As usual, I have only a small space left in this issue to fill with my comments. I am sorry that this issue is late, but the General Assembly and personal matters kept me from Nova Note. I hope to have the August issue out by the end of August.
The big news this past week is the signing of the lease with Annapolis Basin Group for our permanent observing site! There will be plenty of details about this in the next issue.
Paul Gray and I were very pleased to find out, at the national General Assembly in Windsor, Ont., that we were to be presented with the society's Ken Chilton Prize for our supernova discovery. It was an honour indeed to be recognized by one's peers. I want to personally thank Mary Lou Whitehorne for nominating Paul and I for the award. Thanks Mary Lou! The Ken Chilton Prize is awarded for a significant contribution to astronomy carried out or published during the year.
The last note I have is that the Halifax Centre is now on the Internet's World Wide Web (thanks to Malcolm Butler at SMU's Dept. of Astronomy and Physics for providing access to the computer hardware). For those of you with Internet access, our address is: http://apwww.stmarys.ca/rasc/rasc.html Have a safe and starry summer!
I was just reading Nova Notes and the article about "Cyrus." Interesting, especially the last paragraph.
"...Sirius can twinkle through all the colours of the rainbow on a clear winter night, but it never gives the appearance on being a WHITE star. (!) ..."In all cases he finds that Sirius is referred to as a RED star. In fact it was generally adopted as the standard for white stars by the ancient Chinese."
Shouldn't the two capitalized (my emphasis) colours be reversed? It's funny, in an ironical way, that the article is obviously written to clear some of the confusion around this Star, and it accidentally adds to the confusion!
Mary Lou Whitehorne
(Editor's Note: To set the record straight, the editor screwed up the "colour" swap, not the author. In fact the editor called the author to clarify this point, then promptly typed it in the wrong way. Oh well, guess we better see that my pay is reduced!)
BY DAVE LANE
Once again, the Halifax Centre, with help from the New Brunswick Clubs, will be hosting Nova East. I have included a schedule of events and a map (these items are not available in the WWW version of Nova Notes) which shows the park layout and how to get to Fundy National Park in New Brunswick. More detailed maps of the park are available from the information centre at the park.
We won't be having a registration charge this year, but will be accepting donations to pay for the corn boil/wiener roast goodies. There is, of course, the usual Park entrance fee. Those who wish to camp at the group campsite will not have to pay camping fees, as these are waived in lieu of our Public Talks and Observing Sessions.
There are two kinds of accommodations available. For those who prefer camping, we have a large site in the Micmac Group Campground (the north-west side). For those who are a bit more civilized, there are two inns in the park, but they are likely filled at this late date, so I won't bore you with all the regular, now useless, information. There are, however, several motels in the village of Alma right next to the park (call New Brunswick tourism for details).
As this event is advertised in Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and SkyNews, we are starting to draw people from all over. In addition, the park publicizes the public talks and observing sessions, so we hope to have a good turnout for all the events.
Don't be shy if you don't have a telescope, there is always an eyepiece to look through. I have never met an owner of a large scope who didn't like to show off views!
Anyone will find lots to do at Fundy, both at night and during the daytime hours. The Park is one of the oldest in Canada, and is well established with dozens of walking trails and entertainment facilities for all ages, including an excellent golf course, restaurant, lounge, swimming pool, and playground.
See you there! If you have any questions, please call Dave Lane at 443-5989.
BY PAT KELLY
It has been some time since I have done a meeting report. There we were at the executive meeting, sitting around the board room table, when El Presidente mentioned that we needed a certified meeting reporter for that night's meeting. I mentioned something about being certifiable, and was granted the coveted privilege of producing the report that you are now reading. The only conditions were that it had to be shorter than Mary Lou's and longer than Nat's first one.
The turnout was rather low, just under thirty people. No doubt this was due to a combination of factors. June's third Friday was earlier than usual, the beautiful summer evening, being too close to the G-7 "red zone", and some members may have already followed the Supernova Scotia story to their own level of interest in the popular press.
The usual introductory announcements were augmented by the presentation of a special certificate to Heather Cameron to recognize her accomplishments at the International Science Fair. She picked up scholarships, prizes and medals. In fact, there was not enough room on the certificate to list all of the awards that she received!
We also found out that we were real, at least as far as the provincial government is concerned. We are now incorporated and are legally entitled to lease or purchase land. On the topic of land, negotiations for the preferred observatory site have been successful and it is expected that we will be signing a ten year lease with Annapolis Basin Group once the slightly-modified lease arrives. Shawn Mitchell also showed a draft plan of the type of structure that we hope to build.
Once again we will be holding public observing sessions at Cloud and Fog Lake, I mean Dollar Lake Provincial Park. I have no doubt that the dates and times will appear elsewhere in this issue (if it is out in time). We will also be holding a public session for the ham radio club, although it will be over by the time you read this. Nevertheless, the announcement allowed us to observe Dave Lane's map-making skills.
Next up was an issue that could normally be described by the equation constitution changes = proxy votes = boring. However, in this case, Dave Lane explained how the changes were to allow for the possibility of a new structure for the society's national publications. Anyone interested in filling out a proxy form was welcome to do so, but they were under no pressure. Tell me - how many lights do you see?
Next up was Paul Gray with the observing report. According to my notes, Paul said something to the effect that Jupiter and Saturn were the only things currently worth observing. We also got to see Dave "Yo-Yo" Lane's skills with the projection screen!
Well, we were finally ready for the main event - Supernova Scotia 1995F. The presentation started with Dave exhibiting his skills with the overhead projector. Paul Gray told us how he read a chapter on supernova hunting in one of Patrick Moore's astronomy handbooks and went to Dave to see if such a search could be done from SMU. Dave told him that it was a crazy idea. Later, after Dave had made some significant changes to the Burke-Gaffney Observatory's telescope and with the acquisition of a CCD camera, it changed from a crazy idea into an agreement that if Paul determined what had to be done and how, Dave would see if he could make it possible.
We now moved on to some slides of the setup at BGO and Dave got to display his skills with slide projector focusing (By this time, many people were probably wondering how Dave managed to get paid as a technician!). We got to see how two computers are used for the project. One, running a modified version of ECU, controls the telescope, while the other controls the CCD camera. Both are in the BGO's warm room, which made those long winter runs a bit easier to take. Another factor in the comfort equation was the discovery that the BGO could get take-out pizza! They also went over the strategy involved in deciding which galaxies to look at, including the "sleaze factor" of looking at galaxies when other observatories could not, either because the galaxies were too low in the sky or it was still daylight there.
There was an interesting discussion of the problems that they ran into in trying to verify their possible discovery, and how long it took. While they were waiting, they continued their search routine. They found on one of their images what what looked like a knot of gas in a spiral arm. It was later "discovered" to be supernova by an Italian team! Now they were worried that maybe they had missed their chance and that their unconfirmed discovery might turn out to be a false alarm. However, as you are all aware, that was not the case and their were slides showing the IAU circular announcing the discovery.
After the Dave and Paul show, Mary Lou did the handbook talk; the subject being tides. Rather than telling us about the contents in the usual fashion, she gave us a list of questions along with the paragraphs in which the answers could be found. She also read an interesting passage from the handbook, describing the tides at Cape Split, and which had been written by the editor, a.k.a. "that silver-tongued devil".
The meeting wrapped up with Mary Lou going through some slides of the supernova press conference at SMU, complete with gaggles (if that is the right term) of "press monkeys". No doubt Paul has a good idea of what the G-7 leaders have to go through all the time! These were followed by some pictures of David Levy receiving his honorary degree from Acadia University. Lastly we had some shots that were taken at Cape Split where a group of RASCals had gone to "hear the Moon's roar".
During the munchies, several people, including some first-time visitors, went out to the parking lot to observe through Blair MacDonald's telescope. This was followed by a small group walking to the top of Citadel Hill to watch the G-7 fireworks display (spectacular) and to see the Russian space station "Mir" pass by (not spectacular, we almost missed it because of the haze). Hope to see you all back in September for the first meeting of the new year!
BY MARY LOU WHITEHORNE
Whose silly idea was this, anyway? Never mind, it was my silly idea...
May 20, 1995, the day after the Halifax Centre's annual banquet. Greg Palman, our Member-from-Maine, was in town to return a light bucket to our erstwhile President. While here, returning the said scope and partaking of turkey dinner, he was looking for something uniquely Nova Scotian to keep him amused for one day. "How about let's visit the Titanic Cemetery? Or maybe go to the Halifax Citadel?" he says. "Well, we could do that," I replied, "or we could do something else. Get out your 1995 Observer's Handbook and turn to page 125. Read the second last paragraph and then tell me you don't want to hike out to Cape Split." He fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
We were off to Cape Split, taking with us one Member-from-Maine, one President-for-Life, one Surgeon-from-PEI (Bill Thurlow), my two daughters Louise and Ivy, and one Observer's Handbook Editor. And me too. After all, it was my silly idea.
Cape Split is located on the south side of the entrance to the Minas Basin, where the world's highest tides surge in and out twice every day. I had long heard about this hiking trail and the tremendous scenic reward at trail's end, but had never experienced it for myself. All of us were newbies to the trail except for Roy Bishop, who ended up acting as an informal tour guide, having hiked Cape Split many times in the past.
We left the trail head at about 10:45 A.M. and hiked 6.5 km through fog, dripping trees, countless puddles, trickles, babbling brooks, and seemingly endless tracts of muck and mire, to arrive at Cape Split proper shortly after 1:00 P.M. We came to hear the Moon roar. We weren't disappointed.
The tide was just beginning to flow in through the narrow channel past the cape when we arrived. It was foggy and not much could be seen so we settled down on the grass for lunch. A little later, the tide flowing faster and the Sun beginning to burn through the Fundy fog, we could hear the roar of the water growing louder.
Gingerly approaching the cliff's edge, a heart-stopping 250 - 300 foot sheer vertical drop down a jagged rock face, we looked down at the beach below and the water moving under the Moon's influence. Awesome does not begin to describe Cape Split at peak tide flow.
For a few brief moments the fog cleared enough for us to see torrents of water surging ever faster between the jagged teeth of rocks jutting out from the end of the cape. It was like looking at an ever widening river - the white water just kept pouring and churning in over the rocks, into the Minas Basin. Out beyond the rocks we could see the tide ripping currents and eddies into the water. It set up a constant roar, as the ever rising tide drove ocean water further inwards over the rocks on the bottom of the bay. We had, with the help of Roy, been able to time our visit so that we were present at mid-tide, the time when the flow of the tide is greatest.
Eventually we left the tip of Cape Split and began the long hike back. As we walked through the trees we could hear the Moon roar. Along the trail were several vantage points where we could look across the Minas Basin and see the entire body of water in motion - pushing majestically inwards towards the head of the basin. This is a remarkable phenomenon to witness. To quote Roy Bishop, from the Observer's Handbook, "The currents exceed 8 knots (4 m/s), and the flow in the deep, 5 km wide channel on the north side of Cape Split equals the combined flow of all the streams and rivers of Earth (about 5 cubic km/hr)." It has to be seen to be fully appreciated - that enormous mass of water being pushed and pulled around by the Moon and the Sun.
So, for a different kind of astronomical observing, get out your copy of the Handbook, pick a fine, sunny day near Lunar perigee (see "The Sky Month by Month" section), and take the time to hike out to the end of Cape Split. You may have tired feet at the end of the day but you will have heard the Moon!
PS: President Dave Lane handily won the expedition's contest for the muddiest shoes and pant-legs. Do you suppose he washed them in Tide?
BY PAUL GRAY
Here it is June (July?) again and summer is back with another year of meetings over. But there still are summer events! There may not be any comet crashes or annular eclipses but there is plenty happening in our club. First though, lets see what we did in the past year, and quite a year it was.
Last summer we had the big bang of comet SL9 hitting Jupiter and its worth noting that some of the markings are still visible as a thin dark partial belt on the planet! The summer ended with the perseid meteor shower which was again a very good show. We held our observing session at the Beaverbank Site and were surprised to find about 30 members of the public there with us to watch the show. We had a dozen members throughout the night and recorded 879 meteors!
The autumn brought unusually bad observing weather, but some observing was done. It was clear for the Geminid meteor shower in which several members and a couple non-members showed up. We had a excellent show of 979 meteors recorded in a couple of hours. Rates between 70 and 140 per hour were recorded! These are true visual rates! In 1994, we observed 3 major showers and saw a total of 1865 meteors.
In January of 1995, it was again clear for the Quadrantids and we again went to watch this show. We saw about a dozen visual meteors per hour, and our numbers fit with those from other observers.
Our search for the our own observing site continued and hopefully by the time you read this we will have signed a lease on land in St. Croix. This is a nice dark site with little wind. Of all the times that I have been there, only once was there a slight breeze. Someday, we may have built our dream observatory on this land. This is a project that was started over 5 years ago, and now seems to be picking up speed.
The observing event of the year for the club must have been the discovery of Supernova 1995F by our members. I would like to thank all those who participated in the project as well as to tell you how enjoyable it was to share work with others as interested in astronomy. I would like to thank Dave Lane, as well, for being crazy enough to believe in such a project, even if he thought I was nuts when I first mentioned it to him in the fall of 1992. If it weren't for him, the equipment for such work would not have been available to use. Thanks to Saint Mary's University for letting us use the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. The team was as follows: Halifax RASC: Dave Lane, Paul Gray, Shawn Mitchell, Tom Harp, Jodi Asbell-Clarke. SMU graduate students: Beverly Werstiuk, Melvin Blake, Gary Gidney, and also Darren Talbot of the Nova Central Astronomy Club in Truro.
Also produced by the team was a number of magnitude estimates of other supernovas. During the winter Dave Lane, Shawn Mitchell and myself helped a professional astronomer at the University of Victoria with a light curve of EF Draco by using the CCD at SMU. The results were very good.
Now, however, warm weather is here and we all want to get out under the stars with our telescopes. All of our the centre scopes are currently on loan and I hope that those members will participate in the planned observing sessions at Dollar Lake Provincial Park. Notes on this can be found elsewhere in this issue.
Dave Lane is hoping to have his 17.5" telescope completed in the near future. The latest news from Coulter, the company he purchased his mirror from, says he should hear from them in a month or so about delivery! About time. (Editor's Note: 2.7 years and counting!). Also Shawn Mitchell is hoping to complete two telescopes that he is making by the end of this summer.
We have our star party Nova East as well coming up in July. It is always a good time and the more of us there the better it is. Details should be in this issue as well.
Some of us have attended the National General Assembly in Windsor, Ontario at the end of June and will have a report on this in the fall. As well, a small group of us are attending Starfest in Ontario in August. This is a big star party with up to 400 astronomers attending. There will be a report on this as well.
The summer should be a good one so come and join us to "catch a star". If you are interested in going observing contact myself and let me know. I will call you when we go out for observing and remind all about the Dollar Lake sessions as well.
BY JOSEPH YURCHESYN
Lying on the summer Milky Way, between Aquila and the spectacular splendour of Sagittarius, Scutum the Shield has many offerings at a reasonable altitude for mid-north latitude observers.
The finest sight in Scutum is M-11, which lies on the northern edge of the Scutum star cloud. Discovered in 1681 by Gottfried Kirch at the Berlin Observatory, it was described as a small obscure spot with a star shining through it. It was added to Messier's short list of nebulous stars in 1715 and was first resolved into stars in 1732 by Rev. William Derham in England. In May 1764, Messier added it to his now famous nebulae list. It is actually a large, rich, relatively distant open cluster with at least 870 stars brighter than 17th magnitude.
At low power or in binoculars, M-11 resembles a globular cluster. In fact there used to be debate as to whether M-11 was a loose globular or a very dense open cluster. A small telescope reveals a triangular shaped nebulosity, about 10'-15' in diameter, with some faint stars and one bright one standing out. Admiral Smith likened it to a group of wild ducks in flight. With a total combined brightness of magnitude 5.8, M-11 is theoretically visible to the naked eye. The brightest star is magnitude 8 and it and the other brightest members must be very luminous to shine as brightly as they do, given that the distance to M-11 is about 5,500 ly's. The sun would shine at magnitude 15.9 at this distance.
M-11 is one of the richest open clusters known. The central 10' is about 15 ly's in diameter, with a density of 8 stars per cubic light-year. With a average separation of less than 1 ly, an observer inside the cluster would see several hundred 1st magnitude stars in his night sky — possibly with 40 or so being 1-4 magnitudes brighter than Sirius. With an age estimated to be about 500 million years, the majority of the members are main sequence A and F stars, with about 24 yellow and red giants.
The star density approaches that of less condensed globular clusters. Other similarly dense open clusters include NGC-2158 in Gemini and NGC-6791 in Lyra, but M-11 is probably the closest example. The star field of the Scutum star cloud adds to the richness of M-11, but M-11 is considerable closer and not involved with it.
About 1° NW of M-11 is the variable star R Scuti. Discovered in 1795 by E. Pigott, it has since become one of the most widely observed variables in the sky. It is an RV Tauri-type star that varies between 4.8 and 6.0 with a primary period of 144 days and a secondary period of 1,300 days.
Moving 3° SSW, one finds M-26, a compact open cluster often passed over because of its proximity to M-11. With a total brightness of 8th magnitude and 30 stars brighter than 10th magnitude packed into 15', M-26 is worth the search. M-26 may have been discovered prior to 1750, but Messier recorded it in June 1764.
About 1˝° NE of M-26 is the variable star Delta Scuti. With a variability of only 0.15 magnitudes over 0.193770 days, this star is not of interest for visual observations. However, study of this star gave rise to the discovery of the Delta Scuti class of variables. They are type A to F giant stars that just moved off of the main sequence and are characterised by having more than one superimposed period of brightness oscillation that closely resemble RR Lyrae variable stars.
Lying 2° east and slightly north of M-26, in a rich region of the Milky Way, is the globular cluster NGC-6712. At 8th magnitude, it has the same total brightness as M-26, but the stars are packed into an area with half the diameter. At a distance of 25,000 ly's, NGC-6712 is heavily obscured by dust.
Immediately to the west and in the same low power field of view, is the planetary nebula IC-1295. However, as it is 90" in diameter and shines at 15th magnitude, to say that it is faint is an understatement.
The last open cluster, NGC-6664, lies just east of Alpha Scuti. It contains 50 stars in 15' of area. The brightest stars shine as brightly as those in M-26, but as the 4,200 ly distance to NGC-6664 is less than that for M-26, they must obviously be less luminous.
Just a little something to ponder, when you next gaze in the direction of Scutum. Now?... If I could just figure out how to get to the centre of M-11.
BY PAUL GRAY, OBSERVING CHAIR
How many nights do we observers talk about it being clear, but not worth going out because the Moon is up and then complain about the bad weather when the Moon is near new. Well, why not use those moonlit nights too! For the past month or so, out of my backyard, I have been observing some variable stars and it has been interesting and fun.
I have one star I check every available night and that is SS Cyg. This star is a dwarf nova with burst on average every 52 days. It is normally at mag 12.1 but will climb to 8th mag in a few hours during a burst. One night last week I looked and it was up to 11.8 but do to clouds rolling in I never got to see what happened. I still don't know, since the clouds lasted for the next four days. A burst can last a week or two, so maybe when I look again soon it will appear as a bright star in the field? There are many stars that can be observed from within the city with a small instrument and some will show a light curve in only a small amount of time, while others may take a season or two.
What I would like to do, is maybe take one night a week, and have interested observers meet at my place in Sackville during the times of the full Moon for some variable star observing. We could chose a range of stars to fit our equipment and maybe as a group project get a couple of light curves. This we give us the chance to get out, even when the moon is up and not waste those valuable nights.
My backyard is not too bad. On a good night, my limiting magnitude is 5.2. Also being in such a place allows us to have fresh coffee and a place to sit and talk in the rec-room if it clouds over. I work part time so the nights will change due to my schedule and, of course, the weather. However, the weekend before, I will let those interested know of what nights are open, and if the weather is good on one of them, I will call those interested.
If your interested, please call or e-mail me.
BY PAUL GRAY AND GLEN SLAUNEWHITE
Below is the Halifax Centre's entry for the song contest held at this year's General Assembly of the RASC. It is based on the Maritime folk song: "Barrett's Privateers".
The singers at the GA were Paul Gray, David Lane, Pat Kelly and Stan Runge and Scott Young of the Winnipeg Centre. Its needless to say that we did not win the contest despite the obvious talent in the group (!), but we were probably 2nd (or 3rd, ... 4th ...).
Oh the year was 1992
How I wish I was observing now
A letter of grant came from the Dean
For the loneliest scope I'd ever seen
God dam them all!
I was told we search the stars for amateur gold
We'd use no film - Shed no tears
I'm a poor student - no money for gear
The first of Gaffney's "Novateers"
"Oh Well", said David, "Bring the crowd"
How I wish I was observing now
For eight brave souls all amateurs who
would make for him the Novateer crew
God dam them all!
The BGO scope was a sickening sight
How I wish I was observing now
She'd drift to the port, and her paint was flaked
The computer in boxes, and the gears were baked
God dam them all!
On the 22nd day we searched again
How I wish I was observing now
When a bloody faint nova hove in sight
With our 16 incher it made our night
God dam them all!
So here I am in my 23rd year
How I wish I was observing now
It had been 5 months since discovery day
and the dam press just let up yesterday
God dam them all!
(NO REPLY DESIRED)
OK, It's clear out, I'm lookin' up, good, I'll finally shock 'em all and show up observing...
There's my 81 year ol' Dad sittin' opposite me, the first time they've been in for a visit in two months, he's tellin' me stories 'bout his childhood in Scotland.... Mom's sittin' on the coach, I have several friends drop in, (includin' Shawn to talk 'bout observatory plans), (I do manage to get out to trim those suckers off the Oak before they take over), I'm bloody pooped from hustlin' 'round work, and I'm broke and the gas gauge is sittin’ on empty, next time the clock appears, its 11:30......
I remember when goin' observin' was the most important thing in my life, It was easy to do, you just dropped everything and drove away.... I was there in spirit......
May (your) God(s) bless you all, Doug Pitcairn