Notes and Links from the June Meeting

Chairman’s reports and sky notes

See Sky Notes. In particular:

  • There will be no actual astronomical darkness until August as the sun skims under our South Lakes horizon.
  • Venus, just after about 10:30 PM, is at the bright magnitude -4 above the western horizon near the crescent moon on the 16th June.
  • Jupiter is visible from sunset to sunrise, starting low in the south-east.
  • Saturn will rise with the full moon late in the month.

Astronomical News

Links to the items raised:

Variable star photometry

One of our members presented results taken over two nights of measuring the light detected from two stars, using a QHY163c CMOS astro camera connected to a 10″ telescope, compared to the light received from nearby comparison stars of known magnitude – the technique known as differential photometry. The first star was a well known contact binary star system V523Cas (with a magnitude change of ~0.9 magnitudes) which acted as a useful and successful testbed for the photometry system. The low noise permitted the second study – the attempt to detect the transit of planet across the face of a distant star from a Kendal backyard. An online search (http://var2.astro.cz/ETD/predictions.php) on the next clear night, 10 December 2017, suggested the excitingly labeled XO-6b with a relatively large magnitude change of 0.013 magnitudes. This 10 magnitude star, 270 light years away, was measured over an evening of deteriorating conditions. The sky conditions deteriorated so badly that all stars dimmed by 50%!

The change in brightness signal of the target star, blue, and three potential comparison stars during the night of the observations.

Nevertheless, comparisons with light levels from neighbouring stars indicated a 1.2% diminution of the light from the target star. The diminution is caused by an exoplanet, twice the size of Jupiter at 8% of Earth’s orbit radius, that transits the star approximately every four days. The timing and dip in brightness occurred at both the right time and expected size.          

Smoothed magnitude change for the exoplanet transit across the face of the star XO-6b.

Telescope Night (outside)

The second half of the evening was spent outside in the Museum grounds under a blue sky. Members and guests milled around asking questions and demonstrating their own telescopes, mounts and software.

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’.

Notes and Links from the April Meeting

Sky and Society Notes for April

See Sky Notes in particular.

Major night sky imaging proposal

The society has been offered a one-hour imaging session of an astronomical object of their choice on the  Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network . The offer has come from Carl Pennypacker, one of the teams whose studies of supernovae led them to infer in 1998 the existence of dark energy driving the expansion of the universe.    The society is keen to involve any members who wish to engage with this imaging project, including local schools if appropriate.  We have until December to choose an object and conduct the imaging. Please get in touch here if you would like to be part of this project, or if you have any suggestions for imaging targets.

UCLAN lecture

The meeting was reminded that the upcoming event at UCLAN in Preston:  The Jeremiah Horrocks Spring Lecture Comets, Asteroids and Impacts. Should we worry and what can we do? Tuesday 15th May 2018 – 6:30 pm.

Kendal outreach

More volunteers are required for a few hours during the proposed Solar System in Kendal  event on Saturday 18th August.

Other events

The next Member’s Observing evening will be in autumn when dark nights return.

The next public Moonwatch will be on Saturday 24th November

Member’s photographs

The Horsehead Nebula in Orion One member demonstrated an impressive difference in colour hues using  Pixinsight on the Horsehead Nebula  Not cheap software package but highly recommended for colour correction using a star catalogue. Now listed on our Links page under  Software used by members

Astronomical News

The farthest star ever detected has been imaged by the Hubble telescope, a Blue Giant in a galaxy nine billion light years distant:  Hubble Uncovers the Farthest Star Ever Seen. Forget the  Kepler space mission , a  recent paper  encourages more enthusiastic, if not radical, members to use their standard DLSR cameras to join in the search for exoplanets.

Guest speaker Robert Ince  Widefield and time-lapse astrophotography”

After answering to a professional career migrating from explosives to his lifetime interest in Astronomy, Robert Ince illustrated his personal revival of astrophotography with a camera only – without his 12″ telescope. Beginning with landscapes with star backgrounds and star trails, the talk progressed through driven exposures, including time-lapse video and panning sequences, to the use of filters.  Robert described in detail his post-exposure processing using a wide range of software. A number of useful links were listed:

The links above are now on our  Software used by members

Notes and Links from the March Meeting

Sky Notes

See Sky Notes in particular: Sunday 11th when the Moon and Saturn rise together, Monday 19th when the Moon, Venus and Mercury set together – suitably viewed from the Scout Scar mushroom and Helsington church grounds, Saturday 24th for the EAS public Moonwatch at the Brewery when the crater Plato will be casting shadows from the terminator division between lunar night and day and see late night 27th for Astronomical gamblers.

 

Astronomical News

See SpaceX landing video for the SpaceX landing.

Astrobites has been added to our links page joining Sky & Telescope and Astronomy Now

Guest speaker Dr Anne Sansom on Dust in Early-Type Galaxies

Dr Sansom discussed the presence of dust in early-type galaxies (lenticulars and ellipticals), and what that can tell us about how these galaxies formed and evolved. Dust is an indicator of what has happened in a galaxy over its life and can be added by galaxy mergers or stars as they age, and is destroyed over time, so how much dust is present can reveal much about what has happened to a galaxy over its life.

Much of the work comes from the Herschel-ATLAS survey, the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project for three specific areas of the sky, and the Herschel Virgo Cluster Survey (HeVICS). The results so far show that the early-types in the GAMA regions can broadly be split into dusty, with some star formation still underway, and non-dusty. The dusty ones are “green valley” galaxies, as opposed to the “red and dead” ones on the red sequence. In contrast, galaxies in the Virgo cluster have less dust in them, but the galaxies here are closely packed together so galaxy environment could be important in how dust is generated or destroyed in a galaxy. There is still a lot of work to do with this topic, but it is an active topic and more results are on their way.

Lecture at University of Central Lancashire

There is a free public lecture in Preston on 28th September 2017;  the Jeremiah Horrocks Autumn Lecture. The speaker is Professor Lucie Green, and the title is “15 million degrees: journey to the centre of the Sun“.

It will be in the Darwin Lecture Theatre, 6.30pm start. Although it is free, you will need to apply for a ticket in advance:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/jhi-autumn-lecture-tickets-36742739523

 

Solar Watch Day at the Brewery Art Centre

We held a Solar Watch at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal on July 1st. The weather was very good with just a few passing clouds. The clouds had the advantage of allowing members time to cool down telescopes and explain the physical nature of our nearest star with the aid of photographs and diagrams to members of the public. Only one faint sunspot could be seen on the day, nonetheless the opportunity to view the sun safely, either through projection, solar filters or using the society’s Coronado, was enjoyed by many enthusiastic visitors who could observe the sun and see the occasional prominence.

Almost NLC time again…

Every year at around this time amateur astronomers – including several EAS members – start looking out for displays of “noctilucent clouds”, or “NLC”, in the north after midnight. What are they? There’s a beginners guide on my blog which will tell you when to look for them, and what you’re looking for…

NLC