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Introduction to the first issue of Universe, June 1964


 Introduction by Andrew James

June 2014

 We’re so concerned with the idea of what we ought to be that we fail to take into account the things that make us who we really are.

 - Nenia Campbell “Locked and Loaded” (2013)

The first edition of ‘Universe’, as it first appeared under that title in June 1964, is now available as a PDF file on the ASNSW website here and has many interesting things within it that relate to the ASNSWI today. It also has some interesting biographies related to the election of the Committee in 1964, which do not appear elsewhere.

First of note is that, contrary to the new title, the text pages by the then editor, Gordon E. Patston, read “The Bulletin of the Astronomical Society of New South Wales”, even though the Committee had already decided to rename the Journal. I think that Gordon might have been against the proposal, but it is more likely that he had the stencils already typed, and just used these sheets for necessity.

More notable is the first article by Dr. O.B. Slee entitled “Stellar Associations and Flare Star Observations.” This was an important paper, because our Society was beginning to be involved with the CSIRO to undertake an observational programme of the variable stars known as flare stars, which exist within groups of newborn stars known as T-Associations.

Related T-Tauri variables typically vary by 0.5 to 1.0 magnitudes, though in some unusual cases, the variations may be as high as four magnitudes over days or months. Some of these observed flare stars suddenly brighten in seconds to minutes by several magnitudes before returning to normal brightness. Examples of this class include T Tauri, RW Aurigae, T and YY Orionis, and Proxima Centauri is also a flare star. Such brightening is observable in radio and visual wavelengths and, in 1964, they needed observations to understand the causes of the flares. On p6 is another summary article on “Flare Stars”, which is interesting, especially with the question on the possibility of determining the variations in the velocity of light for different forms of electromagnetic radiation. (We know today there are no such variations, but they didn’t in 1964.)

To encourage this observational programme, an article appeared in Sky & Telescope: Slee, O., Higgins, C.S., Patston, G.E., “Visual and Radio Observations of Flare Stars” (S&T., 25, 83 [Feb.] (1963)). At the June 1964 meeting, flare stars were explained to the membership. The finished results of these observations were later published in Nature: Slee & Higgins “Radio Emission from Flare Stars near the Orion Nebula”, (Nature., 224, pg.1087 (1969).

Importantly to us, because of their faintness, observing flare stars required large apertures. We see on p5 discussion of the creation of a 16-inch telescope. This was the instrument used in this programme, but these optics eventually became our 16-inch telescope housed at Bowen Mount, including the original mirror holder. (Mark Suchting later refigured the mirror.) 

The rest of the 1964 Journal is devoted to the AGM, held on 3rd July 1964, and the Election of Officers. The rules of the election are described (p8) and the Nominations appear on p9. Remarkably, most here were my mentors when I was young, and others I have meet or been helped by.

Most interesting are the lovely biographical pieces (pp11-17). For me, the best are William Moser, a person of considerable brilliance and capability, running for Secretary. He often dedicated much effort to my interest in double stars between 1972 and 1979, and was an inspiration to many others. His most famous observation was of Jupiter’s moon, Io, occulting the 2nd magnitude double star, Beta Scorpii, on 14th May 1971. He some of his own calculations and reduced his own observations. The maths alone was pretty nightmarish! (See summary of this event: Parts 1, 2 & 3.)

Another is our dear Edward (Ted) Lumley, who contributed much to the ASNSW over fifty years, and who passed away in late September 2005. Ted never really talked about himself, being very quiet and reserved. Here we do see a rare glimpse of him (p16). We see his humour, later seen in his regular joke each February, March or April during the Observations Officer report at each meeting where he’d call Betelgeuse “beetle-juice” for a bit of a giggle. Ted also describes his early years building telescopes and starting observations; and all dating back to July 1923. This shows his amazing interest more than forty years before he wrote his submission. Yet, when he was alive, I remember having conversations about these times. I remember him talking about the famous 1922 eclipse in northern New South Wales, and that being what first got him interested in astronomy, hence it slightly predates what he says here. He also told me of his family and the early days at school and work. Sadly for us we still know very little of these days, and these hints from 1964 make these words for me more precious than gold. As Adrian Saw said, announcing his passing: “We won’t see the likes of Ted again.”

In the end, this Journal is how our Society was fifty years ago. To me it is a wonderful example of what can be achieved and shows how much the observations that amateur astronomers made were important to them. Moreover, this shows absolute value of having a Journal for amateur groups like ours. Please enjoy, and I look forward to reading your feedback!! 

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