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
The next meeting, on Monday 13th Feb, will be a presentation by Dr Rhodri Evans, a Research Fellow at Cardiff University. He will be talking about his current project: Building Africa’s first millimetre telescope in Namibia.
Usual place and time, The Kings Head at 19:30.
Some background info on The Africa Millimeter Telescope
The Event Horizon Telescope project currently consists of a number of telescopes around the globe to image the supermassive black holes in the Galactic Center and M87 at event horizon scales with very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) at wavelengths around one millimeter. A crucial factor to improve image quality and robustness of the image reconstruction is the number and distributions of telescopes. An obvious region still missing in the network is Africa.
AMT site, Namibia
It is proposed to build a mm-wave VLBI radio dish on the Gamsberg in Namibia, one of the highest mountains in SW Africa close to one of the driest deserts in the world. Also, the Galactic Center passes almost exactly overhead and there is mutual visibility on Sgr A* with the IRAM telescopes, the South Pole, ALMA and the LMT. The telescope would have a diameter of about 13 m and be optimized for high frequencies and VLBI.
The Meetings page has been updated for 2017 up until the summer break.
You may have seen an article about the latest published estimate of the Hubble Constant in the papers last week. It was in the Guardian, the Mail and the Sun among other papers. So, why were the mainstream press interested?
To quote The Sun “Stargazers find evidence which backs up depressing theory about how the universe will fizzle out to become infinite ……….. Naturally, we wanted to know whether the findings changed scientists’ views of how the universe will end, so we asked Professor Catherine Heymans from Edinburgh University’s school of physics and astronomy about the findings. “It’s going to face a cold death even sooner than we thought before, which is a bleak fate for the universe,” she said. “It will just keep expanding until the stars burn out – and then that’s it.””
The summary from the HST site is:- “By using galaxies as giant gravitational lenses, an international group of astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have made an independent measurement of how fast the Universe is expanding. The newly measured expansion rate for the local Universe is consistent with earlier findings. These are, however, in intriguing disagreement with measurements of the early Universe. This hints at a fundamental problem at the very heart of our understanding of the cosmos.”
I’ve put some more thoughts on the Cosmology Page. Links to the story are: ESA/NASA Link : ScienceDaily.com
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Just a quick reminder of the Curry Bash Monday evening, 7:00/7:30 at the Kings Head.
See you there.
One other item:-
There is an interesting article in February’s “Scientific American” regarding the theory of cosmic inflation in the first micro-seconds of the Universe, a theory to explain the shape and composition of the Universe as we see it today.
The article ( link ), co-authored by Paul Steinhart, one of the original architects of Inflation Theory, challenges the accepted wisdom that the data from the Planck satellite supports Inflation. The authors claim that Inflation is so widely defined that almost any data will fit with it! They consider that a “Big Bounce” rather that a “Big Bang with inflation” may be a better theory and are encouraging an open debate on the issue.
If anyone wants to read the article then let me know.
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
Tomorrow evening we will be pleased to welcome Helen Usher from Cardiff University. Helen will talk to the Society about her work on comets, those mysterious denizens of the outer reaches of the solar system, that for centuries have be portents of disaster and social upheaval. She will also give something of a personal view of her developing relationship with the subject of astronomy. You can find more by clicking here.
Meeting starts as usual at 19:30 upstairs in the Kings Head and everyone is welcome.
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.