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From: TerryMosel@aol.com
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2003 19:58:39 EST
Subject: PM80, RCrB fade, Scope 4 sale, Lecture

Hi all,

1. The GOM of popular astronomy is 80 today! Sir Patrick, who often used to
tell me that he would be in a 'Bath Chair' by the time he was 60, has reached
the ripe old age of 80, and is still going fairly strong! His mind's OK, at
least! He has just done another Sky at Night (over 600 programmes now), and
has written his autobiography "Eighty - and Not Out" (he was a keen
cricketer, as well as an astronomer), to be published later this week,
exclusively through Easons I believe. IAA members sent him a special
gi-normous birthday card, about the size of the orbit of Saturn, which I know
he'll appreciate.

2. The Disappearing Star! One of the oddest stars we know is R Corona
Borealis (RCrB) or 'RCORBOR' as the Yanks say. Sometimes called a 'reverse
nova', it is normally a bit brighter than mag 6, but occasionally undergoes
dramatic and unpredicatble 'fades' when it can become as faint as magnitude
14 - that's a drop of eight magnitudes, or a factor of 1600 ! It's currently
undergoing one at the moment. The first alert came from Tony O'Hanlon on 24
Feb: "This famous carbon-rich star started to drop in magnitude on 17th
February, having then already dropped to 7th mag and is now fading rapidly,
with the rate increasing with time."
   The fades are due to sudden ejections of carbon 'soot' which shroud the
star in a black absorbing cloud!
   Sometime it only drops a few magnitudes, but this time it seems a really
deep minimum is likely. I couldn't see it at all in 10x50s, so I tried the
30x80s on a good tripod, and at about 02.00 on 3 March I may just have
glimpsed it at about mag 11.5, but couldn't be sure. It was too late then to
set up the scope, so I was hoping to look tonight, but total cloud! If you
have a reasonable scope, do look & see how faint it gets. I can email a
bitmap file of the starfield down to about mag 14 to anyone who wants. The
position is:    (RA 15h48m34s.40, Dec +28d09'23".7)

3. John McFarland (Armagh Observatory) has a nice scope for sale: "Due to an
upgrade, I wish to sell my Meade LX10 EMC 8-inch SCT, F.L. 2000mm,
f/10, and including the following features: wedge; RA drive; 26mm super
Plossl eyepiece; 6 X 30 finder; users manual; sturdy tripod; original packing
case. The approx. 2-year old scope is in good working condition. 900 pounds ono.

Contact details: Tel.: 028 (048 from ROI) 3752 2928 (work); 028 (048) 3887 9549 (home); 
e-mail: jmf@star.arm.ac.uk

4. Final reminder: The next IAA public lecture will be on Wednesday 5 March
when Kevin Berwick will give a well-illustrated talk entitled "Suburban
Astronomy". It's at 7.30 p.m., Lecture Room 5, Stranmillis College,
Stranmillis Road, Belfast. Admission is free, and all are welcome.

Terry Moseley

Last Revised: 2003 March 4th
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