The Society welcomes back Paul Roche from Cardiff University. He will be describing X-ray binary stars. These are binary star groups – two stars orbiting each other – where one star is stealing matter from the other. The process generates large amounts of X-rays which is how we can detect them. As usual the meeting is in the King’s Arms and starts at 19:30 BST, everyone welcome.
Artists impression of X-ray binary system courtesy of NASA
The comet with the snappy name of 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is now quite easily visible with binoculars and is presently very high in the sky, virtually overhead. it was first discovered by Horace Tuttle in May 1858 and later described again by Michel Giacobini in 1907 and then again by Ľubor Kresák in 1907 – hence its long name. It is a short period comet and comes around every 5.4 years. Comets move across the sky and to see where it is on any given night you can find a map here
As I write this on the 21st March 2017 it is high overhead in Ursa Major, near to the star Merak (Beta Ursae Majoris). Scanning around the area will quickly spot a hazy blob and that is the comet. It is quite diffuse at the moment and its core is just visible in my 200 mm reflector but not with 80 mm binoculars.
Its magnitude (how bright it appears) is quoted as about 9.1 at present, that is well below naked eye visibility but an easy binocular or telescope object. It should brighten quite a bit by the end of March as it moves through the body of the Great Bear and ends up in Draco in early April. It is forecast to reach maximum brightness (mag. 8.65) around the 9th April but will still not be visible without binoculars.
So if it is clear go out and have a look for it, this is an easy comet to find and nice and high. If anyone manages to image it please send it to me and I will add it to this post.
There are 3 more cosmology meeting dates on the calendar before the summer break:
10th April; 22nd May; 12th June.
At the AGM we discussed potential topics and also the structure of the meeting.
One suggested topic, which we can do in April, was “What is Light?”.
Other topics could be:-
1) There are a couple of articles in the New Scientist, 18th March, looking at modified Newton’s Laws (MOND). We could use these articles to explore gravity and what it is. I can provide copies of the articles if needed.
2) The search for Dark Matter – what is the current state of play?
3) Cosmic Inflation (just after the “big bang”)– does it answer all the questions?
4) A discussion of the 1977 book, “The first 3 minutes” by Steven Wienburg and what we have learned, or not, in the 40 years since publication. I can provide a précis of the main points.
5) Where did the first galaxies come from and why?
Please let me know your thoughts, any other suggestions welcomed. email@example.com
In the news
A recent news in the press reports that evidence has been discovered of a star orbiting a black hole at just 2½ times the distance between the Earth and moon.
The story relates to a white dwarf (X9) that appears to be orbiting a black hole in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae.
More information and links are posted on the “General Items” page under “In the News 15th March, 2017”.
There were a couple of technical/astronomical questions asked at the AGM meeting:-
- A recent report suggested that a project to image a black hole is ongoing. Is this “our” black hole and is it in the visible spectrum?
- How is the origin of a gravitational wave, as measured by LIGO, known?
Both questions had answers suggested at the meeting but I have posted a bit more info on the “General Items” page under AGM Questions.
Chris North is coming to talk to us on the 26th June on gravitational waves so hopefully he will be able clarify the theory behind and measurement of GWs for us.
Monday is our AGM. This an opportunity to let the committee know what you like about the Society and what you do not like so much, what you would like to see happening and the kind of activities you would like to be involved in. Please try to attend, it is an important meeting for the Society and sets the direction for the coming year.
If for some reason you are unable to attend but have something to say you can drop me a line at the following address and I will ensure it is raised – Observing@AbergavennyAS.org.uk
For your information notes and reports from last year’s meeting can be found on the links below.
AAS AGN 2016 notes
The meeting starts as usual at 7:30 pm, upstairs in the King’s Arm in Cross Street, Abergavenny,
See you there.
Astrophotography can seem like a dark art to those unfamiliar with the techniques. However it is a skill that like any other can be acquired but it has a long learning curve and at its finest can be astronomically expensive and technically demanding. This used to always be true but with low cost digital cameras, for certain kinds of imaging, it can be very easy to do and you may already have the equipment to start making some very pleasing pictures of your own. This session will introduce you to simple techniques to produce astronomical pictures using smart phones, bridge cameras, digital single lens reflex cameras and webcams (lucky imaging). You do not even need a telescope! To keep it simple we will not cover the much more complicated deep sky imaging techniques but what is covered in this session should give a solid grounding for moving onto that at a later date.
As usual the meeting will be in the King’s Head, Cross Street and start at 7:30pm
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Tonight Geoff Hill will give a talk on the constellation of Orion. This iconic constellation is a large an obvious feature in the winter sky – a constellation that everyone with any interest in astronomy will immediately recognise. It is also a constellation that has some of the best examples of star forming nebulae, reflection nebulae and dark nebulae. Many of the stars in the constellation are close and bright and represent stages in stellar evolution from the new born, through middle age to old age. Whether you are a seasoned observer or an absolute novice this will be a talk well worth listening to.
Nick Busby will also present an introduction to observing some easy to find open star clusters. These objects are a great starting point for new observers as they are bright, easy to locate and in many cases can be seen in binoculars. This is also a good time of year for observing them and a great way to cut your teeth in observational astronomy.
Usual venue, the King’s Head, 7:30 pm.
See you there.
For those members that have been following the basic astronomy sessions, that are held after the normal meetings, the slide pack is now available as a PDF. It may be found on the website under the tab “Download” – it is under the “PDF presentations” and called “The life and times of stars”. You may also access it by clicking here