Monthly Meetings

Just a quick reminder for those who attended the Zoom meeting with Nick last week, and info for those who didn’t.
Nick said that, as we are now in the summer season, there will be no more Zoom meetings in July and August. AAS normally has no meetings in July & August so this follows our usual practice.
It looks as though COVID restrictions are slowly being eased. With a bit of luck face to face meetings may be allowed in a couple of months, for those who feel comfortable with it. I for one, will look forward to it.
Further information and updates will be forthcoming when we have more info.
In the meantime enjoy your summer.

Feb 2021 – Mars Month?

Map of the global topology of Mars overlaid with locations of landers and rovers
Map of the global topology of Mars overlaid with locations of landers and rovers

18th February:  Nasa has managed to crane their rover and helicopter into the Jezero Crater on Mars.  It’s now about 2km from what is thought to be an ancient (that’s 4 billion years ago!) river delta that fed a huge lake.  Jezero is a small town in Bosnia with a population of 1100, Jezero means lake in a number of Slavic languages.  This crater was named in 2007 by the IAU as part of a project to name significant craters after small towns and villages in the world.
Now we await the testing of Perseverance and Ingenuity’s’ systems and for the science data to start to come back.

Mars2020 now joins the two other visitors to Mars this month:-
1)   On the 9th February the successful mission by the UAE to put the Al Amal (Hope) Probe into orbit to study the Martian atmosphere amongst other objectives.  This makes the UAE the 5th country to reach Mars and the second to enter orbit on it’s first try;  and
2)   Followed on the 10th February by the successful insertion of Chinas’ first mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, into orbit.   It also carries a rover that is scheduled to land in May or June.  The Tianwen-1 rover includes a ground penetrating radar that can “see” up to 100m below the surface.

Emirates Mars Mission – LINK     :     Tianwen-1 – LINK     :     Mars2020 – LINK

Something for Feb – Perseverance Rover due at Mars

There is a lot of interest in Mars at the moment from a number of different countries with current missions from China and the UAE and plans by the ESA/Russia, Japan and India in the next 3 or 4 years.

First up look out on the 18th February for the scheduled landing of the NASA Mars Perseverance Rover, if successful it will be another engineering feat using a “sky crane”.

Mars Perseverance Rover landing Feb 2021
Mars Perseverance Rover landing Feb 2021

It includes another engineering first, Ingenuity, the first helicopter to operate outside of the Earth.  This is a test to check the feasibility of flying a drone on a planet with a much thinner atmosphere, 1% of the thickness of Earth’s atmosphere.  It weights 1.8kg and is fitted with counter rotating blades running at 2,400rpm.

Mars Perseverance Rover-Ingenuity Drone

Further info:-
Perseverance Mission  :  Ingenuity Helicopter  :  Wikipedia page-missions to Mars

Responses to “Happy Birthday” plus cautionary sky watching tale

Yes a big Happy Birthday to AAS – personally as I joined back in March just as lockdown was coming in, I look forward to attending my first meeting!
Zoom is the next best thing and good fun though
Tony PF

Congrat’s all!!!
Sorry I’ve not joined you in recent meetings. Life is chaotic and working from home / kids, I completely lose all track of time. I’ve even set alarms 5 minutes before, and still missed the meet!
Have spent many nights out with the telescope / binoculars with one of my boys (until the recent inclement weather that is).
Stay safe…
Mark H

Am having a glass of red to celebrate 10 years…here’s to at least another 10…..cheers….Bri Wigg…
Brian W

Something to celebrate.  Sorry I’m not more regular. 
This tiny anecdote for Abergavenny AS’s 10th birthday celebrations warns of the dangers of planet watching.
“Having learned via AAS recently of the opportunity for good sightings of three planets soon after dark, I took my binoculars [that someone left in the bunkhouse and never claimed] and walked straight out into the dark. I did not take the precaution of allowing my eyes to adjust and walked straight into the table that had stood on the lawn most of the summer. The tabletop is made of recycled oak staves from an ancient barrel, older, we were told, than our cottage which itself dates from 400 years ago. Very hard and ungiving those timbers are. The blow came right across both thighs but only the left muscle was damaged. It is remarkable how much damage you can do in such a trivial way. Now, over a fortnight later, I am slowly recovering and have stopped taking ibuprofen to relieve the pain. But tennis and cycling are definitely still off the agenda and I must take extreme care when walking down muddy slopes to avoid any risk of slipping. Lesson well learned.
So when you next go planet watching or star gazing- take a torch!”
Richard L

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.