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.

The Planets in January 2014

Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, has returned to the evening sky this month for a brief sojourn. Unfortunately you will need a good clear western horizon to see it. By the 19th it should be about 5 degrees above the south-western horizon and only visible for about 30 minutes after the Sun has set. By the end of January it will be visible for closer to 1 hour after Sunset and by mid February it will no longer visible in the evening sky as it heads off to its inferior conjunction appointment with the Sun. It will return later February as the ‘morning star’ and remain in the morning skies until mid April. An inferior conjunction occurs when the Earth and interior planet are on the same side of the Sun.

Venus started the month as the ‘evening star’ after shining so brightly in the western sky on January 11th it Venus passed between the Earth and the Sun and so had its inferior conjunction with the Sun. It will be come visible as the ‘morning star’ before dawn around January 19/20. A nice photo opportunity for all the morning risers will occur on January 29th when a thin crescent Moon will be above Venus to the south-east in the morning twilight.

Earth: trivia note for the month – on January 4, the Earth was at its closest to the Sun for the year. The Sun was only 147,089,638 km away.

Mars is slowly returning to our evening skies in January. Spending the month in the constellation of Virgo it will rise around 12:30am local summer time and rising earlier each night by around 2 minutes, finishing the month by poking its head up around 11:30pm local summer time. Currently the best time to check it out is still in the early morning sky about an hour before morning twilight. On the 23 and 24th of the month the Moon will be very close to Mars at around 12:30am.

Jupiter is visible most of the night at present. It will spend the month in Gemini. It is clearly the brightest object in the sky rising around 8:30pm. By January 22nd it will be setting at around 4:30am.  Having reached its yearly opposition – when it’s opposite the sun – rising in the east as the sun is setting in the west on January 5th. Even if you have only a small telescope, or a decent pair of binoculars, which you mount to keep steady the four main moons of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto should be visible. These are the moons that were discovered by Galileo. Although all four may not be visible at the same time as they may be hidden as they pass behind the planets. It is always interesting to watch and note their positions over a few hours – just as Galileo did over 400 years ago.

Saturn rises well before the Sun in the constellation of Libra. By mid January it is rising at around 2am and in the early hours of Australia Day, just before sunrise around 5:30am Venus will be visible very low on the Eastern horizon the Moon and Saturn will be very close and higher in the same line in the sky will be Mars. Between Venus and Saturn is a red star known as Antares – the heart of the Scorpion. Antares also means ‘Mars-Like” so don’t let it trick you! Mars is higher than yellow Saturn in the sky and Antares, a star, is much lower. The rings of Saturn currently are open wide when viewed from the Earth, making them a fine sight in a small telescope.

If you have any questions about what you see in the sky or want more information please feel free to contact me – Donna Burton, University of Southern Queensland – Astronomy for Schools Co-ordinator North West NSW 63 John Street, Coonabarabran 2357, phone 6842 4343 or via email donna.burton@usq.edu.au and you can check out my blog at http://www.astronewsroom.com.

 

Photo Credits and Caption

 

Aust_Day_Planets.jpg – Australia Day Morning Planet Parade.

Created in the free planetarium software package – Stellarium. This chart shows you the sky looking East on Australia Day (Jan 26), 2014 at 5:15am AEDST. You will need a good south-eastern horizon but you can see Venus low in the East, the Moon and Saturn and orange-red Mars higher in the sky and to the North.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower May 3-6

Just a reminder that the Eta Aquarid meteor shower will peak this weekend and into early next week, this shower is associated with Halley’s Comet.

The Moon will be a very slim crescent by the time the Eta’s peak on the morning of the 6th May (Monday).

It is advisable that you try to observe at least the morning before and after the peak as the maxima is very broad for this shower and it is quite possible that rates can vary.

The expected Zenith Hourly Rate is around 65 meteors per hour, but realistically this may be much lower, this shower has shown good rates in the past.

Best observing time is from around 3:30am.
The meteors will appear to “radiate” away from the star Eta Aquarii, meteors closer to the radiant will appear much shorter and ones further away will leave longer streaks, of which you can trace the origin back to the radiant.
Any meteor NOT tracing back to the radiant is classified as “sporadic” or could be a member of another shower which might be showing activity.
Some meteors near the radiant will show as a rapid pinpoint flash of light indicating a “head-on” meteor, don’t worry they won’t hit you!

Look for fast (65km/sec) white/yellowish coloured meteors which leave a 2 to 3 second “train” (sometimes longer), ie: the streak left over after the meteor “burns” out.

There will be some early morning International Space Station passes in the NE on the morning of the peak (6th May) at around 4:21am but will keep low (17 degrees) above the horizon!

Thanks to my pal – Chris Wyatt for the reminder and chart!

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.

“SuperMoon” this Sunday

The biggest and brightest full moon of the year arrives tomorrow as our largest natural or otherwise satellite comes a little closer than normal. It will, at least from our perspective on Earth appear a bit bigger – a good experiment – take a photo tonight and take one next full moon in the same place and see if it is true.

The term ‘Supermoon’ is a nickname for a perigee full moon, this is the when the Moon is  closer to the Earth than usual in its orbit. Apogee and perigee refer to the distance from the Earth to the moon. Apogee is the furthest point from the earth while Perigee is the closest point to the earth and it is in this stage that the moon appears larger. Looking at the moon in the sky without anything to compare it to, you wouldn’t notice any size difference. But the difference in size can in fact be quite significant.

full moon at apogee and perigee

If you were to take a picture when the Moon is at perigee and again at apogee using the same camera and lens you would notice the difference.

The full Moon occurs at 1:35pm (AEST) Sunday May 6th in Australia. It is predicted that the moon will about 14 per cent brighter than usual.

Sunday’s event is a “supermoon,” the closest and the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. At 1.35 p.m., the moon will be about 356,956 km from Earth. That’s about 24,653 km closer than it is on average.

That proximity will make the moon appear about 14 percent bigger than it would if the moon were at its farthest distance, however, the difference in appearance is so small that you will find it hard pick it with your unaided eye.

The moon’s distance from Earth varies because it follows an elliptical orbit not a circular one.

Like any full moon, tomorrow’s moon will look bigger when it’s on or near the horizon rather than higher in the sky, thanks to an optical illusion. The full moon appears on the horizon at sunset. On the East coast, for example, that will be a at 5.07pm.

The last “supermoon” on March 20, last year was about 380 km closer than this year’s will be. Next year’s will be even a bit farther away than this year’s. Each year there is a perigee and an apogee Moon and the distances vary.

One effect that can be noticed doesn’t affect me where I live, but coastal folks are very familiar with the tides and how their height varies over the course of a month, again, due to the Moon not always being the same distance from the Earth. As the Moon’s orbit brings it in closer proximity to our planet, its gravitational forces can increase by almost 50%, and this stronger force leads to high tides. Likewise, when the Moon is farther away from the Earth the tides are far less spectacular.

The Moon’s influence can also be balanced out by the position of the Sun – if the Sun and the Moon find themselves 90 degrees apart in relation to an observer on the Earth, then high tides are not as high as they normally would be. This is because despite its greater distance from the planet, the Sun’s mass allows it to exert enough gravitational force on the oceans that it can negate some of the effects of the Moon’s pull. This phenomenon of lower high tides is called a neap tide. In the same way, when the Sun lines up with the Moon and the Earth, as during a Full Moon, then the Sun can act to amplify the tidal forces, drawing even higher tides. These are known as spring tides, named not for the season, but for the fact that the water “springs” higher than normal. The variance in the height of the world’s tides also depends on the local geography of the coastline and the topography of the ocean floor.

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.