The Warren Astronomical Society Paper

Volume 28, Number 12, December, 1996

Table of Contents


Last month's WASP listed Ben Tolbert's old phone number in the 1996 Awards Banquet article. Please use the phone number shown in this month's issue.

1996 Awards Banquet

Plan to attend the Warren Astronomical Society's 1996 Awards Banquet, featuring award presentations, a slide show, a raffle, and time for socializing. The price of admission includes appetizers, dinner and door prizes. There will be a cash bar.

When: Where: Meals: Cost: Reservations and Payment: Raffle Prizes: So far, we've received these raffle prizes for our banquet:

Computer Chatter

by Larry Kalinowski

The next wave in computer hardware seems to be the Internet PC. More than one manufacturer of hardware (actually nine) are planning to sell them to the rest of the non-computer community. Since the hardware will rely on an Internet provider, all games, utilities, applications and e-mail will be downloaded for use, then uploaded for storage. All via a telephone line or some interconnecting line between you and the provider. The Internet PC won't have a hard drive or floppy drive. Present hard-core desktop users can't imagine using a computer without the ability to pick and choose their computer configuration but, it seems that the general public might be satisfied with a no-nonsense computer setup that just requires the power to be turned on before using it. If the provider can link you to a bank, grocery store or any other kind of establishment for service or sales, it just might give you the convenience you require for all those everyday, monotonous tasks. A television set could provide the eye contact required for more complicated transactions. Even the keyboard could be eliminated with on screen graphics. If $500 sounds like the right price for traveling the superhighway, it might happen to you.

Our commitment to the Metropolitan Beach Metropark was fulfilled with a grand presentation by Ben Tolbert, and others, on Saturday, October 19, in the Nature Center facilities. Cloudy weather kept about one-hundred viewers indoors, listening to lectures and observing advice given by Jeff Bondono, John Herrgott and other members of the society who had brought telescopes and welcomed the astronomically, inquisitive, to hear our story of the stars. The lecture room had to have two seatings because of the size of the crowd. All in all, the event proved quite successful, when you consider clouds wouldn't cooperate that night. Plans are being made for future events involving the park and members are welcome to submit presentation and observing ideas for those future shows. With the possibility of Hale-Bopp becoming visible in the late winter and early spring, more participation will be required to handle the large crowd expected.

Hale-Bopp is now beginning to make its move across the sky, now that it's quickly approaching the Earth. It seemed to be stuck in Ophiuchus for quite a long time, making a retrograde loop, like some of the outer planets. In the beginning of December, the predicted magnitude is 3.9. By the end of the month, it'll gain one magnitude, bringing it to 2.9. During the period, January through March, the comet will be a morning object. By the middle of January, it'll move through Serpens and into Aquila and gain another full magnitude. From March through May, it's an evening object. This comet will, no doubt, be the most hyped comet to date, probably surpassing Halley's publicity.

The Detroit Astronomical Society will hold its 3rd Annual Software Fair on Friday, November 15, the third Friday of the month, at their regular meeting place in the Southfield Civic Center. The software presented will be shown on an eight foot screen by President, Barry Craig, with the latest LCD projection equipment. Barry plans to have a CCD, astrophotographic, enhancing program as one of the demonstrations. I'll be there with all the club's shareware.

If you've already built Richard Berry's Cookbook Camera and want more information about using the camera and finding other sources of information that others have experienced using it, go to the cookbook camera home page for additional camera resources. There's even some information for beginners who are contemplating building the camera and where to obtain parts.

The Leonid meteor shower, on November 17, promises to be better than its been the last few years. About 40 meteors per hour are expected under dark skies. This meteor shower is known to increase a hundred-fold every thirty-three years, producing a meteor storm. The next storm is expected in 1998 or 99. However, there is a gradual increase in the hourly count in the preceding years leading up to the storm. It's caused by the fact that the swarm material (from comet 1955p, Temple-Tuttle) doesn't have a well defined boundry. This years' display could be one of the best. The radiant, in Leo, can be seen about twenty degrees above the eastern horizon on Sunday morning, about 2:00 AM.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT. Have you been fooled into thinking the Starwars series of pictures portray real space battle scenes? Those spaceship battle scenes are based on World War II airplane maneuvers flying in our atmosphere. What's it really like to pilot a spaceship? Actually, the arcade program ASTEROIDS is probably as close as you'll get to piloting a spaceship in the vacuum of space. It's ridiculous to do banked turns in a vacuum and foolish too. When will those Hollywood types ever get it right?

With the addition of Riyad Matti's fourteen observations of Beta Lyrae and Tom MacLaney's thirty-eight observations, the total number of new observations stands at 222, as of November 12.

Computer shows for late November are in Taylor, on Saturday, the 23rd, at The Democratic Club Hall, 23400 Wick Road, four blocks east of Telegraph and on Sunday, in Madison Heights, Nov. 24, at The U.F. & C.W. Hall, 876 Horace Brown Dr., one block east of I-75 and one block south of Thirteen Mile Road.

FOR SALE. Two memory boards, never used, with four megabytes of memory on each board (1X36). This is the parity checking type of memory (9 chips) with seventy-two pins. Never used, asking twenty-five dollars per board. Call me at 810-776-9720 for more info.

The November meeting will be at my home in Roseville, on Wednesday the 27th, due to Thanksgiving Day falling on the fourth Thursday. The address is 15674 Flanagan, two blocks west of Groesbeck Highway and two blocks north of Common Rd. (12 1/2 Mile Road). (810-776-9720). Please use the side entrance, starting with this meeting.

1997 Officers

Congratulations to our newly-elected 1997 officers
PresidentDave D'Onofrio
1st VPLou Faix
2nd VPBlaine McCullough
TreasurerBen Tolbert
SecretaryGlenn Wilkins

Masterpieces Messier Missed

by Jeff Bondono

The Double Cluster at 2h20m +57d

After over a year of writing this column, I noticed that I've never featured the double cluster, the most prominent and famous of the Masterpieces Messier Missed. Now is the perfect time to observe this celestial gem as it passes nearly overhead during the evening hours. From Stargate-class skies or better, the Double Cluster appears to the naked eye as a misty patch, halfway between the bright stars of Cassiopeia and Perseus.

In my 10x50 binoculars, the double cluster appears as two fuzzy patches, aligned east to west. The western-more, NGC 869, shows 2 close 9th magnitude stars at its center with no other resolved stars. The eastern-more, NGC 884, appears brighter and larger, with more stars. A very large loop of 8th magnitude stars extends northwest from these clusters.

Through my 8" Newtonian telescope, the clusters take on a whole new appearance. NGC 869 is by far the richer, more condensed, and prettier of the 2 clusters. It is a 30'x20' group of over 100 stars oriented northwest to southeast. The dominant stars are two orangish 8th magnitude stars; 1 near the center, and the about 4' north-northeast of the center. The one near the center is flanked to the west by a gorgeous arrowhead of 4 8th magnitude stars and 1 11th magnitude star. 3' east of the bright central star is the condensed core of 20 11th magnitude and fainter stars in a 5'x3' nearly north-south oval. The remainder of the cluster is a not-especially-dense background of 11th magnitude stars with only a few brighter ones. The cluster is well detached from the field because its so rich and so dense in the center.

NGC 884 is the poorer and sparser of the two clusters. Most of the stars are in a 30' equilateral triangle. The center of that triangle is very sparse. The western vertex of that triangle holds the richest knot of the cluster, containing about 20 stars in a 6' round clump. About 10' west of this clump (about 1/3 of the way from NGC 884 to NGC 869) is a red star. Running southeast from the knot is a 25'x5' group, which is the sparsest leg of the equilateral triangle. Running southwest from the knot is the 30'x10' richer and brighter leg of the triangle. North of this equilateral triangle are 2 6th magnitude stars and a sparse smattering of fainter ones. The cluster is pretty well detached from the field, but not nearly obviously as NGC 869.

Louie the Librarian Book of the Month

by Louis Namee

Contemporary Astronomy, by Jay M. Pasachoff

This book covers a lot of ground, (excuse me), sky. Starting with part 1, there is an overview of the universe. Also part 1 takes you through light compositions and telescopes. Then through part 2 which touches on the stars, observing the sky, stellar distances and motions, variable stars, stellar groupings and the sun. Part 3, on the other hand covers stellar evolution with young and middle age stars, the death of stars, supernovae, neutron stars and pulsars, and lets not forget the black holes. Furthermore part 4, dances the reader through the solar system with the early history of astronomy and details of all the planets, comets, meteoroids, asteroids. If that's not enough how about life in the universe? Moving right along part 5, "could there be more to touch on?". Yes indeed there is, the Milky Way galaxy, the interstellar medium and star formation. Guess what, it does conclude with part 6 on galaxies and beyond, types of galaxies, quasars, cosmology and astronomy today. But since the book was published in 1981 and as we speak they're discovering new horizons, this is outdated as soon as this has been typed. All in all if you have a specific topic in mind its more than likely in this book.

Help Close the Universe

by Jeff Bondono

One of the key Astronomical discoveries of the 20th century is the redshift of distant galaxies. The commonly accepted interpretation of that observation is that the universe is expanding. Except for the very nearest ones, all galaxies appear to be rushing away from each other due to the expansion of the space between them.

This expansion in theory is slowed over the course of time by the gravitational interactions between galaxies. If the sum total of all the mass in the universe is large enough, the expansion of the universe will be halted and could even reversed by gravity's relentless tugging. If the universe has enough mass to accomplish this reversal, it is said to be "closed". If the total mass of the universe is not enough for its gravity to overpower the expansion, the universe is said to be "open" and will continue to expand forever. If somehow the universe has a precisely fine-tuned amount of mass, the gravitational attraction between its constituent particles will very gradually slow the expansion, leading to a state of neither expansion nor contraction as its age approaches infinity. This type of universe is called "flat". It is currently unknown whether the universe contains enough matter to be closed, flat or open. Most measurements to date suggest that it is open.

If the universe is open or flat, the galaxies will continue to move further and further apart and we will become more isolated. As all of the matter in our galaxy becomes cooked by stars into elements which are too heavy to provide fuel for future stars, the Milky Way and all other galaxies will become collections of dying embers, destined to a dark and lifeless future. Space travel to other galaxies will also become more difficult as the distances between them increase without limit.

On the other hand, in a closed universe the matter will overpower the expansion of the universe given enough time. The galaxies will fly apart at slower and slower speeds, eventually halting the universe's expansion, then beginning a cycle of universal contraction. Galaxies will then move nearer and nearer to each other as more time passes. Intergalactic space flight will become easier and easier for future generations. Eventually, as the universe becomes smaller and smaller and hotter and hotter, even that lucky spacefaring population will be fried to a crisp. Some eminent cosmologists have suggested that the eventual contraction of the universe to a small enough size might trigger another big bang, recycling the universe into another phase of expansion. The death and rebirth of the universe could continue through an infinite number of cycles. This theory will take a long time to prove correct.

So it appears that we shall experience one of two fates in the far-distant future: death in a dark and lifeless universe or death as crispy critters. Admittedly, neither will be a pleasant experience. However, given that the second fate has the potential of becoming the raw material for another cycle of the universe, most people would prefer the latter to the former. The universe will be a much more exciting place to live in if it is closed. The nearer-term consequences of easier intergalactic travel might even allow future generations to accumulate enough of a trade surplus to design devices which halt the contraction of the universe and avoid the frying pan.

I suppose by now you're asking "What can I do to help assure a more desirable environment for future generations?" This is, indeed, the key question to which this article is aimed. You might have noticed that this particular issue of the WASP has only three quarters of the mass of most prior issues. I contend that we're not doing our part to guarantee a pleasant (and profitable) future to our descendants. If you had submitted an article for this WASP, we might have been able to maintain a constant mass for this issue. If two of you had submitted articles, perhaps we could have even increased the mass. More pages might give potential members the impression of a more active club, leading to more memberships, more WASP printings and even more total WASP mass. One editor can only go so far to fill up the empty columns with long drawn out pleas for more submissions of articles. Which fate shall we will to our future generations? The choice is up to you.
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This page was created by Jeff Bondono, and last changed on Nov 16, 1996.