Page 1 - Nebula December2018
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Nebula

June 2019  Newsletter of the Leeds Astronomical Society
                                          Volume 46 Number 3

                                            Auroraflights

For my 60th birthday on 31st of October, 2018, my wife, Julie,
     unbeknownst to me, booked us both on a flight that would
take us as far north as we could get within an hour from Leeds
Bradford airport to see the northern lights. We wouldn’t be flying
until February the following year so in the intervening time I
never gave it much thought and only as the last few days of
February, 2019 drew to a close did we make concrete plans to
travel to the airport and I also rifled (with some added sense of
urgency) through drawers, searching for tickets, passports and
information brochures.

By coincidence (and also unbeknownst to myself), 93 million         â–² sketch of aurora (fig. 3)
miles away and above the great 1.4 million km wide disc of our
nearest star (in its outer ‘atmosphere,’or corona), gaps had been   There followed presentations to the strains of ‘The northern
detected in the coronal magnetic field. They had been featured      lights’ by Renaissance, explaining the wonderful sidereal vistas
for several days at the end of February on the website,             that would open up to us once we were at a cruising height of
spaceweather live.com, a site I had not thought to check            30-40,000 feet with the cabin lights off and (as far as possible)
beforehand but which, if I had, might have alerted me to the fact   the Jet2 Boeing 737’s external lights also extinguished. Passengers
that the sun was breathing a more than usually energetic solar      were advised that unless they had brought DSLR cameras with
wind into the faces of its planetary children, including Earth.     them it would be better not to try photographing these wonders
                                                                    as phone and tablet cameras are not designed for night time
The last day of February 2019 duly arrived back on planet Earth.    imaging and anyway, all of us were welcome to download the
It was Thursday, I had headed off to work as normal that morning    images our guides would be taking with their expensive digital
but managed to get off early in the afternoon, setting off to meet  camera equipment. Pete Lawrence, an accomplished
Julie at 3:00pm and wondering why we had to be at The Britannia     astrophotographer and regular ‘Sky at night’ presenter then
hotel in Bramhope for 3:45pm when the actual flight wasn’t until    explained what he hoped we might see once we arrived ‘on
7:00pm that evening. It didn’t occur to me, as we drove through     station’ as he described the ‘race course’ holding pattern the
the wet, dreary afternoon in slow moving traffic that a great deal  plane would initiate once we reached latitude 59-60ËšN
of pre-flight information would need to be imparted to all          (somewhere north west of Shetland). The expectation was, we
passengers on the flight in order to prepare them for what was      would be in sight of the northern auroral oval (a vast, permanent
to follow. It was when we were all sat in one of the hotel          doughnut of shimmering light, with an average diameter of
conference rooms that I realised how many fellow passengers         4,000km, 100-300km above Earth’s magnetic pole, flattened
we would be sharing the experience with and therefore the need      facing the sun and elongated facing the opposite way) and we
for as full a briefing as possible. We were introduced to our two   would see this as a bright arc stretching East-West out of the
astro guides; Pete Lawrence and Nigel Bradbury, by a tour           darkened plane windows on whichever side of the aircraft faced
manager from Omega holidays plc and then given the hard sell
prior to the presentation. Two booklets “The sky at night” and
“The northern lights” (both by Pete Lawrence) were on offer for
a mere £10 for the two and Julie duly forked out for them, all
part of the birthday present I was told. That lass will do for me!

Auroraflights                               Page 1                  Astrophotography with your phone   Page 6
The Origin of High Energy Cosmic Rays       Page 3                  Space for science fiction          Page 9
Book Review:- Out of the Shadow of a Giant  Page 4                  Our Universe - a brief excursion  Page 10
Leeds ScienceFair 2019                      Page 5                  President's Piece                 Page 11
Update on the Search for Planet Nine        Page 5
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