AstroNotes 1981 October Vol: 20 issue 10



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ISSN 0048-8682
The Newsletter Magazine of the Ottawa Centre of the RASC
Vol. 20, No. 10
$5.00 a year
October, 1981
Editor....... Rolf Meier.......4-A Arnold Dr...... 820-5784
Addresses.... Art Fraser.......11-860 Cahill Dr.. .737-4110
Circulation...Barry Matthews...2237 Iris S t ...... 225-6600
On Friday, October 22, 1971, a plaque was unveiled at
Camsell Hall by Walter Scott Houston.
This now-familiar
plaque marked the official opening of the Ottawa Centre's
sixteen-inch telescope at North Mountain Observatory near
On the next night, Mr. Houston cut a ribbon on
the stairway leading up to the observatory, opening up the
"highway a billion light-years long" with its first star
This month, it is ten years since those opening
The telescope is now located near Almonte at
the Indian River Observatory. The move was made during the
summer of 1977, and the "reopening" was performed by the
late Dr. C.S. Beals, by the unveiling of a second plaque.
observatory of its size.
It has been continually providing
Ottawa Centre members excellent observing opportunities for
the last ten years except during the brief shutdown in
The sixteen-inch telescope is used every month when
the moon is favourable.
The amateur world was introduced to the telescope at
the Stellafane telescope maker's convention on August 14,
Yes, that's right, the telescope was actually
transported to Vermont for that meeting, which commemorated
in that year the 100th year from the birth of Russell
Porter. The tube travelled in Tom Tothill's station wagon,
the mirror in Fred Lossing's trunk, and the mounting in
Allen Miller's Star Truk van.
The sixteen-inch drew a
large croud as it was assembled on Breezy Hill on Friday
night, August 13.
In 1971, large telescopes were not
John Dobson's design was not yet popular.
sixteen-inch held long line-ups into the wee hours of the
morning, as amateurs from all over North America waited for
a look.
The reward of Bill Dey's figuring was a third
for optical
for a
- 1-instrument at Stellafane.
Gordy Grummett's machine work
was also much-admired by all.
Upon its return to Ottawa, the sixteen-inch telescope
and North Mountain Observatory became the Ottawa Centre's
main attraction.
Until the opening of the observatory,
most of our out-of-tcwn observing was done at Quiet Site,
otherwise known as Area 5 of the Defense Research Board
(and later, the Communications Research Council).
The name
to the
transmission in the area, since it is used for radio
observations of the aurora and the like.
This site is
located on Shirley's Bay, and access is through a keys list
of about 10 Ottawa Centre members.
Our star nights were
held there, and members would bring out the telescopes they
had built in great number.
Ken Perrins and Gordy Grant
operated a table which supplied hot dogs, coffee, and soft
drinks, much to the pleasure of the observers.
The meteor
observing coffins attracted marry new members into naked-eye
With the opening of a second observing site, the new
much more
and a large
telescope, Quiet Site became less used (and maybe less
At this time, we are trying to decide whether or
not to retain access to it.
Its main advantage is that it
is a much shorter drive outside the city, but also it is a
very spacious area with good facilities (heat, electricity,
telephone, running water, toilet).
The new sixteen-inch telescope provided marvellous
The rotating head, large Erfle eyepiece, and
roof which exposes
the whole
sky made
comfortable observing with the feeling of being closer to
the stars than ever before possible.
In the early seventies, the era of moon exploration
was drawing to a close, and robot planetary exploration was
just getting off to a slow start.
A certain lack of
enthusiasm was beginning to fall over the public concerning
space and astronomy.
Many centres would see a decline in
membership as a result, but I believe that our new
observatory enabled us to hold our membership high.
The system of key fees was introduced in order to
facilitate the operation of the observatory to those
members who were qualified and dedicated.
In general, few
restrictions were placed on keyholders' eligibility, in
order that as many members as possible could enjoy the
The key fees were supplemented by fees from a
group of five Trustees, who held the legal responsibility
for the operation of the observatory.
We should be
thankful for the burden which they carried prior to ourCentre's incorporation.
There were doubts at first concerning the allocation
of observing tim e on the sixteen-inch, and how priorities
would be established.
It was left completely unrestricted
from the beginning, and I can recall very few problems over
the last ten years over who should have the right to use
the telescope at any given time.
I think this is only a
problem if people assume that it's going to be a problem.
But few ever arise.
Can it be that we are just such an
amiable and cooperative bunch of people?
When outsiders
inquire as to how we allocate observing time, I am stumped
as to how to answer. The activity which takes the most
time is photography at the prime focus, when the setup time
alone can be a half hour, plus forty minutes or so for a
good exposure.
A reasonable philosophy which seems to be
understood by all, even though it is unwritten, is to allow
observers an even chance of using the telescope over a
longer period o f time.
Thus, if someone has been steadily
using the telescope for several nights in a row, he or she
willingly gives it up on a night when other observers come
out for say, the first night that month.
Of course, many observers are happy to simply observe,
and forget about the serious, long-term projects.
The main
purpose of the sixteen-inch is to provide Ottawa Centre
members with the opportunity to see the sky with all the
beauty and detail which only a large telescope can reveal.
Deep sky objects are the finest example of the improvement
made by an increase in aperture.
On almost every observing
session I take the time to look at something like the
spiral structure of M 51, the wispy filaments of the Veil
Nebula, the detailed mottling of M 42, or the elusive
shadow of the Horsehead Nebula, just to remind myself of
the grandness of the instrument.
I wonder if other
observers perform such a ritual of appreciation?
Over the years, a number of events of particular
at our
observatory, some because of it, and some in spite of it.
In the fall of 1972, a good deal of interest in comets
was sparked.
For the first time, we were able to see some
faint periodic comets that were almost invisible in smaller
This was more than two years after the last great
com et, Comet Bennett of 1970, and I for one had lost
interest after its appearance.
Those faint periodic comet
recoveries were something of a milestone,
since they
inspired my own search for new comets.
-3-Annual Dinner 1981
The Ottawa Centre Annual Dinner and General Meeting
will be held on Friday, November 13, at the National
Research Council, 100 Sussex Drive.
A talk entitled
"Canadian Directions In Space Science"
will be given by Dr. M.D. Watson of the Canada Centre
for Space Science.
Canada has a proud record of achievement in space
science extending back over more than fifty years.
Now, after a recent period of low priority, the
national interest in space science has been sparked
again by the great opportunities offered by NASA’s
Space Shuttle. The Speaker will suggest some answers
to the crucial question "where do we go from here?".
Further information such as time and ticket costs will
be distributed as soon as possible._CELEBRATE AT THE GRAND STAR NIGHT
Celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Centre's telescope
this month by attending the Grand Star Night at the Indian
River Observatory on Friday, October 23rd (rain dates are
Saturday the 24th, Friday the 30th, or Saturday the 31st).
Celebrations will include food for all with a barbecue,
cake and drinks. There will also be a special plaque for the
telescope dedicated to those that made the dream of a large
telescope and an observatory for the Ottawa Centre become a
reality ten years ago.
Activities will begin at IRO at 19:30 on the Friday night.
Cars will leave the Carlingwood Shopping Centre at 18:30.
it is necessary to go with the celebrations on either Saturday,
then activities will begin at 18:00 at IRO with cars leaving
Carlingwood at 17:00.)
If you have any questions, contact Brian Burke at 521-8856
or Robin Molson at 225-3082. It is hoped that all of you will
be at the Grand Star Night and do not forget to bring out your
telescope.Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Ottawa Centre
ANNUAL FEES for the membership year beginning October 1
are now payable. Fees received after May 1 will be
applied to the following membership year unless
specified otherwise below. Membership includes the
OBSERVER'S HANDBOOK, six issues of the JOURNAL for the
coming year, a subscription to ASTRONOTES and the use
of the Centre Library. Cheques or money orders should
be made out to the Royal Astronomical Society - Ottawa
Centre (Canadian Dollars plus exchange where applicable)
and mailed, with the form below, to:-
The Treasurer,
RASC - Ottawa Centre,
Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics,
100 Sussex Drive,
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R6, CANADA.
For Membership and other information write to the Secretary
at the same address. If you are a Life Member, no money
should be sent, but please return
the filled-in form.
It keeps your address up to date.
( ) Application ( ) Renewal (
( ) Student ( ) Regular (
) Address change
or confirmation.
) Life
NAME: ___________________________________ Occupation_________
_________________________________ Postal Code :_______
I qualify for Student Membership _______________________ _
(Sign if under 18 yrs. of age)
) Junior $12.50
( ) Member $20.00
( ) Life
$300.00In the winter months during the early seventies, we
undertook the first serious scientific project with the
sixteen-inch, and that was the observation of a BL Lacertae
type object known as QJ 287. This quasar, normally at 14th
magnitude, was reported to have short-term variability at
optical wavelengths. With several observers and many long,
cold nights, the verdict was inconclusive.
The experience
gained was quite valuable, however, and we felt that we
wore doing some very useful work.
On May 24, 1975, a spectacular total lunar eclipse was
observed from North Mountain Observatory by about twenty
It was an inspiring night as we watched the moor
darken to a reddish disc in the heart of the Milky Way
The group of observers who gathered for that
event, and the sight of it through the sixteen-inch, will
remember it as being a great observational experience.
The Ottawa Centre had a terrific thrill in July of
1975, when Art Fraser made an independant discovery of
Comet Kobayashi-Berger-Milon,
while attending a
star night
at North Mountain Observatory.
Although he made his discovery using 7 x 50 binoculars, Art
and others viewed the comet with the sixteen-inch with a
feeling of pride in the knowledge that it could have beer
Since the time of Art's find, the sixteen-inch has
been used to advantage in the singular discovery of three
other comets, all named Comet Meier.
The telescope proved
its worth on April 26, 1978, with the discovery of 1978f.
Imagine the excitement when a second, and then a third
comet were added to the list!
Surely this says something
about the usefulness of our telescope.
on the
sixteen-inch has been modernized.
A digital oscillator
by Frank Roy replaces
original, and Frank and Fred have build a digital readout
for the right ascension and declination axes.
This latter
system received its first test on September 20, 1981, and
it worked beautifully.
Imagine seeing the position of the
scope displayed in red glowing numbers at the base of the
What a tremendous aid to observing this will
On October 18, 1973, the first Annual Deep Sky Weekend
was held.
This event is now held every October as a kind
of anniversary of that opening day back in 1971.
year's Deep Sky Weekend will take place on the weekend of
October 4, and is the eighth such event.
It was clear on that first opening day in October that
the sixteen-inch would be very happy scanning the fallskies.
In October, the summer sky is just setting as the
evening begins, and soon the Milky Way dominates the view
Get a glimpse of M 51, the Whirlpool Nebula,
because it sets earlier and earlier now.
Higher up are
M 13, the Great Cluster in Hercules, and M 57, the Ring
Near the zenith in Cygnus is the Veil Nebula, a
challenge for any scope, as every increase in aperture
improves the detail.
As the night goes on look at M 31, the Great Nebula in
Our sixteen-inch reveals dust
lanes and
individual clusters.
Then, when the time is right, find
NGC 253 on the meridian.
It is amazing that Messier missed
this edge-on galaxy, located near the south galactic pole.
By morning, the winter sky is beginning to appear,
with its predominance of bright stars.
The Pleiades
twinkle in the blackness, and the sixteen-inch may reveal
nebulousity if conditions are good.
The rising of Orion
suggests a lock at M 42, the Great Nebula in Orion.
In my experience, I remember autumn skies as being the
I don't mean in quantity but in quality.
passing cold front after days of rain seems to make the air
very crisp.
It may be all imaginary, in my own mind, but
that's how it feels.
The variety of deep sky objects in
the fall sky also helps.
And there's the knowledge that
this will be the last comfortable observing until spring.
So do come out for the Deep Sky Weekend, and the other
anniversary star nights this month.
Bring your telescope
and enjoy using it under the dark skies.
Come and
appreciate what we have available to us.
An 8-inch, f/6.3 reflector made by Optical Craftsman,
but not including eyepieces.
Call Doug Beaton at 225-2361.
* * *
Articles for the November issue of Astronotes are due
by October 23.
* *
AAVSO - The annual meeting takes place on October 23-25 in
Waltham, Mass.
Call me or Rob McCallum (729-9977) for
Susan Argue
Brian Burke opened the meeting at 8:10 pm with
references to this month's star night at Billings Park and
the 10th anniversary of IRO in October.
There were
approximately 60 people in attendance, although only 31
people signed the attendance sheet,
26 of whom were
Ted Bean was up wanting
to know who might be
interested in building a telescope.
If you are interested,
or if you wish parts ordered, call Ted at 224-7318, or
Barry Matthews at 225-6600.
Louis Krushnisky had slides to show, some of which
were pictures of a double rainbow, a small series of the
telescope, and some sunspots around the middle of August.
Fred Lossing rose to show a gear, one of the parts for
the digital readout system for the sixteen-inch.
Frank Roy had some slides which were taken at IRO .
They included Cygnus, M 31, the North American Nebula, and
Also shown were sane shots taken at Jamie
Black's cottage on the open night.
Our solar coordinator, Rob Dick, had a few slides of
sunspot groups on August 14 and 18.
He said that the
weather wasn't good, so he was unable to show more.
shots showed a number of large groups that stretched out
between the 14th and 18th, as well as some new spots on the
Rolf Meier had some slides from the July 16 lunar
They showed the moon slowly disappearing.
took a 10-second, wide-open shot that made the night sky
appear like full day.
Pat Brewer was our main speaker, with slides from the
solar eclipse in Siberia.
There were many shots of the
USSR including an interesting pink feature beside water
that turned out to be hundreds of people squished together
on a long stretch of beach.
The series containing the
eclipse showed the sun disappearing until the corona
appeared to top it off. There was a slide from last year's
eclipse in Kenya that was used for comparison.
As the lights came on, carrying us out of the darkness
required for slides, Fred Lossing stood for a moment to
tell us a funny Russian story.
Brian concluded the meeting with a wrap-up and closed
it at 10:10 pm.
First C lass Premiere classe