Contents 6 Cassiopeia 8 Solar Outreach Activities 14 Combatting Dew 20 Imaging the Lakes on Titan in High Resolution 22 Rogues Gallery 32 The Night Sky 36 Lets Talk Interview Dr Lewis Dartnell 40 How Do Big Stars Shine? 44 Seeing What There is To Seeâ€“ New York 50 Occultations 56 100 Year Starship: Will We Be Ready? 60 Near Earth Objects 64 Iss APP 66 Steve Arnold APP (Meteorite Men)
Background Image Dave Bood: Bridlington sunset Cover Image: Mike Greenham
Welcome to the March edition of Astronomy Wise digital magazine. It is the final month of our competition. We have an interview with Dr Lewis Dartnell, and From New York City Justin Starr who gives us insight into what you can see from a light polluted sky.
Meet This Months Team
elcome to the March 2013
Edition. This month we have an interview with Astrobiology's Dr Lewis Dartnell. We have Astronomy from New York City. It is the last chance to enter our â€˜Meteorite Menâ€™ competition.
From the top left: Mike Greenham Zantippy Skiphop Pepe Gallardo David Bood
Well what a month and more to the point what a February 15th. Firstly a meteor was spotted over Russia and Asteroid 2012 DA14 had a close encounter with Earth.
2nd Row Julian Onions Andrew Devey Justin Star Jason Ives 3rd Row John Harper F.R.A.S Edward Dutton
Rouges Gallery: firstname.lastname@example.org Design: email@example.com
Circumpolar constellations are constellations that do not set. Last month we had a look at â€˜The Ploughâ€™, which is part of the constellation Ursa Major. To someone new to amateur astronomy finding your way around the night sky can be a daunting task. So by picking out groupings of stars which are easily identifiable, we can start to build a picture and find our bearings.
Cassiopeia is a constellation in the northern hemisphere sky, it is named after Queen Cassiopeia from Greek mythology. It easily recognisable by the W shape . See image left >>> The easiest way to find Cassiopeia is to look opposite the plough (Big Dipper). It is defined by five bright stars that make up
the . Cassiopeia is an easy naked eye object to see however with binoculars or a telescope there will be more objects to see in more detail such as open clusters and messier objects. Named Stars Shedir (Alpha Cas) Caph (Beta Cas) Ruchbah (Delta Cas) Segin (Epsilon Cas) Achird (Eta Cas) Marfak (Theta Cas) Marfak (Mu Cas)
POLE STAR THE PLOUGH
Messier Objects M52 (open cluster) M103 (open cluster)
SOLAR OUTREACH ACTIVITIES By Andy Devey Solar outreach is an excellent way to engage with the wider public and real opportunities to demonstrate equipment, photos and to possibly boost the membership of the local astronomical society.
modern technology. There is also the potential problem of perception during an outreach event when allowing the general public to use safe optical equipment as it may resemble something that they have gathering dust at home so it must be SAFETY AND SOLAR ASTRONAMY continuously stressed DO NOT TRY THIS Safety MUST always be the number one AT HOME! priority with solar viewing activities or SIMPLE SAFETY MEASURES during solar outreach events. Any eye damage that may be caused through not To get any message across effectively it taking appropriate precautions may be is important to keep it simple and to permanent and it could render a disability always explain the WHAT, WHY and to the individual concerned. Safety can HOW! I have prepared a list of safety tips never be over stated but it is easy to that must form the bare minimum of the achieve with the advent of fairly low cost control measures used throughout the
telescope time in the field. NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN WITH THE UNAIDED EYE OR WITH MAGNIFICATION UNLESS USING THE APPROPRIATE UNDAMAGED FILTERS. NEVER LOOK ALONG THE EDGE OF A TELESCOPE TO LINE IT UP AT THE SUN. NEVER USE A FILTER UNLESS IT IS APPROPRIATE FOR SUCH USE AND IT WAS SOURCED FROM A REPUTABLE DEALER AND IT REMAINS IN GOOD CONDITION. EXPLAIN [IN SIMPLE TERMS] TO CHILDREN OR ADULTS HOW THE FILTERS ACTUALLY WORK AND WHY WE NEED THEM. ALWAYS REMOVE THE FINDER SCOPE OR AT THE VERY LEAST ENSURE THAT IT HAS THE LENSE CAPS FITTED AT ALL TIMES. ALWAYS SUPERVISE THE CASUAL OBSERVERS AND CHILDREN THAT ARE NEAR TO INSTRUMENTS THAT ARE POINTING AT THE SUN www.astronomy-wise.com
NEVER LEAVE A TELESCOPE UNATTENDED THAT IS POINTING AT OR NEAR THE SUN. STRESS THAT THIS IS A SAFELY FILTERED SYSTEM PROVIDED BY EXPERIENCED OBSERVERS - DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. USE SAFETY WARNINGS PLACED NEAR TO OR THE EQUIPMENT. ENSURE STEPS LADDERS ARE AVAILABLE TO PERMIT SMALL CHILDREN TO REACH THE EYEPIECE WITHOUT THE NEED FOR PARENTAL LIFTING. The above list may seem a bit onerous but in practice this is very easy to achieve and to continuously maintain and it should in no way detract from the fun of the event. There are no second chances with eye safety so be fully prepared, remain diligent and keep safe so that everyone can fully enjoy the experience. To find out more about how solar filters work there are lots of links on the web and there are also quite a number of videos that discuss solar safety.
HOW TO MAXIMISE WITH YOUR OUTREACH ACTIVITIES As stated in the introduction, outreach is a tremendous opportunity to share this passion with the wider public and possibly introduce people to a whole new set of experiences. In a few cases this may even change the direction of some oneâ€™s life forever. With such an opportunity it is vital to demonstrate enthusiasm for this subject but without becoming too technical or going over the top and overwhelming people. There are all sorts of opportunities for engaging in outreach activities from the casual conversations over a drink, a pre-arranged solar viewing event in the local park or summer fair or even the formal presentation to a group or school and maybe even in front of a TV camera. Technique will always improve with experience and it is always worth asking a spouse or a friend to provide some constructive criticism afterwards. On society events it really is worth carrying out a formal debrief to assess what went well and what went bad to improve the performance at the next event.
OUTREACH SUGGESTIONS Here are some pointers that I have developed through working in industry for many years and leading or participating in successful outreach events during the last eight years. Priority no one as mentioned in detail above must always be SAFETY. Prepare that risk assessment and make sure all the control measures are fully implemented to reduce the risks as low as possible [this is a requirement to participate at some formal events]. Stress the absolute necessity to maintain eye safety. Make sure that all filters are secure and in full working order, remove any finder telescopes, continuously recheck the filters and make sure that all visitors are supervised at the telescopes. Use phrases like "don't try this at home" and explain how the filtration works and what to look for in the eyepiece. Take along telescopes that are very easy to set up so as not to keep people waiting as they may soon move on to the next event/ stall. Ensure sketches, drawings or photos are available to show the observer what to look out for at the eye piece and include a representation of the Earth to the same scale. Point out sunspots, granulation, prominences, filaments, plages and maybe even a solar flare. Explain in simple terms what they are, how big or how hot they are and how long they might last. Explain how big the Sun is by pointing out if the earth was at its centre then the lunar orbit is only about half way to the surface. Here is a chance to shine just as well as the Sun does. I like to point out the orange peel effect in the zoomed in Hydrogen alpha view and then tell the ladies that even the Sun has cellulite. Make sure that there are some steps for the children to stand on as this will save mum and dad's back should they try to carry or hold them. Build in contingencies as all the equipment is available at a summer fair but sods law the clouds never part [we are well used to this one]. Still photo's, information boards or the lap top with solar animations will assist here. The pocket digital camera with astronomical/solar shots can be very handy for the pub or casual conversation.
A picture paints a thousand words if it includes a representation of the Earth to give some perspective of the scale of the Sun/solar features on view. Be friendly and approachable, a smile will usually break the ice. If this is a society event then select the best front men/women the best sales people. The presenters should also be good listeners. Humour if set in the right context will always helps. People inherently warm to good humour and in the right context this will enhance the audiences experience and can lead to a lasting impression. The best outcome is to deliver a real feel good and truly memorable experience â€“ something that the guests can tell their friends and family about for years to come. Promote the organisation/society. Have plenty of leaflets to hand out ready to expand the society's membership. Outreach can become a very lucrative fund raising event so ensure that there is a very visible donations box, select a range of raffle/competition prizes to suit all ages. Debrief each event and incorporate any new ideas into the next event. I take my small triple solar scope set up everywhere I go on holiday. With such a scope everyone will want to take a look and I can guarantee get to know everyone in the hotel. Astronomy is a universal language with no age, sex or religious barriers. I always joke, I am on holiday for 2 weeks with three telescopes and just the one pair of trousers? In January 2012 I did my first outreach presentation in English and German at a busy international campsite near Almeria in southern Spain and I have worked very hard to achieve almost fluency in Spanish to commence local schools visits in 2013 in AndalucĂa. Do not be afraid to think big! Have fun and enjoy your outreach experiences to the full and reap the rewards. Andy.
Competition time To enter the competition you must answer the question set We have 2 rock star and 2 Meteorite hunting books to give away. So there will be 4 winners each winning one book each. All books are signed by Geoff notkin What is the largest meteorite Steve Arnold has found? SEE PAGE 66 & 67 Terms & Conditions: Answers are to be email to firstname.lastname@example.org Subject Meteorite Competition Closing date is March 31st 2013. All correct entries will be put into an hat and drawn at one of the Astronomy Wise Public meetings. The winner will be notified by email. We will ask the winner for their delivery address details. Competition open to UK only. The competition is free to enter. Four winners will be drawn winning one book each.
Combatting Dew Dew is a problem that plagues every astronomer at some point and can cut your visual or imaging session short if your not prepared. Dew forms when a surface cools below the dew point of the air next to it. Newtonian Reflectors don’t really suffer with this problem due to the primary mirror being well down within the tube which acts like a dew shield but they can suffer with dew on the secondary mirror. Refractors and Schmidt-Cassegrains are very prone to dew problems due to the large glass element up front radiating heat quickly. The glass radiates heat away into the night sky causing it to fall below the dew point resulting in dew formation. If dewing does occur don’t try wiping it. It will just return and you’ll end up in a right mess. Gently warm the front lens with a hair dryer to bring the glass temperature above the dew point. To combat this problem we can use dew shields and dew heaters that are commercially available but here I’ll show you a couple of tips to make your own and save a few pound.
A Simple Dew Shield A dew shield is basically an extension of the telescope that protects the optical surface and slows down the cooling process. Note that it only slows the process and does not prevent it! To make this one I used a roll of exercise mat that cost me £5 and a roll of duct tape. It’s as simple as cutting a length of the mat that will roll around the telescope and sticking it together to form a tube. As a rule the dew shield should be 1.5x as long as the diameter of the telescope
DEW HEATERS Dew Heaters are bands that when connected to a controller produce a small amount of heat. You wrap them around the telescope, finder, diagonal, and they gently warm the optics preventing them from cooling below the dew point and therefore preventing dew from forming. On the left are a couple of commercial dew bands and on the left bottom my 4 channel controller. This controller allows me to connect 4 bands and control the current flowing to each one which in turn controls the heat the bands will produce..
Some people make their own controllers but that’s way to advanced for me. I have however made my own heater bands and if you’ve ever used a soldering iron so can you. The bands are heating elements and we can make our own by using resistors. As current passes through the resistors heat is generated, the more current the more heat.
I’d like to say please don’t attempt this if you are in anyway unsure! I’m not an electrical genius and the last thing I want anyone to do is damage their controller or worse still have your heating band catch fire. The following procedure is what I did and it works for me. However neither I or Astronomy wise can accept any responsibility for any damage caused by you attempting to replicate it.
Right, sorry, had to say all that just incase. So the first thing you will need is some resistors. I ordered mine from Ebay at 99pence for fifty. Resistors come in various values but the ones we want are 330ohm 1/2W. We will be spacing the resistors at roughly 15mm centres so to work out how many you need divide the circumference of the telescope in mm by 15.
So a 100mm refractor has a circumference of 314mm, 314 divided by 15 is roughly 21. Therefore for a 100mm refractor weâ€™d need twenty one. The resistors need soldering in a ladder formation at roughly 15mm centres to two solid copper wires. I took some twin and earth cable used to rewire houses and stripped the insulation off. The centre wire, the earth, is exposed with no insulation so this is what I used
Resistors soldered in Ladder formation Once this is done you solder two lengths of cable onto one end. You could use a twin core cable as shown in the picture below. One cable goes to the top copper wire and the other cable to the bottom. Polarity doesnâ€™t matter. You then solder on a phono plug to the other end of the cables which is used to connect to the controller.
I then placed a thin rubber strip on one side of the resistorsâ€™ to insulate them from the cold air and direct more heat where I wanted it. Following this I wrapped the whole thing in two layers of duck tape.
The Final Product……….
And finally the disclaimer bit…. The article is for reference only Astronomy Wise is not responsible for damage to persons or property. Any work should be carried out by a competent person only.
Words & Images Mike Greenham www.astronomy-wise.com
Imaging the Lakes on Titan in High Resolution Recently (Dec 2012), the workhorse Cassini spacecraft exploring the Saturnian system, made a fly over of the northern regions on the largest of Saturnâ€™s moons, Titan. High-resolution images beamed back to Cassini mission control in Pasadena California revealed a Nile like river flowing into a large sea. Radar can penetrate thick atmospheres to image planets and moons by bouncing radio waves off the surface but, as the radio end of the spectrum has a very long wavelength, the image quality is much poorer than infra-red or visible light images. These Cassini images represent a very high resolution for radar.
From the images and radar data, scientists have concluded that the river is filled with liquid hydrocarbons rather than water â€“ these are compounds containing just carbon and hydrogen, such as methane or petroleum on Earth. Hydrocarbons appear very dark on radar images. The river itself appears to be quite straight, only displaying some small meanders, leading scientists to think that the river may follow a fault line. Nevertheless, this does not suggest Titan has tectonic plates or a geology as active as Earthâ€™s. The river, however, does bear a striking similarity to ones such as the Mississippi or the Nile on Earth, as its 200 mile length meanders towards a large hydrocarbon sea.
Titan is the only place in our solar system, other than the Earth, where liquid movement has been found on its surface. However, unlike Earth the liquid is not water but ethane and methane. It has similar systems of rainfall to the ones we all witness but, again the rain on Titan is not water but these hydrocarbon compounds. Titan could be a window into Earth's past; by studying Titan we may learn more about our planets evolution. Titan is really one of the wonders of our complex solar system. Hydrocarbons are any compounds made entirely of hydrogen and carbon. They have a skeleton of carbon, to which hydrogen atoms attached themselves. The diversity and complexity of the solar system never fails to amaze. As we venture out to the gas giants, a moon that orbits Saturn holds special fascination. Could this small world be an early example of Earth? Could studying this body help us understand Earth's own evolution? This orbiting world is Titan.
Credits: Images: NASA. Left: high resolution image of Nile like river. Right: River networks draining into lakes in Titan's north polar region. Sources: NASA, Cassini Radar Mapper Words: Dave Bood (AstronomyWise) and Ralph Wilkins (Active Astro) This article features on the Active Astro website http://www.activeastronomy.org Twitter @ActiveAstro
ASTRONOMY Recent Discoveries & Developments
From the Reviews: This book is packed with interesting new topics in easily readable chunks. No maths, just plenty of illustrations in glorious colour, sprinkled with explanations and anecdotes. An excellent read for kids and grown-ups alike, ideal for browsing on a journey. Can't wait for the next editionâ€Ś â€ŚMargarita
Although the lifetimes of stars and galaxies are played out over hundreds and thousands of millennia, the field of Astronomy itself is fast paced, with hardly a week going by without a new discovery or development hitting the headlines. This book delves into the most significant, ground breaking, headline making stories that have come out of Astronomy throughout 2011-12 and presents them in an easy to read, easy to understand format. The Perfect Introduction The Perfect Catch-up Available from Amazon in Kindle and Paperback Formats
For more information go to www.paulrumsby.com Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AstronomyRecentDiscoveriesAndDevelopments Follow the Author on Twitter @PMRumsby
Paul Halperns new book â€˜Edge of the Universeâ€™ A voyage to the cosmic horizon and beyond. The universe is a vast and complex place. It is full of mystery and wonder. We can peer out into the galaxy from our back gardens with small telescopes and see the stars and planets. However have you ever thought when gazing up how did this magnificent spectacle begin? How big is the universe? Is there more than one Universe?
Like you I have asked myself these and many more questions. Dr Paul Halpern who is an American Professor of Physics and a well publisher author may have the answers I am looking for. I downloaded the book onto my Galaxy Pad, using the Kindle app from amazon. Firstly the book is well laid out and easy to follow. It is not over complex and the beginner to Astronomy and those with an interest of the universe will quickly be absorbed into the pages. We soon learn that the universe is full of dark energy and dark matter. There are ideas on multi-universe and unseen dimensions. Download this book, buy this book in traditional form, which ever you choose get yourself comfortable and begin your journey to the cosmos. Astronomy Wise Rating 5/5
The Night Sky..
By John Harper F.R.A.S
The Sun begins the month in the constellation of Aquarius but crosses the border into Pisces on the 12th at around 09h. It is climbing steeply now and daylight increases rapidly. On March 20th 11h02, the Vernal Equinox occurs, when the sun is directly overhead at the earth’s equator. The sun-earth distance at the time is 148,989,865 km. The northern astronomical season of spring begins and lasts for 92.74 days. If the earth had no atmosphere, day and night at this time would be exactly equal all over the planet except at the poles, but due to atmospheric refraction, this scenario occurs some days earlier. March is the best month to observe the mysterious Zodiacal Light during evenings when the moon is not present in the sky and you are well away from light pollution. Look towards the west when twilight has faded and you should see a faint cone of light pointing southwards at a steep angle of 60°. This year, the best dates to observe the zodiacal light are from the 1st to the 12th and again at the very end of the month. This phenomenon is caused by the sun illuminating the disc of fine dust, which is the remnant of solar system formation 4.5 thousand million years ago.
The Moon The Moon is at perigee, its nearest to the earth, at 23h20 on the 5th, and again at 03h55 on the 31st; and at apogee, its furthest from the earth, at 03h13 the 19th.
Last Quarter Moon, is on March 4th at around 21h53 . When it rises five hours later it may be seen low down in the constellation of Ophiuchus, and is the lowest Last Quarter moon of the year. New Moon is on the 11th at 19h52, in western Pisces, when it passes over 3° north of the Sun. First Quarter takes place at 17h27 on March 19th in northern Orion, near the border with Taurus, and is one of the highest First Quarter moons of the year. Full Moon is on the 27th around 09h28 in south-western Virgo. This is the Paschal Full Moon because it falls Image Mike Greenham after the Vernal Equinox. The Paschal Full Moon determines the date of Easter Day, Earthshine, (the faint glow on the night hemisphere of the moon caused by reflected The date of this important Christian festival is always the Sunday, immediately after the sunlight from the earth), may be seen during the evenings on the dark hemisphere first full moon, which follows the Vernal of the waxing crescent from the 12th to the Equinox 18th, and accompanying the waning crescent from the 6th to the 10th.
Mercury is at inferior conjunction at noon on the 4th and lies between earth and the sun, so is lost in the glare of the latter. The planet then moves into the morning sky for its greatest elongation west of the sun (28째) on the 31st. Unfortunately it is rather low in the morning sky, and in brightening twilight, so is difficult to spot near the eastern horizon before sunrise.
On the 28th of March at 17h Venus passes behind the sun and is in superior conjunction with it. Venus is therefore absent from our skies during this month. So during March the brightest planetary object visible in the sky is Jupiter.
Mars low in the western sky through binoculars. Thereafter it becomes lost in brightening spring twilight, and disappears from view as it heads towards conjunction with the sun in the middle of April.
Jupiter, high in the south at sunset in the constellation of Taurus the Bull remains the brightest object in the night sky until it sets at 02h on the 1st, and just after midnight at the end of the month. Overnight on the 17th to the 18th, the broad waxing crescent moon with earthshine on its dark limb approaches Jupiter to pass 2° south of the planet, as the pair are setting during the first hour of the 18th. If you look at the moon through binoculars you will see a star close to the moon’s earth-lit hemisphere. This is the 3.5 magnitude star epsilon Tauri, one of the brightest stars in the Hyades cluster which forms the ‘face’ of the Bull; it has the proper name Ain. At about twenty minutes past midnight the moon will occult this star, when the star disappears behind the moon’s dark limb. However, it will be difficult to observe because the moon at this time is only 3° above the horizon with Jupiter shining brilliantly above it. Saturn, the brightest object within the constellation boundaries of Libra, is the brightest object in that part of the sky. The nearest bright star in the vicinity is Spica in Virgo, 17° to the west of Saturn. During the month Saturn rises in the SE sky during the late evening. At 00h on the 2nd the gibbous waning moon lies 8° to the right of Saturn, but by the time morning twilight begins to brighten up the sky, the moon lies to the lower right of the planet and a little closer. By the time the March evening twilight fades, Uranus, in Pisces, is within 10° of the horizon and will be difficult to locate.
Neptune was in conjunction with the sun on the 21st of February and is too near the glare of our nearest star to be seen.
Constellations visible in the south around midnight, mid-month, are as follows: Leo, the western part of Virgo, Crater, and Hydra. The Plough (Big Dipper), which is part of the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is at the zenith, directly overhead. Clocks go forward an hour in the morning of Sunday March 31st (and ends on the 27th October) All times are GMT
1Â° is one finger width at armâ€™s length.
Lets Talk…… This months interview is with Astrobiology's Dr Lewis Dartnell. Lewis has written books, appeared on TV and Radio and we are pleased at Astronomy Wise to introduce him to our readers.
AW: When did you first become interested in science and what steered you towards astrobiology? LD: To be honest, I can't remember a time when I wasn't interested in science, and understanding how the world works. My opportunity to get involved in astrobiology came when I finished my degree (in Biological Sciences) and moved to UCL for my PhD, in their new interdisciplinary department called CoMPLEX. I had the incredible opportunity to write my own PhD proposal and chose my own supervisors, so jumped at the chance to get into astrobiology research. AW: How excited was you when Curiosity landed on Mars, what where your thoughts before the landing? LD: Tense nervousness! Curiosity is an incredibly capable and ambitious mission, but it all came down to the success of the EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing) system and the crazy sky-crane technology. Needless to say, everyone I know in the community was biting their nails beforehand, and we're very much looking forward to the results from Curiosity's investigations of Gale crater. AW: Is it possible that microbes and bacteria may be possibly living on Mars? LD: The surface of Mars today is undeniably an unpleasant place to find yourself: it's freezing cold, with minimal atmospheric pressure, and so exceedingly dry. On top of these environmental hazards is the flux of cosmic radiation bombarding the ground. So life on Mars today, if it did emerge there, is probably dormant on the surface (if not perhaps already driven to extinction) but may remain active deep underground. We're designing instruments capable of detecting signs of even long-dead life for ESA's ExoMars mission, due for launch in 2018. AW: We read and hear that NASA takes extra care not to cross contaminate an alien world, however wouldn’t it be an interesting experiment to contaminate a seemingly dead world? LD: It might be interesting, but it'd certainly be pretty reckless - you could never un -do that experiment! But actually, we don't really need to try that - you can recreate www.astronomy-wise.com
the conditions on Mars in a lab on Earth. I've run experiments in the Open University's 'Mars chamber', a big stainless steel capsule where you can suck out all the atmosphere and replace it with low-pressure carbon dioxide - martian air - chill the whole thing down and turn on a harmful ultraviolet radiation lamp. The surprising realisation is that many strains of bacteria can actually survive those conditions, provided they're shaded from the direct UV - but they can't grow and divide. Perhaps in the far future though, as part of an effort to terraform Mars, we might deliberately inoculate the red planet with terrestrial extremophiles. AW: A place that fascinates me is Saturnâ€™s moon Titan, what could we learn from this moon? Do you think is possibly similar to an early Earth as some scientists have proposed? LD: Titan certainly has a lot of interesting, dynamic processes - it has an atmosphere thicker than the one we're breathing right now, it has a lot of organic chemistry going on, and its landscape is smothered with wet stuff like the Earth. The big difference, of course, is that Titan is so cold that it is sodden with liquid methane rather than liquid water. We don't know yet how feasible methane-based life might be, but Titan is certainly towards the top of the astrobiology wish list. AW: We hear a lot about the latest break through or experiments in astrophysics what is the next big experiment or break through in astrobiology? LD: Curiosity has the capability to make some really exciting discoveries - including, hopefully, the first detection of organic molecules (the necessary building blocks of life, but not necessarily indicative of organisms) on Mars. There is also the anticipation that exoplanet-hunting missions like the Kepler Space Telescope are on the brink of discovering a true twin of our homeworld - an Earth-sized world orbiting a sun-like star within its habitable zone; an ideal location for the chances of extraterrestrial life. AW: If there is life out there in our solar system where do you think it may be? LD: In may ways Mars is the most Earth-like place in the solar system, or at least it pretty earth-like billions of years ago when life was first getting started here. And Mars is also our next-door neighbour, so it's relatively easy to explore and search for traces of biology that may have emerged. But actually, a far better bet for life active still today might be the dark alien ocean beneath Europa's frozen surface. The trouble with this moon of Jupiter is that it is so much further away, and for a variety of reasons exceedingly difficult to land on it's surface. But hopefully within my career there'll be a mission to drill down through that shell of ice and release a robotic submersible to explore the depths of the Europan ocean. AW: Can you please tell us about your work, including your books, TV work etc. LD: My research is focussed on Mars, and the chance of microbial, or signs of its prior existence, persisting in the its dusty soils. Mars no longer has any significant atmosphere, nor a magnetic field, and so its surface is totally unprotected from www.astronomy-wise.com
cosmic radiation, which will steadily sterilise the surface, and scrub away many of the signatures of past life. Alongside my academic work, I get a lot of satisfaction out of outreach - giving talks at schools or science festivals, and the odd bit of TV or radio work - and I've also written two books. 'Life in the Universe: A Beginner's Guide' was intended as just that; a gentle introduction for the non-specialist about this exciting new field of science hunting for alien life. 'My Tourists Guide to the Solar System' is an illustrated children's book I wrote for Dorling Kindersley.
A big thank you to Lewis for taking the time to answer our questions. To read more about Lewis please have a look at these links UCL https://twitter.com/ lewis_dartnell Books: www.amazon.co.uk
Image Lewis Dartnell (twitter)
Overwhelming objects in the Universe Astrophysicists are always looking for the biggest objects in our Universe. Black holes can be classified in that category. Further, to talk about that objects researchers make use words such as "ultra" or "super" which allow us to "imagine" how big they can be (if "imagine" is a suitable word fin Astrophysics). Astronomers clasify some black holes in a type called supermassive. Usually they are located at the center of galaxies. This time supermassice means a mass from a few million to a few billion times that of our sun. In a sample os 18 clusters of galaxies, looking for in their brightest ones, astronomers found that some of them contain what are called ultramassive black holes. These ones weigh between 10 and 40 billion times the mass of the sun. This is what is shown in the image below. The white glow in the center is just one of those ultramassive black holes. in the galaxy cluster PKS 0745-13 which is located at about 1.3 billion light-years from Earth. The black hole powers outbursts that create a lot of stars. To get these outbursts the black hole has to swallow a great amount of mass. The main colors in this image are purple which are X-ray data and yellow which are optical data. Cluster of galaxies PKS 0745-13 is located in the constellation Puppis.
Image Rigel & the Sun: Wikipedia www.astronomy-wise.com
Seeing What There Is To See Stargazing Opportunities in City Environments By: Justin Starr tw: @UrbanAstroNYC blog: UrbanAstro.org October 10, 2011; 6:10am Coffee in hand, I disembark the elevator and enter the lobby of my Upper East Side apartment building. As I walk past the doorman we smile at one another and exchange “Good mornings.” I step out into the darkness and look up to see what there is to see. Standing tall and mighty over the 4-story apartment building across the street, Orion the Hunter greets me and sends me on my way to my regular morning commute.
Oscar looking after the telescope, Central Park, New York, USA
I love stargazing. It so happens that I also live in a big city. Not just any city, mind you, but New York City. And not just any borough of New York City either, but right on the island of Manhattan. Now I know what you’re thinking: “But Justin, how can you possibly do any stargazing? Don’t you realise you live in a lightpolluted concrete jungle?” (I am, of course, imagining the typical reader as being from the UK.) For starters, it’s not as bad as one might think. Sure, it is far from ideal, but there is actually quite a bit one can observe and activities to enjoy, even here. There are, however, many things you may want to take into consideration if you live in an urban metropolis and seek to engage in the awe -inspiring splendor that is astronomical observation (and, if you so desire, astrophotography). Location November 30, 2012; 9pm Dinner with my brother and his friends was a lot of fun. We are now walking through Times Square to our respective subways when I look up to see what there is to see. Proud and bright, Jupiter
New York Skyline, Perseus, Andromeda & Cassiopeia
is high in the sky. I tweet the following: “In case you were wondering, Jupiter *IS* visible from Times Square. #wellIwaswondering” Let’s just call a spade a spade here and admit that street-level naked-eye viewing can be pretty horrendous. This owes to the fact that the street lamps are often between you and whatever it is you want to see. However, with great frequency I will look up at one of the higher magnitude stars and block the light of a nearby lamp by placing my open hand near my face in its path. After giving my eyes a few moments to adjust, more stars fade into view. Some stars don’t need the help. As I’m writing this, Sirius outshines virtually everything, and Aldebaran is plainly visible next to Jupiter. Yeah, OK, so I can make my limiting magnitude a 2.5 instead of a 2 by lifting my hand but can’t we do better? Yes, actually. Yes we can.
Moon: taken the night Neil Armstrong died
Plenty of cities have parks where you can find slightly more open spaces and therefore less crowding of light sources. For example, near where I live, I have access to Carl Schurz Park (which is lovely, sitting right on the East River) while a few avenues in the other direction is the significantly larger Central Park. Cygnus the Swan, Orion the Hunter, Cassiopeia, Taurus the Bull, and various Dippers have all been easily observed with the unaided eye in these locations. I have even seen nebulosity in Orion’s sword at these viewing spots. I have also been pleasantly surprised at other settings where I have been able to observe this nebulosity – in front of my building, standing in the middle of Union Square, and on the Lower West Side whereupon I was exiting a venue at which my band had just played when, lo and behold, there it was. And it was all the more incredibly rewarding as it was so unexpected. One of the best things you can do if you have the ability, in my opinion, is to get above the street lights. Find out if you have rooftop access to your building, or make friends with someone who does. Perhaps you have a balcony or terrace. Even a window that faces an interesting direction, such as the path of the ecliptic, can make a difference. In my case, I am 28 stories up with a balcony that gives me a largely unimpeded approximately 180-degree westward view from SW-NW. One drawback is that www.astronomy-wise.com
the balcony directly above mine limits much of my ability to look up. No zenith for me, folks. I can look out, however, and therefore I do get the path of the ecliptic, which has allowed me to view the planets, Moon, and Sun (with a proper solar filter, of course) from the comfort of my own home. On a recent windy night, I took a picture of Andromeda from within the confines of my own bedroom by merely opening the window. Many constellations have been observed from my lofty perch, as well as the International Space Station. Equipment
enhance the abilities of your measly hominid eyes. The two means to August 25, 2012; 8:45pm accomplish this are either a pair of Neil Armstrong died today. I feel a need binoculars or a telescope. The big issue to do something to honor this man, the to consider, of course, is the tradeoff first of a very select few to step foot on between ease and portability versus our closest celestial neighbor. I decide aperture. I can already hear many of that I’m going to take my telescope to you shouting, “But Justin, you ninny, Carl Schurz Park and setup next to the aperture is king!” Who doesn’t want a East River in order to let passersby gaze light bucket from which one can pull out upon Luna. So I throw on the shoulder all the faint little fuzzies and Deep Sky straps of my telescope case and tripod Objects? Further, when you take in to bag and trek out into the streets. As the account all of the light pollution, a 6” electric sliding doors close behind me aperture is often the minimum and I step enter the somber night, my recommendation. What is an urban gaze turns upward to see what there is dweller to do? to see. The forlorn Moon is wearing a thin veil of clouds, as if in mourning. The first question you should ask yourself is, “What is my living situation?” In So you desire more than mere nakedother words, how much room do you eye viewing. Perhaps you want to behold have in your humble abode? When you comparably cooler sunspots on the face live in New York City, space is a rare and of our nearest star, Saturn’s majestic valuable commodity. Not just living rings, the Galilean moons of Jupiter, the space but storage space as well. An Great Orion Nebula, or split binary stars apartment with sufficient number closets such as the Horse and Rider, Mizar and with even a modicum of volume can be Alcor. You are going to need a way to hard to come by. If you live in a shoebox
studio apartment, or a small one bedroom, you may not necessarily have the space to keep a large Newtonian reflector. Next you have to consider your living situation relates to your observing site. Do you have the ability to view from your home? Then perhaps you can have a 6”, 8”, or even 12” telescope. But what if you have to take your telescope to another locale, such as a park? Do you have an elevator or stairs? If you live on the fifth floor of a pre-war walk-up, you may not be looking forward to lugging that 8” Dobsonian up and down the stairs with great frequency. Or ever. Do you have a car, or are you going to hail a cab every time you want to observe? Will you be bringing your 10” Schmidt-Cassegrain (SCT) on the subway (that’s ’Murican for “the tube”), or will you be walking and therefore carrying your telescope and mount the entire way? Here’s what I do, and it works well for my current living (and financial) situation: I have an 80mm Orion Short Tube f/5 refractor, which weighs about 4 lbs (1.8 kg) and a video camera tripod that is www.astronomy-wise.com
approximately 9 lbs (4.2 kg). The refractor came with a shoulder case that holds the optical tube assembly, finder scope, 2 eyepieces, my variable polarizing filter, and my 3x Barlow lens. This setup makes it versatile in that I can setup on my balcony for home viewing or walk a couple of miles carrying to and from a viewing location in, say, Central Park. It has shown me colors on Jupiter, although not in great detail and no Great Red Spot; the rings of Saturn, although no Cassini Division; and M42, although not nearly as bright as with a larger aperture. Like I said, it is a tradeoff, and I made my choice. It is worth mentioning, however, that when the time comes that I get a computerized go-to equatorial mount and a 6-8â€? SCT to sit atop it, I will probably still carry the little refractor and tripod to the park more often than not. Another option is going the binocular route. Binoculars take up little-to-no space when not in use, offer the use and comfort of both eyes, and will reveal much more of the night sky than you knew was possible in a city setting. Needless to say, you can get astronomical binoculars with apertures of 80mm or more, but you will want to support them on a mono-/tripod as they are quite heavy and your arms will get very tired in a short amount of time. Holding them steady without any kind of added support is fools errand. The drawbacks of binoculars include the inabilities to use filters (except for solar filters) and swap out different eyepieces. Before I acquired my first telescope (a whopping 8 months ago!), I used to sit on my balcony in a fold-up beach chair with my 35mm binocs and just look around. See what there was to see. On some clear and steady nights, they were enough to reveal the Galilean Moons, by Jove! They showed me surface detail on the Moon. They filled the sky with many more stars. It was as if the ceiling that the city had placed over my head was peeled back just a bit. Do not underestimate the astronomical wonder and awe a pair of binoculars can bring.
Orion, Taurus, Pleiades, Jupiter
Pleiades through an iPhone
What To Do? November 9, 2012; 10pm After 9pm, dogs are allowed to be in Central Park off-leash. As we walk there, the Mrs. handles Oscar’s leash while I shoulder my telescope bag and tripod. We meet up with friends and their dogs and choose a spot with benches next to the Great Lawn whereupon I setup my equipment. I survey the night sky, seeing what there is to see. A target is chosen – M45, the Pleiades open cluster. As pups run and play under foot, I attach the Orion SteadyPix Telescope Adapter for iPhone to a 20mm wide-field eyepiece, insert the 4S, and open the NightCap app. The image settings are configured to the maximum exposure – 1 second. Surveying the captured photons neatly arranged on the screen, I think, “Gotcha.” Should you choose not to buy any equipment due to lack of storage space, funds, or are researching and debating over what to buy, you have other options to consider. Find a local astronomy club or local chapter of a larger association. Members of such organizations will more often than not be happy to let you have a see through their equipment. See if any local universities or observatories hold public outreach events. I regularly attend such functions at Columbia University. During the stargazing portion of these occasions, I have had the opportunity to look through a 14” and 11” SCT as well as 8” and 6” Dobsonian reflectors. Perhaps you have figured out your living situation and got the right telescope and/or binoculars for your living and viewing needs. Now what? Pictures! Taking decent astrophotos has really never been easier, owing to the increased quality and ubiquity of cameras in mobile phones. I’m talking about the Sun, the Moon, the Planets, and maybe a few other objects such as the Pleiades open cluster. I have an adapter that holds my iPhone to the eyepiece so I can take afocal images using nothing more than my phone. (For increased quality of planetary images, it is actually advisable to take a video, which can then be dumped into Registax and… You know what, that’s a whole other article for another day…) Another fun activity is to put a digital camera (point-and-shoot or DSLR) on a tripod and leave the exposure open for 3-15 seconds. You will be amazed at how much that was once hidden comes in to view. Even if you don’t have any interest in “serious” astrophotography – motorized EQ mounts, guide scopes, hundreds of images of data, staying up all till the wee hours of the morn – how could you pass up an opportunity to say to your friend, “Hey, check out this cool picture I took of the quarter moon last night,” when it only takes a few minutes of your time? We live in a socially connected world thanks to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, et al. Share your pics! Spread the love! Speaking of spreading the love, if you have a portable setup, I highly recommend bringing it down to the streets or a park. Let passersby have a look. Most people walk through their lives barely aware of what is above their heads, and this is especially true in a city where tall buildings obstruct views and the wailing cries of street lights drown out the songs of the stars. You have to have the experience, at least once, of setting up in a public area and offering people the opportunity to look at the Moon, Saturn, or Jupiter. Half the time they won’t at first believe that any of the aforementioned celestial offerings can be seen. Let them see what there is to see. Watch their expression when they realize what they’re looking at. You may just change their view of their home, their world, and their universe. www.astronomy-wise.com
Professionally, Justin is a middle school choir teacher in Long Island, New York, USA. He also plays guitar and sings backup vocals in a 90â€™s cover band called Uncle Jesse. When heâ€™s not doing something musical or hanging out with his wife and dog, Justin likes to spend time looking through his telescope, and giving others the opportunity to do the same.
Key to the Occultation Table The columns of the table give data specific to each of the Lunar Occultation events listed. From left to right they are: 1 Day of the Week 2 DATE in the format: dd-mm-yyyy 3 Universal Time of the event (add one hour when British Summer Time is in force for Local Time. The predictions are for Scarborough, which lies midway between London and Edinburgh, on the North Sea coast of the UK. (N54.27 deg., W00.43 deg.) 4 Occulted star’s visual magnitude 5 P = Phase tells you whether the event is a disappearance (D) or reappearance (R) or a Graze (C). 6 L = Limb. This indicates whether the event takes place at the dark (D) or bright (B) lunar limb. 7 Al. = the Altitude of the moon at the time of the occultation event. 8 Az. = The azimuth (angular distance along the horizon, measured from the North Point, clockwise. 9 Sun Alt = the angular distance of the sun, below the horizon at the time of the event. 10, 11 & 12 the name or catalogue number of the star being occulted. XZ Cat No. This is the star’s designation in the US Naval Observatory catalogue of over 32,000 stars that can be occulted by the moon. Proper Name. This is the star’ more common name, if it has one! ZC No. The Zodiacal Catalogue of 3539 stars brighter than visual magnitude +7, within 8 degrees of the ecliptic. Some fainter stars are included in this total as well. 13 CA: Cusp angle of the event. This is the number of degrees from the northern (N) or southern (S) cusp to the event. The positive (+) events occur at the dark limb and are easiest to see; negative (-) events occur on bright limb..
100 Year Starship: Will We be Ready? by Zantippy Skiphop Many of us hope that one day, Earthlings will travel between stars, and in our more optimistic moments we know that we will. But the position of the 100 Year Starship project is that human interstellar travel isn't inevitable, but could easily be prevented by human social problems. We need to have the conscious intent. One of the main missions of 100YSS is to identify and resolve these problems. Their goal is to make human interstellar travel happen within the next century.
Mae Jemison in the Spacelab Japan science module on the shuttle Endeavour. Credit: NASA. For this project to lead to a launch, and successfully reach the Alpha Centauri system, project leader and astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison, says that it is absolutely essential to include people from the full spectrum of disciplines, not only engineers but sociologists, artists, philosophers, musicians - that this effort will require “the best hearts, minds, and hands”. She feels that the main hurdle will be to understand the cultural, political, and personal differences that create conflict on Earth. These clashes of ideas could not only potentially undermine the launch, but prevent the launched ship from ever completing its mission. People will take these differences along with them on the voyage, because this will most likely be a huge community of immigrants, maybe 1500 or 2000 people living in unescapable quarters. This community will include all sorts of people, including families, not just space cowboys. Our starship will need to have pretty good solutions to normal Earth-based tensions. As Dr. Jemison puts it, “The damn ship could get there with no one on board - 'cuz I just could not stand you another second'”.
This is a spacecraft conceived for Project Daedalus, which was a study of the British Interplanetary Society during the 1970s to design an interstellar spacecraft. Like 100YSS, the goal was to design a spacecraft that could get to the Alpha Centauri system 4.3 light-years away in a human lifetime. Any conceived Daedalus craft would have been robotic, but it shows the size our manned craft could potentially reach - probably even bigger, since it would hold hundreds to thousands of people and everything they would need to survive for decades. Where will human culture be in another century? Some good guesses can be made. The science of extrasolar planet hunting became a realization in the 1990s. In 1992, the very first planets outside our solar system were detected circling a pulsar. In 1995, a gas planet the size of Jupiter was definitely shown to be circling a star like our own. Since then, and especially with the launch of the Kepler telescope in 2009, methods have improved so quickly that we now know of thousands of definite and candidate planets, including about 50 rocky worlds. Planned projects that will start in the next decade are predicted to find tens of thousands of planets, and the search will have a huge focus on detecting life. A few future projects include Earth-based telescopes that will be able to directly image extrasolar planets! We have to consider the likelihood that planet-hunting astronomers will find convincing evidence of life in another star system before we are ready to head to Alpha Centauri. This will profoundly alter the human conception of a species hierarchy that deems which species are more worthy than others. It is a particular human arrogance, and we are almost at the point when that arrogance will be challenged. Even if the evidence simply shows non-threatening plant life living on another world, the unknown possibilities of other intelligences will make our perceived superiority collapse in on itself. We may still be in the throes of this transition by the time our starship is www.astronomy-wise.com
ready to launch, not quite accepting that the galaxy may not be ours for the taking. Will we be able to break down this notion, this need, that to be inherently valuable, we must be superior to others? Knowing about extraterrestrial life could potential bond us all as humans, only to then transfer the perceived dominance from a particular race or culture, to all Earthlings. The 100YSS project knows how critical it is to the mission to understand human nature. At the 100 Year Starship 2012 symposium, several papers were presented under “Philosophical and Religious”, and two of these papers were called, “To Humbly Go ... Breaking Previous Patterns of Colonization” and “Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too?”. Among religious scholars, there has long been a discussion of how the awareness of ET life will affect Earth's religions. Most of the scholars have felt that this awareness won't drastically change most religions, but that Christianity is uniquely vulnerable, because the question would have to be raised, as the paper asked: did Jesus die for everyone in the universe? And if evangelical Christians decided that the answer is yes, will they feel it their duty to spread the message of Jesus to other star systems? That has been the pattern on Earth, every time a previously-isolated pagan culture is found. It would be a simple transition from racial or culture superiority to what Rabbi Norman Lamm calls “global arrogance”. Some of those evangelicals who make this transition will consider it their duty to be part of the 2000 immigrants in our first interstellar voyage, so that their religion can get a firm hold in our space colonies. Our interstellar technology may be ready before we really understand what our place may be in some kind of galactic community. Many religious scholars, though, feel that knowledge of extraterrestrial life could launch our spiritual natures into new forms that reflect an awareness of the cosmos. For many people of a religious faith, they may see the favor of God as encompassing all creation - all humans, all species of the Earth, and all life everywhere in the universe. No luck of birth or acceptance of doctrine or ritual elevates anyone in God's esteem. Life is valued by God simply for existing. On a more general spiritual level this is a very similar perspective to some Eastern spiritual practices on Earth, which recognize a universal connection between all, while not focused on one, or any, deity. The likely discovery of extraterrestrial life by the planet hunters in the near future may profoundly contribute to our ability to live well together, on Earth and traveling to other stars.
Opposite: The binary star system Alpha Centauri. The planet in this artist conception is Alpha Centauri Bb, and was just discovered in 2012. It orbits the star Alpha Centauri B, and is about the size of Earth, although it is baked by its star, only 4 million miles away. Credit: ESO L. Calcada, N. Risinger.
ASTEROID WATCH MARCH 2013
Near Earth objects is a new monthly feature. Each month we will give you a run down of objects zooming past earth. Date (March 2013)
Object Size (m)
Date (March 2013)
Object Size (m)
Welcome to another look at space and astronomy Apps. Well I have been busy looking around Google play to find them hidden gems. If you are interested in tracking the ISS and Iridium Flares then ladies and gentlemen this is the application for you.
Once the application is up and running you have a nice and easy screen display, with when the ISS etc is due. The App even gives you the weather conditions. There is a little compass for direction this uses your internet and/or GPS location, although not totally sure on the GPS.
I tested this on my Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet. There are some really good reviews on Google Play with a rating of 4.6/5. I must agree it is well worth a download. Setup was easy, top right hand corner which on mine looks like a column of 3 dots is where you access the configuration. You can set location and time zone. So with ease I set up my location. You can also setup an alarm tone, so when the ISS or flare is due it will notify you. You can also tweet etc when a the ISS or flare is due.
I am going to give this App 5/5 even the basic version without the paid extras is a fantastic App. Available for AndroidTM Get ISS Detector for FREE on Google Play, Amazon, SlideME www.issdetector.com
Images Google Play & www.issdetector.com
5/5 AW VERDICT
Last month Astronomy Wise was pleased to have an interview with the ‘Meteorite Men’ Steve Arnold & Geoff Notkin. So this month we are going to have a look at Steve’s APP and mobile webpage.
The Application was put together by Steve Arnold, and abit of Trivia one of Steves largest finds was a 1430 pound Pallasite in 2005.
This handy APP gives you quick and easy links to Arnold Meteorites and the Meteorite Men websites. There is a handy meteorite database link to the Meteoritical Society. You can sign up to their latest news (newsletter) and if you fancy yourselves a piece of space rock or gift then you can visit the EBay store. For those in the area the APP can give you directions to find them.
Link to APP AW Rating 5/5
If you missed last months interview the Feb edition can be read HERE Check out our competition and win a signed Geoff Notkin Book