On Monday afternoon Lynnette and I set off for the Durbanville Public Library where I had been invited by Ari van Dongen to give a talk titled “Women in Astronomy”. Ari, Tony Jones, Lynnette and I were there nice and early so that we had enough time to set op projectors and make sure the laptops were all talking to the respective projectors.
Tony was first up and ran through a comprehensive “What’s up” for those who were interested in finding currently visible celestial objects.
I followed Tony and thought my talk went off fairly well. I did get the impression that one or two of the male members of the audience might have been a tad uncomfortable though.
After my talk, Lynnette and I had to leave as we had matters to related to our National Science Week grant proposal to finalize. This meant that we, unfortunately, missed Ari’s video.
The next meeting is on the 25th of April and Ari has invited me to give my talk on the geology of the Western Cape titled “Once upon a time when the Western Cape was much younger. The tale of why everything isn’t just flat or all the same all over the place.”
The Carina Nebula is about 7500 light-years away in the direction of the Carina constellation. Carina was originally part of a very large constellation Argo Nevis but Nicolas de Lacaille divided it into three new constellations in 1763, Carina (the keel), Puppis (the poop deck) and Vela (the ship’s sails). It is also known as NGC 3372 and was discovered in 1751 by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille while observing from the Cape of Good Hope. It is a colossal emission nebula about 300 light-years wide that contains extensive star-forming regions. A very interesting object in the Carina Nebula is the Homunculus Nebula which is a planetary nebula that is being ejected by a luminous blue variable star, Eta Carinae (shorthand ? Carinae or ? Car). This star is one of the most massive stars known and has reached the theoretical upper limit for the mass of a star and is therefore unstable. The instability results in periodic outbursts during which it brightens and then fades again. During one such outburst between the 11th and the 14th of March 1843, it became the second brightest star in the sky but then faded away. Around 1940 it began to brighten again, eventually peaking in 2014 but not achieving nearly the levels of brightness seen in 1843.
Leslie Rose is one of the regulars who attend the Southern Star Party and the photograph featured here, was taken by Leslie. The first SSP he attended was in March 2011 when Leslie had neither telescope nor camera!