Christmas 1995

India's Eclipse

(Top) The son gradually becomes a dark ball ringed by the daring corona. An Express photo by Sanjay K Sharma at Neem-ka-Thana. (Below) A PTI photo from Fatchpur Sikri captures the brilliance of the "diamond ring" formed by sunlight peeping through a large valley on the moon. The dazzling ring marked the grand finale of Tuesday's total solar eclipse.

and Agencies

THE celestial rendezvous of the year had millions of Indians praying, bathing, watching, or simply glued to the small screen today as the moon kept its date with the sun, casting a 1,800-km-long, 40-km-wide shadow stretching from Neem-ka-Thana in Rajasthan's Sikar district to Diamond Harbour in West Bengal.
Beginning from southern Teheran, the moon's shadow raced at 5.000-15,000 km per hour to arrive at Anandgarh in the deserts of Western Rajasthan at 7.22 am.  It vanished from view at 10.30 am. with 51 seconds of total eclipse recorded at Neem-ka-Thana and 82 seconds at Diamond Harbour.  The longest recorded period of totality was 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
And, contrary (o the predictions of doomsayers, the only natural disturbance of note was with the river Hooghly, which experienced a high tide from the beginning of the eclipse, and became calm with the advent of totality. Birds, as usual, headed for their nests, utterly confused by the sudden darkness.
It may have been this century's last such experience for India, because the next total solar eclipse on August 11, 1999 is expected to be a low-key affair, with monsoon clouds interfering with normal viewing of the event. The earlier eclipse on February 10, 1980, had been visible only in peninsular India.
Even as 500,000 people took a holy dip in Kurukshetra's Brahmasarovar and Sahnehit tanks, and thousands of others washed their sins away at places as diverse as the Sangam at Allahabad and the Golden Temple in Amritsar, several hundred scientists and amateur astronomers gathered at Neem-ka-Thana, Iradatganj near Allahabad and Diamond Harbour for the country's most ambitious effort yet to study the behaviour of the sun during an eclipse.
Most people, however, preferred to stay at home and watch the most dramatic event since comet Shoemaker Levy's tango with Jupiter last year, on Doordarshan.
To their disappointment, though, the national network botched up the live coverage with some poor editing and poorer presentation, despite an impressive performance by the former Indian Space Research Organisation chief, Prof Yash Pal.  But it did not dampen the all-pervasive the holiday spirit, as people savoured the unexpected windfall of educational institutions declaring a holiday and offices opening only after 12 noon.  It was a holiday with a difference, nevertheless - there were no cricket matches on city lanes and bylanes.
And it was to dispel the kind of myths that kepi millions in-doors that the Karnataka Rajya Vijnana Parishat organised a mass viewing of the eclipse at the National College grounds in Bangalore.  The highlight of the event was the distribution of kadle puri (puffed rice) among the assembled people by the noted rationalist, Dr H Narasimhaiah.  He was knocking down the popular belief that food must not be consumed during a solar eclipse.
The residents of India's Silicon Valley, however, did not venture out of their homes and the city became a ghost town for a couple of hours.
In West Bengal, meanwhile, there was celebration in the air as over two lakh people gathered at Diamond Harbour for a ringside view from seven vantage points, braving the sudden drop in the temperature as the moon embraced the sun, amid singing of bhajans by monks from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon).
Amid such excitement fed by the extensive media coverage to the event, the Department of Science and Technology's Rs, 30 lakh nationwide research effort saw scientists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, flying an Indian Air Force AN-32 transport plane to record excellent images of the masked sun.

A totally satisfying show
by Gaurav C. Sawant

NEEM-KA-THANA, (RAJASTHAN) Oct 24 The sleepy township of Neem Ka Thana today watched wide-eyed the moon gobble up the Sun.  Shutters snapped as hundreds of scientists and photographers from around the world captured the momentous event in western Rajaslhan.
The wide publicity that the total eclipse received both from the electronic and the print media made thousands of people including women come and watch the grand spectacle.  Scientists and photographers, many of whom had been camping at Neem Ka Thana for almost a week and had not slept a wink last night, watched with baited breath as the orange glow of the rising sun spread from behind the Aravali ranges.
At 7.24 am, the moon made the first dent on the sun's surface.  People watched in rapt attention shielding their eyes with exposed X-ray films, sun glasses, solar filters as every moment it seemed that the sun was being eaten by the moon.  Some people, mainly villagers from nearby areas even witched nature's splendid show with the naked eye.

The October 24th. 1995
Total Eclipse of the Sun

The transcription of a live tape recording by
Mike Frost


I travelled to India as part of the Explorer Tours expedition to view the 1995 solar eclipse.  In addition to my camera and binoculars, I carried a tape recorder to capture my impressions "as it happened".  The expected duration of totality was very brief, only 55 seconds, and turned out to be even shorter than that, so I hoped that by just switching on the recorder and leaving it around, I could capture some of the excitement of the eclipse.
To some extent I succeeded in this aim - the build-up to totality was almost unbearably exciting and the duration of the total eclipse a whirl of activity; however, from a technical point of view I failed miserably.  The internal microphone in the cassette recorder didn't function very well, picking up the noise of the tape head rather than the noise of the narrator (although the tape head usually made more sense).  Worse, when the recorder was tipped at an angle, the recording speeded up; so the recording varies between normal speed and "pinky and perky".
For these reasons, the tape is very difficult to decipher.  However, I still think the contents are worth saving for posterity.  So I've painstakingly transcribed the recording to paper - a few snippets escape me even on the tenth listening, but on the whole the transcription is complete - warts and all.  I have corrected an occasional misleading error ("shadow of the sun" for "shadow of the moon" etc) otherwise the transcription remains just as banal, frenetic, or gobsmacked as the original.
As you'll see when you read on, there were several things I was looking out for:- projection effects and the behaviour of shadows, which sharpen in one direction close to totality because the sun becomes virtually a straight line source of light.  Then there are shadow bands, which are a rarely seen atmospheric effect - fleeting bands of colour which move rapidly across the ground.  Finally I kept an eye on the behaviour of the wildlife - would the birds stay true to form and roost during the period of totality?
Sound effects and comments are in brackets [ ]. If I emphasise anything I underline it.   If anyone else speaks (a rare event), it's in italics.

Hope you enjoy it!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Hello, and welcome to the eclipse of October the 24th, 1995. Actually, it's the night before, it's October 23rd, it's around about 6 in the evening, and we're at Jaipur, which is a city around about 200 miles south of New Delhi, 200 bone shaking miles on the coach, and I don't know if you can hear the bangs outside, but tonight is the Hindu festival of Divali, the festival of light.   This actually occurs at the same time as the eclipse, as it's timed to coincide with the first new moon in October, and this month, there is also an eclipse.  The astrologers are very keen on this. and we've read in the Indian newspapers that they are foretelling violence in India, the fall of the Indian prime minister, and trouble in Pakistan and Bosnia, although they have nothing at all to say about Mr Major.  The worrying thing is that all the streets are closed off for the celebrations which accompany Divali. It took us about an hour to get back from the centre of town today, we kept driving our coach round and round and finding our way blocked by the police.  If this happens at midnight tonight you're going to have quite a few very frustrated astronomers.  We have six hours to get from Jaipur to Fatipur Sikri, which is the site of the eclipse for us; that's around about 200 miles and that should take about three hours, but if it takes two more hours to get out of the city of Jaipur we're going to be terribly worried.   Anyway, I'll get back to you when we're on the coach tonight.

[Whispered] It's three in the morning and we're half way between Jaipur and Fatipur Sikri, the eclipse site. We got out of Jaipur without too many problems; the coach stopped a couple of times but we're all right now. We're just outside the zone of totality, so if the weather's OK, we should see the total eclipse.

6.30 AM  Well here we are at Fatipur Sikri.  The coaches arrived here about half an hour ago in the dawn, and it's now a little bit lighter.  We walked down the hill; I think we split away from some of the party, I can't see many of the people who were on the coach.  Here we are at the bottom of the hill, looking upwards towards the old city of Fatipur Sikri.  I think the idea is that we set up our tripods and things so we can observe the eclipse happening over the old city.  We're in an old courtyard, standing on the walls; there's people all the way along the walls, sitting on the battlements.  They've all got their tripods and things out, and in the middle of the courtyard it's grassy, there's perhaps a hundred or so people and they've all got their telescopes ready - my word, you should see the kit they've got here, it's amazing.  Someone's got some sort of timing machine, which is emitting loud bleeps every second; presumably he's going through his 55 second routine. You might also be able to hear some of the birds which are circling overhead.  There are one or two vultures, which are sat on some of the higher pinnacles of the city; and there are all sorts of other birds, it will be interesting to see what they do during the eclipse.  Anyway, I'll talk to you when we get first contact.

7:00  The sun has just risen over Fatipur Sikri- things are looking good for the eclipse, the skies are very clear.  Loads of birds flying around.  I didn't realise, but not only have the Japanese occupied the centre of the courtyard, they've got two armed guards who are refusing entry to anybody who isn't Japanese.  Well .... makes you wonder what we won the war for...

7:27  and we've just had first contact - just a tiny little nibble out of the top of the sun. We had a confrontation with the Japanese - a party led by John Mason [tour leader] went and talked to the Japanese tour leader and the Indian guards - it was very exciting, lots of angry words shouted; and the upshot is - they're still down in the courtyard and we're up here on the balustrades.  See if we care...

7:37  and the eclipse is about 5-10% total.  We're all getting ourselves ready.  The shadows are fuzzy, the air's clear, the birds are still tweeting around.

It's 7:45 and we're about 15-20% total.   I just tried taking a slide of the projection of the sun through binoculars.  I'm not sure how successful this is going to be. It was hard work getting the binoculars, the paper and the camera all focused in the right manner, so we'll see how the slide goes.  Explorer tours, who organised this expedition, have provided us with little Mylar filters, which are pretty good.   It took me rather longer than I should have done to figure out how to use them - it's a bit like 3-D stereograms, once you've got it, you've got it.   With them we can view the sun, and the line creeping across it, in complete safety.  I've also got some Mylar myself, which was left with me by someone who I've now lost - what a pity! - so I may well try taping just a little bit of it across the front of the camera so that I can take a picture of the partial stage, which is not something I expected to do when I first came here.

It's now 1 minute past 8 and I reckon it's 33 minutes to the start of the eclipse, and the sun is going on for about 20-30% eclipsed.  I've just tried taking a picture with Mylar strapped across the front of the camera - it was at f/8 for l/30th of a second exposure.  I've no idea if that will work - we'll see when it comes back from the developers.  The weather is absolutely glorious, there's not a cloud in the sky, and looking around me at this very moment, perhaps only a smidgen of haze.  We've been worrying about the haze; for the last few days we've been in cities, Jaipur and Delhi, and there the haze is rather worse than it is here.  I would say that you couldn't really get much better conditions....  There's a tower behind where we are.  There's some people perched very precariously on the top. I'm glad it's them and not me; if there's one false step in the excitement of the eclipse they're going to fall a long way down.

It's now 8:15  We're just under 50% total.  I've just borrowed the telescopic lens off my next door neighbour; it's 300mm focus and .....(unintelligible)..... l/8th, l/15th, l/30th and l/60th of a second.  As I say, it's getting cooler now, noticeably.  Still the birds are going round, perhaps a little bit more activity.  One thing I forgot to mention - we have a small hippy colony who came here last night, or maybe ten years ago, or whatever. They're traipsing round happily, taking it all in - good on 'em!

It's now 8:21 and I'd say the eclipse was about 80% total, and we've got about 12 minutes to go until full totality itself.  I've just taken two more snaps with the Mylar on my own lens, 200mm focal length, aperture f/8 with exposures I/125th and 1/60.   Like I say. it's definitely getting cooler, and the birds tend to be flitting around rather more at the moment, and the shadows - I can't really see them sharpening up.  It doesn't feel like sunset, because it's not reds - it's not like, "red sky at night, shepherd's delight" or whatever; it's a cool white light because the sun is still in the sky.  Just before the eclipse I'm going to turn round and look at the oncoming shadow.   I'll already have set up for one exposure, to be taken at f/8 for l/60th of a second, which hopefully will give a good shot of the outer corona.

8:23   The shadows are sharpening up.  I've got some scissors which I'm holding up to a piece of paper.  When held horizontal it's a nice sharp shadow, but if you turn them to the vertical, it becomes all fuzzy on the edges - that's because of course, the last bit of the sun is now more or less horizontal.

8:26  7 minutes to go.  It is definitely much colder, much darker.  The birds are all skittering around, they're not quite sure what to do.  We reckon that we might just see shadow bands at this eclipse - if they're going to be anywhere they're going to sweep across the Japanese in front of their telescopes and things in the green of the courtyard.  This is getting very exciting.

8:27  The darkening continues.  The shadows are getting much sharper in direction - I'm taking a shadow projection of my hand at the moment, very fuzzy in the vertical, very sharp in the horizontal.  Everybody's nervously checking the sun - it must be about 90-95% eclipsed, it's getting very cool and we're all waiting for 8:34 and the total eclipse.

8:29  and the birds have quietened down, and ... [unintelligible] ...  I'm looking at the sky through my Mylar; it's about 95%, there's very little left of the sun.  Very quiet, very calm.   Everybody is rather excited, I'm trying to remain calm, if I can....  I've just had a glance at the sun just with my naked eye; it's obvious something is wrong.  It's much better to look at it through the Mylar, you can get a very clear idea of what's going on.  If you take a sideways glance with the naked eye it's pretty obvious that something is going to happen pretty shortly.

It's now 8:30 3 minutes to go.... [unintelligible]

It's now just after 8:31.  I'm going to leave the tape recorder on for the next 5 minutes or so.  I'll just leave it around; if you can pick up what I'm saying, good; if you can't, tough! 3 or 4 percent left to go.  Very dark, still some birds in the sky. I shall start looking for the shadow of the moon over there in a moment or two.  Got my camera ready to take a picture, got my binoculars ready to examine the sky when things start happening.   My word ..........

(25 second pause)
Everyone's getting ready - still no sign of the shadow of the moon, still no sign of any shadow bands.  Can't see anything like that.  Still birds flying around.  It is very cold.  Just watching...  Those last few seconds ... 13 seconds to 8:33, it's getting darker still.  Very crisp shadows, no signs of the moon's shadow.  Last few percent ...

(10 second pause)
It's getting darker and darker and darker and darker.  The crescent is only a small percentage, perhaps only a quarter of the limb of the moon is now visible, it's shrinking and shrinking.  Are there any shadow bands? Can't see any.  Can't see the shadow of the moon.  It's very dark. the shadows are very crisp .... noticeably darker .... very awesome experience .... here comes the shadow.  I think...

See the shadow!
Here comes the shadow of the moon! Woooooooooooooooooh!.....


Oh, look at that. Corona all the way round......
Glorious .....
Mercury ....
That is glorious .....
Can't see any prominences, there was a beautiful diamond ring effect.  You can hear everyone whooping and yelling.
Prominence on the top ...
Here we go ....


There's the diamond ring...
Double diamond ring, at the top, that was glorious.
[Astonishingly calmly]  Now let's see if we can see... there's the shadow of the moon - can we see shadow bands'?....

[Excited]  That was amazing - that went past in about 3 seconds.
Any curious effects? The birds have started tweeting again - they're not quite sure what's going on, and I can't say I know, really-
Well, that was something else-

Well, that really was something, it's now 8:40, 6 minutes after the eclipse.  That was a wonderful sight.  The corona was pretty even all the way round, except one o'clock and six o'clock there were quite sharp spikes.   Not sure about prominences ... people were saying there was a prominence at about 11 o'clock ....  A quick check up to the top on the right hand side and I thought I saw Mercury for the first time in my entire life. When we came out there was a double diamond ring, as far as I could see - and going in a lovely diamond ring.  You could see the shadow of the moon, not quite as sharp as I was expecting it to be, to be honest. Still, a pretty good sight.  No shadow bands, unfortunately, I was rather looking forward to seeing them.  I've just taken a couple of shots - I might as well use up the film, I suppose. l/16th of a second, f/8 aperture.  I'll try some more shots up and down the apertures to see what happens.

8:44  using up the film.  This time I've taken a couple of slides; f/4.5 and f/11, each for l/60th of a second.
How many shots did you take?   Or did you look through your binoculars?
I took one shot and I can't even remember whether or not I checked if the sun was in shot.
Oh, you'll get it right...[unintelligible]... I touched the aperture, the speeds all over the place, one shot after another...  I got a single diamond ring, you know, first time, and then a double one...

Don't know how much of that you caught, that was our Japanese friends celebrating the end of the eclipse.
The time is now 5 past 9 - the eclipse is almost over, people are beginning to drift away.  The Japanese are packing up, the Channel 4 film crew went home - they were taking some pictures, photographing the Japanese photographing the eclipse, I think.  They stomped off, getting in the way of people who were trying to take pictures.  What a pity.eh?  There was a big bang after the eclipse - I wondered if it was Channel 4 dropping a lighting bulb, but people reckon it was the sonic boom from a jet plane which was trailing the eclipse.   Be interesting if it was - I'd have liked to have been on it.

This has been quite remarkable. Roll on 1999!

Astronomical Music Quiz II


Round 1

1     Hoist
2     Mozart
3     Beethoven
4     Debussy
5     Nielsen
6     Pluto (not discovered when the Suite was written) - and Earth!

Round 2
1     The Police - "King of Pain"
2     Abba - "Femando"
3     U2 - "The Fly"
4     Crowded House - "Distant Sun"
5     Don Maclean - "Vincent"
6     David Bowie - "Let's Dance"
7     The Jacksons - "Blame it on the Boogie"

Round 3
1     Enya
2     Midnight Oil
3     Jamiroquai
4     Jamiroquai
5     Jeff Wayne
6     Mike Oldfield

Round 4
1     Paul McCartney and Wings
2     Mike Oldfield
3     Benjamin Britten
4     They are palindromic - the music can be read back to front.
5     Leo Sayer
6     Madonna
7     The Moody Blues
8     Germany
9     ABC
10    The Rolling Stones
11    Fifth Dimension
12    Marillion. Fish is Derek William Dick

Round 5
1(a)   Lee Marvin
 (b)    Paint Your Wagon
 (c)   "Wandering Star" is the literal translation of the greek "planetes" from which we derive the word "planet".
 (d)    Clint Eastwood (as in "Make my day, punk!", NOT the Jamaican reggae singer)
2(a)   Hair!
 (b)   I might be wrong, but 1 think it's to do with the precession of the equinox into a different sign of the zodiac.
 (c)   I was hoping you'd tell me! I think there was an arts program on ITV called "Aquarius", presented by Russell Harty.
3(a)  The wonderful "Return to the Forbidden Planet"
 (b)   Surprisingly enough, "The Forbidden Planet"
 (c)   The Tempest

Round 6
1     Carl Sagan's "Cosmos"
2     The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
3     2001 - A Space Odyssey
4     The Sky at Night

The Space Shuttle
A Brief Look at the Facts

by Pam Draper

Adapted from Shuttle 3 and Space Shuttle Operators Manual.

There is no brief way to describe the Shuttle, but I've tried to be concise and to cover most aspects of a truly remarkable machine.

Overall dimensions     The Space Shuttle is 184 feet tall from its solid-rocket booster base to tip of the external tank.  It's 78 feet wide and the entire vehicle weighs 4.4 million pounds fuelled ready for launch.  Most of the structure is made from aluminium, titanium and a boron-epoxy composite material, providing lightweight strength.

External Tank    154 feet in length and made of aluminium alloys, holds in two separate tanks, 143,000 galls of Liquid Oxygen. 383,000 galls Liquid Hydrogen.  These provide fuel to the three main engines for 8½ minutes of flight after which the external tank is discarded and burns up in the atmosphere.  The external tank is coated in spray on polyurethane foam insulation.

Solid Rocket Boosters    149 feet long and re-usable.  SRB nozzles gimbal up to 6 degrees to direct the thrust and steer the shuttle.  Solid fuel consists of 16% aluminium powder, 69.83% Ammonium Perchlorate as oxidizer; 0.17% iron oxide powder as catalyst; 14% is binder and curing agent.  This provides at launch 2,650,000 pounds of thrust.

Space Shuttle Main Engines    The three main engines give a rated thrust of 375,000 pounds.  This can be varied from 65% to 109% of rated value.  Mixture ratio for final combustion of oxygen to hydrogen is 6 to 1, fed through feed lines from the external tank.

Hydraulics    Powered by 3 auxiliary power units using Monomethyl Hydrazine as fuel, they move the main engines during ascent and adjust the orbiters control surfaces during descent.  Also deploys landing gear.

Electrical Systems    Fuel cells chemical combine oxygen and hydrogen to produce electricity, the by product is water.  About 7 pounds is produce every hour and stored in tanks.  Excess is dumped overboard where it turns back into a gas.

Computers    There are 5.  They handle all data-processing and can operate independently or together.  They check on each other and translate signals to and from the orbiters systems and sensors.  They operate displays to show what's happening.  There are sequence program codes for each mission phase that tells the computer to take over operations.

Air    Cryogenic liquid oxygen and nitrogen tanks supply air to keep cabin pressure at 14.7psi. Lithium Hydroxide canisters remove odours and carbon dioxide build up, each canister is changed once every 12 hours.  

Manoeuvring in Space    Orbital Manoeuvring System (OMS).  These jets or burns are used for major manoeuvres and can last for 2 or 3 minutes.  Monomethyl Hydrazine (fuel) and Nitrogen Tetroxide (oxidizer) power each OMS engine to produce 6,000 lbs thrust.  They are housed in two pods on the orbiters aft end. The Reaction Control System (RCS) 38 Primary thrusters producing 870 lbs each and 6 vernier (smaller) thrusters at 25 lbs each are used for more precise manoeuvres.  They are on the top and sides of the nose and on the aft sides of the orbiters.  Between them these engines allow for roll, pitch and yaw manoeuvres: roll (nose to tail); pitch (up & down); yaw (left & right), along the 3 major axis of the orbiter.

Communications    Headsets, built in intercoms, TV cameras, teleprinters, E-mail and information from ground is stored on the computers and other recorders conveyed by the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites in geo-stationary orbit.

Cargo Bay   15 x 60 feet.  Doors open to disperse heat from electrical systems, lined with Freon radiators. 32 latches secure doors.  Fuel cells and oxygen and nitrogen stored below floor.

Remote Manipulator   Arm Can be manual or automatic.  It has 3 sections, shoulder, elbow & wrist. TV cameras are mounted on it and it is controlled by a hand controller at the aft cabin station.  It has a 3 wire grapple-capture feature to snare payloads. It is 50 feet long.

A Brief Run-Down of Shuttle Launch Procedures
T-6.9 sec       Computers command 3 main engines to fire
T-3.09 sec.    Thrust of the main engines reaches 90%
T-2.64 sec     Interval timer to allow for sway of the vehicle due to main engine start. SRB's ignite
T-0.0 sec       Lift off
T+5.5 sec      Tower cleared
T+7 sec         120° roll into head down position
T+14 sec       Roll complete, this lets the fuel flow from the main tank into the engines easily, arc out over the ocean
T+44 sec        Main engines throttle back to keep acceleration down to lessen stress on the vehicle due to vibration at Mach 1
T+2 min         SRB's separate, Mach 4.5, 25 miles altitude
T+8.38 min    Main engine shut off
T+8.54 min    External tank separation
T+10.39 min  OMS 1st burn to achieve low orbit, approx 45 minutes later 2nd OMS burn (¼ an orbit later) higher orbit achieved, generally 250 miles up.
L-75 min      Orbiter turned to fly tail first

Preparing for EVA   Spacesuits or extra-vehicular mobility units (EMUS).  These are manufactured in several sizes.  Inside straps adjust the fit, each suit has a 15 year life expectancy.  It consists of 3 assemblies, upper torso, lower torso (trousers), and the portable life-support system.  Upper torso is made from aluminium with a ring joint connecting arms to torso.  There are constant volume joints in the shoulders and elbows, (these resemble bellows) and allow for comfortable movement in a pressurised suit.  Life support system has enough oxygen and electric power for 7 hours, plus a 30 minute backup.   Chest mounted microcomputer displays oxygen and battery power supplies. The suit is joined at the waist by a connecting ring, snap and lock connecting rings seal on gloves.  Under the suit goes a cooling and ventilation garment woven in spandex mesh. Plastic tubing is woven into the mesh and allows cool water to circulate through the suit to remove excess body heat.   Plastic bubble helmet and visor provide protection from ultra-violet radiation and micro-meteoroids.  Briefly an EVA begins 12 hours ahead of time. Cabin pressure is 14.7psi and the spacesuit is at 4.1psi in pure oxygen, so the astronauts gradually reduce cabin pressure to 10.2psi to reduce nitrogen absorbed in bloodstream.   45 minutes before EVA pure oxygen is breathed in from a portable oxygen system, this washes the remaining nitrogen from the blood.  Suiting up takes 5 minutes within the airlock and the entry latch is then closed, suit checked and oxygen control switch on chest pack will pressurise the suit to 4psi.  Again the suit is checked for leaks.  Pressure within the airlock is further reduced to 5psi and 3 minutes later down to less than 0.2psi. The outer hatch can then be opened.

Brief Run-Down on Landing Procedures

L-60 min      De-orbit burn lasting 2-3 minutes using OMS engines

L-52 min      17,100 mph. Orbiter turned around nose first for re-entry

L-41 min      Move Orbiter aero surfaces to prepare hydraulic systems for re-entry and landing

L-40 min      Dump propellants in forward RCS system overboard.  This shifts the Orbiters balance point for re-entry.  Inflate anti-g suit

L-30 min      400,000 feet / 17,100 mph.  Atmospheric entry begins pitch nose at 28° to 38°

L-25 min      312,000 feet / 16,700 mph. Communications black out due to ionised particles enveloping Orbiter

L-20 min      230,000 feet / 15,000 mph.  Maximum heating of nose and wing edges, 1,500° centigrade

L-16 min     Orbiters aero control surfaces take over.  Start of roll reversals or S turns, to slow down Orbiter

L-5.30 min  83,000 feet (25,000m) Mach 2.5. 4th roll reversal.  Lining up for runway approach

L-0.14 sec   90 feet / 330 mph.  Landing gear deployed

L 0.0 sec    Touchdown.  Speed 215 mph, braking at 100%.  De-activate all systems and make safe.

Steve Payne's
History of Astronomy
Part 2

A continuing look at the history of astronomy, (with a bit of fun added) from the 1850's

AD 1851  Leon Foucault hung a pendulum in a church to show the Earth's rotation.  Making a hole in the bottom of a bucket, filling it with sand he could show to all his mates that in a day the running sand would scribe a circle on the floor.  Then he claimed the Earth wobbled!

AD 1862  Alvan Clark and his son spotted Sirius B while testing their new telescope.  It was a white dwarf type star which was dark.  Also in this year Foucault measured the distance from Earth to the Sun as 91 million miles.  It was a long Stanley tape measure!

AD 1863  Henry Draper produced 'Catalogue of the Stars' which listed 223,300 stars.  The basis of his book was on Annie Jump Cannon's work who maybe should be remembered for being the first astronomer with a made up name.

AD 1864  Sir William Huggins demonstrated that bright nebula such as Orion are just full of gas and later he claimed that Sirius and its White Dwarf partner are moving away from us at a rate of knots.

AD 1877  Giovanni Schiapaelli was convinced that he had seen 'Canals' on the surface of Mars.  Just think of all the trouble he caused over the past 120 years just because he wouldn't have his eyes tested.

AD 1879  George Darwin put forward the theory that the Moon was made in a day by bits flying off the Earth. Don't laugh the idea was still thought to be valid up to the 1960's.

AD 1881  Some wally with loads of lolly offered $200 to anyone who could discover a comet.  Edward Emerson Barnard went out to find 20 and was paid $3200.  It doesn't add up, but that was what he was paid.

AD 1891  Maximilian Wolf discovered the first asteroid while looking at a photograph taken the night before. He got a little closer to find another 500 of the little blighters.

AD 1892  Barnard the Great White Comet Hunter tracked down the fifth moon of Jupiter.  "Oh look, I've bagged another" he said.

AD 1905  The Theory of Relativity is advertised as the best thing since the beginning of time by Albert Einstein.  Energy is conserved he said, converted from one form to another, but never created or destroyed; E=mc²

AD 1908  Siberia was dropped on from a great height by a meteor.  Many trees were killed off in their prime and one person from the scientific community said "and that's just a small one lads..."

AD 1918  On Mount Wilson, USA the new 2.5m reflecting telescope was opened for the first time.

AD 1924  Ejnar Hertzsprung (of Hertzsprung-Russell diagram fame) suggested that a star on a photographic plate which flared up was due to an asteroid sized body falling into the star.  It was later designated as DH Carina.

AD 1925  Edwin Hubble used the 2.5 meter telescope to show that all the galaxies he looked at was going away from us using the doppler effect.

AD 1930  American Clyde Tombaugh found Pluto.  It had been waiting for such a long time to be found, it didn't even know it was lost.

AD 1931  Radio waves came from outer space Karl Jansky said.

AD 1937  The first radio telescope was built by Grote Reber.  His mother couldn't have wanted him giving him a name like that.

AD 1946  A V2 rocket took off and carried a spectrograph up to 34 miles above the Earth.  It made a change from bombing people.

AD 1948  The 5 meter Palomar Telescope is completed.

AD 1949  Fred Wipple suggested that a comet was just a dirty snowball consisting of ice and rock dust.  At the same time Icarus which was the 1566th asteroid to be found, had only a 1.1 year orbit.

AD 1955  Jodrell Bank radio telescope comes on line.

AD 1957  Sputnik goes up to become the first artificial satellite, a dog soon followed in Sputnik 2.

AD 1958  NASA was born.  It was found early on that it was to be a breach birth.  The American parents did not want to admit that the neighbours (USSR) may get a man into space or even worse, on the Moon first.  Immediately after the birth NASA went kicking around being noisy but never quite got there for some time.

AD 1959  The Russian satellite called Luna 1 became the first artificial planet when it missed the Moon and went into orbit around the sun on a permanent basis.  Later they hit the Moon with Luna 7 and even later Luna 3 photographed the far side.  They concluded that it was dark and not quite like the other side.

AD 1961  Russian Yuri Gagarin went down in history as the first man in space.  He orbited the Earth for 108 minutes.  Al Shepard also went up in Mercury 3 for 15 minutes.

AD 1962  The Russians sent a probe to Mars and lost it.  (Maybe there are Martians?)  Mariner 2 went on a trip to Venus and became the first man made item to reach another planet.  It just flew past.

AD 1963  Valantina Tereshkove Nikolayeva was the first woman in space doing 48 orbits in 78 hrs.

AD 1964  Ranger 2, an American probe took the first 4316 close up pictures of the Moon.  Most astronomers decided it wasn't made of cheese.

AD 1965  Venus was found to be spinning in the opposite direction to all the other planets.  The sun rises in the west and sets in the east.  Ed White became the first American to float in space tied to a Gemini 4, what a ride that would have been.

AD 1966  Luna 9 was famous for the first soft landing on the Moon in the Ocean of Storms, (good job it wasn't raining as it would have got rusty).  Jocelyn Bell spotted the first pulsar, CP1919.  Her boss took the credit and collected half a Nobel Prize.  America's Surveyor 2 dug a little trench on the Moon and sent pretty pictures back to Earth.  It told us that it was sitting on Earth like soil so it should be OK to walk on (its a good job they were right).

AD 1967  Pulsars are discovered on the very edge of the visible universe.  Mean while Venera 4 smelt the atmosphere of Venus, caused a bit of a stink I hear.

AD 1968  Bill Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell achieved the impossible and orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve and came back.

AD 1969  Musical chairs were played by two crews of Soyuz 4 and 5, they meet up, swapped crews then came down again.  What a waste of time. "The Eagle has landed" and "That's one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind" was spoken from the surface of the Moon by Neil Armstrong.  The USA had beaten the Ruskies to the Moon.

AD 1970  The soft landing on Venus by Venera 7, it was the first space craft to land and send data home as well.  Data has since become Science Officer on the star ship Enterprise.  On the 13th day during the 13th hour Apollo 13 took off into the history books, for Lovell, Swigert and Haze it was a ride they will never forget and they almost didn't come home for Xmas.

AD 1971  Alan Shepard went to the Moon for a drive in his new car the Lunar Rover, he picked up 98 pounds of rocks he found up there which was shared around when he came back.

AD 1972  Pioneer 10 charged along into the record books to be the first probe to leave the solar system.  It's still going today.  Apollo 16 visited the Descartes Highlands on the Moon and set up the first Lunar Observatory.  Apollo 17 makes the final visit to the Moon for now.

AD 1973  America launch the first of three Skylab pieces via the Saturn 3 rocket.  Three crews visited and it came down to earth over western Australia in 1979.  Pioneer 10 also made a fly past of Jupiter and sent some great postcards back.

AD 1974  Saturn is Photographed by Pioneer 11 as it zoomed past.  In Puerto Rico the Arecibo radio telescope sent a message to the M13 star cluster in Hercules.  It basically said "Here we are, send a calling card if you can hear us.  We live in this part of the sky [post code was not included]. We look like this and we are this big and are made up of mostly carbon."  The only problem is that it will take 50,000 years to get there and if an alien life form misses it there was no repeat message sent.  What a total waste of time.

AD 1978  Pluto turned out to have a moon, one third the size and at -230°K.  That's pretty cold for a moon called Charon.

AD 1979  Voyager 1 skimmed past Io, Jupiter's inner-most moon.  Its not the most innermost moon, but it's the innermost of the larger moons as seen from Earth if you see what I mean!

AD 1981  First flight of the STS-1 Columbia Space Shuttle was tested by Young and Crippen.


An Astro Beginner's Year
By Ian Jenks

As a recent recruit to the Coventry and Warwickshire Astronomy Society, and a late comer to the ranks of the Astrophile, my reflections on a year or so of my new found passion may be of interest to one or two other members. I grew up in a village in Ulster with few enough street lamps, and those few went out as soon as all God fearing Ulstermen were in their beds, so I was used to dark skies, and can recall the wonder of gazing up at the heavens. At that time my interest went little further. My sister had a copy of the Observer's Book of Astronomy, but I learned no more than a handful of the main constellations. At school we were treated to a showing of the first moon walk - a truly exciting event, but terrestrial TV pictures were pretty poor at that time. My memory is of being told what we were looking at and trying to convince myself I could tell that Neil Armstrong had just stepped off the Lunar Excursion Module ladder.
After twenty five years with other pursuits predominant my interest in astronomy and space exploration was awakened last summer by coverage of the Jupiter comet impact and the twenty fifth anniversary of the first Apollo landing. Out came the Observer's Book (somehow my sister's copy had found it's way into my library!) and with the aid of a copy of Astronomy Now and a pair of 8 x 40 binoculars I began to learn my way around the heavens. I began observing last summer, with Vega directly overhead, so Lyra became my first new constellation. Around the same time I was avidly devouring all the library books I could find on the Apollo programme, and was fascinated to read that Vega was one of the stars used by Jim Lovell and his crew to check the course of Apollo 13 as they returned in their crippled craft from the moon. With this interest and it's sheer crystal beauty Vega has found a permanent place in my heart that will be touched on any clear summer night for years to come.
As the seasons have progressed I have taken what opportunity I could to learn the rest of the sky. There are still many gaps and this is a real fascination for me - how many years will it take to achieve real confidence in naming even the key Ptolemaic constellations? My success in acquiring deep sky objects has been very slow, with only binoculars at my disposal. The Great Spiral in Andromeda was the first - visible clearly in my binoculars from my Earlsdon garden, and just perceptible on occasion with the naked eye. The globular cluster in Hercules was next. I then made little further progress, until I took my wife and two young children along to the star party at Stratford - not a great success as a star party, but the children enjoyed running around the field in the dark. Before the clouds came over Vaughan showed us the Beehive cluster in Cancer through his rich field telescope. I am delighted to say that I was subsequently able to find this with my binoculars and have to admit that previously I couldn't honestly claim to be able to find Cancer with any reliability. No doubt this is a common experience, but for me this is one of the greatest pleasures of my new found interest - not just learning about the sky, but doing so as an ongoing learning process and being able to tie in an object with some event or person.
My planet spotting has been fairly successful - Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were all readily identified, but in binoculars only I saw them as little more than a small disc, except perhaps Saturn which did look distinctly odd. The morning appearance of Jupiter and Venus early this year was particularly breathtaking, and for a period of a few weeks was a regular sight on my way from the car park to the office - one of the few benefits of an eight o'clock start! My next success was Mercury - following advice from Astronomy Now I started the search in May, initially with depressing results. Near the Pleiades, the magazine said - unfortunately the weather was hot (remember those balmy days of summer!) and still and the air quality very poor giving a deep layer of murk at the horizon. I couldn't see Aldebaran let alone the Pleiades! Then the wind came, and blew away all the muck for a few days.
Having almost given up, as the magazine said we were now past the most favourable opposition, I went out one evening at just the right time to see a remarkably bright object in a narrow gap between my neighbour's house and some tall trees. Could it be Mercury? Out with the binoculars, out with the magazine, out with the star charts! By the time it had set I was still not sure. I certainly could see no convincing disc with my binoculars, but it just seemed to be too bright to be anything else. My experience of judging magnitudes is very limited, and against a rapidly changing twilight it seems very difficult - Capella looked about the same brightness, but against a darker background. However the weather was kind and on two or three subsequent evenings the horizon was again clear, so I was able to confirm the observation and detect some movement relative to Auriga.
While learning the sky with the aid of my binoculars I had been hankering after a telescope - reading up and seeking advice when possible and keeping my eyes on the small ads in the local papers and the astronomy journals.
Then, on the very same day that I joined the crew who humped the Cooke refractor down the stairs at the Tech (but that's another story!), I popped into the paper shop next to Fishy Moore's on the way home with the fish suppers, and found that Astronomy Now was indeed in. At seven o'clock I was reading the ads while devouring my haddock and by eight o'clock I was in Solihull and about to become the proud owner of a Russian Tal 110mm reflector. Inevitably there followed five nights of impenetrable overcast, but a few clear evenings followed and I am now engaged on learning a whole new aspect to finding my way around the sky - thinking upside down and in Polar co-ordinates just doesn't seem to come naturally!
My telescopic explorations have been fairly limited so far, but the Moon and Jupiter have been the highlights. The Moon is just stunning - and I can't wait to see what it looks like through the Cooke, while Jupiter is just the most lovely sight I can imagine right now. I can now see the Galilean moons through my binoculars, whereas before I had no inkling of what they looked like so they made no impact. The view I now have of Jupiter is no doubt very poor compared to the telescopes that many of you have, but I now have a clear image in my mind of what it will look like for the first astronauts as they approach Jupiter prior to going into orbit to explore Io! I am currently hoping to get a sighting of Neptune and Uranus and also to have another look at Saturn, this time through my own telescope. I do need to maintain domestic harmony, however, and three o'clock in the morning is normally a time for sleep in our household. Nocturnal trips to the bathroom which end up lasting half an hour or more tend to attract comment, however I remain hopeful. If I fail to see them this time there is always the next favourable opposition, or the next - after a year it seems like I have an interest for the rest of my life.