AstroNotes 1984 January Vol: 23 issue 01



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A S T R O N O T E S ISSN 0048-8682

The Newsletter Magazine of the Ottawa Centre of the RASC
Vol. 23, No. 1 $5.00 a year January 1984

Editor.......Rolf Meier......4-A Arnold Dr.......820-5784
Addresses....Art Fraser......92 Lillico Dr.......737-4110
Circulation...Robin Molson....2029 Garfield Ave...225-3082


I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the chairmanship of the Observer's Group for 1984. It will be a challenging postition to coordinate activities, talks, star parties, observing projects, etc. I'm ready to take on the task.

An Observer's Group coordinator's meeting will be held in the very near future. We have a great wealth of knowledge and ideas that will be used to ensure an observing program sure to please all members. Astronomical observations are the lifeblood of the Observer's Group and will be strongly promoted.

I'm optimistic that 1984 will be a good year. Let's get the fun and enjoyment out of the hobby we love so much!

* * *


The Annual Dinner meeting was held, as last year, in the Skyline Hotel's "Top of the Hill". About 54 members and guests attended.

Awards were presented to Sandy Thuesen (Observer of the Year) and Robin Molson (Merit Award). A special mention was made of the work that Stan Mott has done over the last 30 years or so for the Centre's Library.
The evening's speaker was Andy Woodsworth, who spoke on the role of computers in astronomy.

The annual business session was also held, with reports from various committees, and elections.


David Lauzon

Chairman Rolf Meier opened the meeting at 8:21 with 41 people in attendance, of which 80.5% were members. A motion was passed to start Og meetings at 8:00 pm promptly, beginning January 6, 1984. This was followed by an introduction of the new coordinators for the upcoming year. Help was requested for assembling Astronotes and all interested should contact the editor. Last, but not least, in recognition for awards, Sandy and Robin were congratulated.

Og Vice-Chairman Gary Susick began the observing portion of the meeting with a talk on emission nebulae. Gary stated that an E.N. glows due to photoionization and recombination. The 3 types of E.N. that he discussed were the HII group, planetary nebulae, and supernovae, which correspond to the 3 stages of a star's life. He showed slides of various examples of emission nebulae.

Meteor coordinator David Lauzon gave a presentation on upcoming meteor showers, and in-the-city astro shots. The Geminid and Quadrantid showers are to be observed in December and January. An attempt will be made to correlate visual rates with radio rates for the Quadrantids. David then gave a short slide show involving aurora and lightning over Gatineau, Comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock, and the aurora of August 7/8.

Next up was Rob McCallum, offering old astronomical materials for the taking. Rob asked people to volunteer their time for the following committees: Nominating, Publicity, Activities and Facilities, Membership, Financial, Quiet Site, IRO, Dinner, and Program. All interested should call Rob, Brian Burke, or Peter MacKinnon.

Lunar and Planetary coordinator Rolf Meier discussed details of the heavenly bodies for the next few months. Besides the penumbral eclipse of the moon on December 19, the planets for January are most exciting. All 8 planets (9 including the earth) will be visible in the morning sky in mid to late January. The moon will be dancing with the planets making close approaches to them all. This certainly gives the amateur a chance to take a few "once in a lifetime" shots of the event.

Speaking of rare events, Art Fraser entertained members with a slide show of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Art's many slides showed how awesome the Shuttle is.

Rolf closed the meeting at 9:50, inviting everyone to stay and have refreshments.


Linda Warren

"What solar activity?" you might ask. December 8 was the only opportunity to observe the sun until the past 2 days of this writing. However, I was unable to make an observation on these wonderfully clear days. On December 8 I recorded a count of 18 spots. And that has been it to date. On December 10/11, while meteor observing, an aurora was seen; not very intense, but it appeared as a standard homogeneous arc. Upon my return from Arizona there will likely be lots to tell you since the weather is far more accommodating down south.

For those of you who haven't read the 1984 handbook, there are two solar events this year. On May 30 is an annular eclipse of the sun. The only problem is that it takes place along a very narrow path, beginning in the Pacific Ocean and ending in North Africa. The southeastern states are also in this path, so it is not as much of a miss as it would be if in the mid-Atlantic.

On November 22/23 is a total eclipse of the sun off the coast of the Indonesian Island of Halmahera and ends somewhere west of Chile. Not as accessible as one would like, but for those who can travel to these areas they are fortunate indeed. Perhaps someone from our Centre can show us slides of not only the eclipse, but the country it takes place in as well.

Let's hope 1984 skies are the best ever! Happy holidays and see you next year.



The 1984 Observer's Group coordinators were elected at the November meeting. They are as follows:

Chairman: Gary Susick
Vice-Chairman: Malcom Lambourne
Comets, Novae, Asteroids: Dave Fedosiewich
Meteors: Dave Lauzon
Radio Astronomy: Frank Roy
Occultations: Brian Burke
Lunar and Planetary: Rolf Meier
Solar: Linda Warren
Deep Sky: Gary Susick
Instrumentation: Malcom Lambourne
Variable Stars: Sandy Thuesen
Recorder: Dave Lauzon
Astrophotography: Bill Donaldson

Each coordinator uses his or her expertise to inform the Ottawa Centre members of astronomical facts, activities, and events relevant to their specific coordinatorships. Two excellent methods are at their disposal to convey this to the members. These are the presentation of talks at the monthly Observer's Group meetings, and the writing of articles for our newsletter magazine, Astronotes.

Presenting talks, demonstrations, slide shows, observational reports, etc. is an excellent way to ensure group participation. Question and answer periods are encouraged to allow a free flow of ideas. I would like to see more members actively participating in Observer's Group meetings. Remember, talks may be given by any member, not just a coordinator. Please feel free to approach any coordinator if you wish to present a talk or would like to have a specific idea, topic, or activity discussed in more detail. We are always open to new suggestions.

Coordinators are encouraged to write articles for Astronotes on a regular basis. This is the only way of being sure that all Ottawa Centre members are aware of our activities. Astronotes is an excellent medium for explaining astronomical concepts, reporting observations and activities, and suggesting observing projects.

On behalf of the Observer's Group coordinators I am making an open invitation to all members to get involved. Every contribution, no matter how small, will benefit us all. With your help and encouragement we will make astronomy more enjoyable than ever.


Before proceeding with the answers to last month's quiz, I would like to present a "correction" to one of the answers that appeared last month for a question the month before. The question was "When is the earth closest to the sun?" and the answer supplied last month was "January 4".

One of our members, Thomas Wray writes:

"The answer given in the December Astronotes to question 2 of November's ASTRONOMICAL TRIVIA is incorrect. Although mean perihelion is on January 4, the actual instant of the earth being closest to the sun can vary from the mean date by up to a couple of days. The reason is due to the 6000-mile-diameter orbit of the earth about the barycentre of the earth-moon system. At new or full moon perihelion will occur at the mean date, at first quarter perihelion is delayed (when the barycentre is closest to the sun the earth is still moving towards the sun) and at last quarter perihelion is early (the earth is already moving away from the sun when the barycentre is closest to the sun)."
I would welcome any corrections members may be able to make to my answers, which are sometimes guesses, and sometimes are an intentional mistake. Also, I would like to hear some interesting trivia, or even questions, if I can get an answer to them.
Here are the (I hope) answers to last month's quiz:
1) 44
2) Mars
3) Helium
4) the earth
5) sunspots
6) Jodrell Bank
7) Hubble's Constant
8) Cepheids
9) 2 million light years
10) M83

and some more questions:
1) When will the next blue moon occur?
2) How long does it take for a laser beam to travel from the earth to the moon and back?
3) What is the ratio of the radius of the moon's orbit to the diameter of the earth?
4) What fraction of the moon's surface is visible from the earth's surface?
3) When did man first see the back side of the moon?
6) Where is it possible for the moon to rise earlier from one night to the next?
7) On average, how many naked-eye stars are behind the moon at any one time?
8) Of what profession were most of the people after whom lunar craters are named?
9) What spacecraft took the first close pictures of the surface of the moon?
10) What substance once flowed in the maria, or seas, of the moon?


On December 10/11, 5 observers were out at the site to observe the Geminids. Although not the night of maximum activity, many shower meteors were seen. The cold weather restricted the observing to 1-hour stretches.

The Quiet Site committee consists of Rob McCallum and Rolf Meier. Those on the keys list are Rob McCallum, Rolf Meier, Rob Dick, Dave Lauzon, and Frank Roy. Contact one of these people if you wish access to the site for observing. It is not too bad, considering its proximity to the city of Ottawa, but this makes it attractive for those not wishing to drive a long distance. The road is always maintained in the winter, courtesy of the federal government. There will be more meteor observing sessions at the site in the coming months.

* * *


Friday, January 6   Observer's Group Meeting
Wednesday, January 18   Full Moon
Friday, January 20   Astronotes articles due date
Wednesday, February 1   New Moon
Friday, February 3 Observer's Group Meeting

Don't miss the early-morning configuration of the planets this month. The best views should be had from the middle to end of January, when some close approaches take place, and the planet Mercury is at its best viewing position. At the end of the month, the moon joins the show. There are some occultations, but they are not visible from North America. Watch for Venus to come within 0.02 degrees of Neptune on the 25th. Mercury is at greatest elongation on the 22nd. All 8 major planets will be visible at the same time during this month. Naturally, a fairly large telescope will be required to see Pluto. It should be possible to extrapolate the postion into January using the map in the handbook, which goes from February to August, 1984. The other 7 planets can likely be found without any difficulty.