Macastro Newsletter-February_2019

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Macastro Newsletter - February 2019

Welcome to our monthly general newsletter which will reach you, our members and subscribed members of the public, during the week prior to our Macarthur Astronomy Forum each month by simple email.


Dear Members and Subscribers,


As we reach the end of our financial year you will have received membership renewal notices from our Membership Officer, Henry Swierk. As you will have seen the committee decided to maintain our fees at the same level as last year. On renewal, if you have changed your address or telephone numbers, please let Henry know. 


Our "Special Event" for this year, the celebration the 50th Anniversary of the first Manned Moon Landing and Moonwalk, will take place on Sunday July 21, at WSU Campbelltown Campus, Building 30 - our usual meeting place. We will be showing the iconic Australian film, "The Dish", the timing to coincide with the first Moonwalk, however around this, with our partner, One Giant Leap Australia, we will also have a group of American Scientists and Engineers for panel discussions ad workshops


On the day prior to this, Saturday, 20 July, in conjunction with the Casula Powerhouse, MAS will participate in an event displaying members photographs, a talk will be given followed by an observation session of the moon and other celestial bodies (weather permitting).


Unfortunately, the "Kids Club" won't be happening in the foreseeable future, the library club is for Kindergarten!


Our revised speaker schedule has been completed, great work John.


We are very pleased that Assoc Prof, Charley Lineweaver (ANU) has accepted to be February's speaker. See our new speaker schedule here



Astronomy from Optical to Radio Telescopes: A Technologist's Journey Pt1.


We were given an excellent insight in to Ric's achievements through the years, through school, TAFE, the Army and AWA. His work on the FLEURS Radio Telescope will be the subject of January 2020's Forum!




We are still looking for a few more members to assist local students.

The new mentoring year is going to begin in March, a meeting will be held initially at Broughton in late February. Would ask any member, who has a few hours to spare and who would like help our students, please register with Mike Nicholas, Phil Kidd or Mark Brackenburyf (NB a Working with Children Check Certificate is required).




We start on Friday 15 March at The Australian Botanic Gardens, Mt Annan, with 'Picnic under the Stars': set up at 4.30pm (solar observing) and going on until 9.30pm - Lakeside Lawn as previously. Please let me know if you are able to participate.




As advised some months ago, I am stepping down from the Management Committee this year and unfortunately our Vice President, Ray Armstrong, will not be able to nominate this year. 


It is essential to the running of the Society that someone comes forward. I will be around most of this year to assist whoever puts their hand up. Our AGM is on 15 April 2019, nominations close on April 2. At the AGM all positions are declared vacant, nomination forms will be available at all of our meetings prior to April or by email from any committee member.


Clear skies!


Tony Law

President, Macarthur Astronomical Society Inc.






NEXT Macarthur Astronomy Forum: 

When: Monday 18 february 2019, at 7.30 pm sharp.

Where: Lecture Theatre 213, Building 30, Goldsmith Avenue, Western Sydney University - Campbelltown Campus  

Speaker: Assoc. Prof. Charley Lineweaver (ANU)


We are the result of cosmic evolution.

The hot big bang produced matter, which cooled to become hydrogen and helium which cooled to become stars.

Fusion in the cores of massive stars produced the ashes out of which we are made.

Four billion years of evolution on Earth produced the organs of our bodies – the eyes and brain that you are now using to read these words.

I will describe how cosmic connections produced us, and point out the many ways in which the universe is inside us.

I will also discuss what we know about the origin of life on Earth and what that can tell us about life elsewhere.


Photo by Ric Forster
Belanglo Forest -The Cabin has been repaired!  Friday 8 and Saturday 9 March is the next weekend, gates open by 3.00 pm on Friday.
Stargard -2 March at The Oaks, 6.30pm gates open
China - May 2019. 17 members, partners and friends have their flights and tour booked for our China Tour May 15 - May 29 2019.
 FAST, Guizhou                                                                    Lijiang, Yunnan




See online price list:


We are about to place a stock order. Please advise if you need: 

Beanies, Caps, Mugs, Polo Shirts, Pens and Jackets are in stock or can be ordered for you through
Red Light LED Torches are in stock $10.00 inc. batteries.
"When Galaxies Collide" Prof. Lisa Harvey Smith.  $25.00
Roger Powell                                        Dave Manning                                                                    Michael Mirecki
Canis Major – The Greater Dog
Canis Major is a constellation made up of many bright stars, the first five being of 1st and 2nd magnitude. It represents the larger of the two dogs that followed after Orion, the Hunter.  When it is up, Canis Major is very easy to locate – just look for the brightest star in the sky. That is Sirius, the brightest star in both the southern and northern hemisphere. From the map below, you can see the dog’s shape, with Sirius at the base of its neck. (Rotate the map 90º anticlockwise to see it better.) It might take you a bit longer to work it out in the sky without the lines joining the stars.
Canis Major is a bit tricky because its stars are not numbered (in the Greek alphabet) in order of their brightness. In order of brightness, they are: alpha (Sirius, mag. –1.47), epsilon  (mag. 1.5), delta (mag. 1.8) and beta (mag. 2.0). There would be some historical reason for this.
Alpha Canis Majoris (Sirius) is also called ‘The Dog Star’, though its Greek meaning is ‘scorching’ or ‘the sparkling one’. It is certainly brilliant to observe in binoculars or a small telescope. Though Sirius is intrinsically brighter than our Sun, its extreme brightness has more to do with its proximity, being the 5th closest star only 8.6 light years away (twice the distance of the nearest star, Alpha Centauri). If it was the same distance as alpha Centauri, it would be four times brighter than we see it now, making it approximately magnitude –3.0, very bright.
Sirius is actually a binary star, with a white dwarf companion, nick-named ‘The Pup.’ However, this is very difficult to spot with a telescope but it’s there.
4º south of Sirius, just off the line (west) between Sirius and the dog’s hind quarter, is M41, a very attractive open cluster 2,100 light years away. It is visible to the naked eye as a patch of light with overall magnitude of 4.5. With binoculars (on a good night) you should be able to resolve individual stars. It contains over 100 stars in the group. Again with binoculars, with a stand or a steady hand, you should be able to discern groupings or ‘strings’ of stars, including a 7th magnitude orange giant near its centre. Believe it or not, the Greeks were aware of this cluster circa 320BC referring to it as a ‘cloudy spot’.
Another open star cluster that warrants attention is NGC2362. This cluster surrounds the star tau Canis Majoris and tau is a true member of the cluster. The cluster has an apparent diameter of 6 arc-min and magnitude 4.8. Tau, being a blue supergiant, provides 4.4 of that magnitude. The cluster is approx. 4,800 ly away. When using your telescope to observe this cluster, note the following, a quote by observer Glenn Chaple: “What makes NGC 2362 such a visual delight is its appearance in small-aperture scopes. When I look directly at tau with my 3-inch f/10 reflector, I see a handful of tiny stars around it. When I turn my gaze to the side (averted vision) the field fairly explodes with stars. It’s an amazing transformation!“ See what you think.
Finally, another open cluster you should be able to grab with your telescope is NGC2360. It lies 3.5º east of gamma Canis Majoris. It is an attractive, fairly compressed cluster of apparent diameter 12 arc-min and overall magnitude 7.2. It is 3,700 ly away. This cluster was discovered by Caroline Herschel and her brother William kindly included it in his catalogue, giving her credit of course. It has since been known as Caroline’s Cluster.




During November 2015, Camden Council Library Services launched their Telescope loan service to library members. Instigated by the library and supported by MAS, they now have four 8" Dobsonians and four ED80 refractors on loan. An ideal first step for families and individuals to 'try before you buy'. The project is a great success. 


The Society owns four telescopes which, subject to availability, may be loaned under the MAS Education Programme to current members. See website for T's and C's






MAS acknowledges Western Sydney University's generosity in permitting us the use of its facilities to hold MAS events such as the Macarthur Astronomy Forum and the Campbelltown Rotary Observatory for public viewing nights.


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