Notes and links from the November 2019 meeting

Welcome and Notices Moira Greenhalgh EAS

Moira welcomed members, new members and announced notices:

Sky Notes for November 2019 – Richard Rae EAS

After sunset at around 7 pm the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter float in a line above the southern horizon. Inside the Summer Triangle, the constellation of Cygnus holds numerous interesting objects – see our Sky Notes for October 2019 for more detail and an October challenge.

Astronomy News Phil Morris EAS

SpaceBit founder Pavlo Tanasyuk holding a life-size working model of the rover

SpaceBit founder Pavlo Tanasyuk holding a life-size working model of the rover

SpaceBit – UK’s first lunar rover

The UK’s first moon rover – and the world’s smallest – will blast off into space in 2021.

Equipped with four legs rather than wheels or tracks, the rover will hitch a ride off of a NASA launch and be able to explore parts of the moon other landers cannot reach.

See Sky News on UK’s first moon rover.


The first interstellar (from outside the Solar System) comet has been discovered by Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov with a 650mm telescope. Closest approach will be at perihelion on the 8th of December.

The trajectory of comet C/2019 Q4.

The trajectory of comet C/2019 Q4.

See Comet 2IBorisov


In a paper published at the end of October, an Italian team have used the radial velocity technique to identify another exoplanet in the red-dwarf binary system known as Groombridge 34 about 11.6 light years away from Earth. This one is 36 times the mass of the Earth, and has a period of 21 years. A Super Neptune.

A new category of Black Hole?

We currently theorise two types of black hole: stellar and supermassive. A new discovery by two teams of astronomers, including one from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, suggests there may be a third type. Called an “intermediate black hole” its mass is somewhere between the other two, but there is no known process that that would form a black hole of this size.

See also: NASA’s Goddard Space Centre’s New Kind of Black Hole

The origin of the heavy elements in neutron star merges

In our last meeting, we heard from Dr Sue Bowler of the University of Leeds about gravitational waves. Phil spotted an update about how that research enables us to test our theories.

Back in 2017 gravitational waves were detected from the merger of two neutron stars. This merger blew away an expanding shell of debris moving at nearly 30% of the speed of light. In one second 10 to the power 22 neutrons passed through an area of 1 square centimetre. This was one of the few gravitational events for which a light source was identified.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have now reanalysed spectroscopically the light in the 2017 data and have identified about 5-Earth masses of STRONTIUM (Atomic Number 38) produced in the explosion.

So we now have evidence to support the theory of how heavier elements form.

See more: Heavy element creation confirmed in neutron star merger


The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, DESI , will make measurements dark energy. dark energy makes up 68% of the total energy budget of the universe responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe. By accurately measuring the expansion history over the past 11 billion years, DESI’s scientific goal is to constrain possible models of dark energy. In order to accomplish this goal, DESI will measure the position and receding velocity of about 40 million galaxies

Kielder Star camp photographs from Stuart Atkinson EAS

Stuart Atkinson displayed some of the Astro-photographs taken with a telephoto lens, some with a tripod and tracker:

The Milky Way

The Milky Way

The Pleiades

The Pleiades

The Andromeda nebula

The Andromeda nebula

Observing with IRAM 30m Telescope and JCMT David Glass EAS

JCMT, Mauna Kea, Hawaii (David Glass)

David Glass gave a talk on his observing visits to the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii and the IRAM 30m telescope in Spain. These telescopes operate at mm and sub-mm wavelengths, and David began with an explanation of what can be observed at these wavelengths and what can be learned.

Dinosaur toy looking after the observer's station at the JCMT (David Glass)

Dinosaur looking after the observer’s station at the JCMT (David Glass)

David’s research is looking at the cool interstellar medium (ISM) in early-type galaxies, which can be observed with these telescopes. David went to the JCMT in April, and after explaining how the telescope operates he took us through the practicalities of observing with this telescope.

He then did the same for his visit in July to the IRAM 30m telescope, where the visiting observer is in the “hot seat”. The observer is responsible for setting up the telescope correctly and for carrying out the observations to meet specifications. Overall, observing with these telescopes is hard work but very rewarding. David now has science data from the IRAM 30m telescope which he is examining as part of his research.

IRAM 30m telescope, Pico Veleta, Spain (David Glass)