BY SHAWN MITCHELL
I don't know what happened, but some how I got nominated as tonight’s meeting reporter. Somewhere out in the audience there must be an official meeting reporter who has gone into hiding. Oh well, I can hope that I don't get appointed permanently as an official meeting reporter.
Well, the meeting started like most meetings -- president for life Dave Lane (Dave defines for life as about another 100 days) gave a brief run down on past and future centre business and events. Paul Gray, our observing Chairman, gave a spiel on what’s up, or should I say what’s not! Paul brought to our attention several new comets that will shortly be visible to observers in the northern hemisphere, especially Comet Hale-Bopp -- if predictions hold true, it may be the brightest comet visible in the past twenty years. Paul also lamented that only the Orionid meteor shower on October 22 will be favourable this fall due to the full or nearly full moon obscuring most of the other fall meteor showers. I gave a short "come all yea people" speech to solicit support for the observatory project which is now in the design phase.
The main speaker for tonight was our own esteemed and entertaining Pat Kelly, who's talk was entitled "Decoding Stonehenge Decoded". Pat dispelled some of the myths regarding the age of and who built Stonehenge. The first myth dispelled was that the Druids built Stonehenge, in actual fact Stonehenge was built 1000 years before the age of the Druids, in three separate phases spanning approximately one thousand years. The first phase of construction was started from about 2750BC and ended with the completion of the third phase of construction around 1900BC. The orientation of stones and holes around Stonehenge has been a mystery for centuries, it was well known that there were several astronomical alignments associated with the summer and winter solstices. The Astronomer Gerald Hawkins, the writer of "Stonehenge Decoded," investigated the possibility of other astronomical alignments at Stonehenge. Hawkins noted that the 56 Aubery holes correspond to a 56 year cycle which could have been used to predict eclipses.
Pat's talk was filled with detailed explanations on how Stonehenge could be used to predict eclipses and other solar/lunar phenomena. I don't think I can do justice to his talk here, so I think we should ask Pat will write an article for Nova Notes on Stonehenge's use as an observatory/astronomical calendar.
BY DAVID TURNER
On Friday, October 20th, 1995 - another RASC meeting held in the middle of an eclipse season—about 30 people are on hand to hear our well-known guest speaker who goes by the title "To Be Announced." I am struggling to block out the pain in the middle finger of my writing hand, which was accidentally flattened in the doorway to the back portion of the auditorium prior to the executive meeting. Contact me for details! Since the meeting was held in conjunction with Science and Technology Week, there were free T-shirts and calendar inserts being given away as door prizes as well as "to silence the squeaky wheels on the executive," according to Dave "President-for-72-more-days-and-counting" Lane. Dave was looking rather chipper at this meeting, secure in the knowledge that his sentence—er, term of office -- was coming to an end.
The meeting began with a plug for Scott Tremaine's talk at Saint Mary's, which will have been given weeks before you actually read about it here. Next the slate of officers for 1996 -- read new Ruling Junta -- was put forward, along with a proposal to legitimize the current ruling junta in their offices-for-life, at least for those who actually take some modicum of pleasure in the daily handling of their duties. Shawn Mitchell was on hand to plug his latest commercial venture, namely the actions of the Observatory Committee in their quest to build a Centre Observatory -- the current Holy Grail -- on a site in West Hants County. There was all sorts of interesting discussion about site restrictions and the lack of a formal definition for an observatory (so why not build it as a wharf?), followed by a slide show of the wilderness site selected. Dare I mention that none of the shots gave much of a view of the sky? It will be interesting to hear more once the axes have fallen.
The next portion of the meeting was Paul Gray's "What's Up?" segment. Let's see, Mercury is in the morning sky, neither Venus nor Mars is visible (DL was happy to hear that!), Jupiter is still visible (well, Paul likes to say "up," but you really don't even have to lift your head to see it), Saturn is an all-nighter, there are only a few comets visible -- like Schwassmann-Wachmann (but can you spell it?) which brightened recently, R Corona Borealis is fading again (must be all that soot), and, of course, who could forget about the forthcoming meteor showers -- the Orionids (from Comet Halley) and the Leonids on November 18th, only a few years prior to the next predicted storm. Uh-huh, uh-huh, more power, more power! Paul always likes to save the best for last, right?
The speaker for the evening was Margaret Geller, accompanied by her able sidekicks John Huchra and Mike Kurtz, as well as a couple of grad students. Well, actually she wasn't there in person, only via her video "So Many Galaxies, So Little Time," or is that "So Many Galaxies, So Little Royalties?" Margaret was a guest speaker at Saint Mary's early in September, and left a copy of her video with Dave "Wished I had known who she was before she came" Lane (may I point out Margaret's paper on this very subject that was published in the October 1994 issue of the Journal?). Margaret's (rather mushy) video is a captivating snapshot of the Harvard team's efforts to make three-dimensional maps of selected regions of the universe, and helped show the human aspects of astronomers and their students. I was not so happy with the seeming-emphasis on the culinary traits of observational astronomers (in Canada we don't usually use as much garlic or onion in our dishes), but was entranced by the events shown on the screen. With the grad students doing all of the actual observing at Mount Hopkins under the able supervision of John Huchra (with his ever-present cap to help cover up his bald spot), and with Mike (the chiphead) Kurtz taking the electronically-transferred data from the mountain and transforming them within hours into radial velocities and colourful three-dimensional maps, I began to wonder what part Margaret herself played in this venture. Perhaps she writes the resulting papers? Also, there must be additional requirements for the Ph.D. at Harvard than just preparing finding charts, observing galaxies, and having someone else reduce the data? These criticisms aside, the Museum's new video display system got an excellent trial run with this cassette, and the video was almost better than having a live speaker in front of the audience. Naturally, the question period that followed was unusually short.
The next item on the agenda consisted of slides of the RASC's General Assembly, held in Windsor at the beginning of July. The slides, courtesy of Dave and Paul who were honoured with the Ken Chilton Prize at the GA, gave an interesting and colourful look at the behind-the-scenes action of the GA. Clint Shannon followed this with a Handbook Study on the Messier Catalogue and its ins and outs, along with a discussion of its usefulness for Messier Hunting. Next was a brief discussion by Dave Lane about the bankruptcy of Coulter Optics and the loss of his mirror deposit, some slides of Nova East, one (count 'em, one) slide of Starfest, a peddling of the 1996 RASC Calendar, a notice about the forthcoming availability of the Observer's Handbook (which is already in the hands of those of us who are life members), and a notice about the renewal of membership for 1996 (don't forget this important piece of business!). Unfortunately, it was almost two hours into the meeting before the cookie break began.
BY CLINT SHANNON, LIBRARIAN
A survey of the library has been carried out by Dave Lane and myself in 1995 which has resulted in the removal of thirty publications. These particular books were considered either obsolete or of little or no interest and have been handed over to Shawn Mitchell for disposal to the membership, possibly by having a raffle.
Two new books have been purchased this past summer with an expenditure of $51.25. They are the current revised edition of NIGHTWATCH by Terence Dickinson and the HANDBOOK FOR VISUAL METEOR OBSERVATIONS edited by Paul Roggemans, which is the official handbook of the International Meteor Organization.
A subscription to SKYNEWS has been made this month as well as a subscription to SATELLITE TIMES.
BY IAN ANDERSON, TREASURER
The Halifax Centre had another good year in 1995 for financial growth. In many ways, 1995 was similar to 1994, but this is not surprising since we do the same things year after year. Membership grew by 3 to 127 (including 3 associate members). Our equity grew by $777.20. This was a fair performance on $7,009.64 in revenues. Although we did have two Nova East’s in fiscal '95, I confess to some guess work concerning the high merchandise figures here. Since we are fairly certain of our year-end balance sheet, there was only a limited number of places that income could have come from.
Overall, I am pleased with our position at year-end 1995. Our cash is more tightly managed. We've made more extensive use of interest bearing certificates to harbour our cash hoard. This year's interest income is the Centre's highest ever. We have reduced our merchandise inventory from a year ago, and will strive to half it again this year. We are managing our handbook inventory more closely and have reduced our liabilities somewhat as well.
Weak spots included a disappointing turn-out for the annual dinner in May (and a revenue figure to match). We got no help from the government this year. Legal fees for consulting, registration and incorporation put that expense category in the statement for the first time in years. (Next time, let's use a kit). Miscellaneous expenses were numerous and they included $58 in write-offs.
Now that land has been leased, and we know the things we want to accomplish with it, our future asset allocation can be estimated with greater hope and certainty. Within two years, the bulk of our savings in certificates will be consumed by the observatory at St. Croix which will be available for all members.
During 1996, a request from members for cash donations will be made. The success of this drive for funds will determine how ambitious we can be with our plans. The initial costs of the project have already begun to accrue, and most will be expensed in fiscal 1996. This means that unless cash donations are considerable, our asset position will decline.
I had hoped that during my third year as treasurer, things would be correctly accounted for. Regrettably, there were loose ends again this year, including miraculous finds of merchandise and books leaking into the system. (It is more often the accountant's nightmare that things leak out of a system). As the Society's constitution was changed in November allowing me to continue serving, I will try (finally) to get it right in fiscal '96. I ask all involved with operations to continue assisting me to this end. It is probably a two year task to groom someone to perform at the current or better standard when the day comes to retire me. Any volunteers?
(The full Treasurer's report for 1995 is available upon request).
(TO BE HELD AUGUST 16-19, 1995)
BY MARY LOU WHITEHORNE, PAST NOVA EAST COORDINATOR
Nova East has remained pretty much the same over the last few years, but not any more! Last summer, while we were at Fundy Park, we took a long, hard look at how Nova East works and how we could make it better. We discussed a number of issues with the folks from New Brunswick and explored the possibility of moving the event to the Chignecto South site in the Park.
There are a number of advantages to the Chignecto site. The Chignecto site is further inland and at a significantly higher elevation than the Micmac site, therefore it is less likely to be plagued by the dreaded Fundy Fog. Chignecto is not a group campsite like Micmac, so there are individual campsites, each with their own picnic table and fireplace; something that would be nice for the family groups that attend Nova East. This arrangement offers us more space and privacy with the same opportunity for socializing as before. There is a much bigger, more well-appointed cookhouse available to us. Here we can have slide shows, corn boils, or whatever we want in greater comfort than at the more primitive Micmac site. There are flush toilets and running water rather than the pit toilet and unreliable hand pump on the well that Micmac has. There is power available for your scopes and for the slide projector. No need for that nice but noisy generator any more! There is a level, drive-up site for telescopes. There is a large group-size campfire pit complete with benches for cloudy night gab-fests. At Chignecto, we will not have to lug scopes to the assembly hall for public observing—the site allows the public to come to us, saving all that energy and time.
During Nova East '95 we checked out the Chignecto site and how the flow of public traffic would work for public observing. There is ample public parking very nearby and a footpath brings people to the observing site without having them cross through the campsites. The New Brunswick star party, Astro-Atlantic, used the site last summer and found it to be far superior to the arrangements we normally employ. We decided to approach Fundy Park with our proposed changes, and after some negotiations, a deal was struck. This is how it will work:
Chignecto is not a group campsite, but is the Park's overflow campground. As such it has a greater revenue generating potential than does Micmac. The Park is unwilling to give us complete free access to a large chunk of Chignecto, so this is the compromise. Chignecto campsites cost $9.00 per night. In addition there is a Park Entrance Fee of $3.00 per person or $6.00 per family. Fundy Park will waive camping fees and entrance fees only to those astronomers who actually perform public service in the park. So, if you actively participate in Nova East public events, you can have all fees waived and will receive a volunteer permit for your car. If you simply attend Nova East and partake of all the fun without doing public duty, you have to pay all camping fees and entrance fees.
The Park requires that the Halifax Centre submit a list of volunteers names to them one month in advance of the event. Those who volunteer ahead of time, and make the commitment to perform public service work with Nova East, will have their names on the list and will be issued a volunteer permit and have all fees waived by the Park. So figure out how much it will cost you and then decide if you want to barter time and effort for free camping. As an example, for a family of four who elect to stay three nights in the Park, the fees would be as follows: campsite @ $9.00 x 3 = $27.00 plus $6.00 entrance fee for a total of $33.00.
This seems to me to be a reasonable compromise, giving us a much better site and superior facilities to those that we have had in the past. The public will come to us rather than us going to them and having to drag our scopes around into the bargain. It encourages more member participation, thus ensuring a very successful event for both ourselves, the public and the Park. Think it over and then sign up to volunteer at Nova East '96. Paul Gray, our effervescent Observing Chairman, will be happy to add your name to the list of official Nova East '96 volunteers. See you there in August!
BY PAUL GRAY, OBSERVING CHAIR
Well, here it is December again and the fall observing period has come and gone, and with it the nice clean air. Past now, are the great showers of the Perseids and the Leonids—both were affected by bright moonlight. The Leonids didn’t produce anything out of the ordinary this year, but next year should be a better year for that shower anyway.
Another shower, however, surprised a few observers who were lucky enough to be out watching a few days after the Leonids. The International Meteor Organization (IMO) had issued a warning to watch the Alpha Monocerotids. What minor shower is that you ask? Well its a shower that is very minor indeed with the exception that in 1925,1935 and 1985 there was an outburst of this shower for less than an hour. Some studies suggest that a 10 year periodicity is likely and that this year was a good year to test for this. As it was, there was an outburst that peaked for about 10 minutes with 10-15 meteors counted in two five minute intervals. Quite the little show! Andre Knoefel in Germany, who saw this, has the whole show on video tape. Way to go Andre!
As for us back here in Nova Scotia, it was clouded out again that night and so I never got to see either the Leonids or the Alpha Monocerotids. It has been a slow year this year for meteor showers with the moon interfering with observing the major ones -- this means that next year is actually going to be a good year for most of the showers. There is still one left before the end of December that is worth taking note. This shower being known as the Ursids.
The Ursids is never much heard of because they are neglected in favour of the earlier Geminids. However, the Moon is bad this year for the Geminids, but not for the Ursids when the Moon is near new. Now this shower is known to produce a show that is often equal to that of the Lyrids of April. With a ZHR of 15, the shower will show an observer close to a dozen meteors per hour under good conditions. The radiant is in Ursa Minor and therefore is up all night for us in Nova Scotia. The shower has shown outbursts in 1945 and 1986. It has also possibly shown an outburst in 1799 and 1994, which I might have seen part of, but didn't know it at the time. Last year I spent Christmas at my girlfriend’s home on the edge of Kentville. On the evening of the shower we were at her grandparents next door across a double empty lot. On the way home we stood outside the door for a minute saying good-bye. I, seeing it was clear, was drawn to look up and I see what? But a nice slow meteor traveling from north to south. I thought that was nice and soon we were walking home. Again I looked up and saw another travel from North to Southwest. Later once inside I started thinking, "Is there a shower now?" Then I remembered that in 1993 Dave Lane and I went out to observe the Ursids on this date! "That's it! They were Ursid meteors." Fine I thought, that's settled. I forgot to realize that in three hours Dave and I only saw 5 Ursids. I just saw 2 in under 5 minutes! A week later I heard about the outburst and wonder if I could have seen it?
As it is, the shower peaks this year on the 23rd at 9h UT. That is 5am local time which means the radiant will be its highest and the Earth will have rotated to give us a view out the front window. Also of note is that research suggests that this year could also be a good year for an outburst. The predicted peak times are from 0-6h UT with an outburst probably around 3-4h UT. The outbursts in the past have produced in the area of 150 meteors for a ZHR! Still, nothing may happen. However this is the classic case of where the IMO says any observations are good and badly needed. If you are interested in watching part or all of this shower, let me know. It is the Friday night and Saturday morning of the 22-23rd of December.
According to rumours that I have heard, the reason for your absence from recent issues of Nova Notes is: (i) because you have become a victim of a recent down-sizing of Nova Notes, or (ii) you have permanently moved to the Florida Keys and only submit your column via E-mail. Please tell me that these ugly rumours aren't true and that you are still an active member of the Halifax Centre residing here in God's Country East.
Say It Ain't So
Dear Say It Ain't So,
Though "ain't" is in the dictionary, please refrain from using that contraction in the future, as it does nothing but denigrate this otherwise August publication and grate on my nerves. Now that I have that off my shoulder, I'll be happy to address your inquiry as to my whereabouts as of late.
I have been the focus of rumors? You inflate my already large ego. Fortunately, I have the gobs of self control and can assure you that I will remain an inspiration to you all and not turn into a bore. As to the down-sizing of Nova Notes, have you priced paper lately? It has risen in price by 50% in the last year with no end in sight. I for one, am grateful that our intrepid President/Editor has the foresight to begin the cost savings needed to keep dues from increasing. Wouldn't you agree that this course is preferable to reading more of his text? Then there are the constellation reviews by Joe. I know his heart is in the right place, but his tendency to say in 10 words what could be said in 5 nearly sends me into warp drive. Since someone had to pay the price in down-sizing, I allowed my presence to be reduced rather than risk contributing to lurch in the Yurchesyn systolic/diastolic readings. But, it seems he has chosen to do the same, since his article was missing in the last issue and I hear from our Editor that its missing in this one, too! Where are you Constellation Joe?? (Maybe it would be easier if we contacted him on Ham Radio -- "calling VE1 JAY").
Residing in the Florida Keys? Say it was only so...sigh! But, alas it is not. I, like you, have to put up with the vagaries of the Northern temperate climate and pine for the days when I might be able to go. Although my presence is diminished, rest assured that I am still here ready and willing to take your serious Q's. None will languish too long, and all will be answered...in time. After all, good things ARE worth waiting for!