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Friday, 30 September 2011

Astronomy Update

Trusty Comet Garradd
September 1, 2011
by Alan MacRobert and Tony Flanders
Comet Elenin has been getting a lot of press in recent months — and now it seems almost certain to be a total bust.

Meanwhile, people in the know have been following a comet that has never been hyped much, but seems almost certain to be a fine, though not spectacular performer for many months to come.

Comet Garradd and M71
Comet Garradd passed M71 in Sagitta on the evening of August 26th.
Nick Howes
We're talking about Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1). In early September it was already a fine sight through telescopes of all sizes, shining high in the evening sky at 7th magnitude. It has a bright head, a sharp starlike nucleus, and a tail that's stubby but well defined. And it's forecast to shine near its 6th-magnitude best all the way from October to mid-March. Not since Hale-Bopp has any comet remained so bright for so long.

Comet Garradd passes through the Coathanger asterism on the evening of Friday, September 2nd, then crosses the northwest corner of Sagitta, and soon enters Hercules, where it will remain until February. That means it's high in the west after nightfall in October, lower but still in good view in November, and near the west-northwest horizon at the end of twilight around Christmas. But by then it's already up higher in the east before the first light of dawn; the best viewing tips from evening to morning on December 16th.

Path of Comet Garradd Oct 2011 - Jan 2012
Comet Garradd crosses Vulpecula and Sagitta in early September, then remains in Hercules for the next six months. Click above for a full-page, printable finder chart.
S&T Diagram
As the comet climbs high in the early-morning sky of January and February, it will pass the Keystone of Hercules, skim ½° by the globular cluster M92 on the morning of February 3rd (mark your calendar), then sail northward past the head of Draco. It should stay bright all the way into spring as it returns to the evening sky.

Click here for a full-page, printable finder chart for Comet Garradd from September through early February, 2012.

Why is it changing so slowly? Comet Garradd is unusually large and distant as 6th-magnitude comets go. It never comes closer to the Sun than Mars's average distance; at perihelion on December 23rd it's 1.55 astronomical units from the Sun. Nor does the comet ever come near Earth; it's about 2 a.u. from us all through October and November, and when closest next March 5th it will still be 1.27 a.u. away. Too bad! Garradd might have qualified for "Great Comet" status if had been on a trajectory to pass close to the Sun and if Earth weren't on the wrong side of its orbit at the time.

Astronomer Gordon J. Garradd discovered the comet at 17th magnitude on August 13, 2009, at Australia's Siding Spring Observatory while hunting for — ironically — near-Earth objects.


OBSERVING BLOG by Kelly Beatty

M101's Supernova Shines On

Update: Supernova 2001fe was gradually fading as of September 26th, down to about magnitude 10.5 from its peak of 9.9 in mid-September. See an up-to-date light curve. Catch it while it's still this bright, and before it moves lower in the northwest after dusk.

In 1987, when an exploding star erupted to eyeball visibility in the far-southern constellation of Dorado, northern skygazers could only wistfully imagine how it must have looked.
Supernova in M101
Observing from Puerto Rico with a 12-inch telescope, Efrain Morales Rivera captured the supernova in M101 on August 29th, when the outburst was roughly 11th magnitude. Rivera submitted this image to our online Image Gallery; click here for a larger view.
Efrain Morales Rivera
Now they've gained some measure of redemption, thanks to a remarkable and relatively bright stellar detonation in M101, sometimes called the Pinwheel Galaxy, poised near the Big Dipper's handle. Although only 17th magnitude when discovered on August 24th, Supernova 2011fe was just beginning its performance.

Right now it's fading slowly from a peak brightness of 9.9, where it remained for nearly a week. But the stellar outburst is still 10th magnitude, and, with intrusive moonlight gone from the early-evening sky, the next few nights offer your best chance to spot it.

In a light-polluted sky the star is much easier to see than M101 itself. The face-on spiral galaxy is large but dim and is easily wiped out by skyglow. If you've got a dark enough sky, M101 makes a nearly equilateral triangle in a finderscope with Alkaid and Mizar, the final two stars in the Big Dipper's handle.
How to find spiral galaxy M101
The face-on spiral galaxy Messier 101 (M101) sits above the Big Dipper's handle, forming an equilateral triangle with the stars Alkaid and Mizar.
To identify which tiny speck is the supernova, use the comparison-star charts that you can generate courtesy of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. Enter the star name SN 2011fe, and choose the "predefined chart scales" A, B, and C. Print out all three. The two brightest stars on the "A" chart are the last two in the the Big Dipper's handle.

If you can see the galaxy itself, the supernova is located 4.4 arcminutes south (and a bit west) of M101's center, at right ascension 14
hh 3m 5.8s, declination +54° 16′ 25″.

The supernova is easy to spot in a 4- or 6-inch telescope. Although it looks like any ordinary star, it's thousands of times more distant than any other that's visible in amateur telescopes from northern latitudes. (M101 is about 23 million light-years away.) In fact, you might even pick it up through big, mounted binoculars. "I was able to clearly see SN 2011fe in M101 using mounted 16×60 Pentax binoculars on September 3rd," reports Colorado amateur Mike Prochoda.
Light curve of Supernova 2011fe
More than 1,400 observations from members of the American Association of Variable Star Observers show that the dramatic rise in brightness of Supernova 2011fe peaked about September 10th.
According to Matthew Templeton, science director for the American Association of Variable Star Observers, SN 2011fe has been a huge hit with its worldwide team of observers: 1,432 observations to date by 117 observers. (One especially prolific member in Spain has submitted more than 500 CCD observations!). "Our main science plan is simply to make sure the light curve is as well-covered and accurate as possible," Templeton explains, "so that the data will be available and useful to the science community."

Meanwhile, SN 2011fe's early detection and its relative nearness have drawn plenty of interest from professional astronomers. Being a Type Ia supernova (the complete thermonuclear explosion of a white-dwarf star in a binary system), this one is getting special research attention — because Type Ia blasts tend to have the same intrinsic brightness and thus serve as uniform "standard candles" for telling distances all across the far universe.

Only rarely, once every couple of decades, do we get one to study in close detail right in our cosmic backyard. "A bright supernova lets you use instruments that don't ordinarily get enough photons," notes Robert Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). "Polarimetry and high-dispersion spectra (to look for gas in the vicinity, along the line of sight in the host galaxy, and in the high-latitude zones of the Milky Way) are good possibilities."

Kirshner adds, "We're especially keen to get good series of infrared spectra, because Type Ia supernovae are better standard candles in the infrared."

Caltech astronomer Richard Ellis says that the Hubble Space Telescope has been tracking the development of SN 2011fe. "We have a regular 'Target of Opportunity' program for nearby Type Ia supernovae," he explains. "We are gathering ultraviolet spectra in a sequence starting from a couple of days after explosion through maximum light and beyond."

Interestingly, no one has been able to identify the star that blew up.
Careful searching of archived HST images by Weidong Li (University of California, Berkeley) and others — nor was an X-ray signature evident in before-the-blast observations from the Swift and Chandra spacecraft. So astronomers will have to dig deeper if they hope to determine whether the companion of the now-obliterated white dwarf was a red-giant star, a main-sequence star, or another white dwarf.

OBSERVING BLOG by Kelly Beatty
Jupiter: Big, Bright, and Beautiful
What's your favorite planet?

If it's Mars, you certainly have lots of company. The fascination with the Red Planet as a possible abode of life goes back well over a century. But Mars is almost always tiny in a telescope, and in 2011 it's not placed well for viewing. Or perhaps you're fondest of Saturn. Nothing compares to those wonderful rings.
Jupiter through a 12½-inch telescope
S&T imaging editor Sean Walker used a 12½-inch reflector to capture Jupiter on August 17, 2011, from Masil Observatory East in New Hampshire. Note the Great Red Spot, which overlaps the dark South Equatorial Belt below center.
Sean Walker
For me, however, it's Jupiter. What makes Jupiter such a treat is that it offers more to see in a telescope than any other planet. It's the only one that shows distinct features in even a fairly small scope. And it's got four large moons that hover nearby like bright fireflies, forever shuttling back and forth around Jupiter's glaring globe.

Jupiter was king of the gods in Roman mythology, and in late 2011 it rules unchallenged as the brightest "star" shining in the evening sky. You'll find it low in the east after sunset in October, and it climbs higher up week by week through year's end. By next April, Jupiter's early evening position will have shifted far to the west.

Before you track down this planet with your telescope, grab your binoculars and find a tree or wall to brace against while pointing them toward Jupiter. If your binoculars are good quality and magnify at least seven times (they'll be marked 7×35 or 7×50, for example), you'll see Jupiter as a tiny white disk.

Look closely to either side of Jupiter's disk — do you see a line of three or four tiny stars? Each of these is a satellite of Jupiter roughly the size of our own Moon. They only look tiny and faint because they're about 2,000 times farther away.

Hide-and-Seek Moons

Now put a low-power eyepiece in your telescope and center Jupiter. Focus carefully so that the planet's edge is as sharp as possible, let any vibrations settle down, and then take a good long look.

Jupiter and its satellites
Jupiter and three of its four Galilean satellites, as they would appear in a small telescope.
Sky & Telescope illustration
Depending on the size of your scope and the quality of the night's seeing, you'll see something like the view here. Now the moons are much more obvious. You'll probably see all four — but possibly only three depending on when you look. The count often changes from night to night (or if you're patient, even from hour to hour). That's because while orbiting Jupiter they sometimes glide in front of the planet, behind it, or through its shadow.

These hide-and-seek movements confounded Galileo Galilei when he first spied these "stars" in 1610. But he soon realized they were actually circling around Jupiter, forming a miniature solar system of sorts. We see their orbits almost exactly edge on.

Sketch showing Jovian belts and zones
Almost any kind of Jupiter observation requires familiarity with the correct names for the various belts and zones. This diagram replicates the view in an inverting telescope such as a Newtonian reflector, or a refractor, Schmidt-Cassegrain, or Maksutov used without a star diagonal. Telescopes used with a star diagonal will have north up but east and west reversed. The planet's rotation causes features to move from east (following) to west (preceding). Click on the image for a larger view.
Sky & Telescope illustration; art: Don Davis
The four are named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto — or, collectively, the Galilean satellites — and it's hard to tell which is which just by looking. Callisto is usually (but not always) farthest from Jupiter, and Ganymede is a little brighter than the others. Sulfur-coated Io has a pale yellow-orange cast. Still not sure? The answers are just a mouse clicks away, thanks to's handy guide to identifying the Galilean satellites at any time and date.

Earning Your Stripes

Now turn your attention to Jupiter itself. Center its round disk in the middle of your telescope's view, then carefully switch to a higher-power eyepiece and refocus. Study the disk closely, and two things should be noticeable. First, the disk is not perfectly round. Jupiter spins so fast (once every 10 hours) that its equatorial midsection bulges out a bit. It's 7% wider across the equator than from pole to pole.

Jupiter is a gas-giant planet — it consists almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, nearly all the way down. The "surface" you see is actually the top layers of cloud decks floating near the top of an immensely deep atmosphere.
Jupiter's appearance in 2009 and 2010
In 2010 observers were surprised to find that Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt had completely disappeared over a 10-month span — leaving the Great Red Spot quite easy to glimpse. But since then the SEB has returned.
Anthony Wesley
Look for at least two tawny-colored stripes running parallel to the equator. These darkish cloud bands are called belts, and the brighter cloud areas between them are called zones. The North and South Equatorial Belts, usually the most prominent, straddle the bright Equatorial Zone like a cream-filled cookie sandwich. If you're using at least a 6-inch telescope, you may be able to pick out a few belts and zones closer to Jupiter's poles.

The single most famous cloud feature on Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, an enormous, oval-shaped storm about twice the size of Earth. Astronomers have observed the Red Spot for at least 150 years, but there's still no agreement on what chemical compounds create its distinctive color. Like any big storm, the spot changes appearance over time. The intensity of its color has sometimes been brick red (very rarely), pale orange tan (more often), pinkish tan, or an almost invisible creamy yellowish. Changes usually happen over a year or two.

When the spot is so pale as to be invisible, you may be able to identify it indirectly by noting the indentation it makes in the south edge of the South Equatorial Belt: a feature dubbed the "Red Spot Hollow."

Be forewarned that seeing the Great Red Spot is a challenge in a small telescope. Your best prospects will be when the spot appears near the middle of Jupiter's disk —'s
online calculator helps you know when to look. The planet's rapid rotation means that these windows of opportunity last only a couple hours, so be prepared to search for the spot over several consecutive nights.

No matter how you look at it, Jupiter is so easy to see that it makes an irresistible telescopic target anytime it's visible in the night sky — and that's why it's my favorite planet.
Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
Information -- More Info -- And More Info

Saturday, 24 September 2011

UARS-Re-Entry Data

Binoculars at the ready this morning:  

UARS - All Passes


| Home | Info. | Orbit | Prev. | Next | Help |
Search period start:00:00 Saturday, 24 September, 2011
Search period end: 00:00 Tuesday, 4 October, 2011
Observer's location: 6, The Nordalls, Kessingland Suffolk, U.K NR33-7UE (Chimney Pot), 52.4181°N, 1.7197°E
Local time zone:British Summer Time (UTC + 1:00)
Orbit:162 x 170 km, 56.9° (Epoch Sep 23)

Type of passes to include:

DateMag StartsMax. altitude Ends
Time Alt.Az. TimeAlt.Az. TimeAlt.Az.
24 Sep 1.601:05:2310 NW 01:06:2717 NNE01:07:3110 ENE

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
Information -- More Info -- And More Info

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

LYRA press release and Inner wheel meeting

To Lowestoft journal etc

Local Suffolk, Radio Heart, Blyth and Beach


Could you please publicise


Other Media outlets





Could you please publicise on What's On  

  • "The LYRA exhibition in the foyer of Lowestoft Library received many visits during the week and the meeting with Paul Money was well attended as he ranged far and wide over images taken from  the universe that has inspired him down the years from Bruce Macandles suspended untethered in space to the view seen by spacecraft from the reverse side  of Saturn, an image of earth shining through a gap in the rings . Next week in the light of the well publicised supernova which has been seen in a galaxy close to the Great Bear constellation , we are glad that the Rotary club women's section known as the Inner Wheel has invited Tom Boles world famous supernova hunter who lives near Ipswich .An evening with  Tom Boles is not to be missed.  All welcome to come to the Park Hill Hotel on Sept 28th. Contact LYRA Chair Leonard Brundle on 01502 585916 or John Perring on  01502 563670  or Beryl Capps  01502 562584 for  tickets price £5"
  • Enclosed as attachment for  meeting and image of Paul Money in front of exhibition
  • Regards
  • Richard Chilvers
  • 01502 574010
  • Contact for phone interviews Chair Leonard Brundle on 01502
  • 585916 or John Perring on  01502 563670
  • Chair    
Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
Information -- More Info -- And More Info

[BAA-ebulletin 00612] Jupiter well placed for observing

BAA electronic bulletin

Jupiter well placed for observing this autumn

Jupiter is now rising before midnight for observers in north temperate latitudes, and climbing higher than it has done since 2003, now being north of the equator.  Moreover, it is close to perihelion, so at opposition on 2011 Oct.29 it will almost equal last year's once-in-a-lifetime proximity.  October oppositions of Jupiter are especially good for northern observers because of the combination of large disk diameter, high altitude, and a chance of reasonable weather.

The Jupiter Section welcomes both images and drawings; please see our web site (URL below) for guidelines.  Already we are receiving first-class images from British and other European observers, comparable to those from more southerly latitudes in recent years, showing that top-quality observations can indeed be made from Europe when the planet is high enough.

At present the planet is settling down after the SEB Revival of 2010 and the NEB expansion event of 2009.  Most regions are comparatively quiet, but of course there is still plenty of interest to see.
The NTB has largely faded away again, but we want to keep an eye on this almost-blank band, as a new outbreak of super-fast brilliant spots could erupt at any time.
The NEB carries the most impressive spots: three exceptionally large and dark ovals ('barges'; these are cyclonic circulations), which have developed as the NEB north edge receded. In the adjacent N.Tropical Zone there are several white ovals, the brightest being the long-lived White Spot Z.
The SEB is fully revived. White spots (convective storms) were still arising close to the position of  the source of the Revival: at up to L2 ~ 260 in June, and up to L2 ~ 250 in July.  In August they were more subdued and continued prograding towards the GRS without new outbreaks, though they were still present as usual following the GRS.
The S.Tropical Zone is largely occupied by a dark grey S.Tropical band, which emerged from dark material around the GRS as the Revival reached its conclusion.
The STB has two dark sectors, one just preceding the GRS, the other following oval BA.

Positions and drifts of major long-lived anticyclonic ovals, as of Sep.1, in System II longitude, are as follows:
       Oval BA L2 = 330;  DL2 = -15 to -17 deg/month (varying)*
       GRS             L2 = 168;  DL2 = +0.8 deg/month
       WS-Z            L2 = 11  ;  DL2 = -11 deg/month
       NN-LRS-1        L2 = 88;    DL2 = -9 deg/month (varying)*
*( Oval BA is slightly reddish at present; NN-LRS-1 has lost its colour in recent weeks.)

A map has been posted on our web site identifying these and other features presently visible:

John Rogers
2011 Sep.16

John H. Rogers, Ph.D.
Jupiter Section Director,
British Astronomical Association

BAA-ebulletin mailing list visit:
(c) 2011 British Astronomical Association

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
Information -- More Info -- And More Info

NASA starts working on new rocket for deep space missions

NEWSALERT: Tuesday, September 12, 2011 @ 1541 GMT
  The latest news from Spaceflight Now

Crew patches for Expeditions 31, 32 and 36 are now available from our

NASA unveiled the design of its long-awaited post-shuttle super rocket
Wednesday, a gargantuan Saturn 5-class booster intended to propel the
agency's manned Orion crew capsules beyond low-Earth orbit and onto a
variety of deep space destinations ranging from nearby asteroids to Mars.


Billed as the biggest rocket ever built, NASA's concept for a behemoth
heavy-lift booster unveiled Wednesday will initially weigh 5.5 million
pounds, stand taller than the Statue of Liberty and generate 10 percent
more thrust than the Saturn 5 moon rocket produced at liftoff.

NASA and Alliant Techsystems Inc., a leading rocket contractor, announced
Tuesday they will share data and expertise in helping design and develop
the Liberty rocket, a U.S.-European launcher that could haul humans into
Earth orbit by 2015.

Alleviating concerns the International Space Station could be temporarily
abandoned late this year, the Russian space agency has set Nov. 12 for the
next crewed flight of the Soyuz rocket after an unmanned launch of the
normally-reliable booster failed last month.

Celebrate the shuttle program with the special commemorative patches and
the astronaut emblems available from our store.

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
Information -- More Info -- And More Info

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Bus-sized satellite to re-enter Earth's atmosphere this week

Space Weather News for Sept. 20, 2011

UARS, a NASA satellite the size of a small bus, will re-enter Earth's atmosphere later this week producing a brilliant fireball somewhere over our planet.  Best estimates place the re-entry time during the late hours of Sept. 23rd over a still-unknown region of Earth. Observers of the rapidly-decaying satellite say it is tumbling and flashing, sometimes almost as brightly as Venus.  Video images featured on today's edition of show how the doomed satellite looks through a backyard telescope.

Readers who would like to catch a last glimpse of UARS streaking across the night sky should check SpaceWeather's Satellite Tracker for flyby times: . You can also turn your smartphone into a UARS tracker by downloading our Simple Flybys app:

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
Information -- More Info -- And More Info

Monday, 19 September 2011

Sundiving Comet

Space Weather News for Sept. 13, 2011

SUNDIVING COMET:  A comet is diving into the sun today. Just discovered by comet hunters Michal Kusiak of Poland and Sergei Schmalz of Germany in data from SOHO, the icy visitor from the outer solar system is expected to brighten to first magnitude before it disintegrates on Sept. 14th.  Visit today and tomorrow to follow the comet's death plunge.

You are subscribed to the Space Weather mailing list, a free service of

New subscribers may sign up for free space weather alerts at .

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
Information -- More Info -- And More Info

SPA ENB No. 316

                 The SOCIETY for POPULAR ASTRONOMY
         Electronic News Bulletin No. 316  2011 September 11
Here is the latest round-up of news from the Society for Popular
Astronomy.  The SPA is Britain's liveliest astronomical society, with
members all over the world.  We accept subscription payments online
at our secure site and can take credit and debit cards.  You can join
or renew via a secure server or just see how much we have to offer by
California Institute of Technology
Dwarf planet 2007 OR10 orbits the Sun far out in the Solar System and
is about half the size of Pluto, making it the fifth-largest dwarf
planet.  It is one of the reddest objects in the Solar System.  There
are a few other distant dwarf planets that also are red; they are
themselves part of the large group of icy bodies called Kuiper Belt
Objects (KBOs).  The spectrum of 2007 OR10 shows that the surface is
covered in water ice -- a surprise, because although ice is common in
the outer Solar System, it is almost always white, not red.
There is, however, one other dwarf planet that is both red and covered
with water ice: Quaoar, which was discovered in 2002 and is slightly
smaller than 2007 OR10.  Quaoar is big enough to have had an
atmosphere and a surface covered with volcanoes that spewed an icy
slush, which then froze solid as it flowed over the surface.  But
because Quaoar is not as big as dwarf planets like Pluto or Eris, it
could not hold onto volatile compounds like methane, carbon monoxide,
or nitrogen as long.  A couple of billion years after Quaoar formed,
it began to lose its atmosphere to space; now, all that remains is
some methane.  Over time, exposure to the radiation from space turned
that methane -- which consists of a carbon atom bonded to four
hydrogen atoms -- into long hydrocarbon chains, which look red.  The
irradiated methane sits on Quaoar's icy surface like frost, giving it
a rosy hue.  The spectrum of 2007 OR10 looks similar to Quaoar's,
suggesting that what happened on Quaoar also happened on 2007 OR10.
Although the latter's spectrum clearly shows the presence of water
ice, the evidence for methane is not definitive at present.
Scientists using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have
discovered six 'Y dwarfs' -- star-like bodies with temperatures as
cool as the human body -- all within a distance of about 40 light-
years.  They are the coldest members of the brown-dwarf family,
objects that are sometimes referred to as 'failed stars' because they
are too low in mass to fuse atoms at their cores; instead, these
objects cool and fade with time, until what little light they do emit
is at infrared wavelengths.  Brown dwarfs have atmospheres that are
similar to those of gas giant planets like Jupiter, but they are
easier to observe because they are alone in space, away from the
relatively blinding light of a parent star.  The coldest of the six
Y dwarfs, called WISE 1828+2650, has an estimated atmospheric
temperature less than 25°C.  Another, WISE 1541-2250, is about nine
light-years away and may become recognized as the seventh-closest
star system, in place of Ross 154.
A faint star called SDSS J102915+172927, in the constellation Leo, has
been found to have the smallest abundance of elements heavier than
helium of all stars yet studied.  It has a mass less than that of the
Sun and is probably more than 13 billion years old.  Observers at the
VLT found that the proportion of metals in the SDSS star is more than
20,000 times smaller than in the Sun.  It is believed that the
lightest chemical elements -- hydrogen and helium -- were created
at the Big Bang, together with some lithium, while almost all other
elements were formed later in stars.  Supernova explosions spread the
stellar material into the interstellar medium, making it richer in
metals.  New stars formed from the enriched medium, so they had more
metals in their composition than the older stars.  The abundance of
metals is therefore a guide to the age of a star, so the SDSS object
could be one of the oldest stars ever found.  It has a surprising lack
of lithium.  It 'should' have a composition similar to that of the
Universe shortly after the Big Bang, with a few more metals in it.
But the proportion of lithium seems to be at least fifty times less
than expected in the material produced by the Big Bang.  The same
observers have identified several more candidate stars that may prove
to have metal levels similar to, or even lower than, those in SDSS
Type Ia supernovae are thought to occur when a white dwarf in a binary
star system receives additional material from its companion star,
until its mass exceeds a certain limit at which the star initially
collapses but then explodes.  There has recently been interest in
determining the nature of the mass 'donors', with the ultimate goal of
establishing whether supernovae everywhere evolve in the same manner,
having the same luminosity at various stages.  Estimating cosmological
distances depends largely on assumptions about the constancy of the
candle-power of such very luminous objects as supernovae, and the
assumptions need to be tested.  The research has indicated that in
about a quarter of the cases in spiral galaxies, and possibly more,
the companion star that donates mass to the white dwarf is probably an
ordinary medium-sized star, largely similar to the Sun.  [This item is
silent as to the nature of the other three-quarters of the cases, even
in spiral galaxies.]
Certain galaxies exhibit jets that are shot out at nearly the speed
of light from the poles of discs of material that is thought to be
rotating round super-massive black holes at the galaxies' cores.
There is one spiral galaxy, nicknamed Speca, that shows evidence for
three distinct episodes of such activity.  It is about 1.7 billion
light-years away, and there are 60-odd other galaxies in a cluster
with it.  They may provide an analogy with what young galaxies and
clusters looked like when the Universe was much younger.  Galaxies in
such clusters would have been gathering up additional material,
colliding with each other, undergoing bursts of star formation, and
interacting with primordial material falling into the cluster from
outside; Speca is showing evidence for many of those phenomena.
Speca (an acronym) first came to light in an image that combined data
from the visible-light Sloan Digital Sky Survey with a survey from the
VLA radio telescope.  Images from various radio telescopes operating
at different wavelengths identified three separate pairs of radio-
emitting lobes, providing evidence for three distinct epochs of jet
activity.  The outermost lobes are old enough that their particles
should have lost most of their energy and ceased to produce radio
emission.  It is thought that those old, relic lobes have been
're-lit' by shock waves from rapidly-moving material falling into the
cluster of galaxies as the cluster continues to accrete matter.
Scientists have discovered a distant galaxy that throws light on two
fundamental questions of galaxy formation -- how galaxies accrete
matter and how they give off energetic radiation.  It is believed
that, during the epoch when the first galaxies formed, their
ultraviolet light ionized surrounding neutral hydrogen atoms, i.e. it
stripped them of their electrons.  That was the origin of the ionized
plasma that today fills the Universe.  But there is a question as to
how the high-energy radiation was able to escape from the immediate
surroundings of a galaxy, known as the galactic halo.  The galaxies we
observe today tend to be completely surrounded by haloes of neutral
hydrogen, which absorb all the light capable of ionizing hydrogen
before it has a chance to escape into inter-galactic space.
The scientists, using the Magellan telescopes at Las Campanas and
archival images from the Hubble telescope, discovered a galaxy with an
extended patch of light surrounding it.  It appeared that roughly half
of the galaxy's radiation must be escaping and exciting hydrogen atoms
beyond its halo.  The key to the escape of radiation was found in the
unusual, distorted shape of the galaxy.  It appears that the object
had recently collided with another galaxy, creating a hole in its
halo, allowing radiation to pass through.  The escape of radiation
during such galactic interactions and collisions may be able to account
for the re-ionization of the Universe.  At early times, when the
Universe was much denser, collisions between galaxies would have been
much more common than they are today.
The new observation also demonstrates the flow of in-bound matter, from
which a galaxy initially forms.  In the present case, the escaping
ionizing radiation illuminates a long train of incoming gas, which is
feeding new matter into the galaxy.  The existence of such structures
had been suggested by theory, but they had not been seen previously
because they barely emit any light of their own.
One of the fastest spacecraft ever launched -- New Horizons -- is
heading for Pluto.  Launched in 2006, it has been going for longer
than some missions last, and still has four more years to go.  When it
reaches Pluto in 2015 it will have travelled for longer than any
spacecraft has previously flown to reach its main target, although
Voyager 2 had been going for more than 12 years when it had its final
and very successful rendezvous with Neptune in 1989.  To save power
and reduce wear, New Horizons hibernates much of the time.  The probe
is equipped with spectrometers and one of the largest and highest-
resolution interplanetary telescopes ever flown, called LORRI, short
for Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager.  At closest approach to Pluto,
about 10,000 km, LORRI should resolve details almost as well as a spy
BBC News
When the Prospero spacecraft was launched by a Black Arrow rocket on
1971 October 28, it marked the end of a very short era -- it was the
first UK satellite to be launched on a UK launch vehicle, and it would
also be the last, as Ministers had cancelled the rocket project in the
run-up to the flight.  However, as the Black Arrow was ready, the
programme team decided to fire it anyway.  Prospero was successfully
put into orbit from the remote Woomera base in the Australian desert,
and the satellite is still up there.
Carrying a series of experiments to investigate the effects of the
space environment, the satellite operated satisfactorily until 1973
and was contacted annually until 1996.  Now, scientists are hoping
to re-establish communications in time for the satellite's 40th
anniversary.  First, they have to re-engineer the 'ground segment',
but that is not easy because the satellite was built by the Space
Department at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough and the
department was broken up long ago.  The codes to contact Prospero were
missing, and the technical reports made in the 1970s were also thought
to have been lost.  The codes were eventually discovered typed on a
piece of paper in the National Archives at Kew.  But even with the
codes, the engineers still have to build equipment to communicate with
the satellite, and to obtain approval from the broadcast regulator
Ofcom to use Prospero's radio frequencies, which are being employed
these days by other satellite operators.  Once that ground segment is
complete, then they will see if it is still possible to communicate
with Prospero.  If the satellite is still alive, some of the
experiments might even be working.
By Richard Bailey, Solar Section Director
Rotations Nos. 2113, 2114
AR activity in the NH was about four times that in the SH and the
number of sunspots about seven times.  The larger sizes of many NH
ARs also had an effect on sunspot numbers.
Week 1:  A line of 3 sizeable NH ARs, 1260, 61 and 63 plus small
1265 near the W limb showed well, the leading AR just past the CM
on the 1st.  By the 7th, ARs 1261 and 63 were by the W limb and
small SH AR1269 by the CM.
Week 2:  A much quieter Sun, only small NH AR 1266, 1270 and SH
AR 1269 were noted.
Week 3:  The 15th had a blank disc.  On the 16th NH AR1271 had
appeared at the E limb and was to develop into a good cluster of
spots during the week, 12 being seen on the 17th. when small SH
AR 1272 was seen by the E limb.
Week 4:  NH AR 1271 continued to grow as it passed the CM, 17
spots being counted including a good leader and follower with
penumbra.  Small NH AR 1274 and SH 1272 and 75 showed on the
22nd. 1271 was at the W limb on the 27th, and two single spots with
penumbra, close together, ARs 1277 and 79, had rotated into view in
the E.  By the end of the month they had moved near the CM.  By
then other small ARs had appeared  to give 5 across the disc.
Section members observed  faculae regularly.
MDF     2.48               R   37.52
The highlight of the month was the strongest (X7 rated) flare of Solar
Cycle 24 so far, on the 10th, at about 0800 UT.  The large, brilliant
flare appeared in NH AR 1263, then near the W limb.  It was easily
seen through passing clouds and was at its brightest at 0825, but had
faded by 0905.  Prominences again were regularly seen, many large with
complex and ever-changing shapes sometimes across days.  Lengthy
filaments were also often seen, some lasting days, and bright plaging
to ARs.  Some splendid prominences were seen on the S, N and W limbs
on the 15th, a huge W arch dominating, and on the 29th. a large bright
hedgerow one on the E limb.
MDF    4.69
('Cut out and keep' this piece if you hope to understand future
Solar-Section reports)
For fuller details see Section member Lee Macdonald's book, 'How
to Observe the Sun Safely'; it is available from the SPA Bookshop.
Another excellent guide to Solar Observing,by a former Solar Section
Director, John Chapman-Smith, can be seen on the Solar Section link
from the SPA website.
White Light Observations of the Sun's surface as normally seen.
H-Alpha Observations made through special filters that pass only the
6563-Angstrom wavelength of neutral hydrogen, allowing prominences,
plages, filaments and flares to be seen.  Filaments are prominences
(which stand out from the limb of the Sun) seen against the Sun's disc.
Plages are bright regions often seen where sunspots occur. Flares are
sudden, very bright and often short-lived bursts of energy and matter,
where ARs are seen.
NH, SH northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere.
CM Central Meridian, the centre line of the Sun's disc between the N
and S poles.
AR Active Regions on the Sun where sunspots are seen.  Each is
given a number in sequence as they appear.
MDF Mean Daily Frequency of active regions and prominences
reported by Section members.
R Mean Daily number of sunspots counted by Section members.
Umbra, Penumbra Dark central area of sunspots; paler surrounding
Faculae Regions brighter than the normal photosphere (surface of the
Sun), often where sunspots have appeared, or will appear.
Bulletin compiled by Clive Down
(c) 2011 the Society for Popular Astronomy
  web site:

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Various Voluntary work-Litter Picking for Parish Council (Daytime) and also a friend of Kessingland Beach (Watchman)
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)
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