AstroNotes 1980 March Vol: 19 issue 03



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Volume. Issue,ISSN
The Newsletter Magazine of the Ottawa Centre of the RASC
Vol. 19, No. 3 $2.00 a year February, 1980
Editor........Rolf Meier. 77 Meadowlands Dr.W...224-1200
Addresses.....Jacqui Tapping..61 Oval Dr., Aylmer...681-1186
Circulation...Barry Matthews..2237 Iris S t .....225-6600
Dear Sir:
Perhaps you could give me some advice, since the size
and makeup of our group is similar to yours.
About 9 years ago, we made a 12-inch telescope available to our members. Since that time, it has been used
frequently b y several dozen members. I had occasion to see
the instrument recently, and I was shocked by its condition.
An eyepiece was scratched, a protective cover had a tear
in it, an improper fuse was installed in the drive system,
a piece of insulation had worn off a wire, and an unauthorized repair had been made to its storage case. Since care
of the instrument is now my responsibility, what do you
suggest I do?
Jay Miller,
New Jersey Skywatchers
Here is my advice to you:
1) Change the lock on the case so that no one who left
your group over the last 9 years returns to abuse the
2) Allow no one else to repair the instrument, as it is
now solely your responsibility.
3) Make it as difficult as possible for your members to
use the instrument. This will avoid further degradation
while at the same time punish past users.
4) Continue your past practice of using the instrument
infrequently and make infrequent spot inspections, criticizing all users for any minor faults you find.
-Ed.Mary Geekie and Renee Meyer
Chairman Rob Dick opened the meeting at 7:55 pm with
54 people in attendance, of which 18.5% were non-members.
The group was reminded that RASC pins are on sale for $1.
The IRO update: the road to IRO is now snowfree; keyholders are reminded that the lock has been changed; the
door has been found to be in bad condition. A star night
was to be held at the home of Brian Stokoe on February
15 or 16. A public star night at IRO wil take place sometime in March.
Rob Dick related to the group his interesting excursion to Barbados. He and Doug Welch took a Celestron 8
and a 4¼-inch RFT to view various southern heavenly
bodies and constellations. Among the objects observed
were the False Cross, Crux, Eta Ca n n a e , and various open
clusters. Rob and Doug visited the Barbados Astronomical
Society, which received a grant of $6000 from the Canadian
government to build a 3-storey observatory housing an
f/5 12½- inch reflector, and in which a planetarium formerly
existed. Their egos were boosted when they pointed out
the Tarantula Nebula and the Magellanic Cloud to the
people of Barbados. Perhaps their most bizarre experience
was observing Orion at 3 am in Barbados shorts. Rob's
talk was accompanied by many interesting slides.
Bill Donaldson recorded a sunspot average for January of 84.0 9 . He stated that on January 4 he observed
89 spots, but this number dropped to 40 spots in 48 hours.
Aurora was not observed up to Bill's expectations. Bill
displayed a series of pictures by John Molson showing the
locations of sunspots.
Dave Fedosiewich proceeded with the comet review.
Comet Bradfield-Candy, of magnitude 5, is moving northwest and by the end of February, it will pass right by the
Rob McCallum introduced five variable stars which he
would like to see observed by the group, and thus he provided charts for their observation. Rob also arbitrarily
appointed himself as the person to coordinate displays
for the General Assembly. Anyone interested in submitting
displays should contact Rob.
Rolf Meier told the group that Edmund Scientific is
offering a $ 500 cash or $750 Edmund certificate as a prize
in a contest for group projects. Rolf also related tothe group the excursion of 4 Ottawa members to the AAVSO
convention in Boston in October. Rolf displayed slides
of the Harvard Observatory, located 20 miles west of
Boston. Various equipment located at the site were refractors, cameras, and the 60-inch refractor, which was at
one time the world's largest telescope. Also displayed
were slides of the earth's shadow and of the graze expedition to Algonquin Park. Rolf then proceeded with this
month's astrophotography topic - two methods of photographing the moon. Since the moon is so bright, a clock
drive is not needed. The 2 methods are direct, using no
eyepiece or lense with the camera at prime focus, and indirect, using an eyepiece and lens, and a stand for support
of the camera. Rolf then showed several slides of the
moon, an excellent view of earthshine, and a picture of a
moon rock.
Frank Roy displayed his home-constructed variable
frequency oscillator, which changes the line frequency to
higher and lower frequencies. In this way, when photographin celestial objects, one can make fine corrections
in the drive rate. Frank told the group of his reception
of a newsletter called Meteor News. It is issued at a
cost of a year.
Brian Burke discussed the various reasons for different coloured stars. He illustrated this with the example
of the Crimson Star, which has a variable magnitude of
5.9 to 10, and is similar to a red giant but has a different spectral type. Brian also related to the group the
graze attempt at Kemptville, which was not seen because
of clouds. He then proceeded with the planet review.
Jupiter comes to opposition on February 24 at 1 pm, and
Mars comes to oppostltion on the 25th. The latter is not
favourable. Venus, with a magnitude of -3.6, could be
observed in the daytime for greater contrast, but it will
also appear above the western horizon after sunset.
Saturn comes to opposition next month. Brian then displayed photos taken on the graze expedition to ARO. There
is not another worthwhile graze until May. However,
there will be a photoelectric attempt to observe two
occultations of stars of magnitude 3.8 and 3.9 on February 2 and 23.
Rob Dick adjourned the meeting at 10 :46 pm.
We would like to extend thanks to Mary Geekie and
Renee Meyer for devoting their valuable time in order to
compile an Observer's Group Directory.
# # # # # # # # #
-3-On Saturday night, February 16, a star night was held
at Brian Stokoe's home. The star night was held for the
benefit of the members of the Ottawa Centre. Unfortunately,
by the time the sun went down it was quite cloudy and it
seemed as though the clouds would ruin the evening.
Well, a little bit of cloud couldn't hold off some
members from coming by and by 9 o'clock 6 of us had shown
up and the clouds had decided to disperse. So out came the
telescopes: Rob Dick has brought along both his 8-inch
and 4¼-lnch telescopes and Brian took out his 14-inch
The telescopes were then turned to Jupiter and Mars
to reveal what many of us thought were among the best views
we had ever had of these planets. In both the 8-inch and
14-inch the polar cap of Mars stood out like a sore thumb
and dark features were easily visible on the disc.
On Jupiter, an immensity of details could be seen
around the Jovian belts. We also took a look at a few
deep sky objects but the cloud cover gave a poor view of
these objects.
To keep us warm, coffee, hot chocolate, and cookies
were served up in Brian's kitchen, and to close the night
we took a peak at rising Saturn.
From now on, we hope to have more star nights in or
around the city. This one was not too successful on the
attendance side mainly because the weather may have scared
a few. But the advantages of having a star night in the
city are obvious and we hope to have more in the future.
# # # # # # # # #
From the March, 1970 issue: "...there was agreement that
some degree of publicity for meetings of the Centre would
be desirable...The Observer's Group were proposing to make
a film of activities for presentation at high schools and
other group meetings in an effort to stimulate interest in
astronomy and their allocation of funds was increased to
$60 to aid in this and other efforts."
-4-Due to an unexpected busy schedule, I have resigned
from my post as instrumentation coordinator. This is an extremely important coordinatorship right now because there
are presently at least twenty members building telescopes
and these people need someone who can help them when problems arise in the different phases of telescope making.
The instrumentation group has the potential of becoming the most active group in the Ottawa Centre after the
Observer's Group. Thus, in order to make sure that members
keep building telescopes, Ted Bean has agreed to take over
the coordinatorship for the remainder of the year.
Ted, whom most of you know perhaps as the hospitality
man, is one of our best telescope makers. His experience
stems from the construction of different sizes of telescopes, including help with the 16-inch of IRO . I wish him
luck in this very busy coordinatorship and I think we will
all benefit from his knowledge and advice. You can reach
Ted at 224-7318.
# # # # # # # # #
After 13 years of vigorous use, my camera has gone to
meet its maker for good. Fortunately it was covered for
insurance, but not for as much as I thought. Perhaps you
may find the same to be true of your camera.
You may be paying premiums for coverage equal to the
amount you paid for your camera. But if your camera is
destroyed the insurance company may be obliged to give you
only the cash value of your camera. In my case, the cost of
a 13-year-old camera was only half the original purchase
price and half the cost of a new camera with comparable
I was told by my agent that the camera should have
been regularly appraised, and the coverage reduced to the
appriased value. This saves you from wasting money on
premium coverage you will never see.
Your policy may get around this, but I suggest you
check it out with your agent.
# # # # # # # # #As winter warms into spring, the planets rise
earlier in the evening. Members and friends may veiw
these objects with the largest refractor in Canada at the
Museum of Science and Technology on St. Laurent Blvd.
Reservations for the Friday night program are made
early in the week. The evening is spent viewing slides
and movies in the auditorium and looking through the
15-inch refractor.
The program starts at 7:30 pm and even though spring
is near, dress warmly.
# # # # # # # # #
The Indian River Observatory will be the site of this
month's star night. The date of the star night will be
either Friday the 14 th or Saturday the 15th, with a
starting time of 20 :00 EST. The theme will be the planets.
This will no doubt be one of the best opportunities you
will have to observe so many of the planets in one night.
At this star night you will see Saturn just past opposition and its rings will just about be edge-on as seen
from the earth. All of you with telescopes are encouraged
to bring them out to IRO. If you have a camera, bring
that too. A good all-round film to load your camera with
is Ektachrome 20 0 . This star night should also be about
the best chance you will have to observe the elusive
zodiacal light. This faint glow should be visible shortly
after the end of evening twilight in the vest, extending
along the ecliptic. Although there will not be a central
meeting place for rides for this star night, do not hesitate to ask for a ride. If you have a car, offer members
a ride, especially the younger ones because chances are
they have not yet been out ot IRO. Let's make this one of
the best star nights we have ever had. See you there.
Articles for the April Fool's issue of Astronotes
are due by March 21.Anybody who uses the 16-inch telescope at IRO knows
that the scope needs a new cover to protect it from dust.
If anybody has a large sheet that they are not using and
they would like to donate to the observatory it would be
greatly appreciated.
Also, a few years ago, some of you may remember that
I had built a replacement cover (dust cap) for the 16-inch
with the letters IRO on it. Unfortunately an accident
occured which ruined the work I had done on it.
I do not have the time to make a new one. If, however, one of you is interested in making a new cover then
I would like to know about it. The procedure that I would
recommend is that of examining the old cover and the upper
part of the telescope and then sitting down with a piece of
paper and pencil and draw up a design. The cover could be
based on the old one. One thing that you should try to
put into your cover is a method of holding it solidly to
the tube so it dosen't fall accidentally.
You can contact me at 777-4965 for approval of funds.
# # # # # # # # #
Both star maps right show the same area of the sky,
measuring 3 hours of R A by 36 degrees of Dec. Each map
shows some of the nine first, second, and third magnitude
stars in that region. The first map is oriented with north
at the top. The second map has been rotated 0°, 90°, 180°,
or 270°. Can you orient this second map correctly, and
combine the two maps, to find the hidden but familiar
winter star pattern?
February's Astrotatlon starred Orion.
Magnitudes: from Norton's Star
As many of you are aware, there are numerous spectacular deep-sky objects in the southern sky which are forever hidden from view at latitude 45°N by an accident of
geometry. Despite the fact that there is always something
new to be found with the IRO 16, many of us would like to
examine some of the southern spectacles with a sizable
telescope, if just for a few hours. With this in mind,
Rob Dick and I took advantage of a chance to head down to
Barbados over the Christmas holidays. Rob brought along
his 4¼-inch RFT and I my Celestron 8. Despite the extra
weight, the irate cab drivers, and getting searched at
customs (all due to the Celestron!) the effort was well
worth it.
The evening we arrived was clear, and we decided to
set up the scopes and get acquainted with the new sky. The
orientation of the sky at latitude 13°N is quite disturbing. Imagine Orion passing nearly overhead and the moon
going 10 degrees north of the zenith.
The next day we made a fortunate discovery. One of
the notices on our hotel's bulletin board was an invitation
by the Barbados Astronomical Society to "do something
completely different this Friday night". With that sort
of flyer, Rob and I figured we would really hit it off
with these observers.
A phone call put us in contact with John-Mike Peterkln
of the BAS. He offered to pick us up that very afternoon
and give us a tour of the observatory. We accepted, of
The observatory is an amateur astronomer's dream.
Perched on an escarpment on the southern side of the island,
their 12½-inch f/5 reflector has an unobstructed view of
the entire southern horizon. If I remember correctly, the
name of the structure is the Harry Bayley Observatory,
after the founder of the group. The observatory itself is
a magnificent three-storey structure with a meeting room
on the ground floor - where a planetarium used to be - and
the dome and telescope on top. Heating bills are quite
low and they have little problem with snow removal. Unfortunately, as the island is densely populated, there is an
abundance of lights nearby. These, however, are not too
much of a problem.
The BAS charges visitors $1 to $2 to be shown the
sky, but John-Mike kindly offered us the use of the
grounds and the observatory gratis since we were with thePresident
R. Wlochowicz
P.O. BOX 6222, OTTAW A
K2A 1T3
J. Tapping
DATE: Thursday, March 13, 1980
Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
8:15 p.m.
"Astronomy and Molecules"
The investigation of the spectral characteristics of the radiation received
from astronomical bodies has been one of the most powerful means of determining their
properties. For several decades the study of atomic spectra was the principal tool
for such research, but with the recent advances in radio, infra-red and ultra-violet
observational techniques, molecular spectroscopy has increased in importance. The
interplay between laboratory studies of molecular spectra and astronomical observations
will be illustrated by some examples and the nature of future work will be considered.
DATE: Wednesday, April 23, 1980
(Please note the change of date)
SPEAKER: Dr. P.A. Feldman
Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
8:15 p.m.
"The Vela Supernova: The
'Once and Future Star' of
the Sumerians?"
Several years ago, explorer-linguist-author Michanowsky suggested that the
supernova explosion which gave rise to the Vela supernova remnant and pulsar was
observed and recorded by the Sumerians. Building on this, Michanowsky also put forward
the extraordinary hypothesis that it was precisely the impact of this event on Sumerian
culture that led to its later development of the arts of civilisation: astronomy,
writing and mathematics. These ideas will be examined in the light of modern astronomical knowledge and early mesopotamian archaeology and culture.
The above lectures will be held in the Main Auditorium, N.R.C., 100 Sussex Drive, Ottawa.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Please note that whenever possible, meeting notices and other information sheets will
be distributed inside "Astronotes".RASC. Sure enough, every clear night we appeared at the
observatory to avail ourselves of the site!
Not the least of the rewards of the arrangement was
the opportunity to meet other observers in their group.
We were quite shocked to find that most of them were more
interested in northern objects than in southern objects.
On our first night we met Bill Sutherland, who is quite
active and turned up most of the nights we were there.
Bill was enthusiastic to discuss and compare the workings
of our group and observatory with theirs. Another night,
we met Leo Branch, who has been an active member of the
group for 8 years. One of the amusing things we learned
‘ form our chats was that the Canadian government had recently contributed $ 5000 to aid in the upkeep of the observatory. We were also invited to help host one of their
Friday public star nights. Much to our surprise, many of
those who turned up were from our hotel.
We were also invited to an amateur astronomer lunch
with Janice and Phil Stahl, who are the administrators
behind the BAS. Janice is also well-known for her ability
as an observer. At the lunch we met Walter (whose last
name eludes me) who is an active AAVSO member from New
Hampshire. He is cruising the Carribean on his yacht.
Rob and I accepted an invitation to board his yacht and
trade "astronomer stories" and such.
The skies, of course, were fabulous. Using my
Celestron, I added at least 50 new deep-sky objects to my
list. I will mention a few of the more spectacular objects I saw with the Celestron using a 40-mm Erfle.
NGC 55 00h 14 .0m 39° 20' S (1980 ) This is quite a large
sliver-type galaxy. It has a very peculiar dust obscuration on one half that results in a patchy appearance.
NGC 2477 07h 50 .5m 38° 25' S (1950) Despite the large
number of clusters in the southern Milky Way, this one
definately stands out as one of the finest. It is easy
to locate and posesses that stardust quality shared by
only a few other clusters in the sky.
Eta Carinae 10h 4 4 .4m 59° 36' S (1980 ) Magnificent.
When this showpiece finally reached the meridian, it
spanned the entire 1½—degree field of the eyepiece. Both
a cluster and a nebula, Eta Carinae certainly has it all
over the lagoon. A must.
Tarantula Nebula 0 5h 39.9m 69°04' S (1950) Promising,but too near the horizon to see well. This object must be
quite a sight from south of the equator. There are lots
of other objects in adjacent fields since the nebula lies
in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Jewel box 12h 50 .6m 60° 05' S (1950) A small cluster of
bright stars with a beautiful red M-type star near the
center. Very nice.
Omega Centauri 13h 25.6m 17° 12' S (1980) W ow!!! This
was the most impressive object of the trip. Both Rob and
I found ourselves staring for minutes at a time at this
beast. It was fully resolved right across the center in
the Celestron. Don't miss it.
NGC 5128 13h 24.2m 42° 54' S (1980 ) Commonly known as
the radio source Centaurus A, this is a spherical galaxy
with a swath of dust across the center. This feature is
much more prominent in photos that is is visually, but
the obscuration is certainly visible. Intriguing.
One of the few faults of Carribean sites for observing is the presence of a degree or two of cumulus cloud
that always obscures the sky near the horizon. The air
was also never quite as transparent as one would find at
a mountain site. All this seems like a small price to
pay, though, for the opportunity to observe Orion in
short sleeves. (As you know, Orion usually wears hunter's
In sum, then, we would like to thank all the members
of the BAS who so kindly extended their hospitality to us
and helped make the trip unforgettable. I'm sure Rob and
I will be back no bother them some more the very first
opportunity we get.
# # # # #####
A telescope for observing the planets. Description:
used; with eyepieces and mount; less than $200. Call
Mr. John Seddon, 749-0327 before 11 pm.
# # # ######THE PLANETS IN MARCH Brian Burke
This will be an excellent month to observe the major
planets. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible almost
all night. Also, Venus is well up in the west at sunset
and you will be able to observe it for about 4 hours.
If you missed the edge-on orientation of Saturn's
rings back in October, you will have another opportunity
to see the effect this month. On the 12th at about
10 :30 EST, the rings of Saturn will appear edge-on with
respect to the esrth. Everyone with the necessary equipment should attempt to photograph Saturn at this time.
On the 13th of the month, Saturn will be at opposition.
A recent observation of Jupiter revealed some interesting features. Using Brian Stokoes C-14 at 400 power
at the February 16 star night, a number of us observed
a small white spot in the southern hemisphere and a
definite darker region in one of the dark belts of the
northern hemisphere of Jupiter.
Mars was also observed at the star night. The
northern polar cap was clearly visible as well as many
surface markings. The high, thin clouds had a steadying
effect on the atmosphere which allowed the use of high
power at the star night.
Finally, this month spring arrives one day earlier
than most years. Do y o u know why?
Last summer I completed my 6-inch refractor and
mounted it beside our house in Ottawa's west end. However, I have had little time to use it. So it is very rewarding when I do use it to see something exciting. On
February 3 and 10 the sun produced several flares which I
may have observed visually. These flares were recorded
at radio wavelengths by members of the radio group in
A little after 11 am EST I set up th e refractor to see
how my new Tuthill Solar Screen would perform. Although
the seeing was not good, during steady moments the resolution was very good, about 1 second of arc. During these
moments the detail was very impressive, resolving the
umbrs/penumbra border as a feathery edge, somewhat un­defined and very difficult to draw accurately. On the
southern side of a sunspot group located about 15° west
of the center of the disc there was a bright spot. There
was good contrast between it and the penumbra. I returned
a few minutes l a ter and found another had developed east
of it in the same group. Jim Zillinsky stopped by on his
way to IRO and said there was flare activity on the sun.
In the middle of the penumbra of another larger group,
bordered on three sides by umbra, was a much larger bright
area. This group was south of the center of the sun's
disc, the largest, group on the disc that day. One, or
all three, may have been the visual manifestation of the
flare. No aurora activity has been reported.
The next weekend, on February 10 , I saw another interesting feature. A group, just of center in the southwest quadrant and several light bridges spanning the
umbra (see figure, 12:45 EST), The north-west bridge was
terminated about 2/3 the way across the umbra with a
light dot. During calls to Jim and Ken Tapping, I was
told of more flare activity at several frequencies as well
as a dip in the reception of the WWV time signal, an indication of increased ionization in the earth's ionosphere.
Again, no aurora activity has yet been reported.
I looked at it again about two hours later. Bill
Donaldson and Jim had come over to take a look. The umbra had changed over the past two hours (14:30 EST) . The
seeing was getting worse but during steady moments Jim
noticed another light patch in the south-west penumbra
near the umbra/penumbra border. The penumbra structure
was more pronounced, with radial lines appearing under
extra steady seeing.
Another interesting development was in the eastern
portion of the spot. At 12:45 EST there was a notch.
B y 14:30 there was a dim bridge which by 15:30 was clearly
visible as a complete light bridge across the spot to the
central "bay".
B y 15:30 the light spot noted by Jim had faded but
another light patch had appeared on the eastern edge of the
"bay" just south of where the new light bridge ended.
Sketches made of the spot over only two hours show
dramatic changes in the umbra and slight changes in the
penumbra. The diameter of this spot was about 35,000 km,
much larger than the earth! Under the best seeing we
could only detect "details" 800 km across! It was esci ting
to see the spot change over such a short time. It is not
the first time I have seen spot changes over this timescale. Such changes were seen by those at our last Solar
Day. Those who are watching the progression of sunspots
across the disc may sketch these every few hours to detect
these changes.
The above observations are clearly qualitative. The
timing of each event was not done with care since to do so
would require the observer to continually monitor the
sun. But when compared to the radio observations more
details may be deduced.
# # # # # # # # #
THE RADIO SUN Ken Tapping, Jim Zillinsky
On February 10 , observations of solar radio emissions
were made by Zillinsky and Tapping, on frequencies of
230 MHz and 435 MHz respectively. Tapping made observations
of the signal strength received in Ottawa from radio
station WWV, Fort Collins, Colorado, on a frequency of
15 MHz. The radio data are summarized in figure 2.
The optical observations show that dramatic changes
were taking place in the sunspot close to the center of
the solar disc. The energy releases involved in these
changes would have significantly contributed to the processes driving the radio sources. It is evident that the
230-MHz record shows much more activity than that obtained at 435 MHz. This is significant. The radio
emissions at 230 MHz originate much higher up in the
corona, about 70,000 km above the photosphere, as opposed
to above 20,000 km for the 435-MHz emissions. The types
of sources which maintain high levels of radio emissions
for hours or days usually lie at a particular level in the
corona, with little emission coming from above or below;
hence the relatively low level of activity at the 435-MHz
level compared with that at the 230-MHz level.
The heating produced in the active region by the
energy releases and the possible acceleration of electrons
to high energies by plasma turbulence give rise to X-ray
emission. These increase the levels of ionization in the
earth1s atmosphere and affect radio communications, particularly in the short-wave part of the spectrum. This process has been discussed in greater detail in previous
editions of Astronotes. In the case under discussion
here, the increases in the low altitude ionization levels
result in accentuated absorption of the radio waves. Thus
the changes in the strength of the radio signal can serveas an indicator of solar X-ray emissions.
It would therefore be reasonable to assume that, since
the radio and X-ray emissions were probably associated in
some way, the fading of the shortwave signals would have
been correlated With the changes in solar radio emission.
Figure 2 shows that this is in fact so, telling us a little
more about the complicated and dramatic processes that
occur during solar storms. It also shows what can be
learned by comparing different k i nds of solar data.
#########HUMOUR John HacheASTRO NOTES
MS. Rosemary F reeman cast