AstroNotes 1973 January Vol: 12 issue 01




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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

 Volume 12, No. 1  - January 1973

Editors  Tom Tothill         Addresses: Mary Grey        Circulations Ted Bean
22 Delong Drive, K1J 7E6    Dora, Observatory, 994-5474    399 McLeod Street, K2P 1A5


Tom Tothill

If your Season has been jolly, try pronouncing that aloud. It’s every bit as good as "The Leith police dis-misseth us".

The winter solstice having cone and gone, perhaps we might review the rather odd events that go with it, astro­nomically speaking.

They began back on Dec 11, when the earliest sunset occurred. Although the evening daylight then began to increase, the days continued to get shorter until the actual solstice when the sun's declination reached - 23 ° 26.6 at 18:13 UT on Dec 21, daylight then lasting only 8h 46m.
As Santa was making his rounds in the first hour of Christmas Day, the sun fell in step with the clock, having been ahead of it since Sept 1st. Actually, since the earth was approaching  perihelion, its velocity in its orbit was approaching a maximum and the sun was moving eastward among the stars at a greater rate than in summer.

Perihelion occurred on January 2nd and the sun was 32.6' across, compared with 31.6' in June, thereby doing its best to warm our frigid winters and cool our fetid (?) summers.

The latest sunrise followed close upon perihelion, on January 3rd, so from then on you will have more light to get out there and shovel the driveway so you can get to work.

Offhand I would think that the sun and the clock ought to agree at the moment of perihelion, instead of Christmas Day. Could one of our experts explain?

Would it be fair to say that the Lavery wedding went off without a ’hitch'? Congratulations, Rick and Wendy!


Cathy Hall

The end-of-the-year meeting was opened by our chair­ man, Mr. Tothill. He mentioned several coming news items:

  1. The ’Star Truk’ expedition to Florida for the Apollo 17 launching (look for colour coverage at a future meeting!)
  2. The Ottawa Centre's presentation of the film "Cracking the Stone Age Code.
  3. The beginners group meeting, and
  4. The joint meeting with the Royal Society of Canada on Jan 8 for a talk on Copernicus.

Stan Mott presented a number of 1972 eclipse slides from Nova Scotia as well as a review of the eclipses of 1970 and 1963, illustrating the different shapes of the corona with the changing solar cycle.

Plans for the 1973 African eclipse were related by Ken Hewitt-White who spoke on the two main expeditions -the British and the American. For more info, on the for­mer, contact Ken; on the latter, contact Stan Mott.

As for recent observations, Ken reported on the visual and photometric quasar program being jointly undertaken with Rick Salmon, our member down in Chile. He also spoke on the results of this year's Leonid meteor shower. The max. was about 18 hours early and about three to four times the predicted strength, with characteristically bright meteors ... would you believe a -10!! For you non-obser­vers, the full moon is only about -12 or -1 3 !
Rob Dick, our deep-sky co-ordinator, showed several slides, including M42 and M57. The cause of the shape of the Ring Nebula was discussed.
The tale of the Vancouver-Planetarium-bound moon rock was told by Rolf Meier, who had some excellent slides of the sample. He also showed shots including M42 and Jupiter

In closing, elections for several posts were held:

Our new Chairman - Ken Hewitt-White:
Vice-Chairman: Ted Bean:
Astronotes Editor - unsolved (?);
Solar Co-ordinator - Barry Matthews:
Graze Co-ordinator - Karl Poirier.

Congratulations! and thanks very much to Tom Tothill, Ken Hewitt-White, Jean Knapp, and John Conville, who have worked hard at these posts for this past term!


Ken Hewitt-White

Life is full of surprises. The fact that November 15 turned out to be a clear night was surprise enough be­ cause this year's rainfall record had not been broken yet and so there seemed no justification for the stars to ap­pear on this night. But they did and we all took off to North Mountain Observatory to celebrate. The next night was scheduled to be the Leonid Meteor Maximum but all pro­fessionals were uttering such pessimistic predictions that our already battered meteor team decided to take a holiday and just peer through the 16-inch, Since 1966, the Leonids have been declining in strength until this year we were told the maximum rate wouldn't likely exceed 15 per hour, including sporadics.

But the sceptics were wrong. And Confucius' most revered adage is: "If you don't look, you won't see." So when Joanie Hoskinson, Cathy and Chris spread out some cots on the chilled grass of North Mountain, they set out to see what they could see anyway, even if the books said they wouldn't. And what they saw was a burst of Leonid activity far above normal and nearly 24 hours earlier than expected. Soon they were joined by yours truly and together we wit­nessed the finest Leonid display in some years.

On the 15/16 we clocked 414 meteors for a rate of 41.1 per hour per pair of eyes. The next night (the pre­dicted max.) we saw only a corrected rate of 19 per hour and the night following we saw 17. So the Leonids for '72 were early and strong. Murphy must have had the 'flu.

I wish I could report similar good news for the Geminids. However, a really gorgeous sky on the night of the max turned sour in only a matter of minutes after we spent hours scooping snow and ice out of the coffins. Exactly the same thing happened the following night. From scatter­ed reports received so far, however, it seems that this year the moon was strong and the Geminids weak. And that's surprising.

Hewitt Say: Happiness is watching Geminid meteors from a Florida beach.


John Conville#

This is addressed to those astronomy nuts suffering (as I did) from the "Grade 13 and trying to choose a university" syndrome.
On opening your university outlook guide, you'll find that there are only four Canadian universities with under­graduate astronomy programs - U.B.C., U. of Victoria, U. of Western Ontario, and U . of Toronto.

Before scribbling down U. of T., U.W.O., and Carleton or Ottawa U . as your selections, you should find out what it is that makes up an undergraduate Astronomy program.

where UGA is an undergraduate astronomy program
HP is an honours physics program
AC is two or three extra astronomy courses.

Virtually all universities have first-year survey courses in astronomy as well as a fourth year astrophysics option. An honours astronomy program fills the two year gap with celestial mechanics, spherical trig and some astrophysics, taught in a single second and third year course.

From the point of view of admission to graduate school, undergrad astronomy is unnecessary. Graduate astronomy students are usually holders of B.Sc.'s in physics, but math and chemistry are not unheard of. One Astronomy professor I know stated that undergrad astro programs exist solely to help divert the brighter students from entering graduate physics. One fellow at U. of T . suggested that if astronomy was seriously my interest I shouldn't take any until fourth year.

I don't claim to be an educational expert, but from my limited experience I would say that what you really want is a good physics program, taught by good profs (when you find one be sure to let me know). The choice of Canadian universities is then truly much larger than four.

# Hijacked into this on peaceful Christmas visit!


Allen Miller

On Dec 2, four Ottawans and one Vancouverite rocketed south to witness the Apollo 17 lift-off. Twenty-eight hours later Ken Hewitt-White, Joan Hoskinson, Rolf Meier, Jon Buchanan and myself crossed into the Sunshine State.  True to form it was dark and foggy permitting only sub- 60 speeds.

After a brief, and I mean brief, sleep the five of us drove into Cocoa Beach. Lurking beside the main drag was a sign reading: "Apollo News Center" - just the place we wanted. After a short disquieting hassle we obtained our Press passes and took full advantage of them. NASA had ordered 500 buses to take the visiting news media on tours of Cape Kennedy. They spent a lot of money for press coverage this time.

Our first tour (on Tuesday) lasted only four hours in order to get us back to the News Center for the Press Con­ference at five o'clock. All the high-ranking officials including Alan Sheppard were on hand.

Later that night, three buses hurried us all out to the Saturn V launch pad. From one half mile that rocket was unbelievably huge.  Slowly the mobile service gantry crept away revealing a shimmering white statue so big that men looked like infesting ants. With Rolf's six-inch telescope we studied every section of the Saturn.

At five in the morning, Dec 6, only a few people were awake to travel out and see the sun rise over the ship. The view was well worth the extra
effort but I was maddened at the number of reporters who insisted on ruining others' photographs just to see the sight a little better.

Now it was Wednesday, December 6 and following a few hours' sleep we bombed back to Cocoa Beach from a little town 20 miles south where some newly-acquired friends put us up for the night. At five that evening the buses gathered us and our fully-loaded cameras out to the Press site for the launch later that night. This location was as close as we could be without any protection (3 miles from Pad A). It was about 70 degrees with a slight cloud layer down-range of the Pad. The tension and excitement grew with the passing of time. Then at T - 30 sec they held the rocket for 21?2 hours. Finally the countdown re­ sumed and before you knew it first-stage ignition took place. Within seconds a huge fireball surrounded in billowing smoke resulted. Eight seconds and four f-stops later the rocket rose majestically from the fiery pad. Just before the Saturn cleared the tower the deafening sound was upon us. The crackling and roar was pounding so hard, and so quickly that it nearly knocked me over (evi­dence of movie). Two and a half minutes later the dull red flame of the kerosene first stage burnt out and the white flame of the hydrogen second stage took its place.  A few minutes later it disappeared behind a cloud bank. The Apollo 17 ship was then over nine hundred miles away.

Meanwhile the launch tower was still being dumped with tons of water. The steam rose hundreds of feet and the air wobbled like that over a desert. Two hours later we left the site hoping our photos were properly exposed.

That same day but the afternoon another tour was taken to the Kennedy Space Center. This time it was an excellent one. The elderly chap guiding us bubbled over with enthusiasm and as a result gave us the works. With a bit of difficulty he obtained permission for us to witness the damage the Saturn V had done only twelve hours earlier. Remarkably, only some scorched grass and burned paint at the base of the tower was the total sum of the 'damage'. Everything else was intact.

Next on the list was the Vertical Assembly Building.  All the control room was shown with an extra added bonus of a ride to the 34 th floor in what was until a year ago the fastest elevator system in the U.S. (1200 feet a min). From here we were above the nearly completed Saturn 1B which will carry two men to the Skylab in May. It is not until you walk this high above the visible ground floor that you realize the VAB is the biggest (by volume) buil­ding in the world.

Following this mind-boggling experience we travelled south for a day in the sun and sea only to succeed in getting burned and battered. However, compared to frost­ bite and heavy snow it was beautiful. That same day we left the surf and headed north to Jacksonville to visit Karl Simmons, editor of Meteor News. He opened his house and entertained us (or was it the other way round?) for several hours. We left Karl's lovely green surroundings at noon on Saturday, December 9th, and arrived to greet a snowstorm only two hours from Ottawa, Immediately the Star Truk tried to turn around and go back to the sun but Rolf’s exam and bed were calling so loud that not even my ship's computer could override his interference. We were doomed to shovel snow.

Well, I've learned. If you go to Florida in the winter don’t come back until the summer. This country is not green in the winter,

Our heroes got their Press passes for Astronotes, Nova News, Georgia Straight, etc! No wonder the hassle.
Yeah, we may not be green in winter, but we sure use a lot of wintergreen. (Ouch!)


Jon Buchanan

Imagine, if you can, an A-type star, white, seven times the size of our sun, pulsing twice a day with raw energy. RR Lyrae is such a star.

These are a special type of Cepheid, called RR Lyrae types because of their short periods. Most of them are Population II stars and as such they can be mainly in clusters, A to F stars spectrally, they are sub-grouped into two classes a) those with periods of about 0,5 days, b) those with smaller amplitudes and a slower rise to a flatter maximum.

Another group of short-period variables falls into a sub-group of the b) class mentioned above, Delta Scuti types. These variables have periods of less than 0.2 days. F-type subgiants with absolute magnitudes somewhere between -2 and +2, they have small amplitudes.

Beta Canis Majoris types are on the other side of the RR Lyraes from Delta Scuties. B-type giants with short periods, typically from 21?2 to 8 hours long. Their amplitudes are very small. Of the score of stars known of this type, 1?4 of a magnitude is large, most having variations of a few hundredths of a magnitude. In fact some of them cannot be detected by light variations, but their spectrum, reveals that they are pulsing due to spectral line shifts,

If you recall in an earlier article about Cepheids, I mentioned their use in finding distances due to their periods. Well, it seems that Beta Canis Majoris stars obey another relation for Cepheids, that is, their spectrum follows the period-spectrum relation for Cepheids.

These very short-period variables are more examples of Cepheid-type stars, which pulsate at a specific rate determined by their size (and temperature/luminosity).

Following are a few graphs of short-period variables.


The Centre's December meeting was devoted to the film "Cracking the Stone Age Code" describing Prof. Thom's work in surveying and analysing the standing-stone structures of megalithic Britain and France, Dr. Derek Sida provided an interesting introductory talk and there was a general discussion afterwards.


Jon Buchanan

I have not received all of the observations to date at the time of writing (Dec 15) so I don't know who will win. By the time you read this, the winner will be known. Here's how it stands now, by the observations received:

Observation period*      J.F.M.            A.M.J.            J.A.S.            O.N.D.
L.Davis            70        ***        ***        ***
R.Dick            33        ***        ***        ***
C.Hall            63**        ***        ***        ***
K.Hewitt-White        114        58        49        ***
R.McCallum        12        ***        53        65*
C.Martin        33        ***        ***        ***

* - Observations for one month not received or complete.


Jan 5 - Observers Group.  Awards. Apollo 17 movie.
Jan 8 - Centre meeting to hear Prof. Iwanowska of Poland speak in honour of the Copernicus quincentennial. N.R.C. Auditorium, Sussex Drive, 8:30 p.m.
Jan 16 - Annual Meeting and Dinner. Election of Council. Awards, Speaker: Dr. J.L. Locke on "Explosions in Astronomy". Sampan Restaurant, Carling Avenue, 6:30 p.m. for 7:00.


Tom Tothill

Voice time rapidly became so long that Schlossing and Biggs took to sending monologues for the morning coffee break and answering them at the afternoon session. The coffee machine continued to operate perfectly after the usual stupid dialogue, and even anticipated voice-time for Schlossing - Kerrins evidently not trusting him to work it out for himself.

For the first time Schlossing began to pay attention to the three clocks mounted up there on the knotty pine panelling. Up to now they had read all the same, but now they were all different. They were arranged thus:


"Evidently," he mused, "If I want to talk to Biggs I go by the TALK HOME clock. When it says 10 a.m. I let him have it. When the HEAR HOME clock says 10 a.m., I stand by for his diatribe. Going by the third clock, I can talk away and listen away to myself to my heart's content, so that must be my time. Confusing, ain't it?"

He had passed Mars early on the second day after Escape and got a good view of it through the 2.4", which was all the wretched Ground Organization would let him bring, so he was able to pass a message to Hotpill about that.

By the third morning he was right in there among the asteroids but by now he was going so fast that there was no time to catch them in the telescope and he contented himself with his trusty pair of Adam's binoculars, super-wide-angle 1 x 7's.

Biggs seemed very punctilious about his acceleration. Every message from him asked what it was now, and after several "One g"s in reply he began to get a little cross and began putting it as "One-point-zero-zero g".

Back at Algonquin, Biggs was getting a little uneasy about Schlossing. He wasn't plotting. His Doppler shift was getting distinctly off the theoretical curve, as if his propulsion was getting more powerful by the minute.  Could it be that the System was neglecting to allow for the weight loss of expended fuel? He wouldn't put it past the Organization to forget a little detail like that, and if so, Schlossing could look forward within a few days to being pushed right through the floorboards. His accelerometer was clearly on the blink.

Ms. Rosemary Freeman
National Secretary
The Royal Astronomical
Society of Canada
252 College St.,
Toronto 130, Ontario.