West Rand Astronomy Club


25 March 2015 @ 19H00:

West Rand Astronomy Club Meeting

  • Dutch Reformed Church,
  • 844 Corlette Avenue, Witpoortjie
  • Presentation By:  Derck Smits
  • Topic: Variable Stars RRLyraepulsating Stars and Eclipsing Binaries
  • April 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!

 14 March 2015 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.
  • 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



A note to remember:  


This year, Earth hour takes place on 28 March from 8:30pm to 9:30pm.

Earth Hour began in Sydney Australia in 2007.It is a “lights-off” event to raise awareness about climate change and other environmental issues and engages more than 162 countries and territories world wide, encouraging everyone to turn off non-essential lights for one hour. Join the world and try it.


The Sun is having a happening

According to NASA,” something big is about to happen with the sun”. that “something” is called a complete field reversal.

Solar Physicist Phil Scherrer, at Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory says “the sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, then emerge again with opposite polarity. He states that this is a regular happening in the solar cycle, changing polarity about every eleven years.

Data from the Wilcox observatory shows that the sun’s two hemispheres are not synchronising. According to Scherrer,”while the north pole has changed sign, the south pole is racing to catch up, soon both poles will be reversed and the second half of the solar max will be underway.”

The original article by Dr. Tony Phillips Science@NASA.



Dawn is visiting Ceres

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.

“Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. “Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home.”

The most recent images received from the spacecraft, taken on March 1 show Ceres as a crescent, mostly in shadow because the spacecraft’s trajectory put it on a side of Ceres that faces away from the sun until mid-April. When Dawn emerges from Ceres’ dark side, it will deliver ever-sharper images as it spirals to lower orbits around the planet.

Dawn’s goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of its earliest history by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formation. Ceres and Vesta reside in the main asteroid belt, the extensive region between Mars and Jupiter, along with many other smaller bodies. Each followed a very different evolutionary path, constrained by the diversity of processes that operated during the first few million years of solar system evolution. When Dawn visits Ceres and Vesta, the spacecraft steps us back in solar system time. –


Sunrise and Sunset:

March 2015              Sunrise                 Sunset                Day Length

5 March 2015                6:04                     18:30                     12:34

13 March 2015              6:08                     18:29                     12:23

25 March 2015              6:14                     18:17                      12:03

• Never look at the sun without proper protection.

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

Moon in March:

12 and 13 March sees the moon passing by Saturn as the last Quarter moon. Meanwhile, 18/19 March sees the waning moon visible in the morning sky shortly before sunrise near the rapidly moving Mercury.

  • Full moon                            5 March              at 20:01
  • New Moon                          20  March            at 11:05

As it was seen from earth, Full Moon  on 5 March was spectacular once again. Fully illuminated by the sun as it rose in the early evening, as always it looked spectacular even though it was the smallest full moon to look at this year.


Planets in March:

Three of the five visible, naked eye planets are in good view in March this year.

  • Venus and Jupiter:  are in good view in March shining visibly first thing at nightfall.
  • Saturn:  On 13/14 February. One should be able to observe Saturn fairly well in the East.
  • Jupiter: In the north east, Jupiter  is near the moon at the beginning of the month with M44 and M67 very close by. Jupiter is very well situated for photography this month.
  •  Mars and Venus: Mars is very close to the horizon in the west at dusk and Venus sinks fast,  prior to her becoming our very early morning star. On March 22/25  the crescent moon is near her and M45 is not far above.
  • Mercury: The innermost planet nearest the sun will be best seen low in the east just before sunrise, until late March. Using binoculars, it will show as a bright star, yellowish or pale orange or orange tinged in colour.

Juipter 17-01-2015 Lourie Bentel


 Deep-sky objects:

Globular clusters:                             Nebulae:                                      Galaxies:               Open Cluster:

NGC 1851 in Columba                             Eta Carinae NGC 3372                 NGC6744                  N2169 in Orion

Messier 79 in Lepus                                Messier 35 in Gemini

M42 & M43 in Orion




 Meteor Showers:

Between the 28 January and the 22 March two meteor showers will take place but visibility or the observing prospect is quoted as being unfavourable to poor. This is probably due to insufficient light being produced on de-excitation and less ionic processes, so the meteor may not be observed visually.

y-Normids:          From 25 February to 22 March with a maximum on the 13 March

Virginid Meteor Shower (April 17, 2015)

Several meteor showers will radiate from Virgo between February and May of 2015. They are collectively known as the Virginids. The Alpha Virginid meteor shower peaks each year between April 7 and 18. In 2015, it will be no different. The first recorded observation occurred in 1895

Information from the Sky Guide South Africa 2015.



A special edition of the journal Science informs us that Rosetta’s Comet 67/P Churyumov. Gerasimenko has many surface features. Here are some of the details:

  • It is assumed that the overall composition is dominated by water, ice and dust.
  • The Rosetta scientists at the European Space Agency say the northern hemisphere of the comet is mostly dust and based on observations so far the comet has a very high porosity of about 70-80%.
  • The interior structure is likely to be made up of bonded ice/dust clumps in vacuus spaces.
  • There appears to be about nineteen regions covered by five basic but different types of ground areas.
  • From data collected so far, the Alice team has discovered that the comet is unusually dark in the ultraviolet, and that its surface shows no large water-ice patches. Water however has been detected as vapor leaving the comet as it’s warmed by the Sun. The amount varies as the nucleus rotates, but the last published measurements put the average loss rate at 1 liter (34 ounces) per second with a maximum of 5 liters per second. Vapors from sublimating carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide ice have also been detected. Sometimes one or another will dominate over water, but overall, water remains the key volatile material outgassed in the greatest quantity.

         67P is giving off about twice as much dust as gas. We see the comet’s dual emissions by reflected sunlight, but because    there’s so much less material in the jets than what makes up the nucleus, they’re fainter and require longer exposures and special processing to bring out without seriously overexposing the comet’s core. 67P’s coma will only grow thicker and more intense as it approaches perihelion on August 13.

written by Bob King 9 march 2015

 Satellite movement:

Satellite movement can be viewed on:



As our world turns from green to gold with beautiful sunsets, we eagerly await to coming evenings for it will not be long before we shall have dark cloudless skies all night long. Cold? yes, but that is a fact we accept so we dress warmly and prepare our tools for taking in the magic of the night sky. Plan your weekends for  long viewing and prepare your camera equipment for there are lovely things to see and photograph in our winter skies.

Soon Scorpio will herald the winter scene and in constellation scorpio alone there are bright stars: Antares Mag. 1 red-giant star. Double stars: beta Scorpii and Graffias mag. 3. There is: Open clusters: NGC6231, M7 and M6 Globular clusters:M4. M80, NGC 6388  and NGC 6441.

All your photographs are uploadable on our WRAC website and your photos are memories worth keeping, so share happiness with others.



” It’s amazing what ordinary people can do, if they set out without preconceived notions.” ~ Charles F. Kettering

Starry side up!


West Rand Astronomy Club

Regards Wrac.