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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Sky Guide - Beginner’s targets for October For the naked eye in October we have two meteor showers. There is a possible Draconid outburst on the 8th which is predicted to occur around 21:00. However the timing for this event is uncertain and it is best to look as soon as darkness falls. The predicted ZHR is 400, however the presence of a waxing gibbous moon will reduce the number of meteors visible and it is best to keep the moon blocked out by a fence or hedge etc and to look NW where the radiant is visible as soon as darkness falls. The meteors are typically slow and faint and it is unknown how long this event will last for and may only last for a short time. The Orionids peak on the morning of the 22nd with a ZHR of 25. The radiant rises at around 01:00 that morning with a waning crescent moon rising at around 02:00 in Leo causing interference. Telescope Targets The month of October begins with Cassiopeia and Andromeda high overhead in the Northeast. M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy), to locate M31, find the "W" of the Constellation Cassiopeia. The larger part of the base of the "W" points right at the Andromeda Galaxy. Simply follow this line approximately a fist's width and slightly toward the horizon and scan this area with your lowest power eyepiece. You will see a bright blob in the middle with light extending off of both sides. On a very good night from a dark site, Andromeda will fill the field of view of your eyepiece. The Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant object that can be viewed with the naked eye at 2.2 - 2.9 million light years away, which makes this a very easy first galaxy target for your scope. The Andromeda Galaxy is considered the Milky Way's twin and is a member of a group of galaxies known as the local group. It's made up of about 300 billion stars and is considerably larger than the Milky Way. M31 is a spiral galaxy, but as

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Issue 27- October, 2011

we are seeing it edge on no spiral structure can be detected. Within the same low power eyepiece view, you may also detect M32 which is an elliptical galaxy. M32 is a very small smudge just below Andromeda (in the telescope view). It appears to be more of a fuzzy star than a galaxy through most beginners instruments but it's still another distant galaxy composed of millions of stars. M32 is located approximately 20,000 lightyears South of Andromeda. It is a dwarf elliptical galaxy. Also within the same low power field of view as Andromeda is the elusive M110 (NGC 605), another galaxy. It's located on the opposite side of Andromeda about the same distance as M32. It will take dark skies to see this one. It's a faint oval smudge even in my 8" scope. This is a dwarf elliptical galaxy containing just a few million stars. Both of these galaxies are orbiting M31. Moving over to Cassiopeia, M103 is our next target. To locate M103 find the star that makes up the bottom of the smaller part of the "W" of Cassiopeia (Ruchbah), M103 is located right next to this star in a straight line from it toward the star that makes the end of the "W" (Epsilon Cygni). M103 is a very loose open cluster of about 60 stars. Next, we'll use Ruchbah again, but with the other side of the "W" to find NGC's 869 and 884 (commonly referred to as the Perseus DoubleCluster). Follow this line down approximately a fist's width, and using your lowest power eyepiece, you will be treated to one of the most beautiful sights in the heavens. NGC 869 and 884 are a pair of Open Clusters each containing approximately 100 stars. It is located a a very rich area of stars which only adds to the beauty of this target. The sight is indeed a memorable one, and one I'm sure you'll return to often to show your friends. Use your lowest power to get the best view of this pair in your eyepiece.

Moving back up through Cassiopeia, our next target will be the open cluster M52. Using the large part of the "W", (alpha and beta Cygni) as our pointer, follow this line straight up about the same distance, and M52 will be in you field of view. M52 is an open cluster containing about 200 members.

and Neptune are evening objects this month.

The Planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn are not visible this month. Jupiter, Uranus

http://members.aol.com/kdaly10475/index.html

Mars moves from Cancer into Leo during the month, is a morning object and appears to pass in front of M44 – The Beehive Cluster on the mornings of the 1st and 2nd.

By Kevin Daly

Club Notes Club Observing: Remember the next club meets every first Friday 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).

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Fifty new planets found — largest haul yet ........................... 8 Bucket List Object #6: A Meteor Storm ................................. 9

Kids Section Kids Korner ....................................................................... 10 Front cover image: NGC 3314 is actually two large spiral galaxies which just happen to almost exactly line up. The foreground spiral is viewed nearly face-on, its pinwheel shape defined by young bright star clusters. But against the glow of the background galaxy, dark swirling lanes of interstellar dust appear to dominate the face-on spiral's structure. NGC 3314 is about 140 million light-years (background galaxy) and 117 million light-years (foreground galaxy) away in the multi-headed constellation Hydra. The background galaxy would span nearly 70,000 light-years at its estimated distance.

Credit & Copyright: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA

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

Monthly Sky Guide Beginners sky guide for October ......................................... 12

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

3. This planet has an atmosphere with a mass 100 times greater than Earth's and is a perfect example of the 'Green House Effect'.

 Saturn  Jupiter  Venus  Mars 4. One of Jupiter's four Galilean moons that is covered with volcanoes, molten sulphur lakes, lava flows and mountains up to 8,000 m high

 Io  Ganymede  Europa  Callisto

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7. Also known as the butterscotch planet, and the Lord of the Rings, this is where you'll find the Cassini division

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8. This is the name of several spacecraft which have visited Earth's moon.

 Pathfinder  Viking  Apollo  Mariner 9. This ringed planet tilted on its side

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 Uranus  Mercury  Jupiter  Saturn

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 Uranus  Jupiter  Neptune  Saturn 10.The sun is composed mainly of these two elements

 Hydrogen and Helium  Helium and Argon  Nitrogen and Hydrogen  Carbon and Oxygen

5. The largest asteroid in the asteroid belt

 Vesta  Deimos  Charon  Ceres

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Confused??? Check your answers on this page.

Answer 6. The correct answer was Neptune. Neptune's atmosphere consists of hydrogen, helium and methane gases. It has a mantle of ice, methane, and ammonia, and a core of silicate rock.

China blasts first space lab Tiangong 1 to orbit ..................... 8

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Answer 1. The correct answer was Mars. Olympus Mons rises 24,000m and is 600 km across. Its last eruption may have been about 25 million yrs. Ago.

NASA launches mission to study Moon from crust to core ...... 7

 Neptune  Saturn  Uranus  Jupiter

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Answer 2. The correct answer was Uranus which has 17 moons in total, all n a m e d a f t e r c h a r a c te r s f r o m Shakespeare's or Alexander Pope's writings.

Did asteroid Baptistina kill the dinosaurs? ............................ 7

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Answer 7. The correct answer was Saturn. Saturn is known as the butterscotch planet because of the colours of the clouds in its atmosphere. The Cassini division is the gap between its A and B rings.

Jupiter: Big, bright, and beautiful ......................................... 6

2. This planet's moons are named after S h a k e s p e a r i a n characters such as Oberon, Titania, and Puck

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 Jupiter  Neptune  Mercury  Saturn

Answer 8. The correct answer was Apollo. Apollo 11, in 1969, carried the first astronauts to land on the moon.

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.

The mission to find the missing Lunar module ....................... 5

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Answer 3. The correct answer was Venus which has an average surface temperature on Venus is 464 degrees Celsius. Its atmosphere is so thick that you would not be able to see the stars from its surface.

NASA images offer sharper views of Apollo landing sites ........ 5

 Mercury  Mars  Jupiter  Venus

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Answer 9. The correct answer was Uranus which lies on its side, one pole pointing towards the sun and the other pointing away from the sun. It is thought that Uranus was knocked over by another object while forming.

Citizen scientists discover two extrasolar planets ................... 4

SUDOKU

6. The Great Dark Spot - a cloud of methane as big as the Earth itself can be found on this planet

Answer 4. The correct answer was Io. Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Io are four moon studied by Galileo and are 1 - 1.5 times the size of our moon.

A WISE assessment of Near-Earth Asteroids ......................... 3

1. On this planet's surface rests the largest volcano in the solar system Olympus Mons

Answer 5. The correct answer was Ceres which has a diameter of 932 km. The asteroid belt contains billions of asteroids.

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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

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Answer 10. The correct answer was Hydrogen and Helium. In the core of the sun, 660 million tons of hydrogen are converted into helium every second.

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 A cool Sun for cool music? Which sentence describes Pluto?

best

1. Pluto is the largest of the "ice dwarfs" in our solar system. 2. Pluto is just one of many icy objects in a distant area of our solar system.

More Fun Facts About Pluto: Pluto is only about half the width of the United States. Charon is about half the size of Pluto. Charon is the largest moon compared to the body it orbits (whether planet or dwarf planet) of any moon in the solar system.

the nice, orderly plane where all the other planets orbit. (Mercury has a slightly lop-sided orbit, although not nearly so much as Pluto's.) Compared to most of the planets and their moons, the whole PlutoCharon system is tipped on its side. Like the planets, Pluto's spin axis stays pointed in the same direction as it orbits the Sun. But unlike all planets except Uranus, Pluto is tipped on its side. The planets' axes of rotation stand more or less upright from the plane of their orbits.

Well, just pick the answer you like best, because they are all true!

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At Pluto's current distance from the Sun, the temperature on its surface is about 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit! It will get even colder as it moves farther from the Sun. From Pluto, the Sun looks like just a bright dot in the sky, the brightest star visible. The light from the Sun is as bright on Pluto as the light from the full Moon is on Earth. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 7 pounds on Pluto!

Pluto orbits in a far-out region of the solar system called the Kuiper (rhymes with viper) Belt. There are lots of icy, rocky objects out there. But they are so far from the Sun they are really hard to see, even with powerful telescopes.

4. All of the above.

One thing is certain. Pluto and its neighbourhood are very peculiar. If scientists could unravel some of their mysteries, we would know more about how our solar system formed.

planet. Charon's orbit around Pluto takes about six and one-half Earth days. Pluto's day (that is, one complete rotation) takes exactly the same amount of time. So, Charon always "hovers" over the same spot on Pluto's surface, and the same side of Charon always faces Pluto.

If you lived on Pluto, you'd have to live 248 Earth years to celebrate your first birthday in Pluto-years.

3. Pluto and its large, orbiting companion object Charon, are tipped on their sides.

Until recently, Pluto was the ninth Almost all the planets travel around planet from the Sun. It was also the the Sun in nearly perfect circles. smallest planet. But not anymore! But Pluto does not. It takes an oval -shaped path with the Sun For a long time, scientists have been nowhere near its centre. What's trying to decide how to define the more, its path is quite tilted from word "planet." If Pluto is a "planet," many other recently discovered objects nearly as large would also be planets. There is no telling how many "planets" kids would have to memorize someday! So, for that reason, be glad the scientists have finally decided. Pluto is no longer a planet. Instead, it is now called a dwarf planet.

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

If you lived on Pluto, you would see Charon from only one side of the

A WISE assessment of Near-Earth Asteroids If you're the kind of person who worries that an asteroid might someday come barrelling into Earth and cause global catastrophe, this month certainly provided "good news". NASA scientists announced that the population of "near-Earth asteroids" — those whose orbits bring them to within 28 million miles (45 million km) of us — is significantly lower than they'd thought. All along, astronomers have realized that for every big NEA they find, there must be many smaller ones. The problem is that the largest ones, at least 0.6 mile (1 km) across, have been relatively easy to spot because they look brightest in telescopic images. Finding smaller ones has proven more challenging. Moreover, pinning down the size of a given space rock depends on its apparent brightness, its distance, and a guesstimate about the albedo (reflectivity) of its surface. A big black body and a small white one might appear equally bright. So past tallies have assumed an average albedo of 14%, which is representative of asteroids in general. Now, thanks to all-sky survey conducted in 2010-11 by the Wide-

field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), asteroid specialists have a much better estimate of the NEA population. WISE wasn't launched to count asteroids — its primary mission was to map the distribution of infrared sources in the distant universe. But it also proved to be very good at detecting the heat radiating from asteroidal surfaces, whether bright (easy to spot) or dark (much tougher). Thus was born NEOWISE, a mission add-on coordinated by Amy Mainzer (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). "WISE had four infrared channels ranging from 3 to 22 microns, and we detected most of the NEAs in the two longest channels, 12 and 22," she explains. "With NEOwise we didn't find every single asteroid out there, but we did find a good, representative sample."

As Mainzer and 36 others detail in an analysis to appear in the Astrophysical Journal, there must be roughly 19,500 midsize NEAs (with diameters between 100 m and 1 km) — far fewer than the pre-WISE estimate of 35,000. For astronomers trying to keep tabs on all those close-in space rocks, this is a really big deal. "NEOWISE is the most important project of my career," exults Timothy Spahr, who directs the IAU's Minor Planet Center, specifically because WISE not only spotted so many objects (585 NEAs and some 150,000 main-belt asteroids) but also got enough looks at them over time to compute their orbits. Nothing seen so far is on a collision course with Earth, especially the ones at least 0.6 mile (1 km) across, which are big enough to wreak global havoc. "The good news here is that, with NEOWISE, the worldwide community of astronomers — both amateur and professional — have now found more than 90% of all these really big asteroids." Mainzer and her team now estimate there are 981 ± 19 of them in all, of which 911 have been found. Finally, astronomers ha ve a c hie ve d the P r oj e c t Spaceguard milestone established by NASA and Congress in 1998.

Let's Go There! We will finally get to visit Pluto, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt! On January 19, 2006, NASA launched a robot spacecraft on the long journey. This mission is called New Horizons. The spacecraft will arrive at Pluto in the summer of 2015, then go on to study other objects in the Kuiper Belt from 2018 to 2022.

With New Horizons, we will visit and learn about the objects at the very edge of our solar system. They may help us understand how our solar system formed.

Above: NEOWISE observations indicate that there are at least 40& fewer nearEarth asteroids at least 330 feet (100 m) across than previously thought. The orbits of the four inner planets are shown in green, and each red dot represents one asteroid.

Above: Observations by NASA's infrared-sensing WISE spacecraft have led to revisions in the estimated population of near-Earth asteroids. Each asteroid symbol represents about 100 actual objects. Those already known are brown. The added blue outlines show how many total objects were thought to exist before the WISE survey, and the green outlines show the reduced new estimates based on those data. Click on the image for a larger view.

Until yesterday's announcement, which you can watch here, astronomers had thought that the total population of 1-km asteroids was actually lower, somewhere near 830. But NEOWISE data show that these large bodies are a little

darker, and therefore larger, than believed. The revised estimate gets thumbs-up approval from Alan Harris (Space Science Institute), who has been assessing the NEA population for decades. His most recent estimate for the objects at least 1 km across is 990. "I'd say that's pretty damn good agreement," Harris notes. Still, Mainzer's team needs to reconcile its revised counts with older ground-based surveys. One, based on hundreds of discoveries by LINEAR (an acronym for Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research) and published in 2001, argues that the total count of 1-km NEAs is really closer to 1,250. My money's on the NEOWISE results. The spacecraft had huge advantages over its ground-based competition: no atmosphere, infrared sensitivity, and identical multiple observations with the same detector set. Now Mainzer & Co. need to let us know how many comets are floating around near-Earth space and what's the real risk of colliding with these rogue objects. That's in the works, she says. So is a reanalysis of the NEA estimates using a lower signal-to-noise threshold (to sweep up more detections) and to use the spacecraft's observations to compute albedos and diameters of well-characterized asteroids in the main belt. www.skyandtelescope.com

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Citizen scientists discover two extrasolar planets

analyse the host stars and determined that two of the 10 met their criteria for being classified as planet candidates.

Hip-hip hooray for citizen scientists! The first two exoplanet candidates have been identified by members of the public through the citizen science project Planet Hunters. The project, which began in December 2010, uses public archive data from the planet-hunting Kepler mission, and excitingly, the planets were found within the first month after the project began. One planet is potentially a rocky Earth-like planet, while the other is likely a gas-giant like Jupiter.

The two candidates were flagged as potential planets by several dozen d iffe r e nt P la ne t Hunters users, as the same data are analysed by more than one user.

“I think it’s truly amazing that someone sitting at home at their computer was the first to know that a star somewhere out there in our Milky Way likely has a companion,” said Meg Schwamb, a Yale University researcher and Planet Hunters co-founder. By all accounts, the Kepler mission has been a spectacular success – with over 1,200 planet candidates detected so far– and the data obtained by the spacecraft has been a treasure trove for scientists. But over 40,000 web users from around the world have been helping professional astronomers analyze the light from 150,000 stars in the hopes of discovering planets – and especially Earth-like planets — orbiting around them. “These planet candidates just show what wealth of interesting gems still remaining to be found in the Kepler data,” Schwamb told Universe Today. She added that for the science team, the Planet Hunters project was somewhat of a gamble,

as no one was sure human eyes would be able to spot things possibly missed by automated routines. “The gamble paid off, and we’re all very excited about the discovery of these planet candidates,” she said. “These candidates have demonstrated the truly amazing power of human pattern recognition. Planet Hunters doesn’t replace the great work and the analysis being done by the Kepler team. But it has proven itself to be a valuable and complementary tool in the search for extrasolar planets.” The Planet Hunters team sent the top 10 candidates found by the citizen scientists to the Kepler team, and two of the planets have survived the initial checks for falsepositives, whether they are m a s q ue r ad ing as e c lips ing binaries, for example. Scientists used the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) at Caltech to

The two candidate planets orbit their host stars with periods ranging from 10 to 50 days — much shorter than the 365 days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun — and have radii that range in size from two-and-ahalf to eight times Earth’s radius. Despite one planet having the potential to be a rocky world, it does not lie in the so-called “habitable zone” where liquid water, and therefore life as we know it, could exist. Schwamb said to confirm a transiting planet, the team scientists will look at the radial velocities to measure the wobble of the star back and forth caused by the orbiting body. “This allows you to get the mass of the orbiting companion,” she said. “Kepler was always intended to be a statistical mission. The majority of the over 1,200 Kepler planet

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Bucket List Object #6: A Meteor Storm 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.

Above: Three exoplanet candidates found by the Planet Hunters citizen science project. Two have survived the first rounds of checks for false positives. Credit: Zooniverse c a nd i d a t e s a nd t he p l a n e t candidates found by Planet Hunters will not be confirmed with radial velocity measurements either because the star is too faint or the radial velocity signal caused by the orbiting planet would be smaller than the current sensitivity limits of the world’s best spectrographs. If it’s possible that we can confirm the presence of these planets with radial velocities measured on the Keck telescopes, we will definitely try.” As of now, the Planet Hunter scientists, which also includes Yale astronomer Debra Fisher, say there is at least a 95% chance that these two candidates are bona fide planets. Spurred by success, the Planet Hunters citizen scientist are now sifting through a new round of publicly available data from the Kepler mission in hopes of finding even more planets. “This is what we found after just a preliminary glance through the first round of Kepler data,” Fischer said. “There’s no doubt that, with each new round of data, there will be more discoveries to come.”

Above: One of the tutorial figures explaining how to use Planet Hunters at the site.

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www.universetoday.com

A meteor storm! The very term makes an honest stargazerʼs heart beat faster. While a good meteor shower, like the Perseids, may show 50-60 meteors every hour, a meteor storm sprays shooting stars at a rate of hundreds or thousands an hour. During a spectacular storm in 1833, the sky seemed to “fill with falling fire” for nearly half the night.

Left: This Leonid meteor as it flared with the brightness of the full Moon .

While spectacular, a meteor storm, which comes in at #5 on our “ Buc ke t Lis t f or Ba c k ya r d Stargazers”, may be the most difficult to see because they are extremely brief and rare. But take heart. NASA is already preparing to deal with a possible outburst this year from a usually lacklustre shower in Draco. And since such events are hard to predict, there may be more opportunities in the coming years. One thing for sure… if you do see a meteor storm, you'll never forget it. The Leonid meteor shower, which peaks in the early morning of Novemb er 17, has offer ed stargazers the most reliable opportunity to see a meteor storm. The shower flares up every 33 years to present a deluge of meteors for a few hours on the early morning on or around November 17. Experts predict this yearʼs Leonids will be quite tame, alas.

path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The Leonids last peaked in 1999, with bonus peaks in 2001 and 2002 (though they did not approach the dramatic peak of 1833). Sadly, the Leonids will likely remain quiet this year, and for many years to come. Perturbations of the comet by Jupiter mean the Earth may miss the usual rendezvous with this stream of concentrated comet dust for many decades, perhaps. So chances are, none of us may ever see anything like the outburst of 1833, or even 1999. But there are still opportunities to see a respectable meteor storm, though it likely won't be the Leonids. Your best near-term bet for a meteor storm lies with the Draconid meteor shower on the 8th October which is predicted to occur around 21:00. The Draconids, so-named because the meteors streak across the sky from a point in the constellation Draco. Experts believe it may put on a good show, with perhaps 400 - 750 meteors per hour. With a little luck, you'll see a rich and remarkable spray of meteors. And you can check this event off your celestial bucket list. www.oneminuteastronomer.com

stupor or near-catatonic terror. Nearly everyone awakened to see the bright meteors and attending commotion on the morning of November 12. The storm lasted nearly four hours. According to astronomer Agnes Clerke, “the frequency of meteors was estimated to be about half that of flakes of snow in an average snowstorm”. The meteors came so quickly during this 1833 storm, it was clear the radiant, or apparent source, of the meteors lay towards the Sickle of the constellation Leo. And the radiant moved with the

stars during the evening, which finally made it clear that meteors came from outside the Earth's atmosphere. Until then, some belie ve d me te ors wer e a n atmospheric phenomenon, the belief of which lended the term “meteorology” to the study of the weather. Astronomers looked at historical records to determine the Leonids peaked at multiples of 33 years… in 1799, 1533, 1366, 1202, and 1037, for example. We now know the peaks correspond to brief periods during which Earth passes through a concentration of debris left in the

But there have been some remarkable Leonids in the past. The great Leonid meteor storm of 1833 was perhaps the most spectacular in recorded history. Visible from eastern North America, the storm produced as many as 200,000 meteors per hour, startling 19thcentury observers into a glazed

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

NASA images offer sharper views of Apollo landing sites

China blasts first space lab Tiangong 1 to orbit

The images show distinct trails left in the Moon’s thin soil when the Apollo 12, 14, and 17 astronauts exited the lunar modules and explored on foot.

China launched their first space station module into orbit on September 29th, marking a major milestone in the rapidly expanding Chinese space program. The historic lift-off of the man rated Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace 1) space lab on a Long March 2F rocket took place at 9:16 p.m. local time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre located in Gansu province in northwest China and is an impressive advance for China. The beautiful night time lift-off occurred exactly on time and was carried live on China’s state run television – CCTV – and on the internet for all to see. Chinese President Hu Jintao and many of China’s other top government leaders witnessed the launch from the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre as a gesture of confidence and support. Their presence was a clear sign of just how important China’s top leadership considers investments in research as a major driver of technological innovation that is bolstering China’s vigorously growing economy and employing tens of thousands of people. The US – in sharp contrast – is cutting space spending and handing out pink slips to many thousands of shuttle workers, CCTV noted. As a CCTV commentator said after the successful Tiangong 1 launch, “30 Years ago it was ‘science fiction’

to imagine a Chinese astronaut in space. Today it’s a reality!” Long range cameras tracked rocket for several minutes and clearly showed the jettisoning of the first stage boosters and the payload fairing. “The launch of Tiangong 1 has been successfully completed,” announced Gen. Chang Wanquan, chief commander of China’s manned space engineering project on CCTV. Tiangiong 1 will serve a crucial role as a docking target to carry out China’s first rendezvous and docking in space- initially with an unmanned vehicle and thereafter with astronauts crews. The US and the Soviet Union mastered these technologies back in the 1960’s, and China is rapidly catching up now.

Fifty new alien worlds, including 16 "super Earths," have been found—the largest extrasolar planet haul announced at one time, astronomers say.

"The harvest of discoveries... has exceeded all expectations, and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our sun," study leader Michel Mayor, an astronomer at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, said in a statement.

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Above: A Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 29, 2011. Rendezvous and docking are key accomplishments that China must achieve in order to move forward and accomplish even more ambitious space goals – construction of a 60 ton space station by the year 2020. The two stage Long March 2F rocket was upgraded with more than 170 improvements including a larger payload fairing to house bigger Tiangong 1 module, four longer liquid fuelled strap on boosters with more powerful thrust capability and more precise guidance systems. The

Fifty new planets found — largest haul yet

The discoveries bring the total number of known extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, to 689.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. Images show the twists and turns of the paths made when the astronauts explored the lunar surface.

One of the newly discovered worlds, dubbed HD 85512b, lies at the edge of its star's habitable zone—the region around a star where liquid water, and thus life as we know it, can exist. Alan Gould, an astronomy educator at the University of California, Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, called the discoveries "pretty exciting. This big batch of planets contributes to our overall knowledge of what

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extrasolar planet systems are like— how common Jupiter-type giant planets are relative to Neptunetypes and super Earths, and whether they're close in or far out from their host stars," said Gould, also a member of NASA's Kepler exoplanet-finding mission. "These kinds of statistics can help us figure out what star-planet systems are like in general, and that has implications for whether there are Earth like planets or not. "This is looking more and more like a golden age of exoplanet discovery." www.nationalgeographic.com

designed to stay in space for at least 2 years and support crews of up to three astronauts for short duration stays. It will be the target of at least three upcoming space missions – Shenzhou 8, 9 and 10. Shenzhou is China’s human spaceflight capsule, derived from the Russian Soyuz and also significantly upgraded with China’s own nationally developed technology. The unmanned Shenzhou 8 will launch in about 1 month according to officials from the China Manned Space Engineering Office and reach the vicinity of Tiangong 1 after 2 days. Shenzhou 8 will conduct at least two practice test dockings to extensively check out all systems and experience. Shenzhou 9 and 10 will dock during 2012 and are likely to include the first female Chinese astronaut. Tiangong 1 is a prototype miniture space station module, not fully outfitted for long duration stays of astronauts. The space lab consists of two segments – a forward habitable, pressurized section for the astronauts (measuring some 530 cubic feet in volume) and an unpressurized resource compartment in the rear with two solar arrays consisting of four segments to provide ample power. www.universetoday.com

At the Apollo 17 site, the tracks laid down by the lunar rover are clearly visible, along with the last foot trails left on the Moon. The images also show where the astronauts placed some of the scientific instruments that provided the first insight into the Moon’s environment and interior. “We can retrace the astronauts’ steps with greater clarity to see where they took lunar samples,” said Noah Petro, a lunar geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is a member of the LRO project science team. All three images show distinct trails left in the Moon’s thin soil when the astronauts exited the lunar modules and explored on foot. In the Apollo 17 image, the foot trails, including the last path made on the Moon by

humans, are easily distinguished from the dual tracks left by the lunar rover, which remains parked east of the lander. “The new low-altitude Narrow Angle Camera images sharpen our view of the Moon’s surface,” said Arizona State University researcher Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiteer Camera (LROC). “A great example is the sharpness of the rover tracks at the Apollo 17 site. In previous images, the rover tracks were visible, but now they are sharp parallel lines on the surface.” At each site, trails also run to the west of the landers, where the astronauts placed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) to monitor the Moon’s environment and interior. This equipment was a key part of every Apollo mission. It provided the first insights into the Moon’s internal structure, measurements of the lunar surface pressure and the composition of its atmosphere. Apollo 11 carried a simpler version of the science package.

One of the details that shows up is a bright L-shape in the Apollo 12 image. It marks the locations of cables running from ALSEP’s central station to two of its instruments. Although the cables are much too small for direct viewing, they show up because they reflect light very well. The higher resolution of these images is possible because of adjustments made to LRO’s orbit, which is slightly elliptical. “Without changing the average altitude, we made the orbit more elliptical, so the lowest part of the orbit is on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Goddard’s John Keller, deputy LRO project scientist. “This put LRO in a perfect position to take these new pictures of the surface.” The manoeuvre lowered LRO from its usual altitude of approximately 31 miles (50 kilometres) to an altitude that dipped as low as

The mission to find the missing Lunar module Where is the Apollo 10 Lunar lander module? It’s somewhere out there — orbiting the Sun — and there’s a new initiative to try and find it! The Apollo 10 mission was a manned “dry run” for its successor Apollo 11, testing all of the procedures and components of a Moon landing without actually landing on the Moon itself. After carrying out a successful lunar orbit and docking procedure, the Lunar Module (called “Snoopy”) was jettisoned and sent into an orbit around the Sun. After 42 years, it’s believed to still be in a heliocentric orbit and a team of UK and international astronomers working with schools are going to try and find it. The idea is the brainchild of British amateur astronomer Nick Howes who helped coordinate a very successful asteroid and comet project. After consulting with people from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other orbital dynamics experts, the Howes has assembled a team of facilities and experts, including the Faulkes

Telescope, Space Exploration Engineering Corp, astronomers from the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy and schools across the UK. They know they have a massive undertaking ahead of them to find Snoopy. “The key problem which we are taking on is a lack of solid orbital data since 1969, we’ve

enlisted the help of the Space Exploration Engineering Corp who have calculated orbits for Apollo 10 and working closely with people who were on the Apollo mission team in the era will help us identify search coordinate regions.” “We’re expecting a search arc anywhere up to 135 million

Above: The paths left by astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell on both Apollo 14 moon walks are visible in this image. The descent stage of the lunar module Antares is also visible. http://youtu.be/yi1WoZzeXWs nearly 13 miles (21 kilometres) as it passed over the Moon’s surface. The spacecraft remained in this orbit for 28 days, long enough for the Moon to completely rotate. This allowed full coverage of the surface by LROC’s Wide Angle Camera. The cycle ended September 6 when the spacecraft returned to its 31-mile orbit. “These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA. www.astronomy.com

kilometres which is a huge amount of space to look at, we’re aware of the scale and magnitude of this challenge but to have the twin Faulkes scopes assist the hunt, along with schools, plus the fact that we’ll doubtless turn up many new finds such as comets and asteroids. We’re also encouraging anyone to have a go and will be posting the coordinates on the Faulkes Telescope website starting in a few days” While the challenge ahead is enormous, and the chances of the team finding Snoopy are very small, the team are enthusing thousands of people with their own “Apollo Mission” – the mission to find the missing Apollo Lunar module. www.universetoday.com

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 5


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Jupiter: Big, bright, and beautiful

Did asteroid Baptistina kill the dinosaurs?

What's your favourite planet? If it's Mars, you certainly have lots of company. The fascination with the Red Planet as a possible abode of life goes back well over a century. But Mars is almost always tiny in a telescope, and in 2011 it's not placed well for viewing. Or perhaps you're fondest of Saturn. Nothing compares to those wonderful rings.

Once upon a time, about 65 million years ago, scientists hypothesize a sizable asteroid crashed into Earth and contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. The evidence is a 150-kilometer-wide crater located just off the Yucatan peninsula and legend has it the 10-kilometer-wide asteroid was a fragment of a larger parent – Baptistina. Now, thanks to observations by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), we just might have to re-think that theory.

For me, however, it's Jupiter. What makes Jupiter such a treat is that it offers more to see in a telescope than any other planet. It's the only one that shows distinct features in even a fairly small scope. And it's got four large moons that hover nearby like bright fireflies, forever shuttling back and forth around Jupiter's glaring globe. Jupiter was king of the gods in Roman mythology, and in late 2011 it rules unchallenged as the brightest "star" shining in the evening sky. You'll find it low in the east after sunset in October, and it climbs higher up week by week through year's end. By next April, Jupiter's early evening position will have shifted far to the west. Before you track down this planet with your telescope, grab your binoculars and find a tree or wall to brace against while pointing them toward Jupiter. If your binoculars are good quality and magnify at least seven times, you'll see Jupiter as a tiny white disk. Look closely to either side of Jupiter's disk — do you see a line of three or four tiny

stars? Each of these is a satellite of Jupiter roughly the size of our own Moon. They only look tiny and faint because they're about 2,000 times farther away. Now put a low-power eyepiece in your telescope and centre Jupiter. Focus carefully so that the planet's edge is as sharp as possible, let any vibrations settle down, and then take a good long look. Now the moons are much more obvious. You'll probably see all four — but possibly only three depending on when you look. The count often changes from night to night. That's because while orbiting Jupiter they sometimes glide in front of the planet, behind it, or through its shadow. These hide-and-seek movements confounded Galileo Galilei when he first spied these "stars" in 1610. But he soon realised they were actually circling around Jupiter, forming a miniature solar system of sorts. The four are named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto and it's

Above: An image of Jupiter using 12½ -inch reflector on August 17, 2011. Note the Great Red Spot, which overlaps the dark South Equatorial Belt below centre. hard to tell which is which just by looking. Callisto is usually (but not always) farthest from Jupiter, and Ganymede is a little brighter than the others. Sulfur-coated Io has a pale yellow-orange cast. Now turn your attention to Jupiter itself. Centre its round disk in the middle of your telescope's view, then carefully switch to a higher-power eyepiece and refocus. Study the disk closely, and two things should be noticeable. First, the disk is not perfectly round. Jupiter spins so fast (once every 10 hours) that its equatorial midsection bulges out a bit. It's 7% wider across the equator than from pole to pole. Jupiter is a gas-giant planet — it consists almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, nearly all the way down. The "surface" you see is actually the top layers of cloud decks floating near the top of an immensely deep atmosphere.

Above: Almost any kind of Jupiter observation requires familiarity with the correct names for the various belts and zones. This diagram replicates the view in an inverting telescope such as a Newtonian reflector, or a refractor, SchmidtCassegrain, or Maksutov used without a star diagonal. Telescopes used with a star diagonal will have north up but east and west reversed. The planet's rotation causes features to move from east (following) to west (preceding).

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 6

Look for at least two tawnycoloured stripes running parallel to the equator. These darkish cloud bands are called belts, and the brighter cloud areas between them are called zones. The North and South Equatorial Belts, usually the most prominent, straddle the bright Equatorial Zone like a cream-filled cookie sandwich. If you're using at least a 6-inch telescope, you may be able to pick out a few belts and zones closer to Jupiter's poles.

The single most famous cloud feature on Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, an enormous, oval-shaped storm about twice the size of Earth. Astronomers have observed the Red Spot for at least 150 years, but there's still no agreement on what chemical compounds create its distinctive colour. Like any big storm, the spot changes appearance over time. The intensity of its colour has sometimes been brick red (very rarely), pale orange tan (more often), pinkish tan, or an almost invisible creamy yellowish. Changes usually happen over a year or two. When the spot is so pale as to be invisible, you may be able to identify it indirectly by noting the indentation it makes in the south edge of the South Equatorial Belt: a feature dubbed the "Red Spot Hollow." Be forewarned that seeing the Great Red Spot is a challenge in a small telescope. Your best prospects will be when the spot appears near the middle of Jupiter's disk. The planet's rapid rotation means that these windows of opportunity last only a couple hours, so be prepared to search for the spot over several consecutive nights. No matter how you look at it, Jupiter is so easy to see that it makes an irresistible telescopic target anytime it's visible in the night sky — and that's why it's my favourite planet. www.skyandtelescope.com

While there’s almost absolutely no doubt an asteroid crash was responsible for a cataclysmic climate change, science has never been particularly sure of what asteroid caused it. A visible-light study done by terrestrial telescopes in 2007 pointed a finger at a huge asteroid known as Baptistina. The conjecture was that about 160 million years ago, it collided with another main belt asteroid and sent pieces flying. Even though it was plausible, the theory was quickly challenged and now infra-red evidence from WISE may finally lay this family of asteroids to rest. “As a result of the WISE science team’s investigation, the demise of the dinosaurs remains in the cold case files,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near Earth Object (NEO) Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in

W a s h i n g t o n . “ T h e o r i g i na l calculations with visible light estimated the size and reflectivity of the Baptistina family members, leading to estimates of their age, but we now know those estimates were off. With infrared light, WISE was able to get a more accurate estimate, which throws the timing of the Baptistina theory into question.” For over a year, WISE took an infra -red survey of the entire sky and asteroid-hunting portion of the mission, called NEOWISE, catalogued 157,000 members – discovering an additional 33,000 new ones. By utilizing the more accurate infra-red data, the team examined 1,056 members of the Baptistina family and discovered its break-up was closer to 80 million years ago – less than half the time previously suggested. By better

Above: Scientists think that a giant asteroid, which broke up long ago in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, eventually made its way to Earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. This artist's concept shows a broken-up asteroid. knowing their size and reflectivity, researchers are able to calculate how long it would take for Baptistina members to reach their current position. The results show that in order for this particular asteroid to have caused an extinction level event, that it would have had to have impacted Earth much sooner… like about 15 million years. “This doesn’t give the remnants from the collision very much time to move into a resonance spot, and get flung down to Earth 65 million years ago,” said Amy Mainzer, a study co-author and the principal investigator of NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. Calif. “This process is

thought to normally take many tens of millions of years.” Like bouncing a super ball off the walls, resonance spots can jettison asteroids out of the main belt. This means a dinosaur-killing Baptistina event isn’t likely, but other asteroid families in NEOWISE study show similar reflective properties and one day we may be able to locate a responsible party. “We are working on creating an asteroid family tree of sorts,” said Joseph Masiero, the lead author of the study. “We are starting to refine our picture of how the asteroids in the main belt smashed together and mixed up.” www.universetoday.com

The spacecraft were launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket and the telemetry downlinked from both spacecraft indicates they have deployed their solar panels and are operating as expected.

and cover more than 2.5 million miles (4 million km) to arrive. This lowenergy trajectory results in the longer travel time. The size of the launch vehicle allows more time for GRAIL will answer longstanding questions about the Moon and spacecraft check-out and time to give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other update plans for lunar operations. The science collection phase for rocky planets in the solar system formed. “Our GRAIL twins have Earth in GRAIL is expected to last 82 days. NASA’s twin lunar Gravity Recovery in the solar system formed. “If their rear view mirrors and the and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) there was ever any doubt that Moon in their sights,” said David “Since the earliest humans looked spacecraft lifted off from Cape Florida’s Space Coast would Lehman from NASA’s Jet Propulsion skyward, they have been fascinated Canaveral on Saturday, September continue to be open for business, Laboratory. “The mission team is by the Moon,” said Maria Zuber from 10, to study the Moon in that thought was drowned out by ready to test, analyse, and fine- the Massachusetts Institute of unprecedented detail. GRAIL-A is the roar of today’s GRAIL launch,” tune our spacecraft over the next Technology in Cambridge. “GRAIL scheduled to reach the Moon on said Charles Bolden from NASA. 3.5 months on our journey to lunar will take lunar exploration to a new New Year’s Eve 2011, while GRAIL- “GRAIL and many other exciting orbit.” level, providing an unprecedented B will arrive New Year’s Day 2012. upcoming missions make clear that characterization of the Moon’s The two solar-powered spacecraft NASA is taking its next big leap The straight-line distance from i n t e r i o r t h a t w i l l a d v a n c e will fly in tandem orbits around the into deep-space exploration, and Earth to the Moon is approximately understanding of how the Moon Moon to measure its gravity field. the space industry continues to 250,000 miles (402,000 kilometres). formed and evolved.” GRAIL will answer longstanding provide the jobs and workers NASA’s Apollo Moon crews needed questions about the Moon and give needed to support this critical approximately 3 days to cover that www.universetoday.com scientists a better understanding of effort.” distance. However, each spacecraft how Earth and other rocky planets will take approximately 3.5 months

NASA launches mission to study Moon from crust to core

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 7


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Jupiter: Big, bright, and beautiful

Did asteroid Baptistina kill the dinosaurs?

What's your favourite planet? If it's Mars, you certainly have lots of company. The fascination with the Red Planet as a possible abode of life goes back well over a century. But Mars is almost always tiny in a telescope, and in 2011 it's not placed well for viewing. Or perhaps you're fondest of Saturn. Nothing compares to those wonderful rings.

Once upon a time, about 65 million years ago, scientists hypothesize a sizable asteroid crashed into Earth and contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. The evidence is a 150-kilometer-wide crater located just off the Yucatan peninsula and legend has it the 10-kilometer-wide asteroid was a fragment of a larger parent – Baptistina. Now, thanks to observations by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), we just might have to re-think that theory.

For me, however, it's Jupiter. What makes Jupiter such a treat is that it offers more to see in a telescope than any other planet. It's the only one that shows distinct features in even a fairly small scope. And it's got four large moons that hover nearby like bright fireflies, forever shuttling back and forth around Jupiter's glaring globe. Jupiter was king of the gods in Roman mythology, and in late 2011 it rules unchallenged as the brightest "star" shining in the evening sky. You'll find it low in the east after sunset in October, and it climbs higher up week by week through year's end. By next April, Jupiter's early evening position will have shifted far to the west. Before you track down this planet with your telescope, grab your binoculars and find a tree or wall to brace against while pointing them toward Jupiter. If your binoculars are good quality and magnify at least seven times, you'll see Jupiter as a tiny white disk. Look closely to either side of Jupiter's disk — do you see a line of three or four tiny

stars? Each of these is a satellite of Jupiter roughly the size of our own Moon. They only look tiny and faint because they're about 2,000 times farther away. Now put a low-power eyepiece in your telescope and centre Jupiter. Focus carefully so that the planet's edge is as sharp as possible, let any vibrations settle down, and then take a good long look. Now the moons are much more obvious. You'll probably see all four — but possibly only three depending on when you look. The count often changes from night to night. That's because while orbiting Jupiter they sometimes glide in front of the planet, behind it, or through its shadow. These hide-and-seek movements confounded Galileo Galilei when he first spied these "stars" in 1610. But he soon realised they were actually circling around Jupiter, forming a miniature solar system of sorts. The four are named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto and it's

Above: An image of Jupiter using 12½ -inch reflector on August 17, 2011. Note the Great Red Spot, which overlaps the dark South Equatorial Belt below centre. hard to tell which is which just by looking. Callisto is usually (but not always) farthest from Jupiter, and Ganymede is a little brighter than the others. Sulfur-coated Io has a pale yellow-orange cast. Now turn your attention to Jupiter itself. Centre its round disk in the middle of your telescope's view, then carefully switch to a higher-power eyepiece and refocus. Study the disk closely, and two things should be noticeable. First, the disk is not perfectly round. Jupiter spins so fast (once every 10 hours) that its equatorial midsection bulges out a bit. It's 7% wider across the equator than from pole to pole. Jupiter is a gas-giant planet — it consists almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, nearly all the way down. The "surface" you see is actually the top layers of cloud decks floating near the top of an immensely deep atmosphere.

Above: Almost any kind of Jupiter observation requires familiarity with the correct names for the various belts and zones. This diagram replicates the view in an inverting telescope such as a Newtonian reflector, or a refractor, SchmidtCassegrain, or Maksutov used without a star diagonal. Telescopes used with a star diagonal will have north up but east and west reversed. The planet's rotation causes features to move from east (following) to west (preceding).

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 6

Look for at least two tawnycoloured stripes running parallel to the equator. These darkish cloud bands are called belts, and the brighter cloud areas between them are called zones. The North and South Equatorial Belts, usually the most prominent, straddle the bright Equatorial Zone like a cream-filled cookie sandwich. If you're using at least a 6-inch telescope, you may be able to pick out a few belts and zones closer to Jupiter's poles.

The single most famous cloud feature on Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, an enormous, oval-shaped storm about twice the size of Earth. Astronomers have observed the Red Spot for at least 150 years, but there's still no agreement on what chemical compounds create its distinctive colour. Like any big storm, the spot changes appearance over time. The intensity of its colour has sometimes been brick red (very rarely), pale orange tan (more often), pinkish tan, or an almost invisible creamy yellowish. Changes usually happen over a year or two. When the spot is so pale as to be invisible, you may be able to identify it indirectly by noting the indentation it makes in the south edge of the South Equatorial Belt: a feature dubbed the "Red Spot Hollow." Be forewarned that seeing the Great Red Spot is a challenge in a small telescope. Your best prospects will be when the spot appears near the middle of Jupiter's disk. The planet's rapid rotation means that these windows of opportunity last only a couple hours, so be prepared to search for the spot over several consecutive nights. No matter how you look at it, Jupiter is so easy to see that it makes an irresistible telescopic target anytime it's visible in the night sky — and that's why it's my favourite planet. www.skyandtelescope.com

While there’s almost absolutely no doubt an asteroid crash was responsible for a cataclysmic climate change, science has never been particularly sure of what asteroid caused it. A visible-light study done by terrestrial telescopes in 2007 pointed a finger at a huge asteroid known as Baptistina. The conjecture was that about 160 million years ago, it collided with another main belt asteroid and sent pieces flying. Even though it was plausible, the theory was quickly challenged and now infra-red evidence from WISE may finally lay this family of asteroids to rest. “As a result of the WISE science team’s investigation, the demise of the dinosaurs remains in the cold case files,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near Earth Object (NEO) Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in

W a s h i n g t o n . “ T h e o r i g i na l calculations with visible light estimated the size and reflectivity of the Baptistina family members, leading to estimates of their age, but we now know those estimates were off. With infrared light, WISE was able to get a more accurate estimate, which throws the timing of the Baptistina theory into question.” For over a year, WISE took an infra -red survey of the entire sky and asteroid-hunting portion of the mission, called NEOWISE, catalogued 157,000 members – discovering an additional 33,000 new ones. By utilizing the more accurate infra-red data, the team examined 1,056 members of the Baptistina family and discovered its break-up was closer to 80 million years ago – less than half the time previously suggested. By better

Above: Scientists think that a giant asteroid, which broke up long ago in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, eventually made its way to Earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. This artist's concept shows a broken-up asteroid. knowing their size and reflectivity, researchers are able to calculate how long it would take for Baptistina members to reach their current position. The results show that in order for this particular asteroid to have caused an extinction level event, that it would have had to have impacted Earth much sooner… like about 15 million years. “This doesn’t give the remnants from the collision very much time to move into a resonance spot, and get flung down to Earth 65 million years ago,” said Amy Mainzer, a study co-author and the principal investigator of NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. Calif. “This process is

thought to normally take many tens of millions of years.” Like bouncing a super ball off the walls, resonance spots can jettison asteroids out of the main belt. This means a dinosaur-killing Baptistina event isn’t likely, but other asteroid families in NEOWISE study show similar reflective properties and one day we may be able to locate a responsible party. “We are working on creating an asteroid family tree of sorts,” said Joseph Masiero, the lead author of the study. “We are starting to refine our picture of how the asteroids in the main belt smashed together and mixed up.” www.universetoday.com

The spacecraft were launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket and the telemetry downlinked from both spacecraft indicates they have deployed their solar panels and are operating as expected.

and cover more than 2.5 million miles (4 million km) to arrive. This lowenergy trajectory results in the longer travel time. The size of the launch vehicle allows more time for GRAIL will answer longstanding questions about the Moon and spacecraft check-out and time to give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other update plans for lunar operations. The science collection phase for rocky planets in the solar system formed. “Our GRAIL twins have Earth in GRAIL is expected to last 82 days. NASA’s twin lunar Gravity Recovery in the solar system formed. “If their rear view mirrors and the and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) there was ever any doubt that Moon in their sights,” said David “Since the earliest humans looked spacecraft lifted off from Cape Florida’s Space Coast would Lehman from NASA’s Jet Propulsion skyward, they have been fascinated Canaveral on Saturday, September continue to be open for business, Laboratory. “The mission team is by the Moon,” said Maria Zuber from 10, to study the Moon in that thought was drowned out by ready to test, analyse, and fine- the Massachusetts Institute of unprecedented detail. GRAIL-A is the roar of today’s GRAIL launch,” tune our spacecraft over the next Technology in Cambridge. “GRAIL scheduled to reach the Moon on said Charles Bolden from NASA. 3.5 months on our journey to lunar will take lunar exploration to a new New Year’s Eve 2011, while GRAIL- “GRAIL and many other exciting orbit.” level, providing an unprecedented B will arrive New Year’s Day 2012. upcoming missions make clear that characterization of the Moon’s The two solar-powered spacecraft NASA is taking its next big leap The straight-line distance from i n t e r i o r t h a t w i l l a d v a n c e will fly in tandem orbits around the into deep-space exploration, and Earth to the Moon is approximately understanding of how the Moon Moon to measure its gravity field. the space industry continues to 250,000 miles (402,000 kilometres). formed and evolved.” GRAIL will answer longstanding provide the jobs and workers NASA’s Apollo Moon crews needed questions about the Moon and give needed to support this critical approximately 3 days to cover that www.universetoday.com scientists a better understanding of effort.” distance. However, each spacecraft how Earth and other rocky planets will take approximately 3.5 months

NASA launches mission to study Moon from crust to core

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 7


Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

NASA images offer sharper views of Apollo landing sites

China blasts first space lab Tiangong 1 to orbit

The images show distinct trails left in the Moon’s thin soil when the Apollo 12, 14, and 17 astronauts exited the lunar modules and explored on foot.

China launched their first space station module into orbit on September 29th, marking a major milestone in the rapidly expanding Chinese space program. The historic lift-off of the man rated Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace 1) space lab on a Long March 2F rocket took place at 9:16 p.m. local time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre located in Gansu province in northwest China and is an impressive advance for China. The beautiful night time lift-off occurred exactly on time and was carried live on China’s state run television – CCTV – and on the internet for all to see. Chinese President Hu Jintao and many of China’s other top government leaders witnessed the launch from the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre as a gesture of confidence and support. Their presence was a clear sign of just how important China’s top leadership considers investments in research as a major driver of technological innovation that is bolstering China’s vigorously growing economy and employing tens of thousands of people. The US – in sharp contrast – is cutting space spending and handing out pink slips to many thousands of shuttle workers, CCTV noted. As a CCTV commentator said after the successful Tiangong 1 launch, “30 Years ago it was ‘science fiction’

to imagine a Chinese astronaut in space. Today it’s a reality!” Long range cameras tracked rocket for several minutes and clearly showed the jettisoning of the first stage boosters and the payload fairing. “The launch of Tiangong 1 has been successfully completed,” announced Gen. Chang Wanquan, chief commander of China’s manned space engineering project on CCTV. Tiangiong 1 will serve a crucial role as a docking target to carry out China’s first rendezvous and docking in space- initially with an unmanned vehicle and thereafter with astronauts crews. The US and the Soviet Union mastered these technologies back in the 1960’s, and China is rapidly catching up now.

Fifty new alien worlds, including 16 "super Earths," have been found—the largest extrasolar planet haul announced at one time, astronomers say.

"The harvest of discoveries... has exceeded all expectations, and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our sun," study leader Michel Mayor, an astronomer at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, said in a statement.

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Above: A Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 29, 2011. Rendezvous and docking are key accomplishments that China must achieve in order to move forward and accomplish even more ambitious space goals – construction of a 60 ton space station by the year 2020. The two stage Long March 2F rocket was upgraded with more than 170 improvements including a larger payload fairing to house bigger Tiangong 1 module, four longer liquid fuelled strap on boosters with more powerful thrust capability and more precise guidance systems. The

Fifty new planets found — largest haul yet

The discoveries bring the total number of known extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, to 689.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. Images show the twists and turns of the paths made when the astronauts explored the lunar surface.

One of the newly discovered worlds, dubbed HD 85512b, lies at the edge of its star's habitable zone—the region around a star where liquid water, and thus life as we know it, can exist. Alan Gould, an astronomy educator at the University of California, Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, called the discoveries "pretty exciting. This big batch of planets contributes to our overall knowledge of what

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extrasolar planet systems are like— how common Jupiter-type giant planets are relative to Neptunetypes and super Earths, and whether they're close in or far out from their host stars," said Gould, also a member of NASA's Kepler exoplanet-finding mission. "These kinds of statistics can help us figure out what star-planet systems are like in general, and that has implications for whether there are Earth like planets or not. "This is looking more and more like a golden age of exoplanet discovery." www.nationalgeographic.com

designed to stay in space for at least 2 years and support crews of up to three astronauts for short duration stays. It will be the target of at least three upcoming space missions – Shenzhou 8, 9 and 10. Shenzhou is China’s human spaceflight capsule, derived from the Russian Soyuz and also significantly upgraded with China’s own nationally developed technology. The unmanned Shenzhou 8 will launch in about 1 month according to officials from the China Manned Space Engineering Office and reach the vicinity of Tiangong 1 after 2 days. Shenzhou 8 will conduct at least two practice test dockings to extensively check out all systems and experience. Shenzhou 9 and 10 will dock during 2012 and are likely to include the first female Chinese astronaut. Tiangong 1 is a prototype miniture space station module, not fully outfitted for long duration stays of astronauts. The space lab consists of two segments – a forward habitable, pressurized section for the astronauts (measuring some 530 cubic feet in volume) and an unpressurized resource compartment in the rear with two solar arrays consisting of four segments to provide ample power. www.universetoday.com

At the Apollo 17 site, the tracks laid down by the lunar rover are clearly visible, along with the last foot trails left on the Moon. The images also show where the astronauts placed some of the scientific instruments that provided the first insight into the Moon’s environment and interior. “We can retrace the astronauts’ steps with greater clarity to see where they took lunar samples,” said Noah Petro, a lunar geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is a member of the LRO project science team. All three images show distinct trails left in the Moon’s thin soil when the astronauts exited the lunar modules and explored on foot. In the Apollo 17 image, the foot trails, including the last path made on the Moon by

humans, are easily distinguished from the dual tracks left by the lunar rover, which remains parked east of the lander. “The new low-altitude Narrow Angle Camera images sharpen our view of the Moon’s surface,” said Arizona State University researcher Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiteer Camera (LROC). “A great example is the sharpness of the rover tracks at the Apollo 17 site. In previous images, the rover tracks were visible, but now they are sharp parallel lines on the surface.” At each site, trails also run to the west of the landers, where the astronauts placed the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) to monitor the Moon’s environment and interior. This equipment was a key part of every Apollo mission. It provided the first insights into the Moon’s internal structure, measurements of the lunar surface pressure and the composition of its atmosphere. Apollo 11 carried a simpler version of the science package.

One of the details that shows up is a bright L-shape in the Apollo 12 image. It marks the locations of cables running from ALSEP’s central station to two of its instruments. Although the cables are much too small for direct viewing, they show up because they reflect light very well. The higher resolution of these images is possible because of adjustments made to LRO’s orbit, which is slightly elliptical. “Without changing the average altitude, we made the orbit more elliptical, so the lowest part of the orbit is on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Goddard’s John Keller, deputy LRO project scientist. “This put LRO in a perfect position to take these new pictures of the surface.” The manoeuvre lowered LRO from its usual altitude of approximately 31 miles (50 kilometres) to an altitude that dipped as low as

The mission to find the missing Lunar module Where is the Apollo 10 Lunar lander module? It’s somewhere out there — orbiting the Sun — and there’s a new initiative to try and find it! The Apollo 10 mission was a manned “dry run” for its successor Apollo 11, testing all of the procedures and components of a Moon landing without actually landing on the Moon itself. After carrying out a successful lunar orbit and docking procedure, the Lunar Module (called “Snoopy”) was jettisoned and sent into an orbit around the Sun. After 42 years, it’s believed to still be in a heliocentric orbit and a team of UK and international astronomers working with schools are going to try and find it. The idea is the brainchild of British amateur astronomer Nick Howes who helped coordinate a very successful asteroid and comet project. After consulting with people from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other orbital dynamics experts, the Howes has assembled a team of facilities and experts, including the Faulkes

Telescope, Space Exploration Engineering Corp, astronomers from the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy and schools across the UK. They know they have a massive undertaking ahead of them to find Snoopy. “The key problem which we are taking on is a lack of solid orbital data since 1969, we’ve

enlisted the help of the Space Exploration Engineering Corp who have calculated orbits for Apollo 10 and working closely with people who were on the Apollo mission team in the era will help us identify search coordinate regions.” “We’re expecting a search arc anywhere up to 135 million

Above: The paths left by astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell on both Apollo 14 moon walks are visible in this image. The descent stage of the lunar module Antares is also visible. http://youtu.be/yi1WoZzeXWs nearly 13 miles (21 kilometres) as it passed over the Moon’s surface. The spacecraft remained in this orbit for 28 days, long enough for the Moon to completely rotate. This allowed full coverage of the surface by LROC’s Wide Angle Camera. The cycle ended September 6 when the spacecraft returned to its 31-mile orbit. “These images remind us of our fantastic Apollo history and beckon us to continue to move forward in exploration of our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA. www.astronomy.com

kilometres which is a huge amount of space to look at, we’re aware of the scale and magnitude of this challenge but to have the twin Faulkes scopes assist the hunt, along with schools, plus the fact that we’ll doubtless turn up many new finds such as comets and asteroids. We’re also encouraging anyone to have a go and will be posting the coordinates on the Faulkes Telescope website starting in a few days” While the challenge ahead is enormous, and the chances of the team finding Snoopy are very small, the team are enthusing thousands of people with their own “Apollo Mission” – the mission to find the missing Apollo Lunar module. www.universetoday.com

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Citizen scientists discover two extrasolar planets

analyse the host stars and determined that two of the 10 met their criteria for being classified as planet candidates.

Hip-hip hooray for citizen scientists! The first two exoplanet candidates have been identified by members of the public through the citizen science project Planet Hunters. The project, which began in December 2010, uses public archive data from the planet-hunting Kepler mission, and excitingly, the planets were found within the first month after the project began. One planet is potentially a rocky Earth-like planet, while the other is likely a gas-giant like Jupiter.

The two candidates were flagged as potential planets by several dozen d iffe r e nt P la ne t Hunters users, as the same data are analysed by more than one user.

“I think it’s truly amazing that someone sitting at home at their computer was the first to know that a star somewhere out there in our Milky Way likely has a companion,” said Meg Schwamb, a Yale University researcher and Planet Hunters co-founder. By all accounts, the Kepler mission has been a spectacular success – with over 1,200 planet candidates detected so far– and the data obtained by the spacecraft has been a treasure trove for scientists. But over 40,000 web users from around the world have been helping professional astronomers analyze the light from 150,000 stars in the hopes of discovering planets – and especially Earth-like planets — orbiting around them. “These planet candidates just show what wealth of interesting gems still remaining to be found in the Kepler data,” Schwamb told Universe Today. She added that for the science team, the Planet Hunters project was somewhat of a gamble,

as no one was sure human eyes would be able to spot things possibly missed by automated routines. “The gamble paid off, and we’re all very excited about the discovery of these planet candidates,” she said. “These candidates have demonstrated the truly amazing power of human pattern recognition. Planet Hunters doesn’t replace the great work and the analysis being done by the Kepler team. But it has proven itself to be a valuable and complementary tool in the search for extrasolar planets.” The Planet Hunters team sent the top 10 candidates found by the citizen scientists to the Kepler team, and two of the planets have survived the initial checks for falsepositives, whether they are m a s q ue r ad ing as e c lips ing binaries, for example. Scientists used the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) at Caltech to

The two candidate planets orbit their host stars with periods ranging from 10 to 50 days — much shorter than the 365 days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun — and have radii that range in size from two-and-ahalf to eight times Earth’s radius. Despite one planet having the potential to be a rocky world, it does not lie in the so-called “habitable zone” where liquid water, and therefore life as we know it, could exist. Schwamb said to confirm a transiting planet, the team scientists will look at the radial velocities to measure the wobble of the star back and forth caused by the orbiting body. “This allows you to get the mass of the orbiting companion,” she said. “Kepler was always intended to be a statistical mission. The majority of the over 1,200 Kepler planet

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Bucket List Object #6: A Meteor Storm 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.

Above: Three exoplanet candidates found by the Planet Hunters citizen science project. Two have survived the first rounds of checks for false positives. Credit: Zooniverse c a nd i d a t e s a nd t he p l a n e t candidates found by Planet Hunters will not be confirmed with radial velocity measurements either because the star is too faint or the radial velocity signal caused by the orbiting planet would be smaller than the current sensitivity limits of the world’s best spectrographs. If it’s possible that we can confirm the presence of these planets with radial velocities measured on the Keck telescopes, we will definitely try.” As of now, the Planet Hunter scientists, which also includes Yale astronomer Debra Fisher, say there is at least a 95% chance that these two candidates are bona fide planets. Spurred by success, the Planet Hunters citizen scientist are now sifting through a new round of publicly available data from the Kepler mission in hopes of finding even more planets. “This is what we found after just a preliminary glance through the first round of Kepler data,” Fischer said. “There’s no doubt that, with each new round of data, there will be more discoveries to come.”

Above: One of the tutorial figures explaining how to use Planet Hunters at the site.

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www.universetoday.com

A meteor storm! The very term makes an honest stargazerʼs heart beat faster. While a good meteor shower, like the Perseids, may show 50-60 meteors every hour, a meteor storm sprays shooting stars at a rate of hundreds or thousands an hour. During a spectacular storm in 1833, the sky seemed to “fill with falling fire” for nearly half the night.

Left: This Leonid meteor as it flared with the brightness of the full Moon .

While spectacular, a meteor storm, which comes in at #5 on our “ Buc ke t Lis t f or Ba c k ya r d Stargazers”, may be the most difficult to see because they are extremely brief and rare. But take heart. NASA is already preparing to deal with a possible outburst this year from a usually lacklustre shower in Draco. And since such events are hard to predict, there may be more opportunities in the coming years. One thing for sure… if you do see a meteor storm, you'll never forget it. The Leonid meteor shower, which peaks in the early morning of Novemb er 17, has offer ed stargazers the most reliable opportunity to see a meteor storm. The shower flares up every 33 years to present a deluge of meteors for a few hours on the early morning on or around November 17. Experts predict this yearʼs Leonids will be quite tame, alas.

path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The Leonids last peaked in 1999, with bonus peaks in 2001 and 2002 (though they did not approach the dramatic peak of 1833). Sadly, the Leonids will likely remain quiet this year, and for many years to come. Perturbations of the comet by Jupiter mean the Earth may miss the usual rendezvous with this stream of concentrated comet dust for many decades, perhaps. So chances are, none of us may ever see anything like the outburst of 1833, or even 1999. But there are still opportunities to see a respectable meteor storm, though it likely won't be the Leonids. Your best near-term bet for a meteor storm lies with the Draconid meteor shower on the 8th October which is predicted to occur around 21:00. The Draconids, so-named because the meteors streak across the sky from a point in the constellation Draco. Experts believe it may put on a good show, with perhaps 400 - 750 meteors per hour. With a little luck, you'll see a rich and remarkable spray of meteors. And you can check this event off your celestial bucket list. www.oneminuteastronomer.com

stupor or near-catatonic terror. Nearly everyone awakened to see the bright meteors and attending commotion on the morning of November 12. The storm lasted nearly four hours. According to astronomer Agnes Clerke, “the frequency of meteors was estimated to be about half that of flakes of snow in an average snowstorm”. The meteors came so quickly during this 1833 storm, it was clear the radiant, or apparent source, of the meteors lay towards the Sickle of the constellation Leo. And the radiant moved with the

stars during the evening, which finally made it clear that meteors came from outside the Earth's atmosphere. Until then, some belie ve d me te ors wer e a n atmospheric phenomenon, the belief of which lended the term “meteorology” to the study of the weather. Astronomers looked at historical records to determine the Leonids peaked at multiples of 33 years… in 1799, 1533, 1366, 1202, and 1037, for example. We now know the peaks correspond to brief periods during which Earth passes through a concentration of debris left in the

But there have been some remarkable Leonids in the past. The great Leonid meteor storm of 1833 was perhaps the most spectacular in recorded history. Visible from eastern North America, the storm produced as many as 200,000 meteors per hour, startling 19thcentury observers into a glazed

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Kid’s Korner A cool Sun for cool music? Which sentence describes Pluto?

best

1. Pluto is the largest of the "ice dwarfs" in our solar system. 2. Pluto is just one of many icy objects in a distant area of our solar system.

More Fun Facts About Pluto: Pluto is only about half the width of the United States. Charon is about half the size of Pluto. Charon is the largest moon compared to the body it orbits (whether planet or dwarf planet) of any moon in the solar system.

the nice, orderly plane where all the other planets orbit. (Mercury has a slightly lop-sided orbit, although not nearly so much as Pluto's.) Compared to most of the planets and their moons, the whole PlutoCharon system is tipped on its side. Like the planets, Pluto's spin axis stays pointed in the same direction as it orbits the Sun. But unlike all planets except Uranus, Pluto is tipped on its side. The planets' axes of rotation stand more or less upright from the plane of their orbits.

Well, just pick the answer you like best, because they are all true!

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At Pluto's current distance from the Sun, the temperature on its surface is about 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit! It will get even colder as it moves farther from the Sun. From Pluto, the Sun looks like just a bright dot in the sky, the brightest star visible. The light from the Sun is as bright on Pluto as the light from the full Moon is on Earth. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 7 pounds on Pluto!

Pluto orbits in a far-out region of the solar system called the Kuiper (rhymes with viper) Belt. There are lots of icy, rocky objects out there. But they are so far from the Sun they are really hard to see, even with powerful telescopes.

4. All of the above.

One thing is certain. Pluto and its neighbourhood are very peculiar. If scientists could unravel some of their mysteries, we would know more about how our solar system formed.

planet. Charon's orbit around Pluto takes about six and one-half Earth days. Pluto's day (that is, one complete rotation) takes exactly the same amount of time. So, Charon always "hovers" over the same spot on Pluto's surface, and the same side of Charon always faces Pluto.

If you lived on Pluto, you'd have to live 248 Earth years to celebrate your first birthday in Pluto-years.

3. Pluto and its large, orbiting companion object Charon, are tipped on their sides.

Until recently, Pluto was the ninth Almost all the planets travel around planet from the Sun. It was also the the Sun in nearly perfect circles. smallest planet. But not anymore! But Pluto does not. It takes an oval -shaped path with the Sun For a long time, scientists have been nowhere near its centre. What's trying to decide how to define the more, its path is quite tilted from word "planet." If Pluto is a "planet," many other recently discovered objects nearly as large would also be planets. There is no telling how many "planets" kids would have to memorize someday! So, for that reason, be glad the scientists have finally decided. Pluto is no longer a planet. Instead, it is now called a dwarf planet.

Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

If you lived on Pluto, you would see Charon from only one side of the

A WISE assessment of Near-Earth Asteroids If you're the kind of person who worries that an asteroid might someday come barrelling into Earth and cause global catastrophe, this month certainly provided "good news". NASA scientists announced that the population of "near-Earth asteroids" — those whose orbits bring them to within 28 million miles (45 million km) of us — is significantly lower than they'd thought. All along, astronomers have realized that for every big NEA they find, there must be many smaller ones. The problem is that the largest ones, at least 0.6 mile (1 km) across, have been relatively easy to spot because they look brightest in telescopic images. Finding smaller ones has proven more challenging. Moreover, pinning down the size of a given space rock depends on its apparent brightness, its distance, and a guesstimate about the albedo (reflectivity) of its surface. A big black body and a small white one might appear equally bright. So past tallies have assumed an average albedo of 14%, which is representative of asteroids in general. Now, thanks to all-sky survey conducted in 2010-11 by the Wide-

field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), asteroid specialists have a much better estimate of the NEA population. WISE wasn't launched to count asteroids — its primary mission was to map the distribution of infrared sources in the distant universe. But it also proved to be very good at detecting the heat radiating from asteroidal surfaces, whether bright (easy to spot) or dark (much tougher). Thus was born NEOWISE, a mission add-on coordinated by Amy Mainzer (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). "WISE had four infrared channels ranging from 3 to 22 microns, and we detected most of the NEAs in the two longest channels, 12 and 22," she explains. "With NEOwise we didn't find every single asteroid out there, but we did find a good, representative sample."

As Mainzer and 36 others detail in an analysis to appear in the Astrophysical Journal, there must be roughly 19,500 midsize NEAs (with diameters between 100 m and 1 km) — far fewer than the pre-WISE estimate of 35,000. For astronomers trying to keep tabs on all those close-in space rocks, this is a really big deal. "NEOWISE is the most important project of my career," exults Timothy Spahr, who directs the IAU's Minor Planet Center, specifically because WISE not only spotted so many objects (585 NEAs and some 150,000 main-belt asteroids) but also got enough looks at them over time to compute their orbits. Nothing seen so far is on a collision course with Earth, especially the ones at least 0.6 mile (1 km) across, which are big enough to wreak global havoc. "The good news here is that, with NEOWISE, the worldwide community of astronomers — both amateur and professional — have now found more than 90% of all these really big asteroids." Mainzer and her team now estimate there are 981 ± 19 of them in all, of which 911 have been found. Finally, astronomers ha ve a c hie ve d the P r oj e c t Spaceguard milestone established by NASA and Congress in 1998.

Let's Go There! We will finally get to visit Pluto, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt! On January 19, 2006, NASA launched a robot spacecraft on the long journey. This mission is called New Horizons. The spacecraft will arrive at Pluto in the summer of 2015, then go on to study other objects in the Kuiper Belt from 2018 to 2022.

With New Horizons, we will visit and learn about the objects at the very edge of our solar system. They may help us understand how our solar system formed.

Above: NEOWISE observations indicate that there are at least 40& fewer nearEarth asteroids at least 330 feet (100 m) across than previously thought. The orbits of the four inner planets are shown in green, and each red dot represents one asteroid.

Above: Observations by NASA's infrared-sensing WISE spacecraft have led to revisions in the estimated population of near-Earth asteroids. Each asteroid symbol represents about 100 actual objects. Those already known are brown. The added blue outlines show how many total objects were thought to exist before the WISE survey, and the green outlines show the reduced new estimates based on those data. Click on the image for a larger view.

Until yesterday's announcement, which you can watch here, astronomers had thought that the total population of 1-km asteroids was actually lower, somewhere near 830. But NEOWISE data show that these large bodies are a little

darker, and therefore larger, than believed. The revised estimate gets thumbs-up approval from Alan Harris (Space Science Institute), who has been assessing the NEA population for decades. His most recent estimate for the objects at least 1 km across is 990. "I'd say that's pretty damn good agreement," Harris notes. Still, Mainzer's team needs to reconcile its revised counts with older ground-based surveys. One, based on hundreds of discoveries by LINEAR (an acronym for Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research) and published in 2001, argues that the total count of 1-km NEAs is really closer to 1,250. My money's on the NEOWISE results. The spacecraft had huge advantages over its ground-based competition: no atmosphere, infrared sensitivity, and identical multiple observations with the same detector set. Now Mainzer & Co. need to let us know how many comets are floating around near-Earth space and what's the real risk of colliding with these rogue objects. That's in the works, she says. So is a reanalysis of the NEA estimates using a lower signal-to-noise threshold (to sweep up more detections) and to use the spacecraft's observations to compute albedos and diameters of well-characterized asteroids in the main belt. www.skyandtelescope.com

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Midlands Astronomy Club Magazine

Fifty new planets found — largest haul yet ........................... 8 Bucket List Object #6: A Meteor Storm ................................. 9

Kids Section Kids Korner ....................................................................... 10 Front cover image: NGC 3314 is actually two large spiral galaxies which just happen to almost exactly line up. The foreground spiral is viewed nearly face-on, its pinwheel shape defined by young bright star clusters. But against the glow of the background galaxy, dark swirling lanes of interstellar dust appear to dominate the face-on spiral's structure. NGC 3314 is about 140 million light-years (background galaxy) and 117 million light-years (foreground galaxy) away in the multi-headed constellation Hydra. The background galaxy would span nearly 70,000 light-years at its estimated distance.

Credit & Copyright: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA

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

Monthly Sky Guide Beginners sky guide for October ......................................... 12

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

3. This planet has an atmosphere with a mass 100 times greater than Earth's and is a perfect example of the 'Green House Effect'.

 Saturn  Jupiter  Venus  Mars 4. One of Jupiter's four Galilean moons that is covered with volcanoes, molten sulphur lakes, lava flows and mountains up to 8,000 m high

 Io  Ganymede  Europa  Callisto

5

7. Also known as the butterscotch planet, and the Lord of the Rings, this is where you'll find the Cassini division

1

8. This is the name of several spacecraft which have visited Earth's moon.

 Pathfinder  Viking  Apollo  Mariner 9. This ringed planet tilted on its side

9

6

1

3

7

9

9

6

4

9

6

 Uranus  Mercury  Jupiter  Saturn

6 7

8

4

3 9

2

Check your answers

is

 Uranus  Jupiter  Neptune  Saturn 10.The sun is composed mainly of these two elements

 Hydrogen and Helium  Helium and Argon  Nitrogen and Hydrogen  Carbon and Oxygen

5. The largest asteroid in the asteroid belt

 Vesta  Deimos  Charon  Ceres

5

Confused??? Check your answers on this page.

Answer 6. The correct answer was Neptune. Neptune's atmosphere consists of hydrogen, helium and methane gases. It has a mantle of ice, methane, and ammonia, and a core of silicate rock.

China blasts first space lab Tiangong 1 to orbit ..................... 8

8

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Answer 1. The correct answer was Mars. Olympus Mons rises 24,000m and is 600 km across. Its last eruption may have been about 25 million yrs. Ago.

NASA launches mission to study Moon from crust to core ...... 7

 Neptune  Saturn  Uranus  Jupiter

6

1

Answer 2. The correct answer was Uranus which has 17 moons in total, all n a m e d a f t e r c h a r a c te r s f r o m Shakespeare's or Alexander Pope's writings.

Did asteroid Baptistina kill the dinosaurs? ............................ 7

7 8

Answer 7. The correct answer was Saturn. Saturn is known as the butterscotch planet because of the colours of the clouds in its atmosphere. The Cassini division is the gap between its A and B rings.

Jupiter: Big, bright, and beautiful ......................................... 6

2. This planet's moons are named after S h a k e s p e a r i a n characters such as Oberon, Titania, and Puck

2

 Jupiter  Neptune  Mercury  Saturn

Answer 8. The correct answer was Apollo. Apollo 11, in 1969, carried the first astronauts to land on the moon.

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.

The mission to find the missing Lunar module ....................... 5

4

Answer 3. The correct answer was Venus which has an average surface temperature on Venus is 464 degrees Celsius. Its atmosphere is so thick that you would not be able to see the stars from its surface.

NASA images offer sharper views of Apollo landing sites ........ 5

 Mercury  Mars  Jupiter  Venus

6

Answer 9. The correct answer was Uranus which lies on its side, one pole pointing towards the sun and the other pointing away from the sun. It is thought that Uranus was knocked over by another object while forming.

Citizen scientists discover two extrasolar planets ................... 4

SUDOKU

6. The Great Dark Spot - a cloud of methane as big as the Earth itself can be found on this planet

Answer 4. The correct answer was Io. Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Io are four moon studied by Galileo and are 1 - 1.5 times the size of our moon.

A WISE assessment of Near-Earth Asteroids ......................... 3

1. On this planet's surface rests the largest volcano in the solar system Olympus Mons

Answer 5. The correct answer was Ceres which has a diameter of 932 km. The asteroid belt contains billions of asteroids.

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 10. The correct answer was Hydrogen and Helium. In the core of the sun, 660 million tons of hydrogen are converted into helium every second.

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 October For the naked eye in October we have two meteor showers. There is a possible Draconid outburst on the 8th which is predicted to occur around 21:00. However the timing for this event is uncertain and it is best to look as soon as darkness falls. The predicted ZHR is 400, however the presence of a waxing gibbous moon will reduce the number of meteors visible and it is best to keep the moon blocked out by a fence or hedge etc and to look NW where the radiant is visible as soon as darkness falls. The meteors are typically slow and faint and it is unknown how long this event will last for and may only last for a short time. The Orionids peak on the morning of the 22nd with a ZHR of 25. The radiant rises at around 01:00 that morning with a waning crescent moon rising at around 02:00 in Leo causing interference. Telescope Targets The month of October begins with Cassiopeia and Andromeda high overhead in the Northeast. M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy), to locate M31, find the "W" of the Constellation Cassiopeia. The larger part of the base of the "W" points right at the Andromeda Galaxy. Simply follow this line approximately a fist's width and slightly toward the horizon and scan this area with your lowest power eyepiece. You will see a bright blob in the middle with light extending off of both sides. On a very good night from a dark site, Andromeda will fill the field of view of your eyepiece. The Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant object that can be viewed with the naked eye at 2.2 - 2.9 million light years away, which makes this a very easy first galaxy target for your scope. The Andromeda Galaxy is considered the Milky Way's twin and is a member of a group of galaxies known as the local group. It's made up of about 300 billion stars and is considerably larger than the Milky Way. M31 is a spiral galaxy, but as

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Issue 27- October, 2011

we are seeing it edge on no spiral structure can be detected. Within the same low power eyepiece view, you may also detect M32 which is an elliptical galaxy. M32 is a very small smudge just below Andromeda (in the telescope view). It appears to be more of a fuzzy star than a galaxy through most beginners instruments but it's still another distant galaxy composed of millions of stars. M32 is located approximately 20,000 lightyears South of Andromeda. It is a dwarf elliptical galaxy. Also within the same low power field of view as Andromeda is the elusive M110 (NGC 605), another galaxy. It's located on the opposite side of Andromeda about the same distance as M32. It will take dark skies to see this one. It's a faint oval smudge even in my 8" scope. This is a dwarf elliptical galaxy containing just a few million stars. Both of these galaxies are orbiting M31. Moving over to Cassiopeia, M103 is our next target. To locate M103 find the star that makes up the bottom of the smaller part of the "W" of Cassiopeia (Ruchbah), M103 is located right next to this star in a straight line from it toward the star that makes the end of the "W" (Epsilon Cygni). M103 is a very loose open cluster of about 60 stars. Next, we'll use Ruchbah again, but with the other side of the "W" to find NGC's 869 and 884 (commonly referred to as the Perseus DoubleCluster). Follow this line down approximately a fist's width, and using your lowest power eyepiece, you will be treated to one of the most beautiful sights in the heavens. NGC 869 and 884 are a pair of Open Clusters each containing approximately 100 stars. It is located a a very rich area of stars which only adds to the beauty of this target. The sight is indeed a memorable one, and one I'm sure you'll return to often to show your friends. Use your lowest power to get the best view of this pair in your eyepiece.

Moving back up through Cassiopeia, our next target will be the open cluster M52. Using the large part of the "W", (alpha and beta Cygni) as our pointer, follow this line straight up about the same distance, and M52 will be in you field of view. M52 is an open cluster containing about 200 members.

and Neptune are evening objects this month.

The Planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn are not visible this month. Jupiter, Uranus

http://members.aol.com/kdaly10475/index.html

Mars moves from Cancer into Leo during the month, is a morning object and appears to pass in front of M44 – The Beehive Cluster on the mornings of the 1st and 2nd.

By Kevin Daly

Club Notes Club Observing: Remember the next club meets every first Friday 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).

Latest Astronomy and Space News Kids Astronomy Quizzes and Games

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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.

China to launch Tiangong-1 in late September (now launched see page 8)

http://youtu.be/z_ooyUNQrio

How I killed Pluto, and why it had it coming, Part 1 and 2.

ScienceCast: Did Earth have two Moons?

The largest Black Holes in the Universe

Did our planet once have two moons? Some researchers say so. Moreover, the missing satellite might still be up there--splattered across the far side of the Moon. NASA's GRAIL mission could help confirm or refute the "two moon" hypothesis.

How big can they get? What's the largest so far detected? Where does an 18 billion solar mass black hole hide? We've never seen them directly yet we know t hey are there...

http://youtu.be/xbZ4MlTw2JA

http://youtu.be/cW7BvabYnn8

Useful free astronomy resources

Podcast: Galileo Spacecraft In last season’s thrilling cliff hanger, we talked about astronomer superhero Galileo Galilei. Will a mission be named after him? The answer is yes! NASA’s Galileo spacecraft visited Jupiter in 1995, and spent almost 8 years orbiting, changing our understanding of the giant planet and its moons.

In the show this time, we talk to Dr Martin Bureau about galaxies and we find out about an exciting new discovery in the pulsar world. As always, Megan rounds up the latest news and we hear what we can see in the September night sky from Ian Morison and John Field. Part 1 - http://vimeo.com/29469709

Page - 13

http://youtu.be/7ImvlS8PLIo

http://youtu.be/Ibcw2XIFFAk

Podcast: The Jodcast

www.midlandsastronomy.com

Lawrence Krauss gives a talk on our current picture of the universe, how it will end, and how it could have come from nothing. Krauss is the author of many bestselling books on Physics and Cosmology, including "The Physics of Star Trek."

OPERA neutrino experiment on breaking speed of light

http://traffic.libsyn.com/astronomycast/AstroCast-110926.mp3

Part 2 - http://vimeo.com/29709403

“A Universe From Nothing” by Lawrence Krauss

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.

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/

Find us on www.facebook.com http://www.jodcast.net/archive/201110/20111001-jodcast.mp3

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.

China to launch Tiangong-1 in late September (now launched see page 8)

http://youtu.be/z_ooyUNQrio

How I killed Pluto, and why it had it coming, Part 1 and 2.

ScienceCast: Did Earth have two Moons?

The largest Black Holes in the Universe

Did our planet once have two moons? Some researchers say so. Moreover, the missing satellite might still be up there--splattered across the far side of the Moon. NASA's GRAIL mission could help confirm or refute the "two moon" hypothesis.

How big can they get? What's the largest so far detected? Where does an 18 billion solar mass black hole hide? We've never seen them directly yet we know t hey are there...

http://youtu.be/xbZ4MlTw2JA

http://youtu.be/cW7BvabYnn8

Useful free astronomy resources

Podcast: Galileo Spacecraft In last season’s thrilling cliff hanger, we talked about astronomer superhero Galileo Galilei. Will a mission be named after him? The answer is yes! NASA’s Galileo spacecraft visited Jupiter in 1995, and spent almost 8 years orbiting, changing our understanding of the giant planet and its moons.

In the show this time, we talk to Dr Martin Bureau about galaxies and we find out about an exciting new discovery in the pulsar world. As always, Megan rounds up the latest news and we hear what we can see in the September night sky from Ian Morison and John Field. Part 1 - http://vimeo.com/29469709

Page - 13

http://youtu.be/7ImvlS8PLIo

http://youtu.be/Ibcw2XIFFAk

Podcast: The Jodcast

www.midlandsastronomy.com

Lawrence Krauss gives a talk on our current picture of the universe, how it will end, and how it could have come from nothing. Krauss is the author of many bestselling books on Physics and Cosmology, including "The Physics of Star Trek."

OPERA neutrino experiment on breaking speed of light

http://traffic.libsyn.com/astronomycast/AstroCast-110926.mp3

Part 2 - http://vimeo.com/29709403

“A Universe From Nothing” by Lawrence Krauss

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.

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/

Find us on www.facebook.com http://www.jodcast.net/archive/201110/20111001-jodcast.mp3

www.midlandsastronomy.com Page - 14


MAC October 2011 Magazine  

Midlands Astronomy Club October issue of the REALTA magazine

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