Bulletin – April 2018

Society News

The main news is that after 10 successful years, the tenure of our observatory site near Rufforth is coming to an end and we need to find an alternative location.

The society has recently been awarded charitable status, and we are hoping that this move, though challenging, will provide the perfect opportunity for us to grow and offer the public improved access to and facilities at our observatory.

The society has shortlisted alternative sites for consideration but would welcome any suggestions or offers from anyone with a parcel of land onto which we could place our portable observatory. What is needed is a dark sky site that could allow access by invited members of the public, with good views in primarily the arc from east through south to west and not too far from York.

If you think you may be able to help, please contact Derek Farmer, the society secretary by email at info@yorkastro.org.uk

Last month’s Society Events – March

March 2nd

Priory Street meeting. Martin Whipp gave an interesting and well-illustrated talk, “Reverse Through the Universe Part 1”, in which he began with a view of the inside the human eye and progressed in jumps of x10 outwards, each view encompassing an area 10 x 10 times larger than the one before. This talk took us to the edge of the solar system, with many interesting stops on the way. We look forward to Martin’s “Part 2” talk in April.

March 16th

Priory Street meeting at which Paul Money presented a view of the cosmos from the point of view of our home city, York, and explained what we observers can expect to see, along with a few local historical references. One thing’s for sure – you will never fall asleep during one of Paul’s exhilarating talks!

March 22nd

Public star party on the Knavesmire. Some interest from the public, who brought their telescopes for help and advice. The moon was well seen through gaps in the clouds.

Coming Up in April

April 6th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. Martin Whipp F.R.A.S. our chairman, will deliver the second of his two talks, “Reverse Through the Universe Part 2”. If it’s anything like his April talk, it’s one not to be missed. The public are welcome to attend. Meeting starts at 8 pm; doors open 7:30 pm. Click here for directions.

April 14th (Saturday)

Society trip to the Mullard Radio Astronomy Centre in Cambridge. This may now be fully booked. To check, contact Derek on info@yorkastro.org.uk

April 19th (Thursday)

Public star party on York Knavesmire. Click here for directions. Society members will be there from about 7:45 pm. Sunset is at 8:15 pm, after which Venus and the Moon will be ideally placed for observation.

April 20th (Friday)

Priory Street meeting. ***


US Group Detect Evidence of Alien Life

Researchers from Louisiana’s Lower Bayou Community College (LBCC) have used their time on the French Federation Astronomique (FA) space research group’s Kuiperbelt Explorer telescope (KE) in solar orbit at the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point L5 – to make a remarkable discovery.

The LBCC group, led by Professor Jed Knight, were awarded remote access time on the FA telescope after winning a competition to devise innovative ways of using space telescopes. Instead of using the telescope’s unrivalled imaging capabilities for its intended use – detecting Earth threatening Kuiper belt objects – Professor Knight’s team decided to examine our nearest exoplanet, Proxima b. Since its discovery in 2016, the planet has been the subject of much speculation as it is in the habitable zone round our nearest star, Proxima Centauri and is only 4.25 light years away.

Professor Knight (who prefers to be called by his middle name, Ian) explained.

“My 2nd year students wanted to do some original research so programmed the KE telescope to focus on Proxima b and perform photometric and spectroscopic analysis of its light. To our utter astonishment, after final alignment tests were completed, we detected a series of light signals coming from the planet. These were in the form of long (L) and short (S) pulses separated by pauses (P), the pattern being


This pattern was repeated about four or five times on three successive nights. Spectroscopic analysis showed the light to be close to a wavelength of 589 nm, corresponding to the Sodium D line in the spectrum. No known natural phenomena can explain the pattern and no natural process on a temperate planet exists that produces that pure Sodium D emission spectral line.

We reported this to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The IAU have not yet replied to our email but SETI have. They came up with the only plausible explanation given the light-gathering ability of the KE telescope. They replied, and I quote:

This is the most important discovery in the history of mankind and proves we are not alone. The only way the KE telescope could have detected the signal from such a distant planet is that Proxima b has planet-wide low pressure sodium artificial lights and that all those lights were turned on and off simultaneously in an attempt to communicate. It is also not unreasonable for sodium lights to be used by the inhabitants of a planet circling a cool M6 star, as their eyes will have evolved to be most sensitive to light much nearer the red end of the spectrum than the sun. Further, computer analysis of the signal has shown that it is actually Morse code, and reads, “HELLO”. This in turn means that the Centaurians have been monitoring our radio transmissions and can now speak English.

Professor Knight’s final comment was, “This discovery has really put LBCC on the map, and will doubtless increase our student intake and revenue. That will enable us to buy more time on the FAKE telescope to look for further signals”.

SETI emailed the White House, who contacted President Trump immediately during a National Rifle Association (NRA) dinner at Gun Barrel City TX, at which he was the guest speaker. Although he was only part way through the rattlesnake hors-d’oeuvre, he immediately tweeted:

“We want nothing to do with these Centaurians. It’s obvious that they’re way behind us technically because we started replacing sodium street lights with LEDs years ago. And if they think they can come here and flood us with cheap alien imports, they can go screw themselves.”

“We are going to build a space wall, and who’s going to pay for that wall? The Centaurians.”

Later that day, the National Crime Agency arrested a 17-year old “moral crusader” member of a hacking collective working out of his bedroom in Swaffham when he copied the following email onto Facebook then contacted the White House to ask how much they would pay to find out how he hacked it. The email reads:

Date: April 1 2018

From: donaldt@whitehouse.org

To: vladimirp@newkremlin.ru

Subject: Centaurian Invasion


Hi Vladso,

Donald here. I hope you and Alina are well. Melania and I often think about you. We’re still eating the beluga caviar you sent us at Christmas.

Can we meet up some time to discuss the Space Wall? If you could do the eastern hemisphere, we’ll nail it in the west. Fair enoughski?

Ever your friend,


P.S. Thanks a bunch for the leg up last year by the way. Much appreciated.


It has just come to our notice that the group at LBCC made a couple of minor errors.

Firstly, the measurement of 589 nm was provided by a freshman who later admitted to having thrown the spectrometer at a fellow student for calling his girlfriend a tub of lard. The instrument became misaligned and the correct wavelength was actually 532 nm. This wavelength is emitted by green laser pointers.

Secondly, due to the Americans setting the telescope using imperial rather than metric units, it was actually pointing back at the Earth, bringing it within detection range of any 5mW laser pointed directly at it.

A 12-year-old boy, Chuck Eagleburger, from Tucson has now admitted to pointing his amateur astronomer father’s green laser towards Lagrange Point L5. When asked why, he replied, “If extra-terrestrials are going to come here, they’ll park up at the Lagrange points and study us before revealing themselves. Pop told me where the L5 point was and I’ve just learnt Morse so thought I’d give it a go. Sorry.”

That lad will go far once he comes out of the State Penitentiary.

Professor Jed I Knight was last seen boarding a flight to Kathmandu. Colleagues believe he may be heading for a Tibetan Buddhist retreat.

And remember, if your laser is becoming a pain in the ass, don’t carry it around in your back pocket!

Happy viewing from the YAS.


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