May 9, 2008 - RASC – Mississauga Centre

Mississauga Centre RASC
105th Meeting
Speaker’s Night
Friday May 9, 2008
Randy Attwood
Roy Swanson
Robotic Observatory in Australia
Bob Anderson is putting up a robotic observatory in Victoria, southern Australia which
can be controlled remotely from Mississauga. The telescope has a Ritchey Chretien
design and can go to 0.47 arc sec per pixel. The observatory is privately owned. He
showed examples of images which can be obtained from the location.
Familiar patterns in the Sky
Roy Swanson, a member of the Mississauga Centre has a PhD in aerospace engineering
and was technical director of Spar Aerospace as well as a fighter pilot. He now gives
astronomy lectures on cruise ships and principals in TV commercials. He spoke about
patterns in the sky.
Ancient astronomers did not have lined patterns in the sky but they probably drew lines
of star patterns in the sand. It is human nature to look for patterns and the night sky was
well studied in ancient times. A good pattern would be one that a casual person could
easily recognize in the sky. This would exclude constellations like Cancer and Fornax.
There are 7 types of patterns:
First, there are stars which are part of a small figure or asterism which is itself part of a
constellation. The circlet of Pisces is very evident as a small circle and has the Sun just
below it at vernal equinox. The Big Dipper, called “the Plough” in the UK is part of Ursa
Major. The square of Pegasus can be used as a guide to all sorts of directions on the sky.
Also of note is the keystone of Hercules.. Within the boundaries of constellations but not
part of the stick figure of the constellation are small asterisms such as Brochi’s cluster
which looks like a coat hanger in Vulpecula, and the Pleiades in Taurus looking like an
itsy-bitsy dipper.
Secondly, a whole constellation can be the asterism. Leo with its sickle representing the
mane used have a bushy tail until that was made into the newer constellation of Coma
Berenices. Orion the hunter is an easy constellation to find and contains the belt asterism
of 3 stars. Of the three dippers in the sky (Big, Little and Pleiades), the Little Dipper is a
whole constellation with Polaris the North Star at its tip. Cassiopeia can be a M, W or E
or 3 depending on its location in the sky. Roy recommended re-naming it the Mew3.
Scorpius is actually shaped like a scorpion. Its claws are composed of the constellation
Libra. In fact two of the Libra stars are still called the upper and lower claws. The
Southern Cross is a prominent asterism – constellation, and figures on many national
flags. Capricornus the sea goat is a faint mid-summer figure that looks like a bikini
bottom. Roy also mentioned Sagittarius which looks like a teapot, Canis Major and the
poem written about it by Robert Frost, and Cygnus the Swan or Northern Cross.
Third, there are patterns made up of more than one constellation such as the summer
Fourth, many nebulae have common names based on what they look like. These include
the Running Chicken Nebula, Ring, Lagoon, Cocoon, Tank Trunk, Eskimo, Eagle, Little
Ghost, Dumbell, Cone, Fox Fur, Keyhole in Carina, Saturn Nebula, Horsehead and
others. The Witch Head Nebula reflects light from the star Rigel and scatters mainly blue
light. The Ghost of Jupiter is a planetary nebula whereas the Coal Sack is a dark nebula
near Crux. Finally Roy mentioned Thor’s Helmet in Canis Major and the North America
Nebula and Pelican Nebula.
Fifth of all, there are patterns which are clusters such as the Wild duck cluster M11, the
Butterfly Cluster, and the Bee Hive which fails the test of what it is supposed to look like,
NGC 1662 which looks like the running lights of a Klingon cruiser, and the tufts in the
tail of the dog Canis Major namely Cr 132 and 140.
Sixth, some galaxies make up a pattern such as the Sombrero, Bear Paw, Siamese twins.
Seventh, there are patterns in solar system objects. There are spots on the Sun, a great
spot on Jupiter and a blue one on Neptune. Rings circle Saturn, other planets and even the
moon Rhea. The Moon has the pattern of the “man in the Moon” as well patterns
resembling a circus bear and black poodle, while Mars has a face named the “Piltdown
man” , a “happy face” in the form of the crater Galle,
Other cultures have their own patterns. Australian aborigines see the coalsack in Crux as
part of an emu. There are colourful names in the sky such as Capella being the she goat
with three kids although not a pattern as such. Other patterns change shape with the eons
such as the big Dipper over tens of thousands of years.
Science Rendezvous Day and Astronomy day
Randy Atwood spoke about Science Rendezvous as an initiative to take science to the
people. It is an opportunity for us to become better known to the university. He also
spoke about the upcoming general Assembly of the RASC
Submitted by Chris Malicki, Secretary