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From: TerryMosel@aol.com
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 17:34:02 EDT
Subject: TV, Mars Event, Pluto

Hi all,

1. If you want a nice light genuinely funny space film, watch "Space 
Cowboys", Thursday, BBC1. It's a bit slow for the first 5-10 mts, then it gets going. 
Look out for all the spoofs and parodies....

2. A reminder about the IAA Mars evening at Carnfunnock 1. The first of the 
IAA "MARS & STARS" special observing & Stardome Nights will be at Carnfunnock 
Country Park, Drains Bay, Larne Co Antrim, at 8 p.m. to late, on Saturday 6 
September. Viewing with a selection of powerful telescopes, stardome planetarium 
shows, exhibition, a real Martian Meteorite, etc! Don't miss it! We picked 
that date so that Mars would be high enough up for good viewing at a reasonable 
hour of the night, but even so, expect to stay to near midnight if you want the 
best views. Wrap up well etc! (Also next w/e, Sep 13 & 14, at Castle Espie)

3. Some of you wanted to know more about the observation of Pluto from West 
Cork mentioned in my last email. It's now well past opposition of course (on 
June 9), and in fact last w/e it was already past culmination by the time the 
sky got dark. But this was the last chance of the year to have a go for it, and 
as there was a perfectly clear transparent sky, and we were waiting for Mars 
to rise higher into better seeing, I commandeered the C-14 (Celestron 14" 
Schmidt Cassegrain), and started hunting from my pre-prepared charts from Skymap 
Pro-8. It took me a while to get used to the field of view of both the finder 
and the main scope - only 30' on the latter, even with the widest-field 
eyepiece. Several attempts to star-hop to it were frustrated when the declination 
drive sector reached its limit just before I got to the star-field. So I went to 
another star in the finder, on the other side of Pluto, and started 
star-hopping from there, making better progress as I got used to the scope. Suddenly 
there was the pair of stars, just above 12th magnitude, beside which lay Pluto! 
Was that a glimpse of it? A quick change to a higher power, re-focus, and there 
it was! I could hardly believe it, as by now it was well past the meridian, 
and getting lower by the minute.
   I showed the position on the chart & described the view, to Mark Sweetman 
of Schull Planetarium, and he was fairly sure he saw it. Then someone else had 
a look, but before I knew it, someone had moved the telescope, and Pluto was 
no longer in the field of view! I slewed back & forth in both RA & Dec, but 
couldn't locate the guide pair. I had no idea which way the scope had been 
moved, so I would have had to start from the beginning again, by which time Pluto 
really would have been too low. 

We tried again on the Sunday night, but it was cloudy. So I didn't get a cha
nce to look again, and therefore I can only say I'm 99% sure I saw it!

My last view was with the 10-inch Grubb refractor at Armagh Observatory in 
the late Sixties / early Seventies. Some day I'll hunt through the attic for my 
old copies of the BAA Journal, in which the observation was reported, to get 
the details. In those days, of course, it was a lot higher up, and Armagh was a 
lot less light-polluted! But I can modestly say that my observation then 
resulted in the BAA revising their quoted magnitude of Pluto from "15" to "14" - 
they had been giving the magnitude as "15" since Pluto's discovery, ignoring 
the fact that it had been steadily moving towards perihelion all the time since 
then!

If you have a 10/12-inch scope or larger, good dark clear skies, and an 
accurate chart e.g. from a good computer programme, have a go for it next year, 
when it's at or near opposition, which falls about 11 June: July might be easier 
when the worst of the summer twilight has gone from the sky.

By sheer coincidence I got this from Kevin Nolan (Planetary Society) today!
   "PLUTO MISSION IN DANGER!
Less than a year ago, Congress approved funding for the New Horizons mission 
to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. With that crucial vote we thought that, after 
years of struggle, the fight to preserve the Pluto mission was finally over and 
won.
   But now it is under attack again. In the last days before the House of 
Representatives adjourned this summer, its Appropriations Committee earmarked $55 
million for cuts from the New Frontiers program, of which New Horizons is a 
part. This action would force a launch delay of at least one year beyond the 
scheduled 2006 date, and postpone its arrival at Pluto by as many as five years! 
This is in direct contradiction to the recommendation of the National 
Research Council, which listed a Pluto mission as its top scientific priority.
   Join us in our fight to restore full funding for New Horizons. The action 
has now shifted to the Senate, where their Appropriations Committee will mark 
up the NASA bill this Thursday. Please write to the Congressional leaders who 
can most influence
the outcome: Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Senator Barbara Mikulski 
(D-MD)-- today!
   Together we can reverse this short-sighted action and see that a mission 
to Pluto launches within two years.
   Thank you. Louis Friedman, Executive Director, The Planetary Society"

Clear Skies,

Terry Moseley

Last Revised: 2003 Spetember 4th
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