Category Archives: 1992

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #31 – Nov. 19, 1992

Hello everyone! As I write this, our casino event for 1992 is over and we have earned enough to let us continue with the observatory. The bottom line is that we have netted $2797.78 from the three nights’work (the breakdown was $1242, $1650 and $71 – the numbers donadd up since we had to pay GST). While the last night was disappointing, it is a lot better than it could have been since at about 11 PM, the casino was in the red some $4000 – we made it all up and then some in the next three hours! (Although a charity cannot lose for the three nights, it can do so over one or two nights, the loss(es) being taken from the other winnings. Be thankful we didnlose on that night!)

I think all that participated agreed that, although the hours are long (5:30 PM to about 3:00 AM the next morning), it “wasn’t that bad”; good conversation and good fellowship carried us through. On behalf of us all, many thanks to those who participated. Their names are: Orla Aaquist, Gordon England, Steve Marynovich (two nights), Bob Nelson (two nights), Alan Pretty, Gerhard Bierman, Jim Hay, Brian Stauffer, Alan Whitman, Ted Biech, Peter Bowen, Rod Marynovich, and Lance Odiorne.

I have more good news. Although this isn’t for publication yet, I have just received formal confirmation the we will receive a grant from the B.C. Science Council for $16,000 to construct the classroom wing. This is great!!! Upon approval of our detailed plans, we receive a cheque for $14,400 (90%) and will be able to start construction next April or May. At present, I am thinking of a 30’by 30’concrete block structure to adjoin the present building on the north side. There is the thought that, since it will contain only a slide projector, VCR and monitor, tables and chairs, etc maybe this could be a more attractive wood frame building with (barred) windows. This would be cheaper to build but would be less secure. Please let me have your thoughts on this.

Anyway, weon our way for phase 2 and should be able to entertain tours within a year, probably. The tours should provide a source of income which we will need to meet our operating expenses which will probably be in the neighbourhood of $100 per month.


Well, since the last newsletter, we have secured the dome properly (we rotated it 90 degrees but some more work is necessary once we get the floor in), and we have installed the flashing around the bottom of the dome to keep the rain and snow out. Also, up at the old observatory, we have removed all the wood from the upper floor, the stairs and the studs and panelling from the main floor. We removed the nails from the stuff we could use (there were a number of 2″ x 12″ beams 11 to 12’long which we can use in the new building) and burnt what we couldn. Although it was sad destroying the old building that some of us have good memories in, the positive thing is twofold: some of the wood can be reused and it looks as if we will be able to satisfy the Ministry of Lands and get much of the $2000 (plus interest) that we had to lock away as a guarantee.

At the new observatory, we have nearly got power connected (by underground cable) and telephone will not be far behind. We are hoping (at time of writing) to have made a good start in installing the beams for the main and warm room floor on Nov 21-22. The door is in the works as well.


Comet Swift-Tuttle is supposed to be visible in the western sky just after sunset. It is making a path southeast (down and to the left) parallel to the line joining Vega and Altair in the summer triangle. Around a week ago it was midway between Vega and Alpha Ophiuchi. On Nov 17 it is supposed to be at RA 18 deg 18 min, Dec 18 deg. I tried to find it with binoculars but clouds intervened.


Thursday, November 26 at 7:30 PM at the College, room 2-223. I think that because of some of the newcomers in the club, we should have a primer on telescopes. I plan to give a short talk on telescope principles, a demonstration of three telescopes plus maybe something new. Also available will be the latest slides and videotape from the observatory project.

Hope to see you there!

Bob Nelson, President.

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #30 – Oct. 18, 1992

Hello, everyone! Well, there has been good progress on the new observatory since the last newsletter. See below for details.

Other news involves the Science Council. There is still hope that this agency will fund the classroom addition. There is a lot of enthusiasm locally and the application will go to the B.C. Science Council (the parent body) sometime in the future. The application will require local support from the schools and I have been phoning around for that purpose. It looks as if, once we have the classroom, local teachers will ring the phone off the hook making bookings. Therefore several things come to mind:

  1. Don’t make the classroom too small. I am told that the nominal 20’x 30’room we were planning might better be 30’x 30’. Since a school bus can hold anywhere from 25 to 60 people, we had better be able to handle 60 eager students, as teachers tend to stuff buses.
  2. We had better be able to attract volunteers to give presentations. Before scaring off most of you, let me reassure you by saying that a) we plan to set up 2 or 3 well prepared presentations that just about give themselves, and b) children are easily satisfied and appreciate just about anything that you can give them. Most of them are really excited about astronomy and that is one of the reasons we are doing all this. (That and to get more members into the club, to enhance our facilities, etc – it all fits together.) I must say that the times I have given talks to young people, I have really “gotten a bang out of it”.

However, we must have the facilities. I hope that, down the road, we will have a first class observatory that will be well-equipped for all that we want to do.


We had a good meeting in September with some new members in attendance. We looked at slides and videotape of construction at the new observatory this summer. It was hilarious at times.


The good news is that the roofers, A.V. Jay Roofing have completed the roof on our new observatory. It really looks quite substantial and it’s relief to get it done. They did no charge and many thanks to them for their generosity. Now we don’t have to worry about the plywood getting wet anymore.

The next piece of good news is that, by the time you read this, we may well have moved the telescope and dome. At time of writing (Oct 18), Larry Heavy Hauling has tentatively agreed to move it on Tue/Wed (transport on the highway has to be between 2 AM and 6 AM). Stay tuned!


Mars 1992-3 apparition (opposition is in January). ORLA – can you write something or should I?


THURSDAY October 29 (note day change) at 7:30 PM at the College (room 2-223, Physics lab). This is our annual general meeting at which we must go through the formality of electing an executive. (This is usually, like most clubs, by acclimation. However, there is always the change of a spirited election.)

On the program, we plan to give an introductory-type talk about how to find celestial objects in the sky, celestial coordinates, etc. If there’s time, we could have another of the popular series “Constellation of the Month”.

Hope to see you there!

Bob Nelson, President.

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #29 – Sept. 27, 1992

Hello, everyone!! Well, it’s been a while since the last meeting and newsletter; however, I have talked a lot with many of you privately and there have been a number of work parties at the new observatory over the summer. (More on that later. )

I’d like to welcome a new member to the club: Dr. Ted Biech teaches mathematics at the College and joins Orla and me in what appears to be a growing astrophysics group there.

Well anyway, this is the start of a new season – one that we have high hopes for. Firstly, we hope to have a good programme of events at our monthly meetings (Ted and Orla will give talks), and secondly, over the fall and winter, we should be able to finish the new observatory – really getting into what we all want to do (astronomy-wise).

Orla’s wife, Shannon, who is a design artist by training, has volunteered to edit the Newsletter, so there may very well be a new look next month. Here’s hoping that it will be a great leap forward!


So much to say! Here is a brief chronology:

  • June 24: Contractor dug hole (and a great hole it was!).
  • June 27-30: We installed the forms for the footings. A start!
  • July 4: We poured the footings. (I was in Calgary at the time.)
  • July 7-9: We installed the forms for the foundation wall.
  • July 10: We poured the foundations (using a pumper this time).
  • July 11: We peeled the forms from the foundation.
  • July 14: We tarred the foundation wall and laid the drain tile.
  • July 15: We completed the back-filling (by hand – much shoveling).
  • July 18: Masoners laid block (day 1); we assisted by supplying them with blocks.
  • July 20: Masoners laid block (day 2). The nine foot walls are up.
  • July 25: THE BIG DAY – a total of 9 volunteers (we had 2 mixers going) filled all the cores, pouring nine cubic yards in 11 hours.
  • Sept 5-7: Labour Day Weekend – we installed the roof joists.
  • Sept 12: We installed the eaves.
  • Sept 13: I installed sewer pipe down the trench – this should allow us to have a modest water system (for coffee, washing hands, etc.).
  • Sept 15: The contractor filled the trench and spread gravel around. This should alleviate the mud!
  • Sept 19: On a rainy day, we stripped electrical fixtures from the old observatory up on Tabor Mountain.
  • Sept 27: We laid the plywood on the roof.

John Peters (carpentry instructor at the College) has generously volunteered that his class will make the 144 segments for the base ring (out of our 2x6s) for the dome. With these, we will be able to fabricate the base ring in situ in another week or so. The professional roofers are next. Then it gets really exciting: we will be ready to move the telescope and dome. The latter will close up the building from the elements; next, we will install a power pole and connect Hydro, allowing us to get heat inside. We will then be able to finish the interior whatever the weather. Completion of the observatory should occur this or early next year.

The finances are not so good: at present we are broke and face a bill (for concrete) of some $1900 or so. Some of use are carrying bills that will have to be repaid. Other expenses will be for the plywood, the door, tarring the roof, moving the telescope and dome, installing the hydro pole, etc. We are due an interim cheque from B.C Lotteries (for $1750) that should ease matters; however, we will probably have to take out a loan to tide us over to our (hoped for) casino event probably sometime in November. I think it should be ok (all estimates say so) but we do have a bit of a cash flow problem in the meantime.


Fall equinox has been and gone (Sept 22); now the nights are getting longer (that’s good for us). Regrettably, daylight savings time will not be gone until the end of October. (What a silly idea it is!)

Mars, moving from Taurus into Gemini, rises about 4 hours after sunset, and is high in the southeast at sunrise, amid the “winter six” constellations.

Saturn, in Capricornus, is low in the southeast at sunset, and is visible for most of the night.

Uranus and Neptune are stationary on Sept 23 and 27 resp. [They should be visible low in the southeast at sunset.]

The other planets are difficult or impossible to see this month.

– [from the Observer’s Handbook, 1992]

Mid evening sees the summer triangle still high in the sky. [For the uninitiated, these are the stars Vega (à Lyrae), Deneb (à Cygni) and Altair (à Aquilae)]. The northern Milky Way passes right through Cygnus and Aquila giving many spectacular objects such as the Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra (just at the edge of the MW), the Dumbell Nebula (M27) an equal distance on the other side of Alberio (á Cyg at the other end of the “Swan” figure), the North America Nebula (near Deneb), M29 (another nebula) also near Deneb, M56 (a globular cluster near Alberio strangely in the plane of the Galaxy), M71 (another globular in the Milky Way), and more. Hey, why don’t we get out and look at some of this stuff? It’s been a while!


Wednesday, Sept 30 at 7:30 PM at the College, room 2-223. I’d like to show a videotape of the summer’s activities at the new site, plus some slides of almost every day out there which should be interesting. In addition, several of us have drawn up a tentative schedule of events for our monthly meetings – we would like your input.

Hope to see you there!

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #28 – Mar. 22, 1992

Hello, everyone!! Well, with the lovely weather we have been having, yours truly has been doing more observing. Two weeks ago, the astronomy class at the College observed Mercury in the west, just after sunset. I did do some other observing later, but it was near full moon and windy, so viewing was not as good as it could have been. With the dark of the moon upon us, more should be possible. Let me know, any of you, if you’d like to go out!


We looked at a NASA videotape on Jupiter which was quite good.


Bad news, I am afraid. I received a note from the Public Gaming Commission that, owing to the large numbers of applications for casino events, there will be a 7 to 8 month delay in the Prince George area. For us, this means that the earliest we could get a casino date is October or November. Since I had hoped for May or June, this may mean a cash flow problem in building the new observatory.

Based on anticipated expenditures and on the money we have on hand, I believe that we can get the foundations laid, the walls up and the roof on with available funds. The interim refund from B.C. Lotteries (33% of expenditures) will help. To move the telescope and dome, however, we may need to float a loan (which I believe we could get using the mirrors as collateral) to tide us over until the fall. The reason not to wait is that I will have time available this May and into the summer, and now is the time to act.

A full discussion will be held at the upcoming meeting this Wednesday. If you can’t make it, talk to me or one of the directors privately.


Mercury is no longer visible. Jupiter is high in the southeast after sunset and sets before sunrise. It is a fine object; you should be able to see the four Galilean moons with binoculars. All other planets are morning objects or are not visible.

I have not seen Nova Cyni yet but will try soon.


Wednesday, Mar 25 at 7:30 PM at the College, room 2-223. As I mentioned above, I’d like to hold a discussion of what we should do regarding the financial situation. Also, I have back my slides from Hawaii and we can look at what I have (none yet from inside the the CFH telescope or the Keck telescope) but there are a number from the summit of Mauna Kea and a few beach scenes may find their way into the tray. Also, we could look at another videotape.

Hope to see you there!

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #27 – Feb. 23, 1992

Hello, everyone!! Well, as usual, not a lot has been happening. For the one clear night in weeks that we had recently (Saturday), I was tired (having gone out skiing that day) and stayed inside feeling guilty all evening! More activity can be expected in May and June when the weather improves.

When we can get the necessary barrels, we can start the mirror grinding group going, as Gerhard Bierman has kindly agreed to donate or sell some blanks that he has on hand. Yours truly will be mounting the 10″ mirror bought some time ago, making a club telescope that we be available on loan.


It was generally agreed by the members present that we would like to have David Sundberg stay on as treasurer of the society and Dave has so agreed. Welcome back Dave!


I got the application in for our next casino event which will be hopefully this summer sometime. I received acknowledgement of our application for a Science Council grant; results will be announced by late March. Even if the Science Council grant is not approved, we will still be able to proceed with the observing room part only this summer, leaving the classroom part until later.


Jupiter will be at opposition Feb 29 and will be a grand sight all month. Mercury will be visible now and in the beginning of March low in the southwest just after sunset. Try it with binoculars!! The other planets are poorly placed, or impossible to see right now.

I just received notice (via astronomical telegrams that I get) that there is a nova in Cygnus that has reached magnitude 5.2 and is at coordinates 20h 30m 32s and +52ø 37′ 53″ (2000.0). Let’s have a look for it next clear night – it’s of naked eye magnitude and well placed for us to see!

Other than that, the galaxies of the Virgo and Coma clusters are well placed for viewing later in the evening should we get a good night. Any takers?

FEATURE ARTICLE – Origin of Moon:

How did the moon form? This question has long intrigued astronomers and many theories have been proposed over the ages. Basically these theories fall into one of three general scenarios: that the moon was formed somewhere else in the solar system and was captured by the earth (intact capture, disintegrative capture), that the earth and the moon formed together (co-accretion), or that the moon was somehow ripped out of the earth after the latter was formed (earth fission, collisional ejection) and remained in orbit.

Before we can examine any of these theories, we must look at what is known about the moon, what constraints exist for these theories. First of all, the overall density of the moon (3.34 g/cm3) is somewhat less than that of the earth (4.45 g/cm3). Part of this can be accounted for by the fact that the earth has an iron core (as evidenced by its magnetic field) whereas the moon does not. Another constraint comes from the isotope ratio of oxygen. Isotopes of an element are atoms that contain the same number of protons but different number of neutrons. For example, oxygen 16 (the normal stuff we breath) has 8 protons and 8 neutrons. Other isotopes are oxygen 17 (8 protons, 9 neutrons) and oxygen 18 (8 protons, 10 neutrons) which occur in trace amounts. The precise ratio here on earth and in rocks on the moon are closely equal implying that both bodies were formed nearby.

More than a century ago, George Darwin (son of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution) proposed that the moon was ripped out of the still molten earth early in its history (fission theory). Such a theory would account for the composition that the moon has; however, the earth would have had to be rotating unreasonably fast (once every 2.6 hours) and moreover, would have had to somehow lose this rotational momentum since then. This difficulty would appear to rule out the theory as proposed.

In the 1960s, a popular theory was that the moon was formed elsewhere and captured by the earth (intact capture theory). This would account for the iron-poor nature of the moon; however, the match in oxygen abundances would make this theory unlikely. Also, the probability that a wandering alien body would be travelling at exactly the right speed and direction to be captured is extremely unlikely; furthermore, there must be a mechanism for losing excess energy.

The co-accretion model is more acceptable in that it accounts for the oxygen ratio and does not depend on some fortuitous event. However, it does not explain why the moon has so little iron.

A much better model (see Sky and Telescope for Dec 1986, p 558, also S&T for Nov 1984, p 389) is that of collisional ejection. Such a model, first proposed in the 1970s, asserts that a small planet hit the earth at an oblique angle, splashing off debris from the outer part of the earth. Because of tidal forces (friction), this material ended up in orbit about the earth, eventually coalescing to form the moon. This model accounts for the iron-poor nature of the moon (since only material from the outer layers of the earth were taken), and for the match in the oxygen abundance. Also, the angular momentum before and after are reasonable. In fact, complex simulations using super computers have predicted that the moon would have formed soon after such an impact and that the general scenario is plausible.

The above theory appears to be the front-runner. However, before rejoicing that the problem is solved, one should remember that there are some details that remain unexplained. (For example, the moon is depleted in certain elements such as chlorine, mercury, lead and zinc. Why is this?) What is needed is more information. The moon rocks that were supposed to settle the issue, regrettably came from the maria regions of the moon and are mostly basalt (results of a lava flow). They were therefore formed more recently in the history of the moon. What is needed is a “genesis rock” (similar to rocks in the Canadian Shield that date back several billion years) that would reflect conditions soon after the moon’s creation. This need is why scientists are advocating a return to the moon. One can only hope …


Wednesday, Feb 26 at 7:30 PM at the College, room 2-223. Let’s look at a videotape or some slides. Come join us!!

Bob Nelson, President

PeGASus Newsletter Issue #26 – Jan. 25, 1992

Hello everyone, and happy new year!! El Nino is still exerting its evil influence on our weather (NO clear nights in January so far) but we can only hope that better days are ahead.


Planning is proceeding apace on our proposed new observatory (see the revised sketches below). The good news is that we appear to be eligible for a grant from the B.C. Science Council – their ‘Partners in Science Awareness Program’. This is to encourage young students to go into science for a career. We have submitted a proposal for some $23,000 which would allow us to build the classroom wing AND equip it with up to $13,000 of high tech goodies such as additional eyepieces, digital setting circles, CCD cameras, etc. Here’s hoping!!


We are ready to order blanks and tools for the mirror grinding group. (We have enough grinding powders on hand, so don’t worry about these.) Total cost will be around $60 for a 8″ mirror and $120 for a 10″ mirror (plus extras). If you are interested in getting a telescope relatively cheaply, or are looking for some fun, one evening a week, why not join the group?


Jupiter rises late evening these nights and will be increasingly visible earlier in the evening as the weeks go by. Next time we look at it we shall have to look for occultations, eclipses and transits – an ephemeris is available in the Observer’s Handbook. The other planets are all morning objects, although in the first 2 weeks of March, Mercury should be visible in the west just after sunset. It will be a favourable apparition for northern observers, so let’s keep it in mind.


Wednesday Jan 29 at 7:30 PM at the College, room 2-223 (Physics lab). I would like to hold an election to resolve the issue of who our treasurer will be. We can also discuss the new plans, look at the next installment of ‘The Astronomers’ and generally have a ‘gab-fest’. Hope to see you there!!

Bob Nelson, President