AstroNotes 1970 December Vol: 9 issue 10




Download PDF version: 


The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Vol. 9, No. 10 December, 1970

Editor: Tom Tothill 22 Delong Drive, Ottawa 9
Addresses: Howard Harris 667 Highland Ave, Ottawa 13
Circulation: Ted Bean 399 McLeod Street, Ottawa 4


Increased attendance at meetings of the Centre in
recent months - particularly at meetings of the Observers
Group - suggests that we may be in for an unusually good
year. It is difficult to pinpoint any particular reasons
for the ebb and flow of astronomical interest from year to
year. The space age is here, and so excellently covered
by television that the Society probably does not gain much
membership thereby. More likely the coming to prominence
of enthusiastic individuals or groups within the Centre
has a larger effect than any other - by drawing in a new
circle of acquaintances and embarking on a new line of
active participation. Cases in point have been the re-activation
of the Small Dome a few years back, and more recently
the impetus of the Quiet Site. Another source of new
energy was the open elections and the periodical review of
Coordinatorships instituted by the Observers Group some
years ago, and before that there was the founding of
Astronotes as a medium for the exchange of ideas and for
the recording of observations and activities.

The 16-inch telescope project is currently the most
active endeavour of the Centre, yet a surprisingly large
fraction of the work is being done by a surprisingly small
fraction of the membership. A number of people have been
down near the site and failed to find it, so we are including
a map in this issue so detailed that nobody can ever
use that excuse again. Expenses on the telescope itself
are proving to be unexpectedly light through very fortunate
circumstances, but those on the Observatory are proving
heavy - mainly because the facilities there are going to
be far better than we ever envisaged. We never intended
a parking lot, but we have one. We never intended a warm
building to recover in, or sleep in if necessary, but we
have one. We intended a rude shelter for the telescope,
but it will be solid and commodious. The Trustees are
cheerfully shouldering whatever costs cannot obviously be
charged to the Telescope Fund, and their welcome to willing
workers at the site is one of those things that just cannot
be described...Only experience will carry the full savour.


Rick Lavery

At recent Observers Group meetings (Oct. and Nov.)
the films "Magnetic Force" and "The Violent Universe" were
shown. Some members have questioned the showing of the
first movie because it was a geophysical movie. There was
a two-fold reason for showing it. First, I felt that the
movie provided an excellent basis for the understanding of
aurora, a phenomenon which is observed often by Observers.
Also, it would be a timely movie as Dr. McDiarmid was to
address the Centre later in the month on that very subject.
Secondly, the Observers Group has avoided any theoretical
approach to astronomy in the last few years.
There are three basic forces which reoccur over and
over in discussions of nova, pulsars, etc. These are
gravity, magnetism, and nuclear forces. It happens that
the Dominion Observatory has a number of excellent films
which show us the actual magnitude and 'power' of gravitational
and magnetic forces.
"The Violent Universe" illustrated this point. Time
after time the narrator referred to the magnetic and
gravitational forces. So, to ever really understand any
theoretical aspect of astronomy, one needs a proper understanding
of the aforementioned forces.
And speaking of "The Violent Universe" - What a movie!
It visits many of the famous observatories and astronomers
in the world, and these were some of the interesting treats
of the film. There was footage of the great Japanese comet
hunter, T. Seki, at work with his instruments on a rooftop
in Tokyo. Also there was a simulation of the optical
discovery of the pulsar in the Crab nebula. Richard
Burton's poetic recitation provided an aesthetic balance
to the film.
My criticism of the film results from my nationalistic
nature. The movie must have cost the BBC a mint. So, we
Canadians should feel slighted at the small amount of
footage we received. The inter-continental radio inferometer
was a big achievement in radio astronomy and deserved
(I think) more coverage. But I hear there is a long
story behind this, so I will let sleeping dogs lie.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Will YOU be voted Observer of the Year? Not unless
you get busy and send in your honest but not necessarily
modest record - to the Awards Committee by Dec 15th. -Ed.


Ken Hewitt-White

Meteor observing has come along quite well in recent
months as we look forward to our last thirty nights of
observing for 1970. The usual autumn rains have dampened
only the coffins and have left our spirits high. Once
again the Orionid max. eluded us and the Leonid storm was
witnessed only as lion-sized snowflakes fluttering through
the night. So once again non-shower stuff has proved our
only resort and good results have been attained on the
Taurids, Piscids, Arietids, and other minor shower material.
In other years where we have observed only infrequently,
the major showers have been good to us. However, this
year where we have averaged an observation every 5.8 days,
the old reliables have let us down. To date, we have yet
to beat our very first observation of the year - Jan 2/3 -
which produced an unexpected 700 meteors.
The present total, then, of 6432 meteors is comprised
of only 1619 'major shower' meteors. In other years, this
small fraction has been much closer to 75% of the grand
total. In other words, this year we are obtaining a much
better idea of meteoric activity for a full 365 day period.
Filling in the gaps from other years, we find that we
have observed 78 days of any 365 day span; 76 of those
coming in the last 199 days (this from stats. taken only
1967-70). Clearly we have to do more winter observing but
taking only the May-December period will still give us a
nice long-period graph of activity. When (and if) Les
MacDonald's computer programme ever gets done - it is
currently under the guidance of Pete MacKinnon - we will
be able to compensate for moon and weather and create an

accurate graph.
By spacing out our observing programme for the next
few years we will be able to fill the present gaps. We
need not observe all those vacant nights. One observation
every few nights spaced evenly throughout the gap should
suffice nicely. The result of this visual and computer
analysis will give us a fine graph of general meteor activity
for the naked eye visible over a selected period of

Getting back to what I originally set out to describe;
that is, the Fall results, we find that this year's work
has contributed greatly towards reaching that end. Our
total of 6,432 so far brings us within shooting distance
of the 1968 and 1969 totals combined. Certainly, our
predictions made in May and again in August are coming
true. We have very nearly 10,000 sightings based on 55
nights work by 17 observers. For comparison we had worked
only 15 nights to this point last year with 14 observers
who had seen only 2804 meteors...not a bad improvement, eh?
We have observed every conceivable minor radiant in
the book and have good plots on several of them. The
plotting has received increased emphasis this past while
and a few individuals have taken it upon themselves to
learn the sky well enough to plot meteors from it. A
perfect knowledge of the sky is needed to plot well, and
in reverse, a good plot develops a perfect knowledge of
the sky. That seems a reasonable relationship conducive
to bettering your observational astronomy. Plotting will
become a major concern in 1971.

With only one month left in the year, we look forward
to no more than 30 nights of observing left. If this
business looks like fun (and we interpret that word very
loosely at the Quiet Site), why not get in on it? All
you need are a set of eyes in reasonable repair and a
body totally resistant to the harshness of an Ontario
winter. "Is there any place you'd rather be?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"...You see, only by being suspended aloft, by dangling my mind in the heavens and mingling my rare thought with the ethereal air, could I ever achieve strict scientific accuracy
in my survey of the vast empyrean.
Had I pursued my inquiries from down there on the ground, my data would be worthless. The earth, you see, pulls down the delicate essence of thought
to its own gross level."
-The Clouds, Aristophanes.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Our redoubtable Kenneth (H-W) not only has the style
to dish up statistics with verve and polish, but also the
eye to contribute that marvellous piece of Aristophanes.-Ed


Rick Lavery

I would like to ask those observers who have not
turned in their observations for the months listed below
to try and bring them to a meeting (Centre or Observers
Group) or mail them.
Observer May
June July August Sept Oct Nov
Brian Bartlow* 44 62 48 — —
Jon Buchanan 2 5 46 110 28 - -
Robert Dick 44 10 - - - - -
Ken Hewitt-White 64 50 42 42 37 58 -
Rick Lavery - - - 9 25 33 -
Peter Schlatter - — - - - 3 -
*Observed 72
for April
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Rick (Digger) Lavery

This month marked the first withdrawals of money from
the Fund. Unfortunately, I am neither a financial wizard
nor a general contractor, and I must admit some oversights.
Though we obtained the building for a mere $65 (the cost
of moving it there - our other quote was $250) and will
probably spend the budgeted $200 for the Observatory, I
overlooked the cost of installing Hydro service and the
cost of 'landscaping'. I did not realize that to have
hydro service installed the outlay would be about $100.
Also, we would never have got the building to the site
without the construction of the parking lot - to allow the
float to get into the site and turn around to get the
building into proper position.

So in reality the building will cost the Centre $250, but several people have pointed out that the cost of constructing a similar hut would be about $1000.

I would like to ask members to dig into their pockets again. I should also remind our senior members that contributions are tax-deductible.

Finally, should the members of the Centre feel that
the Telescope Fund is being mismanaged, I will submit my
resignation as Chairman of the Telescope Fund.