25 May 2016 @ 19H00:

West Rand Astronomy Club Meeting

  • Dutch Reformed Church,
  • 844 Corlette Avenue, Witpoortjie
  • TBA
  • TBA

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!



WRAC members intending to go to Senekal.

Please note the weather report states Friday will be clear but Saturday states rain from 4pm  and 90 % cloud from then on.Please feel free to go if you still wish to do so.The weather prediction for Krugersdorp is much the same so the Star Party for Saturday is cancelled.

The Annual Senekal Star Party starts from 2 pm. Friday 6 May until Sunday morning 10 am. 8 May.We camp in tents and caravans on the koppie beyond the Farm house.

Bring your own camping equipment food and plenty of warm wear for the cool to cold Free State nights.

No bright white lights please!

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 leave your name and number with Jess by e-mail so that you can be included in the program.

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



Three New Earth-sized Planets Found Just 40 Light-Years Away

The exoplanets were discovered via the transit method through which the light from a star is observed to dim slightly by planets passing in front of it from our point of view. This is the same method that NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has used to find over 1,000 confirmed exoplanets.


The Transit of Mercury

Transit of Mercury – the innermost planet of our solar system – coming up on May 9, 2016! A transit occurs when Mercury passes directly in front of the sun. At such times, Mercury can been seen through telescopes equipped with solar filters as a small black dot crossing the sun’s face. Although much more common than transits of Venus, transits of Mercury happen only 14 times in the 21st century (2001 to 2100). Transits of Mercury always occur in either May or November. The last three were in 1999 (November 15), 2003 (May 7) and 2006 (November 8); the next will be on May 9, 2016, and the next after that will be November 11, 2019.


A Brighter Mars

Earth will pass between Mars and the sun on May 22. Watch Mars brighten dramatically between now and then!


Comet Halley

Comet Halley, proud parent of two meteor showers, swings into the inner solar system about every 76 years. At such times, the sun’s heat causes the comet to loosen its icy grip over its mountain-sized conglomeration of ice, dust and gas. At each pass near the sun, the crumbly comet sheds a fresh trail of debris into its orbital stream. It lost about 1/1000th of its mass during its last flyby in 1986. It’s because comets like Halley are so crumbly that we see annual meteor showers. Follow the links below to learn more about Comet Halley, the meteor showers it spawns, and about how astronomers calculate the velocities of meteors streaking across our sky.

Where is Comet Halley now? Often, astronomers like to give distances of solar system objects in terms of astronomical units (AU), which is the sun-Earth distance. Comet Halley lodges 0.587 AU from the sun at perihelion (closest point to sun) and 35.3 AU at aphelion (farthest point).

In other words, Halley’s Comet resides about 60 times farther from the sun at aphelion than it does at perihelion.

It was last at perihelion in 1986, and will again return to perihelion in 2061.

At present, Comet Halley lies outside the orbit of Neptune, and not far from its aphelion point. (See the image at the top of this post – for May, 2016 – via Fourmilab.)

Even so, meteroids swim throughout Comet Halley’s orbital stream, so each time Earth crosses the orbit of Halley’s Comet, in May and October, these meteoroids turn into incandescent meteors once they plunge into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Of course, Comet Halley isn’t the only comet that produces a major meteor shower …

Parent bodies of other major meteor showers

Meteor Shower Parent Body Semi-major axis Orbital Period Perihelion Aphelion
Quadrantids 2003 EH1 (asteroid) 3.12 AU 5.52 years 1.19 AU 5.06 AU
Lyrids Comet Thatcher 55.68 AU 415 years 0.92 AU 110 AU
Eta Aquarids Comet 1/P Halley 17.8 AU 75.3 years 0.59 AU 35.3 AU
Delta Aquarids Comet 96P/Machholz 3.03 AU 5.28 years 0.12 AU 5.94 AU
Perseids Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle 26.09 AU 133 years 0.96 AU 51.23 AU
Draconids Comet 21P/Giacobini–Zinner 3.52 AU 6.62 years 1.04 AU 6.01 AU
Orionids Comet 1/P Halley 17.8 AU 75.3 years 0.59 AU 35.3 AU
Taurids Comet 2P/Encke 2.22 AU 3.30 years 0.33 AU 4.11 AU
Leonids Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle 10.33 AU 33.22 years 0.98 AU 19.69 AU
Geminids 3200 Phaethon (asteroid) 1.27 AU 1.43 years 0.14 AU 2.40 AU


Diagram via SurveyMonkey. We're looking down upon the north side of the solar system plane, whereby the planets revolve around the sun counterclockwise and Halley's Comet revolves around the sun clockwise.http://earthsky.org/space/comet-halley-parent-of-2-meteor-showers?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=65e055eef4-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-65e055eef4-394486409#now



It is not at all surprising that most of us have an innate curiosity about the planet we live on and our Universe. The time we spend exploring, whether professionals, amateurs or hobbyists, brings to each, enormous returns, meaning, it is to us, the difference between a mere existence and a life well lived.

Appreciating the beauty of the night skies comes naturally and we are more than a little curious to find out more about the whole Universe. We are over awed by the size of the cosmos find it amazing to grasp that our sun is just a small and ordinary star. That its size is but a drop in the great cosmic ocean while Earth is even smaller still. Yet, our existence on Earth revolves around light, the light from our sun.

Our wise and most intelligent ancestors learned about light from the sun and progressed from astrology to the science of astronomy. They realised that everyday happenings in the progress of life, were connected to nature and nature was connected to the great cosmic events. Everything is universal and in those early times, things connected to nature were often thought of as mysterious or mystical. We learned slowly and nature revealed its facts as we stumbled upon them.Our fundamental beliefs and concepts became fixed, boxed and catagorised in a progressive orderly fashion. Today we know that all traces back to the origins of the Universe. Light is composed of particles called photons. Matter is composed of particles called electrons, protons, neutrons. It’s only when the mass of a particle gets small enough that its wavelike properties show.

We know light as a wave in motion, its frequency measured in the number of wave crests entering a detection instrument in a given time.The higher the frequency, the more energetic the radiation.Light is composed of particles called photons. Matter is composed of particles called electrons, protons, neutrons. It’s only when the mass of a particle gets small enough that its wavelike properties show Then, enter quantum physics and quantum mechanics, throwing a lot of our neatly boxed concepts into chaos .A new version of physics  evolves incorporating certain kinds of randomness, called quantum physics.

Quantum physics is attributed to the German physicist, Max Planck who, in 1900 proposed that light is released and absorbed in discrete units called quanta. Quantum physics is knowledge and technology based on a holistic understanding of the dynamcs of nature. That humans possibly have more than the five senses we are aware of and that there is a definite link between scientific understanding or “wholeness” and nature.

“One might think because we cannot see,feel, touch, taste or hear things they are either not there or are nothing.The Quantum Mechanics is very imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is still not the final truth. The theory yields much, but it hardly brings us nearer to the secret of the Old One. In any case, I am convinced that He does not play dice” — Albert Einstein

It is these two facets: Fundamental and philosophical on one hand and technological changes and findings on the other, that come to mind when we think “quantum”.

So, we gather our thoughts and ask: Is the universe expanding faster than the speed of light and how far will it go?


 Sunrise and Sunset:

       MAY 2016:                       Sunrise:                     Sunset:             Day Length:

  •   7    May                          6.35                            17.36                   11:11
  • 16    May                          6.40                            17.31                   10:51
  • 25    May                          6:45                            17.28                   10:43
  • 31    May                          6:48                            17:26                   10:38

Never look at the sun without proper protection.

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

Moon in MAY:

  • 06 May      –        New Moon             Rise 09:15          Set 22:49
  • 21 May      –        full Moon               Rise 23:57          Set 10:08

Planets in May:

Mercury:  Shows great importance on 9 May when it transits the sun. those who are going to observe the occurence, even at sunset, do not look at the sun without using a solar filter. Mercury transits the sun and is seen as a tiny black dot on the surface of the sun.The entire transit will only be visible the Eastern side of the Americas, the Atlantic Ocean and Western Europe.

Venus: Lady Venus, always the brightest loses herself in the the glare of early sunrise in May and becomes more visible during the last week of May.

Mars and Saturn: rise in the East from early to mid evening. Once they are up, they are brightly visible the rest of the night. Each night they get brighter until late May and early June when they reach their best. Keep observing them to see how they change. As Scorpious rises Mars and Saturn in proximity to  Antares which then becomes the third marker to form a bright triangle, very prominent in the early morning hours.

Jupiter: Pops out in dark skies,the brightest object in our sky all night long ending its retrograde movement on 9 May.

Mars: Mars is visible in our night sky all night long this month. Earth passes between Mars and the sun on 22 May. Mars comes closest to Earth on 31 May.



 Deep-sky objects:

NGC 869 & NGC884 a double cluster

NGC 253 the Sculptor galaxy

NGC 2244      the Rosette Nebula in Monoceros

NGC 6025      in Triangulum Australis

M27                One of the most difficult objects to find, that is M27 the Dumbell Nebula and not least is..

NGC3242       The Ghost of Jupiter.

M57                lies in Lyra, the Ring Nebula. Though it appears small, its very magnificence as a nebula, lies in the clear cut, distinctive outline and the completeness of the ring form.

Omega Centauri a double cluster

Centaurus A close to the Pointers

The Jewel Box near the Southern Cross

47 Tucanae in constellation Toucan

The large and small Magellanic Clouds

The Coal Sac near the Southern Cross

M80, M4, M19, M62 all around constellation Scorpius



 Meteor Showers:

Most important: a dark sky, is what is needed to observe meteors.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.

It so happens we intersect Comet Halley’s orbit not once, but twice each year. In early May, we see bits of this comet as the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

Then some six months later, in October, Earth in its orbit again intersects the orbital path of Comet Halley. This time around, these broken-up chunks from Halley’s Comet burn up in Earth’s atmosphere as the annual Orionid meteor shower.


The ETA AQUARIDS:  Begin around  24 April. Peak 5-6 May and can be seen until about 20 May. Best seen around 4-5:30am but watch out for the new moon! 6 May,it is dark then, one can see meteors before and after the predicted peak date as well since it is our best meteor shower of the year




 Satellite movement:

Satellite movement can be viewed on:


All your photographs are uploadable on our WRAC website and your photos are memories worth keeping, so share happiness with others. send your photos to our website manager, Neil.   e-mail: sales@telescopeshop.co.za

Unfortunately there are no current wrac website pictures to up load : Come on members, Please send in your pictures!

 The stars of our winter nights are coming up. Our winter constellations arrive and bring with them the joys of observation under clear skies. The magnificence of Scorpius is with us once again. In this constellation there are bright star clusters and two globulars, M4 and M80 close to Antares, a huge red super giant, 7500 times as luminous as the sun, once nicknamed by Patrick Moore as “the rival of Mars”. There are also two lovely open clusters M6 and M7. M6 being the beautiful well named ” Butterfly”  cluster. Careful and patient viewing will define the butterfly.

East of Scorpius lies Sagittarius The Archer. This constellation looks like an archer on his head who has just shot his arrow. It bears a nickname “the Teapot” and sometimes the teapot is difficult to define. This constellation contains more Messier objects than any other. It is also the home of many beautiful clusters and mysterious nebulae like M20 –  Triffid and M8 –  the Lagoon. Next to Sagittarius lies a semi circle of stars called Corona Australis making our star studded winter sky a superb star field indeed.

So dress up all astronomers, keep warm and spend your nights under our star spangled, beautiful winter night skies.

M35 m17


Regards Wrac.