Comet 46P/Wirtanen

By Richard Harvey

46P/Wirtanen is a small short-period comet with a current orbital period of 5.4 years. It was discovered on January 17, 1948, by the American astronomer Carl Wirtanen, and expectations were high for the comet’s 2018 visit.

Many astronomers hoped for naked eye brightness reminiscent of 1997’s Hale Bopp, (which I remember seeing easily over the Albert Memorial from Queens Square, Wolverhampton. Hard to believe that was over twenty years ago!). Unfortunately, comet 46P/Wirtanen appeared fainter than hoped. At its closest approach, on the16th December 2018, it was only visible in binoculars from semi-rural sites. But even so, it gave amateur astronomers a fantastic, rare chance to study a comet.

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Visit to Much Hoole, Preston

By Linda Manas

Three weeks ago I went on a very interesting visit to St Michael’s Church, Much Hoole near Preston. I have recently read two books about transits of Venus and  I wanted to see the windows in the church commemorating both Jeremiah Horrocks’ observation and the 2004 event. I have always been fascinated with eclipses and transits. In fact I have been on three total eclipse trips but have only seen one, last year in Tennessee. The previous attempts: Cornwall 1999 and Faroes 2015 were failures. I was lucky to see the Venus transit though in 2004. As I am sure you all know Jeremiah Horrocks was of course the first person to observe a transit of Venus in 1639. It is thought that he was a cleric at the church and also likely that he was a tutor to the Children of the Stone family who lived at the nearby Carr House. The former is disputed as it is thought he was not old enough to be a cleric. Horrocks is thought to have observed the transit of Venus from the room at the front of Carr House directly over the porch. He predicted it would occur at 3 pm and it actually occurred about 3:15 pm one November day. Of course he was on the Julian calendar as the UK unlike some European countries did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the mid eighteenth century.

Jeremiah Horrocks
Jeremiah Horrocks
Jeremiah Horrocks
Jeremiah Horrocks


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Trysull Observing Session 9th October 2018

By Richard Harvey

We held another observation session at our Trysull site on the 9th October. The sky was 100% clear from clouds for once, with a slight haze in the air as the evening drew on. Half a dozen members turned up at various times, and we were lucky to enjoy a very comfortable, mild, Autumn evening’s observing.

Three scopes were in use tonight. Steve bought along his Skywaytcher ED80 refractor with a go-to mount, and Martyn bought his pillar-mounted 110mm reflector. I took my Skywatcher 8” Reflector, so we were lucky once again in being able to use a range of different scopes.

Steve, aligning the go-to mount
Steve, aligning the go-to mount

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Pack Your Bins

A report from our Spanish correspondent (aka Doug Bickley)

I remembered on this holiday to Gran Canaria to pack some binoculars.  I chose my trusty old Tasco 40mm 8-16x zoom which to my mind are a good compromise between light gathering power and portability.  I also took a lightweight tripod. [Pic 1 & 2]

Pic 1 - Tasco 40mm 8-16x zoom
Pic 1 – Tasco 40mm 8-16x zoom
Pic 2 - Binoculars on a lightweight tripod
Pic 2 – Binoculars on a lightweight tripod


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Obituary: Neville Goodger

From daughter Karen Kendall, on behalf of her mother Shirley, sisters Lynne and Kathryn, grandchildren Richard, Bethany, Jamie and Charlotte, and other members of Neville’s family.

Ronald Neville Goodger
Ronald Neville Goodger

Neville was a remarkable man who was loved by his family and friends. He was born on 29th September 1926 in Fallings Park in Wolverhampton. He was the younger of two children and born into what history now calls the silent generation. It was commonly understood and expected that children should be seen and not heard, this was likely as a consequence of the serious times and everyone’s pre-occupation with ongoing world events

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Trysull Observation Session Thursday 13th September 2018

By Richard Harvey

With Mars at its closest approach since 2003, and the prospect of a clear sky to view it, a last-minute observation session was hastily arranged for Thursday 13th September at our Trysull observation site. I took the society’s 12” dobsonian reflecting telescope (the Tom Collier Telescope), and several other members turned up, all hoping to get a fine display of planets.

The Moon was a waxing crescent in the west as we arrived, lit around 20%. Once the scope was set up, we all enjoyed fine views of the shimmering lunar landscape. I was particularly interested in the small craters in Mare Crisium, which were very noticeable. Crater Picard is 21 miles across, and Pierce is only 12 miles across, we could see them quite clearly. They will soon be washed out with sunlight and not viewable for another month. Quite distinct tonight, on the edge of Mare Crisium, was the distinct dramatic rises of Cape Cape Lavinium and Cape Olivium. 
To the left of the Moon, lower, just heading towards the trees, we saw Jupiter. With the sky not yet dark, the cloud belts were faint, but three of the moons were visible. The brightest, Ganymede, to the telescopic left. Although we could see only three moons, checking later with the Jovian Moon chart in Astronomy Now, all four should have been visible. Dimmer Callisto must have been lost to the twilight sky.

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Perseids Data

By Trevor Clifton

Given the sharp rise and fall the timings would suggest that the Earth travelled some 315,000 miles while in the debris stream from the comet.
It will be interesting to see if this figure changes next year.

Each bar in the chart is the meteor count for 10 minutes. 824 recorded for the 24 hours before and 1103 for the main day.

Meteor detection 24 hours before the expected peak
Meteor detection 24 hours before the expected peak
Meteor detection for the 24 hours during the peak of Perseid activity
Meteor detection for the 24 hours during the peak of Perseid activity


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Spaceguard Centre Visit 6th June 2018

Panorama over Knighton

By Doug Bickley

Members of WolvAS at Spaceguard
Members of WolvAS at Spaceguard

A slightly belated report on this trip!!

We had talked about a summer visit for some time, and on Wednesday 6th June an intrepid band set off for Knighton. I had called ahead the week before and booked a 2pm with Mrs Tate. A few of us stopped on the way for lunch at the Horse & Jockey pub in Knighton (highly recommended) before the tour.

Nine of us met at the centre and we got booked in by Mrs Tate.

Sited in a remote dark sky site at the top of a hill, the working observatory offers outstanding panoramas in all directions, and a clear 360 degree horizon. We had picked a really clear day and the views were magnificent.

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