Notes and Links from the May Meeting

Guest speaker: Professor Ian Robson Confessions of an Astronomer”

Professor Ian Robson gave a light-hearted talk covering his career in astronomy from a telescope on the top of Queen Mary University above a London street in the 1960’s to the top of a snow-drifted Mauna Kea, Hawaii – including frequent, confessional asides. Some aspects may have been expected, such as bids for project finance and student and graduate applications on a professor’s desk. Less expected were the thousands of air miles accumulated over a lifetime in astronomy.

Prof Robson has written a book demonstrating the connections between observations and theory: Active Galactic Nuclei

Member’s Talks

Sky and Society Notes for May

See Sky Notes. In particular:

  • Venus at the bright magnitude -3.9 in the evening presents a three-parts, waxing gibbous phase visible in small telescopes.
  • Jupiter is visible from sunset, starting low in the south east.
  • Full astronomical darkness will not occur again until August.

Major night sky imaging proposal

The society has been offered the opportunity to participate in a world wide public outreach project using the Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network. Our choice of target is likely to be the Hyades cluster in Taurus. Of significance to EAS, the displaced positions of Hyades stars were those measured by Sir Arthur Eddington during the 1919 Solar Eclipse  confirming Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Kendal Outreach

Volunteers to present are just about enough to hold the proposed Solar System in Kendal event on Saturday 18th August.

The Constellation of the Month

Our regular member’s presentation of Constellation of the Month featured the low, summer constellation of Virgo. Leo was also included.

Astronomical News

NASA successfully launched their Insight Mission a week ago to arrive on Mars in two months time. Over the following Mars-year (approximately 1.5 Earth years) the mission lander will probe the surface with a seismometer and then wait to measure the vibrations from any subsequent seismic events.

The upper atmosphere of an exoplanet (WASP-107b) has been analysed using the light filtered through it during a transit, revealing the (not unexpected) presence of Helium. Work to test the method on Earth’s atmosphere (Yan et al. 2014) proved that atmospheric compositions can be studied in this way and that significant biomarkers (oxygen, water, NO2) can be detected. They analysed the light that passed through Earth’s atmosphere and bounced off the moon during a lunar eclipse.

The universe expands with distance at a rate which is given by the Hubble Constant – or are there two Hubble Constants? 68 km/sec or 73 km/sec – or, even, both. Measurements have been made using the structure of the early Universe and using ‘standard candles’ in galaxies as in our February guest speaker’s research. The values obtained by the two methods appear to be different, and the chance that the difference is a fluke is currently less than 0.01%. This is nearly at ‘discovery’ level but not quite. If the difference is true, it may point the way to new physics or an overhaul of cosmological models. In the words of our member: ‘Over to the Cosmologists to sort this one out’.