The World reflects on John Glenn 50 years on, Planets Converge and a new Comet is visible to WAS telescopes!
by Dan Wright
50 years ago today the world was inspired by the courage of a man, after 10 false starts, to strap himself to the top of an Atlas rocket, some of which he watched blow themselves apart. You can watch the newsreal of John Glenn on that day right HERE.
Interestingly, the Atlas V rocket which just launched the Mars Science Laboratory toward Mars is the direct descendant of the original Atlas which launched Glenn. Atlas outlasted the Space Shuttle, which also took Glenn into orbit in 1998.
Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted earlier today “Feb 20, 1962, The USA launches John Glenn into Earth orbit. Something America could do fifty years ago….but not today.” Draw your own conclusion to that statement. Let’s not forget that Glenn was following a menagerie of critters and the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit the Earth on April 12, 1961.
* * * * * *
As we make it through this unusually warm winter the usual thing we can count on is the clouds! Of course, some of the best astronomy is when you don’t have to set up all sorts of stuff, stand in the cold and get skunked by the weather. In fact, I was really impressed with a great view of Uranus just 1/3 a degree from Venus only a few nights ago. As they say, your best telescope is the easiest one you can grab!
The winter constellations still rule the night but planets add even more spice. At the end of this month all you have to do is look West to see 3 planets squeeze together at sunset. It’s already a pretty cool show with Jupiter and Venus but Mercury will be joining the party through March with the best views of 2012. Even the crescent Moon wants in later this week!
Don’t miss Mars this month as it’s as bright as it gets this year and Saturn slowly becomes visible earlier and earlier. Saturn will be the “star” of public nights this summer.
One of my favorite things to view are comets and an amateur astronomer from Warrensburg Missouri just had his discovery named after him! Can you imagine how exciting it would be to see and discover something no one has ever seen before? How often does that happen in 2012? Comet C/2012 Bruenjes began the month in Taurus at magnitude 9.6. Look for a 3′ coma. It should fade rapidly, moving into Pisces by month’s end. I’ve attached a chart for you to find this while you can. You can read about Fred Bruenjes’ discovery HERE.
* * * * * *
Our Next Meeting is February 21, 8:00pm
Our scheduled speaker Martin Hamar had a conflict and won’t be able to present his second part to Imaging the Solar System on Pennies. We hope to reschedule him again soon. On Tuesday February 21st we’ll have an update on The Universe, Atlas hugs Cal’s Corner this month and we have a cool choice of some amazing astronomy movies!
Big 2012 Events:
Dr. Jason Koglin: March 20
The Annual Messier Marathon: March 23-24
International Astronomy Day: April 28
Biggest Full Moon of 2012: May 5
David L. Rabinowitz – May 15
Annular Eclipse of the Sun: May 20
The Transit of Venus: June 5
Dr. Michael Inglis: July 17
The Perseid Meteor Shower: August 11
Professor Mark Swanson: August 21
The Geminid Meteor Shower: December 13 – 14
The World Not Ending: December 21
* * * * * *
ASTROWEB SITE OF THE MONTH
by Cal Powell
We live in an era of data-intensive science where anyone with an Internet connection can put on a virtual lantern helmet and mine vast quantities of publicly-available research data. Amateurs who are interested in faint variable stars can now sift through seven years of automated observation results collectively known as the Catalina Surveys.
These surveys used the 0.7 meter Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow in Arizona to look for near-Earth objects (NEOs) and optical transients (such as supernovas, blazars, cataclysmic variables, and active galctic nuclei), and have released data representing about 20 billion brightness measurements of 198 million objects on the Catalina Surveys site at http://nesssi.cacr.caltech.
Please send e-mail on your own personal web pages, or astronomy links that you find interesting or noteworthy to me at email@example.com.
* * * * * *
by Bob Meadows
Carl Lancaster installed a longer altitude cable on the 25 inch telescope to allow it to wrap 3 times around the drive wheel to eliminate slipping.
On Jan. 21, there was a snow storm and we had about 5 inches at the observatory. We had the lot plowed. Bob Meadows used the new snow thrower for the first time. It worked, but the drive only drove one wheel. We are going to try making an adjustment to fix it.
The steel plate and steel tube have arrived for construction of the new equatorial pier for the 16” inch telescope.
22 Karl Procop Niles Lanthrop
29 Carl Lancaster Evan Tilley
7 Dan Wright Tom Davis K. Moskovitz
14 Bob Meadows Bob Blasko Adam Yates *Franco Fellah
21 Mike Bellacosa Frank Cirino David Ives *Dan Wright
28 Bob Tobin Nick LaRocca Niles Lithrop *Carl Lancaster
4 Karl Procop Quintin Brantley Evan Tilley
11 Tom Davis K. Moskovitz Adam Yates *Franco Fellah
18 Bob Meadows Bob Blasko Frank Cirino *Dan Wright
25 Mike Bellacosa David Ives Niles Lathrop *Carl Lancaster