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Andrew Trimble Memorial Lecture, 2nd February 2004
With Neil Bone from Astronomy Now


Nearly 70 people attended the annual Andrew Trimble Memorial Lecture which this year was delivered by Mr Neil Bone, Meteor Section Director of the British Astronomical Association and Contributing Consultant to "Astronomy Now" magazine. The topic of his lecture was "The Leonid Meteors". Also in attendance was Alderman Paul Girvan MLA, Mayor of Newtownabbey, as well as close members of Mr Trimble's family.

Every November, the Earth passes through the trail of debris created by Comet Temple-Tuttle, producing the Leonid meteor shower. He also gave run down on the history of the Leonid shower going back hundreds of years.

During his talk Neil Bone gave details of how the Leonids emanate from the trail of CometTemple-Tuttle which swings past the Sun every 33.2 years, and during each close approach it emits a dense stream of dust and small particles. Over time, these dust trails extend along the whole length of the comet's orbit, but the trails remain very narrow and concentrated in space taking hundreds of years to spread out. Every year, between 15th and 20th November, the Earth meets a broad stream of ancient debris, leading to an annual meteor shower visible in the early morning hours towards the Northeast after midnight between these dates. The cometary dust particles move in very similar orbits and the resulting meteor shower appears to radiate from a point in the constellation of Leo, hence the term Leonids. Comet Temple-Tuttle revolves around the Sun in the opposite direction to the Earth, so when the Earth encounters the trails of particles, they enter the atmosphere at very high speeds, about 160,000 miles per hour. Most of the dust grains are very small, and vaporise in the first few seconds at heights of more than 60 miles. Predictions of meteor storm activity was for many years a rather uncertain science, but techniques developed by Dr David Asher of Armagh Observatory and Rob McNaught of the Anglo-Australian Observatory over recent years have enabled storms to be forecast accurately to within minutes. Neil also showed how easy it is to observe meteors by using only a deckchair, clippyboard and pencils, not forgetting the flask of hot tea!

At the close of the meeting a vote of thanks was given to the speaker by Society spokesperson Mr Walter Martin, and a presentation of a specially commissioned engraved Tyrone Crystal paperweight was made by the Mayor of Newtownabbey following his closing address.

Also at the meeting was the Society's youngest member, 10 year old Christopher Gault from Larne Co.Antrim, who has followed the example of the Stronge brothers and tried some astrophotography by hand holding a didital camera to the eyepeice of his NexStar 114mm reflector, nothing like starting out young!

For more information please contact the Club Chairman, John McConnell via:

 

Neil Bone Short Bio

Neil Bone is based in Chichester, West Sussex. He was born in Campbeltown, just across the Irish Sea from Antrim. A keen amateur astronomer from the age of about seven, he has been observing the sky for over 30 years. Among his interests are meteors, aurorae and variable stars. He has been Director of the BAA Meteor Section since 1991, overseeing the observing programme through the excitement of the recent Leonid storm years. Neil has written for Astronomy Now since its second issue in 1987, and is now a Contributing Consultant to the magazine.

He has also written several books including Meteors (1993), The Aurora (1996) and Mars Observer's Guide (2003) and contributed to several others, among them Philips Astronomy Encyclopedia, Norton's Star Atlas (19th Edition) and the Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy. Neil is a frequent lecturer to local societies around Britain, but this was his first visit to East Antrim AS.

 

 

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