Falling Skies, a Blurry Clock Tower and more Meteors!
by Dan Wright
After the recent UARS satellite that splashed into the ocean near Madagascar, you better dig up that Skylab hard hat you’ve been keeping in the attic since the 70’s. Once again the sky is falling with junk. Before the ROSAT X-ray telescope meets it’s ultimate demise, it’s doing a few passes over the Rolnick Observatory and the reports are that it’s +1 magnitude, easy to see and getting brighter all the time. You can see it for yourself when it’s going to pass over us. While this is smaller to the recent UARS crash, the heat resistant mirror of this telescope could survive reentry and it weighs almost 2 tons! Not to mention the 30 or so other parts that are expected to make it through the atmosphere. No one is quite sure where this will end up but it’s a best guess around October 23rd, give or take a day.
On October 8th, the annual Draconids meteor shower did have it’s anticipated burst but because of the full moon and position of the Earth, it was a bust for us here in America. We have another shot at a so-so meteor shower blasting out of the club of Orion thanks to Comet Halley on October 21st. Get up early and you may see up to 20 an hour but the last quarter moon will wash out some of the faintest meteors.
Comet Elenin flew just a wee bit too close to the sun and fell apart like a cheap suit after it got whacked by a coronal mass ejection and will at best be just a glimmer of it’s former self. Comet Garradd keeps moving West and is now in Hercules. It’s at 7th magnitude and almost naked eye visible in really dark locations. Early morning December viewing should be best but it will be around all winter.
As the days grow short and cooler the weather generally improves. When the skies have been clear we’ve had some big crowds show up for public nights. If you’re free on a Wednesday night and the observatory is open, c’mon up and shoot the breeze with our photon starved neighbors. Even if you’re not on the schedule, we’d love to have you hang out with us. Of course if you are on the schedule, we’d be mightily pleased if you show up on your night.
If and when the weather does improve, we’re going to get in another members/family/friends star party the weekend of October 21st or 22nd depending on whatever night looks best. Who knows, you may see a busted up satellite land on our campus! If the weather holds, a few of us are considering taking the 25 Obsession up to Roxbury NY the weekend of October 28 & 29. Contact Dan Wright if you’d like to come with us.
Founding member Phil Harrington is sending us a bunch of excellent 2012 calendars he’s added his astronomical commentary. We’ll have those for sale to members for just $10 and non-members only $15. We also have a very limited amount of Astronomy Magazine’s 2012 Deep Space Mysteries calendar for $15.
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Our Next Public Meeting is October 18th at 8pm
The Rolnick Observatory’s Director Bob Meadows gives his annual Stellafane report with a full run down of all of the star parties attended by the members of the Westport Astronomical Society in 2011. Stellafane is a favorite as the heated amateur telescope competitions are always fun and Bob has all the down and dirty optical action! As tradition goes, Bob nearly crashes the mini van trying to take yet another picture of the Clock Tower… Cal’s Corner returns from that entirely odd side of the Universe as well as jugs of apple cider.
November 15th we’ll host the American Museum of Natural History’s Dr. Ben Oppenheimer, a comparative exoplanetary scientist. This is Dr. Oppenheimer’s first visit to the Rolnick Observatory. The Milky Way is filling up with more planets every day (1,235 planetary candidates from the Kepler Telescope at last count), and his topic is quite timely: The Universe of Worlds: Comparative Exoplanet Science.
December 20th is our big, galaxy sized Holiday Party and this year we welcome Westport’s own David Gaynes who’ll screen his excellent movie Saving Hubble. This is a great film full of colorful characters that built, repaired and use the Hubble. It really shows the human story and essence of how the entire world feels about history’s greatest telescope!
Big 2012 Events:
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ASTROWEB SITE OF THE MONTH
by Cal Powell
The most complete collection of astronaut photos of the Earth is available from NASA’s The Gateway of Astronaut Photography Images of Earth web page at http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/. Fully indexed and searchable by mission and geographical location, you can find images of nearly every part of the Earth’s surface. An enterprising individual has used images from the Gateway to develop a YouTube time-lapse video of an ISS-eye view of an Earth orbit (at http://www.youtube.com/watch?
My thanks go to Charles Scovil who brought this site to my attention. Please send e-mail on your own personal web pages, or astronomy links that you find interesting or noteworthy to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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by Bob Meadows
The star party scheduled for Sept. 30 or Oct. 1 at the Rolnick Observatory was canceled due to the weather. We were able to see the supernova in M101 at the public night on Oct. 5. It was difficult to find because the Moon made the galaxy almost impossible to see.
WAS purchased a new two stage snow thrower. It will be used for clearing the paths at the observatory.
The area to the right just after you enter the gate had fill added when the seismometer vault was built. It has now been seeded, and the area around the telescope pad was re-seeded.
The mosquito magnet was shut down and stored for the season.
19 Bob Blasko K. Moskovitz *Dan Wright
26 Mike Bellacosa David Ives *Carl Lancaster
2 Bob Tobin Frank Cirino *Franco Fellah
9 Tom Davis Karl Procop
16 Bob Blasko K. Moskovitz *Dan Wright
23 Mike Bellacosa Nick LaRocca *Carl Lancaster
30 Bob Tobin David Ives *Bob Meadows
7 Karl Procop Evan Tilley
14 Tom Davis Frank Cirino *Franco Fellah
21 Bob Blasko K. Moskovitz *Dan Wright
28 Mike Bellacosa David Ives *Carl Lancaster
Please call Bob or make arrangements for someone to cover your shift if you can’t make it. We’re counting on you.