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NOVA NOTES, the newsletter of the Halifax Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, is published bi-monthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the Halifax Centre. Material for the next issue should reach the editor by March 29th, 1996. Articles on any aspect of astronomy will be considered for publication. "Letters to the Editor" or to our resident expert: GAZER are also most welcome. Contact the editor at:

David Lane, 4-26 Randall Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3M 1E2

E-mail: Phone: (902) 443-5989 (home) (902) 420-5633 (work)


Incoming President's Report

Important Letter from the National President

Remembering Marie Fidler by Roy Bishop

Tips for Snow-Bound Astronomer by Daryl Dewolfe

Total Eclipse of the Moon by David Chapman/David Lane

Meeting Report: November 95 by David Chapman

Meeting Report: December 95 by Pat Kelly

Meeting Report: January 96 by David Turner

Nova East 96 Planning by Paul Gray

Merchandising Report 96 by Shawn Mitchell

Publications Questionnaire Results

Press Release: Galileo Probe Early Results

Notice of Meetings and Other Stuff


Having heckled from the sidelines for long enough, I was finally persuaded (railroaded?) to join the Halifax Centre executive this year. I think most members who attend meetings know me, but perhaps a few words of introduction are in order. By profession, I am a physicist employed by the Department of National Defense to study underwater acoustics as applied to naval sonars and related technologies; however, my earliest memories include a fascination for the night sky and the wonders it holds. I learned the constellations at age eight, helped by my father. My first telescope (one of those department store refractors that are so frequently disparaged) arrived on my tenth birthday. I still have my observing notebook from 1963, the year I bought my first RASC Observer's Handbook. I joined the RASC in Ottawa as a teenager, but dropped out when I went to university. Dale Ellis drew my back into the fold after I moved to Dartmouth. I have been a member of the Halifax Centre since about 1982, became a RASC Life Member shortly after, and was Centre Librarian for a brief time around the mid-80's. Although I haven't been on the executive since then, I consider myself to be an "active" member, although perhaps I don't go out observing as much as I should. (OK-maybe "semi-active", but not "armchair".)

I feel a little awkward taking over from Dave Lane, not having been on the executive immediately before my stint as President, but I have been coming to most meetings and I believe I appreciate the issues of concern. I will be relying heavily on the expertise and enthusiasm of the younger and more active executive members, whose limitless supply of energy amazes me. You may find my presidential style to be different from those who preceded me (and this is not a criticism of them, by any means): I don't think I could possibly be as "hands-on" as Dave Lane, Pat Kelly, or Mary Lou Whitehorne. However, if you want someone who is organized, thorough, punctual, and able to delegate ... fooled you, didn't I? (Just kidding!)

As I see it, the two big activities for the Centre this year are building the Centre observatory and organizing the Nova East star party, but we must not ignore the day-to-day activities while we concentrate on these major ones. Making the centre meetings informative and enjoyable for both members and visitors, providing young astronomers with assistance in starting their hobby, providing the public with accurate and digestible information about astronomical events-these are also important activities.



January 27, 1996.

Dear Fellow Members of the RASC,

It is with regret that I write to inform you that our Executive Secretary, Miss Rosemary Freeman, has submitted her resignation effective June 30, 1996. Rosemary has served The Society since 1972. For almost a quarter-century, she has looked after membership matters, has dealt with publishers and bankers, has provided an essential link between

The Society and the general public, has provided continuity and guidance as National Councils have come and gone, and has done countless other things for us which we could not imagine. I encourage all of you to attend GA'96 in Edmonton, and to join us in thanking Rosemary for her years of loyal and effective service.

With Rosemary's departure, important and difficult decisions will have to be made soon regarding her replacement and the structure of National Office. Those decisions may be linked to the important decisions which must be made-also VERY soon-with respect to publications.

It is important that all Members return the pre-addressed postage-paid cards which were included in the prototype issue of 'Astronomy Canada'. Please, remind Members of your Centre to drop those cards in a mailbox NOW! The decisions as to whether, or not, to replace The Journal and The Bulletin with 'Astronomy Canada' will be made by National Council, but it is desirable that National Council act in accord with the clearly expressed wishes of a substantial majority of all Members.

I remind you that 1996 is an election year for The Society. As of July 1, 1996, you will have a new President, 1st Vice-President and 2nd Vice-President. They will be leading The Society into a new era: without the valuable support which I have enjoyed from Rosemary; and, perhaps, with a new publication which will present a new and very different 'face' to the astronomical community.

Given all of the above, I strongly encourage you to send your National Council Representative to the next meeting on March 23, 1996, and to the meetings which will be held at GA'96. (I expect that the decision on publications will be made at the March 23rd meeting of Council.)

Again, I especially encourage all Members to attend GA'96 in Edmonton for astronomy, fun, tough decisions ... and for that 'Thank You' to Rosemary.

Doug Hube, National President



My first contact with the RASC was one day in Toronto back in 1962 when I knocked on the door of 252 College Street, then the location of the national office of our Society. There was but one person inside, a really friendly lady who told me about the Society and sent me off with information about the RASC and a copy of the latest issue of the Journal. This lady was Marie Fidler, and I was deeply saddened to learn of her death on January 9 this year.

Marie was a memorable person. She was Executive-Secretary of the RASC from 1958 to 1972, during which time the membership of the Society increased by 50%. A few years ago in a letter to me, Marie remarked on her years at College Street: "I thoroughly enjoyed my stint at 252 and have happy thoughts about people I met there." A photograph of Marie which gives an indication of her personality appears on page 30 of "Looking Up", Peter Broughton's outstanding history of the Society (this photo also appears on page L48 of the National Newsletter, predecessor to the Bulletin, which is bound in the Journal for August 1976).

In addition to serving the Society as Executive-Secretary for 14 years, Marie was Secretary of the Calgary Centre from 1974 to 1977, an assistant editor of the National Newsletter (1973-1976), National Treasurer (1978-1985), Assistant to the Editor of the Journal (1972-1994, serving under 5 editors!), and she prepared the About Our Authors section for the Journal (1978-1994). Also, Marie contributed the Observatories and Planetaria section to the Observer's Handbook (1975-1996). A simple sum of the time she spent in these various positions totals 86 years! For her services to the Society, Marie received one of the few honorary Life Memberships, and also the Society's Service Award.

Marie Fidler was a cheerful, warm and considerate human being. She made the universe a nicer place.



Winter has arrived with a vengeance in the Maritimes. Observing in 30 below temperatures is brief at best, even when you can get a clear evening. Though you can surf the Net, or catch up on some of those great astronomy publications available, winter is also a good time to tinker with your telescope and accessories with the aim of improving its use and your level of comfort. Here's a collection of ideas I've picked up from fellow astronomers over the years.

  1. Improve your Telrad by making a dew shield for it. Next to a heated system, the best I have found is a vinyl place-mat used for table settings. Line it with black felt using a tacky glue found in sewing shops. Affix it to the Telrad with Velcro tape. I've used mine through humid and cold nights with great success. Thanks to David Leeman, Hampton Astronomy Club and Clint Shannon, RASC for this idea.
  2. A proper dew shield for your telescope can be a real asset in fighting off Maritime mist. High density camping foam, easily available at a hardware store, is tough, flexible, and when lined with black felt is a very effective dew fighter. You can shape it into a tube using duct tape along the seams, or use wide Velcro strips, sewn to the edges, which allow you to open the tube flat for packing purposes. My feeling is that the longer shield the better. Thanks to Clint Shannon and John Jarvo for another good idea.
  3. An observing chair can add a lot of comfort to an observing session, especially if it is height adjustable. There are some commercial types that work well but cost $$$. I pondered on this for some time before I finally constructed one out of a weight training bench someone had thrown out with the trash. The wooden seat has been customized to hold a solid fuel pocket hand-warmer which helps on chilly nights to keep important observing assets comfortable. Thanks to David Lane for the blue prints for this idea.

Short tips:

  1. Pog containers make good dust-free eyepiece containers which can be opened which can be opened and closed with one hand. The tops stay attached. Various sizes and colours are available.
  2. Need a container for your colour filters? At least a couple of diaper companies make baby wipe containers which can hold several boxed filters in a slim-line case that stores in a pocket.
  3. Hardware stores carry vinyl coated BBQ accessory trays which can hook to Dobsonian mounts to hold all kinds of accessories.




On the evening of Wednesday, 3 April 1996, from 6:40 PM - 10:00 PM, there will be a total eclipse of the Moon visible from Nova Scotia (also visible in eastern North or South America, Europe, or Africa will be able to watch most of the eclipse) if the sky is clear.


There is a Full Moon twelve or thirteen times a year, when the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon nearly form a straight line. Sometimes the Moon enters the Earth's shadow and there is an Eclipse of the Moon. (We also say Lunar Eclipse, after Luna, the Latin word for Moon.) If all of the Moon's disk is shadowed, it is a Total Lunar Eclipse.


You can see a lunar eclipse if the Moon is in the sky and if the sky is clear. In Nova Scotia, the eclipsed Moon will appear low in the Eastern sky after dark.


The eclipse takes place on Wednesday, 3 April, 1996. For Nova Scotians, the first half of the eclipse is especially well-timed for children to watch, as it takes place in the early evening. The Moon starts to enter the darkest part of the Earth's shadow at 6:21 PM, before Moonrise. The Moon rises at 6:25-6:49 PM (depending where you live in Nova Scotia) with a bite already missing from its eastern limb. The Moon is totally eclipsed between 7:26 PM and 8:53 PM, mid-eclipse occurring at 8:10 PM. The Moon finally leaves the Earth's shadow at 9:59 PM.


An information sheet to be distributed to the public and local schools is already in preparation. In addition, the centre will be organizing three public observing sessions around metro Halifax (in Dartmouth, Halifax, and Bedford/Sackville areas). We will need volunteers for each location, so please contact Blair MacDonald (445-5672), if you are willing to participate.



November 17 was the date of our Annual General Meeting (AGM) and also a Members' Night, meaning that we did not have a main speaker that night, allowing several members to give mini-talks on various projects. According to our Cookie Chairman, Ralph Fraser, 40 persons were in attendance, including our Honorary President, Murray Cunningham.

Several oral reports were presented: Shawn Mitchell on progress at the Observatory site; Dave Lane on the prototype issue of Astronomy Canada (the proposed replacement for both the Journal and The Bulletin); the announcement of the closing of Toronto's McLaughlin Planetarium; the monthly report by the Observing Chairman Paul Gray, and the announcement of the commencement of 50/50 draws to raise funds for the observatory (Halifax Sheraton Casino, watch out!).

The AGM was conducted with great speed and efficiency by the outgoing President, no doubt anxious to pass the chain of office to the new executive, which is the same as last year's except that David Chapman replaces Dave Lane as President and Darren Talbot replaces Doug Pitcairn as Councilor. The highlight of the AGM was Ian Anderson's report on the state of the Treasury (revenues slightly exceeded expenses last year) and his "bag of yeast" method of balancing (cooking?) the books; for more on this, you will have to ask Ian himself. In any case, the end result passed the review of the Auditor, Larry Bogan, so all is well. Oh yes, Ian is doing such a good job, we amended the Center's constitution to allow him to serve another year.

For Member's Night, there were 6 presentations: Clint Shannon demonstrated a collapsible observing table purloined from Greg Palman (available from L.L. Bean). Dave Lane and Blair MacDonald gave a high-tech video projection demo of a couple of image-enhancement software packages, which was almost scuttled by the software and hardware devils. Mary Lou Whitehorne showed some excellent aerial photos of the Centre's new observing site. (Hey, does this place have a name yet?) Roy Bishop gave a quick slide show of his summer travels to various star parties and the homes of some well-known Canadians active in astronomy. Melvin Blake presented an account of his research travels to the Helen Sawyer Hogg Telescope operated by the University of Toronto in Chile. Finally, Nat Cohen (garbed in period costume) displayed a very special project: a working pendulum timepiece based on a design by Galileo that apparently was never fully executed by him. Building the timepiece from scratch is accomplishment enough for Nat, but that he did so during a year of persistent health problems is nearly miraculous.



I must be going senile. The executive meeting was just breaking up when I pointed out to El Presidente Lane that we did not have a meeting reporter yet. My first error. Upon realizing that a crisis was upon us - as David Turner was out of town that night - Dave said that we needed one right away. I volunteered. My second error. It was only when I was about to put pen to paper that I realized that my report would be the next in line after Dr. Dave's "must read" meeting report from the last issue of NOVA NOTES. What was that old vaudeville saying about making sure that you never follow the dog acts? My third error. I did not correct my second error by getting someone else to do it. I made a fourth error. I am flawed and imperfect - sterilize - must sterilize! Sorry, I get distracted easily these days. Now where was I?

About two dozen people showed up for the December meeting. This was the last meeting at which Dave "President for Only 16 More Days" would preside. He seemed to be greatly relieved as there was at least one person in the audience who wanted to know where the new president was.

Mary Lou showed some slides of the progress that is being made at the centre's new observing site. There were some interesting slides of the work crew, including a few shots of "Beaver Bishop" in full working regalia including a chain saw. It was also announced that the rather large oak tree that had been slated to come down "disappeared". Roy had taken it to a mill to have it cut into planks. There are now drying and will be used to make observing chairs that will be sold to help fund the observatory. The big question in everyone's mind was how he got the tree to fit into his car!

Paul Gray did his usual observing report. The big item was that he had observed the Geminid meteor shower from his new Styrofoam observing coffin. It was -13C and after three hours he was so toasty warm that he had trouble staying awake!

Mary Lou's talk was on the topic of noted Canadian female astronomers. It was based on a talk that she had recently given in Vancouver. Before actually beginning, she showed a series of slides, set to music. It was part of the Vancouver presentation that was designed to show members of the general public what astronomy was all about. It was very well done, with a wonderful selection of slides. What follows is a synopsis of the women that Mary Lou spoke about.

Helen Sawyer Hogg had been called the mother of Canadian astronomy. It was the appearance of Halley's Comet that had gotten her interested in science, and she had originally planned to go into the field of chemistry. A solar eclipse, in 1925, changed her to astronomy. She and her new husband, Frank Hogg, who was also an astronomer, went to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in 1931. While there was money to fund her husband's work, there was no money for her to have a position. The DAO did decide, however, that she would be allowed to work there for free! She eventually became a full professor and gained international recognition for her work in variable stars and globular clusters. She is probably best known for her work in public education and her book "The Stars Belong to Everyone." There are three telescopes named after her: the University of Toronto's telescope in South America; one at the National Museum of Science and Technology and an 8" telescope at Saint Mary's which Mary Lou first used when starting her interest in astronomy.

Ruth Northcott also did a lot of work in the area of variable stars, as well as in radio astronomy, but her main topic of research was the radial velocities of stars and spectroscopic binaries. She too, was actively involved in public education.

Alice Vibert Douglas started her university education before World War I. She interrupted her work to go to London, England to work as a statistician in the War Office. After the war, her contribution was recognized by being made a member of the Order of the British Empire. She was a professor in Queen's University in Kingston for over twenty years before retiring. She was influential in getting women accepted into engineering and medicine studies while she was there and she spent a lot of time promoting women in science.

Margaret Burbidge spent a lot of her life working on the theoretical work that was being undertaken to explain the processes of nuclear fusion in the cores of stars. Anne Underhill recently retired from the University of British Columbia. According to Mary Lou, Dr. Underhill is rather camera-shy. She was unable to lay her hands on a picture of her, even after checking with various people across the country, including Dr. Underhill herself! We had to settle for a picture of the building that houses her office. She is a world authority on very hot stars and stellar atmospheres. Before joining UBC she worked for NASA at the Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. While doing her work of Be stars, Mary Lou found that the Dr. Underhill had a reputation in the scientific community as someone who felt very strongly about her theories and could be quite a formidable person when her ideas were challenged. When she actually had a chance to meet Dr. Underhill a few years ago, she found, much to her relief, that she was one of the most pleasant and wonderful people she had met.

Mary Gray, who was president of the RASC not that long ago, is a teacher, educator and writer. Best of all, she is a fellow Maritimer, having been born in Chipman, New Brunswick!

Lastly, Mary Lou talked about Heather Cameron, as an example of a woman astronomer of the future. Her interest is in solar astronomy, and many of you will probably remember the excellent talk that she gave to the centre on her home-made radio telescope, which she had designed and built herself. Heather has won awards at science fairs, both local, national and internationally, where she has won two first-place prizes.

After Mary Lou's talk, Michael Falk showed a short video presentation that his son, Dan, had produced. Dan was a very active member in the centre before he went off to Ryerson to complete his studies in journalism. The presentation was on the life of Isaac Newton and has been shown several times on the Discovery Channel. There were a few interesting things in the video that I had not been aware of. Apparently when he was still in school, he was not a very good student until after he had beaten up the school bully in a fight! It has also been confirmed by chemical analysis of sample of New ton's hair that he suffered from mercury poisoning, probably brought on by his chemistry experiments. While there was not a high enough concentration to do permanent damage, it may have been enough to heighten some of his odd personality traits.

The handbook study was done by Mel Blake. He had chosen the section on variable stars primarily because he had never really liked it very much. He felt that considering the observing nature of the book, that the section should contain more information on observing variable stars. He showed how to use the charts to produce a brightness curve. He also noted that if you submit sufficient observations to the AAVSO, they can compare your observations against the "real" magnitudes of the objects that you are observing and add a personal correction factor to your future submissions that will even correct for colour blindness!

At this point the formal part of the meeting ended, which was a good thing because I was almost out of note paper!



Friday, January 20th, 1996. Day one of the Chapman administration, and most of us were clearly feeling somewhat underdressed, not realizing that the fine print on our invitations contained the words "semi-formal attire preferred," or something to that effect. There were other indications that the new president intends to run the ship differently from his predecessor. At exactly 8:00 p.m. he began his welcoming address, the first time that a Halifax Centre meeting has started on time in anyone's living memory (Hey! Where you been the last two years? Trying to get the executive to "shut up and sit down in their seats" ain't easy! - Ed). At exactly 8:30 p.m the introduction of that night's main speaker was also initiated, precisely as the timetable presented to the executive beforehand had indicated. Whoa! Dave Chapman has clearly not lived in Nova Scotia all of his life!

A few late-comers were caught off guard by this sudden switch to well-structured meetings, but at least the attendance was up a bit. I counted about 50 people in the audience, including the unusual sight of both Walter Zukauskas and Doug Pitcairn attending the same meeting! Doug, of course, at least had an excuse for this infraction of the Pauli exclusion principle, seeing as he was the main speaker for the evening ó well, "visiting speaker" is probably a more accurate moniker. Yet, the sizable attendance might be a nice portent of a good year for the Halifax Centre.

The meeting began with a few words of introduction from Mr. President, and then a few announcements of note. The sad news of the death a week previous of long-time RASCer Marie Fidler (former National Executive Secretary and Editorial Assistant for five different Journal editors) was mentioned, followed by a more upbeat note congratulating Graham Millar on the publication of his article on The Celestial David and Goliath in the August issue of the JRASC. Graham was not there to acknowledge this accolade since he is no longer able to get to as many meetings as he used to, mainly because of his arthritis. The announcement was at least a timely lead-in to the next announcement about the Simon Newcomb writing award of the RASC, which now comes complete with a $250 prize thanks to an anonymous benefactor. Unfortunately, your humble meeting reporter is not eligible for this competition, and instead expects all of you to buy a copy of his Memoirs once they are published.

The first speaker for the evening was Paul Gray doing his usual "What's Up" routine. At least, I think that it was Paul Gray up there. There was a brief mention of the dismal prospects for planetary observing, with the exception of Venus and Saturn in the evening sky, a note about the forthcoming ring-plane crossing for Saturn, which has made it downright impossible to see Saturn's rings in a telescope for nearly a year now, a similar apology about the lack of any comets that are well-placed for viewing, and then a short comment about the recent discovery of planet-like objects in orbit about two stars in Virgo and Ursa Major. On that note he then sat down! Paul clearly must have forgotten to bring the five pages of material about meteor shower activity that he normally has with him, leaving many of us sitting there in stunned silence. He-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed attempted to save the situation by pointing out that Paul normally has something to report along such lines, but, because of bright Moon conditions, etc., etc. ..... I don't think so, Tim.

Ex-president Dave Lane was the next speaker, and he was dragged out of the heckling section in order to give a short slide presentation of HST colour images pulled off "the Net." These depicted a resolved Betelgeuse, the warped disk of Beta Pictoris, a variety of planetary nebulae, and a recent long-exposure image of very distant galaxies, and drew a few oohs and ahhs from the audience. Shawn Mitchell was then called upon to update us on the progress being made on the observatory site, this time showing slides that gave a better impression of the site's location in the wilds of St. Croix. Somehow Shawn's presentations have lost a little bit of their previous "zip," ever since he "got religion" and stopped hawking T-shirts to the members. I still expect to hear a sales pitch for his latest design whenever he addresses the Centre. Paul Gray was back again to update us on this year's plans for Nova East (August 16-18) as well as to entertain some of us with his command of phonetic English spelling (unintentionally, I fear ó exactly what are wenniers and buns, anyway?). However, he had to be rushed off the podium at that point since the Head Honcho's watch clearly showed the time of 8:30 fast approaching. The rabbit in Alice in Wonderland would clearly feel at ease attending our Centre meetings this year.

The main speaker for the evening was none other than our own Doug Pitcairn, sometime computer technician in the School of Architecture at TUNS, part-time astronomy lecturer at Saint Mary's, one-time astronomy writer for the Halifax Herald, ghost writer for the David Letterman show, and the Apple Corporation's most vocal unpaid booster in the Halifax region. His topic of "Stellar Evolution for the Beginner" was done in the usual Pitcairn style, namely "Damn the overhead projector; we'll just use slides and a lot of jabber instead." I found it just a tad difficult to take notes on his talk in the pitch dark, so will mention only a few of the highlights here. If memory serves me correctly, Doug talked about the complete life histories of various types of stars, from the ultra-boring low-mass M dwarfs to the exciting and complex lives of more massive stars, including our Sun. Each stage of evolution was discussed in Doug's lively and home-spun style, with no difficult questions being permitted. That meant that Mary Lou will have to find out more regarding the mass limits and the nature of the switch-over from convective to radiative energy transport in proto-stars somewhere else. Constellation Joe also made a number of interjections during the presentation, invariably dealing with such up-beat topics as atomic explosions, methods of mass destruction, and the like. But, Doug was able to whiz by most such interruptions without catching his breath, mixing colour slides of H-R diagrams, artistic renderings from his Mac, and real images of celestial scenes as backdrops for his often-colourful descriptions of how we believe most stars evolve. One of his more interesting slides was an H-R diagram to illustrate the past and future evolutionary paths for the Sun, with the average January temperature in Nova Scotia marked for reference purposes on the evolutionary tracks. Most of us were also surprised when Doug doffed his solar system sweat shirt midway through his talk to reveal ..... an identical solar system T-shirt (Shawn Mitchell take note!). Such tour-de-forces often leave one gasping for breath, but Doug invariably had to be restrained from going overly long. I believe that Dave Chapman was checking his watch regularly by the time Doug finally paused for breath around 9:45. Question period was then postponed until the coffee break. And, since there was no Handbook Study available that evening, the coffee break began immediately. Bring on the panzer divisions .....



Planning for Nova East, our annual star party which is held in Fundy National Park in south-east New Brunswick has begun in earnest. This year a small committee is responsible for the planning with myself as the chair. Already a schedule has been drafted and advance registration will be the next major step. This article however is not about the party itself but what it will take to make it happen and be a success!

There are a few changes this year - some are minor and some are major. The first major change is the location of the event within the park. No longer are we using the Micmac Group campsite, but are moving up on the plateau and inland to the Chignecto South overflow campground where there are better facilities and better chances of clear fog-free skies! The other major change is that we are looking for volunteer helpers early. That is, starting now! I have a list of simple things that will need to be done and anyone willing to help may ask or contact me about these things. I will have a list and schedules available at monthly meetings so all can pick one up.

Supplies that are needed are the most important thing. What we need is help in having our stuff brought to the park for the corn-boil and wiener roast as well as help with the public observing sessions. Supplies for the corn-boil will be paid for by the centre but we need you to help transport it! Normally 10 dozen corn is bought plus wieners, plates, napkins and all the other condiments and drinks. All too much for one person to bring if we already have car loads. However, if two people each brought half the corn, and someone else brought the napkins, plates and utensils things would be much easier. If we spread all this around we won't have a problem.

Also needed will be a few helpers for the public events. This year things have changed so that we are having the public come to us at the site. What we will need is a few people to guide them on where to park and also guide them up a trail to the observing are. This will only be about 45 minutes work each night and requires no equipment. Also, maybe you won't have to do it both nights if you can find someone else who can help out.

If you wish to help please contact me and I will be glad to take your name down for what you would like to do. If I already have volunteers for that job then I will try to find something else that would be suitable for you. We appreciate all the help and yes you will get something in return. Those that help with organising Nova East will be on a list of names that is forwarded to the park. Being on the list will entitle you to free park entrance and free camping! So don't wait long once you know you are willing to help out, or all the jobs may be filled! Together we can make this the best Nova East yet.



I'll not bore everyone with the financial end of the Centre's yearly merchandise sales, that information is in Ian's report on the Halifax Centre's finances that were printed in the last issue of Nova Notes.

Handbook sales were about average in 1995, 190 handbooks were received from National office, 73 handbooks were sold through consignment sales at various stores in the Halifax area, 93 were distributed to members and 24 were returned as unsold to National office. Our three best sales locations were; the NS. Government Book Store (19), NS. Museum of Natural History (15), and Atlantic News (10). We also had a bonus sale of 25 handbooks to the Bedford District School Board who offers an astronomy program on alternating years.

Calendar sales were also average in 1995, we received 75 calendars from National Office and we sold 60, 34 to members and 26 through consignment sales, 15 were unsold. 1996 calendar sales are already better than 1995 sales we ordered 65 1996 calendars and then had to order another 20! we have already sold 65 of the 1996 calendars and the remainder are out on consignment. The addition of colour photographs has made the calendar more attractive to members and the general public, enhancing its marketability.

Sales of Beginner's Observing Guides (BOG) in 1995 were really good, we received 48 BOG's from national office in 1995 and we still had 9 BOGs left from 1994 for a total of 57 Bogs. We sold 47 BOGs in 1995 and still have 10 out on consignment. I anticipate that sales of BOGs will not be very good in 1996 because there are no BOGs available from National Office. They are currently preparing the next edition which will probably not be ready for sale until the fall of 1996.

Sales of Centre T-shirts and pins were very low, 5 T-shirts and 1 pin were sold during 1995, we have 34 Centre T-shirts and 65 Centre lapel pins still in stock. Sales of Centre merchandise has not been as good as it was when we first introduced the T-shirts and pins in 1994.

The Centre also sold some miscellaneous National Office merchandise such as key rings, mugs, bumper stickers, and T-shirts. We sold all the merchandise except for 7 key chains.

Several areas have been recognized where we can improve things for the 1996 and 1997 sales years. In the past the Centre has not advertised National merchandise such as the calendars and Observer's Handbook to other astronomy clubs in the region. For 1997, I hope to produce a flier that we can send to all the local astronomy clubs to promote the sales of our National merchandise. This year we sold a total of 22 calendars to members of two astronomy clubs, the region has about 6 or 8 small astronomy clubs, so the potential for increased sales of calendars and handbooks through better marketing is very good.

I would personally like to thank all people who helped out with the selling of Centre merchandise throughout the year and the businesses which sell our merchandise on consignment.



The Publications Revitalization Committee is please to announce the results (so far) from the publications questionnaire which was included in your August Journal and Astronomy Canada prototype.

We were very pleased with the support of the membership for our proposal and as a result, the publications revitalization committee will be proposing approval of the new publication at the March meeting of Council.

No of Returns Percent

of Total

Total 660*100%
Yes590 89.4%
No68 10.3%
Spoiled 20.3%

(* total received by Jan 19)

Of the "yes" votes, here are the name preferences,

Name No. of Returns Percent of Total
Astronomy Canada 39767.3%
Astronomy in Canada 6611.2%
Leave it the same 10317.4%
A Suggested name 244.1%

Of the "no" votes, here are the name preferences,

Name No. of Returns Percent of total
Astronomy Canada 22.9%
Astronomy in Canada 22.9%
Leave it the same 5682.3%
Suggested name 811.8%


January 22, 1996

Preliminary analysis of early data returned by NASA's historic Galileo probe mission into Jupiter's atmosphere has provided a series of startling discoveries for project scientists.

Information on the extent of water and clouds and on the chemical composition of the Jovian atmosphere is particularly revealing. Instruments on the descent probe found the entry region of Jupiter to be drier than anticipated, and they did not detect the three-tiered cloud structure that most researchers had postulated. The amount of helium measured was about one-half of what was expected.

These initial findings are encouraging scientists to rethink their theories of Jupiter's formation and the nature of planetary evolution processes, according to probe project scientist Dr. Richard Young of NASA's Ames Research Center.

"The quality of the Galileo probe data exceeds all of our most optimistic predictions," said Dr. Wesley Huntress, NASA associate administrator for space science. "It will allow the scientific community to develop valuable new insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system, and the origins of life within it."

The descent probe made the most difficult planetary atmospheric entry ever attempted, according to probe manager Marcie Smith of the Ames center. Entering Jupiter's atmosphere on Dec. 7, 1995, it survived entry speeds of over 106,000 mph, temperatures twice those on the surface of the Sun and deceleration forces up to 230 times the strength of gravity on Earth. It relayed data obtained during its 57-minute descent mission back to the main Galileo spacecraft more than 130,000 miles overhead for storage and transmission to Earth. The Galileo orbiter is now embarking on a two-year mission to study Jupiter and its moons.

"The probe detected extremely strong winds and very intense turbulence during its descent through Jupiter's thick atmosphere. This provides evidence that the energy source driving much of Jupiter's distinctive circulation phenomena is probably heat escaping from the deep interior of the planet," Young said. "The probe also discovered an intense new radiation belt approximately 31,000 miles above Jupiter's cloud tops, and a veritable absence of lightning," he noted.

The composition of Jupiter's atmosphere offered some surprises, according to project scientists. It contains significantly lower than expected levels of helium, neon, and certain heavy elements, such as carbon, oxygen and sulfur.

The issue of the colors of Jupiter's atmosphere has been much-debated, but no consensus has developed from probe data to date. The probe encountered no solid objects or surfaces during it's entire 600-kilometer journey. This was as expected for a gas-giant planet.

What are the implications of these findings? Most scientists believe that Jupiter has a bulk composition similar to that of the gas and dust cloud of the primitive solar nebula from which the planets and our Sun were formed, with added heavy elements from comets and meteorites.

The descent probe's measurements may necessitate a reevaluation of existing views of how Jupiter evolved from the solar nebula. For example, the lower-than-expected helium and neon levels on Jupiter relative to the Sun influence scientific understanding of the process of fractionation, the "raining out" of helium and neon during planetary evolution.

During the probe's high-speed, atmospheric-entry phase, deceleration measurements high in the atmosphere showed atmospheric density to be much greater than expected. Corresponding temperatures were also much higher than predicted. The high temperatures appear to require an unidentified heating mechanism for this region of the atmosphere.

Following probe parachute deployment, six science instruments on the probe collected data throughout 156 kilometers of the descent. During that time, the probe endured severe winds, periods of intense cold and heat and strong turbulence. The extreme temperatures and pressures of the Jovian environment eventually caused the probe communications subsystem to terminate data transmission operations.

Earth-based telescopic observations suggest that the probe entry site may well have been one of the least cloudy areas on Jupiter. At this location, the probe did not detect the three distinct layers of clouds (a topmost layer of ammonia crystals, a middle layer of ammonium hydrosulfide, and a final, thick layer of water and ice crystals) that researchers had anticipated.

Some indication of a high-level ammonia ice cloud was detected by the net flux radiometer. Evidence for a thin cloud which might be the postulated ammonium hydrosulfide cloud was provided by the nephelometer experiment. There were no data to suggest the presence of water clouds of any significance.

The vertical temperature gradient obtained by the atmospheric structure instrument was characteristic of a dry atmosphere, free of condensation. Only the one, distinctive cloud structure was identified, and that was of modest proportion.

The latest analyses of data from the Voyager spacecraft that flew by Jupiter in 1979 had suggested a water abundance for the planet of twice the solar level (based on the Sun's oxygen content). Atmospheric wave propagation data across cloud tops from an analysis of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts implied that Jupiter might have a water content of ten times the solar level. Actual probe measurements, while subject to scientific debate, suggest a level near that of the Sun. Scientists are left to wonder where the oxygen and water are, and to reconsider their interpretation of the comet impacts.

Scientists had expected to find severe winds on Jupiter ranging up to 220 mph. However, the probe appears to have detected winds far greater, perhaps up to 330 mph. The winds remained fairly constant as the probe descended deep into the Jovian atmosphere. This suggests that Jupiter's winds are not caused by differential sunlight at the equator versus the poles or by heat released by water condensation as on Earth, according to project scientists.

"The origin of Jupiter's winds appears to be the internal heat source which radiates energy up into the atmosphere from the planet's deep interior. We know this because the winds extend well below the level to which sunlight reaches," Young said. "This impacts Jupiter's climate and circulation patterns, and suggests a jet stream-like mechanism rather than swirling hurricane or tornado-like storms."

The probe found that lightning occurs on Jupiter only about one-tenth as often as on Earth. This is puzzling, but consistent with the absence of water clouds. A virtual absence of lightning reduces the probability of finding complex organic molecules in Jupiter's atmosphere, particularly given its hostile, predominantly hydrogen composition.

Scientists caution that results obtained to date, while dramatic and exciting, are only preliminary and subject to much further analysis and refinement. Data transmission problems associated with solar conjunction between the Earth and Jupiter, the need to refine estimates based on probe and orbiter trajectories, the presence of higher than anticipated instrument temperatures, and the need for improved calibration all require a cautious approach to these early findings.

Additional information will be forthcoming over the next few months as scientists continue to evaluate the wealth of data obtained by the atmospheric probe and to cross-compare results of individual scientific instruments.



Date: Regular Meeting - Friday, February 16 at 8pm; 7pm for the council meeting.

Place: Lower Theatre, Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, Summer Street, Halifax. Access is from the parking lot.

Topic: Main Speaker: "Shoemaker-Levy 9: A Cosmic Rubble Pile" by Dr. Derek Richardson. An astronomer at University of Toronto's "Centre for Theoretical Astro-physics", Derek has worked extensively on the modeling of Comet SL-9 prior to its impact with Jupiter in 1994. He also works on the search of extra-solar planets. For a preview, he's on the Internet at:

Date: Regular Meeting - Friday, March 15 at 8pm; 7pm for the council meeting

Place: Lower Theatre, Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, Summer Street, Halifax. Access is from the parking lot.

Topic: Main Speaker: "Is our Galaxy Older than the Universe - What's the Problem" by Dr. Gretchen Harris from the University of Waterloo. This Lecture has been made possible by funding from the Canadian Association of Physicists. Dr. Harris will also be speaking at Dalhousie Physics during her visit to Halifax about "Highlights of Science with the Repaired Hubble Telescope". Details will be available at the February meeting or by calling the president.


Both of these meetings occur on the 3rd Friday, but are earlier in the month than is normal, because the 1st Friday falls on either the 1st or 2nd of the month.


The Halifax Center has several telescopes for loan to members. These include a Celestron C8 equipped for photography, a Questar 3.5", a 4" rich-field telescope, a 4" Maksutov-Cassegrain, and a 10" Dobsonian. Contact the Observing Chairman, Paul Gray, for further information.


The Halifax Planetarium, located in the Dunn Building at Dalhousie University, provides shows each week on Thursday evenings at 7pm. Contact the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History at 424-7353 for show information.


Celestron Fluorite APO Refractor

Model 102F (4")

with Super Polaris Mount, motorized on RA axis, battery pack, hand controller. Eyepieces included: Celestron 26mm Plossl, & 5 and 10mm Omcon Plossls, plus a Telrad Finder.

Asking Price: $2500.00

(based on 75% of new for scope and 60% of new for accessories)

CONTACT: Peter Haverstock


PHONE: 902-835-6271 evenings

902-468-9140 days

Accessory Sale

Eyepieces: 40mm Meade Plossl, 25mm Meade Plossl, 15mm TeleVue Wide-Field, 7.4mm TeleVue Plossl, 4mm B&L Ortho, 2x B&L Barlow. Set of 7 colour filters (B&L), Criterion Solar viewing eyepiece, 8x50 finderscope, 8x30 finderscope, one "SmartChart" electronic database of M and NGC objects ($100), 8" f6 optics set (ready to make scope): mirror, cell, diagonal, holder, spider, & focuser, 6" mirror with tool (needs polishing), 8"f7 mirror with tool (needs final polishing and figuring), various mirror making supplies (abrasives, pitch, etc), a 6" unused tool, 4" kit (polished and silvered)

For prices or information, CONTACT:

Nat Cohen at 434-3103


Honorary President Dr. Murray Cunningham
President David Chapman 463-9103
1st vice-president Blair MacDonald 445-5672
2nd vice-president Shawn Mitchell 865-7026
Secretary Tom Harp 465-4928
Treasurer Ian Anderson 678-8009
Nova Notes Editor David Lane 443-5989
National Representative Pat Kelly 798-3329
Librarian Clint Shannon 889-2426
Observing Chairman Paul Gray 864-2145
Councilors Darren Talbot 443-9373
Dr. David Turner 435-2733
Mary Lou Whitehorne 865-0235