Ryukyu Astronomy Club Newsletter
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Volume 1, Issue 6 August 2002

Next Club Meeting - August 10th
Conference Room B at the Camp Lester Naval Hospital

July Meeting
The July meeting of the Ryukyu Astronomy Club was held the 13th of July, 2002 in the Navy Hospital's Conference Center. We had a great turnout, a total of 10 in attendance. We viewed two videos, a National Geographic special and the first episode of Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos'. Afterwards we traveled to Maeda Point, our first trip to this location. It is quite dark, presenting magnitude 5 skies over head and to the North, though the skyglow over Naha, Ginowan and Okinawa City is still prominent up to about 15 degrees altitude in the South. We were quite fortunate in that we had a great night with few clouds even though a tropical storm had just passed by the day before and a super typhoon was bearing down on us.

Maeda is a very good site with a nice parking lot, restrooms and vending machines with drinks. Just 20 minutes drive from our meeting place at the Hospital, this is likely as good as it gets without driving a much greater distance. The only true disadvantage of the site is the scuba divers coming in and out of the parking lot with their car lights on. A map to the site has been posted on the Meeting page of our web site. Thanks to Ron Locker for finding this site.

At Maeda we had Mike Swanson's 11 inch computerized goto scope and Tommy McGee's 80mm computerized goto scope. Both were in fine form, locating objects quickly for all to view. Highlights of the night included the globular clusters in Hercules - M13 and M92. Open clusters M6, M7, and M11 made a big splash in the wide field of Tommy's scope. The Trifid Nebula (M20) and the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), two quite faint targets, were tough to spot, even in Mike's scope. We ended a great night with a high magnification view of the Ring Nebula - M57.

Things to See This Month
The Sun, still in the period of 'solar maximum', is putting on quite a show. Currently there is a huge sunspot complex making its way across the face of the Sun. It is so large, it is visible to the naked eye - with proper protection. If you have a solar filter for your telescope or binoculars, you are in for a treat. It should even be possible to make it out using the poster board projection method described in the June newsletter. This sunspot complex is producing enourmous energy output and will almost certain produce spectacular auroral displays (the northern lights). It is unlikely we will see such displays as far south as Okinawa, but some of you that receive this are considerably farther north. For more information visit http://www.spacew.com/astroalert.html.

Other happenings in our neighborhood of the galaxy are the well-placed viewing of the far-out planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Uranus and Neptune can be spotted in a small scope from a dark location. With magnification of about 100x (Uranus) and 150x (Neptune), each presents a disk that is easily distinguished from background stars. Pluto is hard to make out in anything less than an 6" scope. Even then, you will need a good star atlas to help you discern the faint star-like point of light that is Pluto.

Deep sky objects of interest include:

For more objects of interest and the locations of those listed above, download the latest chart from www.skymaps.com or visit www.SkyandTelescope.com and customize the online star chart for Okinawa's general location of 128 degrees East longitude and 26 degrees North latitude.

Observation Logs
Many amateur astronomers record their observation sessions in a log. In simplest form a log is a small notebook where the observer records the date, the objects viewed, and a short description of each. On the other end of the scale are complex databases running on a personal computer that help you to easily search your entries, group together each observation of a particular object, record the eyepiece/magnification, and more. Most settle on something in between.

A comprehensive approach to recording an observing session includes noting the following in your log:

You certainly will not want to spend much time writing grammatically perfect notes while you are out under the stars, so try this instead. Take a small notepad (or loose paper on a clipboard) out with you and leave your 'official' logbook inside. Start by noting the location, date, and time on the notepad. Then simply jot notes about each object. Later that night, or perhaps in the next day or two, refer to your notes to record complete entries in your real logbook.

Besides providing a permanent record of your nighttime adventures, a logbook also helps you to see more. In your quest to record what you observe, you concentrate on small details and really see the object. Some observers include sketches of objects in their logbook. More than anything else, drawing will truly help you to see more detail than you thought possible.

Even if you don't continue your log throughout your viewing career, you will find that maintaining a logbook for your first year will really help you to improve in your observation abilities and will build a firm foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment. Plus, the initial wonder of it all will be reflected in your log entries and skimming through your logbook on cloudy nights can recapture that 'new' feeling from when you first started out.

Visit the Downloads section of the Ryukyu Astronomy Club web site to find loose-leaf log sheets for printing.

Other Club Business
As recently announced, we now have an online store (non-profit) that sells hats, shirts and coffee mugs with the RAC logo. Visit www.cafepress.com/rac to order your items!

Clear Skies!


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Ryukyu Astronomy Club

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