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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Sky Guide - Beginner’s targets for February Telescope Targets Orion and Auriga continue to be in great position for viewing this month. See December's and January's picks for these targets. For this month, we'll add Canis Major and Monoceros to our list. M41 is an open cluster in Canis Major which is quite easy to locate due to it's proximity to Sirius. Simply find Sirius (the sky's brightest star) shining below Orion, about 4º (or about one finderscope field) below Sirius is M41. M41 is a spectacular open cluster, with dozens of stars visible in scopes. M50 is another of Messier's open clusters located in the constellation Monoceros. As Monoceros itself doesn't contain any very bright stars, I use Beetlegeuse, Sirius, and Procyon to locate this one. These 3 stars form a nice triangle (the winter triangle?) to aid in locating it. The side of the triangle connecting Procryon and Sirius contains M50. M50 is located slightly less than halfway on the way from Sirius to Procryon. Two other open clusters in the area are M46 and M47. Using Procryon as the top of the vertical leg and Sirius as the edge of the vertical leg of the letter "L", M46 forms the corner of the "L". Once you've located M46, simply move slightly to the Southeast (about 1 low powered Field of View) to locate M47.

Planets Mercury is visible as an evening object during the last week of the month and sets at 19:40. Venus is visible in the evening sky during the month. At the start of the month, it sets at 20:55 and by month’s end sets at 22:25. On the evening of the 9th, it lies 0.5° (width of full moon) to the West of Uranus. Mars moves from Virgo into Leo during the month and rises at 20:40 at the start of the month. By month’s end it rises at 18:00. Jupiter is an evening object this month in Aries. It rises during daylight hours during the month and sets at 23:30 by month’s end. Saturn is a morning object at the start of the month, rising at 00:20. By month’s end it rises before midnight at 22:25. Uranus is lost to the twilight by month’s end and can be found in Pisces, SE of the Circlet asterism. It rises during daylight hours during the month and sets at 20:10 by month’s end. There is a good chance to view it on the evening of the 9th when it lies close to Venus (see above). Don’t expect to see much detail - it will be like a greenblue star. Neptune is not visible this month.

Club Notes Club Observing: The next club meets every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month for our observing sessions held in the MAC grounds. If you wish to be informed of these sessions please email your name and mobile number to midlandsastronomy@gmail.com who will confirm if the session is going ahead (depending on weather).

MAC is a proud member of

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Issue 31- February, 2012

Above: Monoceros is a constellation that is not very easily seen with the naked eye, however it does have some interesting features to observe with the aid of a small telescope. Beta Monocerotis is an impressive triple star system, the three stars form a triangle which seems to be fixed. William Herschel discovered it in 1781 and commented that it is 'one of the most beautiful sights in the heavens'. General notes A l w a y s k e e p a n e y e ou t for Aurorae. Check out www.stronge.org.uk/ spaceweather.html for the most up-to-date information on the aurorae. Other interesting naked eye phenomena to look out for include the Zodiacal Light and the Gegenschein. Both are caused by sunlight reflecting off dust particles which are present in the solar system.

area of the sky opposite the sun. To view either, you must get yourself to a very dark site to cut out the light pollution. When trying to observe either of these phenomena, it is best to do so when the moon is below the horizon. If you are observing them when the moon has risen, restrict your efforts to the period 4 days either side of the new moon as otherwise the moonlight will be sufficient to drown them out.

The Zodiacal Light can be seen in the West after evening twilight has disappeared or in the East before the morning twilight. The best time of year to see the phenomenon is late-Feb to early-April in the evening sky and September/ October in the morning sky - it's then that the ecliptic, along which the cone of the zodiacal light lies, is steepest in our skies. The Gegenschein can be seen in the

Finally check out www.heavensabove.com for the latest passes of the International Space Station and satellites and for details of Iridium Flare activity. Well, that should get you going in February. Clear skies and good hunting!

By Kevin Daly http://members.aol.com/kdaly10475/index.html

Latest Astronomy and Space News Kids Astronomy Quizzes and Games Monthly Sky Guide Internet Highlights


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

First picture of alien planet … Isn't? ...................................... 7 Citizen Scientist project finds “Star Bubbles” ......................... 8 Citizen Science: GLOBE at Night ........................................... 8 Bucket List Object #2: The Great Orion Nebula ..................... 9

Front cover image: Will our Sun look like this one day? The Helix Nebula is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula, given a technical designation of NGC 7293, lies about 700 light-years away towards the constellation Aquarius and spans about 2.5 light-years. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin.

Credit & Copyright: ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson

Kids Section Kids Korner ....................................................................... 10

Quizzes and Games Exercise your brain ............................................................ 11

Monthly Sky Guide Beginners sky guide for this month .................................... 12

Internet Highlights Special content only available with the online version of the magazine ................................................................ 13

Capricornus Cancer Orion Coma Berenices 3. Which large but faint constellation, containing a pair of bright globular clusters, M13 and M92, is named for a Greek hero? Boötes Hercules Cygnus Orion

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8. Gemini, the twins from Greek myth, contains which two bright stars? Castor and Pollux Spica and Regulus Sirius and Procyon Achilles and Odysseus 9. Which constellation, representing an arrow, is located in the northern sky? Vulpecula Leo Minor Lacerta Sagitta

4. The constellation Lyra may be small but it contains one of the brightest stars in the sky. 10.A large square shaped What is the name of this asterism is formed by magnitude 0 star? one star of the constellaVindemiatrix tion Andromeda and 3 Deneb stars of which other conVega stellation, named for the Rigel winged horse of Greek myth? 5. The north star, Polaris, is Cepheus the second brightest star Pegasus in the night sky. Centaurus True False

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Altair

Icarus

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Check your answers

Answer 6: The correct answer was M38. Yes, it is M38! M37 is by far the richest (ie contains the most stars) of the three but M36 and M38 have brighter stars.

Four-galaxy collision creates firestorm of star birth ................ 6

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Answer 1: The correct answer was The area of the sky north of the celestial equator. The celestial equator divides the sky into two hemispheres, north and south, just like the equator on Earth that divides our planet into the northern and southern hemispheres.

Why does Sirius twinkle? ..................................................... 6

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Answer 7: The correct answer was Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star that will explode as a supernova in the near future… astronomically speaking.

The “37 Cluster” .................................................................. 5

7. Orion contains many bright stars like Rigel and the famous Orion Nebula but what red giant does lies in the northern sky? 2. Which constellation representing an Egyptian Betelgeuse queen's hair is best Sirius viewed in spring? Mintaka

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Answer 2: The correct answer was Coma Berenices. The area of the sky where the Virgo Galaxy Cluster is located has numerous galaxies that are visible in moderate amateur telescopes.

The “Empty Hole” Nebula .................................................... 5

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M262 M2 M38 M56

Answer 8: The correct answer was Castor and Pollux. The sons of Leda were inseperable until Castor, a mortal, was killed. Zeus placed both twins in the skies.

You can see more about the club and its events on www.midlandsastronomy.com or contact the club via e-mail at midlandsastronomy@gmail.com Meetings are informal and are aimed at a level to suit all ages.

Voyager mission is cooling its jets ........................................ 4

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Answer 3: The correct answer was Hercules. M13, the Great Cluster in Hercules is easily visible in binoculars and spectacular through any size telescope.

NASA's Kepler announces 11 planetary systems hosting 26 planets ............................................................... 4

Greenwich Observatory at midnight The area of the sky around the north celestial pole The area of the sky north of the celestial equator The constellation Ursa Minor

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Answer 9: The correct answer was Sagitta. Sagitta is a small but distinct constellation in the rich starfields of the summer Milky Way within the region of sky delineated by the "Summer Triangle".

Monster black Hole 100 million times mass of Sun ................. 3

SUDOKU

Answer 4: The correct answer was Vega. Vega is also known as Alpha Lyrae and is considered the standard for a magnitude 0 star.

TV audience discovers potential new planet .......................... 3

1. What area of the night 6. In the constellation Auriga there are three sky is referred to as the Messier objects, M36 northern sky? M37 and M__. The sky as seen above

Answer 10: The correct answer was Pegasus. Pegasus was ridden by the hero Perseus in his quest to kill the Gorgon Medusa. The four stars that form the Great Square of Pegasus lie in an otherwise rather barren expanse of sky visible in the fall in the northern hemisphere.

Latest Astronomy and Space News

All are welcome to attend. It also holds infrequent Observing Nights at its Observing Site in Clonminch, or at a member’s house (weather permitting) on the first Friday of every month..

Exercise your brain

contents

Answer 5: The correct answer was false. At just magnitude +2, Polaris barely makes it into the top 50!

MAC meets on the first Tuesday of the month in the Presbyterian Hall, High Street, Tullamore from 8pm.

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Kid’s Korner Why can’t an Airplane fly into space?

little less than the pressure on the bottom. So what happens? The wing is pushed up by the air underneath it.

Well, most of the time air may not seem like a very real substance, like water or wood or metal. But when the wind blows so hard it nearly knocks you down, air seems very real indeed. If we think about it, we can begin to understand how essential it is to how airplanes work. Airplanes are able to fly because air moving under their wings is strong enough to hold them up. If you could slice across an airplane wing, you would see it is curved over the top and flat on the bottom. As the plane's engines push the wing forward, air moves over and under the wing. Because the top of the wing is curved and the bottom is flat, the air going above has a little farther to travel than the air going below. The air molecules on top are thus a little farther apart, making the air there a little thinner, and the pressure on the top of the wing a

Large p a s s e ng e r planes can't fly much higher than about 12 kilometres (7.5 miles). The air is too thin above that altitude to hold the plane up. Some kinds of planes can fly much higher, and one special NASA plane, named Helios, flew to about 30 kilometres (19 miles), which is far higher than any other plane has travelled.

To get a spacecraft to even the lowest Earth orbit requires a rocket. So how is a rocket different from an airplane?

Rockets do not depend on air, even for burning their fuel. Rockets take advantage of some basic laws of nature that were discovered by the brilliant scientist Isaac Newton late in the 17th century. One of these, called Newton's third law, says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This explains what On 13th August 2001, Helios flew up to 96,863 feet. That’s 18 miles is going on

At that altitude, the air is 100 times thinner than at sea level. The air gets thinner and straight up! thinner the higher you go, until there's hardly any air at all. In other words, it's nearly a vacuum up there.

Cross section of an airplane wing. Air flows faster over the top than underneath, so exerts less pressure. Higher pressure air underneath the wing pushes it up.

observations of the universe that are better than scientists can make when looking through the air, as well as observing Earth's weather and long-term climate changes, taking pictures of Earth's changing surface, and studying pollution in the atmosphere.

Even the lowest Earthorbiting spacecraft orbit at around 200 kilometres (125 miles) above Earth's surface, far above the thick air we are accustomed to and much higher than any plane can reach. Most Earth orbiters, though, are placed at much higher altitudes to do their jobs. Some of these jobs include scientific

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine when you blow up a balloon, then let it go without tying a knot. The air rushes out of the mouth of the balloon and that pushes the balloon in the opposite direction. This law also tells us that, to build a powerful rocket, we need to shoot out a lot of high-speed material opposite the direction we want the rocket to go. That is exactly what a rocket engine is designed to do. Most rockets use high-speed exhaust gases from burning rocket fuel to propel themselves up and away from Earth's surface to the vacuum of space. Unlike planes, they don't need air to lift them up. Like everything else that burns, rocket fuel cannot burn without oxygen. Because it operates where the air is too thin to provides enough oxygen, a rocket carries its own oxygen in tanks and mixes it with the fuel just before it is burned.

TV audience discovers potential new planet During the BBC’s Stargazing Live show it was announced that thanks to the shows viewers using the PlanetHunter website it seems that they have found an exoplanet. A public “mass participation” push initiated on a UK television program to find planets beyond our Solar System has had an immediate result! On Monday, January 16, 2012 “BBC Stargazing LIVE” began its first of three nights of television programs live from Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK. The series was hosted by Professor Brian Cox, comedian Dara O’Briain along with a number of other well known TV personalities, astronomers and scientists. There was even a guest appearance via satellite link from Captain Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon. As well as the main TV program, there were

Rockets not only make s p a c e exploration possible, but they also enable us to explore our own planet in ways we could never do even from an airplane.

numerous local events across the UK and the viewers could “mass participate” in activities such as looking for extra solar planets with the citizen science project, Planethunters.org. The website hosts data gathered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, and asks volunteers to sift the information for anything unusual that might have been missed in a computer search. People are especially adept at seeing things that computers do not and the BBC Stargazing Live event was a golden opportunity to get many people looking. During the event, over a m i l l i o n classifications were made and 34 candidate planets found on the website in 48 hours. On the last show of the series on Wednesday 18th January it was a nn ou nc e d , t h a t i n

Delta rocket similar to ones used to launch some Earth orbiting spacecraft.

Monster black Hole 100 million times mass of Sun A monster black hole 100 million times the mass of the Sun is feeding off gas, dust and a ring of stars at the centre of Galaxy NGC-1097 50 million light-years away. The odd spiral galaxy extends long arms of red stars into space. But Nasa said the black hole at the centre of the galaxy in which Earth is situated is tame by comparison to NGC-1097, with the mass of just a few million suns.

A rocket carries a fuel tank and an oxygen tank. Fuel and oxygen are mixed together and ignited in the combustion chamber. Hot gasses shoot out the exhaust port and force the rocket in the opposite direction.

"The fate of this black hole and others like it is an active area of

research," said George Helou, deputy director of Nasa's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole."

Above: An artist’s concept of the new planet discovered during the show particular, one planet candidate looks extremely promising, as it has been identified multiple times by PlanetHunter participants. The plane t is circling the star SPH10066540 and is described as being similar in size to Neptune, circles its parent every 90 days and is about a similar distance from its parent star as Mercury is from our Sun. It could be described as a hot Neptune. Chris Holmes from Peterborough UK and Lee Threapleton also from the UK found the planet by searching through time-lapsed images of stars looking for the periodic dips in brightness that result every time a planet passes in front of (transits) one of those stars. A transit has to be observed several times before a planet will be confirmed. For the orange dwarf "The ring itself is a fascinating object worthy of study because it is forming stars at a very high rate," said Kartik S h e t h , a n astronomer at Nasa's Sp itz e r Sc i e n c e Center. The galaxy's red spiral arms and s w ir l ing s p ok e s between them show dust heated by newborn stars, while older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue. A fuzzy blue dot to the left of the image shows a companion galaxy, while other dots are either stars in the

star SPH10066540, five such events have now been seen in the Kepler data making it a strong candidate for an extra solar planet. “There’s more work to be done to confirm whether these candidates are true planets,” wrote the PlanetHunters team on their blog, “in particular, we need to talk to our friends on the Kepler team – but we’re on our way.” The NASA Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, has been searching a part of space thought to have many stars similar to our own Sun. You can try and find a new planet too by visiting planethunters.org it is incredibly simple and easy to do and requires no p r e vious know led g e of astronomy. www.universetoday.com

Milky Way, or other more distant galaxies. www.dailygalaxy.com

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Bucket List Object #2: The Great Orion Nebula

NASA's Kepler announces 11 planetary systems hosting 26 planets

Over the next several months, we present our totally subjective list of ten celestial sights to see before you die, or “kick the bucket”, as they say. We call it the “Bucket List for Backyard Stargazers”. Our list is targeted at the casual stargazer, with no special expertise or training or ambition other than to see some of the most beautiful, and in some cases, transient sights in nature. For some of these objects, you’ll need access to a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. Others require travel and good timing and luck. And for others, you need to simply look up. But all these sights are not that hard to see, once you know how and when and where to look for them. We’ll help you with that.

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of Kepler’s verified planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, the star. Such systems will help astronomers better understand how planets form. The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen are between Earth and Neptune in size. Further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our Sun. “Prior to the Kepler mission, we knew of perhaps 500 exoplanets across the whole sky,” said Doug Hudgins from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates. This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits.” Kepler identifies planet candidates by repeatedly measuring the change in brightness of more than 150,000 stars to detect when a planet passes in front of the star. That passage casts a small shadow toward Earth and the Kepler spacecraft. Each of the new confirmed planetary systems contains two to five closely spaced transiting planets. In tightly packed planetary systems, the gravitational pull of the planets on each other causes some planets to accelerate and some to decelerate along their orbits. The acceleration causes the orbital period of each planet to change. Kepler detects this effect by measuring the changes, or Transit Timing Variations (TTVs). Planetary systems with TTVs can be verified without requiring extensive ground-

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based observations, accelerating confirmation of planet candidates. The TTV detection technique also increases Kepler’s ability to confirm planetary systems around fainter and more distant stars. Five of the systems (Kepler-25, Kepler-27, Kepler-30, Kepler-31, and Kepler-33) contain a pair of planets where the inner world orbits the star twice during each orbit of the outer body. Four of the systems (Kepler-23, Kepler-24, Kepler-28, and Kepler-32) contain a pairing where the outer planet circles the star twice for every three times the inner one completes an orbit. “These configurations help to amplify the gravitational interactions between the planets,

Above: Kepler's Planetary Systems' Orbits: The image shows an overhead view of orbital positions of the planets in systems with multiple transiting planets discovered by NASA's Kepler mission. similar to how my sons kick their legs on a swing at the right time to go higher,” said Jason Steffen from Fermilab Centre for Particle Astrophysics. Kepler-33, a star that is older and more massive than our Sun, had the most planets. The system hosts five planets, ranging in size from 1.5 to 5 times that of Earth. All of the planets are located closer to their star than any planet is to our Sun. The properties of a star provide clues for planet detection. The decrease in the star’s brightness and duration of a planet

Voyager mission is cooling its jets Or, more appropriately, Voyager 1 is cooling its instruments. To help conserve power, the mission managers at NASA have decided to cut the electricity to a heating element – one that’s part of the nearby infrared spectrometer that’s not been in operation for some 14 years. This power cut will lower the temperature of the ultraviolet spectrometer by about 23 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit)… a tempe rature tha t’s mild compared to the below minus 79 degrees Celsius (minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit) that the instrument has dropped to in previous times. It’s not a drastic measure, however, but all part of a crucial plan to manage electrical power to keep the spacecraft operational and transmitting data for another 13 years.

Just because the power is cut back doesn’t mean the instrument quit working. At the present, the spectrometer is continuing to gather and transmit data. The resilient system was designed to work in temperatures as frosty as minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit) and has even operated beyond the call of duty when heaters were switched off over the last 17 years. While it was taking a chance that the equipment might malfunction, the engineering team was confident since the spectrometer has worked

tr a ns it, c om b ine d with the properties of its host star, present a recognizable signature. When astronomers detect planet candidates that exhibit similar signatures around the same star, the likelihood of any of these planet candidates being a false positive is very low. “The approach used to verify the Kepler-33 planets shows the overall reliability is quite high,” said Jack Lissauer from NASA’s Ames Research Centre. www.astronomy.com

at minus 56 degrees Celsius (minus 69 degrees Fahrenheit.) since 2005. “The spectrometer is likely operating at a temperature somewhat lower than minus 79 degrees Celsius, or minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit,” says the team. “But the temperature detector does not go any lower.” While it has been awhile since Voyager 1′s encounter with Jupiter and Saturn which made the spectrometer busy, that doesn’t mean its data will be disregarded. Both scientists and mission m a nag em e nt s pe c ia lis ts w ill continue to monitor performance levels and an international team of scientists will further review spectrometer data. Live long and prosper, Voyager! www.universetoday.com

At #2 on our Bucket List for Backyard Stargazers is the Orion Nebula, a blister of glowing gas set alight by blazing new-born stars. As beautiful an object as you will ever see in the night sky, this nebula is just a small part of the vast starmaking machinery in our own Orion Arm of the Milky Way that offers many wondrous sights for backyard observers. The Orion Nebula is one of the grandest sights in all of nature: the birth of a cluster of new stars out of a dark cloud of interstellar gas and dust. And you can wander outside any night from December through March and see it for yourself… You "find it in the “sword” of stars that appears to hang off Orion's Belt. The nebula is the middle “star” in the sword, which to the naked eye appears slightly fuzzy. It's visible to stargazers in both hemispheres. Turn a telescope toward M42 and you will see a greyish bat-shaped mist lit up by dozens of blue-white stars. Try looking at the nebula with a range of magnifications. Start low, say at 40-50x, and work your way up. The nebulosity extends much farther than you may first think: use averted vision to glimpse its full expanse. At high magnification you'll lose the overall shape, but you can see the fine detail in the nebula's mottled structure and the beautiful diamond-like stars near the centre that sparkle like a jar full of fireflies. Because of its size and brightness, the Orion Nebula looks almost as good from city skies as it does from country skies, and is a fine sight in small and large telescopes. In a small scope, the nebula appears greyish because its light is not

Left: In one of the most detailed images captured by Hubble gives us an amazing look at the Orion Nebula. This image took 105 Hubble orbits to complete.

and contain the mass of 10,000 Suns. At the heart of the nebula is the multiple star system theta Orionis, also called the Trapezium, so-named because it looks like a tiny trapezoid . There are actually six stars here, though you need good seeing, a 4 inch or larger telescope, and magnification of 100x or more to resolve them all. The stars of the Trapezium, which are just 100,000 years old, have blown a bubble in the surrounding gas that gives us a view of the nebula's inner core. The energy that lights up the gas and dust of the Orion nebula comes from dozens of hot new stars that have recently coalesced out of the nebula itself. Hydrogen and traces of oxygen gas absorb the blue and ultraviolet light from the stars and re-radiate red and green light at characteristic wavelengths. A UHC or OIII filter may improve the contrast in some parts of the nebula, especially for urban observers. Astronomy writer Walter Scott Houston said of the Orion nebula, “No amount of intensive gazing ever encompasses all its vivid splendour”. It's truly one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. www.oneminuteastronomer.com

bright enough to stimulate the colour-sensing cone cells in your retina. In a larger telescope, you might see traces of green and red. I have never seen the colour firsthand, but it must surely accentuate the beauty of this wonderful object. The Orion Nebula is so complex and sublime that you see new detail every time you look at it. Try not to rush when you observe this wonder. Savor it. And if you can, try to make sketches to train your eye to see more detail. This nebula is an object that, in my opinion, looks b etter visually tha n photographically. The particulars: M42 lies some 1,500 light years from Earth and spans about 20 light-years. Radio telescopes show the unlit gas and dust span more than 100 lightyears beyond the visible nebula

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

The “Empty Hole” Nebula

Citizen Scientist project finds “Star Bubbles”

Just south of the famous Orion Nebula lies the overlooked and puzzling little object NGC 1999. This tiny reflection nebula shines by the reflected light of newborn stars within, and it surrounds a surprisingly empty hole in space.

Remember when you were a kid and blowing bubbles was such great fun? Well, stars kind of do that too. The “bubbles” are partial or complete rings of dust and gas that occur around young stars in active star-forming regions, known as stellar nurseries. So far, over 5,000 bubbles have been found, but there are many more out there awaiting discovery. Now there is a project that you can take part in yourself, to help find more of these intriguing objects. The Milky Way Project, part of Zooniverse, has been cataloguing these cosmic bubbles thanks to assistance from the public, or “citizen scientists” – anyone can help by examining images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. They have been seen before, but now the task is to find as many as possible in the newer, highresolution images from Spitzer. A previous catalogue of star bubbles in 2007 listed 269 of them. Four other researchers had found about

600 of them in 2006. Now they are being found by the thousands. As of now, the new catalogue lists 5,106 bubbles, after looking at almost half a million images so far. As it turns out, humans are more skilled at identifying them in the images than a computer algorithm would be. People are better at pattern recognition and then making a judgment based on the data as to what actually is a bubble and what isn’t. The bubbles form around hot,

Above: A prominent star bubble. young massive stars where it is thought that the intense light being emitted causes a shock wave, blowing out a space, or bubble, in the surrounding gas and dust.

bringing us way more questions than answers right now. This is really starting something new in astronomy that we haven’t been able to do.”

Eli Bressert, of the European Southern Observatory and Milky Way Project team member, stated that our galaxy ”is basically like champagne, there are so many bubbles.” He adds, ”We thought we were going to be able to answer a lot of questions, but it’s going to be

There are currently about 35,000 volunteers in the project; if you would like to take part, you can go to The Milky Way Project for more information.

Citizen Science: GLOBE at Night Are you a fan of Citizen Science? Do you enjoy participating in projects that help researchers and possibly the environment? GLOBE at Night is one such program! By taking naked-eye observations of the night sky in your area, you can help a world-wide effort to track the effects of light pollution. Here’s all the info you need in order to participate in GLOBE at Night during 2012. For starters, what is GLOBE at Night? The GLOBE at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign designed to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution on our night skies. GLOBE at Night aims to raise awareness by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone. Light pollution not only threatens our “right to starlight”, but also affects energy consumption, wildlife and health. For the past six years, the GLOBE at Night campaign has been involving people in 115 countries. Participating in GLOBE at Night requires only five easy steps: 1) Find your latitude and longitude.

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2) Find Orion, Leo or Crux by going outside more than an hour after sunset (about 810pm local time). 3) Match your night-time sky to one of the provided magnitude charts. 4) Report your observation. 5) C o m p a r e your observation to thousands around the world. You can also use the new web application data submission process. The GLOBE at Night website is easy to use, comprehensive and holds an abundance of background information. The database is usable for

comparisons with a variety of other databases, like how light pollution affects the foraging habits of bats.

www.universetoday.com

If you’d like to learn more about GLOBE at Night, visit: http:// www.globeatnight.org/ , or the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: GLOBE at Night Kickoff: Seeing the Light. http://365daysofastronomy.org/201 2/01/01/january-1st-globe-at-nightkickoff-seeing-the-light/ www.universetoday.com

This enigmatic object lies nearly 1º object looks like a faint star south of iota Orionis at the south wrapped in icy mist. end of the Orion Nebula, M42 (see map below). At 20-30x, the nebula Increase magnification to 150x to looks like a fuzzy star; at 50-75x, see the unusual t h e nature of this nebula. Look carefully for a k e y h o l e shaped gap in the middle of the reflection n e b u l a itself. When astronomers first noticed this gap more than a century ago, and others like it (such as the Horsehead Nebula), t h e y believed it Above: NGC 1999 (in red circles), just south of the Orion Nebula

was simply a region without stars. In time, astronomers discovered that most such gaps are not void s , b ut simply dark clouds of cold dust in the foreground that block out the brighter background material. In 2010, the H e r s c h e l S p a c e Obser va tory, peered into the dark gap o f N G C 1999. Herschel Above: The image at the top of this page, from the European d e t e c t s Space Agency, shows in inset what the nebula looks like in infrared light, visible light. The main image shows the nebula as seen by the and can look Herschel telescope, and it shows the keyhole-shaped gap in into d a r k the upper left. nebula to see through to the stars within. But the why, but one theory holds that telescope detected… nothing. In radiation from new stars within the essence, the telescope verified that nebula blast a hole in the this particular dark patch in NGC surrounding dust. 1999 is devoid of stars, dust, and www.oneminuteastronomer.com any other material. It really is an empty space. No one yet knows

The “37 Cluster” The showpiece of the constellation Orion is the Great Orion Nebula, which bejewels the sword of the great celestial hunter. But Orion harbours dozens more deep-sky objects in its great star factory. Let’s look at one today… the fine young open star cluster NGC 2169, which takes on the unmistakable shape of the prime number “37″. NGC 2169 is one of a handful of appealing object in the “club” of mighty Orion, above the Hunter’s shoulder marked by the bright orange star Betelgeuse. Look about 5º north-northeast of this star, first to 5th-magnitude µ (mu) Orionis then to the pair of stars ξ (xi) and ν (nu) Orionis. The 6th-magnitude open star cluster NGC 2169 sits just one degree west-southwest of xi (the easternmost star).

1/10 of a degree across. One group contains 6-7 stars and the other perhaps 10-12 stars. This cluster is sometimes called the “37 Cluster”, because the larger group forms the letter “3” and the smaller group forms the letter “7”. Depending on your optics, the numbers might be flipped left-toright or upside down, so use your imagination to unscramble the numbers. See image of the cluster above (credit Noel Carboni, from At moderate magnification, you’ll Astronomy Picture of the Day, see in NGC 2169 about 15-20 stars Nov. 18, 2005). of 7th magnitude or fainter arranged in two groups, both about Much further away, about 12,000

Above: For the mostly harmless denizens of planet Earth, the brighter stars of open cluster NGC 2169 seem to form a cosmic 37. (Did you expect 42?.) Of course, the improbable numerical asterism appears solely by chance and lies at an estimated distance of 3,600 light-years toward the constellation Orion. light years, lies the faint open cluster NGC 2194. Find it about 1.6° south-southeast of NGC 2169. In a 4 to 6-inch scope, this appears as a faint icy glow, with few of its brightest stars resolved even at

150x. In an 8-inch or larger scope, the cluster reveals a few more stars along with a silver unresolved background. www.oneminuteastronomer.com

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 5


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

First picture of alien planet … Isn't?

Why does Sirius twinkle? At this time of year, after dark we in the northern hemisphere are able to see the mighty constellation of Orion rise high in the sky with a very bright companion in a nearby constellation: Sirius – The Dog Star. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and can easily be found in the faint constellation of Canis Major to the left and below Orion. Its name comes from ancient Greek meaning “glowing” or “scorcher.”

light from distant stars twinkle. An extreme, more down-to-Earth example of this would be heat rising off of a road or a desert causing objects behind it to distort, shimmer and change colour.

Sirius (α CMa) is the alpha star in this trusty hound and is roughly 8.5 light years away from Earth, making it one of the closest stars to us. It has a tiny companion star making it a binary system composed of “Sirius A” the main component (which is a white main sequence star) and “Sirius B,” a white dwarf star. As seen with the naked eye, Sirius can be seen to twinkle many different colours low in the winter evening sky.

Sirius appears to twinkle or shimmer more than other stars for some very simple reasons. It is very bright, which can amplify atmospheric effects and it is also very low down in the atmosphere for those in the northern hemisphere. We are actually looking at it through a very dense part of the atmosphere which can be turbulent and contain many different particles and dust. The lower towards the horizon an observer is looking, the thicker the atmosphere. The higher an observer is looking, the thinner the atmosphere. This is also the cause of colourful sunrise and sunsets.

So why does Sirius twinkle? It’s not just Sirius that twinkles; all stars twinkle. Light travels many light years from stars and right at the end of its journey, it hits Earth’s atmosphere, which consists of Planets don’t usually twinkle nitrogen, oxygen and other gasses. because they are closer and therefore bigger — they are disks Earth’s atmosphere is constantly of light instead of faraway points swirling around, and wind and air of light. The larger disks of light currents etc distort light travelling usually aren’t distorted; however through it. This causes the light to if you are looking through slightly bend or shimmer and the especially turbulent areas of our

Four-galaxy collision creates firestorm of star birth A tumultuous collision between 4 galaxies located 1 billion LY from Earth is captured in an image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) showing the galactic wreckage part of a class of galaxies known as ultra luminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs), is creating a torrent of new stars. U LI R G s a r e c on s id e r e d t he progenitors of massive elliptical galaxies. ULIRGs glow fiercely in infrared light and appear 100 times brighter than our Milky Way Galaxy. The large amount of dust in these galaxies is generated by a firestorm of star birth triggered by the collisions. IRAS 19297-0406 is producing about 200 new Sun-like

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 6

stars every year - about 100 times more stars than our Milky Way creates. The hotbed of this star formation is the central region (the yellow objects). This area is swamped in the dust created by the flurry of star formation. The bright blue material surrounding the central region corresponds to the ultraviolet glow of new stars. The ultraviolet light is not obscured

In 2008, astronomers spotted the first exoplanet in visual light orbiting a distant star. But now, a new study suggests that Fomalhaut b may simply be a swirl of space dust. The Hubble Space Telescope first spotted a possible planet circling the star Fomalhaut about 25 lightyears away in the Southern Fish constellation, Piscis Australis.

Above: Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main sequence star called Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion called Sirius B. Sirius is also known colloquially as the “Dog Star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (Greater Dog). atmosphere, and even sometimes when looking at planets that are low in the thicker parts of the atmosphere, they will twinkle. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer explains it very well on his website (www.badastronomy.com). This optical illusion is a big pain for astronomers and some very large telescopes such as those in Chile use special equipment and techniques to reduce the effects of by dust. Astronomers believe that this area is creating fewer new stars and therefore less dust. The colliding system (yellow and blue regions) has a diameter of about 30,000 light-years, or about half the size of the Milky Way. The tail (faint blue material at left) extends for another 20,000 light-years. ACS captured the visible starlight of the colliding system's blue outer region. IRAS 192970406 may be similar to the so-called Hickson compact groups clusters of at least four galaxies in a tight configuration that are isolated from other galaxies. The galaxies

the atmosphere. One of most famous telescope of them all, the Hubble Space Telescope, doesn’t get affected by our atmosphere as it is in space, making the light from stars crystal clear. Twinkle, twinkle little star, now we know what you are (and why you are twinkling!). www.universetoday.com

are so close together that they lose energy from the relentless pull of gravity. Eventually, they fall into each other and form one massive galaxy. www.dailygalaxy.com

The star is surrounded by a debris ring that stretches some 21.5 billion miles across and bears an uncanny visual resemblance to the Eye of Sauron, from the Lord of the Rings films. The cloud's distinctive cat'seye shape, astronomers say, is evidence that at least one small planet is orbiting Fomalhaut. Though it c an' t be s ee n, researchers suspected the planet is there because of its gravitational calling card: The oval shape and sharp inner edge of Fomalhaut's halo are signs that a planet is "sweeping" through the dust and gas. Now, new data from the Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that Fomalhaut b may be a dust cloud resulting from a collision between comets or asteroids, according to study leader Markus Janson, an astrophysicist at Princeton University.

That could explain why the potential object's light appears very blue in visible light but is nearly invisible in infrared—which would be true of an object with little mass, such as a dust cloud. Collision-Theory Dustup Paul Kalas, one of Fomalhaut b's original discoverers, said his team originally considered the same collision theory. But Kalas, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, believes such collisions are rather rare—and the odds of observing one even more unlikely.

happen quite frequently in this system, because they are the cause of the massive ring of dust that we see," said Janson, whose study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal. Planet ... Or Not? Likewise, if a planet existed at that location it would be young and hot, and thus glow with light visible to the infrared eye of the Spitzer Space Telescope, Janson noted.

"It's not excluded, but the bottom line is that scientists don't favor arguments that depend on fortunate observations," Kalas said. "You'd have to be quite lucky to observe such a collision between "It should emit much more light at objects." near-infrared wavelengths than it does at visible wavelengths," he Janson, leader of the new study, said. "And that's the opposite of doesn't think such cosmic what's been observed." smashups are all that uncommon in that galactic neighbourhood. But co-discoverer Kalas countered that the infrared observations "These kinds of collisions must simply aren't sensitive enough to detect a planet that's less than the mass of Jupiter. Kalas believes that Fomalhaut b is such a planet, and that its brightness in visible light is boosted by a ring system of icy particles, as with Saturn in our own solar system.

"If you look at Saturn, it has held onto a ring system for 4.5 billion years," Kalas said. "That means a collection of dust surrounding a planet can be long-lived, whereas a dust cloud produced by two coments colliding has an extremely short lifetime, and you would be lucky to observe it. That's why planetary rings are more plausible."

Exciting Time for New Planets Whatever Fomalhaut b's true identity, it's an exciting time to study exoplanets—planets outside our solar system, which currently number more than 700, and counting, Kalas noted. "Our understanding of these exoplanets is constantly evolving, there are many surprises—and fewer hard answers." www.nationalgeographic.com

To help find your way around the night sky, Skymaps.com makes available for free each month a map of the night sky. The Evening Sky Map is suitable for all stargazers including newcomers to astronomy and will help you to: • identify planets, stars and major constellations. • find sparkling star clusters, wispy nebulae & distant galaxies. • locate and follow bright comets across the sky. • learn about the night sky and astronomy.

But Princeton's Janson finds the ring hypothesis less convincing. For instance, the Hubble data show more variations in brightness than you'd expect from a ring that circles the planet, he said.

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 7


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

First picture of alien planet … Isn't?

Why does Sirius twinkle? At this time of year, after dark we in the northern hemisphere are able to see the mighty constellation of Orion rise high in the sky with a very bright companion in a nearby constellation: Sirius – The Dog Star. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and can easily be found in the faint constellation of Canis Major to the left and below Orion. Its name comes from ancient Greek meaning “glowing” or “scorcher.”

light from distant stars twinkle. An extreme, more down-to-Earth example of this would be heat rising off of a road or a desert causing objects behind it to distort, shimmer and change colour.

Sirius (α CMa) is the alpha star in this trusty hound and is roughly 8.5 light years away from Earth, making it one of the closest stars to us. It has a tiny companion star making it a binary system composed of “Sirius A” the main component (which is a white main sequence star) and “Sirius B,” a white dwarf star. As seen with the naked eye, Sirius can be seen to twinkle many different colours low in the winter evening sky.

Sirius appears to twinkle or shimmer more than other stars for some very simple reasons. It is very bright, which can amplify atmospheric effects and it is also very low down in the atmosphere for those in the northern hemisphere. We are actually looking at it through a very dense part of the atmosphere which can be turbulent and contain many different particles and dust. The lower towards the horizon an observer is looking, the thicker the atmosphere. The higher an observer is looking, the thinner the atmosphere. This is also the cause of colourful sunrise and sunsets.

So why does Sirius twinkle? It’s not just Sirius that twinkles; all stars twinkle. Light travels many light years from stars and right at the end of its journey, it hits Earth’s atmosphere, which consists of Planets don’t usually twinkle nitrogen, oxygen and other gasses. because they are closer and therefore bigger — they are disks Earth’s atmosphere is constantly of light instead of faraway points swirling around, and wind and air of light. The larger disks of light currents etc distort light travelling usually aren’t distorted; however through it. This causes the light to if you are looking through slightly bend or shimmer and the especially turbulent areas of our

Four-galaxy collision creates firestorm of star birth A tumultuous collision between 4 galaxies located 1 billion LY from Earth is captured in an image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) showing the galactic wreckage part of a class of galaxies known as ultra luminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs), is creating a torrent of new stars. U LI R G s a r e c on s id e r e d t he progenitors of massive elliptical galaxies. ULIRGs glow fiercely in infrared light and appear 100 times brighter than our Milky Way Galaxy. The large amount of dust in these galaxies is generated by a firestorm of star birth triggered by the collisions. IRAS 19297-0406 is producing about 200 new Sun-like

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 6

stars every year - about 100 times more stars than our Milky Way creates. The hotbed of this star formation is the central region (the yellow objects). This area is swamped in the dust created by the flurry of star formation. The bright blue material surrounding the central region corresponds to the ultraviolet glow of new stars. The ultraviolet light is not obscured

In 2008, astronomers spotted the first exoplanet in visual light orbiting a distant star. But now, a new study suggests that Fomalhaut b may simply be a swirl of space dust. The Hubble Space Telescope first spotted a possible planet circling the star Fomalhaut about 25 lightyears away in the Southern Fish constellation, Piscis Australis.

Above: Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main sequence star called Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion called Sirius B. Sirius is also known colloquially as the “Dog Star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (Greater Dog). atmosphere, and even sometimes when looking at planets that are low in the thicker parts of the atmosphere, they will twinkle. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer explains it very well on his website (www.badastronomy.com). This optical illusion is a big pain for astronomers and some very large telescopes such as those in Chile use special equipment and techniques to reduce the effects of by dust. Astronomers believe that this area is creating fewer new stars and therefore less dust. The colliding system (yellow and blue regions) has a diameter of about 30,000 light-years, or about half the size of the Milky Way. The tail (faint blue material at left) extends for another 20,000 light-years. ACS captured the visible starlight of the colliding system's blue outer region. IRAS 192970406 may be similar to the so-called Hickson compact groups clusters of at least four galaxies in a tight configuration that are isolated from other galaxies. The galaxies

the atmosphere. One of most famous telescope of them all, the Hubble Space Telescope, doesn’t get affected by our atmosphere as it is in space, making the light from stars crystal clear. Twinkle, twinkle little star, now we know what you are (and why you are twinkling!). www.universetoday.com

are so close together that they lose energy from the relentless pull of gravity. Eventually, they fall into each other and form one massive galaxy. www.dailygalaxy.com

The star is surrounded by a debris ring that stretches some 21.5 billion miles across and bears an uncanny visual resemblance to the Eye of Sauron, from the Lord of the Rings films. The cloud's distinctive cat'seye shape, astronomers say, is evidence that at least one small planet is orbiting Fomalhaut. Though it c an' t be s ee n, researchers suspected the planet is there because of its gravitational calling card: The oval shape and sharp inner edge of Fomalhaut's halo are signs that a planet is "sweeping" through the dust and gas. Now, new data from the Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that Fomalhaut b may be a dust cloud resulting from a collision between comets or asteroids, according to study leader Markus Janson, an astrophysicist at Princeton University.

That could explain why the potential object's light appears very blue in visible light but is nearly invisible in infrared—which would be true of an object with little mass, such as a dust cloud. Collision-Theory Dustup Paul Kalas, one of Fomalhaut b's original discoverers, said his team originally considered the same collision theory. But Kalas, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, believes such collisions are rather rare—and the odds of observing one even more unlikely.

happen quite frequently in this system, because they are the cause of the massive ring of dust that we see," said Janson, whose study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal. Planet ... Or Not? Likewise, if a planet existed at that location it would be young and hot, and thus glow with light visible to the infrared eye of the Spitzer Space Telescope, Janson noted.

"It's not excluded, but the bottom line is that scientists don't favor arguments that depend on fortunate observations," Kalas said. "You'd have to be quite lucky to observe such a collision between "It should emit much more light at objects." near-infrared wavelengths than it does at visible wavelengths," he Janson, leader of the new study, said. "And that's the opposite of doesn't think such cosmic what's been observed." smashups are all that uncommon in that galactic neighbourhood. But co-discoverer Kalas countered that the infrared observations "These kinds of collisions must simply aren't sensitive enough to detect a planet that's less than the mass of Jupiter. Kalas believes that Fomalhaut b is such a planet, and that its brightness in visible light is boosted by a ring system of icy particles, as with Saturn in our own solar system.

"If you look at Saturn, it has held onto a ring system for 4.5 billion years," Kalas said. "That means a collection of dust surrounding a planet can be long-lived, whereas a dust cloud produced by two coments colliding has an extremely short lifetime, and you would be lucky to observe it. That's why planetary rings are more plausible."

Exciting Time for New Planets Whatever Fomalhaut b's true identity, it's an exciting time to study exoplanets—planets outside our solar system, which currently number more than 700, and counting, Kalas noted. "Our understanding of these exoplanets is constantly evolving, there are many surprises—and fewer hard answers." www.nationalgeographic.com

To help find your way around the night sky, Skymaps.com makes available for free each month a map of the night sky. The Evening Sky Map is suitable for all stargazers including newcomers to astronomy and will help you to: • identify planets, stars and major constellations. • find sparkling star clusters, wispy nebulae & distant galaxies. • locate and follow bright comets across the sky. • learn about the night sky and astronomy.

But Princeton's Janson finds the ring hypothesis less convincing. For instance, the Hubble data show more variations in brightness than you'd expect from a ring that circles the planet, he said.

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 7


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

The “Empty Hole” Nebula

Citizen Scientist project finds “Star Bubbles”

Just south of the famous Orion Nebula lies the overlooked and puzzling little object NGC 1999. This tiny reflection nebula shines by the reflected light of newborn stars within, and it surrounds a surprisingly empty hole in space.

Remember when you were a kid and blowing bubbles was such great fun? Well, stars kind of do that too. The “bubbles” are partial or complete rings of dust and gas that occur around young stars in active star-forming regions, known as stellar nurseries. So far, over 5,000 bubbles have been found, but there are many more out there awaiting discovery. Now there is a project that you can take part in yourself, to help find more of these intriguing objects. The Milky Way Project, part of Zooniverse, has been cataloguing these cosmic bubbles thanks to assistance from the public, or “citizen scientists” – anyone can help by examining images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. They have been seen before, but now the task is to find as many as possible in the newer, highresolution images from Spitzer. A previous catalogue of star bubbles in 2007 listed 269 of them. Four other researchers had found about

600 of them in 2006. Now they are being found by the thousands. As of now, the new catalogue lists 5,106 bubbles, after looking at almost half a million images so far. As it turns out, humans are more skilled at identifying them in the images than a computer algorithm would be. People are better at pattern recognition and then making a judgment based on the data as to what actually is a bubble and what isn’t. The bubbles form around hot,

Above: A prominent star bubble. young massive stars where it is thought that the intense light being emitted causes a shock wave, blowing out a space, or bubble, in the surrounding gas and dust.

bringing us way more questions than answers right now. This is really starting something new in astronomy that we haven’t been able to do.”

Eli Bressert, of the European Southern Observatory and Milky Way Project team member, stated that our galaxy ”is basically like champagne, there are so many bubbles.” He adds, ”We thought we were going to be able to answer a lot of questions, but it’s going to be

There are currently about 35,000 volunteers in the project; if you would like to take part, you can go to The Milky Way Project for more information.

Citizen Science: GLOBE at Night Are you a fan of Citizen Science? Do you enjoy participating in projects that help researchers and possibly the environment? GLOBE at Night is one such program! By taking naked-eye observations of the night sky in your area, you can help a world-wide effort to track the effects of light pollution. Here’s all the info you need in order to participate in GLOBE at Night during 2012. For starters, what is GLOBE at Night? The GLOBE at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign designed to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution on our night skies. GLOBE at Night aims to raise awareness by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone. Light pollution not only threatens our “right to starlight”, but also affects energy consumption, wildlife and health. For the past six years, the GLOBE at Night campaign has been involving people in 115 countries. Participating in GLOBE at Night requires only five easy steps: 1) Find your latitude and longitude.

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2) Find Orion, Leo or Crux by going outside more than an hour after sunset (about 810pm local time). 3) Match your night-time sky to one of the provided magnitude charts. 4) Report your observation. 5) C o m p a r e your observation to thousands around the world. You can also use the new web application data submission process. The GLOBE at Night website is easy to use, comprehensive and holds an abundance of background information. The database is usable for

comparisons with a variety of other databases, like how light pollution affects the foraging habits of bats.

www.universetoday.com

If you’d like to learn more about GLOBE at Night, visit: http:// www.globeatnight.org/ , or the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: GLOBE at Night Kickoff: Seeing the Light. http://365daysofastronomy.org/201 2/01/01/january-1st-globe-at-nightkickoff-seeing-the-light/ www.universetoday.com

This enigmatic object lies nearly 1º object looks like a faint star south of iota Orionis at the south wrapped in icy mist. end of the Orion Nebula, M42 (see map below). At 20-30x, the nebula Increase magnification to 150x to looks like a fuzzy star; at 50-75x, see the unusual t h e nature of this nebula. Look carefully for a k e y h o l e shaped gap in the middle of the reflection n e b u l a itself. When astronomers first noticed this gap more than a century ago, and others like it (such as the Horsehead Nebula), t h e y believed it Above: NGC 1999 (in red circles), just south of the Orion Nebula

was simply a region without stars. In time, astronomers discovered that most such gaps are not void s , b ut simply dark clouds of cold dust in the foreground that block out the brighter background material. In 2010, the H e r s c h e l S p a c e Obser va tory, peered into the dark gap o f N G C 1999. Herschel Above: The image at the top of this page, from the European d e t e c t s Space Agency, shows in inset what the nebula looks like in infrared light, visible light. The main image shows the nebula as seen by the and can look Herschel telescope, and it shows the keyhole-shaped gap in into d a r k the upper left. nebula to see through to the stars within. But the why, but one theory holds that telescope detected… nothing. In radiation from new stars within the essence, the telescope verified that nebula blast a hole in the this particular dark patch in NGC surrounding dust. 1999 is devoid of stars, dust, and www.oneminuteastronomer.com any other material. It really is an empty space. No one yet knows

The “37 Cluster” The showpiece of the constellation Orion is the Great Orion Nebula, which bejewels the sword of the great celestial hunter. But Orion harbours dozens more deep-sky objects in its great star factory. Let’s look at one today… the fine young open star cluster NGC 2169, which takes on the unmistakable shape of the prime number “37″. NGC 2169 is one of a handful of appealing object in the “club” of mighty Orion, above the Hunter’s shoulder marked by the bright orange star Betelgeuse. Look about 5º north-northeast of this star, first to 5th-magnitude µ (mu) Orionis then to the pair of stars ξ (xi) and ν (nu) Orionis. The 6th-magnitude open star cluster NGC 2169 sits just one degree west-southwest of xi (the easternmost star).

1/10 of a degree across. One group contains 6-7 stars and the other perhaps 10-12 stars. This cluster is sometimes called the “37 Cluster”, because the larger group forms the letter “3” and the smaller group forms the letter “7”. Depending on your optics, the numbers might be flipped left-toright or upside down, so use your imagination to unscramble the numbers. See image of the cluster above (credit Noel Carboni, from At moderate magnification, you’ll Astronomy Picture of the Day, see in NGC 2169 about 15-20 stars Nov. 18, 2005). of 7th magnitude or fainter arranged in two groups, both about Much further away, about 12,000

Above: For the mostly harmless denizens of planet Earth, the brighter stars of open cluster NGC 2169 seem to form a cosmic 37. (Did you expect 42?.) Of course, the improbable numerical asterism appears solely by chance and lies at an estimated distance of 3,600 light-years toward the constellation Orion. light years, lies the faint open cluster NGC 2194. Find it about 1.6° south-southeast of NGC 2169. In a 4 to 6-inch scope, this appears as a faint icy glow, with few of its brightest stars resolved even at

150x. In an 8-inch or larger scope, the cluster reveals a few more stars along with a silver unresolved background. www.oneminuteastronomer.com

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 5


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Bucket List Object #2: The Great Orion Nebula

NASA's Kepler announces 11 planetary systems hosting 26 planets

Over the next several months, we present our totally subjective list of ten celestial sights to see before you die, or “kick the bucket”, as they say. We call it the “Bucket List for Backyard Stargazers”. Our list is targeted at the casual stargazer, with no special expertise or training or ambition other than to see some of the most beautiful, and in some cases, transient sights in nature. For some of these objects, you’ll need access to a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. Others require travel and good timing and luck. And for others, you need to simply look up. But all these sights are not that hard to see, once you know how and when and where to look for them. We’ll help you with that.

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of Kepler’s verified planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, the star. Such systems will help astronomers better understand how planets form. The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen are between Earth and Neptune in size. Further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our Sun. “Prior to the Kepler mission, we knew of perhaps 500 exoplanets across the whole sky,” said Doug Hudgins from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates. This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits.” Kepler identifies planet candidates by repeatedly measuring the change in brightness of more than 150,000 stars to detect when a planet passes in front of the star. That passage casts a small shadow toward Earth and the Kepler spacecraft. Each of the new confirmed planetary systems contains two to five closely spaced transiting planets. In tightly packed planetary systems, the gravitational pull of the planets on each other causes some planets to accelerate and some to decelerate along their orbits. The acceleration causes the orbital period of each planet to change. Kepler detects this effect by measuring the changes, or Transit Timing Variations (TTVs). Planetary systems with TTVs can be verified without requiring extensive ground-

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based observations, accelerating confirmation of planet candidates. The TTV detection technique also increases Kepler’s ability to confirm planetary systems around fainter and more distant stars. Five of the systems (Kepler-25, Kepler-27, Kepler-30, Kepler-31, and Kepler-33) contain a pair of planets where the inner world orbits the star twice during each orbit of the outer body. Four of the systems (Kepler-23, Kepler-24, Kepler-28, and Kepler-32) contain a pairing where the outer planet circles the star twice for every three times the inner one completes an orbit. “These configurations help to amplify the gravitational interactions between the planets,

Above: Kepler's Planetary Systems' Orbits: The image shows an overhead view of orbital positions of the planets in systems with multiple transiting planets discovered by NASA's Kepler mission. similar to how my sons kick their legs on a swing at the right time to go higher,” said Jason Steffen from Fermilab Centre for Particle Astrophysics. Kepler-33, a star that is older and more massive than our Sun, had the most planets. The system hosts five planets, ranging in size from 1.5 to 5 times that of Earth. All of the planets are located closer to their star than any planet is to our Sun. The properties of a star provide clues for planet detection. The decrease in the star’s brightness and duration of a planet

Voyager mission is cooling its jets Or, more appropriately, Voyager 1 is cooling its instruments. To help conserve power, the mission managers at NASA have decided to cut the electricity to a heating element – one that’s part of the nearby infrared spectrometer that’s not been in operation for some 14 years. This power cut will lower the temperature of the ultraviolet spectrometer by about 23 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit)… a tempe rature tha t’s mild compared to the below minus 79 degrees Celsius (minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit) that the instrument has dropped to in previous times. It’s not a drastic measure, however, but all part of a crucial plan to manage electrical power to keep the spacecraft operational and transmitting data for another 13 years.

Just because the power is cut back doesn’t mean the instrument quit working. At the present, the spectrometer is continuing to gather and transmit data. The resilient system was designed to work in temperatures as frosty as minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit) and has even operated beyond the call of duty when heaters were switched off over the last 17 years. While it was taking a chance that the equipment might malfunction, the engineering team was confident since the spectrometer has worked

tr a ns it, c om b ine d with the properties of its host star, present a recognizable signature. When astronomers detect planet candidates that exhibit similar signatures around the same star, the likelihood of any of these planet candidates being a false positive is very low. “The approach used to verify the Kepler-33 planets shows the overall reliability is quite high,” said Jack Lissauer from NASA’s Ames Research Centre. www.astronomy.com

at minus 56 degrees Celsius (minus 69 degrees Fahrenheit.) since 2005. “The spectrometer is likely operating at a temperature somewhat lower than minus 79 degrees Celsius, or minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit,” says the team. “But the temperature detector does not go any lower.” While it has been awhile since Voyager 1′s encounter with Jupiter and Saturn which made the spectrometer busy, that doesn’t mean its data will be disregarded. Both scientists and mission m a nag em e nt s pe c ia lis ts w ill continue to monitor performance levels and an international team of scientists will further review spectrometer data. Live long and prosper, Voyager! www.universetoday.com

At #2 on our Bucket List for Backyard Stargazers is the Orion Nebula, a blister of glowing gas set alight by blazing new-born stars. As beautiful an object as you will ever see in the night sky, this nebula is just a small part of the vast starmaking machinery in our own Orion Arm of the Milky Way that offers many wondrous sights for backyard observers. The Orion Nebula is one of the grandest sights in all of nature: the birth of a cluster of new stars out of a dark cloud of interstellar gas and dust. And you can wander outside any night from December through March and see it for yourself… You "find it in the “sword” of stars that appears to hang off Orion's Belt. The nebula is the middle “star” in the sword, which to the naked eye appears slightly fuzzy. It's visible to stargazers in both hemispheres. Turn a telescope toward M42 and you will see a greyish bat-shaped mist lit up by dozens of blue-white stars. Try looking at the nebula with a range of magnifications. Start low, say at 40-50x, and work your way up. The nebulosity extends much farther than you may first think: use averted vision to glimpse its full expanse. At high magnification you'll lose the overall shape, but you can see the fine detail in the nebula's mottled structure and the beautiful diamond-like stars near the centre that sparkle like a jar full of fireflies. Because of its size and brightness, the Orion Nebula looks almost as good from city skies as it does from country skies, and is a fine sight in small and large telescopes. In a small scope, the nebula appears greyish because its light is not

Left: In one of the most detailed images captured by Hubble gives us an amazing look at the Orion Nebula. This image took 105 Hubble orbits to complete.

and contain the mass of 10,000 Suns. At the heart of the nebula is the multiple star system theta Orionis, also called the Trapezium, so-named because it looks like a tiny trapezoid . There are actually six stars here, though you need good seeing, a 4 inch or larger telescope, and magnification of 100x or more to resolve them all. The stars of the Trapezium, which are just 100,000 years old, have blown a bubble in the surrounding gas that gives us a view of the nebula's inner core. The energy that lights up the gas and dust of the Orion nebula comes from dozens of hot new stars that have recently coalesced out of the nebula itself. Hydrogen and traces of oxygen gas absorb the blue and ultraviolet light from the stars and re-radiate red and green light at characteristic wavelengths. A UHC or OIII filter may improve the contrast in some parts of the nebula, especially for urban observers. Astronomy writer Walter Scott Houston said of the Orion nebula, “No amount of intensive gazing ever encompasses all its vivid splendour”. It's truly one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. www.oneminuteastronomer.com

bright enough to stimulate the colour-sensing cone cells in your retina. In a larger telescope, you might see traces of green and red. I have never seen the colour firsthand, but it must surely accentuate the beauty of this wonderful object. The Orion Nebula is so complex and sublime that you see new detail every time you look at it. Try not to rush when you observe this wonder. Savor it. And if you can, try to make sketches to train your eye to see more detail. This nebula is an object that, in my opinion, looks b etter visually tha n photographically. The particulars: M42 lies some 1,500 light years from Earth and spans about 20 light-years. Radio telescopes show the unlit gas and dust span more than 100 lightyears beyond the visible nebula

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Kid’s Korner Why can’t an Airplane fly into space?

little less than the pressure on the bottom. So what happens? The wing is pushed up by the air underneath it.

Well, most of the time air may not seem like a very real substance, like water or wood or metal. But when the wind blows so hard it nearly knocks you down, air seems very real indeed. If we think about it, we can begin to understand how essential it is to how airplanes work. Airplanes are able to fly because air moving under their wings is strong enough to hold them up. If you could slice across an airplane wing, you would see it is curved over the top and flat on the bottom. As the plane's engines push the wing forward, air moves over and under the wing. Because the top of the wing is curved and the bottom is flat, the air going above has a little farther to travel than the air going below. The air molecules on top are thus a little farther apart, making the air there a little thinner, and the pressure on the top of the wing a

Large p a s s e ng e r planes can't fly much higher than about 12 kilometres (7.5 miles). The air is too thin above that altitude to hold the plane up. Some kinds of planes can fly much higher, and one special NASA plane, named Helios, flew to about 30 kilometres (19 miles), which is far higher than any other plane has travelled.

To get a spacecraft to even the lowest Earth orbit requires a rocket. So how is a rocket different from an airplane?

Rockets do not depend on air, even for burning their fuel. Rockets take advantage of some basic laws of nature that were discovered by the brilliant scientist Isaac Newton late in the 17th century. One of these, called Newton's third law, says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This explains what On 13th August 2001, Helios flew up to 96,863 feet. That’s 18 miles is going on

At that altitude, the air is 100 times thinner than at sea level. The air gets thinner and straight up! thinner the higher you go, until there's hardly any air at all. In other words, it's nearly a vacuum up there.

Cross section of an airplane wing. Air flows faster over the top than underneath, so exerts less pressure. Higher pressure air underneath the wing pushes it up.

observations of the universe that are better than scientists can make when looking through the air, as well as observing Earth's weather and long-term climate changes, taking pictures of Earth's changing surface, and studying pollution in the atmosphere.

Even the lowest Earthorbiting spacecraft orbit at around 200 kilometres (125 miles) above Earth's surface, far above the thick air we are accustomed to and much higher than any plane can reach. Most Earth orbiters, though, are placed at much higher altitudes to do their jobs. Some of these jobs include scientific

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine when you blow up a balloon, then let it go without tying a knot. The air rushes out of the mouth of the balloon and that pushes the balloon in the opposite direction. This law also tells us that, to build a powerful rocket, we need to shoot out a lot of high-speed material opposite the direction we want the rocket to go. That is exactly what a rocket engine is designed to do. Most rockets use high-speed exhaust gases from burning rocket fuel to propel themselves up and away from Earth's surface to the vacuum of space. Unlike planes, they don't need air to lift them up. Like everything else that burns, rocket fuel cannot burn without oxygen. Because it operates where the air is too thin to provides enough oxygen, a rocket carries its own oxygen in tanks and mixes it with the fuel just before it is burned.

TV audience discovers potential new planet During the BBC’s Stargazing Live show it was announced that thanks to the shows viewers using the PlanetHunter website it seems that they have found an exoplanet. A public “mass participation” push initiated on a UK television program to find planets beyond our Solar System has had an immediate result! On Monday, January 16, 2012 “BBC Stargazing LIVE” began its first of three nights of television programs live from Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK. The series was hosted by Professor Brian Cox, comedian Dara O’Briain along with a number of other well known TV personalities, astronomers and scientists. There was even a guest appearance via satellite link from Captain Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon. As well as the main TV program, there were

Rockets not only make s p a c e exploration possible, but they also enable us to explore our own planet in ways we could never do even from an airplane.

numerous local events across the UK and the viewers could “mass participate” in activities such as looking for extra solar planets with the citizen science project, Planethunters.org. The website hosts data gathered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, and asks volunteers to sift the information for anything unusual that might have been missed in a computer search. People are especially adept at seeing things that computers do not and the BBC Stargazing Live event was a golden opportunity to get many people looking. During the event, over a m i l l i o n classifications were made and 34 candidate planets found on the website in 48 hours. On the last show of the series on Wednesday 18th January it was a nn ou nc e d , t h a t i n

Delta rocket similar to ones used to launch some Earth orbiting spacecraft.

Monster black Hole 100 million times mass of Sun A monster black hole 100 million times the mass of the Sun is feeding off gas, dust and a ring of stars at the centre of Galaxy NGC-1097 50 million light-years away. The odd spiral galaxy extends long arms of red stars into space. But Nasa said the black hole at the centre of the galaxy in which Earth is situated is tame by comparison to NGC-1097, with the mass of just a few million suns.

A rocket carries a fuel tank and an oxygen tank. Fuel and oxygen are mixed together and ignited in the combustion chamber. Hot gasses shoot out the exhaust port and force the rocket in the opposite direction.

"The fate of this black hole and others like it is an active area of

research," said George Helou, deputy director of Nasa's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole."

Above: An artist’s concept of the new planet discovered during the show particular, one planet candidate looks extremely promising, as it has been identified multiple times by PlanetHunter participants. The plane t is circling the star SPH10066540 and is described as being similar in size to Neptune, circles its parent every 90 days and is about a similar distance from its parent star as Mercury is from our Sun. It could be described as a hot Neptune. Chris Holmes from Peterborough UK and Lee Threapleton also from the UK found the planet by searching through time-lapsed images of stars looking for the periodic dips in brightness that result every time a planet passes in front of (transits) one of those stars. A transit has to be observed several times before a planet will be confirmed. For the orange dwarf "The ring itself is a fascinating object worthy of study because it is forming stars at a very high rate," said Kartik S h e t h , a n astronomer at Nasa's Sp itz e r Sc i e n c e Center. The galaxy's red spiral arms and s w ir l ing s p ok e s between them show dust heated by newborn stars, while older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue. A fuzzy blue dot to the left of the image shows a companion galaxy, while other dots are either stars in the

star SPH10066540, five such events have now been seen in the Kepler data making it a strong candidate for an extra solar planet. “There’s more work to be done to confirm whether these candidates are true planets,” wrote the PlanetHunters team on their blog, “in particular, we need to talk to our friends on the Kepler team – but we’re on our way.” The NASA Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, has been searching a part of space thought to have many stars similar to our own Sun. You can try and find a new planet too by visiting planethunters.org it is incredibly simple and easy to do and requires no p r e vious know led g e of astronomy. www.universetoday.com

Milky Way, or other more distant galaxies. www.dailygalaxy.com

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

First picture of alien planet … Isn't? ...................................... 7 Citizen Scientist project finds “Star Bubbles” ......................... 8 Citizen Science: GLOBE at Night ........................................... 8 Bucket List Object #2: The Great Orion Nebula ..................... 9

Front cover image: Will our Sun look like this one day? The Helix Nebula is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula, given a technical designation of NGC 7293, lies about 700 light-years away towards the constellation Aquarius and spans about 2.5 light-years. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin.

Credit & Copyright: ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson

Kids Section Kids Korner ....................................................................... 10

Quizzes and Games Exercise your brain ............................................................ 11

Monthly Sky Guide Beginners sky guide for this month .................................... 12

Internet Highlights Special content only available with the online version of the magazine ................................................................ 13

Capricornus Cancer Orion Coma Berenices 3. Which large but faint constellation, containing a pair of bright globular clusters, M13 and M92, is named for a Greek hero? Boötes Hercules Cygnus Orion

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8. Gemini, the twins from Greek myth, contains which two bright stars? Castor and Pollux Spica and Regulus Sirius and Procyon Achilles and Odysseus 9. Which constellation, representing an arrow, is located in the northern sky? Vulpecula Leo Minor Lacerta Sagitta

4. The constellation Lyra may be small but it contains one of the brightest stars in the sky. 10.A large square shaped What is the name of this asterism is formed by magnitude 0 star? one star of the constellaVindemiatrix tion Andromeda and 3 Deneb stars of which other conVega stellation, named for the Rigel winged horse of Greek myth? 5. The north star, Polaris, is Cepheus the second brightest star Pegasus in the night sky. Centaurus True False

www.midlandsastronomy.com

Altair

Icarus

6 9

2

9 3

7

9

5

7 8 8

4

2

1 5 8

1

3 9 6

4 7

8

Check your answers

Answer 6: The correct answer was M38. Yes, it is M38! M37 is by far the richest (ie contains the most stars) of the three but M36 and M38 have brighter stars.

Four-galaxy collision creates firestorm of star birth ................ 6

6

1

Answer 1: The correct answer was The area of the sky north of the celestial equator. The celestial equator divides the sky into two hemispheres, north and south, just like the equator on Earth that divides our planet into the northern and southern hemispheres.

Why does Sirius twinkle? ..................................................... 6

4

Answer 7: The correct answer was Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star that will explode as a supernova in the near future… astronomically speaking.

The “37 Cluster” .................................................................. 5

7. Orion contains many bright stars like Rigel and the famous Orion Nebula but what red giant does lies in the northern sky? 2. Which constellation representing an Egyptian Betelgeuse queen's hair is best Sirius viewed in spring? Mintaka

7

Answer 2: The correct answer was Coma Berenices. The area of the sky where the Virgo Galaxy Cluster is located has numerous galaxies that are visible in moderate amateur telescopes.

The “Empty Hole” Nebula .................................................... 5

7

M262 M2 M38 M56

Answer 8: The correct answer was Castor and Pollux. The sons of Leda were inseperable until Castor, a mortal, was killed. Zeus placed both twins in the skies.

You can see more about the club and its events on www.midlandsastronomy.com or contact the club via e-mail at midlandsastronomy@gmail.com Meetings are informal and are aimed at a level to suit all ages.

Voyager mission is cooling its jets ........................................ 4

3

Answer 3: The correct answer was Hercules. M13, the Great Cluster in Hercules is easily visible in binoculars and spectacular through any size telescope.

NASA's Kepler announces 11 planetary systems hosting 26 planets ............................................................... 4

Greenwich Observatory at midnight The area of the sky around the north celestial pole The area of the sky north of the celestial equator The constellation Ursa Minor

8

Answer 9: The correct answer was Sagitta. Sagitta is a small but distinct constellation in the rich starfields of the summer Milky Way within the region of sky delineated by the "Summer Triangle".

Monster black Hole 100 million times mass of Sun ................. 3

SUDOKU

Answer 4: The correct answer was Vega. Vega is also known as Alpha Lyrae and is considered the standard for a magnitude 0 star.

TV audience discovers potential new planet .......................... 3

1. What area of the night 6. In the constellation Auriga there are three sky is referred to as the Messier objects, M36 northern sky? M37 and M__. The sky as seen above

Answer 10: The correct answer was Pegasus. Pegasus was ridden by the hero Perseus in his quest to kill the Gorgon Medusa. The four stars that form the Great Square of Pegasus lie in an otherwise rather barren expanse of sky visible in the fall in the northern hemisphere.

Latest Astronomy and Space News

All are welcome to attend. It also holds infrequent Observing Nights at its Observing Site in Clonminch, or at a member’s house (weather permitting) on the first Friday of every month..

Exercise your brain

contents

Answer 5: The correct answer was false. At just magnitude +2, Polaris barely makes it into the top 50!

MAC meets on the first Tuesday of the month in the Presbyterian Hall, High Street, Tullamore from 8pm.

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Sky Guide - Beginner’s targets for February Telescope Targets Orion and Auriga continue to be in great position for viewing this month. See December's and January's picks for these targets. For this month, we'll add Canis Major and Monoceros to our list. M41 is an open cluster in Canis Major which is quite easy to locate due to it's proximity to Sirius. Simply find Sirius (the sky's brightest star) shining below Orion, about 4º (or about one finderscope field) below Sirius is M41. M41 is a spectacular open cluster, with dozens of stars visible in scopes. M50 is another of Messier's open clusters located in the constellation Monoceros. As Monoceros itself doesn't contain any very bright stars, I use Beetlegeuse, Sirius, and Procyon to locate this one. These 3 stars form a nice triangle (the winter triangle?) to aid in locating it. The side of the triangle connecting Procryon and Sirius contains M50. M50 is located slightly less than halfway on the way from Sirius to Procryon. Two other open clusters in the area are M46 and M47. Using Procryon as the top of the vertical leg and Sirius as the edge of the vertical leg of the letter "L", M46 forms the corner of the "L". Once you've located M46, simply move slightly to the Southeast (about 1 low powered Field of View) to locate M47.

Planets Mercury is visible as an evening object during the last week of the month and sets at 19:40. Venus is visible in the evening sky during the month. At the start of the month, it sets at 20:55 and by month’s end sets at 22:25. On the evening of the 9th, it lies 0.5° (width of full moon) to the West of Uranus. Mars moves from Virgo into Leo during the month and rises at 20:40 at the start of the month. By month’s end it rises at 18:00. Jupiter is an evening object this month in Aries. It rises during daylight hours during the month and sets at 23:30 by month’s end. Saturn is a morning object at the start of the month, rising at 00:20. By month’s end it rises before midnight at 22:25. Uranus is lost to the twilight by month’s end and can be found in Pisces, SE of the Circlet asterism. It rises during daylight hours during the month and sets at 20:10 by month’s end. There is a good chance to view it on the evening of the 9th when it lies close to Venus (see above). Don’t expect to see much detail - it will be like a greenblue star. Neptune is not visible this month.

Club Notes Club Observing: The next club meets every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month for our observing sessions held in the MAC grounds. If you wish to be informed of these sessions please email your name and mobile number to midlandsastronomy@gmail.com who will confirm if the session is going ahead (depending on weather).

MAC is a proud member of

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Issue 31- February, 2012

Above: Monoceros is a constellation that is not very easily seen with the naked eye, however it does have some interesting features to observe with the aid of a small telescope. Beta Monocerotis is an impressive triple star system, the three stars form a triangle which seems to be fixed. William Herschel discovered it in 1781 and commented that it is 'one of the most beautiful sights in the heavens'. General notes A l w a y s k e e p a n e y e ou t for Aurorae. Check out www.stronge.org.uk/ spaceweather.html for the most up-to-date information on the aurorae. Other interesting naked eye phenomena to look out for include the Zodiacal Light and the Gegenschein. Both are caused by sunlight reflecting off dust particles which are present in the solar system.

area of the sky opposite the sun. To view either, you must get yourself to a very dark site to cut out the light pollution. When trying to observe either of these phenomena, it is best to do so when the moon is below the horizon. If you are observing them when the moon has risen, restrict your efforts to the period 4 days either side of the new moon as otherwise the moonlight will be sufficient to drown them out.

The Zodiacal Light can be seen in the West after evening twilight has disappeared or in the East before the morning twilight. The best time of year to see the phenomenon is late-Feb to early-April in the evening sky and September/ October in the morning sky - it's then that the ecliptic, along which the cone of the zodiacal light lies, is steepest in our skies. The Gegenschein can be seen in the

Finally check out www.heavensabove.com for the latest passes of the International Space Station and satellites and for details of Iridium Flare activity. Well, that should get you going in February. Clear skies and good hunting!

By Kevin Daly http://members.aol.com/kdaly10475/index.html

Latest Astronomy and Space News Kids Astronomy Quizzes and Games Monthly Sky Guide Internet Highlights


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Internet Highlights Each month we will try and bring you the best of the web for astronomy online resources such as movies, podcasts and free software. If you have any suggestions for content in these pages please contact us at midlandsastronomy@gmail.com Please click on the links provided to view the material and not the images.

What Causes Aurora?

Cosmic Journeys: Is the Universe infinite? Time for another detailed look at a constellation; one of the most fascinating in the sky, but hidden to most of the northern hemisphere: Carina. Home to one of the most likely supernova candidates we know of: Eta Carinae. Let’s talk just about this constellation, how to find it, and what you can discover in and around it. http://youtu.be/zhLkJLqFprk

The Holy Grail of Planetary Astronomy: The search for Earth's Twin

ScienceCasts: Some Comets Like It Hot

Dr. Michio Kaku: At night when you look at the stars and you look at the constellations and you wonder "Is anyone out there?" just realize that somebody out there could be looking back at us and wondering "Gee, is there any life on this…” http://youtu.be/rqhiFZi04Tc

http://youtu.be/7Mz2laHjVoQ

http://youtu.be/w75lBn1QIaI

The Spectacle of Star Death

Podcast: What if Something Were Different? The number of moons, the age of the Sun, and our placement in the Milky Way all had an impact on the formation of the Earth and the evolution of life on our planet. But what if things were different? What would be the implications? http://www.astronomycast.com/

Podcast: The Jodcast

http://youtu.be/E6FpSOg2BxE

How The Universe Works, Extreme Stars

A podcast about astronomy including the latest news, what you can see in the night sky, interviews with astronomers and more. It is created by astronomers from The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank for anyone interested in things out of this world.

Beautiful video here that everyone should see. This should be spread to all. From the Discovery Channel's series "How the Universe Works" episode "Extreme Stars" with Mike Rowe. http://youtu.be/u8eNy1w9y5Q

Useful free astronomy resources Midlands Astronomy Club have created a Facebook page so that our members and non-members alike can: • Keep up-to-date on future outreach events. • Be informed of upcoming lectures. • Have online access to the latest astronomy news as it happens. • See photos of all club events and activities. Find us on www.facebook.com

IFAS Website

h p://www.irishastronomy.org

Stellarium

h p://www.stellarium.org

Virtual Moon Atlas

h p://www.astrosurf.com/avl/UK_index.html

Celes'a

h p://www.sha ers.net/celes'a/index.html

Sky Maps

h p://skymaps.com/index.html

Heavens-Above

h p://www.heavens-above.com/

http://www.jodcast.net/archive/

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www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 14


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Internet Highlights Each month we will try and bring you the best of the web for astronomy online resources such as movies, podcasts and free software. If you have any suggestions for content in these pages please contact us at midlandsastronomy@gmail.com Please click on the links provided to view the material and not the images.

What Causes Aurora?

Cosmic Journeys: Is the Universe infinite? Time for another detailed look at a constellation; one of the most fascinating in the sky, but hidden to most of the northern hemisphere: Carina. Home to one of the most likely supernova candidates we know of: Eta Carinae. Let’s talk just about this constellation, how to find it, and what you can discover in and around it. http://youtu.be/zhLkJLqFprk

The Holy Grail of Planetary Astronomy: The search for Earth's Twin

ScienceCasts: Some Comets Like It Hot

Dr. Michio Kaku: At night when you look at the stars and you look at the constellations and you wonder "Is anyone out there?" just realize that somebody out there could be looking back at us and wondering "Gee, is there any life on this…” http://youtu.be/rqhiFZi04Tc

http://youtu.be/7Mz2laHjVoQ

http://youtu.be/w75lBn1QIaI

The Spectacle of Star Death

Podcast: What if Something Were Different? The number of moons, the age of the Sun, and our placement in the Milky Way all had an impact on the formation of the Earth and the evolution of life on our planet. But what if things were different? What would be the implications? http://www.astronomycast.com/

Podcast: The Jodcast

http://youtu.be/E6FpSOg2BxE

How The Universe Works, Extreme Stars

A podcast about astronomy including the latest news, what you can see in the night sky, interviews with astronomers and more. It is created by astronomers from The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank for anyone interested in things out of this world.

Beautiful video here that everyone should see. This should be spread to all. From the Discovery Channel's series "How the Universe Works" episode "Extreme Stars" with Mike Rowe. http://youtu.be/u8eNy1w9y5Q

Useful free astronomy resources Midlands Astronomy Club have created a Facebook page so that our members and non-members alike can: • Keep up-to-date on future outreach events. • Be informed of upcoming lectures. • Have online access to the latest astronomy news as it happens. • See photos of all club events and activities. Find us on www.facebook.com

IFAS Website

h p://www.irishastronomy.org

Stellarium

h p://www.stellarium.org

Virtual Moon Atlas

h p://www.astrosurf.com/avl/UK_index.html

Celes'a

h p://www.sha ers.net/celes'a/index.html

Sky Maps

h p://skymaps.com/index.html

Heavens-Above

h p://www.heavens-above.com/

http://www.jodcast.net/archive/

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www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 14


MAC February 2012 Magazine