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ASTRONOTES ISSN 0048-8682
The Newsletter Magazine of the Ottawa Centre of the RASC
Vol. 17, No. 3 $2.00 a year March, 1978
Rolf Meier ................77 Meadowlands Dr. W
Earl Dudgeon..........545 Bathurst Ave..............
Barry Matthews 2237 Iris St.........................
FELLINI BUCHANAN'S FILM
If you missed the dinner meeting of January 27, 1978, you missed
the greatest film production of B & W (Buchanan & Welch). As the applause
roared through the RA Centre, feelings of joy crossed the
hearts of those who knew what it meant. Remembering back to those
summer days of 1977 will always be eerie for the Ottawa Centre. In a
little over a year before the official opening of IRO, the relocation
fund accumulated almost $5000 ($3300) in donations), which goes to
show how much the 40-cm telescope really means to its owners, we,
the Ottawa Centre. Greatest thanks goes to all involved, either physically,
financially, or otherwise, too numerous to mention.
THE JANUARY COORDINATOR'S MEETING
A meeting was held on January 29. The 1978 coordinators got together
and discussed the aims and goals of the Observer's Group for
the coming year. Basically, the coordinators would like to promote interest
in various fields of astronomy, mainly the less experienced but
enthusiastic members. A number of programs termed as "workshops"
will be available to members wishing to find out basic and background
information on particular astronomical subjects.
The coordinators decided to begin Observer's Group meetings at
8:00 p.m. in future months. Also discussed was he possibility of
monthly star parties.
The 1978 coordinators and executive is working hard to keep the
Ottawa Centre one of the best divisions in the country!
* * * * *
Renee Meyer and Marh Geekie
OBSERVER'S GROUP MEETING -
Renee Meyer and Mary Geekie
At 8:30 Chairman Peter MacKinnon called the meeting to order
with 57 people in attendance.
Peter appealed to the group to submit designs for the Ottawa
Centre's official seal. He requested that the designs be kept simple
and without human figures. Entries should be goven to Earl Dudgeon.
Barry Matthews informed us that a telescope loan library consisting
of three 60-mm refractors and one 90-mm reflector is available to
any member of the Ottawa Centre. Anyone wishing to borrow these
telescopes can contact Barry for more details.
Peter Mackinnon presented the group with various articles he had
acquired from recent literature, stating the recent discovery of water
molecules found in the distant galaxy NGC 253. The articles also stated
that H2O molecules have been found in meteorites.
The theme talk was delivered by Marg McKee, who discussed various
points of interest concerning variable stars. Items dealing with
this topic were as follows:
Types are eclipsing binaries,
in which one star
eclipses the other, and intrinsic,
red giants in which the
temperature and luminousity
vary. One can calculate
the distance from the Earth
of certain variable stars by
knowing th e ir absolute
magnitude, observed magnitude,
and period. Estimate
the magnitude of any
variable star by comparing
it with any two surrounding
stars, which must not be
variables, and of known
Observing variable stars with binoculars is an excellent introduction
to astronomy, and very helpful in identifying the constellations.
Fred Lossing told of the occulation of a star in the constellation of
Hercules by the asteroid Pallas. Ottawa is in a very favourable position
for observing this event, which occurs on May 28/29. The occulation
zone passes directly through Ottawa but may be altered as much as
300 km due to small uncertainties in the asteroid's movements.
The solar coordinator, Rick Wagner, introduced himself to he
group and outlined the solar program for this year.
Brian Burke, planetary coordinator, depicted the planet's locations
and the positioning of Jupiter's red spot. The red spot has changed in
colour (becoming pinkish-orange) but has remained the same in shape.
Doug George, in charge of comets, informed the group that he
plans to set up a "comet hunt".
Rolf Meier pointed out that five minor meteor showers will take
place in February. He plans to build a new set of meteor coffins for
IRO. He also discussed meteor observing by means of telescopes.
For the deep sky program, this month's observational constellation
is Gemini. Rolf also outlined the steps used in searching for supernovae.
Robert Dick dashed everybody's hopes that mirror kits cannot be
imported free of duty. But that isn't going to stop anyone, is it?
Ken Tapping displayed a few radio observations he had made
from his apartment block using his 40-cm radio telescope. He observed
the features on the sun's surface during various July sunsets.
Peter MacKinnon presented a few slides on recent displays of the
aurora borealis. He adjourned the meeting at 10:30.
* * * * *
WORKSHOP - FEBRUARY 18
An informal session was held at NRC with 10 people in attendance.
Discussion centered on stellar evolution, with lively discussion
revolving about black holes, pulsars, the speed of light, and the structure
of matter. The Hersprung-Russell diagram was explained in detail.
The date of the next session will be announced at the Observer's
Group meeting. The topic will be telescope making, and all those who
are now in their first try at mirror making should attend, as well as
those experienced enough to provide advice.
DINNER MEETING - JANUARY 27
The Annual Dinner meeting was held in the Canadian Room of
the RA Centre again this year, with 106 members and guests in attendance.
Reports were given by last year's officers, and a new slate of
officers elected (see the end of this issue).
Membership certificates were awarded to Doug Welch and Art
Fraser. The Observer of the Year award went to Rob Dick. The Merit
Award went to Peter MacKinnon and Rob Dick. The Variable Star
Award was not presented for last year.
The speaker was Dr. John M. MacLeod of the H.I.A., who spoke
on he subject "Large Molecules in Dark Interstellar Clouds".
The meeting ended about 11:30.
* * * * *
DEEP SKY FOR MARCH
Before we get to March, let me mention the winner for January.
Allen Cuda drew 3 of the eligible NGC objects, plus and additional 5
optional objects in Orion. I have also received a promise of observations
from Rick Wagner. Observations for February (Gemini) will be taken
at the March meeting.
The constellation for March is Ursa Major. Most of the objects
are galaxies. There are actually hundreds of them visible in amateur
telescopes, so I will narrow down the field. The eligible NGC-numbered
objects are as follows:
2681 3613 4013
2768 3631 4026
2841 3675 4036
2976 3726 4041
2985 3877 4051
3031 (M 81) 3893 4088
3034 (M 82) 3898 4100
3077 3938 4111
3079 3941 4157
3184 3949 4605
3310 3953 5322
3556 (M 108) 3982 5457 (M 101)
3587 (M 97) 3992 (M 109) 5474
3610 3998 5585
THE PLANETS IN MARCH
This month, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all in excellent position
for observations throughout the evening hours. Both Mars and Jupiter
are very high above the horizon at sunset. If you observe Mars you
will be able to see the northern polar cap and perhaps some other
surface features. During his month and the months ahead Mars will be
moving rapidly against the background of stars.
Jupiter's red spot is no longer red. The spot is now a very faint
pink-yellow in colour.
Although Saturn is lower in he east than the other two planets, it
will be high enough above the horizon to observe from about 20:00
EST and throughout the rest of the night.
On the 24th of this month, Mercury will be at greatest elongation
of 19° east. Mercury will be 16° above the horizon at sunset then, and
this month will be one of the best times to observe its phases. Let me
know what you see.
* * * * *
Brian Stokoe has calculated some central-meridian transit times of
Jupiter's red spot based on recent observations and using the spot's
rotation period of 9h 55m 35s. They are as follows (EST):
Mar. 5 01:49 Mar. 19 23:10
21:40 Mar. 20 19:01
Mar. 6 17:32 Mar. 22 00:48
Mar. 7 03:27 20:39
23:18 Mar. 23 16:31
Mar. 8 19:10 Mar. 24 02:26
Mar. 10 00:56 22:17
20:47 Mar. 25 18:08
Mar. 11 16:39 Mar. 26 23:55
Mar. 12 02:34 Mar. 27 19:46
22:25 Mar. 29 01:33
Mar. 13 18:17 21:24
Mar. 15 00:03 Mar. 30 17:15
19:54 Mar. 31 23:02
Mar. 17 01:41 Apr. 1 18:53
21:32 Apr. 3 00:40
Mar. 18 17:24 20:31
Mar. 19 03:19 Apr. 5 02:18
* * * * *
The photo reproduction in last month's issue of Astronotes was
terrible. In case we have better luck this time, let me try that photo of
Jupiter again. Once more, the picture was taken on December 31,
1977, at 23:30 EST using the Centre's 40-cm telescope. Exposure time
was 2 seconds on High Contrast Copy film at f/60, eyepiece projection.
* * * * *
METEORS AND COMETS
What do they have in common? Meteor showers often occur
when the Earth crosses the orbital path of a comet. Evidently, comets
strew debris in their wake. It is probably mainly icy, and rarely reaches
the ground. The older the comet, the more the meteor shower is
spread out. Some meteor showers may remain even after the comet
has disintegrated. Non-shower meteors are usually stony or metallic,
and are more closely related to the asteroids. The next major shower
is the April Lyrids.
The photographs here were taken with the 15-cm f/5 reflector
shown opposite, which was built by the author about 6 years ago as
his second telescope. The solar eclipse above was of the total eclipse
of June 30, 1973 off the coast of Africa. The picture was taken by Cathy
Hall aboard the Canberra. I believe it was a 5-second exposure, originally
on Ektachrome film. This is to remind readers that there will
be a total eclipse in Canada in less than a year (February 26, 1979) near
Winnipeg, and the time to start planning for it is now.
Rick Wagner, solar co-ordinator, reports a good deal of sunspot
activity. The picture on the opposite page was taken by the author on
February 4, 1978, exposure time 1/15 second on High Contrast Copy
film using a Criterion filter together with the telescope opposite.
North is up. Rick says that the group in the upper right went on to
become one of the largest in recent years, becoming naked (protected)-
eye and covering eleven thousand-millionths of the solar disc.
Without the constellations there is no way an amateur could find
his way around the sky. Looking at the sky you wonder how the
ancients ever saw the bears and hunters and all the other things. One
could only suppose that they had fantastic imaginations. In any case,
knowing the constellations is, I think, the primary objective of any
amateur (besides having a good time). For those who know the constellations,
do you remember the first time you got interested in the
stars? Well, the sky must have looked pretty well a big mess, as it did
Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper, is probably the best known of the
constellations (in the northern hemisphere) owing to its seven stars
that are so obvious. Did you know hat the Big Bear actually looks like
a big bear? You can see it from the city. The whole group of sixteen
stars that form the bear covers a very large region of the sky, which is
probably why it isn't so obvious to the untrained eye.
On the other hand, Ursa Minor, the little bear, is a difficult constellation
at first because of its dim stars, even if you find Polaris. I
know by experience that the easiest way to learn the star patterns is to
take a star map with the constellations outlined and starting from the
known constellations work your way to the unknown. The Great Bear
is a good starting point as it is obvious. It might be a good idea to
learn the circumpolar constellations first because on any clear moonless
night you can be sure that they are there; they never set. Once
you've become familiar with these (except maybe Camelopardis and
Lynx) it will be much easier to go on to others.
The end of spring, summer, and the beginning of autumn are
most favourable simply because at other times it is too cold. Those of
you who don't know very much beyond the Big Dipper and Orion,
don't give up. Keep on trying and one night you will look up and
know what you're looking at. Knowing the constellations is not only
fun but useful for meteor observing, deep sky, planetary observations,
and comet hunting. Let the unknown be known. Know your constellations.
* * * * *
Right on, Frank. One of the best books I have seen is "The Stars"
by H. A. Rey. — Ed.
At centimetre wavelengths, solar radio emissions may be divided
into two components. Firstly, there is an almost uniform emission from
the whole disc, which is due to the sun being a hot body, and secondly,
an enhanced emission from the various active regions which
may be present.
Measurements of the solar radiation at a wavelength of 2.9 cm are
made daily by the author. The antenna of the radio telescope used has
a diameter of 40 cm, which gives the instrument a resolution of about
5 degrees. Since the sun has an angular diameter of about 0.5 degrees,
it cannot be mapped by such a small system. Instead, the radiometer
measures the average radio brightness of the solar disc. This quantity,
containing contributions from the various active regions present,
makes an excellent measure of the level of solar activity.
In order to map the active radio regions and to compare these
with optical features, an antenna diameter of 35 metres would be
needed. An alternative method is to make use of a solar eclipse,
where the lunar limb acts as an occulating bar. As the lunar limb
crosses the sun, it gradually blocks out the radio emissions from the
various active regions. Observations of his type can be made by means
of small instruments but are limited by the rarity of solar eclipses.
Another method for mapping the sun was discovered accidentally
by the author while using the radio telescope described earlier in this
article. This instrument is installed on the balcony of a top floor apartment
and has a clear view of the Gatineau Hills. During July, 1977, for
curiosity's sake, radio observations were made of the sun setting behind
the hills. The gradual decrease in signal level was recorded as the
sun disappeared. A typical observation is shown in figure 1. (The optical
sunset occurs before the radio sunset because the radio waves are
refracted more by the atmosphere.)
When these recordings were re-examined a few days ago (January,
1978), it was noted that the decay curve did not have the smoothness
consistent with the gradual disappearance of a uniformly-bright disc. It
seemed possible that the individual active regions were being detected.
This was unexpected. The Gatineau Hills did not give the impression
of being an ideal occulting device and, as in the optical situation,
low-elevation observations ot the sun at centimetre wavelengths suffer
from atmospheric refraction and scattering. Nevertheless, the observations
were processed to see if they contained anything useful. If active
regions were infact being deteced, point-by-point measurement of the
slope of the record (ie differentiation) would yield a one-dimensional
map of the solar disc, which could be compared with published data.
These radio "maps" correspond very well with the published data.
This is evident in figure 2. The solar disc maps are those published by
NOAA, and the traces below it are the author's observations.
It is evident that the combination of high-rise apartment (which
minimizes the effects of interference from ground reflection), Gatineau
Hills, and small microwave telescope provides a useful tool for
making solar observations.
Unfortunately, the author is moving in May!
PROGRESS ON THE IRO RADIO TELESCOPE
Ken Tapping and Frank Roy
The Ottawa Centre is well underway to having one of the most
powerful radio telescopes (radiometer) on his planet.
Although the "Great Canadian Winter" has stopped all work on
the antennas, work on the electronics is still going forward. Construction
of the thirteen modules is essentially complete and assembly of
the modules into the final system is well under way.
In order to make the radio telescope more flexible, it is divided
into three subsystems, each built into a rack-mounting drawer. These
are a power drawer, containing the stabilized power supplies, an
IF/signal-processing drawer, containing the main part of the radiometer,
and an RF drawer. The power drawer was completed and tested
and, at the Radio Telescope Group meeting on February 9, the
IF/signal processing drawer was assembled and found to work.
When the unit was first flicked on by Jim Zilinsky, no signal was
getting through the IF amp. This was soon solved with some signal
tracing by Ken and Rolf.
The next step was to see if the signal was getting through the LF
amp. This being one of the modules that Frank Roy built, he was asked
to take it apart. With machine guns to his head and Ken Casselman
with a whip in his hands, he did not hesitate and immediately proceeded
to the operation. After taking it apart (this was very painful)
we began to signal trace. We solved the problem and turned the power
After putting the LF back together again, we proceeded to check
the other four modules. After looking at the scope for ten minutes,
displaying all kinds of square waves and other pretty patterns, Ken
assured us that everything was what it was supposed to be, and we believed
With some luck the RF drawer will be finished before the end of
March. The complete system will then be tested in the lab and then
— maybe — tried at IRO with some temporary antennas.
* * * * *
AN OLD BOOK YOU SAY
First of all, I would like to clarify a popular misconception. The
article that appeared in the January issue under the same title as above
was mistakenly credited to our fine editor. This was due to no fault of
Rolf's, but there is a slight indication that some members of our printing
staff have difficulty in telling the difference between Rolf and
A few months ago I added what was to become one of my most
prized old books to my collection, "Dick's Sidereal Heavens". Of
course, this title has nothing to do with our own Rob Dick.
"Dick's Sidereal Heavens" is a beautiful book with a cover the colour
of a summer sky. It was printed in 1871, with classical gilt-edged
pages. The frontispiece is typical of the late 1800's. To show you what
I mean I would like to quote a few of the lines:
"The Sidereal Heavens and other subjects connected with
"As illustrative of the character of the diety and of an infinity
"or the gratification of amateur observers posessed of telescopes,
particular descriptions have been given of the positions
of some of the more remarkable phenomena in the
sidereal heavens, that they may be induced to contemplate
them with their own eyes."
This fine volume has such diverse and challenging subjects as:
Chapter I A general view of the starry heavens
Chapter II On the arrangement of the stars into constellations
Chapter III Natural arrangements and delineation of the
Chapter XV On unknown Celestial Bodies
Chapter XVIII On the physical and moral state of beings that
may inhabit other worlds
Some of the more interesting of the list of engravings:
Figure 8 mode of finding the annual parallax by double
Figure 13 phenomenon of double stars
Figure 41 telescopic view of the stars in Orion's sword
Figure 60 various kinds of nebulousities jointed to nebulae
Figure 81 view of a comet with a bent tail
Figure 87 the comet of 1744, with its tail divided into six
As you can see with these subjects and illustrations, it is no wonder
that I consider old books a treasure, and treasures that should be
savoured and saved for future astronomers.
EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT OF THE THIRD VEGAN EXPEDITION
TO SOL II (11,300 AM)-----
Ever since the discovery of the remains of ancient
life upon Sol III, that planet has been producing a steady
stream of surprises for Vegan archaeologists and biologists
As you know, our second expedition established beyond a
doubt that life once existed there. The sensation caused
by the discovery that life was possible under such cold
conditions, in the region of a dim yellow dwarf star,
emitting such a low neutrino flux, has now died down. But
the questions remain.
In the last few years, many theories have been
proposed to explain the sudden extinction of life upon
that planet. The one now generally accepted is that it
was caused by the appearance of large quantities of the
lethal element oxygen in the planet's atmosphere, possibly
as a consequence of the irresponsible development of
It is indeed surprising that the roots of the principal
religion of the Vegan Empire sprang from this odd world.
During the third expedition, the northern tundra of one
of the major continents was explored. A important
discovery was made a few xtats west of the site of the
ancient settlement "OTT’wA" (these hieroglyphs have not yet
been translated). This discovery comprised a small mound
with a standing stone towards its northern end. The stone
itself is of great interest because it is completely unlike
the local rock species. Studies of the soils in the
region of the monument soon yielded an even more important
find. Roughly south of the mound and stone were found the
remains of what seem to have been eight posts. These were
arranged in two groups of four, approximately equally
Dating of the remains made it possible to establish
the time the monument was erected and led to the important
discovery that - at the time of building - all the posts
lay on a precise east-west line. Almost equally remarkable
was the fact that the separation between the extreme east
and west points was exactly one Gurn. These findings
indicate that the astronomical knowledge and surveying
ablility of the builders were far more advanced than
Beneath the remains of these posts were found small
decorated metallic discs, thought to be offerings, which
indicated that the structure had primarily a religious
The alignment of the posts was such that they indicated
the precise points on the horizon of sunrise and sunset on
the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. This, along with the
discovery of the remains of a small temple immediately to
the north of the mound (now believed to be a tomb), suggests
that the site would have been associated with fertility
rites held at the time of the vernal equinox and possibly
some kind of harvest celebration at the autumnal equinox.
Excavation of the tomb would probably yield much of
archaelogical value, but as it may be the tomb of M. Himself,
this is of course not permissible.
Owing to the dense nature of the soil at the site of
the temple, decomposition of organic material has been
partially inhibited, and several thin laminae of organic,
fibrous material nave been found. Chemical treatments
have shown the presence of hieroglyphs, such as "IRQ”,
"Meier", "comet", "ick", "escop", and "Clouds". A piece of
metal oxide with "IRC" on it was discovered rather later.
These have been interpreted as follows. "IRRO" or "IRG"
is the name of the deity (the worship of Whom is now
widespread on the Vegan worlds), "Meier" was the chief
priest or prophet, and "comet", "ick", and "escop" were
priests. "Clouds" was probably the Enemy, or "anti-IRO".
Tycho and Clavius photo by Rolf Meier
Clavius is the "2001" crater. Exposure time
3 seconds on High Contrast Copy film. 22:19 EST on
January 18, 1978, 40-cm telescope at f/60.
OFFICERS OF THE OTTAWA CENTRE OF THE RASC FOR 1978
Honorary President: Dr. C.S. Beals, Manotick, 692-3247
President: Dr. F.P. Lossing, 95 Dorothea Dr., 733-2715
1st Vice President: Mr. P. MacKinnon, Larrimac, 827-2109
2nd Vice President: Mr. R. Wlochowicz, Carlsbad Sprgs,822-1799
Secretary: Hr. E.H. Dudgeon, 54-5 Bathurst Ave., 733-8059
Treasurer: Mr. K.F. Tapping, 1101-230 Brittany, 749-1398
Librarian: Mr. S.A. Mott, 2049 Honeywell Ave., 722-0957
Recorder: Dr. A.W. Woodsworth, 24-2111 Montreal Rd., 741-2511
National Council #1: Dr. A.W. Woodsworth (address above)
National Council #2 : Mr. R.G. Meier, 77 Meadowlands, 224-1200
Mr. T.E.D. Bean, 399 McLeod St., K2P 1A5, 233-8856
Mr. R. Dick, 1855 Wembly Ave., K2A 1A6, 733-5809
Mr. A. Fraser, Box 80, Vernon, K0A 3J0, 821-2710
Mr. B.L. Matthews, 2237 Iris St., 225-6600
Mr. R.G. Meier (address above)
Observer's Group Officers
Chairman: Peter MacKinnon (address above)
Vice Chairman: Ken Tapping (address above)
Lunar and Planetary: Brian Burke, 1365 Bank St., 521-8856
Instrumentation: Rob Dick (address above)
Recorders: Mary Geekie, Renee Meyer
Deep Sky: Rolf Meier (address above)
Solar: Rick Wagner, 1605 Devon St., K1G 0S6, 733-7714
Variable Stars: Marg McKee, Box 197, RR#3, Manotick, K0A 2N0
Radio: Ken Tapping (address above)
Meteors: Rolf Meier (address above)
Comets and Asteroids: Doug George, 88 beaver Ridge, 224-3611
Hospitality: Ted bean (address above)
# # # # # # # # #
Articles for the April issue of Astronotes are due
by March 24. Anyone may make a contribution. Articles of
any astronomical nature are accepted, and on related
sciences, instrumentation, etc. Of particular interest
would be accounts of observations, especially photographs
What have you observed lately? Do you nave any little
theories you would like to share? What do you think of
meetings? Have you seen a fireball? Have you built any...
M s. Rosemary Freeman, RASC
The Royal A s t r o n o m i c a l Soc. of Can.
124 Merton St.,
TORONTO, Ont. M4S 2Z2