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March 2000 Issue

Astronomy Digest

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Front Desk

News Throughout the Net Updated Weekly

NASA Releases Flyby Movie - NEAR Shoemaker has taken pictures as it passes Eros. - CNN, March 24, 2000.

Search for Terrestrial Planets - JPL will start searching for ET. First they will study 250 star system to search for signs of life-sustaining planets. - CNN, March 23, 2000.

13 Planets found in Orion - These planets are more like brown dwarfs that are not orbiting a star. - MSNBC, March 22, 2000.

Asteroid Heading Toward Earth - Will pass a distance that is only 5 times the distance to the moon. - CNN, March 21, 2000.

Rare Meteorite Found - May hold secrets. - CNN, March 17, 2000.

Three Star Dance - Hubble watches the trio. - BBC, March 16, 2000.

Seeding Earth - Evidence that meteors may have seeded earth. - MSNBC, March 10, 2000.

Mapping Mars - Ancient rivers and lakes found. - CNN, March 10, 2000.

New Plans to Sudy Jupiter - Galileo spacecraft and Cassini probe on there way. - ABC, March 10, 2000.

Uranus Moons Found - Ophelia and Cordelia were not seen in 14 years. - CNN, March 8, 2000.

Astronomers Study Dark Matter - 90% of matter may be dark matter. But, where is it? - MSNBC, March 8, 2000.

Area 51 Will Remain Top Secret - Real TV Video Feed. - Channel Zero.

NASA May Crash Galileo - Effort to save possible life on Europa. - BBC, March 3, 2000.

Update on NEAR - NEAR gets closer. - CNN, March 3, 2000.

Signal Received from Pioneer 10 - Pioneer is twice as far from the Sun as Pluto and is speeding toward the constellation Taurus. - SSN, March 2, 2000.

SETIcam - If ET calls, now you can watch. - ABC, February 29, 2000.

Legal Battle Over Meteorite - Native American group has made claim to meteorite. New York's Rose Center for Earth and Space American Museum of Natural History sues to block claim. - MSNBC, February 28, 2000.

NEARer to Eros - NEAR began a gradual descent into a tighter orbit around the asteroid Eros. - SSN, February 25, 2000.

Search for Alien Life in Antarctica - NASA looks at Meteorites. - MSNBC, February 25, 2000.

SETI Researchers Return for More Data - World watches. - MSNBC, February 24, 2000.

Summer on Mars - Photographs show that summer in the south of Mars has started melting icy polar cap. - CNN, February 23, 2000.

Solar Flare Spotted - Coronal mass ejection appears to be headed almost directly for Earth. - SSN, February 18, 2000.

Update on NEAR - Eros may have broken off from a planet. - CNN, February 17, 2000.

Mexico Gets a New Telescope - Construction has started on top of La Negra. - MSNBC, February 17, 2000.

Moon's Origin - Tilt may give clues. - BBC, February 16, 2000.

Galileo Galilei - Astronomer Remembered. - Fox, February 15, 2000.

Space Shuttle Starts Mapping Earth - Endeavour will collect images for 9 days. - FOX, February 12, 2000.

With Love from Mars - Mars has a Heart. - BBC, February 12, 2000.

March Skies

March 06 - New Moon
March 13 - First Quarter
March 20 - Full Moon
March 28 - Last Quarter

Skywatching Center - Current Month's Skies.

Astronomy Magazine - The Sky Show in March 2000.

Sky & Telescope - March 2000 Skies.

What's Up
by Steve Coe


I have been using Position Angle to mark the angle of elongation of deep sky objects for several years. I find it useful to make certain that I am observing the same object seen by Herschel or other observers. It is also useful for objects which generally do not have an angle of elongation given in the data. For instance, gaseous nebulae and open clusters rarely have a value of PA given if they are elongated. So, the system works like this: mark North as 0 degrees and move clockwise through 360 degrees to provide a value for the PA of that object. Therefore, a galaxy which is elongated from NE to SW is at a PA of 45 degrees. If the angle is just a little South of East, then the PA will be approximately 100 degrees. If you use an equatorial mount, move the scope to the North and then to the East a little bit and the stars will enter the field of view from the direction you are moving the scope. So that as you move the tube to the North, stars appear on the North or 0 PA side and you move East, stars enter from the East or 90 degree PA side of the view. Now, let's use this system on some elongated galaxies in Cancer, the Crab.

NGC 2545 is faint, small, elongated 1.5 X 1 in PA 165 degrees and is brighter in the middle at 100X in my 13" scope. It is located at 8 hr 14.2 min and +21 21.

NGC 2562 shows up as pretty faint, pretty small, elongated 1.5 X 1 in PA 135 and has a bright middle at 165X. This little galaxy is at 8 hr 20.4 min and +21 08.

NGC 2565 is faint, small, elongated 2 X 1 in PA 0 and much brighter in the nucleus at 100X. Going to 220X will split a bizarre double nucleus in this galaxy, the two nuclei are about 12 th mag and separated by 2 arc seconds. See if you can see the twin nucleus in this galaxy at 8 hr 19.8 min and +22 02.

NGC 2608 is pretty faint, pretty small, somewhat elongated (1.5 X 1)in PA 60 and much brighter in the middle at 100X. It is located at 8 hr 35.3 min +28 28.

NGC 2672 seems pretty bright, pretty large, elongated 2 X 1 in PA 45 and much brighter in the middle at 220X. There is a companion galaxy superimposed on the east side of NGC 2672, it is NGC 2673 and it is pretty faint, small and round. This interacting galaxy pair can be seen at 8 hr 49.4 min +19 04.

NGC 2749 is pretty bright, pretty small, much brighter in the middle, elongated 1.5 X 1 in PA 90. Two very faint companions in the field of view at 100X, both at small and round. See if you can spot them at 9 hr 05.4 min and +18 19.

NGC 2775 is bright, large, elongated 1.8 X 1 in PA 165 and much brighter in the middle at 220X. The arms of this galaxy are nicely mottled and the central core is elongated 2 X 1 in the same PA as the main body of the galaxy. See if you agree at 9 hr 10.3 min and +7 02.

Messier Marathon

Charles Messier was a French astronomer who lived in the late 1700's. Charles Messier was a comet hunter. While on his quest to discover new comets, Messier created a list of approximately 100 celestial objects in the sky. He cataloged these objects to help him identify which objects in the sky were not comets. Thus, helping him in his search for comets.

As telescopes improved the Messier Catalog became known as a list of the most beautiful celestial objects in the sky. The Messier objects include nebulas, star clusters, and galaxies. Charles Messier did discover a few comets. However, he became much more popular for his Messier Catalog. A few objects were later added to his catalog. There are now 110 objects in the Messier Catalog.

As different constellations appear in the night sky throughout the year, different Messier objects are visible. However, in the month of March, all the Messier objects can be seen in a single night. Thus, the term Messier Marathon.

The best time to view all 110 objects is the middle of March. This year the Full Moon will occur on March 20, 2000. The full moon will wash out many of the Messier objects. This will make the Marathon difficult this year. However, there will be two opportunities to view most of the objects. There will be new moons March 6th and April 4th. The primary weekend for the Messier Marathon will be April 1st, and a secondary opportunity on March 11th.

To participate in the Messier Marathon I would recommend getting a good book. Deep-Sky Companion: The Messier Objects is an excellent resource. Follow this Link for a recommended sequence to observe the objects. Some of the Messier Objects will be visible early in the evening, and others early the next morning.

I recommend going to your favorite dark sky site, get yourself a strong cup of coffee, and enjoy the night sky. Happy Hunting.

Information for this article was provided by SEDS web site. For more information on Messier visit their web site. They have great pictures of each of the "M" objects.

If you have an astronomy related article you would like to have published, email it to Astronomy Digest.

Deep-Sky Companion
Deep-Sky Companion
A Book By
Stephen James O'Meara

I would recommend two books for people who are starting out in amateur astronomy; The National Audubon Society
Field Guide to the Night Sky
and Deep-Sky Companion: The Messier Objects

Every amateur astronomer should have a good book on the Messier Objects. Messier Objects is a list of the most beautiful deep sky objects in the night sky. The author presents these objects in an informative and easy to read manner. He provides great pictures and up to date information.


Buying a Telescope
Part IV

In prior issues we talked about Refractors and Reflectors telescopes. This week we will talk about Catadioptric Telescopes. These telescopes use a combination of lenses and mirrors to collect light. Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov-Cassegrain are two types of Catadioptric Telescopes. These telescopes are compact and easy to transport.

Many of the Catadioptric Telescopes use computers to track celestial objects. These tracking devices compensate for the rotation of the earth. Without a motor drive to compensate for the rotation of the Earth, it takes constant adjustment to keep an object in view. Try tracking Pluto without a motorized tracking device. It takes some skill. If you are using a system that tracks, you can even go refill your coffee cup and expect the object to still be in your telescope's field of view..

These tracking devices make astrophotography possible. If you want to get into astrophotography you pretty much need a telescope or mount with a with a tracking device. This is because when you photograph an object you need to leave the camera shutter open. To get a clear picture of the stars, the telescope will need the tracking device to compensate for the rotation of the earth, or the stars are streaked.

Most of the tracking devices come with small computers. These computers make finding objects in the sky easy. I had the chance to use the Meade 200lx 10 inch telescope. It is a pretty nice telescope. Want to find Neptune? Type "Neptune" into the computer and watch the telescope automatically find the object. These computer aided telescopes make it easy to join the 9 planet club.

The only drawback to these telescopes is the cost. Expect to pay $2,800 for a Meade LX200 8 inch telescope. And, $4,500 for a Meade LX200 12 inch telescope.

auction Frenzy

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The Story of

Orion was a hunter warrior. In return for ridding the kingdom of Chios of the beasts attacking the people, Orion had been promised beautiful Merope for his bride by her father, King Enopion. When the king refused to keep his promise, Orion tried to take Merope by force, but Enopion became enraged and had Orion blinded. Unable to hunt further, Orion was wandering sightless over the earth when the god Vulcan sent the Cyclop Cedalion, his one-eyed assistant, to turn Orion about so he was facing the rising sun. This restored his sight. Orion went back to his hunting and met Diana, goddess of the hunt. Diana's brother, Apollo, became alarmed that his sister might break her vow never to marry and worried that there might be a romance between her and Orion. To prevent this, he tricked Diana into a target shooting test, which was to hit a small dark object far out in the sea. Of course Diana did not miss, but the target was the head of Orion. Grieving at what she had done, Diana made Orion into a constellation in the sky with his hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, close by.

Photograph was provided by Naoyuki Kurita. You can see more of his astrophotographs at Stellar Scenes web site.

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