Sydney City Skywatchers

Sydney City Skywatchers is a friendly astronomy group for locals
Meetings: 6:30pm till about 8:30pm, first Monday of the month at Sydney Observatory.
Founded in 1895, this is the second oldest operating astronomical group in Australia. We encourage new members and no experience is necessary!  The group provides an opportunity for those interested in astronomy to share and broaden their interest in the sky. People at all levels are catered for – from beginners to serious amateur astronomers. Whether you want to listen to a lecture, present your own findings or discuss serious observing through a telescope, this is the club for you. Meetings are held on the first Monday of most months and usually begin with a guest speaker, followed by brief reports on solar activity and other astronomical observations made during the month by club members. Some meetings are dedicated to telescope viewing. There is a charge to cover the cost of a light supper – $2 for members; $5 for non-members. Bookings are not required. Meetings conclude around 8:30pm.

Annual membership is $40 for lots of great benefits ($65 for family membership).Non-members are welcome to attend two meetings before deciding whether to become a member. You can join Sydney City Skywatchers on the evening or take home a membership form.

NEXT MEETING: Monday 3 November 2014

TOPIC: Search for Water on Extra Solar Planets by Using Polarized Light by Dr Lucyna Kedziora-Chudczer, UNSW.

Skywatcher Presenter

Dr Lucyna Chudczer. Image courtesy UNSW.

Time: 6:30pm
Place: Sydney Observatory ‘Discovery Room’

Water is an essential ingredient of life on Earth. If water in liquid form is detected on any extra solar planet, this will open an exciting possibility that life similar to our own can be present there. We can detect water in gaseous form by observations of its absorption bands in optical and infrared planetary spectra. However the existence of liquid water can only be confirmed by polarimetry measurements.
Stellar light reflected from planetary surfaces and atmospheres is linearly polarised, in contrast with the typically unpolarised stellar light. Therefore polarization signal from the planet can be detected in combined, stellar and planetary light. I will describe the physical effects that could be detected with sensitive polarimeters, and ultimately to reveal the existence of liquid water on exoplanets. At the UNSW we have have built such a cutting-edge polarimeter and started testing it at the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telecope (AAT) at Siding Spring Observatory.

Our presenter: Dr Lucyna Kedziora-Chudczer is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New South Wales. After completing her PhD on the radio variability of Active Galactic Nuclei at the University of Sydney in 1999, she became the AAO/ATNF Research Fellow at the Anglo Australian Observatory studying polarization properties and monitoring the intraday variable quasars. In 2003 she moved to the University of Sydney, where she was offered a position of the Harry Messel Research Fellow, and continued her work on both the polarization of compact radio sources and properties of our local Galactic Interstellar Medium. During this time, she also taught undergraduate courses and mentored the PhD students. In 2009 she accepted a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the UNSW in the area of planetary and exo-planetary research. She is a member of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology. Her interests include the spectroscopy and polarimetry observations of exoplanets, as well as the modelling of planetary atmospheres. She is also involved in the design and construction of the High Precision Polarimetric Instrument (HIPPI) that was commissioned at the AAT telescope this year. Use this link to find out more.

OCTOBER 2014: Total Lunar Eclipse: an observing event on the night of the eclipse
SEPTEMBER 2014: What shape is the universe? A presentation by John Webb
John WebbJohn Webb leads the observational work at UNSW using high resolution spectroscopy of quasars to search for variations in the fundamental constants of Nature.

New observations are hinting at departures from standard cosmology. It is possible that the so-called “Cosmological Principle”
is only a good approximation to reality and that the universe may be more complex (and even more interesting) than previously thought.
John will summarise recent observations and describe how we might confirm (or refute) these ideas with more data from the world’s best observatories.



W. J. MacDonnell's observatory in Mosman, c 1907

From left: William John Macdonnell, Mrs Macdonnell, Nathanial Basnett and G. D Hirst in front of Macdonnell’s private observatory in Mosman, c.1907. He was a leading member of the NSW branch of the British Astronomical Association – a forerunner of the Sydney City Skywatchers.