Wednesday, January 31
Our new format seemed to work well, and stimulated plenty of discussion, even to the extent that we ended up squeezing the time available for our main topic. The news round up concentrated on the launch of the COROT space telescope and the recently announced 3D map of dark matter in the universe.
We introduced observing targets for the first time. Over the next month our targets are in the area of the constellation Leo. We are looking for people to observe and photograph if possible; M65 & M66 in Leo, Saturn & Titan, and M44 The Beehive Cluster in nearby Cancer. More on how to find those objects in a later post. At out February meeting we'll discuss how people got on with those objects, and set some more targets for the next month.
After some impressive photographs from CAS Members, and a short refreshment break, we finally arrived at our main topic for the night . . .
Bill gave us an excellent talk and demonstration of astronomy software. Ranging from simple text based ephemeris software, through planetarium software, to realistic solar system simulation software, there really was something for everyone. Best of all Bill applied his usual selection criteria . . all the software is free!
We also launched our new membership scheme at the meeting, and it was great to see so many people signing up for full membership. That kind of commitment will allow us to improve both our programme (with more guest speakers) and our equipment available for members to borrow.
All in all an enjoyable meeting.
Sunday, January 28
That image immediately got me thinking of the views from some of the excellent astronomy simulation software available. These programs allow you to travel virtually to any of the planets in the solar system and look at the view. Using Winstars 2 I quickly tried to simulate the view from Rosetta. The result below shows the versatility of the software, but proves what we all know, simulation is not a patch on the real thing !
We'll have much more on astronomy software at our January meeting on Tuesday.
Saturday, January 27
This month we'll be trying out our new format of meetings, starting with a short news summary and discussion on an observing topic. This month we'll be looking at any sighting of Comet McNaught over the last few weeks.
Following that Bill will give us a demonstration of the latest Astronomy Software, much of which is actually available for free !
You can now check on the latest meetings and events through the calendar 'widget' on the blog and main website home page. It looks like this . . .
This will show you all events planned for the following month. You can click each event for more details. If you want to look further ahead check out the calendar style version on the Programme page of the CAS Website.
Thursday, January 25
Monday, January 22
Sunday, January 21
The image looks reminiscent of the Orion Nebula and is a similar star-forming region.
More versions of the image are available on the HubbleSite, like this zoomable version. Also check Stuart's 'slightly tweaked' version on Cumbrian Sky and see if you can spot the difference! Nicely done.
Friday, January 19
Thursday, January 18
This shows visual (and infra-red is available) satellite images for the day of cloud cover surrounding the UK. It's pretty good and could be useful in looking ahead for the evening to see what's "coming your way" for the next few hours.
Fingers crossed for this weekend...although the forecast for Fri & Sat is awful. Anyone interested in trying Sunday night if it's clear?
Oh well, there'll always be another comet.
Wednesday, January 17
This Friday, 19th January, is our next observing evening weather permitting. If the weather is poor on Friday (and the forecast isn't good to be honest) we'll try again on Saturday night. Meet at 8pm at the Big Wood observing site.
Observing nights are a core part of the society, just as important as our monthly meeting. Why? Well here are a few reasons why you should come along;
- If you are a compete beginner you'll get to know other society members and learn from their experience of observing. Not only that, but you'll be able to try out others equipment and see things you wouldn't be able to see on your own.
- If you are more experienced and have your own equipment, you can meet with others and discuss and test different equipment and ideas. You are bound to come away with a new shopping list of things you 'must have'. And, of course even experienced amateurs can learn from each other.
- If you've got your first telescope, but you are struggling to get the best out of it, bring it along. There will always be people willing to help and give advice about how to get the best your equipment.
- The society owns some equipment (binoculars and telescopes) and they are usually on hand for people to borrow during the evening. During the year we'll be looking to expand the range of equipment we have available.
- Basically it a good social event and an opportunity enjoy our hobby together. Lets face it what else are you going to do on a cold dark evening . . . watch Celebrity Big Brother ?
So, keep your fingers crossed for the weather, and I hope to see you on Friday.
For an update check out Emily Lakdawalla's Planetary Society blog which includes an animation of the comet passing through the SOHO view of view and also includes Stuart's description of his viewing of the comet, taken from Cumbrian Sky. Also check out Stuart's poem on The 'Verse.
Monday, January 15
I'm not sure how long it will be (or if we'll get rid of this cloud!) however people were reporting seeing in during the day yesterday.
Check out Spaceweather, Bad Astronomy and The planetary society for details and some amazing pictures.
Friday, January 12
In the evening, we tried to catch a glimpse of Comet mcNaught from the roof of the Physics Department but were foiled by bands of cloud. It looks like it is going to be the most spectacular(but least publicised?) comet of recent years and I am going to miss it - did anyone get a glimpse? If not you can catch some photos on the BBC website here.
The time was not wasted though as I finally managed at long last to pin down Chris with a date to come up and visit us. He will be joining us to give a talk on 19th May to coincide with our exhibition and observing session planned for the Keswick Mountain Festival. You can find out more about what Chris is up to on his blog here
Thursday, January 11
MRO now has almost a full house having spotted almost all the 'major' landers on the surface of Mars. This latest image is of Mars Pathfinder, the first rover to trundle around on the surface of the red planet. Many people will remember the mission in 1997, which really rekindled public interest in space exploration, particularly as it coincided with the start of wide availability of the internet.
The image shows the rover in its final resting place, now known as the Carl Sagan Memorial Station in memory of the astronomer who died shortly after the mission was launched in December 1996.
Image Credit: NASA New Horizons team
First images from the planet should be available over the next day or so. The plan is to make around 700 observations between now and June this year. Closest approach to the planet will be on 28th February.
Wednesday, January 10
Tuesday, January 9
You've probably seen recent news articles about a 3D map of dark matter in the universe. This is clearly an important and interesting development, but what exactly is going on. Firstly, as Cumbrian Sky points out, there has been some highly inaccurate reporting. The topic even made the front page of The Independent with the, perhaps optimistic, headline "The universe gives up its deepest secret".
For a good description of the current finding check out this video and associated press release on the ESA Hubble site.
The dark matter concept goes back to 1933 when astronomer Fritz Zwicky first postulated that dark matter must exist in a cluster of galaxies to account for the rapid movement of the galaxies in the cluster without the cluster flying apart. In other words he calculated that there must be large amounts of invisible mass in the the gluster to hold the while thing together by gravity.
Current models seem to indicate that 'normal' matter, stars, planets, gas and dust etc make up only 5% of the universe. A futher 25% is thought to be dark matter and the rest is postulated to be dark energy. A recent development using the Chandra space telescope was the identification of dark matter in the bullet cluster.
The current story involves an extremely detailed survey of a small area of the sky around 9 times the size of the full moon. The survey mapped the location of over half a million galaxies and involved over 70 astronomers studying the results. By mapping the distortion of background galaxies due to gravitational lensing the team have been able to map the concentration of dark matter.
The results really support most recent theories about dark matter and the formation of galaxies. Basically early in the formation of the universe dark matter started to form into clumps. This caused concentrations of dark matter which then caused 'normal matter' to be pulled together under the influence of the dark matter's gravity. Once normal matter started to collapse galaxies and stars were formed giving rise to the universe we see to day. That's why you'll see people refering to dark matter acting as a scaffold for galaxies etc.
So this research supports theories about galaxy formation and the development of large scale structure of the universe. But the mystery of what exactly dark matter is, is still far from resolved.
For more discussion on the topic check out the posts at; bad astronomy, cosmic variance and asymptotia.
Friday, January 5
Thursday, January 4
I haven't seen this demonstrated anywhere better than this animation of a series of photographs of 20 consecutive full moons compiled by French amateur astronomer Laurent Laveder. It was featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday.
The blogger account that CAS News is hosted on has recently been upgraded. This has allowed me to change the layout more easily and add a few more 'features'. So perhaps a quick tour is in order?
At the top of the blog, right under the title is a Menu Bar which gives quick access to the home page and several other useful links. For example linking the CAS Events link will pull up a page with only those posts which are related to CAS Events & Meetings without all the other news etc.
The green sidebar gives some useful information which is automatically updated, including;
The label cloud shows a summary of all the CAS News posts in different categories, the larger the word the more posts in that category. You can click on a word to bring up just the posts related to that category (label).
LiveLinks are links to external websites or news items of interest. Links are added regularly and the older ones drop of the end of this list. Often I'll use the LiveLinks to point our a story or website that I don't have time to write a full blog entry about. So it's worth checking these regularly (they also appear on each page of www.cockermouthastronomy.co.uk).
Recent comments is part of my ongoing (and largely unsuccessful it has to be said) campaign to get you all more involved in CAS News. If you have something to add, or a question about any post, you can add a comment by clicking the comments link under that post. The recent comments sidebar shows you a summary of all the recent comments people have left and links to the posts they were commenting on. As you can see you can comment anonymously if you want. Go on give it a go . . .
Further down the page the blue sidebar has even more useful links to other blogs and articles and includes this summary archive of all 200+ CAS News entries. Just click on the little 'twisty' next to a month to expand all the entries in that month.
Further down there is an option to subscribe to CAS News via email. But remember there's so much more on the blog . . .
Wednesday, January 3
Image Credit: CNES
The telescope part of the instrument is a fairly modest 27cm (11 inches) which on the face of it is not much bigger than many amateur telescopes. It's coupled to 4 CCD imagers which are used to detect subtle changes in the brightness of stars. These changes in brightness could be due to transiting planets and it's that transit method that will be used to detect planets. The sensitivity is such that as well as detecting the usual crop of 'Hot Jupiters' the instrument should be able to detect a few earth-like rocky planets, down to around twice the size of the Earth.
The sensitivity to changes in brightness (luminosity) can also be used to study oscillations in stars and hence through stellar seismology learn something about the structure of other stars, for example calculating the size of the core of star.
The mission is lead by the French space agency CNES and can monitor 10,000 stars every 10 minutes! The observing mission will get underway in about a month's time, and is due to last around two and a half years.
Tuesday, January 2
I haven't seen it yet. If anyone sees it why not leave a comment? Good luck.
Monday, January 1
What does 2007 have in store for us all? Well who knows, but it's sure to be interesting. As far as observing goes you could do worse that download this free ebook of what's up in the night sky. Or just log onto the Astro What's Up blog to see the new entry each day.
As far as CAS Events are concerned we have plenty in store. Starting with our monthly observing event on Friday 19th or Saturday 20th January (check out our Observing FAQ). We also have our monthly CAS Meeting on Tuesday 30th January, where Bill will be giving us a demonstration of the latest astronomy software. For more details of what's coming up this year check out our 2007 programme.
Hope to see you all early in 2007.
P.S. There appears to be a problem with our main site www.cockermouthastronomy.co.uk at the moment, I'm trying to sort that out. Hopefully all will be back to normal shortly.