West Rand Astronomy Club

24 February 2016 @ 19H00:

West Rand Astronomy Club Meeting

  • Dutch Reformed Church,
  • 844 Corlette Avenue, Witpoortjie
  • Presentation By:   Derck Smits
  • Topic: TBA
  • February Night Sky News and Events

Cost: Donation of R10 for the use of the venue which includes tea and coffee.

Telescopes will be set up for viewing (weather permitting). Members are encouraged to bring along telescopes, you can bring along observation sheets and any of your favourite astronomy books for discussion. Ask questions, share information and enjoy!

 5 March 2016 from Sundown:


171 Bartlett Street, Honingklip. (Not far from the Silver Casino).

  • Co ordinates: 26 01 12 S….27 47 93 E    -26.018810 , 27.798910
  • New members welcome. Bring own meat and salads, drinks (Please limit the alcohol), cutlery, crockery and a chair. Also something warm to wear in case the weather turns.
  • If weather looks suspect please check WRAC website from 3:15pm. on the Saturday to confirm if stargazing is still on.

On Line Shopping and walk in shop


Notice to members:

Wrac does on going Outreach programs from month to month throughout the year.

Any members who have telescopes and who wish to enjoy the excitement of  showing others the night skies, please e-mail your name and number with Jess so that you can be included in the program.

  • secretary@wrac.org.za
  • sales@telescopeshop.co.za

Readers, Your valued feedback on the “Night Skies” Newsletter would be greatly appreciated.

  • Is the Newsletter informative enough?
  • Is the News Letter too long?
  • Does it take up too much of your time to read?
  • Do you like the layout?
  • What part of astronomy would you enjoy reading about ?
  • Do you enjoy reading what is in ” Night Skies? Would you like to carry on receiving a monthly newsletter or do you prefer to Google on your own for information?

Please e-mail us:

  • secretary@wrac.org.za
  • sales@telescopeshop.co.za


In these current times we find Astronomy forging ahead in leaps and bounds with discoveries happening regularly and science and technology advancing at an even faster pace.

Of late we have had the wonderful news of a new Planet being found.  The existence of this Planet was reported on January 28. It is over 16 times as massive as Earth and Half the diameter of Neptune. So far it has been named BD+20594B and is composed entirely of rock. The Planet is over 500 light years away and lies in the constellation Aries.

On February 9 a team of scientists published the results of their studies using a 64 metre telescope in Australia, they found hundreds of galaxies hidden from sight by the dust and gas of our Milky Way

Most exciting of all, proving Einstein to be right yet again; on February 11 a group of physicists announced their detection of gravity waves, .making ripples in the fabric of space time.

News posted on Universe Today

A massive rogue planet has been discovered in the Beta Pictoris moving group. The planet, called PSO J318.5338-22.8603, is over eight times as massive as Jupiter. Because it’s one of the few directly-imaged exoplanets we know of, and is accessible for study by spectroscopy, this massive planet will be extremely important when piecing together the details of planetary formation and evolution.
Most planets outside our solar system are not directly observable. They are discovered when they transit in front of their host star. That’s how the Kepler mission finds exoplanets. After that, their properties are inferred by their gravitational interactions with their star and with any other planets in their system. We can infer a lot, and get quite detailed, but studying planets with spectroscopy is a whole other ball game.

 News posted on Universe Today: A massive Planet Gone Rogue by Evan Gough

This image, taken by OmegaCAM on the VLT Survey Telescope at Paranal Observatory, shows a section of the Ara OB1 stellar association. In the centre of the image is the young open cluster NGC 6193, and to the right is the emission nebula NGC 6188, illuminated by the ionising radiation emitted by the brightest nearby stars. 

This image, taken by OmegaCAM on the VLT Survey Telescope at Paranal Observatory, shows a section of the Ara OB1 stellar association. In the centre of the image is the young open cluster NGC 6193, and to the right is the emission nebula NGC 6188, illuminated by the ionising radiation emitted by the brightest nearby stars.



Lately, we hear a lot about over population and trying to find another planet like Earth. About space ships and other inhabitants of other planets doing fast fly by’s in space ships spotted on horizons. Are “they” as curious about life on other planets as what seems to be the case of the humans on Earth?  More to the point, does man think there is extra terrestrial life, in a form rather like ourselves? Think of it, Man can become “extra terrestrial” with human settlement on Mars.To prepare for this, an unmanned trip to Mars is planned to take place in 2020. Humans will move that way on a one way ticket in 2026.

  • It takes 150 to 300 days for a spaceship to get to Mars. A more accurate assessment of time taken is dependent on many scientific observations and problems, of which a few could be:
  • The alignment of the orbits because both Mars and Earth do not have perfectly circular orbits.
  • The speed of the launch.
  • The length of the journey the spacecraft will take.
  • How much fuel is going to be needed to get there and possibly back again.

As yet, the most complex and probably the most expensive part carrying the greatest risk would be the return trip. Is that why one way tickets are offered? Surely there has to be a return trip thought of, should the project fail.

  • A settlement, in advance of the arrival of humans on Mars, will have to make accommodation for social, humanitarian,scientific structures and many other requirements such as consideration of :
  • Extreme temperatures.
  • Sufficient oxygen
  • Sustainable food and in case of disease, medicine.

Earth, Science, and Health are more closely related than we tend to think. Recent research findings from the ISS showed there might be a link between nutrition, genetics and vision problems experienced by some astronauts.

If humans are looking at one way tickets to Mars, we hope sufficient complex Vitamin B tablets go with them. Who knows, the experiment might turn humans into little green men with lizard bodies, walking upright with a tail and ‘gong eyes’. Who breathe in carbon monoxide and never want to come back to Earth!


For more information  got to: www.marsone.com/

 Sunrise and Sunset:

February 2016:              Sunrise:                 Sunset:                Day Length:

  • 10    February                     5:49                      18:59                   13:10
  • 19    February                    5:55                       18:51                    13:55
  • 29   February                    6:02                        18;42                   12: 40

• Never look at the sun without proper protection.

SA Sky Guide 2016

• Looking at the sun through a telescope or binoculars without the necessary equipment or protection Will Blind You.

Moon in: February

  • 8 February –       New Moon                       Rise 18:46          Set 05:25
  • 11 February-      Moon at Perigee             Rise 21:02          Set 08:35         364600 km distance away
  • 22 February       Full Moon                       Rise 18:32          Set 05;30
  • 27 February       Moon at Apogee             Rise 21:32          Set 09:45        405400 km distance away

For the use of seasonal moons  the overlap of summer/autumn is between 8 and 15 February. The first

autumnal New Moon is 8 February.

SA Sky Guide 2016

Planets in February

Between 1 February and 7 February  we had a lovely line-up of five planets and the moon. One had to be up before  sunrise to make this observation.

Mercury: The innermost planet nearest the sun, can only be seen low in the east, passing through February until the end of march.

Venus: Our bright and beautiful “morning star” shines brilliantly in the very early morning sky She is our “secret lady”, covering her surface features in a gown of heavy cloud, so they are not visible through a telescope.

Mars: With its distinct  orange red colour, can be seen in the morning sky, rising a little earlier each day until, by the end of February it will be seen throughout the night. Also in constellation Virgo but at a magnitude of +1.4 it is less bright than Venus. Over the next few months it will brighten since it is approaching “opposition”. It will reach it’s closest approach to Earth in May and start moving out again.

Jupiter: Appears as a very bright object in constellation Leo with a magnitude of -2. one of the brightest. Jupiter goes into opposition on 8 March when it will be visible throughout the night. The 4 main moons. Europa, Io, Callisto and Ganymede, can also be seen, through a small telescope.

Saturn: With a magnitude of +0.4,is visible in the morning sky. Rising about an hour before dawn. Visibility of Saturn should increase by month end.


 Deep-sky objects:

  • Barnard 33            The horse head nebula
  • NGC 2024              Flame nebula
  • M78  / NGC            2068 a reflection nebula
  • M42 / NGC 1976    Orion nebula
  • NGC 2070              Tarantula nebula
  • NGC 1851              Globular cluster
  • M79/NGC 1904       Globular cluster
  • NGC 1977               Open cluster
  • NGC 2158               Open Cluster
  • NGC 2169               Open Cluster
  • NGC 2362               Open  Cluster

 Meteor Showers:

  • The Alpha Centaurids can be seen until February 26
  • The Gamma Normids can be seen from February 27 until March 25.

.Moonlight is a chaser. A dark sky is important so patch in to see what the moon is doing and schedule your dates and times for meteor sightings.


There are always comets in the sky, but most of them are too faint and far away to be seen without a telescope. For observers in the Southern Hemisphere there are two comets currently visible, Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) and Comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon)

Their complicated-looking names are really quite simple. The number, letter, and number indicate when they were discovered: the year, a letter indicating the month half, and the order within the month half. “A” indicates the first half of January, “B” indicates the second half of January, “C” indicates the first half of February, etc.

For example, “2011 L4” indicates the comet was the fourth comet discovered in the second half of June 2011, and “2012 F6” indicates that it was the sixth comet discovered in the second half of March 2012. The names in brackets indicate the discoverer. Nowadays many comets are discovered by and credited to a team like both PANSTARRS and the Mount Lemmon Survey.

– See more at: http://www.space.com/19797-bright-comets-in-southern-skies.html#sthash.SLB7HZpz.dpuf

 Satellite movement:

Satellite movement can be viewed on:


Astronomy reminds one of what TH Huxley once said.” The known is finite.The unknown is infinite.”

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever shall be.

Most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. – Carl Sagan

West Rand Astronomy Club

Regards Wrac.