19th March saw us heading for Helsington Church to catch this conjunction of three heavenly bodies, under the impression that the forecast was going to deliver a clear sky. Well, I think this photo from Ted Woodburn sums it up – all three were visible at some point during the evening, but not necessarily at the same time!
Still, a good time was had by all who came out to see…
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.
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.
The forecast of clear skies for Tuesday 20th February had been consistent for about three days, but within an hour of announcing the observing evening at around 4pm it had completely clouded over. Such are the frustrations of organising events in Kendal.
So it was an act of complete denial to go and set up at Boundary Bank, and I was delighted to see that I was not alone. At about ten past seven, the security lights switched off, the clouds lifted and we had horizon-to-horizon clear dark skies. The cold dry air brought a clarity and transparency rarely seen in Cumbria.
A relatively small turnout of about a dozen members, but with three good telescopes to share there was plenty of eyepiece time for everyone. Special thanks go to David Glass for giving so much attention to the new members and making them feel very welcome. One commented how delighted she was that people were willing to share the views through such amazing kit – I had never really thought of it in that way.
What did we see and do? A round up of the constellations – with mythology from Moira – emphasising the difference between the rotating northern horizon and the ever-changing southern horizon, some double stars from David, star clusters including The Pleiades and the Perseus Double cluster, a long look at The Orion Nebula (below, my photo from 14 February) at various magnifications, a fruitless search for Uranus very close to the Moon.
We finished with the Moon itself, an outrageously clear waxing crescent with fabulous detail around the terminator. All in all, a very relaxed session with everyone just happy to be out.
About a dozen EAS members met at our regular Observing Evening spot on Sunday night, where the very kind staff at Boundary Bank had left the car park gate unlatched so that we could gain access. There was a bit of a scare when the security lights failed to switch off at 7pm, but all was well when they went out at about ten past.
We managed a review of the constellations, with mythological references from Moira, and picked out some less-easy asterisms such as parts of Pisces. Triangulum is now locked into my memory too.
Many thanks to David Glass for picking off some of the more difficult targets, M27 (The Dumbbell Nebula) and Uranus in particular. I found M57 (The Ring Nebula) and we marvelled at the clarity of M31 (The Andromeda Galaxy) in Ian Bradley’s generously lent 10″ reflector zinging around on my AZ-EQ6 mount. We caught M32 nestled next to M31, and also M110 as an independent and clearly visible smudge in the same field of view.
Jane and Steve got their new Celestron working, yippee!
Ian Bradley left his camera running for the session, pointed at the North America Nebula in Cygnus.
David and I set a hare running with some ideas for short talks based on the objects we viewed. Watch this space!
Two favourite moments for me were seeing M110 distinctly in the eyepiece, and identifying the star on the southern horizon pointed out by Wendy, as Formalhaut. Now there’s a short lecture on astronomy history begging to be put together – here are the first and last slides of the talk, who’d like to fill in the gaps?
Statue in Rome
Fomalhaut by Hubble
See you next time
Created from Cassini images over 20 years, apparently:
Click here for menu of solar system objects
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:
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.
See David and Richard getting their awards for research into the presence of dust in galaxies
Am considering going. Has anyone been before? Is it worth the visit?