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SkyNews May/June 2019

SkyNews, the magazine of astronomy and stargazing, features complete observing information, expert equipment reviews, star chart — everything beginners and intermediate amateur astronomers and astrophotographers need. Edited by astronomy author Terence Dickinson, published in Canada, writers include equipment guru Alan Dyer, comet hunter David Levy, wilderness astronomer Peter McMahon, Ken Hewitt-White, Gary Seronik, Ray Villard

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
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6 Issues


access_time4 min.
a lucky lunar eclipse

I ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD to the May/June issue of SkyNews. There’s something about browsing Christine Kulyk’s annual Star Party Calendar (on page 34) that gets the observing juices flowing. Needless to say, the steadily improving weather helps too. Anticipating the enjoyment that lies ahead goes hand in hand with fondly recollecting what came before. For me, the January 20 total lunar eclipse stands out with particular vividness because I didn’t think I was going to be able to view it. The problem, of course, was the weather. I recognize that winter in the southern interior of British Columbia, where I live, isn’t nearly as menacing as in other parts of the country. Many of the eclipse reports we received from observers in the Prairies and eastern Canada included horrific tales of…

access_time1 min.

VOLUME XXV, ISSUE 1 Editor Gary Seronik editor@skynews.ca Associate Editor Ken Hewitt-White Contributing Editor Alan Dyer Art Director Janice McLean Production Manager Susan Dickinson Contributors Paul Deans, Glenn LeDrew, Tony Puerzer, Ivan Semeniuk Contributing Astrophotographers Klaus Brasch, Ron Brecher, Lynn Hilborn, Malcolm Park Publisher J. Randy Attwood Associate Publisher Colleen Moloney Advertising Manager David Webster Business Manager Renata Koziol Customer Service 1-866-759-0005 service@skynews.ca Editor Emeritus Terence Dickinson Founding Publisher Canada Science and Technology Museum…

access_time7 min.
sky news briefs

THE SKY IS FALLING SPACE ROCKS OF ALL SIZES have pummelled the planets since the birth of the solar system. For confirmation, we need only look at the Moon and its plethora of craters. Astronomers have always assumed that the rate of impacts declined as the solar system got older, but proving it requires knowing the ages of craters. Even on the Moon, age measurements eluded us until 2009, when NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) began using its thermal radiometer to study the lunar surface. During the lunar night, rocks radiate much more heat than the fine-grained soil called regolith. In thermal images, this simple disparity allows scientists to distinguish boulders from particles. Rebecca Ghent of the University of Toronto had previously used thermal information to calculate the rate at which large…

access_time8 min.
flashes of brilliance

LIKE THE FIRST DROP OF RAIN before a summer downpour, the signal that pinged the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope on July 25, 2018, was the harbinger of a deluge to come. Lasting two-thousandths of a second, the fleeting signal bore all the signs of a fast radio burst (FRB)—a momentary flash of energy produced by an unknown source somewhere deep in the cosmos. When scientists were building CHIME, they knew it would have a good chance of detecting FRBs. What they didn’t know was how many. Last summer, with their fledgling system up and running at only a quarter of its capacity, they were about to find out. CHIME is located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, near Penticton, British Columbia, but its scientific team is spread across…

access_time6 min.
h-alpha imaging with a dslr camera

NARROWBAND FILTERS allow us to create dramatic, high-contrast images of certain deep-sky objects even under heavily light-polluted or moonlit conditions. As an astrophotographer living in a medium-sized city with few clear nights (all of which seem to occur around full Moon), I find these accessories remarkably useful. Narrowband filters typically target one of the bright emission lines produced by ionized hydrogen (H-alpha), sulphur (S-II) or oxygen (O-III). These wavelengths are important because they account for a large portion of the light in emission nebulas, which are some of the most photogenic objects in the night sky. Suitable filters are available in a variety of bandwidths, from 12 to 3 nanometres (nm), the narrower versions providing the greatest contrast, albeit at the highest price. The data are monochromatic, since only a single…

access_time3 min.
vivid venatici venture

IN LATE SPRING, the Big Dipper hangs high at nightfall. Sharing the zenith near the Dipper’s handle is Canes Venatici, a small constellation whose brightest member is 2.9-magnitude Alpha (α) Canes Venaticorum, better known as Cor Caroli. This modest marker is also tagged as Struve 1692, which means it’s a double star. The blue-white sun and its creamy white (some say greenish) 5.5-magnitude companion are separated by 19.3 arc seconds. It’s a beauty binary. Or maybe not. Appearances can often be deceiving. According to the Hipparcos-2 Catalogue, Cor Caroli itself lies 115 light-years from Earth (plus or minus four light-years), but the distance to its companion is less certain, so the duo could be a line-of-sight optical double instead of a true binary star. Either way, Struve 1692 is alluring in…