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Wednesday, February 1

Meeting Report - January 2006

Our January meeting last night was a great success with almost 20 members braving the cold, both outside and inside the hall!

Chris gave the usual round up of news, including NASA's Stardust and New Horizons missions both in the news recently. Also the discovery of a new extrasolar planet. Chris also gave an introduction to our two new websites.

Bill covered the latest happenings in the night sky including positions of the planets and the affect moon phases and position has on observing. Our next CAS observing session is set for the 3rd and 4th March, when the moon shouldn't cause a problem. Handouts were available showing the night sky for February. Of particular note is Saturn's close approach the M44 (The Beehive Cluster) in the early part of February. Jeremy was able to show us a recent image he had taken of this.

Following a short break, where members caught up on news over the Christmas period and looked through the latest astronomy magazines, Robin talked about our main topic for the evening - Adaptive Optics.

Robin explained how modern technology allows astronomers to compensate for the effect the Earth's atmosphere has on light from stars and other objects passing through it. Normally the atmosphere severely limits the resolution of ground based telescopes, which it why the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is needed to produce such stunning images. However adaptive optics has allow the 'wobble' caused by the atmosphere to be compensated for, thus giving resolution almost comparable to HST over small areas of the sky.

Robin also showed us some of the work he had been doing recently, imaging and measuring the redshift of an object 12 billion light years away. All with relatively basic 'backyard' equipment. See Robin's website for details here.

Time was short at the end of the meeting so we didn't have time to finalise our programme for the rest of the year. Please send any suggestions for talk topics or events to chris@cockermouthastronomy.co.uk

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