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Journal of the South Bay Astronomical Society – October 2016
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Monthly General Meeting: Friday October 7th 7:30 PM
The September 9 Meeting
President Greg Benecke began the meeting by welcoming newcomers Mike and Sophia. Ken Munson then gave an
observing report that included his efforts to find a good observing location for next year’s total solar eclipse, and his visit to a meeting of the Big Sky Astronomy Club in Kalispell, Montana. Ken also observed last-month’s conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, and he had a dark but windy observing session at Red Rock Canyon. Finally, Ken set up a couple of telescopes during Labor Day, and showed dozens of passersby the Sun in hydrogen-alpha, as well as the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn and even a few stars.
President Benecke then read out an article that contrasted the Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes. He also announced that the eight-week Astronomy for City Dwellers course will be starting on September 28. He also pointed out that the SBAS annual elections will occur during the October meeting, and that members should seriously consider helping the Society out by volunteering. Ken Rossi announced plans for an upcoming star night at the South Coast Botanic Garden.
After a ten-minute break, George Nestojko gave a short presentation to the twenty people present about the RR Lyrae stars and the Blazhko effect, which is still not fully understood. The meeting then ended at 8:50.
- Dr. Steven Morris One Incredible Galaxy Cluster Yields Two Types of Gravitational Lenses By Ethan Siegel There is this great idea that if you look hard enough and long enough at any region of space, your line of sight will eventually run into a luminous object: a star, a galaxy or a cluster of galaxies. In reality, the universe is finite in age, so this isn't quite the case. There are objects that emit light from the past
13.7 billion years—99 percent of the age of the universe—but none before that. Even in theory, there are no stars or galaxies to see beyond tha
and infrared wavelengths, we can see nearly to the edge of all that's accessible to us.
The most massive compact, bound structures in the universe are galaxy clusters that are hundreds or even thousands of times the mass of the Milky Way. One of them, Abell S1063, was the target of a recent set of Hubble Space Telescope observations as part of the Frontier Fields program. While the Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument imaged the cluster, another instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, used an optical trick to image a parallel field, offset by just a few arc minutes. Then the technique was reversed, giving us an unprecedentedly deep view of two closely aligned fields simultaneously, with wavelengths ranging from 435 to 1600 nanometers.
A visual inspection yields more of these tangential alignments than radial ones in the cluster field, while the parallel field exhibits no such shape distortion. This effect, known as weak gravitational lensing, is a very powerful technique for obtaining galaxy cluster masses independent of any other conditions. In this serendipitous image, both types of lensing can be discerned by the naked eye. When the James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2018, gravitational lensing may well empower us to see all the way back to the very first stars and galaxies.
If you’re interested in teaching kids about how these large telescopes “see,” be sure to see our article on this topic at the NASA Space Place: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/telescope-mirrors/en/ This article is provided by NASA Space Place. With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov to explore space and Earth science!
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Travels I took a two-week vacation in August, ostensibly to visit relatives in north-central Montana. My secret mission was to do a reconnaissance of some sites for observing the total solar eclipse next year. I headed north through Utah on Interstate 15 then east on I-70 to Colorado and then north on I-25 to Wyoming. Casper and the area around it had beautifully blue skies with a number of puffy clouds formed in the turbulent airflow over the Rockies to the west. It didn’t seem like a big show stopper for eclipse watching.
After visiting my mother and brother, I headed for home, first stopping off in Kalispell, Montana. There, I met up with the Big Sky Astronomical Club. They are a small group of dedicated astronomers in the beautiful Flathead Valley.
Luckily, their monthly meeting was being held a week later than normal due to their recent public observing session atop the Continental Divide at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. That’s nearly 7000 feet above sea level! Wish I could have been there with them.
I meet them at their meeting site, a local fire station outside of Kalispell. I’d hoped we’d be able to do some observing afterwards but the weather was too bad to allow that. Anyway, when I’d arranged to meet them I’d offered to do a talk so I did one of the presentations I’d done for SBAS, “Tales from the Edge: When Things Go Wrong in Geostationary Orbit”. It was a lot of fun meeting and doing the talk for them and the emails I got afterwards told me they really enjoyed having such an unusual guest speaker.
On the way home I came down the west side of the Rockies passing through central Oregon on Highway 97.
Madras, Oregon is going to be dead center on the path of totality. I’d thought the high desert of central Oregon would be clear but instead, the sky was covered by solid clouds. Thin in some areas but still the whole sky was just a bland grey.
These are one-point data samples so not a whole lot can be taken with them. Still, I’m planning on going to the Casper area next August.
Observing Reports Harbor City – On Saturday evening, August 27th, just before sunset, I got my binoculars out and walked down to the corner where I had a good view to the west. Without any good marks to use for sighting, it took me a while to find the small bright speck of Venus in the fading sunset. It took about another 10 minutes before I was finally able to see distant Jupiter just barely 10’ away. What a neat sight to see! I saw several neighbors who were out so I went
Inyokern Road – Having been on-call the previous week, I’d been unable to make a dark-sky trip prior to new moon. Since new moon occurred on a Thursday, it was still going to be a small crescent and would set early on Saturday. So, on September 3 rd, I packed up and headed off to Inyokern Road area by Redrock Canyon for a night of observing. Predictions were for some fairly good conditions. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a lot windier than I’d anticipated. Too windy for doing any photography, I set the scope up for visual observing. A huge cloud had formed over the mountains to the north which must have been influenced by spiral winds rising over the mountains.
It made a really striking shape and by sunset, lit by the red light, it almost appeared to glow from fire within the cloud.
Wished I’d had my SLR camera to snap a picture.
Even before the sunset, I was able to find the Moon, Venus and Jupiter. Not a lot of detail to be seen on Jupiter with it being so low and with low clouds on the horizon.
Once it was fully dark, the observing really got underway. First up was Saturn, beautiful as always but a bit shaky with air turbulence couple with vibration of the scope in the wind. Next, it was on to Mars. Equally watery but with filtering and patience I could still make out a fair amount of surface detail.
I decided to work my way up the Milky Way, starting on the southern horizon in the Scorpio/Sagittarius region. Even though it was pretty windy throughout the night, initially, at least, the sky was very transparent and I was able to see a lot of faint objects. I started out hunting through all the different globular clusters that swarm around the galactic core like moths around a light. Many were small and faint, but some were small yet very bright. I was way late getting around to M5 which, even though low, was still magnificent. M19 was high in the sky when I came across it and it made a very beautiful sight. Using the 12mm Nagler eyepiece I could resolve many stars in the cluster.
NGC 6302, the Bug Nebula, was a very bright oblong planetary nebula. According to Starry Night it was a magnitude 13 planetary yet it appeared to be much brighter. Also in Scorpio, I checked out IC 4606. This is a patch of diffuse nebula, part of the Rho Ophiuchi Complex. For the first time, using the 35mm Panoptic eyepiece and my Comet Filter (really an ultra-high contrast filter), I was actually able to make out the hazy nebulosity.
Moving into Ophiuchus, I came across NGC 6369, a planetary nebula. This was just a small hazy patch with a 10 th magnitude star nearby. In the 12mm eyepiece, it appeared to be a ring-type nebula as the circumference appeared brighter than the center.
M8, the Lagoon Nebula, was absolutely magnificent, probably the best I’ve ever seen it. Using the 35mm eyepiece and the Comet Filter, I could see more nebulosity around the star cluster even details far away from the cluster that I’d never seen before. NGC 6445, the Little Gem, really is a little gem of a planetary nebula. This one, in the 12mm eyepiece, looked like a double ring, similar to the Helix Nebula. M17, the Swan Nebula, was another familiar object made even better with the 35mm and Comet Filter. There was more nebulosity visible to a greater extent than I’d ever seen before. NGC 6818, another planetary in Sagittarius looked like it might be another ring-type nebula.
There did appear to be some structure but with the intermittent bouncing of the telescope, I couldn’t get enough of a steady look to make out the detail.
NGC 6572, in Ophiuchus was a small, bright planetary. Not a lot of detail could be seen. Interesting thing here was that it makes the point on two pairs of stars off to one side.
Moving into Aquila, I checked out NGC 6571. This is a small, faint planetary. Even so, it looked nice in the 12mm eyepiece even without any filter. NGC 6772, also in Aquila, is a very faint, 14 th magnitude planetary. This is a new low for me in visual planetary nebula observing. Looked better in the 35mm eyepiece with the Comet Filter than it did in the 12mm with or without any filter.