AAS

Our inaugural meeting was on the 8th Nov 2010 and we officially formed in Feb 2011.
AAS holds monthly meetings, often with guest speakers.

All guests are welcome!
No knowledge necessary, just a curious mind.

We are able to provide assistance with setting up your telescope or just helping to find your way around the night sky.

We host discussions on subjects as varied as "finding your way around the sky" to "Dark Energy".

Come along and get a new perspective on the universe in which you live!

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Virtual meeting of the Society

On Thursday 30th July we will be holding a virtual meeting of the Society along with the Usk Astronomical Society.  The meeting will be at 7 pm for an hour or so.  All welcome whether you are a member or not.  We will be discussing how you can observe the planets in August and September, how to observe the Perseid meteors in August and what else is in the August night sky.

We will be using the Zoom application to host the meeting.  This is available for laptops, desktops, tablets and smart phones.  Please use the link below to join the meeting.

Astronomy Society virtual meeting

Observing the planets and meteors and the August night sky
Time: Jul 30, 2020 07:00 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81416902030?pwd=cDRzTWJEVFBwUDIxZTFsZkMvRW1zQT09

Meeting ID: 814 1690 2030
Passcode: 081989

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kclJvKFXGb

Naked eye Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is one of  the brightest naked eye comets we have seen from this part of the world for some years.  In the past couple of weeks it has been delighting amateur photographers as a pre-dawn object but for the night-owls (as opposed to the early birds) you will be pleased to know it is now easily observable in the evening sky (weather permitting of course).  Start to look in darkish twilight i.e. around 11 pm, just as the stars are emerging.  Look a little way above the horizon in a north-west to north direction (you need a reasonable north horizon) and you should be able to spot it quite easily.  It will be available for the next couple of weeks but it is getting dimmer now so will get harder to see, although binoculars show it even more easily.  Being quite bright it is also easy to photograph.  For good results make sure your camera is steady, for example on a tripod.  Use an ISO of around 800 to 1000 and an exposure of around 4 seconds with your lowest f number, you may need to experiment a bit.  The picture below was taken from my garden in Abergavenny on the 16th July with a compact camera.  Happy comet hunting and fingers crossed for some clear skies.

Some Topics

Our last meeting was in March and it is clear that nothing is going to happen before our regular “summer break”.  Hopefully come September/October the situation will be clearer and we will have an indication of the AAS restart date.
In the meantime I thought I’d share 3 items I’ve read in the last couple of weeks (just in case anyone is interested!).  Further details on the topics and the sources I have read are on the “General Items” page.

  • Nottingham University have carried out some calculations and have concluded/suggested that there may be over 30 civilisations in the Milky Way. This looks a bit like an update of the Drake Equation to me (chances for intelligent life in the galaxy).   If they are there then why haven’t we heard from them?  The researchers have determined that the average distance to these civilisations is 17,000 light years.  Of course it is only 125 years since we invented radio and it wasn’t until 1932 that Karl Jansky built the first radio astronomy dish.  17,000 years ago the British Isles didn’t exist, see map at LINK, and there were probably no inhabitants here either as it was towards the end of the last glacial maximum.  So, aliens needed to have been transmitting thousands of years before we built Stonehenge and would therefore be much more advanced than we are now, assuming they have survived.
  • Another study, by the University of British Columbia, has estimated that there could be 6 billion earth like planets in the Milky Way, using data from NASA’s Kepler mission. So, plenty of opportunities for those 30 civilisations?
    To be considered Earth-like, a planet must be rocky, roughly Earth-sized and orbiting Sun like (G-type) stars. It also has to orbit in the habitable zones of its star — the range of distances from a star in which a rocky planet could host liquid water, and potentially life, on its surface.  The 6 billion number comes from an estimate that 7% of the ~400 billion stars in the galaxy are G-type stars with 0.18 earth like planets per star.
  • Sagittarius & Milky Way Galaxies

    Looking back a bit further astrophysicists at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Tenerife have been considering what may have triggered the formation of our sun, and ultimately the Earth.
    Using an analysis of the ESA Gaia data they have concluded that a collision between the Milky Way and the Sagittarius Galaxy created the conditions for a burst of star formation. The Sagittarius Galaxy is much smaller than the Milky Way and is in a polar orbit which has passed through the our galaxy a number of times in the past.  After an early period of star formation the MW settled down, having reached a balanced state.  Then, to quote from the SD article “This cosmic “fender bender”- which occurred as Sagittarius’ orbit plunged it through the plane of our galaxy – helped to concentrate cosmic dust in and usher in a period of heightened star formation”.  These periods of increased star formation occurred roughly 5.7, 1.9 and 1 billion years ago.  Our sun is thought to have formed some 4.5 to 5 billion years ago.

Mercury & Starlink : (26th May)

Had a look to see if I could spot Mercury the other evening.  Unfortunately, from my location the Blorenge is “to high in the sky”!

Nick posted about the Starlink Satellites on the 20th April and suggested that observational astronomers are not happy with the potential interference.  Starlink aim to have around 1,600 satellites in orbit by 2022 with the long term objective of up to 12,000, providing satellite internet access.
Well, it is not only observational enthusiasts that are concerned radio astronomers are upset as well.
I have posted a message from the BAA-RAG group (British Astronomical Association – Radio Astronomy Group) on the “General Items” page ( LINK ) that outlines their concerns.

Looking for the messenger of the gods

Mercury can be an elusive planet, it is not very bright and is always near to the Sun so in twilight.  It can also be dangerous to look for if you have not let the Sun set.  However for those that have never seen it now is your chance.  This evening (22 May) it will be very close to Venus, which is really easily to spot as twilight falls in the north west.  At 10pm BST Venus will be on an azimuth of around 298 degrees and at altitude from the horizon in Abergavenny of around 10 degrees, so pretty low.  Mercury will be very close by to Venus’ left side (east).  It has a good chance of being clear so why not go out and have a look.  Maybe a good photo opportunity.

Planet 9 – What are you? (PhysicsWorld 19th May)

Pluto may have been demoted from planet status back in 2006 but astronomers are still trying to explain the orbits of a number of other Kuiper Belt objects which are in highly elliptical orbits.

Whilst searches for a conventional “Planet Nine” have proved unsuccessful so far a report in Physics World, dated 19th May, ( Link ) looks at the proposal by Edwar Witten, Princeton, to evaluate the suggestion, first made in 2019 by Scholtz, Durham, and Unwin, Chicago, that a small black hole, around 10 times the mass of the Earth, could be stabilising these orbits.  This is very small, a black hole the mass of the sun only has a radius of around 3 km (the Schwarzschild radius), the distance from Abergavenny to Govilon.

Witten’s proposal is to launch a fleet of lightweight probes, 100g, in the direction of the presumed Black Hole.  To quote the article “His proposal is a more modest version of the Breakthrough Starshot project ( Link ) which aims to send ultra-light probes on a 20 year journey to the nearby star Alpha Centauri using an Earth bound laser array”.  Witten’s proposal would involve a 10 year journey to 500 AU, well beyond the Kuiper Belt, which is thought to extend to 50 AU and towards the hypothetical Oort Cloud which may start at 2,000 AU.

However, Witten does qualify his proposal, “It is far from clear that this approach is practical…”

Mike Brown, Caltech, a Planet 9 searcher says “We’re still looking hard.  If we don’t find Planet Nine in any of the dedicated searches, I suspect it will turn up pretty quickly in LSST [the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope”.  Read Brown’s Planet 9 hypothesis at ( Link )

The Galilean Moons

Worried about Corona Virus?  Desperate for a summer holiday?  Looking for somewhere off the beaten track, not over-run by tourists and Corona free?

An article on the Astrobites website looks at the possibility of the Galilean moons as potential possibilities.

I have posted the astrobites article on the “general Items” page ( HERE ) and the address for the actual article is HERE,  but in summary the best bet looks like Callisto.
Io  :  the closest to Jupiter, is the most geologically active of the moons due to the tidal forces from the planet.  There are strong enough to cause solid tides where the the surface bulges 100m or so a day.  It is also a bit close for the radiation from Jupiter, some 4.5 million times that on earth.
Europa  :  Although not covered by the astrobites article Europa doesn’t really appeal as a holiday destination.  Like our moon one side is always facing Jupiter.  It is the smallest of the 4 moons and is comprised of a smooth surface, thought to be ice, overlying an ocean with a iron core.  It is the smallest, thus the lowest gravity, subject to strong tidal forces and prone to the eruption of water spouts over 100 miles high and high radiation from Jupiter.
Ganymede  :  It does have an internal magnetic field, but only a small fraction of the Earth’s, so radiation is definitely still a problem and you would have to stay under ground.  Shame really as the sight of Jupiter in the sky, 36 times larger than our moon and amazing aurora, must be something to behold.
Callisto  :  the furthest of the Galilean moons for Jupiter.  This results in a radiation level only 12 times that on Earth, probably fine for a 2 week holiday.  There is also plenty of water on the moon so showers and hand washing should be OK.

The other downside is, of course, getting there.  No charter flights at the moment and it did take NASA’s Juno probe 5 years to get there!

 

Going globular!

It goes without saying that for the time being our regular meetings are cancelled but that is no reason to stop stargazing.  Spring is the time for amateurs to observe galaxies, as they are particularly well placed in the southern sky at this time of year.  However galaxies do need a bit of experience to find and a telescope with a reasonably large aperture.  On the other hand the globular clusters are just coming into their own and can be found with the most basic of binoculars.  If you are fortunate enough to own a telescope they are truly marvellous.  Globular clusters are possibly the most mysterious and enigmatic denizens of our galaxy.  Because they are reasonably bright they can found quite easily even with some light pollution.  The document below explains how you can find 5 of the best globular clusters.   It should also help you to get started on “star-hopping” – using various star patterns and asterisms to locate objects in the sky that you cannot see by eye alone.  If you have no optical aids at all it will help you to learn the constellations of the spring sky. So next time it is clear get out in the garden or even out of a window and try to find yourself a globular cluster.

learning-stargazing2.pdf

Starlink satellite train

Some members may have seen a string of satellites over South Wales last night at around 9:22 BST.  it was of course the satellite train of Starlink.  It should be clear tonight and there is another opportunity to see it at 9:58 this evening (20th April 2020).  It will last for 6 minutes, the train traveling from west to east.  There is another opportunity tomorrow evening at 10:34 pm and on the 22nd at 9:34pm.  The satellite are controversial as many astronomers feel that they will interfere with observing.  They certainly will interfere with astrophotography, as existing satellites and aircraft do.  It remains to be seen how much of a problem they present.

Starting stargazing

We have recently had a patch of dry sunny weather with clear skies, let’s hope it continues.  If you want to do a bit of stargazing but really do not quite know where to start you may find the following document helpful.  It is not for the experienced observer but for those that feel like having a quick go from the back garden and to give them a start.  So now you have no excuses, loads of spare time and simple instructions, no equipment needed (binoculars are a bonus) – so what are you waiting for? Happy stargazing and stay safe and healthy by not going out (other than the back garden!)

learning-stargazing.pdf