AstroNotes 1982 February Vol: 21 issue 02



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The Newsletter Magazine of the Ottawa Centre of the RASC
Vol. 21, No. 2 $5.00 a year February, 1982
Editor....... Rolf Meier.......4-A Arnold Dr..... .820-5784
Addresses....Art Fraser.......11-860 Cahill Dr.. .737-4110
Circulation...Barry Matthews... 2237 Iris St....... 225-6600
I am pleased to announce that the 1981 winner of the
Ottawa Centre's Variable Star Award is Rolf Meier. This is
the second year in a row that Rolf has received the award.
His activities included a comprehensive supernova search
program (no luck yet) and continued participation in the CY
Aquarii program. He also joined the American Association
of Variable Star Observers and is building a photoelectric
photometer with several other members.
Now is the time to start observing if you are
interested in receiving the 1982 award. Information can be
obtained from Brian Burke, the current Variable Star
* * *
Articles for the March issue of Astronotes are due by
February 19th.
* * *
The January issue of Astronotes contained my first
article. on Observer's Group Awards, which described the
events leading up to the presentation of awards at the
Annual Dinner Meeting of the Ottawa Centre.
The Observer of the Year award was defined. This was
followed by an updated list of all winners of that award
for 1965 to 1981 inclusive.
The second award which may be won through
obvservational achievement was first proposed by Rick
Lavery in May, 1969. At that time, Rick was our Variable
1Star Coordinator. Rick's original proposal is as follows:
Variable Star Award Rick Lavery 1969
"The greatest number of estimates on the varying
brightness of selected variable stars."
The award - a wooden plaque, upon which were mounted
six stars - was donated by Rick.
He requested that each annual winner of the award
should have his or her name inscribed on the award, after
which the winner would keep the award for one year. It was
further stipulated that if no annual winner was recommended
by the Variable Star Coordinator, or if the Variable Star
Section were ever to become inactive, the Observer's Group
Chairman, at his discretion, should recommend a member of
the group for this award, based on stellar achievement in
fields such as comets, novae, deep sky, and double stars.
To date, additional plaques have been hung below the
plaque to accomodate the names of the many winners of this
award. It is of interest to note that quality, not
quantity, has replaced the original concept in the
qualification for the award.
Here is the updated listing of Variable Star Award
winners from 1969 to 1981:
1969 - Ken Hewitt-White
1971 - Jon Buchanan
1973 - Rob McCallum
1975 - Doug Welch
1977 - not awarded
1979 - Rob McCallum
1981 - Rolf Meier
1970 - Ken Hewitt-White
1972 - Cathy Hall
1974 - Cathy Hall
1976 - Doug Welch
1978 - Frank Roy
1980 - Rolf Meier
The March, 1967 issue of Astronotes contained an
article by Fred Lossing proposing that an award be given
in recognition of useful and time-consuming administration
and supervising contributions which some members have made
during the year. The wording of this award reads as
Merit Award Fred Lossing 1967
"Most Valuable Member - Based on outstanding
contributions made to the Observer's Group over a
period of time."
The Merit Award is a stiff-backed paper certificateapproximately 12 by 14 inches in size. It is worded as
This 19 Certificate of Merit is awarded to
in recognition of exceptional service to the
Observer's Group, Ottawa Centre, RASC.
Here is the updated listing of Merit Award winners
from 1967 to 1981. Only the years listed are those in
which the certificate was presented to a member of the
Observer's Group.
1968 - Les MacDonald
1970 - Fred Dossing
1971 - Bill Dey, Tom Tothill
1972 - Stan Mott, Ken Perrins
1977 - Rob Dick, Peter McKinnon
I will now summarize my discussion on Observer's Group
Any member of the Observer's Group may win one or more
awards for observational or other activities during a
particular year.
The Observer's Group Chairman chooses an awards
committee for the year.
The Awards Committee selects a winner from submissions
for the Observer of the Year Award . When the occasion
warrants it, a member of the Observer's Group may be
selected for the Merit Award. The Committee normally
accepts the recommendation of the Variable Star Coordinator
in his choice of a member for the Variable Star Award.
The names of the various award winners are then submitted
to the Council for their approval.
The sequel to the above procedure is the Annual Dinner
Meeting, where the Observer's Group Chairman presents the
Observer of the Year Award, and less frequently, the Merit
Award, to members selected by the Committee.
The Variable Star Award is presented by the Variable
Star Coordinator.
The writer would like to suggest that when future
articles concerning the Annual Dinner Meeting are submitted
for publication in Astronotes, a complete listing of award
winners to date should be included.
3RASC OTTAWA President
K. F. Tapping
C.R. Molson
9 9 6 -0 8 4 5
Tuesday, February 16, 1982 (8:15 p.m.)
SPEAKER: Dr. Sun Kwok, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
TOPIC: What is a Nova? (This talk was postponed from December l6)
Recent observations suggest that nova eruptions are not sudden affairs
as previously believed. Data collected via satellites at ultraviolet
wavelengths show that the total luminosities of novae remain constant
while the visual brightness declines by several magnitudes. Radio
observations show that ejection of stellar material continues for years
after the optical outburst. Evidence for the formation of dust in nova
ejecta is detected via infrared telescopes. A new theory to explain
the eruption energetics and the post-maximum mass ejection is presented.
Wednesday, March 10, 1982 (8:15 p.m.)
SPEAKER: Dr. Paul Feldman, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
TOPIC: The Jupiter (Non-) Effect
Wednesday, March 24 , 1982 (8:15 p.m.)
A FILM SHOW: "Beyond the Milky Way" - A modern view of the Universe.
April (Date to be set)
SPEAKER: Dr. Henry Matthews, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
TOPIC: Galactic Radio Astronomy
All talks will be held in the Auditorium of the National Research Council,
100 Sussex Drive, Ottawa.
Admission is free.
All are invited.WINTER ASTRONOMY IN ARIZONA Rolf Meier
While the rest of the continent suffered under the
annual arrival of arctic air, blizzards, and flood, I spent
the first few days of 1982 in relative tranquility in the
dry air of Arizona. This, my second "annual" visit to
Tucson, was spent in the company of Eric Clinton (London
Centre), and David Brown (Montreal Centre), at the home of
David Levy (Kingston Centre, but residing in Corona De
Tucson), together with various other visitors and residents
who come to Tucson to escape the winter.
David Levy is well-known for various things. He is
the winner of the 1979 Chant Medal, partly as a result of
his prolific variable star observations. He is currently
engaged in astronomy education at the Flandrau Planetarium
at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has given a
talk to the Ottawa Centre recently on his work in astronomy
education of children. But one of his interesting claims
to fame is his ever-growing telescope collection, which
numbered in the order of 73 telescopes when I left,
including 49 complete systems with mountings.
David currently has three small observatory buildings
in his back yard (Tucson back yards are gravel, not
grass). These contain a 16-inch f/5 Newtonian, an 8-inch
Newtonian, and an 80-mm refractor respectively. Also
permanently mounted in his back yard are a 60-mm refractor,
a 12-inch Tinsley Cassegrain reflector, and a 6-inch
Newtonian mounted in the Lord Rosse style.
Since David lives about 20 miles south of Tucson, his
night sky is superb. Tu cson is a small city, it has a
light-pollution code because of all the nearby
observatories (in addition to David's), and the dry air
does not scatter much light. David's elevation is about
3200 feet.
David is the president of the Tucson Amateur
Astronomers. One of the other members, Daryld Nye, lives a
few blocks away. Daryld is currently building a very
elaborate observatory with an 18-foot dome, to be used with
any large telescope he wishes to acquire. A dome is very
useful at this location because, although most nights are
clear, windy conditions often prevail.
Last year, we took in tours of Kitt Peak National
Observatory, and the Mount Hopkins complex, which includes
the Multiple Mirror Telescope. This year, we did not spend
time at these observatories, but saw some others instead.
On top of the Flandrau Planetarium there is an
observatory containing a 16-inch Cassegrain. We were able
to observe with this instrument on several occasions.
4Unfortunately, this telescope is not well-situated. Its
main purpose is for public viewing, and as a result, the
door leading to the observatory from the planetarium is
left open. The inevitable temperature difference between
the outdoors and the planetarium building causes poor
seeing most of the time. This was improved during
non-public hours, when we were able to close the door. The
telescope is in the heart of Tucson, on the University of
Arizona campus, and quite near the stadium. The city
lights do have an effect here, although the full moon which
was present during my visit prevents me from making a
proper assessment of the sky here.
One of the excellent observing sites near Tucson is
Mount Lemmon, just north of the city. On the day of our
drive up the 9000-foot mountain (a distance of 25 road
miles from the bottom to the top), there was snow on top.
There are about a half-dozen domes on the peak, operated by
various institutions. A little further down is the dome of
the Catalina Station of the Lunar and Planete ry Sciences
Lab of the University of Arizona, containing a 60-inch
Did I mention snow? Yes there is snow in Arizona, but
the main controlling factor is elevation. A weather
forecast will always mention an elevation at which it may
snow if there is chance of precipitation. This was clearly
illustrated when Eric and I drove north to Las Vegas and
back again.
Tucson is at an elevation of about 2500 feet, and
never has snow. Further north is Phoenix, and at an
elevation of 1000 feet, has a climate much like Tucson.
However, further north in Flagstaff the elevation has risen
to about 7000 feet, and snow is not unheard of. In fact,
there was snow during our trip. The roads are very
dangerous at night when it snows (as we found out), but
then it clears and during the day the temperature goes
above freezing, and the snow melts. Very little snow
removal-equipment exists, and hence the poor roads. Las
Vegas is at a lower elevation again, so even though it is
further north, there is no snow.
Flagstaff is an area of several observatories, which
experience good seeing partly because of the elevation. In
fact, the Lovell Observatory is located here. The fine
seeing prompted Percival Lowell to build his 24-inch
refractor on a site he called "Mars Hill", where it still
stands and is used even today. We had a tour of this very
historic observatory, which remains privately owned, but
has been declared a national historic site.
Flagstaff is a stepping stone to several otherinteresting landmarks.
An hour's drive to the north is the Grand Canyon, one
of the most remarkable features on this planet. While the
rim is at 7000 feet and snowy, the bottom of the canyon is
a mile down, and has a much warmer climate. The snow
disappears at around the 5000-foot mark.
An hour to the east is the Barringer Meteor Crater.
That name is approrpriate, since the crater and the six
miles of road leading up to it are privately owned by the
Barringer estate. Hence there is a charge of $3.50 to gain
admission to the crater. Rut the sight of the crater is
truly spectacular. It does, indeed, have a raised rim,
although this is not obvious in pictures I have seen of
it. There is a good museum and viewing area. It is
possible to hike all around the crater, and walk around
looking for fragments. Eric was successful in finding a
meteor fragment. Most of the pieces are scattered in an
area to the north of the crater, within about a mile of it.
Another site worth seeing, which you cannot really
miss when driving to Las Vegas from Flagstaff, is the
Hoover Dam. This is a truly remarkable engineering
achievement, and is an awesome sight both at night and
day. It just sits there in the middle of a canyon, and yet
seems to be in harmony with the surrounding mountains. It
contains an enormous amount of concrete. It w ould probably
be too expensive to build something like it today. There
is a monument at the dam which contains a star map (about
40 feet in diameter, in stone, on the ground) which shows
the sky as it appeared at the time of the dam's opening.
I did a little bit of observing when I was at David's
place. I took sane astrophotos with a 28-mm lens which
show some stars which cannot be seen from this latitude. I
also took various pictures of sunset and moonset and
moonrise, since these opportunities seemed to have come up
quite frequently during this visit. Deep sky objects were
nice as seen through David's 16-inch telescope. The five
bright planets were observed. Mercury's phase could be
detected in a portable 4-inch reflector (a Tuthill Star
Trap), but it was too low for the permanently-mounted
instruments. Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were fairly
good through the Tinsley.
It was an interesting challenge to find Venus during
the daytime as many times as we could. It was seen
naked-eye on most of the 18 days I was there, and was seen
through a telescope when it was opportune.
I would like to thank David for his hospitality, and
wish him a speedy recovery. Maybe he will be ready for us
next year.
c/o Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
National Research Council of Canada
100 Sussex Drive
Ottawa Canada
K 1A 0R