CNYO Saw The March 20th Total Eclipse With Barlow Bob Shining Bright

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

It’s almost impossible in today’s super-connected world to not see astronomical events, even when they’re several time zones away. The March 20th total eclipse over the UK and Northern Europe was certainly evidence of that, with video, aerial video, and thousands and thousands of pictures taken (see the gallery on this eclipse’s wikipedia page for a nice summary).

As a fun aside, the visit summary for the last few weeks is shown below, courtesy of our WordPress Jetpack plug-in.

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As you can see, we’re usually in the 50’s and 60’s every day (mostly directed from search engines). On March 20th, we spiked like gamma ray burst, reaching 328 visitors. A noticeable bump that returned to normal on the 23rd.

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The large number of visitors (219) all seemed to favor a single page – the late, great Barlow Bob’s two articles on the benefits and use of the Sunspotter. I’ve no idea if the Sunspotter is a big hit in Europe or if people were simply searching frantically for anything solar safety and eclipse-related, but the numbers (for the 20th, anyway), don’t lie. It is my suspicion that many a google’er came across one article or another from Barlow Bob in their solar searches, and we’re happy to have a few of his articles hosted here for others to find as the upcoming eclipses occur.

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Barlow Bob as captured at NEAF. Image courtesy of stargeezerradio.com.

2015march21_11069934_907214125998103_6014315920335880905_nFrom the “I wouldn’t have ever thought of that” department, and as an even more fun aside, the following image came across my Facebook feed courtesy of Stephen W. Ramsden, the main man behind the great Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project. Someone outside of The Feathers Inn in Stocksfield, UK captured the image at right (click the image for a larger view) of the eclipse being projected through a pasta strainer. A capital(-saving) idea!

And to show the importance of search terms to google, the searches for “eclipse strainer” and “eclipse colander” produce some very different results favoring the “eclipse colander” (for the purpose highlighted here, anyway). The UK version of the Huffington Post even featured an article for the March eclipse on their site (Solar Eclipse 2015 Sees The Humble Colander Come Into Its Own).

I think the kids below explain the procedure simply enough. One can only assume that some seriously ornate eclipse observing will happen if the Moon ever finds itself between the Sun and Tuscany.

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This all remarks back to a point we cannot stress enough – Solar observing is fun, but definitely not a game! Never-never-never stare directly at the Sun through any kind of magnifying optics! Don’t noodle around if you don’t have proper filters – solar projection is the way to go. Just as Bob Piekiel and Larry Slosberg demonstrate below.

CNYO Observers Log: Green Lakes State Park Solar Session (7 March 2015) and Monthly Baltimore Woods Session (13 March 2015)

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A quick observing log combining two recent events hosted by Central New York’s own Bob Piekiel. As everyone who’s been local all winter knows, conditions were less than ideal for lots of observing. For those sessions that cloud cover (and snow) didn’t ruin, the Arctic Chill that hit CNY in the middle of February really did a number on even the most determined observers.

Solar Session – Green Lakes State Park – 7 March 2015

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Having put off and re-put off a solar observing session at Green Lakes State Park bus to lousy conditions, the powers that be wanted to go forward with a session on Saturday afternoon, March 7th. With H-alpha and Baader’ed scopes in tow, Bob (and I helping run the Baader’ed scope) hosted a session in the parking lot behind the main building at Green Lakes. Over the course of about 90 minutes, perhaps 10 good minutes of observing were had. Clear skies to the East couldn’t be coaxed to shift West and the upcoming mild snow storm that afternoon even provided some advanced warning. Still, about 10 people either showed specifically for the solar or made their way off the skiing path to take in a few sights of our nearest star.

2015march19_sunspots_1024_20150307The Sun itself wasn’t particularly busy that afternoon, with a major sunspot region having just fallen off the Sun’s edge, leaving a small speck of dark spots just within scopesight (see the March 7th image at right from NASA SOHO. Click for a larger view). As with all sessions, the observing was complemented by good introductory astronomy discussions and direction to the CNYO site for upcoming events (including upcoming solar sessions).

For those keeping additional track, the Sun did provide quite a show over the past few days in the form of fantastic aurora after an X-class solar flare fired up ionization in our atmosphere. For those looking for a gallery of what everyone by Central New Yorkers (it seems) saw over this past St. Patrick’s Day, I encourage you to let google do the work for the following image search: solar storm st. patricks 2015.

Baltimore Woods Monthly Session – 13 March 2015

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A panorama from the Baltimore Woods Session start. Click for a larger view.

A decidedly more fruitful session was had in the thawing parking lot of Baltimore Woods on Friday, March 13th. This evening was also first light for 2015 of my 12.5” NMT Dob (Bob’s SCT having already seen action with a few observing sessions this year). The sky (mostly) did not disappoint! Jupiter and Venus were easy and excellent targets, Mars was at the horizon at session start but still observable (Uranus having slipped too low to see), and a dozen eager observers attended to take in the sights. The only real letdown for the evening was the persistent cloud cover that obstructed all of Orion throughout, giving only a few passing views of the Orion Nebula. To Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and the Orion Nebula (sort of), a very double-centric crowd were treated to views of the double cluster in Perseus, Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major, and Castor (a sextuplet star system that resolves to a bright binary pair) and Pollux in Gemini. Cloud cover was just persistent and wide-ranging enough to make galaxy views all but impossible, making the whole session a real hopscotch survey of the brightest available at the time. After a solid 80 minutes of observing, we finally packed up with plans for the next sessions made.

For those wanting to check out one of Bob Piekiel’s many events this year, please see his calendar on the CNYO website. We hope to see you!

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 4 March – 12 March 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The NASA News service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these news announcements directly from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:

hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov?subject=subscribe

NASA’s Chandra Observatory Finds Cosmic Showers Halt Galaxy Growth

RELEASE 15-028 (Click here for the full article) – 4 March 2015

2015mar14_15_028Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have found that the growth of galaxies containing supermassive black holes can be slowed down by a phenomenon referred to as cosmic precipitation.

Cosmic precipitation is not a weather event, as we commonly associate the word — rain, sleet, or snow. Rather, it is a mechanism that allows hot gas to produce showers of cool gas clouds that fall into a galaxy. Researchers have analyzed X-rays from more than 200 galaxy clusters, and believe that this gaseous precipitation is key to understanding how giant black holes affect the growth of galaxies.

“We know that precipitation can slow us down on our way to work,” said Mark Voit of Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, lead author of the paper that appears in the latest issue of Nature. “Now we have evidence that it can also slow down star formation in galaxies with huge black holes.”

An interactive image, podcast, and video about these findings are available at: chandra.si.edu

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: www.nasa.gov/chandra

NASA Research Suggests Mars Once Had More Water Than Earth’s Arctic Ocean

RELEASE 15-032 (Click here for the full article) – 5 March 2015

2015mar14_15_032A primitive ocean on Mars held more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean, according to NASA scientists who, using ground-based observatories, measured water signatures in the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

Scientists have been searching for answers to why this vast water supply left the surface. Details of the observations and computations appear in Thursday’s edition of Science magazine.

“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the new paper. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

Perhaps about 4.3 billion years ago, Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 450 feet (137 meters) deep. More likely, the water would have formed an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere, in some regions reaching depths greater than a mile (1.6 kilometers).

To view a video of this finding, visit: youtu.be/WH8kHncLZwM

More information about NASA’s Mars programs is online at: www.nasa.gov/mars

NASA Spacecraft Becomes First To Orbit A Dwarf Planet

RELEASE 15-034 (Click here for the full article) – 6 March 2015

2015mar14_15_034NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers) from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) Friday.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.

“Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. “Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home.”

In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

For a complete list of mission participants, visit: dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission

For more information about Dawn, visit: www.nasa.gov/dawn

Spacecraft Data Suggest Saturn Moon’s Ocean May Harbor Hydrothermal Activity

RELEASE 15-036 (Click here for the full article) – 11 March 2015

2015mar14_15_036NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities.

“These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” said John Grunsfeld astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the Universe.”

Hydrothermal activity occurs when seawater infiltrates and reacts with a rocky crust and emerges as a heated, mineral-laden solution, a natural occurrence in Earth’s oceans. According to two science papers, the results are the first clear indications an icy moon may have similar ongoing active processes.

More information about Cassini, visit: www.nasa.gov/cassini and saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

NASA’s Hubble Observations Suggest Underground Ocean On Jupiter’s Largest Moon

RELEASE 15-033 (Click here for the full article) – 12 March 2015

2015mar14_15_033i1NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has the best evidence yet for an underground saltwater ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. The subterranean ocean is thought to have more water than all the water on Earth’s surface.

Identifying liquid water is crucial in the search for habitable worlds beyond Earth and for the search of life as we know it.

“This discovery marks a significant milestone, highlighting what only Hubble can accomplish,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “In its 25 years in orbit, Hubble has made many scientific discoveries in our own solar system. A deep ocean under the icy crust of Ganymede opens up further exciting possibilities for life beyond Earth.”

Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and the only moon with its own magnetic field. The magnetic field causes aurorae, which are ribbons of glowing, hot electrified gas, in regions circling the north and south poles of the moon. Because Ganymede is close to Jupiter, it is also embedded in Jupiter’s magnetic field. When Jupiter’s magnetic field changes, the aurorae on Ganymede also change, “rocking” back and forth.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble and hubblesite.org/news/2015/09