Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Weekend Full Of Fun And Fond Remeberances

Whew!What a weekend. I had Friday started off with a meeting of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society. I was getting prepared for my meeting with the board ( I am a Vice President) When I got copied on a curious email. The 19th was a scheduled event for the Hamilton county parks district spring night hike. The hike ends with people gathered around a telescope or three to look at the amazing Heavens above. I was blessed with the opportunity to host the winter night hike in Dec .It was a 20 degree night but my scope performed flawlessly. The event being held at the same time as the monthly meeting made for a little problem of staffing the event.I thought we had it staffed going into the afternoon... The email came reading that the point guy may not make it because he was feeling ill. The one thing that I have found in life is you need to be a man of your word and if the Club promised to be there then we would be there . I called the president and canceled my appearance at the meeting and got my gear loaded. I showed up as they were taking the first group out yes first group there were three groups total making about 40-50 people in attendance. I was a little worried about eye/ scope time.I informed the directors Jen and Lynette of the personnel change and she just could not get over the fact that I would drop club business to come and do the event. I simply told her that the event was my business and the club's. The CAS has been doing public events for 100 years. We are dedicated to bringing astronomy and all it's wonders to the public. The other astro-volunteer, Joe showed up a little late but was set up in no time. He had brought two scopes with him. So in the end we had three scopes setup and swinging all over the sky. The biggest crowd pleaser was The Moon followed by the Orion Nebula. Mars was a treat as well for everyone. It was a fantastic night for all that came to the Night Hike. This is just the first of many opportunities between the Hamilton Parks Outdoors program and the CAS for 2010!

Saturday brought to us International Sidewalk Astronomy Day! I am sure you have celebrated it in style like me! The Cincinnati Observatory had several site set up around the city  The skies did not look promising. I kept a weather eye out all day long wondering if it was going to be a washout. 7:00 PM rolled around and the Skies started to clear out as if on cue. I was to turn eye after eye to the sky at my site on the Northwest side of town. People started coming by saying they had seen the advertisements Over a hundred pairs of hungry eyes looked through my scope and got a show even in the bright light polluted sky. I was able to get my scope on Venus  hanging low in the sky and looking quite dreadful . But She was greeted by wow and cool which is just what the beautiful Venus loves to hear. Mars was also out and at nearly the zenith  it was a crowd pleaser as well. But the item that stole the most hearts this night was the Moon. I had so much foot traffic going to Blockbuster. Little did they know this night they would get a movie and a show!I had a woman of about mid twenties coming out of Blockbuster and going to her Car when I asked excuse me  would you like to see the moon?  She stopped in her tracks  and looked at me  then said:"You know I have never looked through a telescope. Why sure!" she walked right over and took a look  at the moon and she said Oh MY God that is soo beautiful. So I invited her to come by the COC one night to look through one their big scopes. She just might  Oh and then  I had a boomerang also this night. By that I mean I had a family come by and look at the planets and Moon  They said thank you  as they were probably my most excited family of the night about an hour later  The Dad shows back up and asked do you remember me? I said sure why? He said he had been contemplating getting a scope but wanted to ask me a couple of questions about mine. I told him that is a fine approach to have. I had time to go over a few thing about my scope and scopes in general. He then left with a better understanding of what a scope could do and how much is a good price for a scope.  So was the international sidewalk astronomy day a success? Well here at Blockbuster it sure was!

Sunday brought a final farewell to a great man in astronomy. Dick Wessling was celebrated on this day and so many folks came out to see his life and remember him as one with so much talent. I heard story after story about Dick from his favorite beer, MGD, to skiing, to playing The base fiddle  and drumming. His mirrors are legendary and there were plenty of pictures touting his telescope making. I was glad I came to get to know this man a bit better even after his passing. Dick will be missed greatly by all.  I was a little late in posting this. I have been very busy with work and astronomy events.  I have two more blogs I am working on and will try and crank them out this week.
until then ...

Clear skies and great seeing too!

Steve T

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Moon Struck!!!

That's right the Tunnel reads Moonville. It was built in 1806 The town is long gone but the tunnel still remains. This particular tunnel is located in South Central Ohio near Hope Lake.

The single biggest thing to look at during a Public stargaze is the Moon. just last night in fact...When our club or really just about any club schedules an event they try to make it on a quarter or slightly bigger. People love to look at the Moon. There are so many reasons. Romance certainly has a part in it. Ancient peoples look to the Moon for time, to hunt by, to plant by. How about superstition, Werewolves? They all fall under the influence of the Moon. Old Luna has been a faithful companion for billions of years. 4.6 to put a number on it. That is pretty close to how old I feel rolling out of a sleeping bag placed on the frozen ground after a long night of gazing skyward. We know tons and oodles about our dear satellite except maybe how it formed. The one theory I hang onto is the giant impact theory where something (planet sized object) made its mark on the earth waaaay back when the earth was still forming. Add a glancing blow from said object, then factor in the planetary object and a chunk of earth vaporizing causing a huge debris cloud circling the earth and thus pulling together and forming the Moon. Sure I could see that happening. Just keep in mind there are a few theories out there. so look around and see which one makes sense to you.

We choose a quarter moon to gibbous for a good reasons The moon is not as bright so you will not be as affected by the glare. the terminator will show a lot of detail. The terminator is the line of dark and light at the edge of the lit up side of the moon. There is a lot of contrast there so you can see mountains/valleys better. There are so many craters on the Moon's dark side as well as the lit side facing us on earth. Most historians will tell you that in 1609, the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei was the first person to use a telescope to study the Moon. Using a telescope with a magnification of about 2o, he was able to see the mountainous areas, craters, and rough surface of the Moon. During the time of Galileo, people believed that the Moon's surface was smooth, so his observations caused many arguments. The argument was the quality of the lens made it appear rough. Cameras did not exist at the time, so Galileo drew what he saw through his pretty crude telescope. He was right. They were wrong. The Church did not like being wrong but that is another story for later

How do we look at the Moon? A telescope is probably the best instrument for this task and it can be a small refractor and not a giant 11" Celestron Schmidt -Cassegrain scope. I think the less light gathering the better. I do not want to be blinded by the glare of so much light baking my eyeball. I used my 60mm scope for a good long while surveying the Moon. An 80mm can do a heck of a number on the Moon.I always use a filter when looking at the Moon. My very first filter was the Green glass filter. It worked but by turning the moon green, it made it hard to dispel the notion that the Moon is not made of cheese! I wish to recommend a filter for the Moon. A filter keeps the glare down so you can look at it longer with out going moon blind which is similar to snow blind. My favorite for lunar viewing is the Variable Polarizing Telescope Filter. I like it better because I can adjust the brightness level of the Moon and thereby pickup more detail. There are 13 % neutral density filters filters out there and they do a fine job. They are just not as flexible for the deed.

What exactly is there to look at on the Moon? Can we see the Apollo landing sites? Ugh No but you can explore the areas where the sites are located. Take a look at the Sea of Tranquility Apollo 11 first touched down there and men got out and set foot on the Moon. Craters abound so look for newer craters, the ones that have lines or rays coming from them. the lines are ejecta (the stuff that flew out of the crater when it hit. search the mare (dark spots) These are craters that went deep enough to crack the crust of the moon millions and millions of years ago when the Moon was geologically active and brought lava to the surface spilling out and filling in the crater area.

A Moon map is great thing to have along you can print one online you can get a free program to help with your Moon gaze. Free ware which I love include the Lunar Calculator lite. A very simple and cool tool to see the current phase and identify crater mare and more. Another application I really like is the Virtual Moon Atlas by the guy that did Cartes du Ciel, Patrick Chevalley and Christian Legrand. It comes in three versions good, real good and way over the top good. Like books? Me too and I like the Atlas of the Moon by Antonin Rukl. You can find it on Amazon. It is by Sky publishing and they do not put out junk. Knowing some of the bigger craters as well as the mare will make you a better astronomer or at the very least impress the heck out of your teacher/ instructor. I know mine were dumbstruck by the fact I knew exactly where the Sea of Tranquility was back in the spring of 1969. That was before it became a hot destination in July.

Clear Skies and great seeing too,
Steve T

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dick Wessling Has Passed His Legend Carries On In His Mirrors

The world is a less colorful place now that Dick Wessling has passed. Dick left us on St. Patrick's day. He loved the stars and skiing and beer and pushing glass. The term pushing glass referrs to making Astronomical mirrors and he was good at it. One of the best I have ever met. This is short but I did want you to raise a glass of stout to the memory of Dick Wessling tonight He would have loved it. BTW Here is Dick cleaning a lens of the 12" F/15 Brashear refractor for the University of Illinois@Urbana/ Champaign Another Mike Lockwood photo.

Until the next time

Clear skies and great seeing too!

Steve T

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dick Wessling : A Tribute To Gifted Hands

When the weekend rolls around I can hardly wait to sit down and crank out a blog for this site I love writing about all things Space but this my friends is a very sad day in that I have to report that Richard Wessling of Pines Optical has suffered a massive stroke. It is one that he will not recover from, in fact he is slipping away as I write this. My heart goes out to all of Dick's family. I am here to celebrate the Man and his gift for pushing glass.

There are few people that could create mirrors for telescopes like Dick Wessling.(pictured on the right) He just had the touch. I have looked through some very fine telescopes with mirrors ground to as fine as 1/ 20 wave or better, all of Wessling origin . If you were an amateur
telescope maker you could always and I do mean always count on Dick for advice.

Dick worked at the 3M Precision Optics plant on the east side of Cincinnati for many years as senior specialist
for analysis and testing. He started making astronomical mirrors as far back as 1965. His uncompromising quality has carried through all these years. In 1991 Dick started the Pines optical company Grinding mirrors for customers all over the world. The greatest compliment can be found when competing Telescope companies would offer the option of installing a Wessling mirror.Dick was a busy man knocking out Glass in his spare time while working still at 3M. The orders started to pile up (what a pleasant problem to have) so he retired from 3M in 2006 to devote his full attention to making superb mirrors.When Dick had a moment or two he helped to clean the Lenses on the Cincinnati Observatory's two big scopes, the 1904 16" Alvan Clark and the 1842 11.25" Merz und Mahler

Some of Dicks accomplishments are as follows:
Ground hundreds of astronomical mirrors
Built from scratch over 25 telescopes
Provided advice, counsel, encouragement and friendship to hundreds of ATM'ers
Recognized on a national level as an outstanding ATM'er
Assistant Coordinator Instruments Section-Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers
Contributed several articles to ATM magazines
President of the Cincinnati Astronomical Association-the Telescope Making Organization
President of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society

I wish someday to have a list of accomplishments. I can only hope to get in the same county of the ballpark with this great man

Until the next time,

Clear skies and great seeing too

Steve T

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dark Matter... Riddle Me This

When looking at the theories for Dark matter from afar, it seems kind of humorous in a way when none of our instruments can detect it yet.(Current picture of Dark matter as shown on a black background) Sorry could not resist... Scientists are not 100% certain it exists. Dark matter is one of the few theories that is being used to explain the problem of unaccounted for mass in observed galaxies. Kindly note that mass is not weight in the way we describe it here on Earth. Mass is the quantity of matter an objects consists of. Weight is the effect gravity has on it. Since, by nature, dark matter is not detectable with conventional technology due to it's inability to emit radiation or light It is essentially invisible. To see Dark "Stuff" astronomers look at the behavior of objects near the dark matter.

One of the first to recognize something just wasn't adding up was Fritz Zwicky a Bulgarian born Swiss but worked in America astrophysicist. His "observations" of dark matter were done while studying the motions of faraway galaxies in 1933. Zwicky estimated the mass of the observed galaxies by measuring their brightness. He then used a different computation method to determine the mass. Hold the Phone! The result was 400 times larger than his initial method. Oddly enough Zwicky's research results were a lot like Dark matter. They were unnoticed until the 70's of the 20th century - losing decades of potential research in this field. Scientists realized that Zwicky's observations could explain some of their own. Today , dark matter is being taken seriously.

Some astronomers believe that over 20% of our universe is made up of what we call "dark matter", and another 67% of dark energy. Oh and the stuff we are familiar with and can actually look at only takes up 10% of the universe. Our universe is dominated by dark matter and dark energy, whatever they may be. The number might even be closer to 95% for Dark matter/energy.

Recently (2006) British researchers from the University of Cambridge made some interesting discoveries. Their calculations show that dark matter particles are moving at an amazing speed of 9 kilometers per second, a lot faster than previously thought. The researchers have also been able to determine the temperature of this particular dark matter, 10,000 °C.

Enough of all that... what is dark energy/ mass? The club seems to be getting crowded with MACHOs (MAssive Compact Halo Objects) and WIMPS ( Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and Nonbaryonic particles This is mass but not Electrons Protons or Neutrons. Other candidates include Neutrinos and the evil twin,Massive Neutrinos, Axions, and supersymetric particles like Neutralinos . I do have to say that MACHOs have pretty much been voted out of the club since they do not come in large enough numbers to be a player but I love the acronym so I included it.WIMPS are making a case for the lead so far. Image Credit: Sky & Telescope / Gregg Dinderman

Right Now we are all over the map but Scientists have come to some conclusions. Dark Matter is most likely Nonbaryonic in nature, so generally the dark matter debate falls into one of three camps ( I will get to the alternate theories in a few ) Hot Dark Matter, Warm Dark Matter and oh yes, Cold Dark Matter. Each one right now has some of the questions answered but not all of them. Every day we are learning something more about the world we live in. I will lightly touch on alternate theories, well some of them.

The biggest line of reason to scrap the whole dark matter thing lies in our possibly incomplete understanding of gravity. Several system are being proposed but all have problems that cannot be answered yet.The MOdified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) is one such theory. That theory has trouble reconciling the gravitational lensing events as Light is bent around galaxies from further out sources. Other systems trying to answer the problem of who hid the mass in the universe include The Tensor-Vector-Scalar which answers a bunch of the question of early models. Quantum mechanics has a candidate in there too and there is the Dark fluid answer. So far nothing is certain except we do not know yet. I suspect we will in the mid future. I look forward to that day when one team takes the prize and gets the Nike endorsements! All of the others start working on the next big thing... Until then ...

Clear skies and great seeing too

Steve T