AstroNotes February 1974




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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Vol. 13, No. 2  February, 1974

Editor....... Rolf Meier...77 Meadowlands Dr, W....K2G 2R9
Addresses.... Mary Grey....Dominion Observatory...994-5474
Circulation...Ted Bean.....399 McLeod Street.......K2P 1A5


I used to think that my uneasiness in darkness alone at an observatory was unusual, but it seems that many others I've talked to, young and old, feel the same way. For those of you who have never experienced this sensation it may seem silly, but just try it. There you are, completely alone, in utter darkness. It wouldn't be so bad if you could see, but in the darkness your hearing becomes very sensitive. The slightest noise is sure to turn your head, but of course nothing is seen. In most cases the sounds are not in the imagination but are real, and often can be identified, which is reassuring for a few minutes. I suppose the greatest fear is the element of surprise. Imagine suddenly hearing a most unusual noise, a clumping and noisy breathing, too loud to be imagined, and opening the door and seeing a large dim object moving around. But there it was, some farmer riding his horse around in the middle of the night and wanting to look through the telescope.

Other sounds have been identified as a family of cats rustling in the bushes, cracking of the crusty snow, or the echo of ones own footsteps. Did you know that cows "moo" very strangely at night? That's a reassuring sound, once you get used to it, as are barking dogs or hooting owls. Bats can be startling, but nothing to worry about.

The greatest fear is that of the unknown sounds which cannot be easily explained. The element of surprise when a nearby sound occurs is  tremendous. Many have found the best solution to solitude to be a radio or tape deck, on fairly loud. Lacking this, there is a tendency to be still at every sound and to really listen, but this causes even greater uneasiness. A great relief comes when the moon rises, or twilight starts, or the farmer gets up to milk the cows.

Don't kid yourself. More people have this uneasiness than you may think. Those that don't are either lying or generally insensitive in other areas as well. Strangely enough, knowledge of the problem dosen't help the least bit.

Ted Bean opened the meeting with introduction of new members. The average attendance is now up to about 75-80 persons per meeting as compared to 55-60 last year.

Karl Poirier discussed transportation problems to the observing sites followed by slides by Rolf Meier of Comet Kohoutek, Saturn, and the Quiet Site.

One of our little-heard-from members, Paul Boltwood, gave a very interesting talk on monitoring thunderstorm noise to determine the state of the ionosphere due to the influx of solar particles. Anyone wishing to help out with such a project, please call 836-1491.

After this, Cathy Hall showed some photos of the partial solar eclipse of December 24, the planetary configuration of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon, and shots of Kohoutek.

In closing, Fred Lossing presented 3 slides - of the Omega Nebula, M11, and the Dumbell Nebula. They were magnificent!

We're sitting on the edge of our chairs waiting for the next ones!


This year the Ottawa Center held its Annual Dinner Meeting at the R.A. Center, where approximately 80 persons partook of the delicious variety of food. The guest speaker was Dr. T. R. Hartz, of the Communications Research Center, who spoke on his trip to Australia and New Zealand for the IAU Conference. His slides portrayed the countryside well, and gave others ample encouragement to visit such places. Thank you, Dr. Hartz, for a truly enjoyable talk.

Members of Council were elected for 1974, from the list of nominations mailed to all members. Reports were given by the Secretary, Treasurer, Librarian, and Observers Group Chairman.

Don't forget about the Total Solar Eclipses to be held in Australia in 1974 and 1976. For tickets, please telephone


Ted Bean

We observers gaily welcomed in
The bright New Year of '73.
But none among us could forecast
The sad events so soon to be.
How Tothill went and left us
To us he was a pillar.
Soon after him went Kenneth
To be followed by our Miller.
But lest in our thoughts we feel bereft
Let us think of the memories they've left.
They were there, in the Rocket glare,
Heard the deep earth-shaking thunder.
As a flash of light lit up the night
Saw how the sky was split asunder.
With their lenses turned to a clear night sky
They’ve viewed the Planets whirling by.
Eclipses of the moon and Sun
Occultations and Grazes have they done.
They’ve seen Meteor hail, Auroral drapes
And Comet tails of many shapes.
Their greatest work, they taught us how to See
How could we e'er forget that memory.

How indeed could we forget the beautiful Film and Slide presentations of the Sun in Total Eclipse, the Apollo 17 launch, or the awe-inspiring Deep Sky Objects. The legacy of knowledge which still remains with us is a challenge from them. Let our eyes and our cameras do justice to this memory.

When we remember our planned Group Activities, how can we forget the slashing, deadly accurate attacks of the Quiet Site mosquitos at our June Star-Night Party, or the cold and drenching rains presiding over the October Week-End Star-Party at North Mountain.

Those of our members who carry out observations as individuals have proven to us that night skies are not always cloudy. Many fine slide shots have been shown of their Spring, Summer, Fall, and early Winter activities. These they will store away in happy memory.

If this much observational work can be accomplished by so few of our members, think what could be done if all members possessing telescopes would get out and use them. Stated differently - we know you have telescopes, but we don't know what you are doing with them. Let us keep in mind that within our Universe, our Galaxy, our Solar System, are many wonderful objects, all within the visual reach of our telescopes. We are not
limited to reaching them through arduous travel by land, air, or sea. All we have to do is direct our 'scopes to the night sky - and WE are There.

My thanks to the loyal members of the Observers Group whose continuing and timely contributions have enabled our Editor to produce and maintain a publication of such great interest - our Astronotes.

To all members of the Observers Group, your interest and your help have truly made " 1973 - A YEAR TO REMEMBER "

Send your observations of Comet Kohoutek in to the Editor for publication in the next issue of Astronotes.


Jon Buchanan

This year’s winner of the Variable Star Award is Robert McCallum. An observer for several years now, he has obtained 262 estimates on six stars: R Scuti, TX Psc, and U Mon being mandatory, and G Herc, X Herc , and RR CrB being his choice for the other three. Aside from these six he does a lot of other variables as well.

The program for 1974 will be open, any number of variables being permitted, with the exception of OJ 287 and 3C 273, two quasars that have been observed by the group.

Any outstanding work in variables will be considered, such as the discovery of a nova (it could happen!), or carrying out some type of variable star project, such as determining the distance of a cluster by finding the periods of any Cepheids in it.


Mark Mongeau

”f” for the sixth comet discovered in 1973.
"f” for the full moon who’s brightness it was supposed to match.
"f" for the facilities which were provided for this sight.
”f" for the fear which this comet brought.
"f" for the fascination in which this comet was waited upon.
”f” for the finish this comet was supposed to bring to the world.
"f " for a forty-two paragraph declaration on the end of the world.
"f" for the fifth mag. at which it is at this writing.
and finally,
"f" for flop, or failure, pick one.


Rolf Meier

Quasar OJ 287 has been observed by some people of the Observers Group starting in the early part of 1972. As a result, this object was found to vary quite strangely over short periods of time. To determine how much of the variation was real, or to put it more bluntly, to determine the reliability of the visual estimates, it was decided to make photographic and photoelectric observations at the same time as the visual observations.

Unfortunately, the planned photometric studies did not take place because of a shortage of time on the telescope Pick Salmon had planned to use at his end of the world. Nevertheless, we were able to make simultaneous visual estimates and photographs on two nights about a year ago. The photographs have finally been analized, and we are able to present the following report.

The graph below is based purely on visual estimates made on the night of December 28/29, 1972. The best photographic results were obtained on the night of January 7/8, 1973, and the rest of the report will deal with the visual and photographic estimates made on that night.


The variability (?) of OJ 287 has been a subject of controversy in the Observers Group for some time. Since I spent most of the previous summer working with variables and suspected variables, Rolf sent me a series of negatives to measure with the University of Western Ontario's iris

The iris photometer takes the light beam from the source, splits the beam in two, and then sends one through the negative and keeps the other as a reference beam. The two are then compared and the resulting signal controls the opening of the iris diaphram. The actual readings are then
directly proportional to the opening of the iris. To determine magnitudes, a series of standard stars as well as the unknown object are measured.

In order to get the best results, there should be several standard stars, covering a magnitude range of one mag. on either side of the object.
The graphs of magnitude vs. density can then be plotted and the unknown magnitudes interpolated.

I have measured about 18 negatives in this way. Before the results of this can be taken too literally, however, there are some problems to be noted:

  1. The accuracy of the iris photometer is supposed to be .1 mag. (nobody who works on the iris photometer really believes this). A more accurate interpretation of the uncertainty would be .2 mag.
  2. To determine a good mag. vs. density curve many standards are needed since, despite theory, the curve often refuses to be a straight line. Since I was given only four standards, one of which was not measureable on any of the negatives, there will be large errors in interpolation.
  3. Any assymetry in the images, such as that due to trailing, tends to make measurements inaccurate.

Since the magnitude differences in which I was interested were very small, the results are inconclusive but seem to indicate a slow brightening.
• photographic
x visual (J. Buchanan)
+ visual (R. Meier)


Doug Somers

During these winter months, the astronomer may take advantage of the longer evenings, starting around 6 to 7 pm. On the meridian at about 10:00 pm near the beginning of the month is the constellation of Gemini, the twins. On the western side is the Milky Way, coming from Auriga, and flowing into Orion and Monoceros.

Following Gemini are the stars of spring, hopefully not too far away.

Object list
NGC RA Dec. mag. size
2129 5h 59m 23° 18.2’ N 7.2 5’
(IC 2157) 6 02 24 2.1 8.5 4’
2158 6 04 24 6.0 12.5 4’
2168 (M35) 6 06 24 20.3 5.3 40'
(J 900) 6 23 17 49.0 12.5 12” x 10"
2266 6 40 27 1.5 9.8 5’
2304 6 52 18 4.4 10.1 5.5'
2339 7 05 18 51.4 12.7 1.9’ x 1.5’
2355 7 14 13 51.9 12.2 9’
2371-2 7 22 29 35.4 13.0 54' x 35’
2392 7 26 21 1.0 8.3 47" x 43"
2395 7 26 13 52.4 9.4 12’
2420 7 35 21 41.0 10.2 7’

Grazing the Gemini-Taurus border is NGC 2129, a small cluster of 25 stars. Being one of the brighter Gemini objects, it should be seen in most small scopes. A sweep from 1 Gemini in the westward direction should bring it into view. Watch out for it carefully, though, as its small size could be missed.

Index Catalog (IC) 2157 is another small cluster, northeast of 1 Gemini. This object is a magnitude fainter and is smaller, being 4’ across its 20 stars. This cluster should be seen in most small telescopes; again, a short (1°) star-hop from 1 Gemini should bring the tiny cluster into view.

NGC 2168, or more commonly known as Messier 35, is the next stop for those with telescopes under 4 inches. It is large and bright, easily identified in binoculars, and is larger than the full moon. Its 120 stars bring delight to the observer, as it is easy to find, and can be a nice reward in a low-power eyepiece. This is one of the 105 best Deep-Sky Objects in the Mullaney-McCall list. In their description they add, "With 40 x on a
4-inch, we could see the small faint open cluster NGC 2158 at the southwest edge of M 35, but it was not easy." Walter Scott Houston in his "Deep Sky Wonders" column stated that in his 10-inch telescope NGC 2158 had the appearance of a fuzzy comet.

A small planetary, J 900, can tantalize those with new horizons to conquer. Locate the field in a good star atlas, and make a finder chart, or use a spectroscope# to find the planetary. The latter method will split stars up into spectra, but leaves planetary nebulae generally unchanged. (? -Ed.)

This will make it stand out in the field. High power is necessary if the planetary is found, and you still have the enthusiasm to change eyepieces.
Another cluster with a fairly small diameter is NGC 2266, containing 30 stars. It is approximately 2 north of epsilon Gemini, and should be visible in scopes 4 inches or larger. Watch for the 5’ glow in the eyepiece, and it should be there.

Four degrees south-west of zeta Gemini is another cluster, NGC 2304. It also has 30 stars spread over the same area as NGC 2266, but it is fainter. It may give smaller telescopes some problems.

Another challenge for the pro, or the 16-inch, would be NGC 2339, a galaxy between lambda and zeta. It’s not very large, and not very bright, and also should be plotted on a good atlas. This is an Sb galaxy and should be seen as being slightly elongated.

Delta Gemini is a double star with yellow and reddish-purple components separated by 7 seconds of arc.

A-way down south is NGC 2355, a very faint and yet large open cluster, south of lambda. This could be a nice reward for the owner of a large telescope, with 70 stars to see.

Back up north is the planetary nebula NGC 2371-2. This is another good test for the 16-inch telescope, which might reveal the disc very nicely. Small telescopes are cautioned that this is a difficult object, and it isn’t worth wasting your warmth over.

Another easy planetary is NGC 2392, described as being "vivid blue" by Mullaney-McCall. It is easy in a 6-inch at 100x , and therefore should be seen in most scopes. Walter Scott Houston reports, "When I stopped my 4-inch refractor down to 2 inches, NGC 2392 appeared stellar, with only a mere trace of fuzzy edge." The central star should be seen in most scopes of 2 inches, and large (12.5-inch and up) telescopes should be able to see dark structure in the nebula with averted vision. This gives it the name the "Clown Face" nebula. It is near 61 Gemini, for those who star-hop.

A brighter cluster than NGC 2355 is its neighbour NGC 2395. About two degrees north-east of v Gemini, this 30-star group should be detected in most scopes, by careful observers. Fortunately it is about twice the size of the smaller clusters discussed, and with more total brightness,

Castor (alpha Gemini) is a sextuple system, three stars being visible as red, white, and blue-white. Separation of the red star from the primary is 1', and the white star is only around 2" away.

Last, but not least, is NGC 2420, a sparse cluster of 20 stars spread over a 20' field. If you have found NGC 2392, proceed east about 3 degrees, and north slightly less than a degree. The more modest scopes may have trouble, but if the night is clear and NGC 2158 or NGC 2355 were found, this should pose no problem.

Remember to dress warmly, but not so much as to make movement awkward. A hearty observer can last 4 hours or more in one stretch on a cold night. See if you can beat the record! (or freeze trying. -Ed.)
#anybody got one? -Ed.

Members are reminded to contribute any interesting memories for publication in the May, 1974 issue of Astronotes, which will be the 100th issue!


Rolf Meier

I have received a set of occultation predictions, courtesy of John Conville. To make the observation of grazing occultations easier, it is highly recomended that observers get practice on total occultations. If you are a potential grazing occultation observer, contact me for approximate predictions for where you live. You need a CHU receiver, and almost any size telescope will do.

Jon Buchanan; 14 Kirkstall Ave ; 825-2636
Lindsey Davis; 108 Oldpost Rd, London, Ontario
Cathy Hall; Box 420, RR#2; 825-1628
Ted Bean; 399 McCleod Ave; 233-8856
Rolf Meier; 77 Meadowlands Dr W; 224-1200
Mark Mongeau; 2251 Tecuaseh; 224-0092
Doug Somers; 67 Costello Avenue; 829-8609

Thanks to Rob Dick, who helped with the decoding of the OJ 287 tape.

Articles for the March issue of Astronotes are due
by February 15.
TO Ms. Rosemary Freeman
National Sec retary
The Royal Astonomical Soc iety of Canada
252 Co l lege St .
TORONTO 130, Ontario