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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 December 1th, 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)


President's Report

Maple Grove Astronomy Club Report - Bob MacConnell

Letter to the Editor

Meeting Report - April 96

Meeting Report - June 96

Meeting Report - September 96

Meeting Report - October 96

On Autumn Observing - Daryl Dewolfe

St. Croix Observatory Status Report

Abegweit Autumnal Astronomical Adventure - 1996 - Bill Thurlow

Notice of Meetings and Other Stuff


Hey, didn't I just do one of these? The new round of monthly meetings started off with a bang in September, thanks to RASC's own Dr. Roy Bishop, who gave us an enlightening and entertaining treatment of "Tides" complete with death-defying photographs of extra-high and extra-low tides at the Hantsport Wharf. Roy always pleases, and manages to fit in material for all levels, from beginner to advanced. (You have not lived if you have not seen Roy demonstrate the "toothpaste tube" model of tidal distortion and the phenomenon of resonance in a forced pendulum.) October's speaker was Ivan Smith, speaking on "When Does Spring Begin? Curiosities of the Calendar".

The Saturday Globe&Mail of September 28 contained a nice surprise: as part of a re-vamped look of the Focus section, there was a column called October Skywatch, written by ex-Halifax Centre member Dan Falk. There was a nifty clear B&W star map locating Comet Hale-Bopp and Jupiter in WSW sky, along with lunar phase dates, plus a well-written text. The byline reads: "Dan Falk is a Toronto journalist and amateur astronomer. Skywatch will appear each month in this space." Well done, Dan! Last spring, Dan's parents came to one of the meetings - his father Michael is a member - and treated us to a video documentary on Isaac Newton that Dan researched, wrote, narrated, and shot in England for the Discovery Channel.)

The leaves have turned colour, so it means that it is that time of year again: nominations officially closed at the October meeting for next year's Executive Council of the RASC Halifax Centre. We seem to be playing a game of RASC musical chairs, where we recycle the same faces into different executive jobs. We truly need some new blood on the executive, and I encourage interested members to approach myself, Dave Lane , or Mary Lou Whitehorne regarding a suitable position. If you are unsure of your level of commitment, there are low-pressure duties available. Basically, you would be committing yourself to attend as many monthly meetings as you can, and to show up 1 hour earlier to take part in the monthly Executive Meeting. That is the minimum; what you do beyond that would depend upon the yourself. About 10 years ago, I started out on the Executive as Librarian, which is a good way to get involved. (Mary Lou and Shawn Mitchell did the same, if I remember correctly.)

Last week, the unusually awful September weather finally relented, and the clouds parted for a beautiful lunar eclipse. We deserved this after missing the one in April! My 9-year-old daughter Alison had gone to bed grumpy because she was going to miss another one, but I had promised that I would wake her up if there was something to see. (The little devil: she never went to sleep, but kept peeking out of the window. When I went upstairs to fetch her at 11 P.M. she was still wide awake!) Anyway, we dressed warmly and set ourselves up in the backyard in lawn chairs to watch the umbra slip over the last bit of the Moon's disk through binoculars (following Roy Bishop's advice regarding the best time to watch if you can't watch it all). Looking at the totally-eclipsed Moon, Alison remarked: "It looks like some kind of planet." I think I know what she means by this: I have noticed that the Full Moon looks like a bright disk of light, with no relief; an eclipsed Moon, however, takes on the appearance of a spherical orbit truly appears in 3-D! As a physicist, I have a theory about this (that I won't bore you with) involving the nature of the incident light, Lambert's law, etc. Yawn! I would be interested to know if anyone has observed this phenomenon and if they have their own explanations. Please write your comments on the back of a $20 bill and send them to the Observatory Fund c/o Pat Kelly.


This year was a very exciting one for the MGAC.......In the fall we were treated to a visit to retired NASA space scientist Harry Taylor's Space Barn museum where we learned about various theories on global warming. We went away with a more "cosmic" viewpoint and also some space souvenirs.

Later on we were delighted to view Comet Hyakutaki at its apex along with many other celestial delights including the Orion nebula and the planet Venus. A short while later we also enjoyed the total eclipse of the moon at Mr. MacConnell's house, where most of our monthly observing sessions are held. These are usually accompanied by hot chocolate and popcorn!

The most awesome thrill came for us all in June, when astronomy club members spoke with Bob Thirsk, a Canadian astronaut, from the space shuttle Columbia-STS-78. They asked the space traveler pre-arranged questions as he orbited So. Australia - these were relayed via ham radio operators via speaker phone to the school's computer room...What a thrill!!!

As an addendum, Bob Thirsk may be visiting Maple Grove some time this year to speak in person to those lucky pupils!!!


On behalf of the Pitcairn Family, I would like to express my most sincere appreciation for the Halifax Centre's kind words and donation to my father's memory. I have fond memories of this kind quiet man who spent more money than he could afford to buy a 7 year old his first telescope. Thank you all.

Douglas Pitcairn


Friday, April 19th, 1996, 8:01 p.m. (you heard me ó or is that read me? ó right) and Brother Chapman begins the April meeting of the Halifax Centre in time-honoured fashion (actually his watch must have been about a minute slow) by threatening the guest speaker with the collection hounds unless he submits his 1996 membership fees forthwith. What an intriguing concept! I foresee interesting possibilities for solving the Centre's financial concerns and the ongoing need for guest speakers in one fell blow. Why not simply invite all members who are delinquent in renewing their membership to address the Centre as a guest speaker? Of course, not all persons would take such an invitation in the same spirit as Bob Hawkes, who had the cheque in his pocket at the beginning of his talk (you did receive it, didn't you Ian?). However, other options do come to mind ...

Present among the 50-odd (that's 50 or so, not 50 unusual) members of the audience that evening was Anna Myers who operates the Cole Harbour planetarium. The remainder of Brother Chapman's address dealt with a members night for displaying photos of Comet Hyakutake, the decision by RASC National Council to award the Chant medal to Dave Lane for his work in producing ECU (I believe that he was selling colour photos of Comet Hyakutake at $5 apiece to support his travel to Edmonton to receive the award (Ed: In your dreams!) ), and encouragement for members to submit articles for publication in Nova Notes (and keep those astrophotos coming). Possibly he should have initiated group prayer for that last item. Blair MacDonald was on next looking for volunteers for a public lunar observing evening at Point Pleasant Park, or better yet the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and was followed by Paul Gray doing his What's Up routine. Mentioned were the latest on Comet Hyakutake (not mentioned by name, of course ó that might have presented difficulties for Paul), the location of the planet Mercury at greatest elongation east in the western sky at the end of April, Jupiter as a morning star, the names of a few current meteor showers of interest such as the Lyrids (although I had the impression that was more because of the presence of Bob Hawkes in the audience than for generating interest in observing them ó the weather was not nearly cold enough for meteor observing according to Blair), and was topped off with a black and white photo of the comet taken from St. Croix. Dave Lane followed with an item on the latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope, namely images of the Helix nebula that had appeared a week earlier in the Astronomical Journal. Shawn Mitchell was next as he presented the latest news about the observatory project, namely plans for the summer which included the pouring of a foundation, the construction of a warm room and a roll-off roof, the chopping down of more trees, and improved surveying of the piles and footings. Given the date of this report, it is an easy matter to confirm how successful those plans actually were (Ed: then why not take a drive out to take a look, Dave!).

At this point in the proceedings the choir began its chant as Brother Chapman invited all those in the congregation to gather around him at the front of the room. Ooops, no that's not correct. Actually he took the opportunity to introduce our guest speaker, Dr. Bob Hawkes from Mount Allison University. Although Bob had addressed the Centre not long ago on the topic of the Peekskill Meteorite, he was here again to talk about Meteors From Outside the Solar System. At that point my notes became rather illegible since Bob preferred to keep us "in the dark" during his talk. Perhaps that was to prevent anyone from snatching the cheque for his membership dues from his pocket? At any rate, given that my eyes have difficulty adapting to illuminations of less than 10ñ7 lumens per square centimeter, my notes on his talk were essentially non-existent. However, if I recall correctly (fat chance of that, eh?), Bob spoke about his latest search for meteors from beyond the solar system, i.e. beasties that encounter the Earth in hyperbolic orbits, thereby indicating that they have definitely "come from away." Demonstrating such a point at first sight appears rather elementary, since all one has to do is to confirm that the velocity at which a meteor encounters the Earth is in excess of the canonical local escape velocity from the solar system. For head-on collisions (with Earth, of course!) that amounts to velocities of about 72 kilometers per second, or 260,000 kilometers per hour (160,000 miles per hour) for you speed merchants, a rate which guarantees that the impacting dust specky doesn't spend a hell of a lot of time passing through the atmosphere (a few seconds ought to do it).

So, what did Bob do in order to find such beasties? Well, in the first place he had to adjust his experimental apparatus in order to remove the built-in bias against detecting such meteors. Given that the height in the atmosphere at which dust specks ablate as a consequence of friction with air molecules depends directly on their impact speeds, Bob's previous experiments turned out to be set up to detect preferentially objects belonging to the solar system. Meteoroids traveling at higher velocity should ablate (i.e. become visible) at higher altitudes, where his triangulation apparatus would normally not detect them since is was set to detect objects at much lower altitudes. So, simply adjust the triangulation altitude accordingly and go to it. That was not so simple, as Bob pointed out. Experimenters do not always have the luxury of having their equipment work perfectly, and, for triangulation from several remote sites, research assistants were needed to operate the meteor cameras located in Sackville and Wallace (Bob selected the "choice" spot at his summer cottage in Alma, NB for himself). As it turned out (Murphy's Law), the observations from Wallace were a bust (good hired help is really hard to find, isn't it?). However, two cameras did go into operation, and, as shown by Bob using video images of a few fast meteors, at least one detection was made of a meteor in a hyperbolic orbit.

There was more to Bob's talk than this, of course, but I hesitate to go into the Poynting equation and the mathematical analyses in this report. Besides, my notes are not very complete, as I mentioned previously. The next speaker on the agenda was Shawn Mitchell (what again?) to talk about sky transparency ó the Handbook Study. Of course, Doug Pitcairn had already given a Handbook presentation on that topic previously (did Shawn miss it?), so most of us were quite familiar with page 35 of the Observer's Handbook and the charts of the Polaris magnitude sequence. What I remember most about this particular spiel is Shawn bragging about how he and Darren Talbot can detect objects half a magnitude fainter than are detectable by others. Big deal! Just wait until he and Darren succumb to the delights of cataracts as they age. We'll see just how good their eyes are then, won't we?

Brother Chapman returned to the podium at that point in order to thank the speakers and to invite everyone to refreshments. Before that began, however, the meeting turned into a bit of a "Pick on the Observer's Handbook Editor" night as comments were presented about sections not found in the Handbook. His Worship the President has his own interests, of course, so the lack of a section on Rainbows, Sun Dogs and Sun Arcs was particularly disappointing. Roy, are you listening to this?


The summer solstice meeting of the Halifax Centre that was held on Friday, June 21st, featured a somewhat lower-than-usual attendance, possibly as a consequence of the proximity to the summer holidays (what are they?). There were about 30 people in attendance, with the usual last-minute rush including most of the Centre's tobacco addicts. Dave Chapman seemed relatively relaxed at this meeting. T minus 30 seconds ... T minus 20 seconds ... T minus 10 seconds ... T minus 0 seconds ... T plus 10 seconds ... T plus 20 seconds ... What's this? What happened to the panzer units? Well over two minutes after the hour, Brother Chapman finally began the meeting. Clearly his six months in office are beginning to have an effect. "Do you think we should start now, or give it another few minutes?"

The meeting began rather slowly with the flogging of our Centre brochures to potential new members, a short pause to honour cookie chairman Ralph Fraser for his faithful attendance and diligent attention to our post-meeting needs (well, some of them, at any rate) over many years, and then, "Without further ado, let's hear from Blair MacDonald." Blair spent a few minutes to brief us on upcoming events, including the Dollar Lake Park observing sessions and the summer star party at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and then added a reminder for everyone to take some time to sign the card/gift for Rosemary Freeman upon the occasion of here retirement as the RASC's National Executive Secretary. Shawn Mitchell followed with the What's Up? segment, which featured a report on the cloud cover and rain at Astro Atlantic, the Blue Moon on July 30th, the brightening of Comet Hale-Bopp, the close conjunction of the Moon with Venus, the August Perseid shower, the visibility of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, and recent progress on the St. Croix observing site, including the elimination of brush and tree stumps with the help of Roy "The Beaver" Bishop. Shawn had to be reminded about the significance of the meeting date (i.e. the summer solstice), but his presentation was clearly a mild boost in literacy from Paul Gray's normal coverage (Ed: What is this, the "Pick on Paul Issue"?). Dave Chapman followed with a reminder about the forthcoming Nova East held in August.

The next victim thrown to the masses was our own Larry Bogan, a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio with a Ph.D. from Cornell and a long-time resident of Cambridge, Nova Scotia (near the King's Valley airport), as well as an instructor at Acadia University since 1978. As guest speaker for the evening, Larry chose to speak to us about orbital mechanics (I have forgotten the exact talk title). I teach a little bit of orbital mechanics at Saint Mary's, and therefore had some concerns that the topic might prove to be "a wee bit dry" for the usual RASC crowd, especially when it became clear that there would be no nifty colour slides or pyrotechnic displays accompanying the talk. Boy, was I ever wrong! Although Larry did present the material in quite a "dignified" manner and relied heavily upon overhead transparencies to illustrate various terms ó can you say "eccentricity" and "mean anomaly" boys and girls? ó his talk was actually quite interesting with very few dead moments.

I tend to judge the success of talks by whether or not I was able to remain alert throughout and whether or not I learned anything. Much to my surprise, this talk was close to a 9 or 10 on my scale. I particularly enjoyed Larry's review of the historical development of orbital mechanics from Newton's physical formulation of Kepler's laws to the development of current orbit-fitting techniques thanks to the efforts of child prodigy Karl Gauss to recover the minor planet Ceres from Piazzi's scattered observations of it in January of 1801. The story of the recovery of Ceres is a well-recited talk in introductory courses in astronomy, yet I had not realized until Larry's presentation that the problem of recovering Ceres following Piazzi's discovery was complicated by the fact that it was near a stationary point of its orbit when first sighted. As a result, its nightly direction of motion actually changed during the period of those initial observations, so that the crude methods of orbital analysis ó read "guessing" ó in use at that time were of little use in predicting where to look for it once it reappeared from behind the Sun. To the rescue came Gauss and the development of a proper allowance for observational uncertainties. The result was that von Zach was able to recover Ceres almost a year later in the constellation of Virgo, quite a bit removed from where Piazzi had first spotted it in Taurus.

Larry illustrated a few examples of how one can derive orbits from a series of observations of an orbiting body, starting from initial approximations for a circular orbit to more refined solutions. Although an initial solution can be done with only three different observations of the location of a planetary object in the sky, there are certain types of orbits where more data points would be helpful. Try it yourself using Larry's own computer routine that he will send you electronically for the asking. Of course, you might write your own software with reference to Boulet's textbook or obtain software from Jean Meeus as an alternative, but I would recommend the more direct route myself. Why not take advantage of our local expertise?

Pat Kelly was up next to present the Handbook Study, and his choice for the evening was to summarize the Double Star section for the masses. The selection of double stars given in the Handbook appears to have been chosen on the basis of one important criterion, namely that they "must fit on one page." Other than that, the main characteristics required are: (i) a long enough orbital period to guarantee that the observational parameters of position angle and separation do not change greatly with time, (ii) close enough separations to allow the objects to be a challenge ó but not too much of one! ó for observations with a small telescope, and (iii) similar enough brightness for the two components that both can be spotted in a small telescope (So, have you seen Sirius B lately?). Pat took the opportunity to display a Peterson diagram as an overhead. Such a diagram plots some weird parameter for double stars (separation of components?) versus telescope limiting magnitude, or something like that (perhaps it was the magnitude of star B?), but I may have been drifting off at that point. Pat was given one demerit point for using a graph from Sky & Telescope magazine for that purpose, and there were apologies all around for the lack of photos at the meeting, but, quite honestly, I did not miss them myself. I know that I revived quickly once we broke for goodies.


I just want to go on record as stating that my writing this meeting report does in no way make me a qualified meeting reporter. I was caught on a weak moment and before I could come up with a plausible excuse I found myself siting in the audience scribbling notes on some borrowed paper.

Despite Dave's promise, made when he became the new President for Life, the meeting started late at 8:01:56.678543 PM (approximately!). The usual items were mentioned and new members were shown the handouts, thoughtfully placed on the table at the front where they could not get them until after the meeting (trapped them again!). Our chief Ferengi Shawn wowed everyone with copies of the new two-thirds colour calendar (the only one with the phase of the Moon marked for every day - by the way what exactly is a two-thirds colour calendar?). Former President for Life Lane made a plea for Nova Notes submissions and volunteered willingly (read: "was not given any choice") to head up the nomination committee for next years executive. Our intrepid observing chairman, Paul, gave the requisite "what's up" presentation (he even remembered Venus). The membership was reminded that the University of Toronto Press will be handling memberships this year and that they will be mailed shortly.

There was one bit of sad news, Doug Pitcarin's father has passed away. I am sure that everyone will join the Halifax Centre in expressing our condolences to Doug and his family.

This brings me to the main speaker for the evening, Dr. Roy Bishop gave an excellent presentation on tides. Roy was introduced by our new President for Life, who apologized profusely about not having prepared any biographical information. Roy's presentation explained the causes of tides, why the Bay of Fundy has such high tides and even why the ferries in the bay have such an odd schedule (for those that could not attend we will have to talk Roy into another talk so you can find the answer to that one).

After Roy's presentation Dave Lane and Shawn brought the membership up to date on the status of the observatory project.

The meeting adjourned at 10:15 for the usual gab and munchie session.

MEETING REPORT: OCT 96 (October 18 Gregorian Calendar, October 4 Julian Calendar) BY LARRY BOGAN

This is a challenge for me as a rookie meeting-reporter to match the output of veterans such as Dave Turner and Pat Kelly. But here goes.

Dave Chapman, our Centre president presided over the meeting and kept it moving smoothly.

The main speaker for the evening was, Ivan Smith, from Canning, N.S. Ivan has worked in many occupations including time with Nova Scotia Light and Power, but most recently he taught physics at Bridgewater High where he taught some members of the Halifax Centre (including former president Darren Parker). In 1986, he retired to the Annapolis Valley. The Topic for the evening was: "The First Day of Spring and other Curiosities of the Calendar".

This year the vernal equinox occurred the earliest in 200 years (ie. since adoption of the Gregorian Calendar). Ivan started by explaining that the astronomical year can be defined in many ways. Although he listed eight different year lengths the most important ones are: Tropical Year (equinox to equinox), Sidereal Year (fixed star to fixed star), and Anomalistic Year (perihelion to perihelion).

Our civil calendars can only approximate these periods. The Julian calendar has a leap year every four years but the Gregorian cancels leap years if it is also century year and puts it back in if it divisible by 400. As a result the Gregorian calendar matches the tropical year better:

Julian 365d 6h 00m 00s (slow by 11 m/year)

Gregorian 365d 5h 49m 12s (slow by 26 s/year)

The Gregorian Calendar was instituted in 1582, by pope Gregory when the Catholic Church was in the height of its power. At that time the date for Easter which was tied to the vernal equinox was slowing shifting away from March 21. Calendar reform could be done then, but with the lack of any similar central power today further calendar reform would be less likely. The British Empire refused to follow and held out until 1751 while some places like Turkey did not change until 1926. Even today followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church follow the Julian Calendar.

In 1582, citizens of Europe lost 11 days from Oct 4 to Oct 15. Later Britain and her colonies had to make bigger adjustments. This is illustrated by the dates of George Washington's birthdays.

Born 11 Feb 1731 Julian Calendar

18th 11 Feb 1749 Julian

19th 11 Feb 1750 Julian

20th 11 Feb 1752 Gregorian Calandar (not a mistake)

21st 22 Feb 1753 Gregorian

A tombstone in the Annapolis Royal Cemetery also shows the care that historians must have to straighten out dates. This is a tombstone of a child who did not live beyond one year. It reads:

Born 16 August 1749 Julian Calendar

Died 21 February 1749 Julian

Although Julius Caesar had decreed that the year start on January 1, not all countries followed this. In the British Colonies the Julian year started on March 25 and ended on March 24. So the Annapolis Royal child did indeed die later in the year 1749. George Washington did not have a 1751 birthday because there was no January or February in 1751. The sequence of years were:

born 11 Feb 1731 Julian

1749 25 Mar to 24 Mar Julian

1750 25 Mar to 24 Mar Julian

1751 25 Mar to 31 Dec 282 day year

(partial Year)

1752 1 Jan to 31 Dec 355 days

(took 10 days out in September)

Public records at the time of the calendar change had to note which calendar was being used and so there were little notations of OS = "old style" or Julian Calendar and NS = "new style" or Gregorian Calendar.

Ivan showed us the effect of the difference of the Gregorian Calendar from the Tropical Year. In a chart that spread the length of the blackboard, over 400 years the dates of the spring equinoxes drifted year by year and jumped every four due to leap year corrections. The most dramatic effects occurred at the centuries when no leap year occurs. Because we are nearing the year 2000 we are almost at the point when the correction of every 400 years needs to take place. This is why our spring equinox this year was the earliest since the Gregorian Calendar was instituted. It will continue to get earlier in the next few years.

During question period there were many more Calendar Curiosities discussed but debate was cut off gently by our president and shifted to 'refreshment time' after the meeting.

Before adjourning for goodies, Dave Turner, described with brilliant artistic effect, the atmospheric display of Glory and Sun Dogs on October 8 as seen in the Halifax area. Others in the audience contributed their descriptions. Despite the fact that this topic was declared not to be astronomy by several authorities in the audience, an adequate explanation of the phenomena was put forth. However, no one was able to explain the pulsating effects seen by Mary Lou.

Adjournment for conversation and goodies was the proclaimed by president Dave (Chapman).


I've often heard that the months of September through November offer some of the best observing in the Maritimes. Inclement weather conditions were the least of my worries on this particular night however. Here I am in my backyard in Wolfville. The neighbor's lights are out, the Milky Way is strong above my head, and Jupiter is solid at 230x. I'm content until....... the local pizza boy decides to deliver next door. Nobody answers right away and I can smell the cheese from here. I hear a rustle in the shrubs at the edge of my lawn and the sounds of something plowing through the toys scattered around my kids' playground. I give up my search for Jupiter's red spot and stand up, flicking on my Rigel Systems red light to maximum intensity.

I see an animal thundering towards me. It stops three feet away in front of my scope as it sees the red light. Looks like a big gray cat. "Ssssss" I say loudly. It turns. My heart stops. A great big skunk gun is aimed at me. My first thoughts are will my Makustov-Newtonian corrector plate coatings survive such a blast at this close range? Is my eyepiece case closed? The smell of pizza cheese and danger hangs in the air. I won't bore you with the rest of the details of the showdown, but I, the skunk, my scope, and the pizza all survived. Fall weather may herald great sky conditions, but skunks can end your observing quicker than fog or other weather elements. I've lost my taste for pizza too.


Since the last observatory committee report in the August issue of Nova Notes, considerable progress has again been made (sounds like a broken record).

In September, the seemingly continuous rain slowed down progress considerably. But, we did manage to put up the walls for the roll-off-roof observatory on one Saturday and on one very rainy Wednesday afternoon, Roy Bishop, Ian Anderson, Doug Pitcairn, and myself had a delivery of concrete which after many wheelbarrow loads made the driveway gate posts and the foundation sono-tubes for the roof track supports. It seems we were the only concrete delivery that day. All the professional contractors had given up that day! A week or so later, Roy and his neighbour, Walter Urban (a non-member) back filled all the holes with Walter's small tractor. Thanks very much, Walter!

In early October, the track system that supports the roof when it is off of the building was built.

After weeks of waiting, the metal roofing material finally arrived and after that was installed on the warm room on October 19, it was considered "weather tight" and complete from the outside.

That same day, the roof trusses for the roll-off-roof observatory went up. The following weekend, its metal roofing went on.

Nearly by the time of the November meeting, the observatory should be essentially complete from the outside and may be ready for use. This will mark the end of construction until spring, when the interior work, electrical wiring, and gravel work will be completed.

By the way, there is now a combination lock on the gate, so if you want to get in, call one of the committee members for the combination.

As stated in last issue, why not go out and have a look, I'll think you will be suitably impressed.

St. Croix Observatory Donations! Thank you!

The total raised to date is ~$5900.

Solar (<$100) Ian Anderson, Janet Allan, Larry Bogan, Heather Cameron, David and Jodi Clarke, Bruce Evans, Michael Falk, Norma Fraser, Tom Harp, Bob Hawkes, David Huston, Walter Kausmann, Graham Miller, Shawn Mitchell, Marianne Rohrl, Ron Thompson

Stellar ($100-$249) David Chapman, John Connelly, John Jarvo & Daryl DeWolfe, Peter Edwards, Tony Jones, Peter Leyenaar, Blair MacDonald, Greg Palman, Harvey Slaunwhite, David Tindall, Mary Lou Whitehorne

Star Cluster ($250-$499) Milton Doyle, Walter Urban

Galactic ($500-$999) Roy Bishop, David Lane, Clint Shannon, Bill Thurlow, Joe Yurchesyn

Quasar ($1000+) Annapolis Basin Group (for the land lease donation)


The second annual AAAA enjoyed two nights of beautiful observing on October 11 and 12, 1996, at Ron Perry's cottage, Bayview, Grand River, PEI. Sponsored by the Athena Community Astronomy Club, Summerside, PEI, 8 people observed Friday and 4 on Saturday. The trailer mounted 17.5" Dobsonian, an 8" SCT, and a 4.5" Astroscan, along with some binoculars gave great views of Jupiter, Saturn, many planetary nebulae such as the Eskimo (NGC 2392) and Helix (NGC 7293), other nebulae such the Crab (M1), M78, M42, etc., and a number of galaxies in areas including NGC 247, 253, M97, M81&M82, and other areas, a few globulars (ie. NGC 288), and various galactic clusters from NGC 188 to 2158). The Minimum Visual Magnitude was 6.0. In addition, a surprise was the discovery of a bright comet unknown to us in Ursa Major just east of M97&M108. It was so bright it was hard to believe no one had reported it, but the latest magazines had no mention of it. A call to David Lane (Ed: at 3am, no less!) of Halifax quickly confirmed that this was the new Comet Taber.

We feel lucky to get two good weekend moonless nights together, particularly since the AAAA had to be rescheduled from its original date of Sept. 13-14 (tail end of a nearby hurricane forced this). Astronomical visitors are welcome to come each year.



Date: Regular Meeting - Friday, November 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: The topic is Members Night. This is your opportunity to tell all of us what you have been up to all summer. There will also be the business associated with the centre's Annual Meeting.

Date: Regular Meeting - Friday, December 13 at 8pm; 7pm for the council meeting.

Note: This is the second Friday night!!!!

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

Topic: There are two items scheduled. First off, there will be a few talks aimed specifically at beginners. The second item will be a discussion/debate between centre members (yourself included!) on what sort of large telescope should be built at St. Croix and what it will be used for - this should be quite entertaining!


The following motion will be presented at the November Annual Meeting:

"It is moved that the Regional Science Fair Award Fund be eliminated and its funds be transferred to the general account."

Explanation: Several years ago, a special fund was set up to provide regular income which was to be used for an Astronomy Award at the Halifax Regional Science Fair. The value of this fund is about $2500. The fund originated from member donations which were matched by the centre. After several years of providing judges for the fair, it has been determined that projects warranting an award are too infrequent (it has been awarded only twice) to justify committing such a large sum of money for this single purpose. Providing funds for the award can easily be accommodated from the centre's general account on as as needed basis.


Vista 80mm 910mm

Refractor Tube Assembly

1.25" back, no diagonal, no finder.

Would make a good guide scope.

Asking Price: $70 Contact: Mike Boschat 455-6831

13.1" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope

with homemade fibre-glassed tube, Novak spider, secondary holder, and 9 point primary cell,

2" focuser and Telrad (no eyepieces).

New Even Lower Price! Asking Price: $1000

CONTACT: Paul Gray


PHONE: 902-864-2145

6" f8-10 (?) Mirror

Never used. Dates from the early 1970s. Just recently found. Could be made into a good beginner scope.

Asking Price: Negotiable

CONTACT: Ed Bezanson (owned by neighbour)

Phone: 275-4022 (Chester)



Members of the RASC provide free weekly programs on Thursday evenings in the Halifax Planetarium. We are in desperate need for two more show presenters otherwise we may have to scale back the public programming!!! The time commitment is only one show per month and any desired training on the use of the equipment will be provided.

So, if you are willing to volunteer, please call Dave Lane at 443-5989.


Price for members is $10 ea - Call Shawn Mitchell to get yours!


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 542-0772

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