Newsletter October 2008


Welcome to the latest newsletter and we hope that you will enjoy reading it. Although the weather in September made star-gazing difficult, visibility has been excellent on clear nights, with constellations like Scorpius and the Southern Cross clearly visible overhead. Jupiter has also been prominent within Sagittarius.

Wolfe Lange from the Planetarium in Cape Town gave a very amusing, interesting and informative presentation on ‘The Southern night sky’, focusing on constellations visible in early September. In addition to discussing some of the better-known constellations like the Southern Cross and Scorpius, he also talked about other species of constellational wildlife – the eagle (Aquila), the swan (Cygnus) and the dolphin (Delphinus), all with shapes which resemble their names. The clear evening enabled people to then go and identify these, and other features, ‘live’ outside with the naked eye, binoculars and telescope.

A useful tip which Wolfe gave to assist with star- gazing is to first locate an easily identifiable feature eg Southern Cross and use this as a fixed point from which to then identify other constellations eg the ‘teapot’ in Sagittarius is positioned near Scorpius’s tail.

Work continues on finding a suitable location for the Hermanus Astronomical Observatory, with committee members continuing to visit possible sites and meeting relevant parties eg. municipal councilors, managers of wine estates.

Planning for the 2009 programme continues. Some possible presenters have been identified, but more suggestions would be welcome. If any member wishes to give a presentation or knows someone who may be interested in doing so, please contact a committee member.

As stated in the September newsletter, club meetings for 2009 will be changed to coincide with the phases of the ‘New Moon’ in order to allow better star-gazing visibility. From January through June it will be the fourth Thursday in the month and from July to December it will be the third Thursday evening. Once these dates have been secured with the Botanical Society for the use of the Fernkloof Hall, you will be advised.

1. Something big out there? Hundreds of clusters of galaxies are streaming en masse towards a region at the edge of the visible universe. The discovery has taken astronomers completely by surprise because the movement is independent of the universe’s expansion. A team led by Alexander Kashlinsky of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, stumbled upon the flow while studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB). No one knows what might be causing the flow. The best guess so far is the gravitational pull of something with a very large mass that lies outside our observable universe. “I don’t know if I would call it matter. It