AstroNotes May 1974




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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Vol. 13, No. 5   May, 1974

Editor....... Rolf Meier.....77 Meadowlands Dr. W....K2G 2R9
Addresses.....Earl Dudgeon...545 Bathurst Are....... K1G 0X4
Circulation...Ted Bean.......399 McLeod Street K2P 1A5


After many years of holding our meetings in the familiar Geophysical Building at the Dominion Observatory, we are being asked to move. The assembly room has been ideal; adequate seating, projection facilities, space for our library books, room to stand around and talk, and a central location in the city with access to bus routes.

The request that we hold our meetings elsewhere is one more move that clearly demonstrates the desire of the Dominion Observatory to divorce itself from activities associated with the advancement of astronomy.

It was not, surely, always so, when the telescopes were in active use. But the lights of the city moved in. The greatest blow must have been the erection of the greenhouses of the Experimental Farm directly across from the large dome. The two government departments obviously had no communication or understanding of each other, the greenhouse lights being left on all night. As conditions for observing became unfavourable, the astronomers of the staff of the observatory were replaced by those with interests in fields other than astronomy.

At one time, members of the RASC had access to the equipment in the small dome of the observatory. During a period of "renovation”, the slit was left open by incompetent personnel during a rainy spell, leaving the wooden floor susceptable to the rotting which has made it unsafe.

The Ottawa Center was offered this equipment, on the condition that we move it complete to a new site. The offer was turned down, presumably because of the expense of moving the heavy instruments. It seems now that there is a proposal to set up this equipment at the Museum of Science and Technology. But why should it be moved at government expense to a place where it won’t be used rather than to an observing site where at least amateur astronomers can use it?


Holly Allan

The April meeting was a combination of the Ottawa Center and Observer's Group meetings. We had about 110 people attending.

Ted Bean started the evening's agenda with several announcements. A general plea was issued for volunteers to form a display at the library and provide accomodation for a visiting group of observers.

Following Ted, a slide documentary on comets was presented. Both Bennett and Kohoutek were discussed at some length. Many thanks to Fred Lossing, Rolf Meier, Cathy Hall, and Dave Penchuk for their fabulous slide contributions.

Doug Welch came forward at three separate times during the evening. He presented excellent slides of the transit of Mercury, the first-quarter moon, and an address on asteroids.

Cathy Hall also contributed much to this meeting. Both she and Doug Somers showed slides of the partial eclipse of the sun. Cathy presented slides of the graze expedition of February 25th, and later presented an array of slides that included Comet Bradfield, Canis Major, the Pleiades (M 45), Orion, M 42, the Zodiacal Light, and Sun dogs.

Rolf Meier delivered an astronomer’s view of color film. Using slides as an illustration, Rolf debated the pros and cons of using tungsten as opposed to daylight color film for astronomical photography.

Our speaker for the evening was Karl Poirier, chairman of the Observer's Group. Karl talked on UFO's. He gave an unbiased but enthusiastic discussion of the possibilities of interstellar travel and life. Many thanks go to Karl for an interesting and well-researched speech.

The meeting was adjourned after Karl spoke, and coffee, cookies, and coke were served.

FOR SALE: A professionally made 6-inch f/8 telescope. The mirror has been aluminized and overcoated. The equtorial mount has 1-inch shafts and a fine slow motion in RA. Call Pierre Lemay at 777-4965.

Apologies to contributors whose articles did not reach us in time due to the postal strike.


On April 19/20, a successful Star Night was held at North Mountain Observatory. About 50 people attended, and there were at least a half-dozen ’scopes 5-inch or larger. A brilliant display of Northern Lights confined itself to the northern sky, leaving observations of deep-sky objects
unhampered. Objects viewed included Comet Bradfield, Saturn, many Messiers, and a startling number of galaxies in the Coma-Virgo region. An incredible number were seen in the 16-inch. It was an enjoyable experience for all, but for some it was a journey...


2 unknown members

A permanently borrowed lynch mob gathered outside the Dominion Observatory. The people-to-car ratio was estimated to be 50:1. People-pushers managed to slide, push, maim, and commandeer all but one group of us into the Volkswagon; luckily the motorcade made it intact. We managed to machete our way through the forest of scopes. A call for hot dogs emptied the area into the clubhouse. Cathy fed hot dogs to Glenn and the rest of us got snacks. When asked to comment on this, he commented that wasted food was a sin, and being devoutly religous, gobbled up every last crumb. Things that looked like clouds began to rise from the north, but an inspection revealed that it was an aurora. Meaningful subjects like the inside of ping-pong balls or the value of infinity were discussed. Then we went home. The Tundra Rat considered it a semi-rewarding experience he will remember for a week, at least. Dan Mackiegen would like to be remembered.


Les MacDonald

Summer, as far as meteor observers were concerned, began with three consecutive sleepless nights. Our observing site, a cottage at Lanark, Ontario, was provided by Bruce Millar and entertainment was courtesy of 15 million mosquitos. Although no major shower was in progress, and nights were only four hours long, a total of 517 meteors was seen by a group averaging six observers.

Survivors of the June ordeal observed seven nights in July at Queensway Terrace, for another 547 meteors. The Delta Aquarid shower, with an hourly rate of about 15, was rather disappointing. Only one third of the meteors seen were Aquarids.

Our Perseid observations were carried out 8 miles south of Ottawa on the farm of Mr. John Dunn. A hay field was converted into a small village of tents and an observing compound. Thanks to Mr. Lee Nolan of the NRC , we had a 1000-watt generator for electric power. A system of storage batteries and vibrator unit supplied a 60-cycle, 110-volt current. This was essential for the operation of a tape recorder which would be more efficient than a human timer and record all meteors to the second. By this method we hoped to correlate our magnitude estimates and plots with those of NRC observers at Springhill, Ontario.

The 60-cycle power supply also enabled us to keep a Questar and camera tracking the Perseid radiant. The Questar was generously loaned to us by Bob Watters, a former member of the Ottawa Center.

August 11/12, the night of the Perseid maximum, was like any other recent Perseid maximum: rainy. The following night we were more fortunate. Meteors rained down as rapidly as they could be fed into the tape recorder, which obligingly broke down shortly after midnight. For the balance of the night Joe Dafoe sweated and cursed his way through meteor reports which often came in at 200 per hour. By four o’clock, 728 meteors had been recorded. The following night was a repeat performance. The third night also looked promising until clouds ended the fun after 92 meteors had been seen.

The Perseid shower was considerably more active than we had expected. Hourly rates per observer ranged from an average of 40 for the first night, with peaks at over 100, to 20 the final night. The Perseids showed their characteristically high percentage of trains - about 17% of all meteors including non-shower. With some hard work we should have all the summer observations sorted out by December - when the Geminids come!

The main meteor activity in May will be the Eta Aquarids, the maximum occuring on May 5, 1974. This shower is considered rather unfavourable this year, the moon being 13 days old.


Cathy Hall

Mar 19/20
Mar 28/29
Apr 6/7
Apr 7/8
Apr 10/11
Apr 11/12
Apr 17/18
8 x 30 binos
8 x 30 binos
8 x 30 binos
8 x 30 binos
20 x spotting scope
8 x 30 binos
8 x 30 binos
8 x 30 binos

-about 3° from alpha Aries
-easily seen, with tail
-predicted total mag 4.8, but unable to verify
-nucleus about mag 4.5, and very large in apparent dia.
-about 1° tail, beautiful in binos
-comet seen naked-eye without difficulty, but no discernable tail
-nucleus about mag 5.5 as compared to predicted 6.5 for whole comet
-hence much brighter than predicted
-about ½ ° tail, very wide
-nucleus about mag 5.5, very large
-tail about ½ ° long, seen in binos but too diffuse to be easily seen in spotting scope
-nucleus still about same mag, large
-tail longer, about 1½ ° , much better without a moon present
-wide, almost fan-shaped tail very nice in binos
-beside double cluster in Perseus
-nucleus mag 5.5-6.0
-tail about 1° long, brighter off to one side
-nucleus about mag 7.5-8.0 as compared to predicted mag of 8.0 for whole comet
-hence still brighter than predicted
-tail about ½ °long, very easily seen


Rolf Meier

April has seen much activity in the way of Aurora Borealis, after a relatively quiet winter. As the north pole of the Earth becomes exposed to solar radiation once again, these displays should become more frequent, although the events of the last few days have been unusual in this year of a quiet sun.

The first activity was noted on April 10/11, when a faint homogeneous arc was seen in the northern sky. A most interesting display took place on April 17/18. Things began with a faint homogeneous arc at about 20:00. At this time, it developed and spread, reaching the zenith by 22:00. Then there was a system of at least 4 homogeneous arcs visible. Then the structure changed to a single wide, very bright green arc at an elevation of 20 to 30 degrees in the northern sky. At about 23:00 this system began to develop rays and curtains, the display reaching a peak between midnight and 1:00. At this time many fine rays were evident, forming a comb-like structure with a bright curtain at either end. By this time too activity
had reached the zenith, and by 2:00 extended as far south as Scorpio.

The next few nights were also active, particularly the nights of April 19/20 and 20/21, when bursts of bright red and green appeared.
On April 18, I observed a new group of sunspots, possibly related to these events.


A group of 5 observers, Bruce Foster, Chris Martin, Robert McCallum, Rolf Meier, and Doug Welch, observed the Lyrids on April 20/21. Conditions were quite favourable: warm, no wind, clear, and all the equipment worked well.

Although this was not the maximum night, most of the meteors seen were Lyrids. The night of the maximum was unfortunately clouded out.


Arthur E. Covington

When my wife and I came to Ottawa in 1942, we were fortunate in meeting Mr. Hoyes Lloyd through mutual friends. After making acquaintance with him, we found that he had many interests outside of his professional work as ornithologist. These included astronomy and an active part in the Ottawa Center of the RASC. He is now the Center's Honorary President. From time to time during the next few years, we attended some of the public lectures given by the Center and I recall such subjects as Magnetism by Madill, Seismology by Hodgson and Population Studies of Animals by Mclulich. Astronomers of the Dominion Observatory that I recall were, Stewart the Dominon Astronomer, McLenahan, Delury, O'Connor, Henderson and Miss Burland. The only amateur astronomer I met was Steadman, a statistician at the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, who was making a 6-inch reflector. In 1951, I was persuaded to serve on the Council and in 1956, as President of the Center. Several years before coming to Ottawa, I had made a 5-inch mirror as a member of the Vancouver Center. This had not been used for several years, was not mounted, and was in wrappings in a trunk.

On April 17, 1952, W. M. Cameron had presented a lecture to the Ottawa Center entitled "Construction and Use of a Small Telescope". Such talks, and discussion with others with similar interests stimulated my desire to re-assemble my telescope, and to view the heavens once more. It seemed that the time was auspicious to encourage such interests both within the Center and without.

Letters were circulated to members of the Center and to others interested in telescope optics. One written on March 25, 1954, reports on a meeting held at my home on March 6 and gives a list of those of the Amateur Telescope Making group. These are: Ballon, Beaudry, Cameron, Covington, Fish, Grant, Henderson, Holbrook, Lossing, Medd, Perkins, Stevenson, Tanner, Torrington, and Weir. Subsequent meetings were held to exchange views and to develop some organization. The original name was not satisfactory since it neglected the use of the telescope.

As I recall, it was Orr's suggestion of "Observer's Group" which was finally chosen, and Grant agreed to represent the Group at Council meetings. The question of formal organization within the center stimulated much discussion which lead to several readings of the constitution of the Center. Without doubt the aims of the amateur group were within the reference terms of the constitution, namely to "promote intercourse between those interested in the various fields of astronomical study" and membership was covered by the article which read "The section shall consist of members who are actively engaged in astronomical work or in work allied thereto, or who are interested therein". However, on pursuing the remaining articles, there appeared to be no means whereby the group could fuction within the Center.

Council meeting were held and in time the constitution was revised whereby "the Center may establish any committee or groups for definite purposes, such as the Observer’s Group". After this recognition of the group they have been very active. In 1956, the Secretary, L. G. Miller reported to the Annual meeting "There is a very active Observer’s Group, numbering about 30, which meets the first Saturday of each month. A field trip to the Solar Noise Observatory in South Gloucester was enjoyed; five members took part in the public lecture on Mars; and on September 5 seven or eight members brought their telescopes to the Dominion Observatory to enable everyone to have a look at Mars through a variety of telescopes. A number of the members spent one night meteor observing, In cooperation with the NRC , during the Perseid Meteor Shower".

The Mars evening was clear and well attended. It was very instructive to see Mars through the various telescopes. On another occasion, I recall that the group had a stand for telescopes at the Ottawa Central Exhibition to enable the general public to view the full moon.

For many years, the Center held its public meetings at the Victoria Museum. Although this place is well known, downtown and centrally located, the auditorium is too large for the small attendance of most lectures. When the Geophysical Building on the grounds of the Dominion Observatory was completed about 1956, the Library Assembly room seemed more suitable for the activities of the Center. The possibilities of a suitable arrangement were discussed with the astronomers and finally through the courtesy of Dr. Beals, permission for the use of the room was given. These are some recollections about the beginning of the Observer’s Group. It has grown and prospered under the care and guidance of both amateur and professional astronomers.


Fred Lossing

It is an inspiring thought that this issue of Astronotes represents the 100th time that the Editor has coaxed and threatened his contributors into the deadline, untangled their syntax, corrected most of their elementary spelling errors, sent the completed issue off to the production team, and fallen twitching into his bed of pain. The original suggestion that the Observer's Group, then just beginning to flex its muscles, should have its
own periodical, is clearly attributable to George Brunton, who became the first Editor. I distinctly remember trying to dissuade George from this project by several perfectly logical arguments. Fortunately George was obeying a higher order of logic and cheerfully ducked my cold water.

Astronotes has never seriously faltered since, although several mini-crises have been overcome. The Observer’s Group, as mentioned by Arthur Covington elsewhere, had its start some years earlier than Astronotes, in the spring of 1954. As I recall it took a couple of years before we started to have regularly scheduled meetings. During 1956 and for some years following, one of our principal activities was the manning (apologies to Ms. types) of amateur telescopes on the lawn of the Dominion Observatory on Saturday nights. These sessions were enormously successful; often we had 40-50 people with us until after midnight. It was a great blow to the group when this activity was terminated by request some 5-6 years later. On at least two occasions a group of telescopes was set up at the Ottawa Exhibition to view various bright celestial objects, such as runaway balloons, the moon, high-flying popcorn, and other features of Exhibition life. These operations were, as I recall, under the direction of Dick Tanner, although others were undoubtedly involved. Several successful public star-nights on the grounds of the Museum on Elgin Street were held under the organizing direction of Col. John Stairs and Stan Mott.

Very little in the way of systematic organized observation was done until the formation of the Quiet Site Meteor team, under the enthusiastic spurs of first Les MacDonald and later Ken Hewitt-White. This was supplemented about five years ago by the establishment of North Mountain Observatory. At the time the NMO site was "discovered” by Tom Tothill and myself, it looked as though we were sufficiently remote from suburban sprawl to give us at least ten years of dark skies. Alas! it was not to be. "Progress” has been even faster than predicted.

In the last year houses have been built in the close vicinity, and currently one has been started within a few yards. It would seem that NMO will have to either accept neighboring bright lights, or gather up its assets and move to darker and less attractive landscapes. This will involve almost as much energy and initiative as the original installation of the buildings at NMO, which involved a great deal of planning and even more hard work.

(Fortunately we did not purchase the present piece of land comprising the site.) Now the question: have we got the energy, muscles, time, and money to do it?


A hundred times the Ed has sat
And stared at copy vile
And marvelled at the bloopers that
Explain his twisted smile.
A thousand times he’s set the sheet
As pure and white as snow,
And desecrated it, by feat
Of hunt and peck and - "Blow!"
Ten thousand sighs he’s sighed: ”These fix
To make the biggest issue.
Not two, not six, but twenty-six!!"
And sobbed upon a tissue.
A hundred thousand pecks gone by
He’s covered Twenty Three,
And then it hits him: "Me-oh-my!
The rest is up to me!"
A million thoughts are on his mind
But not a one will come.
"I know!! - I’ll show them how to find
That tough Trapezi-.....Umm."
- Tom Tothill
(1921 - soonest -Ed.)


Rolf Meier

The western sky after sunset is the one to watch this month. The winter deep-sky objects are leaving us in that direction and we must bid them farewell. Of greater interest are the solar system objects in that area. If you wonder why the feet of Gemini look odd, it is no doubt due to the planets Saturn and Mars. The two are closest together near the beginning of the month. Take a look at Saturn for the last time this season. It won’t re-appear as a morning star until late July. Mars is faint and of very small angular diameter these days. There may be no features at all visible on the tiny disc except under very good seeing conditions and high power. Take a look at it for the last time too. It won't be seen as a morning star until late November, just as tiny as it is now.

Comet Kohoutek is still with us, but very faint indeed. It probably won't be seen except with with a big scope in the country. And to think, it is just over a year ago that we first heard about this "comet of the century".

Comet Encke is more favourably placed in terms of brightness. The best view should be had on May 2, when at 4th mag it is about as far elongated from the sun that it will be until after its conjunction. A better view may be had in June, when it is in the morning sky at about 9th mag. Comet Encke returns every 3.3 years. Mercury manages to creep up higher and higher at the end of the month, reaching a favourable elongation of 24° on June 4.

The moon drops into this area around the end of the month, new moon being May 21. On May 23, it will be close to Mercury and Saturn. In fact, there will be an occultation of Saturn visible from Australia.

It is worthwhile to photograph the changing appearance of the western sky with a camera mounted on a tripod. Use exposures of about 15 seconds with the lens wide open.

Bring your best shots to the next Observer's Group meeting. The map opposite shows approximate positions of the various objects discussed. Fainter stars are only shown around areas of interest, the limiting magnitude of the map being about 6. The path of Mars extends beyond the top of the map. The sun is shown as a circle with the cross in it. All the objects shown should be picked up with binoculars.


Cathy Hall

Comet Bradfield, 1974 b, seems to have been brighter than expected. Reports indicate total magnitudes of 7.2 on March 9, 6.2 on the 12th, 5.0 on the 15th, and 4.2 on March 19 (c.2650,2651). The tail seems to have remained relatively short, reports ranging from only to 3° as seen in binoculars and medium sized telescopes. The longest reported were a gas tail of over 9° and a dust tail of over 3°, detected in a 10-minute exposure by a 37cm f/2 Schmidt telescope (c.2651). Coordinates for May follow (c.2651)

Comet Bradfield, 1974 b

Date RA Dec Mag
May 3 2h 41.7m 80° 53.5’ N 9.6
8 2 54.0 84 57.0
9 2 59 85 42.6 10.2
10 3 06 86 27.2
11 3 15 87 10.9 10.3
12 3 32 87 53.3
13 4 03 88 33.9 10.5
14 5 22 89 09.7
15 9 03 89 25.2 10.7
16 12 03 89 02.4
17 13 04 88 26.6 10.8
18 13 30 87 48.4
23 14 07.7 84 37.2 11.3

If you examine these coordinates closely, you will notice a truly amazing thing. Comet Bradfield is headed due north, and on May 15 will be less than 1° away from the north celestial pole. (That’s less than Polaris -Ed.) We’ve got ourselve’s a pole-grazer!

As for Comet Encke, it seems that there is more than just amateur interest in this object. It is stated that "Photometric and spectroscopic observations of P/Encke during its 1974 perihelion passage (T=Apr 29) are needed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to
develop plans for a proposed mission to this comet in 1980" How about that!

Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann I is back again in the head of Pisces (c.2652). We'll have to catch it in the fall. The interesting feature of this comet is that, although its normal magnitude is about 18, it is subject to sudden temporary increases in brightness. It reached magnitude 10.7 in October 1959 and 12.5 in January 1960.

Lastly, Comet Lovas, 1974 c, has been added to this year’s list. On March 22, it was about a degree from gamma Virgo, at magnitude 13, and fading (c.2653). Coordinates when received will be put in the IAU Circular box at North Mountain Observatory, for use by those wishing to view or photograph it.


Rob Dick

After hearing the talk at the April meeting by Karl Poirier, I recalled a good poem I heard during the eclipse expedition I was on last summer with the BAA. It’s a rather obscure poem, by Alfred Noyes:

The Last of the Books

Is it too strange to think
That when at last, from Earth, all life is gone,
And 'round the Sun's pale blink
Our desolate planet wheels its ice and stone.
Hous'd among storm-proof walls, there yet may abide,
Defying long the venoms of decay,
A still, dark throng of books, dumb books of song
And tenderest fancies, born of youth and May.
A quiet remembering host,
Outliving the poor dust that gave them birth.
Unvisited by even a wandering ghost,
But treasuring still the music of our Earth.
In little fading hieroglyphs they shall bear
Through death and night the legend of our Spring
And how the lilac scented the night air,
When hearts throbbed warm and lips could kiss and sing.
And ere that record fail,
Strange voyagers from a mightier planet come,
On winged ships that through the void can sail.
Strange voices echo, strange flares explore
Strange hands with curious weapons burst these bars
Lift the brown volumes to the light once more,
And bear their strange secrets through the stars.


Rolf Meier

Once a meteor has fallen to the surface of the Earth, it starts to blend in to its surroundings, becoming buried by soil, and eroding away. Nevertheless, a meteorite should look quite different from the terrestrial rocks in the area in which it is found. The most obvious giveaway is the presence of iron, which will not be evident as a metal in Earthbound rocks. If some uncertainty still exists, a chemical test is in order. It
consists primarily of testing for nickel, and then etching the surface to show the "Widmanstatten pattern", not found in terrestrial rocks. The following chemicals will be needed:

ammonium hydroxide
concentrated nitric acid
reagent alcohol
distilled water
shellac, diluted with 3 parts alcohol

Note that the nitric acid is very dangerous. Do not touch it or inhale the fumes.

  1. Remove a small metallic piece of the meteorite and put it in a test tube.
  2. Add 5cc of a solution of 1 part water and 6 parts nitric acid.
  3. Heat for about 2 minutes. Much of the specimen should dissolve; watch it until its size does not decrease.
  4. If the piece contains iron, the liquid will be brownish-yellow.
  5. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature and let the residue settle.
  6. Pour the clear solution into another test tube.
  7. Slowly add a few drops of ammonium hydroxide to the clear solution, applying agitation. A reddish precipitate will indicate the presence of iron in a brownish liquid.
  8. Keep on adding ammonium hydroxide until you have about three times the volume of the original clear solution.
  9. Pour the liquid into another test tube. This liquid should contain the nickel in solution.
  10. Mix a few drops of dimethylglyoxine with 10cc of ethyl alcohol in yet another test tube, and pour this into the liquid hopefully containing the dissolved nickel.
  11. If nickel is present, a pink precipitate should form.

To etch the meteorite, start by grinding and polishing a flat surface on it (just like in making a mirror). Seal the rest of the meteorite with diluted shellac, leaving the polished surface free, and allow it to dry. Now comes the tricky part, to get the "Widmanstatten pattern":

  1. Pour 6% nitric acid into a dish to about 6 cm.
  2. Brush the acid quickly and evenly over the polished surface. Do not allow the acid to rest in any area longer than necessary,
  3. The Widmanstatten pattern should appear in about 10 seconds as a criss-cross pattern of lines and shapes.
  4. Quickly wash the meteorite in running water and blot it dry.
  5. Do not at any time touch the etched surface.
  6. Examine the surface and remove any dust.
  7. Brush the acid over the polished surface again, and repeat the above processes until the pattern is clearest and is free of stains.

To protect the meteorite, laquer the entire surface. If you are unsure of any of the procedures involving the chemicals, contact someone with knowledge in that area.


Tom Tothill

"It’s odd, when you think about it, Bed," said Schlossing, gliding in past the moon.
"What’s odd?"
"Those ancient Selenites. They had an awful lot of failures, but they finally put it up."
"Put what up?"
"Their synchronous satellite. You’re standing on it.”
Bedlington Tean said nothing, but his puzzled expression came across the ether, loud and clear.

Articles for the June issue of Astronotes are due by May 24.

Ms. Rosemary Freeman RASC
National Secretary,
The Royal Astronomical Soc. of Can.,
252 College St.
TORONTO 130, Ont.