brian Potts, Jon Bowen, Matthew Burke, and Gil Self). After Brian’s talk, Orla showed some images of galaxies in collision, and Dave Kubert followed with a computer simulation that Ted Biech and he have been creating. The simulation was impressive, and Dave indicated that they will be marketing the software in the near future.

Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held at the College of New Caledonia in the Physics Laboratory (room 2-223). As usual, the meeting will start at 7:30 with a short business report from the various executive and directors. Following the business meeting our promotional director will describe our plans for the LUNAR ECLIPSE PARTY at the observatory on Sunday November 28. Bob Nelson will tell us what is visible in the night sky in November and over Christmas holidays. Alan Whitman will talk about the best way to observe the Lunar Eclipse. Lastly, Mike Foottit, a grade 9 teacher at Lakewood Secondary, will describe the astronomy program which is part of the grade 9 school curriculum.

There has been a suggestion that the PGAS have a Christmas get-to-gether sometime in December. If you are interested in a Christmas gathering (to sing astronomy Christmas songs, and bring gifts to the club’s president), let us know. The subject will be discussed at the next meeting to see what interest there is for such an event. Which reminds me. Does anyone out there want to be social coordinator for the club? Give Orla a call if this is of interest to you.


Announcements

Observatory Bookings :

The observatory is available to PGAS members for their personal observing projects. It is also open for special interest groups such as schools and cubs. If you want to book the observatory, contact the Observatory Director (Jon Bowen, 563-9869), before finalizing your observing plans to ensure that conflicts do not arise. Also, not all of our equipment is kept at the observatory at all times because of our activity with the Scientist in the School Program and The PeGASus Project.

The NOVA Workshops:

The NOA workshops are now called the NOVA workshops. NOVA stands for New Observers to Visual Astronomy. Alan Whitman (962-7665) is heading up the next series of NOVA workshops. The workshops will be held every Thursday evening at 8pm starting November 18 and continuing to December 16 come snow or shine. If you want to participate, give Alan a call.

NOVA is not limited to inexperienced observers. We would also like experienced people at these workshops to help out with the new observers. For the more experienced people attending the workshops, training can be arranged on the 61 cm telescope, the CCD camera, the SPC-8, photography, and computer software.

Come our and participate in astronomy. Attend the NOVA workshops.

ll for Keys:

Various members have keys to the observatory. If you have a key, you are a designated Key Member and have an obligation to open the observatory for regular members when they wish to make use of the observatory (see the article on Observatory Access in this newsletter). If you have a key and do not wish this responsibility, please give Bob Nelson a call and make arrangements for the key to be returned to the executive.

Executive Meeting:

The executive next meets on Friday, November 26 at the College of New Caledonia in the Physics Laboratory at 12:10 PM. If you have any submissions for discussion, please let someone on the executive know by the next monthly meeting.

Sky and Telescope Subscription:

The club is eligible for a subscription discount to the magazine Sky and Telescope. As a member of the PGAS you can take advantage of this discount if we order the magazine through the club. If anyone wants to subscribe to the magazine, please give Bob Nelson a call or let him know at the next monthly meeting.

Lunar Eclipse Party!: Sunday, November 28 from 8 to 11 PM at the PGAO. See article on page 4 of this newsletter for details.

Christmas Party?: Is there any interest in a PGAS Christmas party?


A Handsome Prince: by Orla Aaquist

In a distant galaxy there lived a handsome prince. One day he went exploring, and no one’s seen him since. He never told his family that the stars were very bright; He just flew off in a space ship on a starry night.

For many years he had watched the sky recording all he saw, The planets moving around the Sun obeying Kepler’s Law. He never told his friends about the things he saw at night; He just flew off in a space ship on a starry night.

Some say that on a summer night he saw a star explode, and blinded by the vision his reason did erode. Like a fish caught in a search beam and drawn towards the light; He flew off in a space ship on that fateful night.

Some think that on that summer night a comet drifted by. As he reached out to touch its tail he was pulled into the sky. Now riding on a comet he’s racing through the night, Walking up to heaven on the comet’s frosty light.

But I believe that he is safe and travelling afar, Exploring distant planets orbiting some star, Or drifting through a nebula in an endless sea of light, Flying in his space ship through the starry night.

Some day he will come back to us and tell us what he saw At the Centre of the Galaxy, and if there is a law Which governs how the universe came to be so bright With planets, stars and nebulae every starry night.


In the Sky: by Alan Whitman

Most of the planets are clustered near the Sun in December, although Saturn is still fairly well placed for observation in the early evening. Jupiter is the bright object in the South-East just before sunrise.

The Geminids meteor shower occurs on the night of December 13-14. There will be a new moon, so conditions are favourable for observing this shower. The Geminids produce similar numbers to the August Perseids, but the shower is not as well known simply because December is a cold month to lie back and watch meteors.

There are no drastic planetary alignments in December. Don’t forget the total lunar eclipse on the evening of November 28th. See last month’s column for the details.

Editorial Note:

According to the Observer’s Handbook there are 11 major and 12 minor visual meteor showers every year, with at least one meteor shower every month. Meteoroids are small solid particles moving in orbits about the Sun. On entering the Earth’s atmosphere they become luminous and appear as meteors or fireballs. On rare occasions, they may be large enough to fall to Earth as meteorites.

The light of meteors is produced by a mixture of atoms and molecules, originating from both the meteoroid and Earth’s atmosphere.


Observatory Access: by Orla Aaquist

The PGAS executive is developing a procedure for gaining access to the observatory. At the moment, some members have keys and others do not. Members with keys go out and use the observatory whenever they want, and I am not sure what members without keys do if they want to use the facility. It is important that we develop some procedure which is fair to all members who want to have access to the observatory.

At present there are 12 keys distributed among our members. The executive has decided not to cut any more keys for now since we are worried that we may loose track of them. If you want to become a key holder, contact our Vice-President (Bob Nelson).

As a key holder you have certain responsibilities. Members who hold a key to the observatory are responsible for ensuring that the observatory is accessible to paid members of the club, and to make sure that inexperienced members get assistance when they wish to use the observatory equipment.

If you do not have a key and you want to gain access to the observatory, you must first find a key holder from whom to get a key and find an experienced member (which may or may not be the key holder) who has time to assist you with your activity. If you are an experienced member, you simply have to arrange to borrow a key from a key holder.

If you have a key which does not appear on the Membership List on page 14, or if you want to relinquish your key, please let Bob Nelson know.


Membership List:

Here is our current mailing list. The names on this list are a mixture of paid-up members, prospective members, and friends and neighbours of the club. The list includes home phone numbers and the Observatory Key Number held by that person.

If you appear on this list and have not paid your annual dues yet, this is a reminder that it is again time to do so. If you cannot make it to one of the monthly meetings, then fill our the application/renewal form on the last page of this newsletter and send us a cheque. If you are no longer interested in the PGAS, we would appreciate a call from you so that we can drop you from our mailing list.

If you want to continue to receive this most entertaining newsletter and be informed of the last page of this newsletter and send us a cheque. If you are no longer interested in the PGAS, we would appreciate a call from you so that we can drop you from our mailing list. If you want to continue to receive this most entertaining newsletter and be informed of the astronomical activity in Prince George, you are encouraged to renew your membership.


The Image Gallery

mars_a nebula_a


PeGASus is published monthly by the Prince George Astronomical Society. Contributions to the newsletter are welcome.

Deadline for the January issue is Friday, January 7

Send correspondence to: The PGAS 3330 – 22nd Avenue Prince George, B.C. V2N 1P8