Category Archives: 1993

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #43 – Dec. 1993

PGAS CHRISTMAS PARTY

Members and friends of the Prince George Astronomical Society are invited to a Christmas party at Alan Whitman’s house on Saturday, December 18 from 7:30 PM until whenever. Alan provides the following instructions:

My house is at the corner of Chief Lake and Mountainview Roads. It is easy to find as it is a log house and is the only house visible at this corner. Drive north on Foothills until it ends at Chief Lake Road, turn left on Chief Lake and drive 3.5 miles West to Mountainview. Mountainview is the first right after the street lights end at Pilot Mountain Road. Mountainview is two miles west of Pilot Mountain Road and the little white street sign shows up in your headlights for almost a mile before you get there. You can’t miss it!


If you subscribe to Sky and Telescope magazine through the PGAS, you save 18% on your subscription. To subscribe, give Alan Whitman a money order for $29.96 (US) by December 18. We must have a minimum of five people to take advantage of this offer.


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

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

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #41 – Oct. 1993

  • Editorial Comments
  • Thank you
  • President’s Message
  • A PGAS of a Summer
  • Where in Space
  • PGAS Organization
  • The Sky
  • Meetings
  • The NOA Workshop
  • 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:

To avoid having to construct coherent paragraphs, I resort to point form:

  1. It is that time of the year again when you are asked to make a small contribution to show your continued support for the club by paying your membership dues.
  2. I was out at the observatory today to collect the images for this issue’s Image Gallery. Bob Nelson was there (with a handful of volunteers) putting up the interior walls of the classroom. Bob could probably use a lot of help.
  3. My cats are bringing several mice into the house on warm days. Sometimes they are alive and a great commotion ensues as I chase the tiny beast around the house with an empty ice cream bucket and knocking over plant pots. Sometimes I find a motionless corpse on the carpet in various stages of digestion. How do you react to a slimy, grey ball of fur and intestines about as big as a human thumb lying very close to your bare foot and a voice in your mind saying, “You could have stepped on that, you know.” My kids think that its ‘cool’. They burst out the front door and call to their friends, “Hey! Want to see a puked up mouse?” Thank goodness winter is almost here.

Thank you

You may have noticed recently a new addition to the observatory classroom. This is the 6″ home-made Newtonian reflector on loan to the club from Dave and Katherine Matthews. The telescope was built by Katherine’s late husband, Elmer Matthews. Katherine and Dave thought that Elmer would like the telescope to be seen and appreciated by astronomy enthusiasts. Thank you Dave and Katherine from the PGAS.


President’s Message:

Hi, folks! This will be my last message as president, as I have decided to step down, as of October’s meeting when the annual elections are held. It seems appropriate that I should reminisce a little about where the society has come from and offer a few thoughts about its future.

The concept of building an observatory originated in a discussion with the students in my introductory astronomy class at CNC in February of 1979. We immediately established ourselves as a registered society and applied for a grant from the B.C. Lotteries Foundation; we were awarded a sum of $12,600 in August of the that year. (Grants of $1500 and $3500 followed later.) In December of 1979 we purchased a used silo dome in Vancouver, hauled it to Prince George, reconditioned the panels that spring, and reassembled it outside in May. The physics technician at that time, Ed Loerke and a summer student, Bob Sedlock fabricated a base ring, adapted wheels to rotate the dome, cut the 5′ wide slot, attached arches, made the shutters and added mechanisms to open the shutters.

Construction of the building began in the summer of 1980. We cleaned up the bedrock at the site and laid a circular concrete foundation and a square pad for the pier. We hired a bricklayer to build the circular building and at the same time installed the joists ourselves for the second floor. (Almost all lumber was donated.) The dome was installed that November, although it was not until the next year that we were able to make it operational. A heavy fibreglass tube, 30 inches in diameter and 10 feet long together with a “cage” of rebar welded together was then installed to serve as the form for the concrete pier.

In the next three years, working with small groups on available weekends, we constructed a helical stairway, put in the upper and lower floors, poured the pier, added outside steps, framed the warm room, painted the building and finished the interior generally. The wiring was installed in the fall of 1984 by a class from the electrical program at the College.

Construction of the telescope lagged somewhat behind that of the building. Although the telescope “tube” was constructed in 1980, it was not until 1982 that construction of the mount began in earnest at the millwright shop at CNC. The telescope was completed in the spring of 1984 (the welding students did all the welding and I did about 75% of the machining) at which time the mirrors arrived. Installation up on Tabor Mountain occurred shortly later.

Highlights of the telescope’s earlier life on Tabor Mountain include a cold winter day in January of 1986 when we had around 75 people to look at Halley’s comet; a measurement of a minimum light of VW Cephei (an eclipsing binary) using my OPTEC SSP-3 photometer; astrophotography of the moon, planets and deep sky objects plus the usual observing.

Unfortunately, the Tabor Mountain Observatory was plagued by break-ins. The latest and most serious was in 1988 when the secondary mirror (and other things) were stolen. We closed the observatory at that time, removing all items of value.

In 1991, the decision was made to relocate the observatory to its present location on Tedford Road. We got our existing B.C. Lotteries grant switched to this goal and held a couple of casino events to raise money. Northwood kicked in $1000. In late June of 1992, we broke ground for the observatory on Tedford Road and in July, put in the foundation and block walls. After the summer we put on the roof, moved the telescope and dome, and closed up the building. Over the winter, we put in the main floor and rough finished the interior.

In the spring, we received a $16,000 grant from the Science Council to add a classroom wing. Construction began in May (Ted Biech and I worked full-time and were assisted by numerous volunteers) and we were able to close up the building by the end of July. The telescope and observing floor were also completed by about this time.

Also in the spring, we received a $25,000 grant from the Ministry of Higher Education to put on the PeGASus project. As you know, this involved the ordering of much equipment (which the society will own) and the hiring of students to put on tours throughout the summer. The tours for the PeGASus project started August 1 and continued through September; many new members joined and the observatory has become very popular. There were many clear nights throughout September and the observatory was used for many or most of those nights. Much credit goes to Ted for obtaining the grant (some of us were not too optimistic), ordering the equipment and giving up his summer to see that the tours went well.

Although the site on Tabor Mountain is more spectacular than the present one, everyone will agree that the move to Tedford Road was a vital one for the success of the observatory. The advantages are numerous. Unlike the former site, we now have power and telephone; we have neighbours that can keep an eye on the place; we have not had a hint of vandalism so far; the site is much more accessible (only 20 minutes from town on mostly paved roads); and the sky quality is virtually identical with the former site. With the completion of the classroom wing (heating and washrooms), we’ll have a fine facility usable year-round.

In the 13 years since its formation, the society has grown from a struggling 15 members to the present 40-50. The membership has become more active with good attendance at monthly meetings, there has been much enthusiasm for observing (Orla’s beginners’ observing group is an excellent idea), and many new directions have opened up now that we have more members. In fact, there are so many jobs that the executive last month presented a proposed reorganization of the society’s positions. (See the summary elsewhere in this issue.) The society’s future indeed looks bright.

In closing, may I express my gratitude for the steadfast support of the various executives over the years and the many club volunteers too numerous to name up who worked on Tabor, at casinos and on Tedford Road. Thanks also to personnel at various departments at the College without whom the observatory could not have been built. And finally, thanks are due to our many corporate sponsors over the years (who will be publicly thanked when the observatory officially opens next spring). We were all working for the betterment of astronomy in Prince George and it is a real pleasure to see it all coming together. I’ll still be around, but we will have a new president to lead us on. Thanks again to you all.

Bob Nelson


A PGAS of a Summer: by Orla Aaquist

In 1979 Bob Nelson founded The Prince George Astronomical Society (PGAS) and began building an observatory on Tabor Mountain. Bob completed the task five years later with help from a handful of volunteers and CNC’s machine shop. After its completion, the club operated the observatory for a number of years, providing an exceptional view of the sky to school groups, the general public, and club members.

In 1988, the observatory was abandoned. My understanding of the events leading to the closure of the Tabor Mountain site is unclear; however, the retreat from Tabor Mountain had something to do with the dome being used for target practice, and the desire for some thief to possess a mirror that reflected the true size of his (or her) head.

Shannon and I moved to Prince George at the close of 1991 and I started work at the College in January of 1992, and Bob saw to it that I was introduced to the PGAS posthaste. During my first summer here, Bob (and a handful of volunteers) began construction on a new observatory near West Lake, and by November the telescope and the dome from Tabor Mountain were installed in the new building. On Tabor Mountain, there remains the old observatory walls: an empty concrete shell punctuated by the central pier. Soon, only the pier will remain.

During the spring and summer of 1993, change again sprang upon the PGAS with the successful application for funds from two sources: the Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology ($25,000) and the Northern Interior Science, Technology and Innovation Council, NISTIC ($16,000). A flurry of activity within the club ensued, and my summer was swallowed up by a horse.

Shannon called the horse PeGASus. Actually, it was all Ted Biech’s fault. Ted wrote the proposal to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology because his workload at the College was not challenging enough. I clearly remember him complaining to me one Friday in early October of 1992 that his summers were idle because of too much grey time and vacation time allotted to the CNC instructors. “Ted, I want to paint my house this summer”, I insisted, when he showed me the proposal and where to co-sign. When I signed, I crossed my fingers and hoped that the proposal would get lost in the mail. It didn’t.

The PeGASus Project began in mid March. From March to June, I visited about twenty elementary school classrooms to talk to students and teachers about astronomy and telescopes. On May 1, we celebrated Astronomy Day at the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum; surprisingly, nearly one hundred people joined us for the evening despite the rain. When so many people came to take part in astronomy during the rain, I knew that the citizens of Prince George were desperate for astronomy. The time was ripe for PeGASus. This was confirmed later in the summer when, about one hundred people came to the newly open observatory to view the Perseid Meteor Shower despite the thick cloud cover.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had some club T-shirts? Lets get Shannon to make some! She’d love doing that. And how about some PeGASus business cards … and some PeGASus posters … and a PeGASus donation jar … and?” While Shannon was busy, we created the PeGASus booth and adorned it with astronomy posters and post cards, PeGASus T-shirts, mirrors and lenses, telescopes, pamphlets, newsletters, astronomy magazines and our official PeGASus donation jar. The booth was a wonder to behold (I wish I had taken a picture). On Canada Day and the International Food Festival at Fort George Park, over a thousand people visited our display and looked at the Sun through our solar filter.

Meanwhile, back at the observatory, construction was under way to attach a classroom to the existing observatory building. The money to do this came from NISTIC through the second grant application written by Bob Nelson. Bob and Ted (and a handful of volunteers) worked (harmoniously, I hear) through the summer rains (hip deep in mud up to their necks, and fighting refugee mutant mosquitos from Manitoba) in order to complete the classroom before the end of June in time for Canada Day. They almost made it! It was so close! But, the slow motion camera captured the final frames: the rain came and the roofers didn’t.

“On August 6, 1993 the Prince George Astronomy Society opens its new observatory on Tedford Road near West Lake, to the public. The observatory houses one of the largest amateur telescopes in Canada, as well as a solar telescope (for safely viewing the Sun) and various other items to entertain visitors. During the months of August and September, the public hours are from 9 P.M. to midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and from 1 to 5 o’clock Saturday and Sunday afternoons.”

During the two months, Ted Biech and Matthew Burke (and a handful of volunteers) faithfully staffed the observatory. People came and the PGAS membership grew. The reign of PeGASus ended on October 2, 1993 when the PGAS participated in the Science and Technology display at Pine Centre. We were sage veterans sitting behind the display table. We had PGAS membership forms, PeGASus newsletters, and PeGASus business cards before us. On the computer monitor, images of celestial objects taken by us during the summer flashed relentlessly across the screen. Lenses, mirrors, magazines, and astronomy postcards handled by many curious little fingers were strewn across the table top like fall-out. A large poster of the Helix Nebula and a T- shirt bearing the rendering of a flying horse hung calmly on a display panel in the background, the letters

PGAS

next to them. Little fingers groped at the eyepiece of the telescope standing majestically behind the booth. Curious eyes peered through the telescope at price tags in Sears at the other end of the mall. People asked us questions and we answered.

We were astronomers!


Where in Space: THE SOLAR SYSTEM (Part two) by Carmen

IAU Nomenclature Conventions:

Features of the planets and moons of the solar system are named according to conventions set by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

There are a number of standard terms used in naming features. The first group corresponds to names of albedo features which rarely have to do with actual terrain (as might be expected for those which would involve bodies of water or vegetation). The second group is terrain descriptive:

  • Collis: hill
  • Lucus: grove
  • Cornu: horn
  • Mare: sea
  • Depression: depression
  • Palus: marsh
  • Flumen: river
  • Pons: bridge
  • Fluvius: river
  • Portus: harbour, port
  • Fons: fountain
  • Promontorium: headland
  • Fretum: strait
  • Silva: forest
  • Insula: island
  • Sinus: bay
  • Lacus: lake
  • Catena: chain of craters
  • Mensa (Mensae): mesa
  • Cavi: hollows, irregular steep sided depressions
  • Mons (Montes): mountain(s)
  • Chaos: chaotic terrain
  • Patera: shallow complex crater with scalloped edges
  • Chasma: canyon
  • Planitia: low plain
  • Dorsum (Dorsa): ridge(s)
  • Regio: region
  • Fossa (Fossae): ditch(es) long, narrow, straight, or curved valley
  • Rima: fissure
  • Labyrinthus: intersecting valley complex
  • Tholus: small domical mountain or hill
  • Vallis (Valles):sinuous valley(s)
  • Vastitas: widespread lowlands

PGAS Organization:

At the last monthly meeting, the executive proposed the following organizational structure of the PGAS. In general, this structure seemed to be acceptable to the members present at the meeting. If you have any suggestions, please present them at the October meeting. At that time a motion will be put on the floor to adopt this structure.

ELECTED POSITIONS

  • PRESIDENT: Plans and chairs meetings, deals with executive, sees that the committees function and tasks are done.
  • VICE PRESIDENT: Assists the president, chairs meetings in the president’s absence.
  • SECRETARY: Keeps notes from meetings, maintains membership lists, deals with members, files society’s reports.
  • TREASURER: Maintains bank accounts, handles money, pays bills, does income tax, issues financial statements.
  • MEMBERS AT LARGE: Attend executive meetings, lend advice

APPOINTED POSITIONS

  • PROMOTIONAL DIRECTOR: Oversees the promotional aspects of the club. The promotional aspects of the club includes such things as meeting or other event notices, the newsletter, new or prospective members, casino events (deals with Public Gaming Branch, rounds up volunteers), and social events.
  • TECHNICAL DIRECTOR: Ensures that the equipment and facilities at the observatory are maintained. The technical aspects include such things as building and ordering of new equipment, construction of classroom , maintenance of existing equipment.
  • OBSERVING DIRECTOR: Deals with all aspects of observing at the PGAO. This includes leading the observing groups such as the NOA workshops and ATM, writes tour programs, lines up volunteers, accepts bookings. (Immediate task: chair group to recommend guidelines for assigning telescope time. It is expected that a neutral person will be asked in future to assign time following the guidelines.)

by Bob Nelson


The Sky:

The November highlight will be the total lunar eclipse on Sunday evening, November 28th. 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. Here are the times of the eclipse events (PST):

 Faint enumbral shading first visible  8:00pm
 Partial eclipse begins (moon enters umbral shadow)  8:40pm
 Total eclipse begins (moon fully in umbral shadow)  10:02pm
 Mid-eclipse  10:26pm
 Total eclipse ends  10:50pm
 Partial eclipse ends  12:12pm

The earth’s outer shadow is called the penumbral shadow. As the moon moves into the penumbral shadow, the moon experiences a partial eclipse of the sun due to the earth covering part of the sun as seen from the moon. As the moon moves deeper into the penumbral shadow, the sun is progressively covered by the earth so that the moon is illuminated less and less. Then the moon moves into the earth’s umbral shadow which is much darker but not black, due to refraction of sunlight by the earth’s atmosphere which bends some sunlight into the shadow. The earth’s umbral shadow is darker at it’s centre than at the edges and may show quite a range of colours. The moon’s north polar regions should be the darkest at mid- eclipse as the south polar regions will be just inside the southern edge of the umbral shadow. Watch the constantly changing colours and shading as the moon moves through the shadows. The moon will be between two large, bright open star clusters, the Hyades and the Pleiades, affording an excellent photo opportunity.

People tend to assume that cloudy skies in their backyards are representative of conditions everywhere. This is not necessarily the case, especially if the clouds are low clouds, which often cover only a few square miles. Matthew Burke wrote an article a few months ago describing his successful pursuit of a break in the clouds to view the May 21st partial solar eclipse. I viewed the January/92 partial solar eclipse with nearly clear skies at my Chief Lake Road residence, but both this newsletter and the Citizen reported that Prince George was clouded out, when in reality, only the “bowl” was. So, don’t be too quick to assume that this eclipse is clouded out if it’s cloudy the first time you look. The “bowl” has more fog and low cloud problems than surrounding areas because of the mix of moisture from the pulpmills and smoke particles from the beehive burners for the moisture to condense on and form fog and clouds. A drive of a few miles may reveal much clearer skies. Since this will be the best lunar eclipse in years, a little extra effort to see it should be worthwhile. If you elect to stay at home, check the sky every ten minutes or so during the eclipse and you may be rewarded with clearing skies or at least a strategically placed break. Finally, the partially eclipsed moon is often visible through clouds.

Your unaided eye will give you a fine view of the eclipse. Binoculars and low-power telescopes give the best view of the complex combinations of colour and shading in the shadow. If you use a larger telescope, use the lowest available power. In my experience, binoculars will give a much more esthetically pleasing view of a lunar eclipse than, say, a Celestron 8.

PLANETS:

Saturn is south at sunset and sets around midnight. Venus and Jupiter form an attractive pair during morning twilight, very low in the SE. At dawn on Nov. 8, Venus passes only 0.4 degrees N of Jupiter. Binoculars may also show Spica, about 8 degrees upper right of Jupiter. The waning crescent moon passes the pair on the 12th, but it will be only 31 hours before new and may require binoculars to see.

Binoculars will probably be needed to pick out Mercury as it passes 0.7 degrees N of Venus on the morning of the 14th. Nevertheless, it will be a golden opportunity to identify Mercury, especially if you’ve never seen it before.

These events will occur during bright morning twilight and will require a low SE horizon to be seen at all. However, they may be attractive enough to warrant a short drive to a flatter horizon. Bring your binoculars and plan to start viewing about 6:40am.

If adjacent Venus allows you to find Mercury in a good telescope, follow it carefully as it rises higher after sunrise to an altitude affording decent seeing. You should be rewarded with a view of Mercury’s crescent, only about 24% illuminated on the 14th.

Rise a little earlier on the 17th and you can watch the Leonid meteor shower. The Leonids will probably only produce about 10 to 15 meteors an hour. i once saw two bright jade green Leonid fireballs follow the same path a few minutes apart. Both left ionized trails in the upper atmosphere; the second train lasted many minutes in binoculars as it twisted in high altitude winds.

Allan Whitman


Meetings:

Next Meeting: The October 27th meeting will start at 7:30 P.M. at the College of New Caledonia. Come to the Physics Laboratory on the second floor by the main entrance. The room number is 2-223.

It is time to pay your annual dues: $10 youth, $20 regular, and $30 family. If you are a new member who paid your dues during the summer, please ignore this notice. If you cannot make it to this meeting, please send us your money along with the application form elsewhere in this issue.

At this month’s general meeting the members elect the new executive. Last meeting, a few nominations were made for the various positions:

  • President : Orla Aaquist
  • Vice President: Bob Nelson
  • Secretary: Jon Bowen
  • Treasurer: Dave Sundberg
  • Members at Large: Jim Livingston, Matthew Burke and Vince Hogan

Nominations close just before the elections at the next meeting so there is still time for you to nominate someone. Come to the meeting and practice for the upcoming federal election!

While the ballots are being counted, Brian Potts will tell us about the basics of astrophotography, and Vince Hogan will give us an impromptu talk on binocular astronomy. Coffee/tea, cookies and discussions will follow.

Last Meeting:

The last meeting was held at CNC. The business part of the meeting lasted for about 1 hour (sorry) wherein the progress at the observatory was described and people’s arms were twisted into voluntary service. The only names I have here is Rod Marynovich (who volunteered to look into obtaining a fire permit for the PGAO so we could burn our garbage). Several members volunteered to help out with construction at the observatory and to help keep our facility open to the public on a couple of Saturdays every month.


The NOA Workshop:

The first series of four workshops for New Observers to Astronomy (the NOA Workshops) finished on Monday, October 18. These workshops are intended to help PGAS members get acquainted with the sky, the observatory, telescopes, and the methods of astronomy. The first series of workshops were organized by Vince Hogan, Robert Frith, Jon Bowen, Don Goldie, and myself under the following format:

  1. What is in the sky, and naked eye astronomy.
  2. Using star charts, and star hopping.
  3. Seeing more with binoculars.
  4. Using telescopes.

These four topics were covered in four successive Monday evenings (excluding Thanksgiving). The and then to cycle through them again on another evening of the week, and-so-on throughout the year. Because the lessons are very informal, it is doubtful that any one series of four workshops will be the same as the previous, so members can attend the workshops as many times as they wish and get something new out of them each time.

The first series of workshops are being held on Monday evenings from 8 to 9 P.M. at the observatory, starting September 20 with an introduction of what is in the sky and naked eye astronomy. The second workshop, using star charts and star hopping, will run on September 27, and-so-on. Feel free to join the workshops at any time, and to participate for as many sessions as you wish. We hope that as NOA matures, the topics will change to suit the needs of the PGAS participants. In the next issue, I hope to keep you informed of the progress of NOA and the scheduling of the next set of workshops.

If you have any suggestions or questions give me a call at 964-9626. One final note. Please do not expect formal, prepared lessons in these workshops. The idea of the workshop setting is for all the participants to get involved learning some basic observational techniques. Vince and I will hopefully be able to gather the necessary materials to make the workshop successful and fun. If not, then we’ll do better next time around.

Orla Aaquist


Image Gallery

crab_a moon_a


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

Deadline for the November issue is Friday, November 12

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

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #40 – Sept. 1993

  • Editorial Comments
  • Thank you
  • President’s Message
  • Electronic Messages
  • Observing at MKSP
  • The Sky
  • Where in Space
  • The NOA Workshop
  • Meetings
  • 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:

I do not have much to say this month, hence the large type. I am glad to see that this month’s issue contains several articles written by various members. Alan Whitman describes his experiences at the recent Mount Kobau Star Party, Chris Brougham gives directions for you to participate in an Electronic Astronomy Bulletin Board, Bob Nelson is back with the President’s Message, and some lady named Carmen Sandiego submitted an article on The Solar System. If anyone out there knows where in space Carmen Sandiego is, please let me know. I would like more of the same.


Thank you

You may have noticed recently a new addition to the observatory classroom. This is the 6″ home-made Newtonian reflector on loan to the club from Dave and Katherine Matthews. The telescope was built by Katherine’s late husband, Elmer Matthews. Katherine and Dave thought that Elmer would like the telescope to be seen and appreciated by astronomy enthusiasts. Thank you Dave and Katherine from the PGAS.


President’s Message:

It is customary for me at this time to welcome you all back. However, thanks to Ted, Orla and the PeGASus project, there was enough enthusiasm for meetings throughout the summer and it is they that might well be welcoming me back!

After the summer, we face a new year and it is time to assess what has gone before and to plan a new season. This last year, as almost everyone knows, has been extremely active for us with the completion of the telescope and observing floor, and the erection and closing-in of the classroom/meeting room addition. The place is really starting to look impressive now! This summer also marked the running of the PeGASus project which, in case you are unfamiliar with it, was the acquisition of new equipment and the running of tours throughout the summer. It is appropriate, at this time, to thank all those who have participated in these works. You know who you are and I hope that we will formally thank you by name later. This has been, and will continue to be, a team effort.

In September, I plan to get together with the executive and set goals and projects for the coming year. These could include observing projects, mirror grinding and telescope construction, the organization of volunteers for school tours and the planning for talks and activities for our meetings. Your ideas would be appreciated. In particular, we are very interested in what YOU as a member want to see happen – this is your club and please let your views be known.

We hope to rearrange the executive to reflect our new goals, drawing in capable and motivated individuals as appropriate. Please let me know if you’re interested in serving on the executive.

You don’t, however, need to be a member of the executive to help. I hope to set a number of task-specific working groups. Possible examples are the newly-formed observing group, a construction group to continue the building program, a tour group to conduct school tours, a telescope making group, and a beginners’ observing group.

Speaking of construction, we should not lose sight of the fact that the new addition to the observatory is not yet complete and there are a number of tasks we need to do before winter. The first task is to install the wiring – we hope to have this started or completed in September. Next, we have to close in the space under the eaves and frame the walls, installing insulation and drywall. We need to install a heating system so that the meeting room and indeed the whole observatory is usable in the depths of winter. The washrooms, water and sewage system will probably have to wait till spring. I’ll continue to call on our capable volunteers as usual but if you haven’t helped before, why not get involved?

The telescope and dome continue to need minor work and this will continue as time permits. The big addition (probably next year) will be digital setting circles to make finding things a lot easier. In the meantime, the telescope certainly is usable for general observing (it’s not too hard to find things once you get the knack of it). The CCD camera, an exciting addition, continues to produce excellent and/or promising images. We hope to have training sessions for those who haven’t used the big telescope and CCD camera – remember, this is your club and the facilities are here for you to use.

Also available are the club’s 20 cm Celestron, the home-built 25 cm Dobsonian and binoculars An increasing number of members have their own telescopes. On the good observing nights, it can be very enjoyable for a group of observers each with his/her telescope quietly (or not so quietly) exploring the heavens. In time, I hope that we can install a lawn on the south side of the observatory possibly with concrete pads or pillars. Why not plan to come out on the next clear night and see what is going on? If you don’t have a key, you can call the observatory number (964-3600) to find out if anyone is there. Please note, however, that this is a party line.


Electronic Messages:

An Electronic Message Area for the PGAS by Chris Brougham (chris@sloth.bc.ca).

The Prince George Free-Net Association has set up a PGAS area on their temporary home: A bulletin board called the “Hidden Hideaway.” The phone number is 563-6247 and anyone can call and read messages or leave messages of general astronomical interest. PGAS members are encouraged to post messages regarding the Society’s meetings, observatory hours, and other PGAS issues. I’ve been posting quite a few articles from two USENET newsgroups called sci.astro and alt.sci.planetary so there are things to read! Such as:

  • JPL Mission Updates
  • Pluto Fast Flyby Proposal
  • IAUC Ciculars etc.
  • How to Buy A Telescope

There is no charge for access to the Free Net area of the bulletin board. Once you’ve logged on to the board, however, you will be required to register your name and telephone number. See the July issue of Pegasus for BBS registration procedures. It’s really quite simply so don’t be afraid!

If members express enough interest in this medium of communication, it might be advantageous for the Society to consider its own BBS and astronomical file area. So if this sort of thing interests you, phone up the Hidden Hideaway and we’ll discuss it “online.”


Observing at MKSP:

Excerpts From My Observing Log

by Alan Whitman

My daughter Jennifer and I spent six nights at this year’s Mount Kobau Star Party. Four of them were all-nighters due to the superb skies (site surveys in the ’60’s identified the south Okanogan’s Mount Kobau as the finest observing site in Canada). Here are some excerpts from my observing log:

August 17-18/93 2230 – 0300

(Seeing Exceptional, Transparency Variable)

Variable conditions all night as fog and stratus formed and dissipated. But the very stable conditions and the light winds at all altitudes meant that seeing was superb, possibly the best I’ve ever experienced (see Saturn below). We were observing with John Dobson (of Dobsonian fame), John Casino (owner of the world’s largest portable telescope), Steve McAllister from Chicago and Ken Hewitt-White (he is the current MKSP president).

In John Casino’s 36″ f4.1 Dobsonian: Both of M31’s dark lanes were very prominent as was the star cloud, M32 and NGC 205 were bright – 205 was large with a bright nucleus. GC (globular cluster) M15 was bright, condensed, with a short bar of stars in the centre. The globular M13 showed its three intersecting Y-shaped dark lanes and the magnitude 12 galaxy NGC 6207 (in M13’s field) had a fair size, bright and with a nucleus. KHW introduced us to a very faint Index Catalogue galaxy halfway between M13 and NGC 6207 — it was at the edge of vision in the 36″ but is fairly visible on the photo on p. 979 of Burnham. PN (planetary nebula) M27 was bright and sprinkled with stars –the following faint area had a darker area at the outer edge of the hourglass. PN NGC 7009 (the Saturn Nebula in Aquarius) showed the faint ansae (the “rings”) as in the photo on page 191 of Burnham — the ansae were a first for me. NGC 891, the edge-on spiral in Andromeda, showed its dark lane prominently.

In McAllister’s f5 20″ Dobsonian with a Galaxy mirror: Saturn at 564X was amazing — it was crisp, clear, and HUGE at this power. Four moons, the Equatorial Zone and North Equatorial Belt, Cassini’s Division in the rings was actually a division of some width, not just a line. Then the C-ring, the crepe ring! This was an amazing experience — it wasn’t just suspected, it was clear and obvious whenever the seeing steadied and Jennifer saw it without difficulty in her first year as an observer while I had never seen it before in my 33 years as an observer. Then Ken (KHW) and I started noticing that there was a colour change at the outer edge of the A-ring, beyond where Encke’s Division would be. Later, I saw Encke’s Division itself flash into visibility for about a fifth of a second but with certainty. It was probably the finest seeing that I’ve ever experienced. Saturn was only tow days before opposition but at declination -14 degrees so it was only 27 degrees above the horizon! I expected to see the innermost C-ring sometime from some southerly latitude but never from British Columbia. It was amazing to see the “crepe ring” so clearly when I had never even suspected it ever before.

There were quite a few meteors through the night, including several telescopic ones.

August 18-19/93 2140 – 0230

(Seeing Very Good, Transparency Excellent)

GC M55 at 97x in a 10″ Dobsonian showed surprisingly good resolution for its very low altitude.

Graig McCaw’s 17.5″: GC M56 in Lyra and then the Ring Nebula at 400x with the 15th magnitude central star occasionally visible. We spent a long time on the Veil Nebula — both arcs and the much fainter triangular area between them and also other small patches using a nebular filter. There was fabulous detail in the more complex arc and in the triangle stretching through field after field. The brighter arc was visible in 7×50 binoculars (as it frequently is with excellent transparency) and both arcs were visible in 11×80’s.

With the 7×50’s: the Alpha Persei association, the double Cluster, and M31 with both companions (Jennifer noticed the companions first).

The Ring Nebula in the 36″ at about 450x showing the central star but this wasn’t my best view with this telescope. August 25/90 at 420x the 36″ showed the central star, and I also briefly but definitely saw the other star inside the ring and one foreground star superimposed on the ring — all were firsts. Then in a flash of fine seeing I felt that I saw broad parallel banding in the gauzy nebulosity inside the ring as is visible on the 200″ photos on p. 1165 of Burnham. I was not looking for this parallel banding, it just flashed out. I have not read of any other report of a visual observation of this parallel banding inside the ring.

Also with the 36″, the PN NGC 40 in Cephus with the central star –attractive with the light concentrated in the outermost edge of the ring.

August 19-20/93 2150 – 0400

(Seeing Good, Transparency Excellent)

I had spoken that afternoon on the building of the PG Astronomical Observatory as one of the several speakers. Pete Kuzel’s 17.5″: Saturn with Cassini’s Division, two belts, and four moons; GC M4 resolved with the central band of stars at 100x but low; GC M22 wonderfully at 100x and 160x –elliptical with an illusion of depth; OC (open cluster) M11 stupendous with sinuous dark dust clouds in the vicinity, especially one field preceding; and the EN (emission nebula) M8 with the Lagoon and star cluster. The Andromeda Galaxy M31 with two prominent dark lanes, the star cloud, and the stellar-appearing globular cluster in the Cassiopea-like asterism near the star cloud (a globular cluster in another galaxy–M31) were visible. The Sunflower Galaxy M63, part of the Veil Nebula, the Helix Nebula nicely at 100x with a darker centre and the 13th magnitude central star (Jennifer identified the central star I’m proud to say, rather than Pete, Jim Failes, or I). WE saw the small and faint galaxy NGC 7293. M33 very nicely at 100x and 160x showing four spiral arms, the nucleus, and at least three HII regions. M33 in Triangulum was a naked eye object with averted vision.

We finished the night with the 36″: the southern galaxy NGC 253 showing lots of mottling; an unidentified southern GC very well resolved; and finished off with M42 the Orion Nebula as it rose in morning twilight. The Trapezium had blown a very obvious large hole around it, the Huyghenian region was very mauve.

Many meteors were visible again tonight. The next night we saw a fireball that looked Magnitude -2 through cloud so we estimated that it was at least magnitude -6. It was very slow moving with a train.

August 21-22/93 2140 – 0325

(Seeing Fair to Good, Transparency Superb)

The “Cat’s Eyes” at the tip of Scorpios were visible on the horizon with the naked eye.

We started on the Sagittarius, Scorpios Milky Way with Pete’s 17.5″: big and bright OC M7 at 100x and also with the naked eye but best in 7×50’s as was nearby OC M6. I swept up a little OC near Gamma SGR. Immediately preceding it was a remarkably coal-black small dust cloud. There were also a lot of winding dark lanes in the area. Transparency was superb following a cold front — Jim Failes saw the 7 degree long dark Pipe Nebula in Ophiucus with the naked eye from the peak tonight.

At 100x with an Oxygen III filter we did the various Sagittarius emission nebulae: tremendous views of the Lagoon Nebula M8 which was faint pink; a more prominently pink Trifid Nebula M20 with all the dark lanes and also the reflection nebula immediately north of the Trifid; the adjacent OC M21; and the Swan Nebula M17 with all its fainter surrounding nebulosity. The Eagle Nebula M16 had prominent dust clouds and lots of nebulosity – it was much less visible without the filter. M24 (the Little Sagittarius Star cloud with wall to wall dense stars), the embedded tiny OC NGC 6603, and the two dark Barnard dust clouds were seen. The howling wind was bitter and drove us inside for an hour.

A fine view of the Helix planetary nebula at 100x, the strange GC M30 looking cut in half with three star chains on one side and none on the other, the Pleiades with nebulosity around every bright star, the star clouds and winding dust lanes around Gamma Cygni (also evident in the 80 mm finder), the Saturn Nebula at 100x and 160x (no ansae in the 17.5″), and finished with a fine 160x view of GC M2 showing hundreds of pinprick stars and a strong central condensation.

We viewed the zodiacal band (fainter than the challenging Gegenschein) in Pisces with Jim Failes. The naked eye views of the Cassiopea Milky Way in the Zenith were superb — the intricate


Did you know that Alan Whitman, when he lived in Kelowna, founded both the Okanagan Astronomical Society (OAS) and the Mount Kobau Star Party.


The Sky:

Here I sit with the September issues of Astronomy and Sky and Telescope in front of me trying once again to condense their monthly sky calendars into a few readable paragraphs. Yes, that’s how I do it. I know, you thought that I kept all that stuff in my head didn’t you? Anyone can do it! Is there anyone out there who would like to try???????

he autumnal equinox begins on September 22. This marks the time when the day and the night are about the same length and the nights are getting longer … and colder. On the day of the equinox, the Sun rises due east and sets due west. The full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon. This year the Harvest Moon comes on September 30.

As the days pass into autumn, Jupiter and Mars enter the Sun’s glare at sunset. At the PGAO, they are no longer visible after sunset because of our poor view of the western horizon. Mars lingers in the early evening glare for the rest of the year, while Jupiter glides over into the morning sky by the middle of October. On November 8, Jupiter and Venus should make a beautiful pair in the morning sky with a separation of less than half of a degree. Saturn is in the southeast at sunset and is visible all night; it makes an excellent target for the telescope. Saturn is interesting to watch now that it is past opposition because the planet casts its shadow on the rings. This shadow is best seen around quadrature which occurs this year on November 16. Also, a narrow shadow of the rings, cast along the equatorial region of Saturn, should be visible in most telescopes. Venus rises shortly before the Sun and will continue to be a morning planet for the rest of this year.

As we enter autumn, the constellation Pegasus is again visible in the early evening sky. Note that with the addition of a few letters, PGAS becomes the word PeGASus. Pegasus is most easily recognized by the asterism known as The Great Square of Pegasus which contains the three brightest stars of the constellation Pegasus and the brightest star of the constellation Andromeda. To the left of the square is the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Using binoculars, look for a faint fuzzy spot to the east just after sunset 30 to 40 degrees above the horizon.

By Orla Aaquist


Where in Space: THE SOLAR SYSTEM (Part one) by Carmen

The current scientific model for the formation of the Sun and planets holds that when the Sun condensed out of the solar nebula, it cast off a disc of rapidly spinning material that contained the material that formed the planets. This is called the “disc accretion hypothesis”. According to the disc accretion hypothesis, most of the angular momentum of the solar nebula (the spin momentum of the dust cloud) was contained in the cast off disc of dust and gas, and this disc then condensed into the planets. As a result of the shedding of the original accretion disc, the Sun contains only 0.5 percent of the angular momentum of the solar system, whereas Jupiter alone accounts for about 60 percent, and the four gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) contain over 99 percent of the spin momentum of the solar system.

The formation of the planets from a thin disc of material also accounts for the fact that the planets are found within a few degrees of the “plane of the ecliptic”, the plane which contains the Earth’s orbit. Of the planets, only Pluto and Mercury are more than 5 degrees off the ecliptic (Pluto by 17 degrees, and Mercury by only seven). Moreover, all of the planets move in the same direction around the Sun,and all but Venus and Uranus rotate in the same direction as well.

The proximity to the early Sun obviously had profound effects on the nature of each planet that was formed. The four nearest the Sun are know as the “inner planets,” (Mercury, Venus, Earth,and Mars). All four inner planets are relatively dense bodies of rock with nickel iron cores. Of the inner planets, only the Earth has a moon of appreciable size (Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars, may well be captured asteroids), and three (Earth, Venus, and Mars) have atmospheres, containing oxygen in the case of Earth and carbon dioxide in the case of Mars and Venus.

Immediately beyond the inner planets lies the asteroid belt, a region of small rock and metal bodies that may look somewhat like the entire solar system did before the planets formed. In the case of the asteroid belt, the density of planetesimals may too low to allow a planet to form, and the gravitational influence of Jupiter may have hindered the process, perhaps by “gobbling up” material that might other have formed a fifth inner planet.

Jupiter is the first of the “gas giants” which contain most of the solar system planetary mass. Not only do Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune contain most of the angular momentum of the solar system, they also contain the vast majority of the planetary mass (well over 99 percent). At distances from the Sun of greater than 5 A.U (A.U = Astronomical Unit, the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun), solar radiation is low enough to allow the planetary capture of atmospheres containing hydrogen and helium, and these elements make up most of the composition of the gas giants. The gas giants are massive, despite their gaseous composition, and each has a set of moons, some of which are as large as a small planet (like Mercury). One such moon, Titan, which orbits Saturn, has a substantial atmosphere.

In addition to the asteroids, there are other oddball members of the solar system. The planet Pluto with its large moon Charon, is one such oddball, being much farther out of the plane of the ecliptic than the rest of the planets. Pluto has as eccentric orbit besides. While the rest of the planets have nearly circular orbits (low eccentricity), that of Pluto is sufficiently elongated to occasionally venture inside the orbit of Neptune (such is the case now, in fact, and it will remain so until 1999).

The comets are other oddball members of the solar system, since cometary orbits are often very eccentric, out of the plane of the ecliptic, and sometimes retrograde (they sometimes orbit in the opposite direction to the planets). Often little more than large flying snowballs, on occasion comets can be the most spectacular sights in the night sky.


The NOA Workshop:

At the last meeting of the PGAS it was suggested that a series of workshop for new members be organized to help them get acquainted with the sky, the observatory, and the methods of astronomy. Vince Hogan and myself will have started such a workshop probably before you receive this newsletter. The intended workshop participants are PGAO members who are new to observing and astronomy, and I will henceforth refer to the workshops as The New Observers to Astronomy workshops or NOA for short. As I am writing these words, the format of the NOA workshops are still only roughly outlined in my mind, but I think that the topics will be of the following nature:

  1. What is in the sky, and naked eye astronomy.
  2. Using star charts and star hopping.
  3. Seeing more with binoculars.
  4. Using telescopes.

The plan is to cover the four topics in four successive Monday evenings (weather permitting) and then to cycle through them again on another evening of the week, and-so-on throughout the year. Because the lessons are very informal, it is doubtful that any one series of four workshops will be the same as the previous, so members can attend the workshops as many times as they wish and get something new out of them each time.

The first series of workshops are being held on Monday evenings from 8 to 9 P.M. at the observatory, starting September 20 with an introduction of what is in the sky and naked eye astronomy. The second workshop, using star charts and star hopping, will run on September 27, and-so-on. Feel free to join the workshops at any time, and to participate for as many sessions as you wish. We hope that as NOA matures, the topics will change to suit the needs of the PGAS participants. In the next issue, I hope to keep you informed of the progress of NOA and the scheduling of the next set of workshops. If you have any suggestions or questions give me a call at 964-9626.

One final note. Please do not expect formal, prepared lessons in these workshops. The idea of the workshop setting is for all the participants to get involved learning some basic observational techniques. Vince and I will hopefully be able to gather the necessary materials to make the workshop successful and fun. If not, then we’ll do better next time around.


Meetings:

Next Meeting: The September 29th meeting will start at 7:30 P.M. at the College of New Caledonia. Come to the Physics Laboratory on the second floor by the main entrance. The room number is 2-223.

At the last meeting, many of the members expressed an interest to hold more of our meetings at the observatory. However, since colder weather is upon us, the executive felt that it would be safer to meet at the college since the observatory classroom is not yet heated. The agenda for the next meeting is approximately as follows:

  Time  Activity
 7:30 to 8:00  changing club structure, call for nominations
  8:00 to 8:20  The Harvest Moon by Bob Nelson
 8:20 to 9:00  Music of the Spheres by Orla Aaquist
 9:00 to 10:00  coffee and chats

The monthly meeting is a time for all members to get together. We hope to make these meetings entertaining to all. If you want to contribute something to these meetings, please let someone on the executive know so that we can include your contribution in the agenda or this newsletter.

Last Meeting: The last meeting was held at the observatory on Tedford Road. At that meeting, current procedures for the operation of the observatory and the use of the various equipment was described briefly. Several members volunteered to serve on the observer’s group which were to suggest general operation procedures of the observatory and equipment. These people were Alan Whitman, Brian Potts, Ted Biech, Chris Brougham, Dave Kubert, and Drew Chrisholm.

Interest was also shown in starting a series of workshops for new members. Orla Aaquist volunteered to get such workshops underway in the fall.

Terry Farnham indicated a willingness to work on the observatory sign, and Alan Whitman volunteered to etch the PGAO letters on the observatory equipment. Kelly Keener showed an interest to work on the club’s promotional video with Jon Bowen.


Image Gallery

orion_a orion_b


Prince George Astronomical Society inquiries and PeGASus correspondence may be mailed to:

PGAS College of New Caledonia 3330 – 22nd Avenue Prince George, B.C. V2N 1P8

Deadline for the October issue is Friday, October 5

The Prince George Astronomical Observatory (PGAO) is located on 7365 Tedford Road The observatory phone number is 964-3600 (party line)

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #39 – Aug. 1993

  • Editorial Comments
  • Meetings
  • PeGASus Activities
  • Observing at the PGAO
  • 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:

The mailing list to members and friends of the PGAS is growing larger. We now have 49 people to whom we send our newsletter. I have taken the liberty of reproducing this list below. If you are on this list you are either a paid up member, a past member who may still be interested in our society, a prospective member who has approached us at our various functions for information about our activity, or a helpful friend who wants to be kept informed about our activities.

At the October meeting, the paid up members (you know who you are, and it is not too late for the rest of you) will be asked to elect a new executive. During the past year, interest in the PGAS has grown by leaps and bounds, and with the construction of the observatory and the success of our public awareness program, it seems that we have set the tone for the next few years. If you are not happy with the direction we have taken, then it is time to let your thoughts be known. Think about who you want to be on the executive for the next term.

The Editor


Meetings: by Orla Aaquist

The August 25th meeting will start at 7:30 P.M. at

The observatory on Tedford Road.

If you are unsure where the observatory is located, the map on the left should help. If you need aMap2 ride to the observatory or if you are willing to give someone a ride, leave your name with Orla Aaquist (964-9626).

Next Meeting: Some of us are gaining experience using our new observatory and equipment. We feel that some guidelines should be developed in order to help protect our investment from carelessness by inexperienced users. At the next meeting of the PGAS, the current procedures for the operation of the observatory and the use of the various equipment will be demonstrated to the members. This, of course, is best done at the observatory itself. After the demonstration, there will be a general discussion concerning the operation of the observatory equipment and possible guidelines that can be set down.

If you are interested in using our new observatory and equipment, please attend this most important meeting.

Remember that much of the equipment was purchased with public funds and our first obligation must be to providing the public with access to our facility. The PeGASus project does not end until March 15, 1994 and all equipment purchased through this project must be available to the individuals committed to PeGASus. But what happens then? Bring your ideas and suggestions to the next meeting.

Last Meeting: At the last meeting on July 28, Ted Biech gave a brief description of progress at the observatory.

6606Orla Aaquist demonstrated how to take pictures with our new ST-6 CCD camera. Orla went through the procedure of hooking up the camera to the our GPC-8 telescope and our 486 computer. The image below shows the frame taken at the meeting of the star chart at the back of the Physics Laboratory. The image is a 0.01 second exposure under normal lighting conditions. The camera temperature was -0.76 degrees C.

At the last meeting, there was also a brief demonstration of The Sky software and Pluto software on our 486 computer.


PeGASus Activities:

The PeGASus Project is now making full use of the observatory. The functionality of the observatory was proven by the success of the Perseid Shower Party. The PGAO is open to the public on Friday through Sunday until the end of September. We open Friday and Saturday evenings at 9 P.M. until 1 A.M. and Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1 P.M. to 5 P.M.. During August, the observatory will also be open to the public Sunday night. In addition, the PeGASus Project will open the observatory to special interest groups (such as cubs) upon request at other times of the week. After September, we hope to host a public viewing night at least once per month and/or at times of particular astronomical events.

During the first part of October, we are participating in Science and Technology Week. On October 2nd and 3rd, we will be staffing a booth at the Pine Centre mall. In the booth we will have our GPC-8 telescope, computer and CCD camera and attempt to hold an astronomy scavenger hunt for kids. During the following weekend, we will host an open house at the observatory as part of Science and Technology Week.

Starting in the fall, we will again be taking some of our equipment into the classroom. Our classroom presentations were a great success last spring, and we anticipate that we will be invited back.

If you want to get involved with any of these projects, call Ted Biech (564-2838) or Orla Aaquist (964-9626).


The Perseid Meteor Shower party drew about 100 Prince George residents to our new observatory on the evening of August 11 despite the cloudy skies. Thanks to Ted Biech, Shannon Austman, Matthew Burke, Mike Lancelot, Robert Frith, Peter and Steve Bowen, and Orla Aaquist for making the event a success.


Observing at the PGAO:

The first image with our new ST6 CCD camera was captured at 11:14 P.M. on July 31, 1993. Members present to witness the event were Orla Aaquist, Ted Biech, Matthew Burke, Mike Lancelot, Shannon Austman, Peter Bowen, and Steve Bowen. The first image, shown below, was of the globular cluster in Hercules (M13). The image shows that we are having some tracking problems. The image periodically lurches forward in right ascension every five to 10 seconds, then quickly drifts back on track. The problem does not hamper very short exposures or visual observations since the amount of movement does not remove the image from the field of view.

Since this image was taken, we have captured other images. An image of Saturn and M13 are presented in the Image Gallery on the last page of this issue. Notice that the image of M13 there does not show the star trails. We were able to anticipate the telescope’s movements for this image and take the picture between the lurches.

Below Right: First image taken at the PGAO with our ST6 CCD camera. The 10 second exposure shows clear star trails, indicating that we are having some tracking problems. A magnified view of the star in the white box is shown to the left. Note that the trailing is not uniform.
m13


Is there anyone out there who would be willing to look into starting an electronic astronomy bulletin board? Call Ted Biech at 564-2838.


Image Gallery

m13_bgif

The Globular cluster in Hercules, M13, (above) and Saturn (image unavailable) were taken with an ST-6 CCD camera at the PGAO by Orla Aaquist, Ted Biech, Matthew Burke, Steve Bowen, and Jon Bowen. More images to come in future issues.


PeGASus is published monthly by the Prince George Astronomical Society. Contributions to the newsletter are welcome. Deadline for the September issue is Friday, September 10


Prince George Astronomical Society inquiries and PeGASus correspondence may be mailed to:

The PGAS College of New Caledonia 3330 – 22nd Avenue Prince George, B.C. V2N 1P8

The Prince George Astronomical Observatory (PGAO) is located on 7365 Tedford Road phone 964-3600

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #38 – July 1993

  • Editorial Comments
  • Meetings
  • The Perseid Meteor Shower
  • Canada Day Report
  • First Light at PGAO
  • 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:

Hang on to your hats and get ready for this! This year the PGAS is doing something it has never been done before. Something to show our dedication to astronomy in Prince George.

Regular meetings will continue for July and August AND you will receive a newsletter as well.

This issue of PeGASus is written on the club’s new 486. It has been sitting in my basement for the last month awaiting its move the the PGAO. I have been testing it out just to make sure that it works. It seems to work but I had better keep it here for another year or so just to make sure. I will let the PGAS use my 386 for the interim.

Now that that’s settled, lets get on with this month’s newsletter.

Its summer, right? However, its difficult to tell unless you look at the calendar. My garden vegetables think its early spring and much too cold for them to start growing. Those warm summer nights are cold, and those clear, sunny summer skies are cloudy. The building of our observatory is behind schedule because of the rain, and The PeGASus Project is not flying because of the clouds.

I blame myself for the bad weather. Yes, it is all my fault. Two months ago, sometime in May, I acquired a rain stick. This device is a hollow bamboo pipe with lava pebbles inside which fall over thorns driven through the bamboo. When the rain stick is inverted, the lava pebbles rush over the thorns and make a very pleasing sound, like rain falling on the roof of a car. Every day for the last two months I have been making the sound of rain. I have stopped now, and the amount of rainfall has already decreased. By August, the Sun should shine on our observatory and PeGASus.

The Editor


Meetings: by Orla Aaquist

Summer is a busy time for most PGAS members, and most of us do not have the chance to attend meetings because of vacations and other activities which take up our time on the warm (?) summer evenings. However, because of our increased activity this year and the arrival of new members, it has been decided to continue with the monthly meetings throughout the summer in order to give new members a chance to get involved in our club.

The general meetings for the remainder of the year are

 Date  Location  Topic
 July 28  CNC  CCD demonstration & The Sky
 Aug. 25  CNC  PeGASus Project Report
 Sep. 29  CNC  Music of the Spheres
 Oct. 27  CNC  Elections & TBA
 Nov. 24  CNC  TBA

As always, the meetings will start at 7:30 P.M. in room 2-223 at CNC. Please note the election of members to the executive happens at the October meeting.

At the start of the upcoming meeting, we will have the solar filter set up outside the college IF IT IS CLEAR. Periodic rays of sunshine through the clouds will not count. Also, our new 486 computer will be present to help demonstrate CCD imaging and The Sky software package.

During the last meeting on June 30, Orla Aaquist demonstrated our new GPC-8 telescope, SP-6 CCD camera, and DayStar T-scanner solar filter. Also on display were PeGASus T-shirts (hand painted by Shannon), posters and post cards available for sale to club members and the public.


The Perseid Meteor Shower:

Every year at about this time, the Earth passes through a cloud of debris following the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle. When the debris collides with the Earth’s atmosphere, streaks of light, called meteors, grace the night sky in a visual display called a meteor shower. The Perseids peak on August 11, but a steady increase in the meteor count should begin as early a July 20, and activity will taper off until August 25.

The Perseid meteors seem to radiate out of the constellation Perseus at the point indicated by the cross in the centre fold sky chart. The Perseus constellation is quite low to the horizon just after sunset, so it is best to view the event in the early morning before sunrise. The chart included in this newsletter (centerfold) is drawn for 3:00 A.M.

This year, the meteor count may be exceptionally high because of the passage of comet Swift-Tuttle last year through the inner part of the solar system. The shower’s activity is unpredictable, but some sources predict the peak to occur on the morning of August 12. So keep a sharp eye on the sky. The peak rate could be hundreds of counts per hour.

This event provides you with a good excuse to come out to the observatory. On the evening of August 11 until the early morning of August 12, members of the PGAS will be at our observatory scanning the sky for these natural fire works. Everyone is welcome to come out and keep us company. We promise to keep the observatory open until at least 2 A.M. if the sky is clear. If in doubt, call the observatory at 964-3600.

To observe this event, you will need to look up for extended periods of time, so bring a reclining lawn chair or something comfortable to lie on. Remember, too, that the nights are cool, so bring warm clothes or a sleeping bag.

At the observatory, we will provide warm drinks and cookies. Also, you will have a chance to examine the night sky with the 24″ Cassegrain and other telescopes and witness the operation of our CCD camera.


Canada Day Report:

On July 1, members of the PGAS staffed a booth at Fort George Park to help in the celebration of Canada’s 126th birthday. In the booth we displayed our astronomy posters and postcards, PeGASus T-shirts, and our new Great Polaris C-8 telescope and H-alpha solar filter. A few postcards and T-shirts were sold, but in general people seemed more interested to spend their money on food. However, there were no shortage of visitors to our display with about 1000 people stopping by to have a look through our telescope.

Our solar filter underwent its first test. Between the scattered clouds, people lined up behind the eyepiece to have a look at the Sun. The view was spectacular! A huge prominence could be seen rising above the South-Eastern limb of the Sun. Many times, visitors would exclaim amazement at the sight. Viewing through the filter makes the Sun a marvel to behold. It becomes more than just a reddish disk with a few sunspots; it becomes a dynamic ball of fire with a great variety of features that can be observed to change over a short period of time.

On behalf of our society, I wish to extend many thanks to the people who came out to help with the booth. Shannon Austman and Ted Biech faithfully showed our collection of posters, postcards and T-shirts. Steve Bowen, Jon Bowen, Matthew Burke and I took turns operating the telescopes. Also, a special thanks goes to Terance Farnham who dropped by, joined the PGAS, and then stayed to chat with the public and show the terrestrial view thorough Bob Nelson’s home made 10″ Newtonian. All around, it was a successful event for us, and if there is enough enthusiasm we may want to repeat if for the International Food Festival on August first and second.


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.


First Light at PGAO:

At 10:30 P.M. on July 17, 1993 the PGAS 24 inch, f/12 Cassegrain telescope saw first light at its new home on Tedford Road . Orla, Ted and Bob washed the primary mirror and installed it in the morning, Bob installed the secondary and roughly aligned the optics in the afternoon, and the trio returned late Saturday night, with fingers crossed, to witness the first star light bounce off the mirrors. The first star observed with the telescope was Vega. After adjusting the secondary, the Ring Nebula in Lyra and the globular cluster in Hercules were observed. The visual images produced by the system of these two objects are superb. We are going to have an excellent telescope.

The telescope drives were tested and adjusted and found to be in working order. Therefore, the telescope is now fully functional, and we will begin operation of the observatory as soon as the flat portion of our roof is tarred and the classroom is provided with electricity. The opening date is now set to be 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, July 31 (1993).

The PGAO has a telephone, so you can check if the observatory is operating before you drive out. The number is 964-3600. Warning: if the line rings busy, it does not mean that someone is at the observatory because we are on a party line. If you want more information about the observatory schedule during the month of August, call Orla (964-9626) or Ted (564-2838).

If you are not sure where the observatory is located, the map to the left should be helpful.


Image Gallery

jupiterNegative image of Jupiter taken with a ST6 CCD camera by Jack Newton.

Relief radar image of the Ishtar region on Venus photographed by the Magellan Satellite. (image unavailable)


Prince George Astronomical Society inquiries and PeGASus correspondence may be mailed to:

PGAS College of New Caledonia 3330 – 22nd Avenue Prince George, B.C. V2N 1P8

The Prince George Astronomical Observatory (PGAO) is located on 7365 Tedford Road The observatory phone number is 964-3600 (party line)

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

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #36 – May 1993

  • Editorial Comments
  • Beginners Cosmology
  • A Walk Through the Universe
  • Casino
  • Meetings
  • In the Sky
  • Observatory News
  • Astronomy Day Memories

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:

Is Wednesday evening the best time to hold our monthly meetings? The question arose at the Editor’s Office when in walked a beautiful woman with long flowing red hair. “I want a job at the Editor’s Office “, she said. The expression on her face told me she was serious. I knew that look from somewhere. But where? I thought long and hard. Then it came to me. The women was my wife, Shannon.

Now Shannon assembles the newsletter. She designed the current format, corrects all of my spelling and grammar error, and she thought up the word PeGASus as the name for the newsletter.

Shannon suggested that Friday is better if we are to have youth participation because Friday is not a school night. At Astronomy Day, a few participants indicated that it would be easier for them to attend meetings on Friday evenings because it is difficult to get away from home on a school night (even for adults).

So, I would like to ask for your input. Come to the next meeting to voice your opinion or give me a call at the Editor’s Office (964-9626).

By the way, as you read this issue of the newsletter, you may notice that Shannon is not here to correct spelling and grammar errors. Hurry back, Shannon!


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.


Beginners Cosmology: by Ted Biech

Cosmology is the study of the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe. Cosmogony is the study of the origin of celestial structures such as stars, clusters, galaxies and clusters of galaxies. There have been many attempts to create a comprehensive theory which encompasses cosmology and cosmogony. The current theory of favour is the so-called “Big Bang” Theory. The Big Bang Theory has been able to broadly outline the evolution of the universe, but many vexing problems remain with this theory i.e. the structure, origin, and sizes of the galaxies. The Big Bang Theory should not be thought of as the final theory of the universe but rather as another approximation to the observations which we make of the universe.

A good understanding of cosmology is rooted in a clear understanding of the basic principles which are ASSUMED at the beginning of any theory. The first key principle is the COPERNICAN COSMOLOGICAL PRINCIPLE. This principle states that we do not observe the universe from a privileged viewpoint i.e. the earth does not occupy a special place in the universe. This principle is named after Nicolas Copernicus who, in 1543, proposed that the earth might not be at the centre of the universe, a heretical view-point for that time. By viewing deep-space photos of galaxies and counting their spatial distribution in different directions, we see that on the largest distance scales, the Copernican Cosmological Principle is approximately valid.

An attempt to extend the Copernican cosmological principle to hold for time, i.e. that the universe appears to be unchanging, called the Perfect Cosmological Principle, has been shown by observation not to hold. The Prefect Cosmological Principle was the basis of the “Steady State” class of cosmological theories. These theories were proposed by H. Bondi, T.Gold, and F Hoyle in 1948. For about 17 years, this theory was a competing theory against the Big Bang Theory. In fact, the term “Big Bang” was invented to denigrate this competitor to the Steady State Theory. To be continued .


A Walk Through the Universe: by Orla Aaquist

First Step: Imagining the Earth: The universe as we have come to know it in the last hundred years is a big place. We are told that it is hard to imagine how large, and if we try to imagine the immensity of it then we will feel very small, insignificant, and humble. Well perhaps this is true.

It is true that the universe is immense in comparison with our everyday experience. Everyday experience involves looking at the fine print on the national referendums, wandering around the house picking up after the kids, working in the yard, walking to the corner store, or driving to the mall. On rare occasions we may venture out on our treacherous B.C. highways and travel south to Vancouver. So our everyday experiences range from dust to the distance to Vancouver.

The range of distances involved in our everyday experience start at a fraction of a millimetre (perhaps one-tenth of a millimetre) to 1000 kilometres. There are 10,000,000,000 (10 billion) one-tenth millimetres in 1000 kilometres. That is, if you lined up 10 billion dust particles, each one-tenth of a millimetre in diameter, then they would reach from here to Vancouver. This is the range or our everyday experience. Our brain can comprehend 10 billion. But can we comprehend 10 billion 10 billions?

In order to get an appreciation for the size of the universe, a good approach is to try to scale it down to something that we can comprehend: like a comparison between a grain of dust 0.1 mm across to the distance to Vancouver. You could, for example, imagine that you are the size of a grain of dust and ask yourself how large the earth would be on that scale. If you are 6 feet tall (1.8 metres) and you wish to scale yourself down to a grain of dust, then the size of the earth can be found by simple ratios if we know the actual diameter of the earth in metres, which we do. It is about 12,756,000 metres. So, scaling that down to our new dust sized beings, the earth is about 710000 mm in diameter. This is about 7 kilometres.

Hence, we arrive at the following point of view: we are but particles of dust moving about the surface of a giant ball which is 7 kilometres in diameter. Seven kilometres? That’s about the diameter of the bowl in which Prince George sits. Take a look at a speck of dust in your house and imagine it to be you. Then try to imagine your tiny dust-body attempting to walk from downtown Prince George to the growing UNBC campus on Cranbrook Hill. If you managed to walk that distance you would have walked about one third the distance around the 7 kilometre diameter world — as you know the world is not flat. There are, in fact, just over three diameters in one circumference.

Looks pretty far to walk when you are the size of a grain of dust. Just what kind of progress could you make in a day. Lets say that you can walk your own body length every second. So in 10 seconds you can walk 1 millimetre; in 100 seconds you can walk 1 centimetre. You can walk one whole metre in about three hours allowing for a 15 minute break. So in one whole 9 hour day of walking you can cover three metres. It would take you a few days just to get out of your full scale house.

As you can see, the world is a big place compared to the size of your body. But what about the rest of the universe?

The earth’s nearest neighbour is the moon. The moon is actually 384,404 kilometres away from the earth; that’s just over 30 earth diameter. So, if you are a speck of dust and the earth is a 7 km ball resting in the P.G. bowel the moon is a 2 kilometre diameter ball near Williams Lake, south of Prince George, about 200 kilometres away. Can you imagine being the size of a speck of dust living on a 7 km ball and being asked to travel to a moon which is 200 kilometres away? Humans have done just that. But the moon is just our nearest neighbour. What about the rest to the solar system?

We have taken the first step. In order to explore the rest of the solar system, we have to take another step. To be continued in a later issue .


Casino: by Bob Nelson

This was our fourth casino event and was held over two days (instead of three) for the first time (it included a week-end evening). We raised $2517 on the Thursday and $1000 on the Friday for a total of $3517 (this was up from $2800 earned last time). All told, the executive is quite pleased with this amount. Thanks go out to Ted Biech, Gerhard Bierman, Jon and Peter Bowen, Don Goldie, Rod and Steve Marynovich, Alan Pretty and Larry Steel (your reporter also served).

Quite accidentally, I learned that, contrary to the rule a few years back, we are not restricted to one casino event a year. All we have to do is submit the report and request a new date (there is a waiting time of from four to six months). We could therefore have up to three events a year, earning somewhere in the neighbourhood of a cool $7,000 – 10,000. Judging from the opinions of those who staffed this event, we are not close to volunteer burnout yet; however, we shall have to be careful on this score. As our club gets bigger, though, we will be able to share the load more (even this time, there were some members who did not have to be called upon).

A worrisome trend in the classroom addition is the tendency to go over budget as there are things we did not think of and higher costs than expected. The nice things about more casino events is that now there can be no doubt that we will be able to pay for the new building and whatever new equipment we need.


Meetings: by Orla Aaquist

The next meeting of the PGAS will be on Wednesday May 26 at 7:30 P.M. at the College of New Caledonia in room 2-223. At this meeting, the time of the summer meetings will be discussed (as suggested by the Editor). Bob Nelson will describe the most recent progress at the PGAO, and Orla Aaquist will summarize the events of the May 21 partial eclipse of the Sun. Also, some new hardware made available through the PeGASus project may be on display. The feature presentation for the evening is entitled, ‘Three Times in the Moon’s Shadow, Making Your Own Good Luck’. In this talk, Alan Whitman (PGAS member) will look back at three total solar eclipses and forward to the eclipses scheduled in the next decade.

At the last meeting on April 28, we saw several new faces. The PGAS executive and regular membership would like to take this opportunity to welcome you and invite you to attend the upcoming meeting. Bob gave an update on the latest developments at the observatory and classroom addition. Volunteers for the casino event were asked for. Orla summarized the current PeGASus Project activities and the scheduled events for the Astronomy Day (night) activities at the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum. After tea and coffee, Bob Nelson illustrated the simulation software ‘Dance of the Planets’.


In the Sky: by Orla Aaquist

On morning of June 4 there will be a Lunar eclipse. Prince George residence will be able to catch the initial stages of this event as the moon enters the penumbra (the outer part of the Earth’s shadow). Shortly afterwards the moon sets.

Most of June is a good time to view Mercury in the early evening sky. It appears farthest from the Sun on June 17 (greatest elongation) and will shine with a magnitude of 0.6.

Venus shines bright at -4.5 magnitude in the predawn sky. It will continue to dominate the sky for the remainder of the spring and most of the summer. Venus reaches greatest elongation on June 10.

Mars is quite dim in the western twilight after sunset and is easily overlooked. It sets about four hour after the Sun. You will have to stay up past midnight if you want to have a look at the ringed planet, Saturn. By morning, it is visible in the southeast.

Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.1 among the relatively fainter stars of Virgo. Jupiter will be visible all summer. On June 27 the giant planet is at quadrature (it lies 90 degrees east of the Sun). Near the time of quadrature, you can see Jupiter’s phase more easily than at any other position in its orbit. Even though Jupiter appears 99 percent lit, the eastern limb supposedly does look less defined than the western limb. Watch for eclipses of the Galilean satellites in June because the eclipses occur farther from the planets disk than at any other time. In particular, on the night of June 8, Ganymede vanishes behind Jupiter’s western limb at 16:57 PDT and reappears from behind the eastern limb at 19:51 PDT. Unfortunately, the Sun is still up at this time. However, at 21:57 Ganymede will disappear again while well away from Jupiter’s disk. It then magically reappears again 39 minutes past midnight. Can you explain why Ganymede can be eclipsed twice in such short succession?

If you have any questions about the night sky, I will be happy to look into my crystal ball. Give me a call (562-2131 local 307).


Observatory News: by Bob Nelson

Well, a lot has happened. Jim Livingstone has come up with a nice set of plans for the classroom addition in consultation with John Morgan, (a professional engineer at CNC who can approve our drawings). Thanks Jim and John. Brute Drilling and Contracting excavated on May 11, the forms for the footings were completed on May 14, and at time of writing, the footings were supposed to have been poured on May 17. By the time you read this, the foundations should have been added as well and perhaps the brickwork started. As Ted Biech and I are committed to working full time on this thing, we should be able to get the basic shell up by the end of the month.

Also on May 17, the insulation and drywall in the warm room should have been installed and the CNC electrical class should have completed the wiring in the original building (no more extension cords!).

The donations have started to come in. I’m pleased to announce that the Pas Lumber Company has generously donated 105 pieces of 2″x10″x10′ lumber and Northwood has generously donated 50 sheets of 5/8″ T&G plywood for the floors. Donations greatly reduce costs and make all this possible.

On another front, I attended a meeting of the West Lake Community Association where the item of interest was the possibility of natural gas coming to the area. Although it’s not certain to proceed, the majority of the 50 or so people were in favour and it appears probable that natural gas will be provided next summer. (In case you’re not aware, heating costs with natural gas are about 1/3 of those with propane.) Although I did not speak at the meeting, I did talk with several people at the break. Interest is high in our project and a note will appear in their next newsletter. I believe we can count on the support of the people in the area (which is important for our security and other things). We need good neighbours!


Astronomy Day Memories: by Orla Aaquist

On May 1, the Prince George Astronomical Society (PGAS) and the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum hosted an evening of star gazing in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Astronomy Day. Although there were very few stars at which to gaze (it rained), the evening was a tremendous success. It was an educational experience for all who attend, and the few who remained until 10:45 even got a glimpse of the moon and Jupiter through Bob Nelson’s 33 cm Dobsonian.

I was pleasantly surprised by the influx of people. Because of the heavy cloud cover and rain, I had anticipated a turnout of only a handful of people. However, Cindy Rebman (the museum’s program coordinator) estimated that about 90 people passed through the museum. This shows that there is a considerable public interest in astronomy in Prince George.

Thanks to all members who came down to help make the evening a great success, especially Bob Nelson who brought his big eye, Ted Biech who brought his computer and simulation programs, and Alan Whitman who brought his video of the 1991 solar eclipse. I also got a glimpse of Jon Bowen actively sidestepping through the crowds. I had anticipated performing last minute organizational activities after the museum doors opened, however I was swept away into the conference room at 8:15 to give my presentation and I did not emerge before 10:30. This left many of the members to their own devices. Thanks for surviving the evening on your own.

Next year we hope to be better organized. Astronomy day will be held on April 16 (1994). The moon will be 6 days old, so craters will be easily seen. Of the planets, only Venus and Jupiter will be visible. Venus will be close to the horizon just after sunset and very small at 11 seconds of arc. Venus will set just as Jupiter rises at about 9:30 p.m. Perhaps we could have a day long display at the museum, with solar viewing during the day and ending with a star party in the evening. By next year, the PGAS will have more show and tell items from the PeGASus Project and hopeful a larger membership.


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

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

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #34 – Mar. 1993

  • Note from the Editor
  • The President Speaks
  • Observatory News
  • Meetings
  • 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


Note from the Editor:

In this issue we are trying out yet another format for the newsletter. The thrust towards change is motivated not only by new software at the editor’s office, but also by the recent flurry of activity within the PGAS: the construction of our new observatory and the launching of the Pegasus Project. The acquisition of government funds in support of these efforts means better facilities, more equipment and hopefully a larger membership in the near future. The Editor


The President Speaks:

Hello, everyone! Well, I suppose you read our good news in the paper Wednesday: the money for the PeGASus project has been officially approved (this is the $25,000 for buying equipment and hiring students for the tours this summer). We haven’t heard anything from the Science Council regarding the $16,000 we need for the building. I shall have to phone them. On the project, things have been percolating along and progress is being made. A number of people are contributing to the general effort and this is gratifying – we have a lot to do.


Observatory News: by Bob Nelson

Well, there hasn’t been a lot of physical progress out there; as I write this, there have been no changes since the last newsletter. However, by the time this reaches you, Peter Bowen, myself and others hope to have raised the telescope at least part of the way it has to go. After that, it should not be too long before the telescope is operational. (The dome needs work.)

The College electrical class is still scheduled to complete the wiring (in an- other few weeks). After that, we can install the insulation and mount the drywall. Our main concern, at this stage, is to solve several problems regarding the new classroom addition. It seems that for up to 50 people, we need minimum of 4 toilets – 1 for men and 3 for women (two of which have to be for handicapped). Since you can’t fight the regulations, this is what we have to do. Peter Bowen is looking into what we have to do to make this work – there are some encouraging things here, but it remains to be seen if we can overcome this problem within the budget (some funds are available from the PeGASus money and I may go back to the Science Council).

We have more or less decided on a 30′ x 30′ concrete block addition, separated by a 10′ wide (or whatever is needed) entrance way and washroom area. We will be going with wood floors and a flat roof supported by whatever beams we need. We have a budget and it looks as if it MAY work but success depends on several things happening:

  1. Getting most of the $2000 back when we demolish the old building
  2. Getting the rest of the $$ from our B.C. Lotteries grant (~$1900)
  3. Running a successful casino this summer (I’ve applied)
  4. Getting enough donations (we’re working on them)

I’m optimistic – it should work. Until then, it’s full steam ahead with plan-ning and materials raising. In general (except for minor loans to complete the ob- servatory), we won’t spend money until we have it.


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 Dr. Bob Nelson, 1393 Garvin St.,Prince George, B.C., V2M 3Z1.


The Pegasus Project: PeGASus, PGAS and the PGAO by Orla Aaquist

The Pegasus project (PeGASus) is the brainchild of Ted Biech who teaches mathematics at CNC. His proposal is to conduct an extensive public awareness program in astronomy over the next year. The Prince George Astronomical So- ciety (PGAS) plans to purchase various equipment for our new observatory, the Prince George Astronomical Observatory (PGAO). Among the various items on the wish list is a CCD camera, a solar projection system, a few small telescopes, an H-alpha filter, eyepieces and other accessories, two 486 computer systems software to handle image acquisition, display and telescope control, CD-ROM databases such as the Hubble Space Telescope, VCR with a large display monitor and astronomical video tapes, a variety of show-and-tell stuff to be used in school presentations and public demonstrations out at the observatory.

The project includes funding to hire two students to conduct public presentations at the observatory and possibly at campsites and community star parties during July and August of this year. The Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology is supporting this ambitious project by granting the PGAS, through the Pegasus project, $25,000. The money is virtually here; now we just have to spend it. In addition to the government money, there is the possibility to raise money through other sources such as the sale of T-Shirts, astronomical slides, and other items at the observatory. We could offer an general public astronomy course to raise some money to raise some money from tuition fees.

The observatory is another ambitious project started by Bob Nelson last summer. Bob recently obtained $16,000 from the Northern Interior Science Technology and Innovations Council (NISTIC) to help us add a classroom wing to the PGAO. Bob has already built one observatory on Tabor Mountain about 10 years ago. However, that site was vandalized (there are bullet holes in the dome to prove it), and the PGAS was forced to abandon this site. Last summer, he and a handful of volunteers, build a small observatory at a safer and more accessible location. This building is near completion, and if all goes according to plan, it and the adjoining classroom should be finished by the end of June in time for a grand opening for Canada’s 126 birthday.

And where do I, the author of this article, fit into all this? I am trying to bringing it all to the public. My job is to develop presentations and ideas which can be used in schools presentations, observatory demonstrations, and at star parties around town. For the Canada day celebrations, the PGAS will staff a booth in Fort George Park so the public can look through a telescope, and we will also have an information booth at the Central Interior Science Fair hosted by CNC on the second of April. With the help of our summer students, we can also host a few block parties throughout the community during the summer in order to bring telescopes to the people of Prince George and to advertise our presence. For the next two months, Ted Biech and I will be going into the classroom to giving astronomy presentations to school kids. Next fall, an astronomy course for the general public could also be offered by the PGAS. Through these and other efforts, membership in the PGAS, along with the core of people needed to sup- port our increased activity, should increase.

Clearly, we have embarked on a very ambitious course of action. However, given the government funding, the enthusiasm and drive of Bob Nelson, Ted Biech, and other members of the PGAS, it is certain that we will end up much better off than we were.


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:

On April 1st, Venus, which has dominated the early evening sky over the past few months, is in inferior conjunction. This means that it is passing between the sun and the earth. If you are a daytime astronomer, you’ll be able to spot Venus on the morning of April 19 as the moon passes just below Venus. Binoculars can be used to observe this event, but WATCH OUT FOR THE NEARBY SUN! Never point a telescope or binoculars at the sun.

By next month Venus will be visible as the morning star. With the passing of Venus into the starry sky, Jupiter is left behind to dominate the evening sky. This planet appears in the east just after sunset and marches westward across the night with the stars, setting shortly before sunrise.

Mars is still in Gemini, very near to Pollux and Castor, with Mars being just slightly brighter than the twins. If you want to see Saturn, you must wait till almost dawn. The Lyrids meteor shower peaks on April 22nd. The night sky will be nice and dark this year for this event because the moon will be new.


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