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ASTRONOTES ISSN 0048-8682
The Newsletter Magazine of the Ottawa Centre of the RASC
Vol. 21, No. 11 $5.00 a year December 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
10 AND 20 YEARS AGO IN ASTRONOTES
From the December, 1962 issue: "The Observer's Group of
the Ottawa Centre of the R.A.S.C. has been considering the
publication of a newsletter for some months. The present
issue is intended to illustrate the type of format and
contents that the executive had in mind.
The purpose of the newsletter will be:
1. TO remind members of monthly meetings and special
events well in advance.
2. To help maintain an active interest in observing and
instrumentation, particularly during the summer months when
no meetings are held.
3. Eventually, by expanding our mailing list, to advise
the other Centres across Canada of the activities of the
The material for publication will be obtained from the
Observational Coordinators and, it is hoped, from other
members as well..." (by George Brunton)
From the December, 1972 issue: "...Dave was here the pick
up a lunar sample to take back to the H.R. MacMillan
Planetarium where he works...Well, I can bet you any money
you like that that moon rock, 4 1/2 billion years on the
moon, has never witnessed such a sight as it did in
watching the Vancouver and Ottawa Centres yuk it up in my
living room on November 7. We'll take any excuse to get
into the bubbly, even if it's just a hunk of rock in a
glass case..." (by Ken Hewitt-White)
* * *
-1-THE SUN'S LAST 15 YEARS IN ASTRONOTES Rob Dick
The articles that appear in Astronotes reveal the
changing flavour of the Observer's Group over the years.
As the activities are reported, new names are mentioned,
and soon they themselves are the authors. Then, later, new
authors reflect upon their predecessors and past activities
In preparation for this article I looked back over my
collection of Astronotes. The minutes of the Observer's
Group meetings jogged my memory when the activities and
talks were covered in sufficient detail. Mary Geekie and
Renee Meyer did a superb job of reporting the minutes of
these meetings. But the minutes must necessarily be brief
so the speakers should submit written reports in
Astronotes so that they will not be forgotten. Some
speakers at meetings do this, but more should.
As solar coordinator I have decided to briefly look
back through Astronotes to the activities of the Observer's
Group with regard to solar observing. Since my library of
Astronotes only extends back to January, 1968, it should be
my starting date.
It begins with Tom Tothill's Chairman's Review for
1967. In his report he notes that Doug O'Brien succeeded
in constructing a radio telescope from parts of an old TV
set and cardiograph equipm ent. With it he managed to get
some observations of the sun. Quite a feat in those days.
In 1968 Doug became coordinator for radio astronomy and
Steve Craig became solar coordinator.
As coordinator, Steve began the never-ending task of
encouraging members to get out and observe instead of just
reading about the efforts of others. (It seems that
nothing has changed in the last 15 years.) To encourage
the members, Steve pointed out that the sun was approaching
its maximum but he did not use only words. In subsequent
meetings he showed and talked of his observations, which
consisted of graphs and detailed drawings of sunspot
He was successful in attracting other observers and
accumulated many drawings of the sun's disc. This group
became known as the Solar Patrol. One should not
discourage book-work, however. In the December, 1968
issue, Rick Lavery sent in a report by R.C. Carrington of a
white spot visible in a sunspot group. These white spots
are short-lived and can be prominent against the darker
penumbra of sunspots and are the visible apparatus of a
solar flare. This historical tidbit is quite interesting.
Dan Brunton's Chairman's Review of 1968 congratulatedSteve on his Solar Patrol and for becoming the coordinator
of a National Solar Patrol. In only a few months he had
accumulated over 2 pounds of observations.
At the General Assembly of 1969 in Toronto, Steve and
Ken Hewitt-White prepared a large display and presented a
paper on the Solar Patrol's observations. The solar
display consisted of graphs of solar activity and detailed
drawings of sunspot groups. The only other display that
rivalled it was our 16-inch mirror blank destined for North
Mountain Observatory and later the Indian River
I will always remember the date of March 7, 1970. It
was the date of my first total solar eclipse. Details of
the travel plans to North Carolina are given in the
February 1970 issue of Astronotes. The description of the
eclipse in the April, 1970 issue includes the story of the
trip and visual and photographic observations. These serve
as an excellent reference for future eclipses. In my
option, the most interesting report was by Rick Lavery.
His contribution was the description of the ellusive shadow
bands. Anyone hoping to travel to a total solar eclipse
should read this article.
Over half a year later on Steve's behalf, Jon Buchanan
made a sales pitch in the May 1971 issue of Astronotes to
get people out to observe. I'm sure people were observing,
but few observers return to the meetings and discuss their
Results. Jon's novel technique of showing his observations
was to plot them on a large yellow sphere. It was a vivid
way of looking at the distribution of sunspots around the
solar globe. Jon passed on to variable stars the next
year. The heyday of the Solar Patrol declined with the
next solar cycle.
The sun could not be forgotten. The solar eclipse of
1972 through the Gaspe attracted over a dozen observers
from Ottawa. Unfortunately, for most people it was clouded
out. Those that ran to find a clear spot were partially
successful. I didn't. Astronotes of September, 1972
chronicles the experiences of 3 groups of observers.
In 1973 there was to be another total eclipse of the
sun...in Africa! The eclipse of 1970 tickled my fancy, and
that of 1972 made me all the more determined. Ken
Hewitt-White introduced the eclipse in the June, 1973
issue. Three of us took different routes to our common
goal and in the September Astronotes readers can get a
feeling for the excitement and adventure of eclipse chasing
through descriptions of the spectacle itself.
Little in the solar field occured until the next solar
eclipse in 1976, this time in Australia. The trip was onlya distant dream a year before. I joined up with Ken
Hewitt-White and others from Vancouver to test our luck
again. This trip was to impress upon us the importance of
the eclipse as an excuse to travel and not the solar
The sun played hide-and-seek behind thick clouds right
up until totality. They caused us to miss 40 seconds of
the 3:10 event. If you plan to chase an eclipse, treat the
eclipse as a bonus to the vacation. The description of the
expedition is given in the issue of December, 1976. In the
following month, a sequel article speaks of the night-time
splendors of the southern sky.
A solar coordinator wasn't elected in 1977, even as
the sun struggled out of its inactivity. However, Doug
Welch did manage to pry a couple of articles out of the sun
for the July and August issues of that year. Comparisons
between his photographs and drawings show that far more
detail can be shown in drawings. The low contrast of most
photographs prevents the small details from being recorded,
as Doug's illustrations show.
The next rise in human solar activity came v/ith the
total solar eclipse of 1979, in Winnipeg. A full report of
this event is in the April, 1979 issue of Astronotes.
For a brief time, The Ottawa Citizen produced
Astronotes, and this allowed photographs to be published.
Photographs by Doug Welch, Rolf Meier, and Rick Wagner
complimented the articles. However, The Citizen soon
stopped its complementary printing of Astronotes. Readers
of those issues certainly appreciated the quality of the
product and the effort made to produce the issues.
Ken Tapping added physics to our solar articles with
his March, 1978 article about the radio profile of the
setting sun. Articles followed in May and October.
W ith several radio telescopes in the Observer's Group,
solar observations became independent of weather and thus
more regular. Analysis of data became quite extensive, as
in the article of May, 1980. It describes the effects of a
solar flare observed by several instruments, including
When I became solar coordinator, interest in solar
activity had become quite high. The sun was very active
visually and at radio wavelengths. These observations and
aurora reports were submitted on a semi-regular basis to
Astronotes. To help members standardize their visual
observations, a series of Stoneyhurst discs, drawn by Jim
Hayes, was printed in the centre page of Astronotes over
In correlating radio and visual observations, theeasiest, and most common report given to me was a report on
aurora activity. The dates of aurora were plotted
alongside the radio data. Unfortunately, due to the
limitations of the reproduction process, visual
observations had to be reduced to line drawings. However,
with patience and care, a drawing can show great detail.
This brings the reader up to the present. From a
crude radio telescope in the late '60's, to the drawings
and counting of sunspots of the 1970's and into the 1980's
with sensitive radio telescopes, we now do solar
photography in h-alpha light. The technology available to
the amateur in this field has grown, as have the resources
of many members, with their ability to travel to distant
events. Such trips would be considered difficult twenty
years ago. This evolution is all chronicled in
Astronotes. It contains the history of amateur astronomy
I would like to encourage the general membership to
submit articles to Astronotes, however brief. Several
short articles can be more informative than no articles at
all. In about 8 years time, someone may be looking through
Astronotes to come up with a commemorative article for the
300th issue. Give them something to write about.
* * *
OBSERVER'S GROUP MEETING - NOVE M BER 5 Where's Dave?
Chairman Rolf Meier opened the meeting at 8:18 with a
series of announcements.
At the front were notices of the Annual Dinner
meeting, as well as the usual Astronotes. Peter MacKinnon
was to sell tickets to the dinner meeting, as well as
memberships, the latter now being due. The Deep Sky
Weekend was reported on. It was pointed out that
submissions for the Observer of the Year and Variable Star
Awards were due 5 days before the dinner meeting.
Upcoming observing events were then described by
Rolf. The next night was to be a meteor observing session
at Quiet Site, or the next week if it was cloudy. The
periodic Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko was mentioned.
Rolf then detailed his recent trip to Boston for the
71st annual meeting of the AAVSO. The meeting was held at
the MIT campus. He then gave an account of the structure
of the AAVSO. The next meeting of the AAVSO will be a
joint meeting with the RASC General Assembly, to be held in
Quebec City May 20-23, 1983. Members were encouraged to
make displays.Some possible observing projects for the 16-inch
telescope were presented by Rolf. These included a
photometry program, and one to photograph globular clusters
in a search for variable stars.
Observing reports by coordinators followed.
Gary Susick described various methods of aligning a
mount to the north pole.
Rob Dick gave a detailed talk of recent solar
activity. Several photographs were shown, which showed
recent improvements to his optical system, as well as
variations on film type.
Rolf Meier was up next to show slides of various deep
sky objects to be seen in the fall.
Vice-President Peter MacKinnon was up next to conduct
the Observer's Group elections, with the following results:
Comets and Novae
The meeting was closed at 10:00 pm .
* * *
OBSERVER'S GROUP MEETING - OCTOBER 1 Where's Dave?
Chairman Rolf Meier opened the meeting with
announcements concerning the upcoming Deep Sky Weekend, the
AAVSO meeting in Boston, and the Annual Dinner Meeting.
Vice-President Peter MacKinnon was up with some
details about the dinner meeting. He also explained the
new concept of Sustaining Membership status, now available
exclusively to Ottawa Centre members.
Once again Rolf Meier was up to show some slides of
the recent Stellafane telescope maker's convention.
The main speaker of the evening was David Levy, a
Kingston Centre member now residing in Tucson, Arizona.
His talk described his observing activities "Under theShadow of Kitt Peak", and the makeup of the local club.
Vice-Chairman Rob McCallum then introduced the
coordinators who were giving observational presentations.
Dave Fedosiewich talked about recent observations of
Comet Austin, the brightest comet so far this year.
Dave Lauzon spoke about the meteor showers coming up
in the fall.
Rolf Meier was up again with some slides of the recent
picnic at Quiet Site (it was clear), his recent trip to
Palomar Mountain (it was both clear and raining, on
different days), and Comet Austin (it must have been
Frank Roy concluded the meeting with a slide show of
some aurora which occured over the summer.
* * *
71ST AAVSO MEETING Rolf Meier
I was able to attend the annual AAVSO meeting in
Boston, which was held on October 29 and 30 this year.
I had a pleasant 8-hour drive to Boston from Ottawa,
and after registering at the hotel, proceeded to Building
37 on the MIT campus. There was a workshop in progress on
photoelectric photometry, with Dr. John Percy of the
University of Toronto chairing the papers. Several
interesting aspects of photometry were discussed, including
the scientific value of the contributions of amateur
A reception at the MIT faculty club followed, with a
chance to renew acquaintances.
On Friday evening, Dr. Philip Morrison of MIT gave a
talk entitled "Everything Spins". He showed, through the
use of many entertaining illustrations, how angular
momentum is conserved throughout the universe, from dust,
to tiny tops, to planets, galaxies, and finally (although
this is still uncertain) to clusters of galaxies.
Friday night was topped off with an observing session
atop the tallest building on the MIT campus. This was
highlighted by the annual Hallow'een prank by MIT students
of dropping a 50-pound pumpkin from the roof to the quad
below. What a mess.
Saturday began with a business meeting, with annual
reports of the various AAVSO sections.
This was followed by the paper session. Most papers
dealt with various aspects of variable star observing,
although trips to Africa and Brazil were included, as well
as how and why to write to your congressman.
-7-The banquet was held that night.' Following this,
Damien Lemay of Rimouski, Quebec gave a talk in
anticipation of the spring AAVSO meeting, to be held in
Quebec City together with the RASC General Assembly.
Thus ended the AAVSO meeting.
On my way home to Ottawa on Sunday, I stopped by to
visit Charles Morris at his home and observatory in
Harvard, Massachusetts. Mr. Morris will be known to
readers of Sky and Telescope and the IAU Circulars for his
reports of comet observations.
* * *
DEEP SKY - PERSEUS Rolf Meier
This is a good time of year to observe the deep sky
objects which abound in Perseus.
Most of this constellation lies within the milky way,
and the galactic plane runs through Perseus.
During the early evening in December, Perseus will be
Here, then, is a sampling of some of the objects to be
seen in Perseus:
NGC 650, N X 651 (M 76) 01h 40.9m +51° 28' (1980)
This bright planetary nebula is sometimes called the
"Little Dumbell" (M 27). Because of its double structure,
it has earned 2 NGC numbers. At magnitude 12.2, it is
nevertheless easy to find.
NGC 869 02h 17.6m +57° 04' (1980)
NGC 884 02h 21.0m +57° 02' (1980)
The Double Cluster or h and Chi Persei
At a combined brightness of about 4th magnitude, the
Double Cluster is an easy fuzzy naked-eye object.
Binoculars clearly show individual stars. In a large
telescope, many fainter stars shine in the background, and
this sea of stars may well be the most star-populated
region of the sky for its size.
N X 1023 02h 37.2m +38° 52' (1950)
This is a peculiar E7 galaxy, about 10th magnitude and
lens-shaped. If you have an equatorial mount, find this
object by sweeping about 3 1/2 degrees due south of M 34
-8-NGC 1039 (M 34) 02h 38.8m +42° 32' (1950)
This cluster is barely visible to the naked eye at
magnitude 5.5. Because of its looseness, it is best seen
at low magnification in the telescope.
NGC 1275 03h 16.4m +41° 20' (1950)
This faint spiral galaxy, magnitude 12.7, is also the
radio object Perseus A. It probably needs a large (20-cm
or larger) telescope under dark skies.
NGC 1491 03h 59.5m +51° 10' (1950)
This is a small (3' x 3') emission nebula. It will
require careful observation to distinguish it from the
NGC 1499 04h 00.1m +36° 17' (1950)
The California Nebula
While not a telescopic object, it will require very
dark skies. Binoculars may reveal its shape, 145' x 40'.
It shows up well on photographs, but is very faint
NGC 1579 04h 26.9m +35° 10' (1950)
This is a reflection nebula, irregularly shaped,
12' x 8'.
Algol, Beta Persei
This is the famous visual eclipsing binary, known in
ancient times. Its period of about 3 days can be observed
with the naked eye. The light curve is most interesting
around the time of minimum, which is given in the
Observer's Handbook. Use this as a guide to when to
observe, but make your own observations and check your
observed time of minimum with the Handbook afterwards.
This is the brightest member of the open cluster about
6° in size which forms the centre of the constellation of
Perseus.The lunar eclipse on December 30, 1982 (see page 66 of
the Observer's Handbook 1982 for details) will provide an
excellent opportunity to observe occultations of stars that
would otherwise be lost in the glare of the full moon. I
have predictions that list over 180 events, including
approximately 64 paired events (disappearances and
reapearances of the same star) that will occur during the
eclipse. Over 120 events will occur during totality,
including a nearby graze of a 12.2 magnitude star. Details
of the graze will be sent to me.
The majority of the stars to be occulted are in the 10
to 12 magnitude range. A 15-cm telescope should be
sufficient to observe these occultations. It should be
noted that morning twilight will have begun before the
start of totality.
A star field map of the eclipse is to be published in
PREDICTED OCCULTATIONS DURING LUNAR ECLIPSE Brian Burkethe December issue of Sky and Telescope. I will also be
receiving a detailed star map from IOTA in the near future.
Anyone planning to observe this eclipse should get in
touch with me so that an organized effort can be made to
observe the occultations. It would be best to have people
stationed at different locations throughout the region so
that we can compare notes later. A tape recorder and CHU
receiver will be necessary. Be sure to have fresh
battteries and plenty of tape since you will be observing
for an extended period of time. You can reach me at
521-8856. I hope to hear from you.
* * *
ASTR OPHOTOGRAPHY AT I.R.O. Frank Roy
Since many of the astrophotos shown at the observer's
group meetings are taken at I.R.O., I thought it would be
interesting to describe the methods which are employed for
photography at I.R.O.
For this I use a pan head mounted to the frame of the
16-inch telescope. Usually I use my 50-mm f/1.4 lens for
constellations. Fujichrome is my preferred film, but I
have had sane success with Ektachrome 200. Depending on
sky conditions, exposures between 5 and 15 minutes usually
give the most pleasing results. Any longer, and the sky
fog begins to show up.
Exposures of this length with a wide angle lens will
show stars to 13th magnitude if sky conditions are good.
Nebulousity will show, with the smaller ones being blurred
by the grain of the film.
Of all the wide angle photographs I have taken, my
best are of the aurora and the milky way in Cygnus.
Transparency is very important because any slight haze
will blur the images on the film and drastically increase
the sky fog by scattering light from Ottawa and nearby
towns. Also, I do not attempt any photography when the
moon is above the horizon, because sky fog will occur after
only a few seconds exposure. Lunar eclipses are, of
course, an exception!
Next month: Prime Focus Photography
* * *
-11-INTRODUCING A NEW OBSERVER TO THE NIGHT SKY Sandy Thuesen
with Jamie Bellinger
We recently discovered that a young neighbour had
developed an interest in the stars after spending an August
night under the Perseids this summer. The invitation to
join us for an observing session has grown into three
sessions so far and we would like to pass on a few of
Jamie's first observations.
We observed briefly on the nights of November 7/8,
9/10, and 17/18 from two sites - one in Fallowfield
(Nepean), and the other, under much darker skies, on a farm
near Ashton. Using both sites gave Jamie an indication of
how lights can affect observing - something he admitted had
never occured to him before (does it occur to any
non-observer?). Over the three nights he became familiar
with some of the brighter constellations and their stars,
namely Cygnus, Lyra, A quila, and some circumpolar ones
(Cepheus still escapes him, though!) and, of course, Orion.
He compared star colours, checked out some doubles (O1 (31)
Cygni and those in Lyra in particular) and got acquainted
with some Messier objects, such as M 2, M 11, M 33 (only
from the farm, and it took some time), M 35 and M 39, as
well as more obvious ones like the Pleiades. The
"Coathanger" got the award for originality! Locating M 31
by star-hopping with binoculars was a challenge for him,
but the cry of recognition when he finally got it himself
made the time scouting for it worthwhile. M 31 and M 42
were by far the most popular objects, and he kept returning
to them "to make sure they were still there". I think,
however, Jamie enjoyed the meteors the most. A total of
eleven were noted - although a few more were seen but not
recorded - all observations but one being his. After
plotting their directions on a star map we discoverd we had
probably seen a couple of Leonids, though it was early in
the evening, as well as five which came from the region of
Cepheus. We checked into this and found there is a small
shower from this area which peaks around November 9, so it
appears we observed a number of Cepheids as well. You
learn something new every day.
As one who has introduced a number of young people
(and one or two old people) to the stars in the past few
years, I found Jamie to be far and away the most
enthusiastic beginner of them all. His eagerness to learn
and delight in the night sky make observing a lot livlier!
Thanks, Jamie, for giving me the chance to share the magic.
* * *
-l2-2-INCH FOCUSING HOLDER FOR $2.39 Rolf Meier
Several members are acquiring the large, long-focus,
wide-angle 2-inch eyepieces which provide excellent
deep-sky views. Well, after spending $60 or more on the
eyepiece, you may be shocked to discover that you have to
spend another $40 or more for a commercial focusing holder.
However, with 3 pieces of black plastic ABS plumbing
fixtures, a perfectly usable holder can be constructed.
Total cost is less than $3.
The pieces required are a threaded flange, a threaded
2-inch (name size) adapter, and a short length of 2-inch ID
ABS tubing (not the economy tubing).
In order to extend the focusing travel, and for
smoother operation, I lapped the flange and the adapter
with some 180 grit and oil, washing out the residue with
soap and water. Watch that the two pieces don't stick;
keep them moving while lapping.
For attaching to a flat surface, with better
compactness, it may be necessary to cut off the bottom of
Standard 2-inch ABS tubing, sold by the foot, is
slightly larger inside than a 2-inch eyepiece. Drill and
tap a hole for a set screw to hold the eyepiece snuggly.
Cut a 2 or 3-inch length of the ABS tubing and fit it
into the adapter. It should be a good tight press fit.
Measure the focus point of the telescope objective
carefully, and make sure that your 2-inch eyepiece will
focus properly. I extended the focus slightly, so that the
eyepiece is out by about 1/2 inch. Then the threads are
used for a fine adjustment. If you have more than one
2-inch eyepiece, make sure that they all can be
If you buy about a foot of the ABS tubing, you will
have enough left over for the tube of a finderscope with a
2-inch or smaller objective lens.
ABS plumbing fixtures can be bought at any hardware
store, such as Canadian Tire or Pascal's. The latter, in
particular, has a very wide selection.
With some imagination, and by checking out the variety
of fixtures available, you may be able to invent your own
holders in 1 1/ 4-inch or other sizes.
* * *
-13-2-inch focusing holder
Friday, December 3 Observer's Group Meeting
Monday, December 13 Geminid meteor shower
Friday, December 13 Astronotes due date
Friday, January 7 Observer's Group Meeting
* * *
c/o Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
National Research Council of Canada
100 Sussex Drive
K 1A 0R6
MS. rosem ary freem an c ast
THE ROYAL ASTRON. SOC. OF CAN.
124 MERTON S T R E E T
TORONTO, ONTARIO M4S 2Z