CNYO Observing Log: Two Solar Highlights – International SUN-Day And A Space Science Morning At The MOST

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

A post to the CNYO Facebook Page by Pamela Shivak of International SUN-Day and the equally great Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project about the 2015 Int. SUN-Day reminded me that the CNYO event for 22 June 2014 hadn’t been posted yet. Ergo…

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Dave Wormuth and passers-by at Larry’s NMT. Click for a larger view.

There for the duration of CNY’s edition of the International SUN-Day 2014 were Larry Slosberg, Bob Piekiel, Dave Wormuth, George Wong, and myself, plus Larry’s Baader-ized 12″ New Moon Telescope Dob, Bob’s 60 mm Coronado SolarMax II, my trusty Coronado PST, and a few pairs of official Charlie Bates Solar Astro solar glasses direct from Stephen Ramsden’s lecture at NEAF 2014 (George demonstrating their usage below).

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George demonstrating proper technique. Click for a larger view.

The day was excellent for solar observing (made so by the presence of a few trees to provide a little shade) and our two hour session ended up hosting about 30 people, a few of whom definitely took their time to enjoy the view, then many who took a quick glance, then another out of surprise, then attempted the ritual smart phone documentation of the view. As one can see below, the Coronado PST lets in more than enough red light to saturate the iPhone CCD camera. Whereas your eye is insensitive enough to provide you some very nice surface and prominence detail, the image below just barely gives you a view of otherwise wispy visual prominences.

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The H-alpha’ed Sun saturating a CCD. Click for a larger view.

Only a few of the attendees knew in advance from the website, twitter feed, or Facebook page. The others were simply caught as passers-by taking in the Creekwalk and Armory Square. The busy weekend being what it was, I even managed a short music conversation with the tour manager for Don Felder (who’d played with Foreigner and Styx the night before), himself taking in a bike tour of the Creekwalk and greater Syracuse area. And, despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get a couple of the leisurely strollers to veer our way to take in views. If you ever see us set up and observing, we hope you’ll line right up behind an eyepiece and take a look!

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Larry explaining everything. Click for a larger view.

Not too long after Int. SUN-Day, CNYO members received a request from Nancy Volk at The MOST to lend our solar scopes to a group of area 8th graders taking in a series of Space Science demos on the morning of 18 July 2014. Friday’s being what they are, I was left to sneak out on my own to run a mini solar session with just the Coronado PST and Bates Solar Glasses.

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The last of four outdoor sessions. Click for a larger view.

The morning session ended 3 hours later with no small amount of Armory Square drama unrelated to the session, the telling and re-telling of every solar fact I could come up with, and 70 enlightened students and teachers.

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Demonstrating the relative motions of the inner planets. Click for a larger view.

Instructive Demo Of The Day: Solar glasses and a +100 lumen flashlight are themselves an excellent combination in a pinch, as all can agree that the pre-filtered light is blindingly bright, while everyone around the glasses-wearing test subject gets a good laugh from seeing the flashlight waved within an inch of thin Baader film separating the wearer from a really bad case of temporary blindness.

We’ve now the official word on International SUN-Day 2015 – June 21st to be exact. Expect CNYO members to be somewhere (likely the Creekwalk again) hosting another session (weather-permitting, as usual)!

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 25 July – 14 August 2014

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 Mars Spacecraft Maneuvers to Prepare for Close Comet Flyby

RELEASE 14-201 (Click here for the full article) – 25 July 2014

2014august30_main_sidingspring_version07b-01_2NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

The comet’s nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers), shedding material hurtling at about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. At that velocity, even the smallest particle — estimated to be about one-fiftieth of an inch (half a millimeter) across — could cause significant damage to a spacecraft.

NASA currently operates two Mars orbiters, with a third on its way and expected to arrive in Martian orbit just a month before the comet flyby. Teams operating the orbiters plan to have all spacecraft positioned on the opposite side of the Red Planet when the comet is most likely to pass by.

For more information about the Mars flyby of comet Siding Spring, visit: mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring/

For more information about NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, visit: www.nasa.gov/mars

NASA’s Long-Lived Mars Opportunity Rover Sets Off-World Driving Record

RELEASE 14-202 (Click here for the full article) – 28 July 2014

2014august30_14_202a_0NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover, which landed on the Red Planet in 2004, now holds the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 25 miles (40 kilometers) of driving. The previous record was held by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover.

“Opportunity has driven farther than any other wheeled vehicle on another world,” said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

For more information about NASA’s Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, visit: www.nasa.gov/rovers and marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov

Follow the project on Twitter at: twitter.com/MarsRovers

On Facebook, visit: www.facebook.com/mars.rovers

An image of Lunokhod 2′s tracks, as imaged by NASA’s LRO, is available online at:
lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/774

NASA’s Hubble Finds Supernova Star System Linked to Potential “Zombie Star”

RELEASE 14-212 (Click here for the full article) – 6 August 2014

2014august30_14-212_0Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers has spotted a star system that could have left behind a “zombie star” after an unusually weak supernova explosion.

A supernova typically obliterates the exploding white dwarf, or dying star. On this occasion, scientists believe this faint supernova may have left behind a surviving portion of the dwarf star — a sort of zombie star.

While examining Hubble images taken years before the stellar explosion, astronomers identified a blue companion star feeding energy to a white dwarf, a process that ignited a nuclear reaction and released this weak supernova blast. This supernova, Type Iax, is less common than its brighter cousin, Type Ia. Astronomers have identified more than 30 of these mini-supernovas that may leave behind a surviving white dwarf.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:
www.nasa.gov/hubble and hubblesite.org/news/2014/32

NASA’s NuSTAR Sees Rare Blurring of Black Hole Light

RELEASE 14-210 (Click here for the full article) – 12 August 2014

2014august30_14-210_0NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured an extreme and rare event in the regions immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole. A compact source of X-rays that sits near the black hole, called the corona, has moved closer to the black hole over a period of just days.

“The corona recently collapsed in toward the black hole, with the result that the black hole’s intense gravity pulled all the light down onto its surrounding disk, where material is spiraling inward,” said Michael Parker of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, United Kingdom, lead author of a new paper on the findings appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

For more information on NuSTAR, visit: www.nasa.gov/nustar

NASA’s Chandra Observatory Searches for Trigger of Nearby Supernova

RELEASE 14-216 (Click here for the full article) – 14 August 2014

2014august30_14-216_0New data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory offer a glimpse into the environment of a star before it exploded earlier this year, and insight into what triggered one of the closest supernovas witnessed in decades.

The data gathered on the Jan. 21 explosion, a Type Ia supernova, allowed scientists to rule out one possible cause. These supernovas may be triggered when a white dwarf takes on too much mass from its companion star, immersing it in a cloud of gas that produces a significant source of X-rays after the explosion.

Astronomers used NASA’s Swift and Chandra telescopes to search the nearby Messier 82 galaxy, the location of the explosion, for such an X-ray source. However, no source was found, revealing the region around the site of the supernova is relatively devoid of material.

For an additional interactive image, podcast, and video on the findings, visit: chandra.si.edu

For a preprint of the study results in The Astrophysical Journal, visit: arxiv.org/abs/1405.1488

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

Observing Announcement: International Observe The Moon Night On The Syracuse Creekwalk – Saturday, Sept. 6 – 7 to 10 p.m.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Fellow CNYO’er and sidewalk astronomer extraordinaire Larry Slosberg has made the official announcement through our NASA Night Sky Network Page – we’ll be hosting the Central New York version of the International Observe The Moon Night (InOMN) along the Syracuse Creekwalk at our favorite downtown location – just south of Walt The Loch West Monster.

For those unfamiliar with InOMN, a brief word from the official website:

International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) is an annual event that is dedicated to encouraging people to ‘look up’ and take notice of our nearest neighbor, the Moon. From looking at the Moon with a naked eye to using the most sensitive telescope, every year on the same day, people from around the world hold events and activities that celebrate our Moon. On this site, you can find information about an InOMN event near you or register your own event. We encourage everyone to join us in the celebration!

2014august28_logo_finalThe 12.5 day old waxing gibbous Moon is a nice compromise of brightness and detail for giving the Moon a good looking at. Not only will we have a terminator to give us shadows and perceived depth, but some of the great craters – Tycho, Copernicus, Kepler (just barely) and Plato – will be out in the open for inspection. For those wondering about the timing (besides the whole weekend thing), Full Moon is actually one of the most boring times to observe the Moon. With the Sun’s light beating straight down on the Moon’s surface, we have no shadows to bring out crater depth or mountain height. Most observers agree that the most interesting views are right along the terminator where light and dark meet, so having a nice piece of that to observe makes for a much more visually appealing session.


Our Creekwalk location between W. Fayette St. and Walton St.

We will be spending an inordinate amount of time staring at the near-full Moon through every scope or pair of binoculars anyone has interest in bringing. Those arriving early enough may even be able to take in a view of Saturn and Mars before they set below the Western city skyline. Those with GOTO’s (or heroic non-GOTO observers) may even be able to find Neptune, now at near-opposition, just to the Southeast.

And, for those who really want to feel the passage of the year this night, the brightest of all the Messier objects and great gems of the Winter, the Pleiades (M45), will be appearing just after 11 p.m. to our far east (meaning they’ll be above the buildings and possibly observable around midnight). This will be an even more impressive sight at our next North Sportman’s Club event!

We’ve meetup.com and Facebook events set up for the 6th, so feel free to make your presence known early. Otherwise, we hope to see you out and about on the evening of Saturday, September 6th!