Unfortunately we will have to postpone the visit of Helen Usher as she is not able to attend the meeting tomorrow as planned. Instead Nick Busby will deliver the talk “From Pen Y Fan to Olympus Mons” – from the highest peak in southern Britain to the highest volcano in the solar system. This talk was originally prepared for the Brecon Beacons Geopark Festival. It considers the geology and inner structure of the Earth and other terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars) and how it has shaped how they look today – why is Mars cold and desolate? Why is Venus like a medieval vision of hell and why in contrast is the Earth brimming with life?
Time permitting we will still run the beginner’s session on “Magnitude”
Time as usual 19:30 BST in the Kings Head, Abergavenny.
On Monday evening we are delighted to be able to welcome Helen Usher from the School of Physics & Astronomy, Cardiff University. This is Helen’s first time presenting to our Society and appropriately for the time of year she will talk about “Seeing the sun in a different light”. The Sun is our nearest and dearest star and there is still much to understand about how it works; examining the Sun at different wavelengths is an important tool in helping us to gain that understanding.
We will also run the second session in our beginners series after Helen’s talk. This will explain “Magnitude”. This is a term often mentioned by our speakers and this session, which is expected to last less than 1/2 an hour will explain what it is and why it is important. The notes for this talk can be found in the “downloads” section of this website.
Usual time and place – 19:30 BST, Kings Head, Abergavenny
We have started running some beginner’s session to help new starters get up to speed quickly and enjoy the talks all the more. The first one was on Monday – on using binoculars. The presentation has been added to the website for you to peruse and also one on “Magnitude” and a new written guide for those wishing to purchase their first telescope. We will cover these topics in future sessions. You can find these documents here.
Unfortunately the next Cosmology discussion meeting will have to be cancelled. Apologies for the short notice but don’t worry, Nick will do a presentation linked to the theme of “Basic Astronomy”
There have been requests from a number of members to find some time to explain some of the basics of astronomy, so that they can get more out of the talks. So we will run some short sessions dealing with some fundamental topics. The sessions should be highly interactive, no question is too simple – that is the whole purpose, to help everyone understand the principles. The sessions will probably take around 45 minutes – in that way we can fit one in at the end of a normal meeting – say from 9pm to 9:45pm.
So, to kick off this series Nick will start next Monday, 13th June, with the topic “Observing with binoculars”. Usual time and place, 7:30pm, The King’s Head, Abergavenny
Many of our members have binoculars of all shapes and sizes – it is often not realised that using them is a bit of an acquired skill. This session will deal with which binoculars are good for astronomy and what they can be used for. We will also look at how to hold, focus, aim and look after them. If you have binoculars do bring them along and we can check them out for you and show the best ways to use your particular ones.
The next session, date to be advised, will be on the magnitude of stars and other objects and how it is used in measuring distances and other characteristics.
Astronomers and presenters often refer to the magnitude of a star or galaxy, it is a basic concept and we often assume members understand its significance. This session will explains how it works, what it means and how it is used.
As with all these sessions it will assumed no prior knowledge at all.
Any suggestions for further sessions will be most welcome. We can also rerun them for members who missed the original session or who would like a refresher.
13th June, 7:30pm, Kings Head, Abergavenny
Cosmology Discussion Group : following Prof Mike Edmunds talk on Quasars we will be picking up the theme and looking at what quasars can tell us about the universe. Some questions that came out of Mike’s talk we might address are – Why are they so far away/old? Can they switch off? What do they tell us about the evolution of the universe and black holes? What is the difference between a Blazar and a Quasar? What is an accretion disc? …..
Come along and raise your own questions for us to think about.
27th June, 7:30pm, Kings Head, Abergavenny
General meeting : Helen Usher, Cardiff Uni School of Physics and Astronomy, will give a talk “Seeing the Sun in a different light”.
PLEASE NOTE: as usual there will be no meetings in July and August. We will restart in September.
As you may have seen from the link on the web page we now have a Facebook page, HERE.
At the moment it mirrors the postings that are on the webpage but we are thinking about how best to develop it. If you are on Facebook perhaps you can like the page, if that is the correct terminology.
Monday 23rd May, Professor Mike Edmunds, from Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy, will be attending the Society’s monthly meeting and will present on the subject of The Great Quasar debate. Mike is no stranger to the many of us that have attended his talks in the past – he is always a star performer (no pun intended!) and is certain to enthrall us again on Monday evening – 7:30 Kings Head.
Quasars – for those unfamiliar with the term (quasi-stellar radio sources) – are extremely bright and distant objects that have provided mystery and fascination in equal measure since their discovery around half a century ago. Mike is sure to show these enigmatic objects in a new light (pun intended).
Modesty prevents me from praising the next speaker:-
In support of the Geopark Festival, next week Wednesday 25th May 7pm, Nick Busby will be bringing the Geopark together with the International Dark Sky Reserve in an inquiry into heavenly bodies. He will be giving a lecture in Brecon entitled “From Pen y Fan to Olympus Mons (The highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons and the highest mountain in the solar system)”
Our Old Red Sandstone is an iron-stained sequence of sandstones and other sedimentary rocks deposited by rivers eroding a mountain chain around 400 million years ago. And it was an ancient body of water that deposited the red sedimentary rocks of Mars billions of years before.
A talk on the geology of the 4 inner planets of the solar system, looking at the forces that have shaped them and made them what they are today.
At Elim Hall, Canal Road, Brecon LD3 7HL
Cost: tickets £5 on door (£3 concessions)
Event sponsored by
Brecon Beacons Park Society
Unfortunately it looks like the weather is not going to allow us to observe the Sun today so we will have to call off the session in Usk, looking for the transit of Mercury this afternoon. One of the perils of a weather dependent hobby!
See you at the meeting this evening
Today has been gorgeous but it looks like a weather front is coming in so it may be that the transit of Mercury will be a bit of a washout tomorrow. Still you never know – we will see what tomorrow brings. If there is any chance of seeing the transit we will set up some ‘scopes in Usk as planned. Check the website or give me a call on 07889 658403 if you want to check what is happening.
Keep your fingers crossed
On Monday May the 9th, in the afternoon, there will be a rare opportunity to observe a transit of Mercury. Why not join other members in Usk to enjoy this fascinating event. Find out more below:
What is it? Mercury will be positioned between the Sun and the Earth and will be seen as a small black disk against the brilliant surface of the Sun.
How often does it happen? It happens when Mercury is not only in the correct place in its orbit (every 116 days) but when the inclined orbits of Mercury and the Earth are also favorably aligned. Mercury usually passes north or south of the Sun as viewed from the Earth but the transit alignment happens every 13 or 33 years for May transits and at 7, 13 and 33 years for November transits. There are up to 14 a century, the last one was almost 10 years ago (Nov. 2006).
Why is it important? Today there is not much scientific importance – but it is a fascinating astronomical phenomenon. The transit of Venus, which occurs in pairs of transits 8 years apart but then over 105 years until the next pair, was very important in understanding the size of the solar system.
When will it happen? It will start at 12:12 BST on Monday 9th May and last until 19:42 as seen from the UK.
How can I view it? You must only attempt to view it if you are or are supervised by an experienced solar observer with the correct equipment. You will not be able to see it using simple solar filters – Mercury is just too small and requires a telescope suitably filtered. If you do not have the skills and or equipment Usk Astronomical Society will be hosting an observing session from their observatory in Usk. The observatory is located at the back of the Old Grammar School (opposite the Spar) in Maryport Street, Usk – starting at midday. There will be selection of quality solar instruments that you will be able to look through, with experienced demonstrators. All this assumes it will be clear! As I write this (Wednesday 4th) the forecast is mixed sun and showers. I will update this outlook nearer the time. If you have got this via e-mail you will also get the update via e-mail. Otherwise have a look at the Abergavenny website Abergavenny Astronomical Society
What will I see? Mercury is very small and will appear as a tiny black circular dot on the Sun – it is 1/155th of the Sun’s diameter. It will slowly progress across the face of the Sun. Mercury is always a difficult planet to observe as it is so small and is always close to the Sun. Even many experienced observers will admit to never having seen it – this is your chance! Of course looking at the Sun through solar telescopes is always a fascinating experience in itself. If they are present we will be able to see sunspots, prominences, filament of gas and so on.
And finally – under no circumstances attempt to look at the Sun even with a naked eye. Properly designed filters and suitable instruments must be always used.
The picture below is a mock-up of what we might expect to see.