Monthly Archives: December 2014

You are browsing the site archives by month.

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 16 December – 19 December 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:

NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

RELEASE 14-432 (Click here for the full article) – 16 December 2014

2014dec27_432NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere. During two of those months, in late 2013 and early 2014, four measurements averaged seven parts per billion. Before and after that, readings averaged only one-tenth that level.

For copies of the new Science papers about Mars methane and water, visit:

For more information about Curiosity, visit: and

Learn about NASA’s Journey to Mars at:

NASA, Planetary Scientists Find Meteoritic Evidence of Mars Water Reservoir

RELEASE 14-337 (Click here for the full article) – 18 December 2014

2014dec27_337NASA and an international team of planetary scientists have found evidence in meteorites on Earth that indicates Mars has a distinct and global reservoir of water or ice near its surface.

Though controversy still surrounds the origin, abundance and history of water on Mars, this discovery helps resolve the question of where the “missing Martian water” may have gone. Scientists continue to study the planet’s historical record, trying to understand the apparent shift from an early wet and warm climate to today’s dry and cool surface conditions.

The reservoir’s existence also may be a key to understanding climate history and the potential for life on Mars. The team’s findings are reported in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

These findings can be viewed online in their entirety at:

For more about the ARES Division at JSC, visit:

Learn about NASA’s Journey to Mars at:

NASA’s Kepler Reborn, Makes First Exoplanet Find of New Mission

RELEASE 14-335 (Click here for the full article) – 18 December 2014

2014dec27_335NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission — K2.

The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.

“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

Video Gives Astronaut’s-Eye View Inside NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

RELEASE 14-206 (Click here for the full article) – 19 December 2014

New video recorded during the return of NASA’s Orion through Earth’s atmosphere this month provides a taste of the intense conditions the spacecraft and the astronauts it carries will endure when they return from deep space destinations on the journey to Mars.

Among the first data to be removed from Orion following its uncrewed Dec. 5 flight test was video recorded through windows in Orion’s crew module. Although much of the video was transmitted down to Earth and shown in real time on NASA Television, it was not available in its entirety. Also, the blackout caused by the superheated plasma surrounding the vehicle as it endured the peak temperatures of its descent prevented downlink of any information at that key point. However, the cameras were able to record the view and now the public can have an up-close look at the extreme environment a spacecraft experiences as it travels back through Earth’s environment from beyond low-Earth orbit.

The video begins 10 minutes before Orion’s 11:29 a.m. EST splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, just as the spacecraft was beginning to experience Earth’s atmosphere. Peak heating from the friction caused by the atmosphere rubbing against Orion’s heat shield comes less than two minutes later, and the footage shows the plasma created by the interaction change from white to yellow to lavender to magenta as the temperature increases.

To view the video of Orion’s re-entry, visit:

For information about Orion, visit:

Bob Piekiel Hosts Observing Sessions At Baltimore Woods (And More!) – 2015 Observing Schedule

This event list will be added to as the year progresses. Check back often!

I’m pleased to have obtained the official schedule for Bob Piekiel’s growing observing and lecture programs for the 2015 season and have added them to the CNYO Calendar. For those who have not had the pleasure of hearing one of his lectures, attending one of his observing sessions, or reading one of his many books on scope optics (or loading the CD containing the massive Celestron: The Early Years), Bob Piekiel is not only an excellent guide but likely the most knowledgeable equipment and operation guru in Central New York.

Notes On Baltimore Woods Sessions:

The Baltimore Woods events calendar is updated monthly. As such, I’ve no direct links to the sessions below. Therefore, as the event date nears, see the official Calendar Page for more information and any updates on the event.


* Registration for these events are required. Low registration may cause programs to be canceled.
* $5 for members, $15/family; $8 for nonmembers, $25/family.
* To Register By Email:
* To Register By Phone: (315) 673-1350

Green Lakes:

* January 9 (Fri.)/10 (Sat. weather alternate), 7 – 9 p.m.

Winter skies! Session held in the parking lot behind the office. See the Green Lakes website for directions.

Baltimore Woods:

* January 16 (Fri.)/17 (Sat. weather alternate), 7-9 p.m.

Winter skies at their finest. The area around the constellation Orion has some of the brightest examples of nebulae and clusters visible to us in the northern hemisphere. Also the king of the planets Jupiter will be on the rise.

Baltimore Woods:

* February 20 (Fri.)/21 (Sat. weather alternate), 7-9 p.m.

Winter skies again! The planet Jupiter will be at its finest, and we may get a glimpse of Venus low in the west.

Green Lakes:

* February 21 (Sat.)/22 (Sun. weather alternate), 1 – 3 p.m.

Solar Program! Session held in the parking lot behind the office. See the Green Lakes website for directions.

Baltimore Woods:

* February 28 (Sat.)/March 1 (Sun. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

Solar Program – See the sun and all its amazing features – sunspots, flares, magnetic storms – with specially-equipped solar telescopes.

Green Lakes:

* March 7 (Sat.)/8 (Sun. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

Solar Program! Session held in the parking lot behind the office. See the Green Lakes website for directions.

Baltimore Woods:

* March 13 (Fri.)/14 (Sat. weather alternate), 8-10 p.m.

Goodbye to winter skies, hello to spring, the planets Jupiter and Venus will be bold and bright.

* April 17 (Fri.)/18 (Sat. weather alternate), 8-10 p.m.

Spring skies, and the planets Jupiter, Venus, and our first look at Saturn!

* May 8 (Fri.)/9 (Sat. weather alternate) 7-10 p.m.

PLANETS! (Notice that this is a long one, set for 3 hours). This will be our best chance to see Mercury, which we get to do perhaps once or twice per year, right at sunset (come early!). Venus and Jupiter will be visible, and Saturn rises as Mercury and Venus set.

* June 12 (Fri.)/13 (Sat. weather alternate) 8-10:30 p.m.

PLANETS AGAIN! In case you missed the show last month, here’s another chance to see Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn in all their glory. It doesn’t even have to be completely dark to get good views.

Green Lakes:

* July 10 (Fri.)/11 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30 – 11 p.m.

First summer program at Green Lakes. Milky way, Venus, Jupiter, & Saturn.

Baltimore Woods:

* July 17 (Fri.)/18 (Sat. weather alternate), 9-11 p.m.

No moon and dark skies give us the best views of the summer Milky Way and the richest star fields of summer. Also Saturn will be front and center.

Clark Reservation:

* July 18 (Sat.)/19 (Sun. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

Summer Solar Program

Marcellus Library:

* August 11, 6-8 p.m.

Bob hosts a Solar Viewing Session as part of a How-To Festival at Marcellus Free Library.

Baltimore Woods:

* August 12 (Wed.)/13 (Thurs. weather alternate)

The annual Perseid meteor shower. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to relax on and watch for meteors while not looking through a telescope. Also great views of the summer Milky Way, and the planet Saturn.

Green Lakes:

* August 14 (Fri.)/15 (Sat. weather alternate), 8-10:30 p.m.

Summer skies and Milky Way, left-over Perseids, and Saturn.

Clark Reservation:

* August 21 (Fri.)/22 (Sat. weather alternate), 8-10 p.m.

Summer skies and Milky Way, plus Saturn.

Baltimore Woods:

* August 15 (Sat.)/16 (Sun. weather alternate) 1-3 p.m.

Summer Solar Program

* September 27 (Sun, no alternate!) 8-11 p.m.

This is our first lunar eclipse during evening hours in quite some time! Come out and see the moon covered by the earth’s shadow, and also farewell to the summer skies. NO BACKUP NIGHT!

* October 23 (Fri.)/24 (Sat. weather alternate) 8-10 p.m.

Take a look at the moon close-up, as well as the planets Uranus and Neptune, as both are placed for ideal viewing this month. After the moon begins to set, we should be able to see some of the various star clusters and galaxies of the fall skies. We may see a few Orionid meteors, as they peak the day before.

* November 6 (Fri.)/7 (Sat. weather alternate) 8-10 p.m.

Come out for a look at the planet Uranus and the fall skies, showing off their large assortment of clusters and faint galaxies. We may see a few shooting stars from the Taurid meteor shower as well.

* December 13 (Sun.)/14 (Mon. weather alternate) 7-10 p.m.

This is the night of the Geminid meteor shower, the king of meteor showers. Produced by asteroid Phaethon 3200, these meteors are visible in the early evening skies so you don’t have to wait until to pre-dawn to see a good show! Also have a look at the winter skies and the area surrounding the constellation Orion, with some of the brightest examples of clusters and nebulae visible in the northern hemisphere.

TACNY John Edson Sweet Lecture Series – The Invention Process And How IP Laws Impact The Process

Tuesday, 13 January 2015, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Networking starting at 5:30 p.m.; Lecture at 6:15 p.m.

Onondaga Community College, 101 Whitney Applied Technology Center

View Larger Map

George McGuire will highlight the invention process and how the intellectual property laws impact the process. To that end, a discussion of the best practices for documenting and preserving rights to your inventions will be provided.

Those interested in learning more about IP laws are invited to attend the free TACNY John Edson Sweet Lecture on Tuesday, January 13, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Onondaga Community College. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing by January 8, 2015.


McGuire_G_copyGeorge R. McGuire is a registered patent attorney with Bond, Schoeneck & King Attorneys, and chair of the firm’s intellectual property and technology practice. He concentrates his practice in all facets of intellectual property law, including, for example, patent and trademark preparation and prosecution, litigation involving intellectual property issues, patent and trademark clearance opinions, patent novelty, validity and (non)infringement opinions, due diligence investigations in merger and acquisition, asset purchase, or other financial transactions, proceedings before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, negotiations and drafting of technology transfer and license agreements, and computer law matters. George practiced for five years as a patent agent before receiving his law degree.

In addition to his practice, George is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University Law School where he teaches computer law, internet law and entertainment law, and has taught and lectured on trademark and unfair competition law, intellectual property and technology transfer. George has a BS in Aerospace Engineering, and a JD, magna cum laude, both from Syracuse University.

TACNY John Edson Sweet Lecture Series

TACNY John Edson Sweet Lectures, a program founded in 1913, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere. A minimum of six Sweet Lectures are held each year.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit

Maker Hall At The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration – 17 January 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The posted email below from Mary Eileen Wood of Ying-TRSEF and OCC (and CNY’s most active STEM educator!) is an announcement both for interested CNYO members and anyone else who might have a club, organization, or garage full of kid-friendly equipment who might want to set up a booth to participate in the Maker Hall festivities. This will be my 3rd such event (Ryan Goodson and I having run CNYO booths at the two events (announced HERE and HERE) in 2014) and I can tell you that these Maker Faires are THE place to be for anyone interested in (and interested in promoting) STEM education.


If anyone has interest in hanging out at the CNYO (and NASA Solar System Ambassador) booth, please let me know at If you’ve an organization that wants to participate, please contact Mary Eileen Wood using the contact info at the bottom of the email:

For the first time, the MLK Committee is incorporating a Maker Hall into the Dr. King Celebration, giving the STEM community the Fowler High School gymnasium. TACNY members can once again delight a diverse array of families from our community with science and technology!

Wonder what a Maker Hall is? It’s basically a Mini Maker Faire – lots of stations with fascinating hands-on activities for all ages that engage families in exploring great Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fun.

The adventures already include the IEEE station with flashing circuits, the NASA Solar Ambassador’s space rocks, OCC’s “virtual engineering” center, the U.S. Army team’s hands-on gear set up, DIY spaghetti engineering, Rotary’s basketball math … and whatever YOU would like to bring!

* Register ASAP to volunteer for the Maker Hall – we are preparing for 500 attendees!

* Our Hall’s volunteer shift is 10a-3p, so you will be provided with a free lunch!

* This link gives you the flyer (PDF) for recruiting more volunteers.

* This link is the invitation (PDF) to attend the Dr. King Community Celebration. Send it to everyone you can, so we have LOTS of people at this great STEM party!

* Questions? Call Mary Eileen Wood at 315-468-1025 or email

* Plan to dress comfortably and have a GREAT time!

Liverpool Public Library Hosts A Course From This January – In The Night Sky: Orion

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

For those too thin-skinned to brave a night of observing during one of Bob Piekiel’s wintertime Baltimore Woods sessions (that may include me as well if it gets as bad as last year), I am pleased to report that there will be at least one golden opportunity for you to don your astronomy thinking cap this coming January, courtesy of the Liverpool Public Library (LPL).

The LPL is running a lecture series featuring a four-session course from The Open University and entitled In The Night Sky: Orion. I leave you to the course description below from the website to learn more about the course.


As for the logistics, there are (reportedly) 13 openings still available for the LPL session that will include session one on January 6th and session four on January 27th (with sessions two and three left to you at your favorite internet connection). If interested, you can sign up for the free course at I’ll post updates as I have them, else hope to see some familiar faces (or hear some familiar voices) at the first session!

NOTE: The registration is Liverpool-centric. That is, people living in Liverpool have priority in registering (so if they hit their max with Liverpool locals, you (assuming you’re not a Liverpool resident) might not get into the LPL-hosted sessions. But you can still register for the course!).

From The Website

In The Night Sky: Orion

Explore the night sky, discover how stars formed and find out about exoplanets, all through the constellation of Orion.

About The Course

From the basics of astronomy and stargazing, to the science behind the birth of a star, this four week course will change the way you see the night sky. You’ll examine one of the most famous constellations, Orion, who the Ancient Greeks believed was a huntsman placed among the stars by Zeus himself.

Starting with its famous nebula where new stars and planets are being formed, you’ll take a look at the seven brightest stars that make up this constellation, including the supergiants Rigel and Betelgeuse, using high-quality images from telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

You will also investigate the Pleiades, often known as the Seven Sisters, a star cluster bright enough to be seen around the world with the naked eye. You’ll observe with your own eyes and share your observations with other learners.

You’ll find out about exoplanets, planets that orbit other stars just as we orbit the Sun and may hold the secrets to life outside of the solar system. Finally you’ll think about the Milky Way, the galaxy of which our solar system is but one small part, and consider the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present.

From The Liverpool Public Library Event Page

Event Type: Adult Programs

Date: 1/6/2015, 1/27/2015
Start Time: 6:30 PM
End Time: 8:30 PM

Description: Introducing—Orion!

Researcher Monica Grady (namesake of Asteroid 4731 Monicagrady) will present the universe through the lens of one of the most famous constellations. Take a look at the seven brightest stars in Orion, including the supergiants Rigel and Betelgeuse, using high-quality images from outer space telescopes. Also observe the Pleiades, and learn about far-away exoplanets. Finally, think about the Milky Way, and consider the history of the universe.

We will meet at the library twice, on the first and last Tuesdays of the course, to share insights and questions about the stars. Damian G. Allis, a professor at Syracuse University and NASA Solar System Ambassador, will lecture and take questions at both meetings.

Go to for the course description and to sign up for the online class. The course runs online for four weeks (January 5-30). You may enroll for free.

For Teens ages 15 and up and adults. No prior experience is required. You don’t need a telescope, but a pair of binoculars will be useful.

Location: Sargent Meeting Room
Presenter: Laurel Sharp
Status: Openings (13)

And, as you register at, do remember to also register with LPL for the event at