No special groupings this month.
The big event this
month;- will be the departure of Tim Peake to the ISS on
Dec 15th. We wish him well and the very best of luck with the
science work he will be undertaking. We will be updating the
Image Credit -
UK Space Agency
The Space Station is visible in our skies from time to
time. See www.heavens-above.com
for exact times for you. There are chances to see it in the
daytime and towards dusk when it is getting dimsy.
It Is so bright
that it will flare as the Sun strikes one or two of the large solar
H-A are now giving suitable times for daylight passes as well as
"invisible" night time passes.
Have your telescope in two places at
Well with Slooh you can.
A good way
to be able to image almost anywhere any time with your
"own" Robotic Telescope. The Observatory has a
Weather Station on line;-
We have had a weather station at the Observatory
for a number of years but this new one has been linked to the wider
world. In addition to real time weather data it give sun rise and
sunset times and the phase of the Moon. Thanks to Joe for sorting that part of the equation. Click on
the link to be taken to our weather
us;- We have been on the radar for the
organisers of youth and adult groups for a while now. For Group bookings for schools, Scout & Guide
Association members go to the News Tab
on the top of the page. Please ring (01726) 813602 to book your
place. Check out the map on the
experience for years 10 & 12;-
Our very successful WE programme enables students to take a genuine
part in the work of the observatory as trainee astronomers.
A different format for the 2016 season. Please note this programme
is being restructured for 2016 so please make your bookings
Interested students should contact their school coordinator as soon
Science Technology Engineering Maths Ambassador;-
or STEM for short. Mainly for those wishing to get involved teaching
with the Observatory. This is a National approval scheme that allows
us to teach/demonstrate in schools and youth groups. Any one can
apply (including those outside our team) is is good for those asked
to go into schools to represent the companies they work for, Includes
a DBS. To learn more contact us via any of the Observatory
ble. See also the News Page. All
letters and correspondence must go to the Par Office,
92 Par Green, PL24 2AG. and
the Observatory site.
Senior Students @ work;-
Dewey spent his gap
year with us mostly working on astrospectroscopy - now at University
in Holland. Crest Gold Award Standard work. Jacob (Yr 13) a Nuffield Scholar
from Treviglas, Newquay is worked with Vesta Trek NASA's new out reach project using information gathered
by Dawn. He presented his work at U C Falmouth and
everyone was very impressed with its quality. Unfortunately I was
the after dinner speaker at the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth
and so missed the event.
in Nigeria;- You can take me out of Africa, but you
cannot take Africa out of me! So I spent a good part of May in Awka
and Enugu teaching in a couple of schools there. There is a great
deal of interest but very little opportunity. So I have begun the
task of writing some notes for guidance for teachers, as well as
building up a kit of parts that can be shared around the school
community. SPACE WEEK, a very well supported event run for schools
and by those lecturers I worked with in my May visit. Bonaventure
Okere has just spearheaded the official formation West African
Regional Office of Astronomy in Enugu. I was able to observe
proceedings via Skype.
The distance to the
Moon - results? well nearly. We have been working
with a group of European and African astronomers to determine the
lunar distance. I have got a copy of the draft paper and we get a
Where did our water come from?
The astronomers say from outer space but is that
the whole story?
The Oceans hold 1374 million billion tonnes of
water with an average depth of 3.5 km. The diameter of the Earth is
12,750 km. The geologists say that during the formation period the
hot rocks that resulted released vast quantities of water as steam
and carbon dioxide. This atmosphere hung around in the upper
atmosphere throughout the heavy bombardment period.
For it to leave the planet altogether it would
have to have exceeded the planet’s escape velocity or broken down to
hydrogen and oxygen, the hydrogen would have moved into
interplanetary space leaving behind an oxygen rich atmosphere for
which there is no evidence.
The next stage according to the geologists is that
it rained and rained for perhaps a million years forming the early
oceans. The best estimate puts the oceans at 50% "Earth Water" and
50% from large "comet" impacts.
Why is this important at this time? Water is not
100% H2O some of it is D2O and the ratio
varies from source to source. The D stands for Deuterium with a
nucleus of one proton and one neutron, naturally this weighs more
than H and so the water containing it is known as "heavy water"
The vast majority of sea water is H20,
however some is HDO and a tiny proportion is D2O. In
addition to the two isotopes of hydrogen (Tritium is discounted in
this analysis) there are three isotopes of oxygen vis. O 16, O 17, O
18. This means that all natural water contains nine kinds of water
molecules. The ratios of the different isotopes, one to another, can
be measured using an isotope ratio mass spectrometer.
Naturally there is a gold standard type of water
called VSMOW which stands for Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water. It
has superseded SMOW !
Water on the Moon. No less than 6 sources have
been suggested for lunar water, the Sun, the Earth, the Moon
interior, comets, asteroids, interplanetary dust and giant
interstellar molecular clouds. The Deuterium/Hydrogen ratio has been
measured many times and a wide scatter has been reported. This
supports the overall view that to compare the D/H ratio of any extra
terrestrial sample with SMOW to identify with certainty the origin
of our water is speculative.
Universe Today 2014/12/11 carried a feature by Tim
Reyes concerning water found within Comet 67P. Of particular
interest is the infographic highlighting the D/H ratio of various
solar system components including Earth and 67P. Earth is the base
point if you like and the other bodies grouped around it. Now if we
regard the sources of Earth’s water to be many and various any
comparison between it and other sources of water is an only an
interesting exercise/ over simplistic?
Pilson MEQ Chemistry of Sea Water,
Cambridge UP 2013
Stewart I & Lynch J Earth and the Power
of the Planet BBC Books 2008
Rollinson H Early Earth Systems
Blackwell Publishing 2007
I have recently made contact with a friend from long
ago - he works now far away - Dean Ashton takes excellent
images like this one;- to be updated soon.
UK's very own Space
Weather forecast;- From the Met Office Exeter comes the UK's first Spaceweather forecasts,
they started in May and will ramp up in the coming months.
Naturally RAL Space the source of many of the
instruments on the various Solar Observatories is heavily involved.
However we will have to wait before Solar Orbiter launches in
January 2017 to get our closest views of our Star.
Prominences and active areas on the surface of the Sun.
An archive image taken through our H Alpha scope.
Shetland Astronomical Society; I was in Shetland in the summer 2011 working with the SAS. Check out
www.shetlandastrosoc.org.uk To see
Mike's - austroastro's video made from Chris Brown's images of the
click on the link. For other U tube videos by austroastro do a Google search.
Mike in the
my main man up there has got his website
running well - check it out it even links back to this one! He has
just added Curiosity to his range of card models you can down load
for free. Please note this one is 101 MB - just like the Dalmations.
He has just added a solar radio telescope so we can now hear the Sun
breathing(!) This is still in its Beta stage.
For the work we
did together at Stargazing LIVE 2013 Mike made a model rover as a
prize that was won by Thomas. Saw the lad again last week and he has
the Rover proudly displayed in his room!
Mike's model of Curiosity -
this one is in Shetland not Mars.
Bodiggy School paid us a visit a
here is some of the evidence
Astronautics Badge;- The UK Space
Agency have sponsored a new Scout Badge. We are
investigating the best way of delivering this to Cornish
Joe Warrener who
spent a few nights at Court Farm took this excellent view
across the site.
The Pelican Nebula an emission nebula in Cygnus.
Image Credit Paul Hughes
To see all of Paul's
images at full resolution go to www.zenfolio.com/paulh101
a lot of detail has been lost on the web page. His favourites file
can be run as a slide show covering a range of deep sky objects.
If you go down to the woods tonight .....! Image
Opportunities for schools
For more information about the courses see the
"NEWS" page and then contact the Observatory.
Key Stage One, Two and Three Astronomy.
Opportunities throughout the Year just phone and
book, more under News page on this site.
Beyond; Doing Space this term then
school teachers should see our News section.
Astronomy Practical Project work. Having successfully guided many
students through the GCSE Course work we offer opportunities
on a regular basis. Opportunities throughout the
year just phone and book.
£5.00 per session.
each case email email@example.com
or phone (01726) 813602 to learn more.
Extended project A Level
std. Global Dimming. This
experiment was extended this year into the IR as it produced a clearly measurable change
in light levels through the previous Christmas period.
Scouts, Guides and other youth groups see the separate
RESEARCH AND SPECIALS
The Neptune Saga;- Continues with a
new book about Le Verrier which fills a black hole in our knowledge
of 19th cent. French Astronomy. Written a
review for publication in a number of journals. Also the long
awaited paper on the subject has now been published see below in the
main Neptune section. Anyone wishing to read it please request a PDF
Neptune's orbits - a paper by Norma Foster is also
in the Antiquarian Astronomer and compares the actual orbit that
Adams calculated and puts right a view, long held
by some, that the position he predicted was a long way from that
calculated by Le Verrier. Those wishing to read it please
request a PDF copy.
Our Neptune research
has reached the august pages of the Antiquarian
Astronomer issue 7 March 2013. it covers some 11 pages and is
described as "incisive".
during the Society for the History of Astronomy autumn conference
year;- The year 2010 opened in January with a
special presentation in Seattle, USA. NB The Blue Planet is close to
opposition at the moment so a good time to observe given clear
Image credit "a friend"
Note the Cornish Flag!
Credit;- Jocelyn Murgatroyd and Cornish Cross Laneast
by John Chiswell from two cameo reliefs. The lady is Eliza
Adams nee Bruce - It is believed to be the only likeness in
existence. The sculpture was by Albert Bruce-Joy a relative and well
This image is of the memorial in
Westminster Abbey and is also by Bruce Joy. Image Credit Westminster
Bill Sheehan's Neptune with 10" RC.
Neptune discovery story.
For a short film of the Neptune story
visit Maarten Roos website. http://www.lightcurvefilms.com
Have continued my researches
by contacting the Chinese University in Hong Kong (been there got
the T.Shirt). Some 10 years ago they did some excellent work on
Neptune's orbit which I now have permission to use in my talks.
Site;- We are currently
working with Caradon Archaeology on The Hurlers.
(Minions is the nearest
work is centred on how to best interpret these ancient sites to an
interested general public. At the moment we
are helping with an APP to interpret the area in a modern way. Thanks to Cornwall Council and Cornwall Heritage Trust for
their support. The Apps are now on a an APP store.
background;- The Hurlers can be
found on Google Earth 500 30' 58.67"N 40 27' 29.69"
W, the aerial view is supplemented by a number of photographs and
some text. Until recently people studying the various monuments around
the country would look closely at one aspect or site and not regard those
near by. The Hurlers are the focus of a much larger complex of ancient
It was Hurlers time again. A group of the intrepid marched out to
Craddock Moor Circle, as we have said before more or less invisible
on a featureless moor it surrounds a very large gorse bush which as
been cut down and removed. Difficult in daylight but in the
dark..... However in spite of the cloud the Sun was seen rising
above the Bronze Age cemetery shades of Newgrange perhaps. Sunset is
in line with Tregarrick Tor, this tor is not a skyline feature
though, further investigation is in hand.
An image has just been taken sunset 24th! a report to
follow from Robin. Iain Rowe a local historian and expert on Bodmin
Moor walked along the 130 bearing from Craddock Circle to a cairn on
Caradon Hill by way of Minions Mound. This is a nice secure
alignment. - Thanks Iain.
It was the Equinox again!
We gathered lots of extra data and the weather ranged from great to
fog so thick it was not possible to see across a Circle. There are two
Equinoxes on the 23rd the astronomer's equinox and on the 24th the
landscape version. On the 23rd 2014
the Sun is overhead at the equator as
the Sun moves from North to South. On the 24th the Sun rises due
East at 7.00AM BST - 6.00AM GMT although longitude and the
Equation of Time also need to be taken into account. The
difference between the two is due to refraction which causes the Sun
to appear to be above the horizon earlier than it actually is.
The whole package is being written up as the "Proceedings of
the NAM Conference" we attended in the summer.
Mapping the Sun Day 12th
July 2014 at Sterts Arts Centre, Upton Cross. This event
went well with about 50 archaeologists attending. Checked out
the orientation of the Rillaton Barrow and found the entrance is
open to the Equinox sunrise! However it is believed that the
entrance is nothing more than a gap left when the cist was rebuilt
after the miners dug out the gold cup! Not with standing the
rising Sun does light up the entrance on the Equinox.
Image credit Mike Clarke
Back to the
Hurlers. Lead by Gary and supported by Amanda we measured
the elevation of Rillaton Barrow above the horizon step by step
using a professional level. We had good results although more
work needs to be done. We have proved which star it
celebrates and when it was built. We seem to have identified the
Processional Way referred to by John Barnatt in "Prehistoric
Calendar Stone is to be found in the Centre Circle and to
the south of centre. For all time people have noted that
shadows cast by trees or stones change their length and direction
during the day and throughout the year. The length marked at midday
once a month requires only 7 marks to define the solar year. A more
complete explanation of this system is available.
Archaeologists are often rightly sceptical of two point
alignments and require either a Back Sight or Fore Sight to support the
evidence. Extend the Hurlers SW - NE line northwards about a kilometre to
arrive at Tumuli. Due north is Stowe Hill due south is Minions Mound with more Tumuli. (Tumuli
are Bronze Age burial sites.) Due East is Kit Hill, west is a large
barrow. If you turn your back on Kit Hill and look towards the Pipers you will
find they lie one behind the other i.e. due west. Stand between the Pipers and
look towards Stowe Hill and you look North. Are the Pipers contemporary with the
Hurlers - the evidence points in a positive direction.
The N - S line can be extended on to Long Tom, Menhirs or
Long Stones predate Stone Circles and this one has had a Cross carved on it at a
later date. Although not exactly due south of the Hurlers it is south of
Stowe Hill which is a long ridge of high ground.
Equinox;- To celebrate this we visited the Hurlers
on the Sunday 25th March 2012 Sunday AM was good in that it
was clear and we saw the Sunrise, close to Kit Hill although Kit Hill itself was not
visible to the naked eye due to general murk. Sunday PM saw the Sun
setting due west close to a couple of burial mounds as predicted.
Summer Solstice;- It so happens that
the midsummer Sun rises above Stowe's Hill and sets over Brown Willy. Summer Solstice
21st June and we were at Craddock Moor Circle for the event. A first for us was an observation of a
special Standing Stone on Stowe Hill It seemed to mark the actual
position of sunrise. (June 2010)
From Craddock Circle the Sun rose behind the Cheesewring on Stowe Hill as predicted, what was new
to me was to see the Sun hitting Tregarrick Tor before it rose for
us, this confirms that Tregarrick marks the winter solstice sun set.
(June 20th 2012)
The Sun rising over Stowe Hill (2012)
Image by Amanda King of the
Summer Solstice 2013;-
The group ambled out Craddock Circle. It is a
circle of fallen stones close to gorse bush atop a featureless
hillock. The Sun had shown signs of remaining visible until sunset
but it was not to be. However it appears to set just west of Brown
Willy. Images had been taken a couple of days before and will be
examined in the Observatory.
Many thanks indeed for the images
from Robin Paris of Darite - excellent and revealing sunsets. A CD
has just arrived with more images all adding to our overall
knowledge of the Bronze Age calendar.
The Sun rose and set as per the Vernal Equinox, although on the date we
were there (21st Sept. 2011) the fog was so thick it was impossible to
see across the Circles!
This time using a solar filter in conjunction with
a small telescope it was possible to determine that the Sun rose
just a bit to the right of Kit Hill stack. The sunset was impossible
due to thick cloud. 22nd Sept 2012. Same situation Sept 2013.
The three stone circles known as the Hurlers near
Minions, Bodmin Moor. Appear to mirror the well known asterism of Orion’s
Belt in the centre of the Orion constellation.
21st Dec Mid
Winter Solstice 2013;- Usual pea souper
of course up on the Hurlers - Bodmin Moor, so we were unable to do much until after breakfast. The
modified compass worked well to gave us a real baseline for the
first time. Checked out Kit Hill again as due East and established
the position of the "4th circle". We were unable to do the Sun rise
from Craddock Circle. Just too foggy at sunrise.
In the 21st cent. this constellation, including
Orion’s Belt, is due south of the Hurlers on the
winter solstice (Dec 21st) at midnight. In the Bronze Age
circa 2000 BC this transit occurred earlier in the evening due to precession.
Remember the actual day of the winter solstice was marked from Craddock
Circle. Due north was marked by Stowe's Pound and the “ever present” pole
star, in those days Thuban in Draco and later Kocab in Ursa Minor. Directly north of the Hurlers is Stowe Hill with its Neolithic
enclosure and Rillaton Barrow, the Bronze Age users of the Hurlers would have
recognized that the stars directly above the Hill did not move and were
therefore special. Today the star that occupies that place is called the Pole Star,
North Star or
There is no doubt
that the view of the Hurlers would have been very special before the Quarry
removed much of the viewing area. However even today the torch lit Circles look
Paul Hughes of the Observatory Imaging Team
The Three Circles lit by torches, giving a very atmospheric
effect. It seems that at this time the
winter solstice was celebrated all over Europe by the lighting of bonfires. It consists of four individual images merged into one. It
was normal for special events to be marked by lighting fires. We carry this
practice forward today with our Torch Light Processions and lights on Christmas
Trees and in public places.
role of Craddock Stone Circle;- One question often
asked is, how did the people of 2000BC know which was the shortest day of
the year? It just happens that one of very few winter solstice alignments on the
Moor is between the nearby Craddock Stone Circle (1 kilometre distant) and
Tregarrick Tor. There is even a raised embankment avenue joining the
Stone Circle to the Hurlers complex - problem solved.
Clearly the Hurlers were very important in the Bronze Age and
this should be more widely recognized and appreciated.
A summary of work carried out in the county appears in "The Hurlers an
Archaeological Assessment" published by the Historic Environment Dept of
Mapping the Sun Project Sept
The Equinox problem
solved - Maybe?;- The Sun does not rise due East
(above Kit Hill) on the Equinox but does rise early, these two
problems are linked. Refraction is well known as the reason
for the Sun to become visible while still below the horizon.
The Hurlers;- A combined project
(Sept 2013) with the county archaeologists culminated
in a nine day "Summer School" on the Hurlers. Called "Mapping the Sun"
Involved survey work and mapping the Sun rise and set
positions. We have created a Bronze Age Landscape map -
working with a range of specialist kit new and old to achieve this.
New Discoveries were made and new Legends were born. The archaeologists
uncovered, examined, photographed and recorded a quartz pavement that last saw the light of day in 1938
and using modern techniques will learn so much more.
Orion's Belt on Bodmin Moor. The image was taken, with great expertise, by Tony
Piper located on Caradon Hill. Single torches were placed in
each of the circles. The result shows how closely the torches
resemble the stars in Orion's Belt.
This lovely sunset picture showing two of the Hurlers
lit torches was taken by
Paul Hughes of the Observatory team
Martin, a German visitor to Cornwall filming the
Hurlers from his Quadrocopter.
His You Tube videos can be found on Thesnaptin
Image Credit Robin Paris
find out more about my
attempt to spread the astronomy word
my link Canoe Africa and visit
our special Canoe Africa page. See
check out the reports
filed under IYA 2009.
dates are Sept 9th 2008 and Feb 12th 2009
- Thanks to Tammy Plotner.
ASTRONOMY TO CORNWALL