Astronomy Benalla
Reports - 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Astronomy Benalla  Dark Sky Site Report - Saturday 21st January 2012 After experiencing a very disappointing year for astronomical viewing last year because of repetitive clouds and rain, Astronomy Benalla programmed its first viewing for this year on Sat 21st Jan which turned out to be a beautiful clear night. As usual the David and Cynthia Webb were first to arrive at our dark viewing site, the Benalla Racecourse Cricket  Ground, and had set up even before the Sun had set.    As the dusk set in, eleven members were greeted with a rare huge and spectacular Morning Glory Cloud (like a big  long fat cigar) more typical of the stormy tropical regions; slowly rolling in from the east across the sky obliterating the  three early and brightest heavenly bodies in turn - Sirius, Jupiter and Venus. Fortunately within 20 minutes it had  dissipated and we were rewarded with good clear viewing for the rest of the night.       A Morning Glory cloud formation between Burketown and Normanton. Wayne with his 300mm diameter Dobsonian concentrated on items near the zenith, initially picking up the beautiful  bright globular cluster 47 Tuc containing a million times the mass of our Sun. Wayne later moved north to the beautiful  Crab Nebula, aka M1 from the Charles Messier series. He trialed different magnifying lens and filters to extract the  best image, each giving its own reward at the eye piece. M1 is a remnant, in the shape of a crab, of a supernova - a  star blowing up - recorded by the Chinese in 1054 that threw debris into space, leaving at its centre a pulsar rotating at  30 times a second.  Peter and Peg who had recently returned from the northern climes were able to see our largest planet Jupiter  surrounded by its moons and we were rewarded with the usual WOW. Rupe with his 200mm Newtonian tried splitting  the bright star alpha Centaurus which was low to the southern horizon before spinning the scope to M42 the bright  Orion Nebula in the handle of the saucepan.    Anne was thrilled to use a low powered lens to see the Pleiades also known as the Seven Sisters or M45. It is an  open cluster containing hundreds of bright, middle aged, type B hot blue stars which are lighting up space dust giving  an attractive blue nebulosity at a distance of about 350 to 450 light years. M45 is found in the Constellation of Taurus   - The Bull.  At 11:00pm the oldies decided to called it a night and moved inside for the usual scrumptious supper. By the time we  came out again, scattered clouds were making good viewing a little harder, so all were on their way home by midnight.   A thoroughly enjoyable night!  Rupe Cheetham. 
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