NACAA XXVI Programme Easter 2014 in Melbourne now ready!

he NACAA convention has been held across Australia since 1967, and has become a significant national forum at which amateur astronomers can exchange experiences, stay abreast of the latest trends, foster co-operative activities between individuals, societies and the professional sphere, and network amongst their peers throughout Australia and beyond.

Programme is ready!

The Programme Committee is pleased to announce that the programme for NACAA XXVI is now ready!!! We have had a huge response from speakers around the country and
internationally. We look forward to an exciting and vibrant event, and wish to thank all those who submitted papers/posters.

Full details can be found at http://www.nacaa.org.au/

Head to the website to register for this exciting event.

Get Ready for the Geminid Meteor Shower overnight this Friday/Saturday

As usual at this time of the year, the Earth is entering a stream of debris from rock comet 3200 Phaethon, which is the source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Dec. 13-14 with as many as 120 meteors per hour.

This year the nearly full Moon will reduce the number of meteors you may see but it is still well worth a look. Expected to peak from about midnight Friday Australian Eastern Daylight Time (or 1300 UT) until 9pm (1000 UT) Saturday, this meteor shower will be visible in both hemispheres.

Though you do need to keep in mind that meteor showers often peak hours before or after predictions and for sure we certainly don’t know everything that a given meteor stream might have in store!

This shower is an interesting one though, with an equally interesting history and source. The Geminids were first identified as a distinct meteor shower by R.P. Greg of Manchester UK in 1862, and the estimated ZHR rose from about 20 to 80 through the 20th century. The parent source of this shower remained unknown until 1983, when astronomer Fred Whipple linked them to the strange “rock-comet” body 3200 Phaethon. This is an Apollo asteroid also thought to be a member of the Pallas family of asteroids, 3200 Phaethon seems to be shedding enough material to produce the annual Geminid meteor shower. This makes the annual shower rare as one not produced by a comet. It’s worth noting that 3200 Phaethon also passes extremely close – 0.14 AU – from the Sun at perihelion, and gets periodically “baked” during each 1.4 year passage.

In the 21st century, rates for the Geminids have stayed above a Zenith hourly rate (ZHR) of 120, now the highest of any annual shower. It’s worth noting that an extrapolated ZHR of almost 200 were seen in 2011 when the Moon was at an equally unfavorable waning gibbous phase! The Geminids always produce lots of fireballs, capable of being seen even under moonlit skies.

With our warmer nights down under it is a great time to get out and have a look! Jupiter is also looking good after about 10:30pm and Mars and Saturn are visible in the early dawn skies as well.

NACAA (Easter 2014) Bulletin 1

The First Announcement and Call for Submissions for NACAA 2014, Friday April 18 to Monday April 21, may be viewed or downloaded here. Check the bulletin for deadlines (earliest is October 2013), venue, and contact information.

The 26th NACAA will be held over Easter 2014, Friday April 18 to Monday April 21, hosted by the Astronomical Society of Victoria. The NACAA XXVI committees invites everyone interested in the “cutting-edge” of amateur astronomy to attend.

We are working to ensure that the programme will include an exciting mix of invited speakers, technical sessions, group discussions, hands-on workshops, and social functions. The 2014 Berenice Page medal is expected to be presented at the convention dinner. The Sunday night BBQ will be held at the Melbourne Observatory complex in the Botanical Gardens.

The venue for NACAA XXVI is the Rydges Bell City, 215 Bell Street, Preston. Situated in northern Melbourne, Preston is about fifteen minutes by car from Melbourne Airport. It is easily accessed by road via the Hume Freeway, Metropolitan Ring Road and other motorways, and by regular rail services to Bell. As well, the #86 tram travels from central Melbourne (Bourke Street) to the corner of Bell Street and Plenty Road in around 35 minutes.

Registrations for NACAA XXVI will commence in late 2013. A number of registration packages will be available, ranging from attendance at just one or two sessions or workshops, through to a full convention, dinner and BBQ package.

PROGRAMME

The core of the convention is of course its presentations, and we are asking you to consider making a contribution, by yourself or in a group. There are no restrictions on topics or themes, so long as the contribution is significant and interesting. Here are a few suggestions:

An address or poster

  • on an observational (or desk-bound) research programme you are involved in;
  • on a significant development in instrumentation and tools: optical, imaging, computational, electronic, whatever …
  • on your progress with a significant project or programme, national or worldwide;
  • to share your imaging successes with an appreciative audience;
  • an entertaining address aimed at promoting the enjoyment of astronomy;
  • on a significant club or local activity;
  • on an interesting piece of astronomical history.

A workshop or round-table meeting

  • on an observing or research technique you use;
  • helping amateurs move to a more advanced plane of astronomical activity;
  • with likeminded specialists to discuss or plan your field;
  • on an educational or outreach activity;

You can submit a proposal for consideration by the PC by completing the form on the NACAA website http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/submission. The full submissions guidelines can be obtained from http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/cfp.
Submissions should be made before

  • 2013 October 1 for workshops, colloquia, or symposia,
  • 2013 November 1 for oral presentations or round-tables,
  • 2014 March 1 for posters.

you have any questions about contributing to NACAA XXVI, you can contact the programme committee by email at programme2014@nacaa.org.au or via the NACAA web site.

 

 

 

 

Lyrids Meteor Shower, peakings around tonight April 23rd.

Head out early tomorrow morning between midnight and dawn to catch the Lyrids Meteor Shower.

The Lyrids radiant is close to the constellation of Lyra (a harp). The constellation rises just after midnight in the southern hemisphere and moves across the northern sky. The Lyrids meteor shower is best viewed after midnight o well before sunrise on 23/24th April. Point your feet towards the northern sky and look about 45 degrees above the horizon. You should see a really bright white star there – this is the blue white star Vega. This shower is caused by the Earth’s atmosphere passing through the dusty pebbly debris left over from Comet Thatcher and has been known to produce spectacular meteors.

So what is a meteor? As a comet (which is a large ball of rock and ice from the outer Solar System) passes by the Sun they become quite heated up and they begin to shed gas, ice, dust particles and rocks which we see as the comets tail. This is left behind as the comet continues on its journey around the Sun.  If the comet’s orbit intersects that of the Earth’s orbit some of material strikes our atmosphere and we see a meteor.

Comet Thatcher also known was discovered by an American amateur astronomer A.E. Thatcher in 1861. This comet was the brightest in over half a century and both head and tail were visible together in broad daylight. Every spring for at least the past 2,700 years, Earth has passed through the trail, thrilling countless sky watchers with the sight of flaming dust and grit. In 1803, it was reported that it looked as if the entire sky was alight with flaming stars.

The Lyrid meteors strike our atmosphere about 95 kilometres above the earth and at speeds of around 49 km/sec or 175,000km per hour and can burn up in some pretty amazing fireballs.

Typical meteoroids which is the name given to meteors before they hit the atmosphere – range in size from grains of sand to walnuts. The bigger they are, the brighter. A meteor that actually hits the ground – a rare event fortunately is called a meteorite.

So if you want to have a look –  find somewhere away from street  lights and other bright lights where you can see clearly to the north and east. head out early in the morning either just after midnight – although the Moon will make it harder to see some of the dimmer meteors o around about  3:30 to 5 a.m. toting a thermos of hot chocolate, tea or coffee. Make sure you’re suitably rugged up for the weather and get yourself all comfy in a reclining lawn chair, banana lounge or under a blanket or sleeping bag. No special equipment required.  Look towards the North and enjoy the beauty of the early morning sky and see how man meteors you can see.

Siding Spring Observatory Open Day – Saturday October 6, 2012

On Saturday October 6th, the Annual Siding Spring Open Day will be held here at Siding Spring Observatory. A number of the telescopes will be open during the day to the public.

There will be a BBQ lunch available; a shuttle bus on site to help you move around and see all there is to see. You will have the opportunity to talk to astronomers and learn about what science is carried out here.

Solar observing will also be available and there will be talks in the Exploratory lecture theatre throughout the day.

The Exploratory cafe will be opened for a well deserved cuppa, Devonshire tea or light lunch from the International menu. Visit the various telescopes and listen to astronomers talk about the research they do. Take part in the trivia treasure hunt to win prizes on the day.

Entry to the event is free. The Open Day will start at 10am and run until 4pm.

Science in the Pub – the End is Nigh! or is it?

Join for Coonabarabran’s Annual Science in the Pub

 This entertaining event starts the weekend off on Friday October 5th, 2012 from 6.30pm.  This annual debate is definitely entertaining and can be thoroughly outrageous at times as a group of astronomers from various backgrounds debate a topic of astronomical interest at the Royal Hotel, John Street Coonabarabran. This event has an entry fee of $5 and provides entry into the drawer for a variety of prizes on the night. Profits all go to a local charity. Food is available for sale on the night. Bookings would be appreciated. Vegetarian meals are also available. Enjoy Dr Fred Watson, Dr Amanda Bauer and Dr Bradley Schaeffer debate “The End is Nigh! Or is it?” and be a part of the fun in the Q&A!

Astronomy Events in Coonabarabran – October 5th-6th 2012.

Annual Science in the Pub

This entertaining event starts the weekend off on Friday October 5th, 2012 from 6.30pm. This annual debate is definitely entertaining and can be thoroughly outrageous at times as a group of astronomers from various backgrounds debate a topic of astronomical interest at the Royal Hotel, John Street Coonabarabran. This event has an entry fee of $5 and provides entry into the drawer for a variety of prizes on the night. Food is available for sale on the night. Bookings would be appreciated. Vegetarian meals are also available. Enjoy Dr Fred Watson, Dr Amanda Bauer and Dr Bradley Schaeffer debating the topic; “The End is nigh.. or is it? Come along join in  and be a part of the fun!
Siding Spring Open Day

On Saturday October 6th, the Annual Siding Spring Open Day will be held here at Siding Spring Observatory. A number of the telescopes will be open during the day to the public.
There will be a BBQ lunch available; a shuttle bus on site to help you move around and see all there is to see. You will have the opportunity to talk to astronomers and learn about what science is carried out here.
Solar observing will also be available and there will be talks in the Exploratory lecture theatre throughout the day.
The Exploratory cafe will be opened for a well deserved cuppa or Devonshire tea or try a light lunch from their International Men.

Entry to the event is free.

The Open Day will start at 10am and run until 4pm. Visit the various telescopes and listen to astronomers talk about the research they do.
Take part in the trivia treasure hunt to win prizes on the day.

Annual Bok Lecture
Saturday evening will culminate with the annual Bok lecture. This is a free lecture, held at the Coonabarabran Primary School in George Street, Coonabarabran.
The Bok Lecture is a light hearted look at astronomy and is accessible to even the most non-science mind. Dr Scott Croom from the University of Sydney will be speaking on the topic: “big Bangs, Big Crunches and Big Rips”.

This night is open to everyone and is free. The event starts at 7pm.
For more information on all these events or to make a booking please contact Donna Burton at Siding Spring Observatory on 02 6842 6255 or by email donna@mso.anu.edu.au.

World’s Largest Telescope To be shared between Australia/New Zealand and South Africa

Friday night, Australian time, came the decision that many expected. The battle for the world’s largest radio telescope ended in a draw – with no golden point time!

The site will be spilt between both Australia/New Zealand and South Africa. The Board met in the Netherlands on Friday and announced at a Press Conference at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam that the decision had been made to go with a dual site approach. This decision has been expected by many since the board met earlier this month and put together a working group to consider the option of a dual site solution.

Factors taken into account during the site selection process included levels of radio frequency interference, the long term sustainability of a radio quiet zone, the physical characteristics of the site, long distance data network connectivity, the operating and infrastructure costs as well as the political and working environment.

This agreement was reached by the Members of the SKA Organisation who were not a part of the two bidding consortia. (Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom)

Construction will begin in 2016, and when it is completed around 2024, it is believed that the telescope will be able to image the early universe at the time when the first stars and galaxies began to form. It will be 50 times more sensitive than current radio telescopes and will be able to shed light on fundamental questions about the Universe including how it began, why it is expanding at the rate it is, what is dark matter and whether there is life beyond our planet.

Splitting the site may be politically expedient, but was certainly not the cheapest or easiest solution. Each of SKA’s thousands of elements will send 160 gigabytes of data per second. Even though that data will be further processed to reduce the bandwidth, both of the remote sites will need high-speed networking and powerful supercomputers, along with all the necessary infrastructure that goes along with it. These costs will increase the cost of the project significantly.

But it isn’t over yet – the member countries – Australia, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, China, Canada and Italy still have to raise the financing for this major project. India is an Associate member of the SKA Organisation as well.

In the decision, it was announced that the ASKAP and MeerKat dishes will be incorporated into Phase I of the SKA. These alone will deliver more science for the radio astronomy community than we can now do.

It was announced that the majority of SKA dishes in Phase 1 will be built in South Africa, combined with MeerKAT, while further SKA dishes will be added to the ASKAP array in Australia. All the dishes and the mid frequency aperture arrays for Phase II of the SKA will be built in Southern Africa while the low frequency aperture array antennas for Phase I and II will be built in Australia. The decision means that they can now get on with the job of building this – the world’s largest telescope.

The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be about one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. Thousands of receptors will extend out to 3, 000 km from the centre of the telescope.

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower May 5/6 2012

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is the first of two showers that occur each year as a result of Earth passing through dust released by Halley’s Comet, with the second being the Orionids.  The point from where the Eta Aquarid meteors appear to radiate is located within the constellation Aquarius. This shower definitely favours the Southern Hemisphere observer as they

Created in Stellarium - finder for the eta aquarids

are usually a lightish meteor shower producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak in the Northern Hemisphere but can peak at around 40-50 per hour here in the Southern hemisphere in a dark sky. The shower’s peak usually occurs on May 5 & 6, however this shower tends to have a broad maximum so viewing should be good on any morning from May 4 – 7.

The full moon which occurs on May 6th will probably ruin the show this year, washing out all but the brightest meteors with its glare.

But still worth having a look if you are up, to see how many Eta Aquarids can be seen in the moonlit sky. For the most part, this is a pre dawn shower. The radiant for this shower appears in the east-south-east at about 4 a.m. local time (wherever you are) and the hour or two before dawn usually offers the most meteors.