April 2001 Issue

Astronomy Digest

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Front Desk

News Throughout
the Net

Updated Weekly

2001 Mars Odyssey - Next mission to explore the red planet. - CNN, September 29, 2000.

Asteroid Eros - 21-mile-long space rock found to be solid . - CNN, September 22, 2000.

A Star is Born - Hubble Space Telescope is there. - MSNBC, September 7, 2000.

New Type of Meteorite Found - It has a new chemical composition. - CNN, September 6, 2000.

Solar Maximum is in Full Swing - Part of the eleven year cycle. - SSN, September 5, 2000.

Asteroid Fly-by - Asteroid passed by the Earth only 12 times farther from our planet than the Moon. - SSN, September 1, 2000.

Old Galaxies - New evidence shows Red Shift Higer which means galaxies may be older than once thought. - BBC, August 18, 2000.

Moon Meteorite - Moon rock found on earth. - MSNBC, August 18, 2000.

Linear Breakup - Hubble images record the event. - CNN, August 10, 2000.

National Security Agency Files Released - UFO hunters hope to find evidence of ET. - CNN, August 8, 2000.

Save Pluto - Congress may cut budget. - CNN, July 29, 2000.

2004 Mission to Mars - NASA unveils plans. - ABC, July 28, 2000.

Parts Break Off Comet - Hubble Space Telescope took pictures of Comet LINEAR. - ABC, July 28, 2000.

Supernovae Spreads Key Elements of Life - Chandra X-ray Observatory shows details. - SSN, July 18, 2000.

Comet Linear - Update on path of a comet you can see with binoculars. - BBC, July 17, 2000.

New Type of Solar Flare - NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory discovered a solar flare that is not a brown dwarf, or failed star. - SSN, July 12, 2000.

October Skies

October 05 - First Quarter
October 13 - Full Moon
October 20 - Last Quarter
October 27 - New Moon

Skywatching Center - Current Month's Skies.

Sky & Telescope - October 2000 Skies.


Lens Power
By Stuart Lolly

After I bought my first telescope the next thing I wanted to do is get additional lenses. Lenses allow you to view celestial object at different magnifications. More Power. Lenses range from 2.5mm to 55mm. The 2.5mm would be the highest magnification to get close up viewing. And, the 55mm would have the lowest magnification. The more you magnify an object the less bright and less sharp the object becomes. Since each lens range in cost from $30 to $430, it is best to borrow a lens from a friend before you buy. By the way, this is one of the best advantages of joining an astronomy club. You get to try other people's equipment before you buy it.

To get the magnification, take the Telescope Focal Length and divide it by the Eyepiece Focal Length. You can get the Telescope Focal Length, for you telescope, from the telescope's user manual. I have a Orion, Dobsonian, 10 inch DSE, with a focal length of 1140mm. And, I recently purchased a Nagler Type 2, 20mm lens. My magnification would be 1140/20 = 57x. Objects are magnified in the telescope 57 times more than if you were just looking at the object.

In comparison, I also have a Vixen, 10mm lens. My magnification would be 1140/10 = 114x. Objects are magnified in the telescope 114 times. With this lens I lose a lot of brightness and clarity. In general avoid using magnifications greater than 50 times your telescope diameter in inches. So for my telescope I should not use more than 10x50 = 500x.

Now compare the 20mm lens on the Celestron, Celestar 8 Schmidt-Cassegrain. On the 10 inch Dobsonian the 20mm had a power of 57x. The 8 inch Celestar has a focal length of 2032mm. The magnification of the lens would be 2032/20 = 102x. A big difference.

Unlocking the Oldest Riddle in Histroy:
The True Nature of the Egyptian Pyramids

Aymen M Ibrahem

The mighty Pyramids of Giza are the most famous monuments of Egypt's ancient, magnificent civilization. In present langauges, they are meanings of immortiality and endurance. The impressed, early Arab travellers expressively said:

"Everything fears time and time fears the Pyramids"


From the beginning of the Egyptian history, the Sun was symbolized as a pillar standing in the temple of Heliopolis. In the Archaic Period, it became represented as a phoenix on the pyramid-shaped, benben stone. The link between the the benben stone and the pyramid is clear: a pyramid is a gigantic benben. However, it has been difficult to conceive the relation between the benben itself and the Sun.

It has been theorized that the benben might have been depicted from the Sun's rays emerging through a break in the clouds, which cast gigantic pyramids in the sky, connecting earth and heaven. Thus, the complete pyramid is a representation of the Sun's rays in rocks.

From the last pharaoh of Dynasty V, and through Dynasty VI, religious texts concerning the welfare of the deceased, known as Pyramid Texts, were inscribed on the walls of the burial chamber in the pyramids.

In the Pyramid Texts, the soul of the dead pharaoh uses the rays of the Sun as a ramp to ascend to the heaven. The pyramids were means to connect earth to heaven and to unite the pharaoh to his divine father Re (the Sun) in eternity.

It seems clear that the change from step to complete pyramids corresponds to a revolution in the Egyptian solar cult, I believe eclipses of the Sun _ an impressive celestial phenomenon in which the Sun totally disappears and day turns to night _ might have been involved. There is a very ancient text, I believe it to be an eclipse record, and might enable us to unlock the nature of true pyramids! One of the Pyramid Texts mentions:

"O Atum (the Sun), the Creator. You became high in the height, you rose up as the benben stone in the mantion of the 'Phoenix' in Heliopolis."

I believe this is one of the oldest eclipse record in history! I find my following astronomical interpretation very plausible:

The Sun was high in the sky, totally blocked by the dark disk of the Moon. After the brief totality was over, the Sun started to shine casting its rays like a colossal heavenly benben. It seems clear now that the the benben represented the shape of the Sun (or its rays) emerging after the eclipse.

It is solar eclipses not the diffraction patterns cast through breaks in the clouds, that inspired the complete pyramid. A solar eclipse is far more spectacular. It represents the death of a Sun (the one that disappears), and the birth of a new one (the one emerging from behind the Moon). In the Egyptian myth Atum represented the setting Sun. I believe that it has been seen also as the eclipsed Sun. Also, solar eclipses might explain the unification and mergers of more than a solar god, such as Atum-Re (in the Old Kingdom) and Re-Horakhty (in the New Kingdom). Solar eclipses might explain why did the ancient Egyptian myth picture the Sun to have created herself.

Aymen Ibrahem

Copy rights: Aymen Ibrahem, 2000.

Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem is a young professional astronomer from Egypt, graduated in 1995. His research work is mainly on comets and archaeo-astronomy and is also a very dedicated observational astronomer, and has a good reflector telescope. Aymen can be contacted at: aymoib@frcu.eun.eg .

Finding those elusive objects.
By Alistair Thomson

Well I’ve had a telescope for over three years now and am only beginning to find those elusive objects in the night sky. Yes I’m talking Messier objects!

I own an Orion Europa 150mm Reflector, three eyepieces and a 2X Barlow lens. Great I thought, got the equipment lets go and look at some galaxies or something. I saw nothing.

Despite being able to find my way around the night sky with binoculars it was incredibly hard to do the same with a telescope! It took me a while to get used to the inverted image through the eyepiece and remembering to move south if I wanted to go north….

This called for some serious star chart software but I couldn’t afford to buy it. So I ended up downloading demo software eg Sky Map Pro v5 which I thought was great. Trouble was it only shows stars down to magnitude 6. I thought that I would be able to find objects by star hopping with the star charts only showing stars down to magnitude 6. With hindsight I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I struggled finding objects with these charts for over a year and was beginning to think that either my telescope wasn’t good enough or that I was looking totally in the wrong place. I decided to turn my attention back to the internet to see if I could get more information or charts on how to find objects. It proved to be very difficult with the occasional chart pointing the way to an object. This is how I first found M65 and M66. To be honest if I hadn’t found these galaxies I was ready to give up astronomy and sell my telescope.

I was disappointed at how difficult it was to find the information I needed. So during the Spring, when the weather was poor I put together a website designed to help the beginner find out what could be seen through a small telescope (even though I couldn’t find the things myself!). I planned to do this by publishing observing reports from other astronomers who used telescopes that were 150mm in aperture or smaller.

This really opened my eyes. Astronomers using reflectors with a smaller aperture than mine were submitting reports on objects that I could not see, or is that find? This made me more determined to find one of these elusive objects. As Lyra was well placed in the night sky I decided that at the next opportunity I would track down M57. Armed with my magnitude 6 star chart I went in search. Over an hour later I gave up looking for M57! I just couldn’t see it.

One of the astronomers who posts reports to my website suggested that I add ‘Cartes Du Ceil’ to my links page. It was planetarium software written by a Frenchman and was totally free. It also let you download star catalogues to use with the software. I now have the Tycho star catalogue downloaded to use with this software and I can produce star charts with stars down to magnitude 11 – wow!

Armed with these star charts I was itching to get outside and find M57. It was cloudy for weeks! I couldn’t believe it, we’ve had the worst summer in the UK for years and it has been cloudy virtually every night for two months.

Finally I had a clear night. I assembled my telescope and didn’t wait for it to cool down – I was so impatient. I started of with a few doubles like Albeiro and Mizar, it was great to see these stars again. My telescope had cooled down enough after half an hour and the sky was still clear! This was it. I swung the scope around to point at Lyra. I found Gamma Lyra straight away and used the star chart to guide me into M57. I couldn’t see it!!! I kept looking at the same spot, checking against the star chart when I realised that I was seeing M57, I just didn’t realise how small it would appear in a 25mm eyepiece. It was like a slightly out of focus star. I put in the 9mm eyepiece and bang, there it was. A perfect smoke ring with a hole right through the middle. I had to drag everybody outside to have a look – well it has taken a long time to find!

Oozing confidence I found M27 the Dumbbell Nebula and M78, a Globular Cluster in Sagitta. What a night. I’d found more objects in half an hour than I had in the last year!

I now plan to provide some detailed star charts on my website to help the beginner find some of these objects and make them realise just how important detailed star charts are.

Keep your eyes glued to the observing reports on my website, they’ll be accumulating thick and fast now….weather permitting.

I’d also love to receive your observing reports. The more I publish on my website the better informed all new astronomers will be. Read the comments in my guest book and you’ll see how appreciative newcomers are to read the observing reports of other astronomers.

Alistair Thomson has been an amateur astronomer for 3 years. You can frequently find him stargazing in his back yard, UK weather permitting. If you would like to learn more about observing with small telescopes, please visit his web site at http://www.geocities.com/the_150mm_reflector, a site dedicated to helping those with telescopes of 6” aperture or less.

Photographs by Naoyuki Kurita, publisher of Stellar Scenes . Stop by his web site for other great astrophotographs. His work is copyrighted, so please do not copy them without his permission.

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Book Review

Astrophotography for Amateurs

A complete guide to photographing the night sky, this book presents techniques ranging from compensation for the earth's rotation to long exposures for faint astronomical objects. In addition to presenting information about equipment and techniques, it also features practical hints and tips from the experts, including coverage of traditional "wet" photography, CCD imaging, and computerized image enhancement.

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