Wednesday 31 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook QB1


On August 30th 1992 astronomers David Jewitt and Jane Luu discovered the first Trans Neptunium object. It was the first of the Kuiper belt objects that had been predicted by Gerald Kuiper back in the late 1940s.

Although we take these Kuiper belt object discoveries for granted today with over 1500 now having been discovered including Eris which caused Pluto to be demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006 none were known before 1992. QB1 is not very big being only around 125 km across, and takes nearly 290 years to orbit the Sun once.

It was suggested that the object be called smiley because the book Smileys People was being read at the time in the observatory at Mauna Kea in Hawaii, but because there was already an asteroid called smiley that never happened. Today the object is just known as QB1. 

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Astrognome Astronomy show

The Astronomy Show 31.08.16

On Drystone Radio this Wednesday between 3 pm and 5 pm on the Astronomy show I will be looking at Aquarius in the a-z of constellations, the bright star is alpha centauri and the messier marathon is M3.

This week is the anniversary of the great Carrington solar flare of 1859, this together with the other anniversaries this week, plus what’s in the night sky this week, and the latest news from northern astronomical societies with the latest astronomical news including is there life on the planet orbiting proxima centauri plus Earth’s near miss with an asteroid on Sunday. 

Astrognome Scrapbook George Alcock's 2nd comet

George Alcock’s 2nd comet

George Alcock possible Britain’s greatest naked eye observer of the night sky discovered his second comet on August 30th 1959.  This was just two days after his 47th birthday. Yet just 5 days earlier  he had discovered his first comet.

Alcock’s first comet was discovered in Corona Borealis his second was in Cancer. He had spent 6 years sweeping for comets and had found two in 5 days. His first discovery was the first from Briatin since WF Denning discovered a comet in 1894.

After a 65 year dearth of British comet discoveries (and not for the lack of people trying) the discovery of two British comets in a week was, and still is, a fairytale event.

George Alcock would go on to discover another 3 comets not to mention 5 novae!!

Monday 29 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Nova Cygni 1975

Nova Cygnus 1975
The last bright nova in our galaxy was first seen on August 29th 1975. 

The nova when discovered was of the 3rd magnitude but would reach a magnitude of 1.8 the following day nearly as bright as Deneb one of the stars of the summer triangle which has a magnitude of 1.3. The nova was only about 5 degrees from Deneb and for a short period of time changed the appearance of the constellation of Cygnus.

The nova was visible to the naked eye for about a week before it faded from view and optical aid was needed to see it and was about 6,300 light years away and originally would have been below about magnitude 19, meaning that the star had increased in brightness by about 40 million times.

 Nova Cyg was the second brightest nova of the 20th century with only CP Puppis in 1942 being brighter.

The term Nova comes from the Latin for New, a few hundred years ago when astronomers saw what we call Nova they thought they were new stars being created. A nova is a binary system where two stars orbit each other. Typically one will be a white dwarf, and the other a red giant, the white dwarf has a strong gravitational field and pulls gas from the larger though less massive red giant. When some of this less dense and cooler gas falls onto the hot surface of the white dwarf it is thrown off into space, the star will become brighter for a period of time before returning its normally brightness. This process can happen more than once.

At the time of its discovery it was simply referred to as Nova Cygni 1975, today it has the designation nova V1500 Cyg, which means it was the 1500 variable star to have been discovered in the constellation of Cygnus.

We are clearly due for another bright nova, during the 20th century  6 novae were seen between 1900-1950 which were at least as bright as the North Star, from 1950-1999 there was only 1. In the 21st century so far there have been none!

Thursday 25 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook The Rings of Neptune

The Rings of Neptune

On August 25th 1989 the voyager 2 space craft flew past the planet Neptune and discovered a faint ring system there. There are five faint but distinctive rings around the gas giant. They vary in width from about 5,000 km to around 100 km. They are probably made form a combination of dust and ice.
Although it was Voyager 2 that definitely discovered the rings there had been suggestions in the past that Neptune had a faint ring system.

The first suggestion came from William Lassell in 1846 who discovered Neptune’s largest moon Triton that there were faint rings there. Neptune passed in front of stars in 1968, 1981 and 1983 and there were suggestions that the star faded very slightly just before the planet passed in front of it suggestions that there were rings around Neptune.

However it is the Voyager 2 visit to Neptune that claims the discovery of the rings.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Pluto Demoted

Pluto Demoted

This is the tenth anniversary of the demotion of the planet Pluto to that of a dwarf planet. On August 24th 2006 the astronomers officially demoted Pluto from the status of a planet to that of a dwarf planet. The vote involved just 424 astronomers who remained for the last day of a meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague. The vote caused a lot of controversy within the astronomical community.

The astronomer’s decided to establish three main categories of objects in our solar system.
1. Planets: The eight worlds from Mercury to Neptune.
2. Dwarf Planets: Pluto and any other round object that "has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and is not a satellite."
3. Small Solar System Bodies: All other objects orbiting the Sun.

Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 there had been many people who doubted that Pluto should ever have been described as a planet. However public opinion was very much in favour of keeping Pluto as a planet until 2006.

Although now a dwarf planet for 10 years there are still many people who believe that Pluto’s planetary status should be re-instated.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Astrognome Astronomy Show

The Astronomy Show

Tune in on Wednesday to the Astronomy Show with Martin Lunn  on Drystone Radio between 3 pm and 5 pm, I will be continuing the A-Z of the constellations looking at Apus, the bird of paradise, the bright star this week is Arcturus, and the Messsier Marathon object is object is M2 in Aquarius, plus ever heard of the Great Moon Hoax, if not find out tomorrow, plus what's happening in the sky this week, the latest astronomy news plus the astro anniversaries this week.

 The astronomy Show live on Drystone Radio 103.5 FM or listen on line or catch it on podcast.

Astrognome Scrapbook Ranger 1

Ranger 1

Ranger 1, the first of a series of nine spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the moon, was a test spacecraft built as a prelude to future lunar missions. It was designed to make a highly elliptical Earth orbit and carried several science instruments for studying cosmic rays, magnetic fields and energetic particles.

During launch, a rocket malfunction caused the spacecraft to get stranded in low-Earth orbit, and one week after launch, it burned up upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

The first successful of the series was Ranger 7  in 1964.

Monday 22 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Fortuna


On August 22nd 1852 the asteroid Fortuna was discovered by John Russell Hind at the Regents Park observatory in London. Fortuna was the 19th asteroid to be discovered and is one of the larger asteroids in the asteroid belt with a diameter of around 225 km.

 Fortuna named after Fortuna the roman god of luck.

Friday 19 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Belka and Strelka

Belka and Strelka

On August 19th 1960 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 5 into space. On board were two very special dogs. Belka and Strelka were the first animals to enter space and return to Earth safely. They were instrumental in the future of human space flight, giving the Soviets the confidence necessary to send humans into orbit less than a year after their safe return. Laika in 1957 was the first dog in space but sadly the technology did not exist to bring Laika safely back to Earth.

Both Belka and Strelka’s bodies were preserved after their deaths, and the pair are on display in Russia’s Memorial Museum of Cosmonauts in Moscow.

Strelka continued to make history when her puppy, Pushinka, was gifted to the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy by Soviet Premier Nikita Khuschchev, Pushinka lived with the Kennedys in the White House.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Great Meteor of 1783

1783 Great Meteor
The Great Meteor August 18th 1783

A bright meteor was seen over the UK on August 18th 1783, the meteor appeared to enter the Earth’s atmosphere over the North Sea passing over the east coast of Scotland then over England and finally broke up over south west France or northern Italy a distance of over 1,000 miles.

 A letter from Nathaniel Pigott the father of Edward Pigott one of the fathers of variable star astronomy was published by the Royal society.

Pigott was riding his horse with two other gentlemen from York to the east riding of Yorkshire when around 10.00 pm while at Heworth Common near York there attention was drawn towards the West North west by several faint flashes of lightning. Pigott then noticed some luminous matter in motion and collecting together from different directions took firs and presented itself in the form of a ball. It was vivid bright and the whole horizon was illuminated so much that small objects on the ground could be seen. 

The interval of time from the meteor’s formations’ to its extinction was nearly 20 seconds. Pigott adds that his long habit he has of counting seconds in astronomical observations induces him to think this observation and timing  can be relied upon.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

The Astronomy Show on Drystone Radio

Astronomy Show on Drystone Radio

We continue with the a-z constellations, today we look at Antlia the Air Pump ,continuing our review of bright stars, its Canopus in the constellation of Carina the Keel.  We begin a new series with our very own Messier marathon beginning with M1 the Crab Nebulae.

This plus whats in the night sky this week, the latest news, astronomy anniversaries this week and how scientists realised that artillery shells landing on the western front in WW1 indicated that craters on the Moon were made by objects impacting into the moon.

The Astronomy Show with Martin Lunn, Drystone Radio, Wednesday afternoon 3 pm - 5 pm, 103.5 FM, the show is on line or if you miss the show catch it on podcast.

Astrognome Scrapbook Venera 7

Venera 7

On August 17th 1970 the then Soviet Union launched Venera 7 which would become the first probe to successfully send data from the surface of the planet Venus.  It was in fact the first probe to send back data after landing on another planet.

 It landed on Venus on December 15th that year. Venera 7 was designed to enter the atmosphere of Venus, deploy a parachute to slow its fall toward the surface. But, the parachute ripped and collapsed during the descent, leaving Venera 7 in freefall for 29 minutes before it slammed into the Venusian surface. At the time, the probe appeared to stop sending signals, but incredibly it had survived if only for a brief period. Analysis of the radio signals revealed that the probe had survived the impact and continued transmitting a weak signal for 23 minutes.

Venera 7 indicated that Venus was very hostile, the probe was able to send data on the temperature of Venus the temperature was an incredible 475 degrees Celsius with the atmospheric pressure 92 bar, 1 bar is the standard air pressure on Earth, so the pressure at the surface of Venus is much higher than that on Earth.  There was a wind speed of nearly 5.6 mph or 9 km/h.

So while Venera 7 may not have made the soft landing Soviet scientists hoped it would, it did send back data on what the surface of Venus was like and set the stage for even more ambitious missions like Venera 13, which landed on Venus on March 1, 1982 to snap the first colour pictures of the planet from its surface.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Pierre Mechain

Pierre Mechain 1744-1804

Pierre Mechain was born in Laon France on August 16th 1744, he was the born the son of a master ceiling plasterer but quickly in life showed an interest in mathematics. He turned to astronomy and in 1782 his work with comets won him admission to the Academies Royales des Sciences.

 He discovered 11 comets and calculated the orbits of these comets plus other known comets.

In addition Mechain discovered many nebulae that would be incorporated by Charles Messier into his famous catalogue of galaxies and nebulae.

Pierre Mechain, died on Sept. 20, 1804, in Spain.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook on Drystone Radio

The Astronomy Show is back, Wednesday 3pm- 5pm.
This week with two new weekly features, the A-Z of constellations and the brightest stars. Plus the Perseids, it could be a bumper year. Plus what's up in the night sky this week, the astro anniversaries this week, together with latest astro news.
Watch out next week as I begin another new feature the Messier Marathon, a weekly tour of the most famous list of nebulous objects in the night sky.
Drystone Radio 103.5 FM, on Line and on podcast

Thursday 4 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Aldsworth Meteorite

Aldsworth Meteorite

Meteorite Stones fell August 4th 1835 at 4.30pm  at  ALDSWORTH, Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
One stone of 1.5 lbs and a shower of smaller stones fell 0.5 miles from Aldsworth, after detonations and appearance of a fireball at Cirencester.

Here is the report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science for 1857, volume 27,page 140

Details of a Meteorite mentioned in a former Report, which fell at Cirencester in 1835. Extract of a letter to Prof. Powell from Thos. C Brown, Esq.

"Copy of a notice of the Meteorite entered in the Book of Donations of the Permanemt Library, Cirencester, by the late Mr. Arnold Merrick, Curator to the Museum.--'A specimen of a meteorite which fell about half a mile from Aldsworth in a field occupied by Mr. Waine, within twenty yards of his workmen, who were sitting against a wall at the time, on the 4th of August 1835, a sunny afternoon without a cloud.

 A meteor was seen at Cirencester proceeding eastward, and a remarkable noise was heard at half-past 4 in the afternoon. The noise was heard in most parts adjacent.
"'The workman saw no unusual light, but heard the aerolite rush through the air, and felt it shake the ground by striking it with great violence. It fell on a swarth of oats, and drove the straw before it down into the earth for six inches, till opposed by rock. When the men got it up, it was not hot, but the part of the surface which appeared not to have been broken was quite black and soiled the fingers. It weighs about 9270 grains. It contains a great deal of iron, but is not magnetic. Its specific gravity is 3.4.

"'Mr. Waine states that a shower of small pieces fell about half a mile south of the spot where this fell. Children thought it was a shower of black beetles, and held out their hands to catch them as they fell.'

My niece, Miss Anna Sophia Brown, now Mrs Pooley, about 4 p.m. on the same day, being in her father's garden at Cirencester, perceived a meteor passing from W. to E., apparently about twice the height of Cirencester tower, which is upwards of 100 feet high, looking like a copper ball larger than an orange [?], and having a tail or stream of light behind it. In its passage it made a rumbling noise heard by many persons, reminding her of thunder, and the people of the town marvelled that it should thunder in a serene day with a cloudless sky. On the same day at Aldsworth, 13 miles E. of Cirencester, the meteoric stone fell, the particulars of which are before given.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Will Hay and the White Spot on Saturn

Great white Spot on Saturn and Will Hay

Will Hay the celebrated British star of comedy films portraying characters such as school masters and station masters was also a very good astronomer.

On August 3rd 1933 using a 6 inch Cooke refractor he discovered a white spot on Saturn. The spot was confirmed by astronomers at the US Naval Observatory in Washington using the 26 inch refractor. 

The most recent white spot on Saturn was seen in 2010.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Solar Eclipse 1133

Solar Eclipse Aug 2nd 1133

One of the most celebrated eclipses of medieval times.  The eclipse of August 2nd 1133 was considered as a warning of the misfortunes for Henry I.

It was mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and included the following. In this year King Henry went overseas at Lammas and the second day as he lay and slept on his ship the day darkened over all the lands. The Sun became as if it were a 3 night old moon and the stars about it were seen at midday. Men were greatly wonder-stricken and were frightened and said that a great thing should come about hereafter. So it did for the same year the king died on the following day after St Andrew’s Mass-day, December 2nd in Normandy. 

Monday 1 August 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Caroline Herschel 1st Comet

Caroline Herschel’s first comet,

Caroline Hershel the sister of William Herschel the astronomer discovered her first comet on 1st  August 1786 she accompanied her observations of the first night with three drawings of its position in viewing fields. 

On the following evening, she drew it twice and confirmed its cometary nature.

This was the first of 8 comets she would discover between 1786 and 1797. It would not be until the 20th century that another woman astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker would beat that number of comets discovered.

She became so good at discovering comets that it was believed that she could sniff out a comet in the sky.