Category Archives: 1987

PeGASus Newsletter #8 – Nov. 25, 1987

My goodness, how time flies – another newsletter! A lot has been happening recently: progress on the doors, recent observing, an astronomy course, and another meeting. Details follow.

We also have an article on radio astronomy by Gail.


OBSERVATORY NEWS

Since the last newsletter, (but not since the last meeting – as most of you know) we had a break-in. Unfortunately, the generator and the stepladder were stolen. Since then, however, we have purchased (at a good price) another generator, and have a line on a sale-priced stepladder.

The first priority is to replace the doors. We are very fortunate in having personnel in the Trades department at the College who are willing and ready to help. Lloyd Anderson and his students in the welding shop have made us a fine set of doors and, at the time of writing, Bob Martin is planning to install them for us on Saturday. The doors are really sturdy-looking and should repel nearly any assault. Stay tuned…

With the doors installed, we will be able to get on with our other work and projects. The weather is starting to get miserable – it must be time to work on the observatory again!


RECENT EVENTS AT TMO

There hasn’t been much activity out there of late. However, once the doors are on, we can get on with astrophotography and other work with the big telescope. There seems to be quite a bit of interest in photography. The way to do it would be to take chemicals out there – with a working generator, we can have heat in the basement and develop film as it is taken. Instant feedback! Photography would be either “piggy back” with a 35 mm camera or through the large telescope.

Your executive has decided to have our driveway plowed again this year.

On the observing front, we had a nice turnout at the Forests for the World sit on Cranbrook Hill, Sunday night. With 3 telescopes set up, we saw Comet Bradfield (spectacular in the west), Jupiter (bands including possibly the red spot), M27, M57, M31, M32, etc. Why not join us next time?


WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY

  • Jupiter is still prominent, high in the south. With the observatory functional again, photography will be a good bet.
  • Comet Bradfield is very prominent in the west. Photography may be hard since, from TMO, it would be over the city.
  • The Orion Nebula is becoming prominent and will also be a good subject for photography.

SPECIAL NOTE

The long-awaited news is final – if there’s sufficient interest, a one-semester credit astronomy course will be offered at CNC (by yours truly), starting in January. It’ll be two nights a week – Tues and Thurs, from 7:00 to 8:30. (Two nights a week were chosen because many people feel that a 3-hour lecture is too long.) Although the course has to satisfy university requirements, the emphasis will be on making it interesting, lively and non-technical (as far as possible). There will be virtually no pre-requisites and we will minimize the mathematics (although we will still need an equation or two). On clear nights, there will be observing after class (possibly on the roof of the gym). You can take the course for credit, or audit it (for less cost). Why not plan on taking it? More details at the meeting.


RADIO ASTRONOMY By Gail Brawn

As those of us interested in Astronomy will know, there are many facets to the science and hobby of looking at celestial objects. As we know also, there are other methods used to make discoveries and collect observational data. For example, images generated using the Gamma and X-ray ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum reveal detail and phenomena that wouldn’t otherwise be detectable. Of these and the other methods that utilize spectra invisible to the human eye, the practice that I find most interesting is that of radio astronomy.

Beginning in the 1930s with the work of Karl Jansky of Bell Telephone Laboratories, and continuing with the development of radar after World War II, radio astronomy quickly proved itself a valuable tool in our quest for knowledge of our universe. Most methods of gathering electromagnetic radiation have the disadvantage of having their emission either absorbed or deflected by the Earth’s atmosphere. The 1 to 30 centimetre wavelengths of radio find it possible to make their way to the surface of the Earth, and are therefore of much use to us. One of the major advantages of radio astronomy in today’s world is obvious. Radio wave penetrate the atmosphere, weather systems and smog; so it doesn’t require a clear night, or even a night at all, to make use of the telescopes. The information can come or go in a stream interrupted only by the rotation of the Earth away from the source or target. Most radio telescopes consist of a curved dish that collects radio waves and focuses them to an antenna commonly suspended above its centre. The antenna in turn feeds the signal to a receiver in the control room, where it is amplified, recorded on magnetic tap, and the resulting data analysed. When the dish is used for broadcasting, the signal travels from the antenna to the dish, and is reflected on to interstellar space.

Some of our modern technology has resulted in the development of more efficient, more sensitive sending and receiving units. The Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico measures 1000 feet across, and is situated in a natural bowl in the landscape. (Unfortunately but understandably rendering it almost unsteerable, except for a 50 degree coverage made possible by moving the suspended receiver.) The Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro, New Mexico is a fully steerable phased array, consisting of 27 separate telescopes arranged in a Y across the plain. The connection between the individual telescopes results in the simulation of a single radio telescope 17 miles [27 km] in diameter. Among its applications, radio astronomy is utilized to communicate with the Viking and other space probes. And many scientists, including Carl Sagan and Frank Drake of Cornell University feel that the discovery of other civilizations somewhere in the Universe will depend almost exclusively on the transmission and detection of radio messages. For such communication, Sagan and Drake advocate the use of the 21 centimetre wavelength emitted by hydrogen gas in space. With the crest of each water-like wave being and “on” signal, end each trough being an “off”, a pulsing code is set up that can carry information. By arranging the message on a grid, each “on” being a black (or filled) square and each “off” being white (or empty), it is possible to send text and pictures on the wave of radiation. And if a receiving civilization was scanning its skies, tuned to this frequency, and could decode the message (with the help of a primer attached to the announcement section of the signal), we would be on our way to the most profound experience of modern human history to date.

With increasingly complex innovations, new progress in the detection and amplification of radio signals enable us to “see” further into our past by observing more distant objects. And a consequence of learning more about our past is learning more about what to expect the future to bring us. And ultimately, isn’t that the most compelling reason for gazing at the heavens?

Thank you, Gail. Hopefully, that will be the start of many more articles from interested members.


MEMBERSHIP

We have at present 18 paid-up members and a re-juvenated society. Our monthly program and observing are really shaping up! Why not come to the next meeting and/or mail in your fees? Paid-up members will continue to receive this newsletter but mailing costs will soon make us trim the mailing list.


NEXT MEETING

Wednesday, Dec 2 at 7:30 PM in room 2-223 (Physics Lab) at CNC. Brian Potts will present a videotape and talk on the Milky Way and nearby galaxies; Paul Ingraham will talk on the featured constellation – Auriga.

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter #7 – Oct 29, 1987

Well!! Here we are with another newsletter. Your executive had hoped to get out another newsletter in September, but Paul Ingraham, who had taken over the duties of newsletter editor, found himself too busy to continue. I am hoping that perhaps he, and other interested persons, will be able to contribute a short article now and then. The present editor will do his best to keep you informed with club news, astronomical tid-bits, and what is going on in the sky.


OBSERVATORY NEWS

Not a lot has happened of late at TMO. We did, a number of us, complete the outhouse, so that’s progress!! We had high hopes of starting on a power line in the semi-near future, but it now appears now that, although we will probably get a lot of support from College personnel, we will have to go through an electrical contractor and buy the poles (6 in all @ $140 each) plus hardware and wire plus some labour. All this means that we will have to raise a few kilobucks. Your hardworking executive is pursuing the possibility of hosting bingo or a casino night (no, Virginia, the idea is not dead yet). Stay tuned ….


RECENT EVENTS AT TMO

Brian Potts and I went out to TMO on Oct 22/23 and took many pictures of Jupiter, and the Orion and Crab Nebulae. Jupiter and the Crab were underexposed (especially the latter) but the Orion Nebula was good. (Jupiter and the Orion Neb are really easy objects, folks. Why not try your hand?)

We had a really successful observing session at the “Forests of the World” site on Cranbrook Hill on Sept 22/23 with 20 – 30 people form PGAS and the public looking through 3 telescopes. Objects looked at included: Jupiter, M13, M27, M45, M31, M57, Epsilon Auriga, and M17 (the Swan neb in Sag). A great evening.

Our last meeting, Sept 30, was well attended with a display of several members’ telescopes, a demonstration of the Foucault test, and lots of spirited discussions.

The weather in October has been truly fantastic with yours truly going out a total of 6 times this month. We hope to get the phoning “tree” functional (see enclosure) – however…. please be reminded that anyone is free to call me, or any other active observer around suppertime and join a group. All you need is warm clothing and an attitude of eager anticipation. For those of you who have limited experience, we are hoping to give you help.


WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY

  •  Jupiter is very prominent these weeks – it’s the very bright object in the southeast anytime after sunset. Try looking at it with a pair of binoculars and you should see one or more of the four Galilean moons. Brian and I saw and interesting event – one of the moons just to the side with its shadow on Jupiter.
  • Uranus, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto are all fading to the west and hard to see. Mercury was and evening object but was never easy to see. Venus, however will be more and more visible as an evening object as we slip into Nov and Dec.
  • We missed the Orionid meteor shower on Oct 21 but the S. Taurid meteors are coming up Nov 3, and the Leonids, on Nov 18.
  • Several minor planets (asteroids) are visible now, including 2 Pallas, 4 Vesta, 20 Massalia, and 523 Herculina – consult the editor or the Observer’s Handbook for details. Speaking of the Handbook, we are planning to order around ten 1988 editions for club members by the new year. Get your name in, or better yet, give a deposit to an executive member.

NEXT MEETING

Wednesday, Nov 4 at 7:30 PM in room 2-223 (the Physics Lab) at CNC. We need to go through the formality of having elections but we’ll keep it as brief as possible. Seriously, though, we have proposed an executive of 8 active people – if you’d like to get involved, why not volunteer?

In addition to presenting the latest club and observatory news, we plan to offer a discussion/workshop on deep sky objects in this month’s featured constellation – Orion, and possibly a slide presentation on Mount Palomar Observatory which I was fortunate to visit this summer.

We hope to see you all there!

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter #6 – June, 1987

EDITOR’S NOTE

It was just a short while ago that I took part in the Astronomy course at CNC, and now I hope not only to become an active member of the Prince George Astronomical Society, but to try and improve it as well. As I love to write, I thought nothing could be more fitting than taking over the task of putting out the newsletter. And so, with great enthusiasm, I have done just that. Now, working with our president Bob Nelson and other executive members, I hope to make it not just a newsletter, but a publication. My first step was to name it ‘The Local Group’, something only an astronomer can appreciate, but that was just the beginning. In addition to features found in the original newsletters you will find more news and information, plus other goodies. Everything is being done with you in mind–we want the Society to be the best that it can be! If you have any suggestions, ideas, or simply comments, then call me at 962-2797, or Bob at 563-6928. We hope you enjoy The Local Group!

Paul Ingraham

“What is inconceivable about the universe is that it should be at all conceivable.”

– Albert Einstein


RECENT EVENTS AT TABOR MOUNTAIN OBSERVATORY

A good deal of progress has been made in fixing up our observatory in the last month or so. We have managed to fix a loose mortar, repaint the building, repair the squealy lower shutter, paint the track for the lower shutter, put touch-up paint on the telescope, and repaint the porch. The upper shutter is in the process of being serviced, hopefully making the observatory completely squeak free with the exception of the mice. Those responsible for these accomplishments are Brian Potts, Gail May, Jon and Peter Bowen, David Sundberg, Jim Failes, Alan Pretty, Paul Ingraham, Bob Nelson, Eric Hoogstraten, and Jim Livingstone. If I have forgotten anyone, please acknowledge our thanks and blame it on an editorial blooper!

Although late sunsets and early sunrises make this time of year difficult for astronomers, some of us have been up there under the stars this month. The sights are spectacular! We encourage you to call if you want to go!


 July Skies

As any Prince George astronomer will tell you, May, June, and July are not exactly prime time for backyard astronomy. For roughly a month both sides of June 21st, the summer solstice, serious amateur astronomy is quite limited. However, the sights are there for those of us who can stay up late enough. Sagittarius, the richest region of the Milky Way, is climbing into the southern sky Cygnus, perhaps the second richest region of the Milky Way, will be nearly overhead soon, and there is no excuse for missing it constellations making their first appearance for the year are Scorpius, Capricornus, and Aquarius. Look for M8, the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius, and the Coathanger Cluster in Sagitta. Also in Saggita is the Dumbell Nebula, and further up in Lyra, the Ring Nebula. All beautiful sights!

The planets visible are: Saturn (a truly stunning sight in the 24″) in the south, Uranus, and Neptune. Mars is visible but not very spectacular at the moment, and Jupiter is rising in the east at 2 AM. Jupiter is also spectacular, but it will be better in the fall when it climbs higher in the sky. Mercury comes within 5 degrees of Venus in the predawn sky of July eleventh, and then moves on.

The Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower will peak in the predawn hours of July 29, with up to twenty meteors an hour at a dark site. The radiant is in Aquarius, in the south. It isn’t the most spectacular of the meteor showers, but well worth it nonetheless.


 A Constellation for the Amateur

In each newsletter I will be writing this section specifically for those of you out there who are new to astronomy and may not have anything more powerful look at the stars with than a pair of binoculars. Each month I will concentrate on a single constellation and point out the interesting objects, how to find them, and what they’ll look like.

Since binoculars are not the best instruments for viewing deep-sky objects, some of the sights covered in this column may be difficult to detect. Remember that your eye literally becomes trained to see these things, and at first you just may not be able to find them. Do not let this discourage you though! Instead of going for the hardest and dimmest objects first, start by finding the easiest and brightest. Since the retina is more sensitive to light on the sides, always use averted vision–do not look directly at the target, but off to the side a little bit. And also remember that it takes at least fifteen minutes for your eyes to become fully dark-adjusted.

This month’s constellation is Hercules. Hercules is a dim constellation, but using Terence Dickinson’s NightWatch, or any other star charts, you should be able to find him easily. At this time of year he is just about straight up, with his legs pointing south. I chose Hercules because though there are only two major objects to be found in him, they are both bright, beautiful, and very easy to find. Those two objects are M13, the brightest globular cluster to be seen in the northern hemisphere, and M92, another bright globular cluster.

M13 — This great globular cluster is a snap to find, lying directly on the line from Hercules’ right shoulder to his right hip, about one third of the way down. It will be marked clearly on any star chart. This should be an easy object to find even with the saddest instrument. Even a pair of 7×20 binoculars I own suffice, though it is dim. Unless you have the eyes of an eagle, any instrument smaller than about 3″ will not be able to resolve individual stars in M13. Instead, it will appear as a fuzzy disc, seeming just a bit smaller than a pencil eraser in an instrument with about 60 mm of aperture. Obviously it will appear smaller or bigger in different instruments. I have always thought the most fascinating thing about seeing something like this in the sky is to know that you are looking at millions of worlds, some of which are probably much like our own.

M92 — M92 is another globular cluster, and quite a spectacular one. Were it not overshadowed by mighty M13 only a few binocular fields of view away, it might be more well known. It can be found just about where Hercules’ left ear would be, and as with M13, any star chart worth its salt will show it clearly. M92 appears much like M13, only it is smaller and dimmer, appearing more like a big, fuzzy star.

Have fun trying to find these objects. They are certainly worth the effort!


The Leading Edge

Astronomy is not a small field–there is always something new and fascinating happening, or being discovered. Interesting new theories pop up continually, and the technology of optics and telescopes grows all the time. This column is for the express purpose of telling you about these interesting things. It will include the newest information available to us, things that are happening right now.

We’ve all probably heard of the latest supernova. That would be the one that all of us missed because it is only visible in the southern hemisphere (roughly–it has been seen from Mexico). However, it wouldn’t have been all that exciting, since it appeared to the naked eye as little more than a brightish star where there had been nothing visible before. Yet for such an inconspicuous thing, it has caused more excitement in the astronomical world than anything in a long while. The last major supernova visible occurred 383 years ago! Information on it is still pouring in, but it seems we may never know just why that insignificant star blew, nor why it is behaving the way it is. It was not normal for it to go supernova in the first place, it is even less normal the way it is defying normal supernova behaviour as we know it. Most novas follow a specific pattern, getting steadily dimmer–supernova 1987A is still getting brighter, and no one knows when it will stop! It is still not even certain what star it was when it was still a star, but the latest guess is that it is, or rather was, Sk-62 202. For the moment at least, this “dramatic” supernova will remain largely clouded in mystery.

* * *

Does it seem like there are fewer and fewer really clear nights? For those of you who can stay up late enough? Well, if that is your suspicion, then you are probably, and unfortunately, correct. A recent study done in major cities over the U. S. (which means Canada is probably not as badly off) shows all too clearly that there are more cloudy days this side of 1950 than the other side. Pollution is, of course, at the heart of this. Stop driving your car!

* * *

The largest telescope in the world to date is Russian, the massive 236-inch Bolshoi Alt-azimuth Telescope. Next to that is the American 200-inch Hale Telescope, more commonly referred to as the Mt Palomar telescope. However, if you thing these are big, you haven’t seen anything yet. New technology in telescope manufacturing will make possible instruments that even the Bolshoi will pale before. This will be done by using extremely complex and precise mirror arrangements that allow the power of two telescopes to be combined into one, almost like a pair of binoculars with one eyepiece. Some of the telescopes planned are the Columbus Project, which will be equivalent to a 445-inch telescope, the W.M. Keck Observatory and Telescope, equal to a 394-inch telescope, and the National New Technology Telescope and the Very Large Telescope, which will both be equivalent to 630-inch telescopes! Some of these are already under construction. The future is coming!


P.G.A.S. News

This being the worst time of year for astronomy in Prince George, and since this is the holiday season, there is not much planned in the way of activities and meetings. Unfortunately our biggest hope for fund-raising, the casino night, will not be possible, but we are pursuing other fund-raising avenues. The next meeting will probably be sometime in September.

 Before 1988 by Bob Nelson

It seems we are always at work on some new project to improve Tabor Mountain Observatory. This column will cover the progress of any of these projects that will, hopefully, be completed before 1988.

In the works at present are several projects, most of which are connected with astrophotography:

  1.  The modifications to my 35 mm off-axis guider are now complete. This device allows you to attach your 35 mm camera to the telescopes 2″ focusser and, with the aid of a small prism, observe a star just off the axis with an eyepiece. Why do we want to do this? Well, for any telescope, the mount, the alignment and tracking gear are never perfect. The image will wander. In addition, atmospheric refraction and flexure in the telescope will do the same thing. If one can observe a star, highly magnified in an eyepiece with cross-hairs, one can manually apply small corrections (called guiding) and ensure a sharp picture. At present, the 35 mm guider accepts camera bodies with Pentax screw or bayonet mounts. If you are interested in using your camera, you can probably purchase the appropriate adapter ring.
  2. Jim Livingstone is making both a 35 mm cold camera (more about that later) and a 1/4 frame 4 x 5″ camera. Interested people will be allowed to use either, after some instruction.
  3. The full-frame 4 x 5″ camera is now virtually complete. I have recently completed the off-axis guider for it (you’d have to see it to understand).
  4. A shutter for the 4 x 5″ camera is being planned that will allow us to take spectacular, detailed pictures of the Moon with the 24″ and have it all in one frame.
  5. Jim and I plan to sensitize or “hyper” some 35 mm and 4 x 5″ film by the fall. Sensitized film is much more effective for astrophotography that off-the-shelf film. It will be available to members at cost.
  6. A pulley and weight arrangement to take the backlash out of the main axis is almost complete. This is essential for astrophotography.
  7. The big project this fall is to be astrophotography. If this name tends to cause you to shy away, relax–it’s easy to get the hang of it. Starting with simple, piggy-back shots, and progressing to through-the-telescope exposures, you should be able to take spectacular pictures of the sky and celestial objects in no time at all. In addition, we hope to be able to develop film on the spot at the observatory so you can see the results immediately. What about an astrophotography contest?
  8. One project that obviously does not deal with astrophotography is the building of an outhouse. Although an outhouse is not a deluxe-model bathroom fixture, it will provide one of the basic comforts of home that the observatory has been lacking for a long time.
  9. The last project in the works is providing power for TMO. At the moment the whole thing is pretty much in limbo, but we are working on it. It seems that the entire thing is like a big puzzle–we have several pieces, but none of them seem to fit. But even this we hope will be completed before 1988, adding just about the final major luxury to the observatory.

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter #5 – May 12, 1987

It’s time for another newsletter. I must apologize to all our members for not having any meetings for a couple of months – I’ve been so busy with the course and other things. . . I did invite you to one of the class sessions, but only one person took advantage of the offer. There has not exactly been a cornucopia of good observing nights recently, but I personally have been out a couple of times in the last month. I remind you that, in the absence of a call on the club phoning “tree”, anyone interested in going observing is free to call me, or Jim, Kim or Eric on a clear evening. We’d be happy to accommodate you if at all possible.


 OBSERVATORY NEWS

Two important happenings have occurred recently and two are in the works.

  •  We took delivery (officially it’s a loan) of a microdensitometer and blink comparator from the UBC Astronomy Dept. The former device will be used to measure accurately the positions of objects on a photographic plate and will be important in our project of measuring comet positions. The latter allows one to observe two plates of the same region of the sky, taken at different times, switching rapidly between the two. If anything changes, like a comet or asteroid moving, or a star varying in brightness, it is noticed immediately. Both devices will be of great value to us.
  • We have started to move finally on the project o bringing power to the observatory. I don’t have to tell you about the advantages! The whole thing is contingent on three things:
  1. The availability of poles (6 needed) and at what price.
  2. The price for stringing the cable, and 3. What money we can raise at casino nights. (See below). We’re in the process of making enquiries. Stay tuned on this one!
  •  As I mentioned in the last newsletter, casino nights have been scheduled for July 4, 5, 6 and August 26, 27 and 28. Four volunteers are needed for each night to help out. (I am not exactly sure what the duties are, but they will be light – the professionals will actually run things.) We hope to raise several thousand badly needed dollars for the society.
  • I’m planning a work “bee” for Saturday May 23 at TMO. This is the chance for all of you who haven’t done anything for the society to get involved. Three basic tasks are planned:
  1. Scrub with a wire brush those parts of the blocks that are peeling and repaint. Obviously. if the weather is not fine, we’ll have to postpone this part.
  2.  Lay the carpet in the warm room. This will largely finish the room.
  3. Service the lower shutter and try o get rid of the squeak.

As you can see, there is potential a lot going on. Let’s try to make this observatory really great!


 RECENT EVENTS AT TMO

I went out observing on Apr 21/22 with Brian Stauffer and on May 6/7 alone and did my variables for the AAVSO.


WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY

On the evening of May 15th:

  • Sunset is about 9 PM PDT; officially it will be twilight all night, but assume darkness starts at about 10:15 PM.
  •  Mars sets at about midnight and is rather poorly placed for observations. Wait until next apparition, two years from now.
  • Saturn rises at about 11 PM and is a beautiful sight. What about some photos guys (and girls)? It’s easily done with some fast film and a doubler.
  • Uranus rises at 11:45 PM, Neptune at 12:19 AM. Still very late night objects.
  • Pluto is something we should go for – it rises at 6:08 PM, sets at 6:30 AM and is about magnitude 13.7 – difficult but possible.
  • The Leo, Coma and Virgo constellations with their many galaxies are well placed for viewing (with the 13″).
  • For those who can stay up very late, the Sagittarius region of the Milky Way is very spectacular with many nebulae such as M8, M17, etc.

 NEXT MEETING

Wednesday, May 20 at 7:30 PM in room 2-223 (the Physics Lab) at CNC. I’d like to discuss our activities further, get people involved, etc. You’ll get to see (and tinker with) the microdensitometer and blink comparator. In addition, for those of you interested in computers, we’ll have all our software out. If you own, or have access to an Apple computer, bring a handful of disks for some software.

For all you members of the class who have not joined yet, why not come along and get involved?

I hope to see all of you there!

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter #4 – March 6, 1987

I am finally getting around to writing another newsletter. I must apologize for the delay, and also for the fact that we missed the February (and March!) meetings, but I have been extremely busy of late — more about the next meeting later in the newsletter.

The general interest Astronomy course at the College is going extremely well (to date we have held 7 out of the 10 evenings). We have about 25-30 very keen participants, some of whom are society members and many who are not. It is to be hoped that many will join our society and contribute their enthusiasm. We will be making a pitch.

It is with sadness that I report the recent deaths of two participants and members.

  • Bob Fulton (age 29) had been active for a year or so and hoped to give the last session on photography.
  •  Marjorie Hiller (age 78) had been active in the class and was a member a year or so back.

Both will be missed.


RECENT EVENTS AT TMO

We did have a good turnout (20 or so people from the astronomy class) on the evening of Feb 23. We looked at M42, 37, 36, 42, 37, 31 and other things with the main telescope and my 13″ but had to quit around 9:30 when the clouds came rolling in.


OBSERVATORY NEWS

Not an awful lot has been happening. We did recently obtain a 32 mm Erfle eyepiece (2″ barrel) for the 24″ telescope; it gives improved views but the magnification is even greater than for the 50 mm Plossl it now joins. Jim and I are contemplating ordering a (large) telecompressor lens to give wider angles and brighter images than the present setup which does not work well for galaxies. Jim is writing to the States for an estimate of the cost.

The 4″ x 5″ camera is just about ready for testing. Speaking of photography, all of you should be thinking about bringing your cameras next time we go out as the astronomy class will be doing some darkroom work and I would like to encourage everyone in this direction — astrophotography can be really rewarding. What I am thinking of here is either simple piggyback pictures with your 35 mm camera (fast B&W or fast colour film) or easy through-the-telescope photos of the Moon or planets. We hope to have a darkroom session (B&W only) to show you how really easy it is to develop and print your own stuff.

In a month or so, I hope to have work parties at the observatory to lay the carpet, make furniture, repaint the building, service the dome, etc.

Remember the casino nights scheduled for July 4-6 and Aug 26-8. Other than putting on the course (for $450), they remain our best hope for earning needed funds for all the grand things we hope to do. Volunteers are needed for these nights.


WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY

  • Jupiter is behind the Sun but Mars is still well up in the southeast at sunset. Saturn and Uranus rise around 2 AM DAYLIGHT time (boo, hiss), a bit late but they should be better in a few months. The best planets to look for now are the outer two planets
  • Neptune and Pluto. Neptune will rise about an hour before Uranus but Pluto should be visible from 10:00 on – in the 24″ only – (we do have a finder chart). Other objects well worth looking for are the many galaxies in the constellations of Coma Berenecies and Virgo – in the 13″ telescope.

NEXT MEETING

For those of you that can make it, why not come along to the astronomy class this Wednesday (April 8) at 7:00 in room 2-202 at CNC (gratis)? I plan to finish up our discussion of the solar system complete with a slide show on the planets, and also a take a look at current knowledge of the Moon and Sun. You would be welcome to join the rest of the class.

Whenever possible, I will pass the word out to members for observing nights. However, I would encourage anyone wanting to go observing to take the initiative and call me around 5-7:00 PM any time that it looks as though it may be clear. Tuum est!

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter #3 – Jan. 22, 1987

Happy new year, everyone!! Let’s hope that this year brings the best our club has ever had. There’s a lot of news to report, hence the reason for this newsletter.


RECENT EVENTS AT TMO

This is not one of those areas that I had in mind for news. Unfortunately, until this week, we have not had a lot of clear nights this year. (Yours truly did get out twice.) Worse, last week’s warm spell has turned the road to the observatory into a sheet of ice; several members of the executive have been turned back on the road. My own four-wheel drive Subaru has been in the repair shop and out of action for the last couple of weeks. The best bet in getting up the road seems to be chains. We will probably make an effort next week. Meanwhile we have a couple of requests standing by for observatory tours.


OBSERVATORY NEWS

There is much to report here. During a Christmas trip to Vancouver, I visited Dr. Gordon Walket at UBC. He was very helpful in his suggestions regarding projects for our club and agreed that the measurement of comet positions (and also searches for variable stars) that we could do photographically would be very worthwhile. He even offered to load us, on a long-term loan, a microdensitometer and a blink comparator. The first instrument measures on a photographic plate (as large as 8″ x 10″) positions accurate to 0.001 mm or so. The second device allows one to compare precisely (every second or so) two photographic plates. Any object such as a comet, variable star etc — anything that varies — shows up immediately. Both projects seem a ‘natural’ for our 24″ long-focus telescope and soon-to-be-completed 4 x 5 camera. The acquisition of expensive equipment for nothing is a real ‘coup’; Jim Livingstone will be travelling to Vancouver in late February and will bring back the instruments in March.

Speaking of the camera, progress is steady and I should have something to show you at our meeting this week. The sensitizing tank is coming along too. My plans to buy personally a digital camera to mount on the telescope and feed images to a computer look less bright (no pun) as the device on which I recently got information does not appear to be suitable. I will keep looking as it seems to be a good idea.

And now for the really good news! Bob Fulton has been looking into fundraising for us, and reports that our club is now booked for casino nights at the Holiday Inn for two sessions: July 4, 5, 6 and Aug 26, 27, and 28. (We can have a third session later in the year if we want.) The whole operation is put on by professionals who will guarantee that we will not lose money. Al we have to do is supply 4 helpers for each evening. Typical proceeds are — get this — $2000 for each of 3 day stint! Now, we may not get this much each time; however, I would be deleriously happy to get even $1000. Such an amount would pay off our debts and really set us on our feet; more, and the mind boggles.

I don’t really have to tell you what an income of several thousand per year could allow us to buy. [A full set of the finest 2″ eyepieces, a good set of charts and reference books, an image intensifier, a hydrogen alpha filter, polaroid back for the 4×5 camera,all the film we could use, a top quality digital camera, and even — gasp — hydro power and a telephone at the observatory.] While our society will probably never be rich and much of the above list may be a fantasy, our days of penny-pinching may be over.


WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY

  • There is apparently a supernova in view located in our galaxy. Supernovae in our own galaxy are quite rare, the last being in Kepler’s time (1607). This one’s designation is N And (Andromeda) and is located at RA = 23h 12m, DEC = +47.5 deg (1950 coord?) and was at 8th mag. I looked for it in early Jan and may have seen it but could not be sure as my chart did not really go faint enough.
  • There is also a comet — Comet Sorrells — which is also in Andromeda. (See Sky and Telescope for particulars.)
  • Jupiter and Mars are still visible. Later in the year we’ll be able to see the other planets in evening skies.

NEXT MEETING

THURSDAY, Jan 28 in room 2-223 (Physics Lab) at 7:30. Two important things will be discussed. We plan to have on display a selection of resource materials such as charts, the Observer’s Handbook, other books. Where there is interest, we can take a deposit and send off joint orders. You will have to be there or contact me to take advantage of this offer. The other topic is the general interest astronomy course to be offered by CNC and put on by your executive. This will start Feb 11 (Wed) and go for 10 weeks. There appears to be a lot of interest in this event — come and hear about it.

The featured talk will be by Jim Livingstone — on his experiences at the 1979 total eclipse in central Manitoba. If it was anything like my trip that year, I’m sure he’ll have a fascinating tale to tell.

We hope to see you there!!!

Bob Nelson, President