Astronomers of the Future Club - January 2019 Meeting Report

by Duncan Lunan - 13:52 on 07 February 2019


Astronomers of the Future Club - January 2019 Meeting Report

by Duncan Lunan


Picture credit:  Chris O'Kane

At the meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club in Troon, on Thursday January31st 2019, the guest speaker was Nick Martin, of the Ayrshire Astronomical Society, talking about “Comets”. There are several comets in the night sky at present, though all are below naked-eye visibility.


Nick began by identifying the structural features of comets: the extensive coma or head composed of gases given off from the tiny nucleus of rock and ice within, the blue ‘ion tail’ of gases, and the white dust tail, both of them driven off by sunlight pressure and always pointing away from the Sun. The particles of the curving dust tail spread along the comet’s orbit and give rise to meteor showers when the Earth crosses their path. The distinctive green colour of many comae is due to carbon molecules formed from carbon dioxide under the influence of sunlight.


Nick went on to show images of the Rosetta space probe mission to Comet 67-P and the discovery that gases are emitted as jets from deep holes in the comet nucleus, before looking back at the most recent ‘Great Comet’ of 2007, discovered by Robert McNaught from Prestwick, and before that Comet Hale-Bopp in 1996, with the largest nucleus of any naked-eye comet to date, last seen in 2230 BC during the reign of the pharaoh Pepi II.


After showing a variety of comet drawings and photographs from history and from the recent past, Nick discussed the origin of comets in the early Solar System and their current locations in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud, before finishing with drawings and photographs of his own.


The next meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club will be on Thursday February 28th, from 19:15 to 21:00 hrs at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. The speaker will be Dr. Neil McDonnell of Glasgow University, speaking about ‘Why Philosophy Matters to Safety Engineers’, with particular reference to the University’s Ph.D. student project on safety aspects of sending people back to the Moon, commissioned by NASA – see Tony Diver, ‘One Giant Step for Ph.D. Student to Help NASA Build New Moon Base’, The National, November 27th 2018. For more details contact Duncan Lunan on 07986-065437 or see the AOTF Club web page (http://www.actascio.org/aotfclub.asp).


Details of Duncan Lunan’s recent books can be found on his website, www.duncanlunan.com.



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