Beleive it or not, a galaxy recently photographed by the Hubble telescope has revealed it to be rotating in the opposite direction that it's supposed to. NGC 4622, an odd looking galaxy in the southern constellation Centaurus, has been examined spectroscopically and found to be rotating in the same direction that its outer arms are pointing. Normally, in the past, galaxies have always been found to turn in the opposite direction, opposite to the pointing ends of the outside arms. This is a first in galactic analysis and speculation says it may have begun this opposite rotation because of a merge with another galaxy in the past. The two outer arms are distorted, a characteristic that started the initial investigation in the early 90's. The galaxy is 111 million lightyears away.
A new comet, called Ikeya-Zhang C/2002 C1, is making a close aproach to the Sun on March 18. Over one-hundred observations show that it will become a naked eye object, possibly around fourth magnitude, by the time perihelion is reached. A northern hemisphere object at that time, it may still prove difficult to observe because the elongation will be about thirty degrees from the Sun. However, in the Detroit area, it should be placed about twenty degrees above the horizon around 7:30 pm, in the constellation Pisces. The Sun will be nearing the end of evening twilight, about ten degrees below the horizon.
On March 19, at 1:00 pm, the asteroid Vesta will pass two arc minutes south of the planet Saturn. We won't be able to see it until evening, when it'll be six minutes away by then. At about 8th magnitude, it'll look like one of the moons of Saturn. Check the Saturn moon diagram on page 97 of Sky and Telescope for a good approximation of what the moon positions will be like at that time.
If you'd like to view M1, the Crab nebula, in a slightly different way, go to page 14 of the March issue of Sky And Telescope and take a look at the two pictures of M1, at the top of the page. The pictures were reproduced for comparing a 1942 image, made by Walter Baade, to a present day photo. If you rotate the page ninety degrees (quarter turn clockwise) and hold the photos about a foot away from your face, you can observe the duo as a 3-D picture by forcing your eyes to merge the two images into a third, central image. In the 3-D mode, you see the nebula as it really is, an expanding shell of gas. The stereo results are due to the difference in the two pictures. It's not easy to merge the pictures, but it becomes easier the more you practice. I'd like to see more paired pictures like this one, of other objects. I wonder if Sky publishing realizes the possibilities of such pictures. I'd make it a monthly feature.
Norman Dillard, a relatively new member of the WAS, gave an interesting talk at the February, Cranbrook meeting. Norm talked about the evolution of our star, the Sun, and showed graphics which explained how our Sun was going to evolve in the next billion or so years. According to Norm, the end result can't be changed. Our Sun is due to turn into a red giant after burning up all its energy, destroying the inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Whether or not, life as we know it, will continue to exist after moving to some other part of the solar system or Galaxy, we'll probably never know, in our lifetime.
Looks like Comet Linear C/2000 WM1 is still thrilling observers in the southern hemisphere. The comet rounded the Sun on January 6 and headed south. Australian observers are viewing the comet in outburst again and the visual magnitude has been around 2.7 to 2.9 at the end of January. It's just leaving Sagittarius and continuing its southern journey. The tail was reported to be about 2.5 degrees long, according to the JPL reports.
Three more telescopes have been completed because of the WAS's past mirror making group. Thanks to Steve Greene, who is helping to put those mirrors into useful operation, has successfully launched Don Lemons (6 in.), Bob Watt (12.5 in.), and Blaine McCullough (13 in.) into operational instruments. Only one member of the mirror making group still remains to fight the battle, that's Pete Rynshoven, who's working on an eight inch 'scope.
One of the common problems the mirror making group had was determining the focal length of the mirrors while we were working on them. In the rough grinding stage, the exact focal length wasn't nescessary. Measurements accurate to two or three inches were good enough. During the polishing stage, we had to rely on the Focault tester for more accurate results, usually within a half to quarter inch. Many amateur mirror makers don't have a Focault tester, making it difficult to find the focal length without a good infinite light source like the Moon or Sun. As a result of our efforts to find another method, I decided to build a parallel light source, a kind of telescope in reverse. The subject, a cross, is mounted at the focus of a lens and illuminated from behind. The result is a projected image of the cross, through the lens, out to infinity, riding in a parallel beam. The cross can only be seen after it's focused again by another telescope mirror or lens. The result is a compact, hand held device that can be pointed at a telescope, from any distance, giving the scope a cross to focus on. If you don't have a complete telescope, just a mirror or lens, you can still find the focus point by casting the cross image on a white paper. You may see a demonstration of this device at a future WAS meeting.
You missed an update of my presentation, All About Comets, if you didn't come to the January, Cranbrook meeting. The last time I gave the lecture was about five years ago, when comets Hyakutaki and Hale-Bopp were making news.
Roger Civic, an older member, past newsletter editor and designer of the club logo, stopped in at the Cranbrook meeting on February 4, to say hello and tempt some of us out of our pocket change by displaying a bunch of astronomical hardware during the meeting. It was all for sale and the sound of crisp dollar bills could be heard rustling during the break. Hopefully, it was a win-win situation for the seller and buyers that night. I'd like to see one of the meetings, each year, devoted to a swap shop atmoshere. I'm sure many of us have something to sell, whether it is hardware, books or anything with an astronomical background.
This is the start of year number eleven. That's how long I've been pounding a steady set of keys for the WASP. This isn't the first publication that I've run a series of articles in. When the Livonia society was going strong, I did more than one series on astrophotography, hand held computers and telescope optics. Seems like only yesterday.
If you think the price of memory has reached rock bottom, hold on. A new manufacturing method promises to bring prices down even further. Until now, its been the practice of creating chips with one layer of semiconductors. The new process will stack the layers, giving two to eight times the capacity, maybe even higher. It also means smaller chips with more memory and more powerful CPU's. One thousand megabytes on a chip? It's not far away. Here's a tip for CCD photographers. If you have a camera with a CCD chip and it has a removable lens, or no lens at all, be prepared to have dust problems. You'll find dust will plague your pictures without mercy. The answer is keep the inside of your camera and lens clean, especially the CCD chip and the rear element of your lens. Wipe those areas with dust free, soft tissue or use a small blower to remove dust. Keep the camera covered when its not being used. Film cameras have dust removers built into the film cartridge, so they're much less of a problem.
On Wednesday, February 13, the evening before Valentine's day, I stepped out into the back yard to catch a -6 magnitude Iridium satellite in the NNE sky. The satellite flared right on time but just as it was about to disappear from sight, a spectacular fireball crossed over the fading satellite. The kind of fireball that makes you stop breathing for awhile. Just as brilliant as the Iridium flare had been, with a trail that stretched nearly forty-five degrees in the light poluted sky. It continued to fall, bursting into a red and green display and finally disappearing behind my neighbors house in the NE. If you saw this meteor, around 8:02 pm, tell me about it the next chance you get.
Peek out the window on March 20, around 2:16 pm, and you'll see Spring begin in the Northern hemisphere.
The one hundred gigabyte hard drive is now a reality, and selling at your local computer dealer for about $250. Competition should bring it down to around a hundred dollars in a year or so.