Monthly Archives: May 2015

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Central New York American Chemical Society Education Night 2015 – 3 June, 2015 – 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 from 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM

11206737-largeThe Central New York Section of the American Chemical Society will hold their Eduation Night and Ben P. Burtt Lecture Series event on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 from 6 pm to 8:30 pm in the Life Sciences Building on the Syracuse University Campus.

The event is free and open to the public. The event will include a social hour with light refreshments, including pizza, from 6 to 6:30 pm followed by an awards ceremony and demo show where several members of the Section will provide a mix of new and classic demonstrations with the theme Colorful Chemistry, including re-enacting part of Ben Burtt’s famous water lecture! Cupcakes and liquid nitrogen ice cream will be served after the demo show.


Please park in Quad 4 (Q4) Lot by the Life Sciences building. Please use Euclid Avenue to access the lot. Signage and/or parking attendants will be available to direct you as needed. See the link or map below for more information.

The awards ceremony will recognize students and members of the community who have participated in one or more of our many varied annual events. These include:

* 2015 Chemist’s Celebrate Earth Day Poetry Contest Winners

* 2015 USNCO Local Exam Participants

* 2015 USNCO National Exam Nominees

* 2014 National Chemistry Week Volunteers and Participants

* CNY Science Coaches

* CNY Science Fair Winners

* and more!

More information is available on the CNYACS website and Facebook page. Please join us in celebrating our students and educators at this year’s Education Night event. We look forward to seeing you!

NASA Space Place – The “G” In GOES Is What Makes It Go

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in May, 2015.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceGoing up into space is the best way to view the universe, eliminating all the distortionary effects of weather, clouds, temperature variations and the atmosphere’s airflow all in one swoop. It’s also the best way, so long as you’re up at high enough altitudes, to view an entire 50 percent of Earth all at once. And if you place your observatory at just the right location, you can observe the same hemisphere of Earth continuously, tracking the changes and behavior of our atmosphere for many years.

The trick, believe it or not, was worked out by Kepler some 400 years ago! The same scientist who discovered that planets orbit the sun in ellipses also figured out the relationship between how distant an object needs to be from a much more massive one in order to have a certain orbital period. All you need to know is the period and distance of one satellite for any given body, and you can figure out the necessary distance to have any desired period. Luckily for us, planet Earth has a natural satellite—the moon—and just from that information, we can figure out how distant an artificial satellite would need to be to have an orbital period that exactly matches the length of a day and the rotational speed of Earth. For our world, that means an orbital distance of 42,164 km (26,199 miles) from Earth’s center, or 35,786 km (22,236 miles) above mean sea level.

We call that orbit geosynchronous or geostationary, meaning that a satellite at that distance always remains above the exact same location on our world. Other effects—like solar wind, radiation pressure and the moon—require onboard thrusters to maintain the satellite’s precisely desired position above any given point on Earth’s surface. While geostationary satellites have been in use since 1963, it was only in 1974 that the Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS) program began to monitor Earth’s weather with them, growing into the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) program the next year. For 40 years now, GOES satellites have monitored the Earth’s weather continuously, with a total of 16 satellites having been launched as part of the program. To the delight of NASA (and Ghostbusters) fans everywhere, GOES-R series will launch in 2016, with thrice the spectral information, four times the spatial resolution and five times the coverage speed of its predecessors, with many other improved capabilities. Yet it’s the simplicity of gravity and the geostationary “G” in GOES that gives us the power to observe our hemisphere all at once, continuously, and for as long as we like!

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Caption: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of the first image ever obtained from a GOES satellite. This image was taken from over 22,000 miles (35,000 km) above the Earth’s surface on October 25, 1975.

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website:

MOST Hosts Fundraiser For Nepal – 23 May 2015, 7:00 p.m.

Proceeds from a May 23 showing of “Everest” will benefit Red Cross’ Disaster Relief Fund

015may18_MOST_logoSYRACUSE (May 14, 2015)The MOST is partnering with American Red Cross of Western and Central New York to raise money for the Red Cross’ Disaster Relief Fund that’s aiding the victims of Nepal’s two deadly earthquakes.

On April 25, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, killing more than 8,000 people and injuring more than 18,000. The quake triggered a landslide on Mount Everest, killing 19 people, and destroyed several buildings in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu.


Just as things were starting to return to normal, an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck further east Tuesday (May 12) on the same fault line near the base of Mount Everest. Terrified people fled outside and some buildings weakened by the earlier quake collapsed. A hundred more people are reported killed, and more than 2,000 injured.

The MOST is altering its usual Saturday night movie schedule on May 23 to host a fundraiser in the Bristol IMAX Omnitheater to support disaster relief. The 7 p.m. event will feature a Red Cross presentation followed by a showing of the IMAX movie “Everest.” Tickets for the event are $25 and money raised, less expenses, will benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Official Trailer for the 1998 IMAX release of Everest.

These proceeds will help people affected by disasters like the Nepal earthquakes and countless other crises, and will help enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Funds being designated to the Nepal Red Cross from the American Red Cross are being transferred through its Disaster Relief Fund. To date, $5 million has been disbursed.

“We are pleased to be joining forces with the Red Cross to help the victims of the Nepal earthquakes,” said MOST Executive Vice President Anthony Ortega. “The already cash-strapped country is devastated, and the people there need our help.”

The movie “Everest” follows an international team of climbers as they attempt to ascend Mount Everest in spring 1996. The film depicts the challenges the group faced, including avalanches, lack of oxygen, ice walls, and a deadly blizzard. During the movie, scientist Roger Bilham placed a seismograph at the mountain’s Camp Four, at 26,000 feet, to measure earthquake tremors.

MacGillivray Freeman Films, which made “Everest,” has generously waived license fees for special showings of the movie to help the MOST raise funds for Nepal.

The MOST is canceling its 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. movies to hold the 7 p.m. fundraiser. The Omnitheater holds 212 people, so seating is limited. Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis and can be purchase at the MOST, 500 S. Franklin St., Syracuse, or by phone at (315) 425-9068 x2132 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

NASA News Digest: Space Science For 23 April – 8 May 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:

NASA Unveils Celestial Fireworks As Official Image For Hubble 25th Anniversary

RELEASE 15-066 (Click here for the full article) – 23 April 2015

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, released to commemorate a quarter century of exploring the solar system and beyond since its launch on April 24, 1990.

“Hubble has completely transformed our view of the universe, revealing the true beauty and richness of the cosmos” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This vista of starry fireworks and glowing gas is a fitting image for our celebration of 25 years of amazing Hubble science.”

The sparkling centerpiece of Hubble’s anniversary fireworks is a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2, named for Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund who discovered the grouping in the 1960s. The cluster resides in a raucous stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina.

For more information on the Hubble Space Telescope, visit:

For image files and more information about Westerlund 2, visit:

NASA Successfully Tests Shape-Changing Wing For Next Generation Aviation

RELEASE 15-072 (Click here for the full article) – 28 April 2015

2015may10_15_072NASA researchers, working in concert with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and FlexSys Inc., of Ann Arbor, Michigan, successfully completed initial flight tests of a new morphing wing technology that has the potential to save millions of dollars annually in fuel costs, reduce airframe weight and decrease aircraft noise during takeoffs and landings.

The test team at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, flew 22 research flights during the past six months with experimental Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) flight control surfaces that offer significant improvements over conventional flaps used on existing aircraft.

“Armstrong’s work with ACTE is a great example of how NASA works with our government and industry partners to develop innovative technologies that make big leaps in efficiency and environmental performance,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This is consistent with the agency’s goal to support the nation’s leadership in the aviation sector.”

For more information on NASA’s research in next generation aircraft, visit:

NASA’s NuSTAR Captures Possible ‘Screams’ From Zombie Stars

RELEASE 15-077 (Click here for the full article) – 29 April 2015

2015may10_15_077Peering into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that, according to scientists, could be the “howls” of dead stars as they feed on stellar companions.

“We can see a completely new component of the center of our galaxy with NuSTAR’s images,” said Kerstin Perez of Columbia University in New York, lead author of a new report on the findings in the journal Nature. “We can’t definitively explain the X-ray signal yet — it’s a mystery. More work needs to be done.”

The center of our Milky Way galaxy is bustling with young and old stars, smaller black holes and other varieties of stellar corpses – all swarming around a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*.

More information is online at:

NASA’s New Horizons Detects Surface Features, Possible Polar Cap On Pluto

RELEASE 15-078 (Click here for the full article) – 29 April 2015

2015may10_15_078For the first time, images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft are revealing bright and dark regions on the surface of faraway Pluto – the primary target of the New Horizons close flyby in mid-July.

The images were captured in early to mid-April from within 70 million miles (113 million kilometers), using the telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera on New Horizons. A technique called image deconvolution sharpens the raw, unprocessed images beamed back to Earth. New Horizons scientists interpreted the data to reveal the dwarf planet has broad surface markings – some bright, some dark – including a bright area at one pole that may be a polar cap.

“As we approach the Pluto system we are starting to see intriguing features such as a bright region near Pluto’s visible pole, starting the great scientific adventure to understand this enigmatic celestial object,” says John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “As we get closer, the excitement is building in our quest to unravel the mysteries of Pluto using data from New Horizons.”

To view images from New Horizons and learn more about the mission, visit:

NASA Selects Advanced Space Technology Concepts for Further Study

RELEASE 15-087 (Click here for the full article) – 8 May 2015

2015may10_15_087aNASA has selected 15 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that aims to turn science fiction into science fact through the development of pioneering technologies.

The chosen proposals cover a wide range of inventive concepts, selected for their potential to transform future aerospace missions. Such transformational technology holds promise of accelerating NASA’s progress toward its goals of exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, and missions to an asteroid and Mars.

“The latest NIAC selections include a number of exciting concepts,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are working with American innovators to reimagine the future of aerospace and focus our investments on concepts to address challenges of current interests both in space and here on Earth.”

For a complete list of the selected proposals and more information about NIAC, visit:

For more information about NASA’s investments in space technology, visit:

CNYO Observing Log: A Quick Overview Of The Last Month

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members (several of them, anyway) have grown tired of sorting and cleaning their eyepieces this extra-frosty winter (not me – I think it’s fun!) and are getting ready for a long Spring and Summer of (hopefully) using them at observing sessions. With several scout, school, and public sessions scheduled or in the works, CNYO already has several successful events under their collective belts. A quick sampling of updates from these events is listed below.

1. North Syracuse Community Room For International Dark Sky Week – Tuesday, April 14

It happens to all of us at some point – we become so wrapped up in the minutia of a hobby or profession that we completely forget that the vast majority of the rest of the planet has little idea what we’re rambling on about. Light pollution – the encroachment of civilization on amateur astronomy due largely to a lack of forethought in the way people and businesses attempt to turn “the night” into “the late afternoon” – has been shown to have negative impacts on health (melatonin!), safety (street light glare!), security (blind spots big enough to eat hay!), energy conservation (714 lbs of coal are required to light one 100 W bulb for a year!), and the environment (plant cycles can be affected by stray light and the nesting and migration habits of several species have been shown to be affected by a lack of proper day/night cycles).

Within minutes of my starting the lecture on light pollution, I discovered that this was a completely brand new topic to half of the audience. The tone of the lecture changed rapidly from complaining to educating (you do learn to think on your feet a bit when giving public lectures), and I am optimistic that the audience left with a new understanding of the problem and many of the solutions now available (from simple solutions at Home Depot and Lowe’s all the way to legislation recently passed in Albany).

2. Bob Piekiel At Baltimore Woods – Friday, April 17

Bob’s monthly sessions at Baltimore Woods are, bar none, the most reliably-scheduled public observing events in CNY. Despite a bit of light pollution to the East-ish from Marcellus and Syracuse and a tree line that eats the very edge of the horizon for early-setting objects (and we’ve still managed to catch some photons from special objects at tree level in the past few years), the rest of the sky is wide open for constellations, planets, and the Messier Catalog.


A colder Baltimore Woods session (February, 2015).

Bob reports that this session hosted about 20 enthusiastic observers – a sure sign that CNY was starting to thaw in April (as only the bravest/craziest made it out to the earlier sessions this year).

3. NEAF 2015 – Saturday & Sunday, April 18 & 19

Ryan Goodson and I missed the April 17th BW session, instead heading Southeast with vehicles full of both New Moon Telescopes Dobsonian parts and a very large fraction of the Stuventory. The NMT NEAF 2015 booth was (quite fortuitously) wider than expected, providing ample room for (1) Ryan to showcase a newly completed Dob, collapsible truss assemblies, and a new design prototypes and (2) me to run the biggest little used equipment sale I’ve seen in my 5 years of attending NEAF. I am pleased to report that the vast majority of the Stuventory is now in the hands of dedicated amateur astronomers from all around the Northeast and as far away as the Dubai Astronomy Group!


4. Maker Hall At Parent University – Saturday, April 25

Larry Slosberg, Ryan Goodson, and I lucked out with clear skies and a large crowd of kids and adults alike at the Dr. King Elementary School. What could have been a demonstration table indoors turned into a full-on solar session outdoors in the playground, complete with some of the best and busiest views of the Sun I’ve ever seen through my Coronado PST.


A snapshot of the observing crowd.


A prominent prominence at 2:30 p.m.

As has been the case with all of the kids’ sessions to date, half the kids keep you on your toes and the other half approach observing with their pint-sized science caps on (these ones are easy to pick out as they spend a good long time at the eyepiece).

5. CNYO At Beaver Lake Nature Center – Thursday, April 30

Our weather-alternate session at Beaver Lake started a bit on the soupy cloud cover side, but ended up clearing nicely just after sunset to give Bob Piekiel, Chris Schuck, Larry Slosberg, and myself reasonable skies for the Moon, Jupiter, Venus, and a few bright Messiers. With a short lecture on the observing highlights for the year (see below) already loaded on the laptop, several of us waited out the Sun indoors while others allowed their eyes to adjust gradually as the skies darkened and the early bugs slowly cooled out around the main rotunda.


Attending observers at Beaver Lake.

We’re tentatively scheduled to host a Summer observing session late August and will post as the schedule finalizes.

6. Syracuse Rotary Lecture – Friday, May 1

2015may10_rotarymbs_rgbAn invitation to speak for 30 minutes (which turned into nearly an hour with questions) to the Syracuse Rotary Club provided the perfect excuse to prep a lecture on all of the major astronomical events happening in 2015 (planets, eclipses, International SUNDay, NASA missions, and comets). How often do you end up hearing about something interesting the day after? The +30 attending Rotarians were very welcoming and engaging during the lecture, with several questions taking us far, far away from the Powerpoint presentation into all areas of astronomy. If you ever get the opportunity to lecture to a Rotary Club, take it!