Thursday, December 24, 2009
It is the Christmas season and time to ponder the important things of life, like Peace on Earth and good will toward Man and probably the most important of all on this night... Does Santa use a GPS or is he Old school and uses the stars to navigate by? I have come to the conclusion that St.Nick still navigates by the stars and here is why I think that ...
Number 1 on my list is battery life. Santa has just about 4 hours or so to get it all done using a GPS. That man has got to be loaded to the Gills with Magic if he can deliver all the toys all over the world in less than 4 hours. The sleigh has no battery So I am guessing it is all about the battery located inside the GPS. With those facts laid out, the GPS is looking a little thin.
The stars have been around for many billions of years. Man has navigated by them during the Day (our Sun) and at night using the North star (Polaris) or Crux (Southern Cross) way on down south. Man would then know his position on Earth and get out his trusty map and compass and the world was his. This is a tried and true method and I believe It is still used today by Father Christmas.
Gentleman his is something for the defense of our honor when lost. When my wife says :Honey just stop and ask for directions... I always say Hey Santa never asks for directions. With That I take my leave on this glorious eve. I thank you all for having a look at my Blog from time to time. I hope I have put some information in your head, provoked a thought or two and put laughter in your heart. Merry Christmas to all and a Joyous New Year full of discovery!
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wow! Now there is a question. I believe we have comets and meteors hitting our planet in the Late Heavy Bombardment(LHB) period to thank for not only our atmosphere but our oceans as well. I just read a paper published in the journal Science that pushes me a long way to believe that is the way it happened. For a long time scientists have known the whole terrestrial planet building process is unfriendly to a planet having an atmosphere like ours.
One theory suggests that our volcanoes were the cause of our atmosphere . (I had a hard time with that from the very start many years ago while in school) While Gasses absolutely do escape our volcanoes, I just never believed that they were sufficient to cause the atmosphere we have today. Dr. Greg Holland and a team of researchers took samples from Volcanic gasses and discovered a strong Meteor marker of Krypton and Xenon in the mix.
The techniques used, enabled the team to measure tiny quantities of the nonreactive volcanic trace gases Krypton and Xenon, which revealed an isotopic 'fingerprint' matching that of meteorites which is different from that of 'solar' gases. The paper goes on to say, From that we now know that the volcanic gases could not have contributed in any significant way to the Earth's atmosphere.
So there we are, left with the hundred dollar question... Where did all this air come from? The best theory for me out there suggests that meteors and comets from the LHB had a great deal to do with it. Water in large quantity and organic molecules are found in comets. The cooler clime of the Oort cloud houses the building blocks of life better than a terrestrial planet so close to the Sun.
I am being convinced that Earth's atmosphere got a jump start from comets. Do I believe that all our water came from comets no... I think through contraction the water vapor etc were out-gassed and thus there was some on the planet to begin with. I am still a chemosynthesis man but with a twist! In light of this new discovery,I would love to hear your competing theory. I believe the whole out-gassing of the mantel and crust to form our atmosphere might have to be rethought. Until next time,
Clear skies and great seeing too
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Brown dwarfs or failed stars are stars with about one eighth of the Sun's mass and just not big enough to start fusion process. They are almost impossible to detect in the visual spectrum but they show off well in the infrared.If all goes like the simulations performed at Cal-Tech then dozens of brown dwarfs should be found within 25 light years of Earth. These are important to science to answer questions about how our Universe formed in general and how star formation happens or does not happen in the case of brown dwarfs.
Very bright galaxies are also on the menu as WISE maps the entire sky. When galaxies collide, they occasionally produce large numbers of stars as dust and gasses condense. This whole process produces lots of infrared light,and WISE will be there to take it all in. It takes hundreds of millions of years for galaxies to collide, so scientists will just get to see a slice of the process. With such an all-encompassing scan, researchers hope to see thousands of dust discs condensing around stars, these corrolate to young planetary systems.
Other items to scan for will be dark asteroids. Dark asteroids present a hazard to Earth in the form of a run in.These asteroids do not reflect light very well and because of this, cannot be picked up in a telescope.There are estimated 100,000 of these Asteroids orbiting undetected. WISE will be able to see these Astro-boulders because they absorb the Sun's heat and then reflect it in the infrared.This wide-field surveyor will map where they are and then it can be determined if they are a threat to Earth.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
This week is jammed packed and stacked with great blogs so let's get right to them. First up is the closing of a Astronautical landmark after 30 years. No they did not launch rockets from there or set any records for speed or distance but astronauts did drink and hang out there at the Outpost Tavern near the Johnson Space center. Get the full story and a great one over at collectSPACE.
We are value oriented here at the Carnival of Space. The next Blog you need to read is a Twofer. It comes to us from NEXT BIG FUTURE. The talk on this blog is that we are closer all the time to getting off this third rock from the Sun and heading out into space with some very doable and need to be doable technologies in our tool box. Check it out at NEXT BIG FUTURE. and if you like that piece you will like a very good interview with Brad Edwards of Black Line Ascension. You will get the ups and downs of space elevator design right here.
Over at Cheap Astronomy the Podcast offering is all about type 1A supernovas questions, Dark Matter and if we (as a universe) just expand or do we go crunch. It is all about the critical density Man! I love theoretical stuff!
Now over at the Planetary Society we are talking Advent Calendars and these are some spectacular ones to boot. The door is swinging open to reveal the first treat of Advent and it is.... found here Hey you have got to go look.
The case for life on Mars is heating up again. Alice's astroinfo has the details. That's way up there on the potential wow meter if you ask me. Now here is another take on the life on Mars debate found oddly enough at the blog of Martian chronicles!
I love Phil Plait's blog on Bad Astronomy. In this blog It seems that the city of Denver Colorado will get the chance to vote on forming a UFO commission. I'm not kidding! Go and read this for yourself at Bad Astronomy!
Attention people we have another player in the space race and it is none other than New Zealand! Get the full story on their successful rocket launch at AArt Scope Blog. There are new photos there of the launch.
We had some late arrivals but had to include these too. Some great tips on what to look for in a scope purchase. These pearls of wisdom can be found over at Mang's Bat Page
Stuart Atkinson over at Cumbrian Sky waxes eloquently about some parallel journeys separated by 1.75 Million years. Man has left his mark. See this fascinating take at Cumbrian Sky .
Lastly we arrive at Steve's Astro corner (that sounds familiar)and it is all about where we fit in on our size in the Universe. See my blog offering here. I get that question all the time at public events. Speaking of public events, I was out on the night of the 5th of December in 22 degree F (cold!) weather showing the sky to 18 brave souls for our local park service. Is that dedicated or just dumb? Well that is it for this session so until next week,
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
You are going to find out we are pretty itty bitty in the grand scheme of things.
Let's look at the Earth first. When I am standing atop Mauna Kea,at 14,000 looking out into the distance of the Pacific Ocean, I get a good idea of how big Earth is. The Pacific Ocean fills the view for as far as the eye can see. Perhaps better of an idea is when you are standing atop Pikes peak in Colorado at 14,000 and look east and see the rolling plains stretch out forever. Turn around and look west only to see endless mountain ridges all the way to the horizon. It does tend to take ones breath away. Of course that could have been the fact I was at 14,000 feet too.
To the common Joe or Joan the earth seems pretty big but when you compare Earth to the other planets you start getting a picture that we are not quite the king of the planets. This diagram above gives one a good comparison of the inner planets of our Solar system and let's throw in Pluto just for fun. Oh yeah! Earth is sitting pretty tall in the saddle in this comparison.
Now let's compare it to the outer planets. Earth is looking kind of puny now! Jupiter dwarfs our little Earth and almost all of the other planets as well. Remember these models are all of the same scale. We are looking at all of the planets in our solar system and yes Pluto too. Easily Jupiter is large and in charge as it would seem. There is just one more "big" item to compare Jupiter to in the Solar system.
Wow! The sun is huge compared with the those dinky planets; the planets that just a image ago were large and in charge. So now the Sun is the big dog on the block? I would say yes but we are talking about a very small block.
The Sun is a main sequence yellow dwarf star. The Yerkes classification is a G2V. Go tell your teacher or your kids that. That will surely impress them.Well maybe... We seem to be throwing that word dwarf around quite a bit. That should give you a hint about how big our brethren in starland get. Let's take a look so you can get a visual reference.
Here we are comparing our Sun to some main sequence stars. Sirius is a very hot white star. The Sun is starting to look smaller and smaller Try to remember how we (the Earth) looked in comparison to the Sun. Arcturus is a giant orange star. So Arcturus is the man huh ? Not even in the ball park. As big as Arcturus is here it'll look minuscule in the next image. Are you hanging in there with the scale so far? I think it's time to show you a really big star.
|Please note that Betelgeuse is actually larger than Antares|
Until next week,
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Let me start this out with a warning to all parents. If your child believes that the world is really going to end in Dec of 2012 then do not give them a credit card!!! do not lend them yours, in fact this a perfect opportunity to say NO to what ever they ask for because after all the world is going to end so why do you need it? Needless to say my kids are firm believers that the world is not going to end in 2012 (I am not sure this is due to the reams of empirical evidence to support that position or that they just want to borrow the Card) but I better not get a huge bill in Jan of 2012. On to the debunking...
Lets hit the big one first. The Mayan calendar ends; Dec 21st is the end of the long count calendar so that means the end of the world. Bad stuff will surely happen to us all or... is it just 188.8.131.52.0 followed by 184.108.40.206.1 and so on till it reaches about 8000 AD and then it resets.This is because the caleandar is based on base 20 so each column is 0-19 so just do the math 20 days would look like 0.0.0.1.0. In Fact yes Fact there are Dates found on Mayan markers denoting celebrations in 4000 and something AD. Hmmm so someone in the Mayan nation did not get the memo that the world would have long been ended by then. There is no empirical evidence to support a disaster that will doom the world. When our Calendar turns over on Dec31 to Jan 1 does the world end? I have had a few hangovers that felt like the world ended but no it did not. Keep in mind that the Mayan Calendar also incorporates religion etc in it and every day was sponsored by a God How confusing would that be... so some scientist believe that the Mayans believed in some spiritual awakening might happen but if you ask the Mayans here right now in central America, They do not know what you are talking about. In fact they are kind of miffed that Hollywood is doing that to their culture.They still have no problem selling you a fine reproduction of a Mayan Calendar for $29.95. There is no better way (and easier way) to make money than by using fear. It is a formula that works and works quite well. with that aside and you still believe... let's look at the scenarios of Death and destruction that surely await us on that fateful date or not.
Planet X, a Comet and oh yes and now we have some kind of comet/planet now and wait almost forgot a Brown dwarf could be out there lurking. Planet X/ Sumerian Nibiru (they are not the same ) Planet X is pretty much no more as the calculations for Neptune were redone and the discrepancy in Uranus's orbit disappeared so scratch that. Nibiru, wow... This planet has a master race of folks that came down did there magic and made Humans to slave away for them they left and will be back in 2021 to wreak havoc amongst their slaves. That would make a great movie (like Star gate) but there is no basis in fact. all creatures on earth share the same basic gene structure. so I am pretty sure we originated from here. Oh yes let's chat about the brown dwarf. With all the eyes we have out there (satellites, telescopes) Something that big and that energetic (yes brown dwarfs bleed energy) our whole sky infrared surveys would have picked it up by now. not there... how about a comet We are constantly looking for comets and we can spot them pretty far out there are no indications of any comet or asteroid of planet killer size due to come close in 2012. We get a brush in 2029 then again in 2036 but at 45000 to one odds I am taking all bets for that. This can be my retirement... but again that is not 2012.
Next up is a reversal of the poles. Oh dear me No... It has happened a lot in the past but there is no pattern to suggest that it will happen in 2012 plus there will be BIG signs of it starting. ones you have a hard time missing. With the data mined so far we can expect a pole shift in about 5000-10,000 years or so but take note when these have occurred in the past no mass extinctions have occurred at the same time so I am not too worried if that does come. I will have to buy a new compass Grrr.
Let's talk about a solar flare ending our little corner of paradise. The short answer is No the long answer is, could a flare cause communication damage? Then Yes that could happen but there is no direct evidence to support a flare a (Solar flare of any type)causing mass extinction. Yes There are theories about a possible mass extinction eons ago due to a possible flare but It is a bit hard to swallow for me . To begin with our Sun is oh so stable; It just keeps going and going. In fact with Sunspot cycle 24 starting out so slow and quiet I am starting to wonder if another Maunder minimum is not a better prediction.But Our Earth is well positioned with it's ionosphere, magnetosphere and Van Allen radiation belts in place to fend off some very wicked flaresif they ever happen.
There are probably some more items up for killing off our planet but I said I would keep this short so in Short, Relax! Nothing is going to happen on Dec. 21 2012; You can bet me on it and if I am wrong by some slimmest of slim chances and the world does turn into a burned Marshmallow how would you collect ? until then guard your credit cards and...
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Radio had been telling everyone to come out to Stonelick State Park for meteor watching and star gazing. Heck you could even get a free hot beverage and cookies. What a deal! How could one pass that up? I told the wife that the skies warranted going out and taking a look. I was issued a pass for the night and off I went! I landed there with plenty of time to set up my scope and get ready for the night. Then it started. The people came and came. I know there were at least 150 to 200 people there last night. Obviously free coffee will do that for an event! The crowd had nearly twenty scopes to choose from. Big light buckets to tiny refractors were to be found at this offering.
I was struck by this kid of no more than ten or twelve. He had this tiny refractor. I believe it was an Edmund. The tripod was so spindly and shaky it seemed more of a exercise in futility than in observation but there he was looking at star after star as he did not really know what to look for. The child would sight on one and call his Mom over who would patiently take a look and say oh that's a nice one and move back for the son to locate another. That made me smile for a lot of reasons. His Mom encouraging him, his determination, and the fact that he had not set that shaky thing on fire yet! I had a gentleman come up to me and ask if I could help him with his scope and I said sure thing. It was a cheap Galileo Reflector with a nice focuser on it with a filter wheel attached. It also had a hand paddle to move the scope around. It was his dad's and he had it for about two weeks. He got it because his Dad had passed away. I showed him some tricks to get the most from that shaky mount and tripod. He was very interested in looking through my scope so we started to cruise all the eye candy available on a crisp but very hazy November night.Some folks arrived at my scope to take a look and he told them That's my scope over there pointing to his Newtonian But I am having a hard time leaving this one. That has got to make you chuckle inside.
I had such a great time showing what limited items I could show as the high cirrus did not yield except for small pockets. (sucker holes) I had opportunity to show a boy really interested in astronomy, Jupiter Uranus and Neptune. He had never seen the outer two planets before. I hope the advice I gave on new scope purchase went well for those two couples I talked to.I have done so many of these star parties I have a standing list in my head of "stuff" that makes one's jaw drop. When they came over to me I would ask them what they had seen so far then I would say Ok How about we take a look at this... I always explain what it is they are looking at so they can get a feel for the object in the eyepiece. I had many return visits by folks that night. As meteors went we did not rack up too many. 6 was the number when I left at midnight. The die hards were still there but I could see thicker cover coming so I left. It was a great night. What did you do last night?
Until next week ...
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Cleaning eyepieces is an easy and essential step to getting the most out of your scope. Eyepieces, if dirty, will provide downright ugly images. While care should be exercised to prevent scratching the coatings, the eyepieces can be cleaned for decades without problems. Most eye
pieces don't come with cleaning instructions but take heart! An eyepiece is basically the same as a quality camera lens, the same cleaning techniques can be used. I have camera lenses and
eyepieces that have received regular cleanings for nearly thirty years with great results.
Important Side Note here: I don't know the effects of these cleaning techniques on telescope mirrors or fluorite elements. Follow your manufacturer's directions for cleaning those products.
Eyepieces need more frequent cleaning than objectives because they see more People interaction and so collect fingerprints, eyelash grease, etc. It is still best to not clean an optics that are not dirty, as then there is no chance of causing any scratches. But the oils in fingerprints and eyelash grease contain acids, and all sorts of other "Stuff" can collect on the eyepieces during normal use, and it is necessary to get these materials off your eyepiece to provide the best possible views and to prevent damage to the coatings. I had a child touch my eyepiece with a used sucker Oh yeah! I was loving that !!!
I have an eyepiece cleaning kit that is very portable. It is comprised of an anti-static brush, a microfiber cloth,Q-Tips, and a small bottle of alcohol (91% or better). We want alcohol and water as the only ingredients.The alcohol is stored in a small bottle.
To start cleaning, make sure the eyepiece is free of dirt, dust and grit. (I would not go this far Look at photo!) I examine the eyepiece under a good light I carefully blow on the surface, then lightly brush the surface with the anti-static brush. Once the surface of the eyepiece is free of dust and grit, examine it for smears or streaks of oil. If there are any, lightly moisten a Q-Tip with alcohol. Starting from the center, lightly rub the Q-Tip in a circular motion from the center out, until you are at the edge of the eyepiece element. Don't use a lot of alcohol, as you don't want the alcohol to pool and run under the edge of the eyepiece lens.Once you have cleaned the lens on the eyepiece, use the dry end of the Q-Tip and mop up the alcohol on the surface. Discard this used Q-Tip. It is important to mop up the excess alcohol as if it fully evaporates, it will redeposit the oils and grease back on the lens. You can safely perform the alcohol cleaning again with a fresh Q-Tip if necessary. feel free to change out Q tips regularly
Next up, I will reexamine the eyepiece again under a bright light. Often it is impossible to get all the grease and oil off the lens without irrigating the eyepiece with alcohol. This is where the microfiber cloth comes in. If necessary, I gently polish the surface of the eyepiece with the microfiber cloth, after again examining for dust, which traps any residual oil and grease within the cloth. Once you are done cleaning, recap your eyepieces
Remember, the only thing that is going to scratch your eyepieces is dust and grit. Remove that first. Keep your anti-static brush, Q-Tips, and cleaning cloth or tissues in a dust free container so that they can't cause any scratches. Use gentle pressure with the Q-Tips and cloth. Rubbing harder won't pick up more grease. i hope this helps as You well know by Now My scope does a lot of public duty and hence needs a lot of eyepiece cleanings Until next week ...
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Before cleaning your lens off, you may ask: Just how much dust warrants cleaning your Corrector? That is a splendid question and I see you are on top of your game but the answer is simple or not so simple. Only you will know when enough is enough. Some folks are anal about dust way more than others. A small amount of dust is not going to affect your scope very much at all. The only exception to that rule is if slap on the Solar filter and take a gander at the sun . You might find a few "extra" sunspots that seem to move when the scope moves. I had a child point that out to me last weekend. So in that case you might want somewhat of a pristine lens for your solar work.
Step one in the cleaning process is getting the BIG stuff off. There are two major schools of thought here. The first school of thought is to use canned air to dislodge any particles from the corrector. I do subscribe to this method if all of the safety precautions are used. Number one the Can-O-Air must be for optical surfaces and not for electronics etc... You do not know if the propellant in the electronic cleaner might just "clean" your coatings right off the lens which you might have guessed would not be favorable. With Optical air can in hand and your telescope parallel with the ground (corrector is perpendicular to the floor) Use 2-4 second bursts spraying at an angle to the corrector plate and about 12 inches away from the lens. make sure the can is upright when spraying to insure propellant is not splattered onto the lens This might be all you need to do. In most cases that is all you need to do. Throw the lens cap on it and go get on that Honey "dew" list. A second school of thought is to use a camel hair brush to lightly brush away the offending mote. Yes I have used this method many times if I did not have my Can-O-Air handy and always with success. the third school of thought is using a lens pen to take off the big chunks.
For those that find themselves with stuff that did not come off or a film of impurities from a dew event it is onto step two. For this step you will need Lens cleaning tissue I recommend the Kodak brand I have used them for years with no regrets do not skimp here. Do not use the tissues used to clean eyeglasses also Do not use stuff that is reusable like the soft cleaning cloth. I never know when they need laundered and I never know if the stuff in the cloth all came out in the laundry. There are too many variables here to make me comfortable using them. I do use Kleenex brand white no additives "Plain Jane" tissues They are soft and work very well. They are actually softer than Kimwipes. First thing is to use the tissue with your breath condensation on the lens. Wipe in a linear path and change the area of the tissue every time you make a pass to insure a new section of tissue is doing the wiping. If the breath condensation does not do the trick for the spots smudges etc use of a cleaning fluid is next in the progression. Again Kodak makes a fine cleaning solution or you could make your own and some folks do. (I do) If this is something you want to have a go at then visit Clay Sharrod's site for an RTF version of his cleaning method. Please note Clay does not like compressed air and uses a brush to dust. working in small areas and always following with a dry tissue and always in a straight path will insure a clean corrector with no streaks remember to do this type of cleaning sparingly only when it really needs it You can ensure many years of great observing using these simple methods. Next week we will touch on eyepiece cleaning, and let me tell, you when you have the public take a look through your scope you will have everything from suckers to mascara smearing the eyepiece!!! until then'
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The corner stone was to be layed soon and Mitchel needed a big name to do it. He settled on asking John Quincey Adams, former President of the United States and a real friend to the science community. Adams had always believed that having a national observatory would give the USA international prestige. The funny thing was Adams did not like Mitchel the man. He called him a snit . One thing was undeniable and that was Mitchels conviction. President Adams was hooked and on November 9, 1842 John Q. Adams laid this Cornerstone and then gave the last public speech of his life. In this speech he called this observatory a tribute to the people of Cincinnati. He was right. The scopes home was Mount Ida but in Adams honor it was changed to Mount Adams. Now keep in mind there was no money to pay anyone so Mitchel became the director. He relied on the salary from teaching at Cincinnati College. When the College burned down again. Yes again. He was without gainful employment. To his credit he stayed on anyway.
When this scope was built, it was one of the largest refractor in the world. Mitchel and the scope went on to discover the companion to Antares. Mitchel also discovered a formation on Mars (Mountains of Mitchel) named in his honor. He started the "Sidereal Messenger", the first astronomical publication in the US. Unfortunately the messenger was stopped a few years later due to lack of funds. Mitchel was having a hard time with the telescope as Cincinnati was becoming a major industrial center and the Soft coal used to heat was throwing smoke and ash into the air. Mitchel moved on to start the Dudley Observatory and to teach at that University.
The Cincinnati Astronomical Society decided to close the Mt Adams site The scope was donated to the city of Cincinnati to later be given to the newly formed University of Cincinnati and further that an observatory would be built. The descision was made to move the observatory to the present day grounds back in 1873. since the move there have been some rather notable additions such as the 1904 Alvin Clark and son's'16" refractor. There have been lots of firsts from those hallowed halls. The first weather service was formed here. Cleveland Abbe Director of the Observatory would telegraph western points to get weather readings and then noticed similar weather would show up two or three days later. he would publish this and Washington DC took notice and asked Abbe to start the National weather service! after World War II the IAU placed the minor planet research center at Cincinnati under the guidance of Dr. Paul Herget. He became the internationally known leader in this field. As all other directors be fore him he had a keen interest in the public and as all previous directors the building was open to the public on a regular basis. The Cincinnati Observatory Center (COC) was formed in 1997 to preserve the heritage and the buildings. and start a vigorous outreach/education program. It continues to this day. So if you ever get the chance to stop in Cincinnati take an hour of two out of your day and visit the COC Just to get to see the Merz und Mahler scope is enough reason. It is a functioning work of art. You can see all the time keeping instruments used to make precise calculations back in the mid 19th century.There is so much to see. Until then...
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Ah Mars... This is the planet that launched their armada against us and then succumbed to a bad cold. This and countless other stories have been told about this intriguing red next door neighbor of ours. What do we know about Mars? Until recently, not very much. 50 years ago, it was all about what we could see in a telescope. Then came the probes. We have answered a lot of questions about who our neighbor is. The problem is for every question we answer we ask two more. The latest question asked by the Mars Rover Opportunity is: How could a meteor the size of a large watermelon have survived a fall to Mars without exploding and or leaving a large crater? Opportunity found this Iron Nickel meteorite in 2005 Some scientists have proposed that Mars had a much thicker atmosphere at one time this might have slowed the meteor down of that size and allowed it to land there as few as a thousand years or so ago. the atmosphere is trapped in the CO2 frozen at the poles. On the other hand this could be a meteorite that hit the surface tens of thousand of years ago and has come to the surface through erosion. Both are plausible answers. I tend to believe this meteor might have landed on Mars similar to how the Hoba Meteorite made it's way to Earth. The meteor took a low trajectory and skipped to a stop in front of Opportunities camera.This would answer many of the questions about this meteorite. I am interested to see how this turns out so stay tuned...
Saturn has a super-duper ring. The Spitzer Telescope locked onto it recently. This ring is huge with the bulk of the ring materials
Photo: AP start about 3.7 million miles from the planet and extends outward about another 7.4 million miles. The ring is very thin and loosely filled with ice and dust. The temp goes about 316 below zero F. but still has a thermal signature Spitzer can "see" This ring is also tilted 27 degrees to the ring system. The ring might also answer: Why the heck is Iapetus shiny on one side and dark on the other? The ring circles in the same direction as
Phoebe, while Iapetus, ,the other rings and most of Saturn's other moons go the opposite way. Scientists think material from the outer ring moves inward and slams into Iapetus.
The last but not least headline lately was Water Found on Moon! Not Earth shattering if you will excuse the pun. Water or Hydroxyl has been found on the moon in several experiments performed by NASA Probes including looking at some Apollo 15 rocks again. Water was found locked inside these rocks. Who would have thought? The real question was how much? Finding a substantial amount of water on the Moon would go a long way to establishing a base there. The water can be made into fuel and also provide potable water for crews etc...But Steve how will they extract this water if found? the good folks at Huntsville have been working on this problem and have come up with a very doable solution. They will use microwaves to extract the water from the moon "dirt" They have done experiments and have been able to get 95 % of the water back from the simulated lunar soil and using a cold trap. We will not know for two weeks or so how much water might be up there. On the outside looking in, the LCROSS probe seemed to have drilled a dry hole... The word is all the instruments were working. The pictures were a bit on the anticlimactic side. I am looking forward to finding some answers. but untill then...
Clear skies and Great seeing too!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
It had been raining every day fora good week but on Saturday the clouds parted and I was treated to clear skies for a few hours. I grabbed my scope and lugged it down stairs of the Hilton to my Truck and off I went to see what I could see. On the drive I was thinking of what travel scope I would get when I get back home. I have it narrowed down to a couple of brands now Astronomy Technologies and Williams. when I got to the site I set up and got out my two travel companions that I rely on every time I hit the road. They are the Sky and Telescopes Pocket Sky Atlas and the Deep Map 600. Those two items are small, very user friendly and jammed with great information.
I use the Map alone sometimes. because it gives the big picture and has many targets on it to look at. I use it as an overall strategy builder for the night. After I have located what are I will be taking a peak in I open up the Pocket Sky Atlas (PSA). The PSA gives much more detail for the region of space I wish to explore. The People down at the Sky publishing building took a few months to get all the input of what to put in this small atlas and then went about producing it in house totally. My hat is off to the fine folks at Sky Publishing. You will find enough "stuff" to look at for the rest of your days using this atlas alone. Not only does this atlas have great Maps, It also has many lists of objects in the back. So... if you hear your comrades in scopes going on about NGC 3190 and how beautiful it was last night, you pick up the Atlas go to the list in the back look up NGC 3190 and Ah they are talking about a Galaxy located in Leo. Then you can ask: Did you get a good look at 3193 as well? ( in the same field of view) This book can make you look good!
Seriously, you can learn a lot about the sky using this atlas. It is laid out very well . The maps in the atlas are big chunks of the sky so constellations are still recognizable. I have always said if you want to learn the sky take it one constellation at a time and explore it completely. This atlas helps you do just that.
The Deep map 600 is well made using plastic that feels like slick paper. So if you forget to take it in for the evening no worries the de will dry off then you fold it and put the map away again for the next big outing. The Deep Map 600 has many lists on the back as well. Say you like gazing at Variables (Stars that brighten and dim on schedule) there is a list. I have traveled to many different lands using this combination and they have never disappointed me. and If I have a real hankering for Galaxies of magnitude 12 or more (dimmer) I have an Atlas on my Computer that can and does deliver. So as for how the observing went last night? I got a look at the face on Spiral M33 then the clouds came ... But I had a look at it! I have confirmed it is still there. Alas there will be other night and other targets for me to check out. One thing is for certain. My two little companions will be with me no matter what scope or binoculars I have, showing me the way. Until then My friends...
Clear skies and great seeing too!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The Planetarium was built in 1968 in a time when space exploration was the next big thing. This was one of many planetariums that went up about this time. One of the main reasons was cost of the projector. Spitz was an American company. They at the time were in competition with Zeiss. Zeiss planetariums were very expensive. Spitz decided to bring the price down considerably to make astronomy more affordable and increase their share in the market. As a result, there were many schools that could afford to put a planetarium in and they did. It was a great time to be alive.
As time marched on, the planetarium here at Cayuga as well as many others was used less and less as teachers were not trained to use the instrument. Programs were getting dated which eventually caused the planetarium to fall into disuse. Enter Alan Ominsky, director and Rob West, assistant director. They knew of a man that was running the planetarium from time to time but his heart was not in it. Together they took over the planetarium. They have cleverly added digital projectors to the 1968 era electronic architecture. That in it's self should be applauded. The Spitz projector works like a champ still. Mr. Ominsky has a graphic arts background so bringing new life to presentations was a no brainer.
On the night of my visit I saw a typical planetarium presentation with Mr.Ominsky pointing out and describing some easy to see constellations and how to locate "stuff" This was getting the audience familiar with the sky for the observing program later. then I was treated to a presentation of Hubble Vision. It is an updated presentation using three screens and different effects. I was impressed with the entire production. There was a minor timing glitch on this occasion. It really did not affect the program very much. If Alan had not pointed it out to me I would not have noticed.The monthly presentation was well attended drawing 40 or so people. Alan tells me sometimes he has to do two shows because of overflow. Now that's a successful endeavor!
Is this the end of the story ? Not even close... Alan and Rob were not satisfied to tell about the skies they wanted to let the people actually experience the grandeur of the night skies. In 2004 they with the help of many built an observatory behind the planetarium. It was made operational in 2005 with the ribbon being cut by a state congressional member and a senior at the school. It is a pretty large structure as observatories of this nature go. There is room for two piers. One spot is already filled with a Meade LX200 GPS 14" Schmidt-Cassegrain scope. This scope was the only one in operation at the time of my visit. On very big nights they supplement the 14 with an 8" LX90 , a Unitron F15 refractor and an Orion 8" Newtonian reflector which incidentally was awarded to a past student for a paper written on the Hubble space telescope. On this night the experts were Alan Ominsky and Moe Arif Alan handled the scope and Moe kept the audience engaged by describing the constellations and noting some interesting items like the Andromeda galaxy (M31) This observatory sits under Mag 6.2 skies on moonless nights!. I could see the Milky way as well as all the stars in the little dipper (ursa minor) even with the parking lot lights on in the distance. Mr. Ominsky brought the scope to bare on double stars and then on the moon, and Jupiter. He ended up showing the Andromeda Galaxy along with satellite galaxy M32.
The future for this magnificent piece of work is bright Colleges have contacted the observatory and have added a SBIG Astro camera and Laptop so they can use the facility for Cepheid Variable research. I tip my hat to these men of vision. There are many more improvements that need to be done. Here is a grand opportunity for a grant writer out there. The link to the planetarium is Here. I encourage all to attend this place if you get the chance. Maybe you are a person of vision. There are many opportunities in your community just like this one. There are many Planetariums sitting unused. Here is your big chance to do something that matters. Go for it! Alan and Rob have proven it can be done!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I arrived in West Virginia at the star party on Saturday @ 3:30 PM. I must have brought the clouds with me for when I showed up the clouds showed up in droves. I did not get all the way set up with my scope when I noticed all that was left were a couple of Sucker holes. The picture here is of my tripod. That is as far as I got setting up. The star party had sold out and all 350 people were there on Friday and Saturday. I had a great time meeting folks from all over and talking to them about public outreach. Saturday evening brought a raffle for everyone. I had donated an iron meteorite Sikote Alin to the cause and was delighted to see such interest in that piece of space gravel. I saw my NOVAC Liaison named Katherine Scott put in 90 dollars worth the tickets. Now she really wanted that rock! A young man named Jacob won it and I was happy to present it to him. I had the opportunity to give him some details on this 1947 fall. He was very excited about winning it. I hope he starts collecting because every meteorite is different. It is a very satisfying hobby.After the drawings I went to the observing field and asked the gentleman across the way for a peep in his setup Dobsonian and did mange to see a hint of Jupiter sitting in a sea of soup before the sky went gray. That was the last chance I had to use a telescope on the field. I turned in a little early because I was tired from the two days of driving and the lack of sleep.
Sunday brought more clouds, But no matter this was the day of my meteor presentation starting at 4:00 PM. I had some time, so I took the opportuity to go to a tour of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory(NRAO) in the early afternoon. I was treated to a behind the scenes tour of the place. It was a tour of the control room the labs where they made the receivers for not only the Green Bank Telescope but also for the VLA(Very Large Array) and all others associated with the NRAO . There was an overnight for the NRAO and I really wanted to go on that but alas there was not enough time to do it.While in the Control room of the Green Bank Telescope, the guide was going on about this and that. It was real fascinating stuff about Faraday Cages , a cage in a cage for the microwave so no RF interference gets out. The GBT is so sensitive you cannot even bring a digital camera with you as the GBT can hear it go off when it takes a picture!!! I asked the operator pictured here while the guide was going on if he knew all of that stuff too or does he just keep the thing from falling over He just grinned and said Pretty much just keep it from falling over... Now that was funny.
Well on that note I had to leave the tour and get back to the Almost Heaven Star Party held at the Mountain institute. Yes that was a shameless plug for the Mountain Institute but they are without a doubt the best hosts for a star party. No offense TSP and the Ranch. I arrived in time to give an engaging presentation on Meteors with great questions and follow up! I love the mix of this crowd as there were novice to expert in the room. I was standing there after the presentation talking to Phil Wherry of NOVAC and he asked me'" Hey you might be interested in this Steve. We have an overnight event scheduled tonight at the NRAO would you like to come?" Now you know what I said. You bettcha and off I went back down the road 30 miles south to the NRAO where I found out I would be a part of a team (Our group) that would operate a 40 foot dish that night. The dish was built in the 80's for an experiment or search that did not require all the bells and whistles the other dishes on the site had so they built this one. All the equipment in the building was analog.This dish received a bonus amount of equipment when the 3oo' fell down. We were given a short lesson on how to use the equipment and Presto! We were now radio astronomers. When we walked through the doors we took a thirty year step backward. This was a fascinating adventure to take. The dish operated in one motion along the meridian, so if you wanted to observe a target you would set the dish in altitude to match the target then let the target drift through the center of the dish where readings will be taken. It was really a simple process NRAO gave us targets for all night. and we found them without issues. The team got so good at it they started looking for additional targets like Jupiter that drifted through the meridian and a couple of galaxies and an additional planetary nebula. I enjoyed every minute of it. We hit Cygnus A right on and the neutral Hydrogen signal went off the top of the chart. That is strong. That was one of those no doubters. While we were in the bunker we could take pictures so I did a few of the crew. You might notice a kind of right of Passage going on here in the radio shack . There were drawings and posters drawn representing everyone that has worked this dish signed by all there so what the hey! we did one also. I had to knock off a bit early 11:00 PM to get some sleep because I still had an additional presentation to cover at 2:00 PM on Sunday and then rush back to Ithaca NY before I fell asleep at the wheel.
Sunday brought a grand breakfast in the Cafeteria and then off to the Mountain institute for a little more heaven. Unfortunately most everyone had cleared out and I was left with just a handful of an audience. the weather was not cooperating very well as a light rain descended upon our Star party. This was a blessing for good reason. My PowerPoint did not play nice with the Mac running the Projector. The bad part was I was giving an introduction to Exoplanet research. The reality was I was giving it to folks that review papers on the subject. There were a few questions that were way over the level of the presentation but I managed to struggle through it. I did have some new data about Kepler that some of them had not seen. I try and have a little something for all levels of knowledge when I do a presentation. I really enjoyed the after discussion as we talked about how Amateurs might look for these elusive Exoplanets using photometry. I hope some interest was sparked in this field. How exciting would that be to add John Smith, Amateur to the list right in there with the JPL, Lowell and Keck teams etc.
I had a grand time even though I did not get on my scope and observe the oh so dark skies of this part of West Virginia. All the folks from NOVAC, Katherine Scott to Phil Wherry to David Haynch and everyone in between were great to work with. so if ever you get the chance to stay overnight and play with a 40 foot dish do it. It will be one of those moments in your life to look back on. I also encourage you to look into The Mountain Institute . They have some great programs for young people. I was surely impressed with the way these young men and women carried themselves. They have a deep love for nature and practice it daily They also have an observatory there to connect the importance of dark skies as a resource. It is just as important as good clean water.That might be a little overstated...
Oh one more thing, Katherine got her wish. I had another meteorite from that 1947 fall and presented it to her. Anyone that would drop 90 dollars in hopes of getting a 40 dollar Meteorite deserves one. I know she will take good care of it. Until the next high adventure or Sunday ...
Clear skies and great seeing too !