Notes for Diary: Monthly Meeting: Tuesday 6th March; and consider as you stare into the snow scene through your window: British Summer Time starts on Sunday 25th March 2018.

Welcome to the WDAS monthly newsletter for March 2018: a digest of the month's latest contributions to our website.  Below you'll find Society News, Sky Notes and another treat from the bakery, as well as coming events.

Society News

This was a last minute event – organised by the youth hostel.  Conditions on the evening were actually very good with clear skies and little wind.  Initially we thought hardly anyone was going to turn up, but by 18:30h a sizeable gathering had mustered on the front quadrangle in front of the Abbey Visitor centre. 

Mark performed the scale solar system, before observations were carried out, together with a laser tour of the sky.  Thanks to Keith for his assistance on the night.

The second event the following evening down at Boggle Hole was cancelled due to the weather.

Together with other events at Dalby Forrest and Sutton bank, this was part of the NY National park’s dark sky awareness programme.  February is always a tricky month weather wise, it could be anything, so it came as a relief that Saturday 17th proved to be a pretty quiet, clear day, a little chilly, but you expect that.

Having marshalled the troops at Mark’s, (Andi, John, Keith, Lee, Mark and Victor) the expedition set off for the centre in good time.  The event was fully subscribed – 80 booked in - so a good audience was guaranteed.  On arrival we were met by Karen and the team from the centre and our good friend John Randles had also made it down from Westerdale, so we had a decent selection of scopes deployed on the field in front of the centre, including the LX 200 making an all-too-rare winter outing.

Dark Skies Event: 28th February 2018 at the Danby Moors Visitors Centre.  Picture by Keith

Proceedings kicked off with the scale solar system demo, augmented by the inflatable planets, which had been pre inflated back in Whitby.  The lighted globes were used in conjunction with these.  The demo played particularly well, with plenty of coerced public involvement.  It was then time to go to the scopes, whilst mark gave an extended laser point display.  Sky conditions, although not universally pristine, were nevertheless still very good and views of various winter deep sky objects proved a hit. 

Dark Skies Event: 28th February 2018 at the Danby Moors Visitors Centre.  Picture by Keith

Eventually Mark had to retire indoors to give the presentation he was supposed to have given earlier.  Of course Windows in its infinite wisdom decided to update, just then, great!!! so Plan B came into hasty operation – using the Stellarium programme on the Centre’s IT suite.  This proved to be just as satisfactory. 

Proceedings finally drew to a close, our efforts much appreciated by all, indeed feedback was extremely positive – Karen thrilled the response.  My thanks to the ‘band’ your dedication has been duly noted.

After been contacted by Elizabeth Labelle, Assistant Head Teacher (Phase3) of Ayresome Primary School & Lego Innovation Studio, we shall be hosting an event for visiting pupils up at the Whitby Youth Hostel on April 3rd /4th You may recall we did a similar event last yearThe start time is around 20:15h.

Sky Notes

In this month's Sky Notes:

Planetary Skylights

Following February, which saw no full Moon, March -like January - has two full Moons, the 2nd and 31st , the latter being yet another ‘rare’ blue moon. 

22-Mar-2018 at 22:30h (W):
Moon & Aldebaran Occultation
(Click for full-sized image)

The Moon is also involved in two occultation’s of bright stars, Regulus in Leo on the morning of the 1st and Aldebaran in Taurus during the late evening of the 22ndDuring an occultation the moon will pass in front of the star involvedOn the 1st the Moon will occult Regulus from around 05:50h very low in the westThe Aldebaran occultation will commence around 23:00h and again will be low in the west sky.

In the evening sky Venus and Mercury put on a splendid show for the first half of the monthYou will locate them low in the west 40 minutes after sunset (around 18:00-18:15h)View on the 3rd when both lie side by side just over a degree apartVenus will be far the brighter, but Mercury will be pretty conspicuous also (mag-1.2)

Over the course of the next two weeks, Mercury arcs up into the sky to around 10 degrees, reaching greatest elongation on the 15th before dropping back to the horizon by the end of the monthVenus climbs slowly into the sky during MarchThe Moon lies nearby on the 18th.

03-Mar-2018 at 18:10h (W):
Venus & Mercury
(Click for full-sized image)

08-Mar-2018 at 18:15h (W):
Mercury & Venus
(Click for full-sized image)

15-Mar-2018 at 18:30h (W):
Mercury & Venus
(Click for full-sized image)

19-Mar-2018 at 18:45h (W):
Moon, Mercury & Venus
(Click for full-sized image)

In the dawn sky Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are all to be foundJupiter is by far the most conspicuous residing to the south in the twilight skyMars lies well to the east Jupiter and over the course of March closes on Saturn located down in the southeastThe Moon lies close by on the 11th and 12th.

07-Mar-2018 at 05:45h (S):
Moon, Jupiter, Mars & Saturn
(Click for full-sized image)

10-Mar-2018 at 05:30h (S):
Moon, Mars & Saturn
(Click for full-sized image)

30-Mar-2018 at 05:45h (S):
Saturn & Mars
(Click for full-sized image)

 

Meteors

No major showers this month.  However, at the very end of March you may spot a few Viginids, which are slow moving and have long pathsAs usual early morning hours are best to spot any meteors.

March 2018 Sky Charts

Looking North
Mid-March - 20:00h

Looking South
Mid-March - 20:00h

Looking East
Mid-March - 20:00h
Looking West
Mid-March - 20:00h
Looking North (morning)
Mid-March - 05:00h
Looking South (morning)
Mid-March - 06:00h
Looking East (morning)
Mid-March - 06:00h
Looking West (morning)
Mid-March - 05:00h
Northern Aspect
Mid-March - 20:00h
Southern Aspect
Mid-March - 20:00h

 

Additional Image Credits:

  • Planets and Comets where not otherwise mentioned: NASA
  • Sky Charts: Stellarium Software

The date of the Vernal Equinox and officially the start spring in the northern hemisphere falls on March 20th this year.  This is when the Sun's path - the ecliptic, first crosses the celestial equator on its apparent journey northwards into the skyThe orientation of the Earth at the spring or autumnal equinox is such that neither of the poles are inclined towards the Sun and all locations experience equal hours of daylight and darkness - hence the term equinox.

The Vernal Equinox is also known as the 'First point of Aries', as the Sun used to stand before the constellation of the Ram when it first crossed the celestial equator.  Although still called the 'first point of Aries', today its location now resides in Pisces, a consequence of the effect known as precession - the Earth's slow wobble.  Over thousands of years our ancestors noted that certain star patterns rose just before the Sun at specific times and were considered significant for this very reasonSubsequently they were able to build a picture of the apparent path of the Sun against these constellations.

The narrow path upon which occasionally the Sun and Moon would meet giving rise to an eclipse, became known as the Ecliptic.  The broader belt along which the 'wandering stars' or planets travelled was known as the Zodiac, so called because all 12 constellations located on it were associated with living creatures.

Zodiac literally means 'Band of Animals'.  Libra used to be considered being part of Scorpius, the claws to be preciseOphiuchus, the serpent bearer immediately following Scorpius was instead regarded as a zodiac groupEver since the stars of Libra were elevated in status, Ophiuchus, being surplus to requirements, was ditched, much to the relief of astrologersIf you find it difficult to remember the order of the zodiac constellations, then the following rhyme may be of use.

The Ram, the Bull, the Heavenly twins
and next the Crab the Lion shines,
the Virgin, and the Scales

Scorpion, Archer and Sea goat,
the man who pours the water out
and Fish with glittering tails.

In-Focus

The start of April offers up an interesting stellar challenge, testing the observing dexterity of astronomers; casual or otherwise in a race against time..  This is all about spotting first magnitude stars; those ranked brightest in the sky.

Piercing the spring twilight dotted around the sky, no less than thirteen of these are currently visible, more than at any other time of yearHowever the window of opportunity in which to identify these stellar jewels rapidly diminishes as we head deeper into April, from little over an hour at the start, to just fifteen minutes by mid monthYou will require clear views right around the horizon and complicating matters further, a number of planets may confuse the unwary. 


5-Minute Stellar Baker's Dozen Challenge of 1st Magnitude Stars (by Mark Dawson)
Click for full-size image with Key.

You will require clear views right around the horizon and complicating matters further, a number of bright planets may confuse the unwary. 

Let us assume it is late March (post clock change i.e BST time) or early April, at which time twilight deepens around 9pm. Our first port of call lies over in the west, where the mighty hunter; Orion, is about to lose his right toe, marked by bright Rigel, (1) below the horizon. . A word of caution before we go any further. Two naked eye planets are to be found low in the west late March/early April - Mars and Mercury. Mars will have a distinct orange hue, Mercury may be harder to spot depending on what date you observe, so if the 'star' you are looking at doesn't seem to fit the constellation, well done, you have also spotted two planets.

Above Rigel, Orion’s three belt stars are aligned parallel to the west horizon, but the next star on our list, the conspicuous orange hue of Betelgeuse (3), is located above them. A hand span to the right of Betelgeuse and slightly closer to the horizon another orange star, Aldebaran (4) chief star in Taurus is visible in the ‘V’ of the Hyades cluster. Low in the WSW the brightest star in the sky – sparkling Sirius (5) should be quite unmistakable.

Having picked out this first clutch of stars, there is no time to waste, so raise your gaze somewhat higher, to pick out the next wave of luminaries.

Starting in the SW again seek out the bright solitary white hue of Procyon (6) in Canis Minor located above Sirius and to the left of Orion. Due west and higher still, Castor (7) and Pollux (8) denote the twins of Gemini, which is descending feet first down toward the horizon. At a similar altitude to Gemini further across in the WNW  shines brilliant Capella (9) in Auriga, the only one of our bright seasonal winter stars not to set, being circumpolar from our latitude. Capella will spend the summer months arcing low above the north horizon and tricking the unwary into thinking it's the north star!

Turn and face due south, where midway up you will encounter bright Regulus (10) in the ‘sickle’ asterism of Leo. Our next two luminaries are located in the east. Due east, brilliant Arcturus (11) in the constellation of Bootes is very noticeable, its soft orange hue contrasting markedly with Sirius, the only star of the baker’s dozen brighter than it. Now for a test within a challenge, see how far into April you can spot both Sirius and Arcturus above the horizon at the same time! We still have three stars to locate, the first of which, Spica (2) chief star in Virgo, is just rising in the SE, so to spot it at the same time as the others a clear unobstructed view is required. Caution again- the very conspicuous 'star' above Spica is the planet Jupiter.

So, having viewed west, south and east, direct your gaze toward the North, where low in the North-East brilliant steely blue Vega (12) resides in the constellation of Lyra. Vega almost rivals Arcturus in apparent magnitude, but unlike the ‘guardian of the bear” it is circumpolar from Whitby’s latitude and to the unwary also masquerades as the north star during the winter months.

Our final star, Deneb (13) is located just above the NNE horizon and appears much less brilliant than Vega but is by far the most distant and massive of the stars visited. It too is circumpolar and along with Vega constitutes two of the three stars forming the ‘summer triangle’.

In less than three months, only Arcturus, Capella, Deneb and Vega will remain of our original stellar baker’s dozen, the rest having set.  So, are you up for a fun observing challenge? Have a go!

Events

Observe the night sky with us at the Bruce Observatory, Whitby School.

Observing Nights are held weather permitting: check for a relatively clear sky before leaving home.  If in doubt, Mark can be reached on tel 01947 605516.

Date:
21 October, 2018 - 19:30
Address:
Bruce Observatory, Caedmon School Normandy Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

The North Yorkshire Mors Centre in Danby is the venue for a star party for the Dark Skies night festival.  This event calls for all hands on deck – assuming the weather plays ball.  Should it be an awful forecast, the event will be cancelled - though we shall have to wait until a few days before to make sense of the forecasts.

This is due to start at 18:30h until 20:30h.  Transportation and instruments are therefore requested to ensure the event is successful.  Upwards of 60 people will have booked to come along.  We shall be setting off from Whitby at 17:45h, allowing time to get there and set up in some daylight.

Directions: The nearest postcode is: YO21 2NB

But we've also been given a Grid Reference.  Here it is in various formats:

  • NZ 716 083
  • 54.465035 -0.896868
  • 54°27'54.1"N 0°53'48.7"W

 

Date:
27 October, 2018 - 18:30
Address:
The Moors National Park Centre near YO21 2DT Danby
United Kingdom
GB

Observe the night sky with us at the Bruce Observatory, Whitby School.

Observing Nights are held weather permitting: check for a relatively clear sky before leaving home.  If in doubt, Mark can be reached on tel 01947 605516.

Date:
28 October, 2018 - 19:00
Address:
Bruce Observatory, Caedmon School Normandy Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

Observe the night sky with us at the Bruce Observatory, Whitby School.

Observing Nights are held weather permitting: check for a relatively clear sky before leaving home.  If in doubt, Mark can be reached on tel 01947 605516.

Date:
4 November, 2018 - 19:00
Address:
Bruce Observatory, Caedmon School Normandy Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

The second society meeting of the season, in newly renamed Caedmon College Normanby Site (you may know it as Whitby College or Whitby School), Room H1.

In Members' monthly meetings we usually take a tour of the night sky for the coming month using the Planetarium program, sometimes have other topics for discussion, etc.

Date:
6 November, 2018 -
19:30 to 21:15
Address:
Room H1, Caedmon College, Normanby Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

Observe the night sky with us at the Bruce Observatory, Whitby School.

Observing Nights are held weather permitting: check for a relatively clear sky before leaving home.  If in doubt, Mark can be reached on tel 01947 605516.

Date:
11 November, 2018 - 19:00
Address:
Bruce Observatory, Caedmon School Normandy Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

Observe the night sky with us at the Bruce Observatory, Whitby School.

Observing Nights are held weather permitting: check for a relatively clear sky before leaving home.  If in doubt, Mark can be reached on tel 01947 605516.

Date:
18 November, 2018 - 19:00
Address:
Bruce Observatory, Caedmon School Normandy Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

Observe the night sky with us at the Bruce Observatory, Whitby School.

Observing Nights are held weather permitting: check for a relatively clear sky before leaving home.  If in doubt, Mark can be reached on tel 01947 605516.

Date:
25 November, 2018 - 19:00
Address:
Bruce Observatory, Caedmon School Normandy Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

The third society meeting of the season, in newly renamed Caedmon College Normanby Site (you may know it as Whitby College or Whitby School), Room H1.

In Members' monthly meetings we usually take a tour of the night sky for the coming month using the Planetarium program, sometimes have other topics for discussion, etc.

Mark will be giving a talk on the Cassini mission, and Andi may also have something in store.

Date:
4 December, 2018 -
19:30 to 21:15
Address:
Room H1, Caedmon College, Normanby Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB

The fourth society meeting of the season, in newly renamed Caedmon College Normanby Site (you may know it as Whitby College or Whitby School), Room H1.

In Members' monthly meetings we usually take a tour of the night sky for the coming month using the Planetarium program, sometimes have other topics for discussion, etc.

Date:
8 January, 2019 -
19:30 to 21:15
Address:
Room H1, Caedmon College, Normanby Site (Whitby School)
Prospect Hill
YO21 1LA Whitby
United Kingdom
GB