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November 2002
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astro chatter
Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski

The biggest news for November is the Leonid meteor shower. The Moon will hamper viewing this year because it'll be two days before full and in the eastern and southern sky for viewers in North America. However, because the hourly rate will be so high for both phases of the shower and because there is a possiblity of very bright meteors, observers should still take the time to watch this unusual meteor opportunity. There are two peaks to the Leonids, the first at about 11:00 PM EST on the 18th, and the second, six and a half hours later on the 19th. The most favorable one for us in Michigan is the second peak at 5:30 AM on the morning of the 19th. The first peak favors the Mediterranian area in the eastern hemisphere, however, the east coast of North America will get a chance to see an unusual site because the radiant (point of origin) will be on the eastern horizon. This produces long, parallel trails in the sky, from east to west, with possibly the brightest meteors in this swarm. The second peak, at 5:30 AM puts the radiant higher in the sky, with its shorter trails, but there is a chance of seeing more meteors under this condition, even if the Moon is higher in the sky, although this swarm is not expected to be as bright. I advise catching one or both of the peaks if you can, as this will probably be the last year in the 33 year cycle in which the Earth passes through the swarms of particles left by comet Temple-Tuttle.

Looks like another Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) has been discovered that is 800 miles in diameter. The new object, dubbed 2002 LM60, is about four billion miles away from the Sun. It's in an orbit that takes two hundred and forty-four years to make a complete trip. Even though it's half the diameter of Pluto, its the biggest KBO to be discovered, so far. The second biggest is Varuna, found two years ago. It's about forty percent the size of Pluto. The name Quaoar has been suggested by the discoverer's Chad Trujillo and Mike Brown, members of Caltech's discovery team. Nearly four hundred objects have been discovered within the Kuiper belt so far, a band of icy objects that might extend twenty percent of the way to the nearest star. The latest discovery is in an orbit that doesn't come any closer than Pluto. Could it be considered a planet? The truth is, astronomers don't really know how to define a planet, yet. My own definition says it has to be round, or reasonably round to be a planet. If it's shaped like a potatoe, it's really an asteroid. But then, many of the solar systems moons would be considered a planet under that definition. We won't be able to say what is or isn't a planet until we have a full understanding of how they originated. Making hypothesis and theories on just a handful of planets visible in our neighborhood doesn't give us enough information to come up with a viable explanation.

Al Mangani will be the featured speaker at Cranbrook on November 4. His talk will cover Quarks And Other Little Stuff. Al's last talk covered an introduction to atomic particles and he kept all ears glued to his talk. This time he will delve even further into subatomic particles, giving us a preview of what the universe may have looked like before matter actually condensed into solid stuff like galaxies.

On November 21, Ken Bertin, our first vice-president will talk about Solar Eclipses, his favorite subject. He'll touch on the next upcoming eclipse and the prospects for it at different places along the eclipse path. That'll be at MCCC, South Campus, Twelve Mile Road, Building B, room 209.

Blaine McCullaugh, a long time member of the WAS, wants to pass along all of the collected slides of Frank McCullough, one of the early founders of the WAS. The slides were left in Blaine's care but there are so many that he feels he cannot do them justice. If anyone in the club would like the challenge of sorting those slides and putting them in some kind of order for historical reasons, please contact Blaine anytime you get the chance. We do not have a historian in our group and it would be nice to put those slides in a condition that would benefit the society.

Not only is the solar filter missing from our club's observatory, the 56 millimeter, ultra wide, Meade eyepiece is also missing. If you have either one of those items, please return them as soon as possible.

November's First-Quarter Moon will be on the 11th, which is a Monday. So, Stargate's open house will be on Saturday, the 9th.

This year's Awards Banquet will take place at Stephensen House, on the northbound, I-75, service drive, just south of Ten Mile Road. The event replaces the third Thursday meeting at MCCC. So circle December 19 for a grand social, food, spirits, a lecture, raffle and awards. All members are welcome to attend, as well as their guests. Last year's banquet was quite a smash hit, mainly because of the numerous door prizes that were handed out and a fine speaker. The price for food and other details will be announced at the next few upcoming meetings. Ken Bertin will be the featured speaker. By the way, if you have something to donate to the club for a raffle prize, don't hesitate to bring it with you on banquet night. We're looking for astronomical items like books, telescope hardware, observing aids, calendars or any literature related to astronomy. As in the past, your banquet money must be in club hands by the first meeting in December. There will be no last minute registrations, at the door, on the night of the banquet.

Our observatory is under attack again. Steve Greene, our observatory chairman has managed to aquire a handfull of members and renovate the building that has been our official observatory site for forty years now. When I got there the afternoon of October 12, the roof had already been removed and shingles were all over the site. On top of that, a trench had been dug from the observatory to our new 22 inch telescope storage building. It seems Steve has also decided to add lighting and additional wall sockets to that new building. So much is happening to those two buildings that you'd think a new astronomy club has aquired the site. On top of that, another grand restroom facility is also being built north of our buildings and the restroom will also have a warm up room for our members when we do observing on the site. If you haven't been out to Stargate in the past year, you won't recognize it.

Steve also managed to aquire three more telescopes for the club, at a cost of $300. One will be used for a guide 'scope on the 12 1/2 inch Cass. The others will be rented out to club members. He has also proposed a steel lock box which has a combination lock on it. The box will be mounted on the observatory outside wall and will contain a key to allow entrance to the observatory. The combination lock combination can be changed whenever the observatory chairman wishes to do so. This method of entry will be much more flexible for those that want access because they won't have to drive anywhere to obtain the key for entry. In order to obtain the present combination to the box, members will have to be qualified operators of the digital setting circles used to run the telescope, as well as familiar with the rules and regulations used to open and close the observatory. A deposite will still be required to obtain use of the lock box observatory key.

The officers for 2002 have all be re-elected to the year 2003. They've all done such a great job that club members just couldn't let any of them go. In case you forgot, Mart Kunz is our president, Ken Bertin our first vice president, Stve Greene our second vice-president, Steve Uitti Secretary and Bill Beers Treasurer.

November is a great month for observing. Why? Because your favorite Fall and Winter constellations all rise one hour earlier due to the change from EDT to EST. That puts some constellations higher in the sky and it brings new objects into view in the eastern sky. There's no bugs to bother you and the temperature is still tolerable before winter sets in. Nearly everything is in the observers favor, even the length of observing time increases because of the longer nights. Before you put that scope to rest for the winter, be sure to catch some views of Saturn, Jupiter and those winter Messier objects.

 

WASP
WASP
The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
WAS
Volume 34, Number 11 November 2002