Shank a ball across Enceladus, WAS breaks out the Sidewalk Astronomy and the developer of the NuSTAR X-Ray Space Telescope visits the Rolnick Observatory
by Dan Wright
Spring is always a busy month and plans at WAS are full throttle. As we slowly begin to expand our outreach, we’ve met some wonderful people. Bob Meadows and I took the 10” Orion to a lecture by astrophysicist Kevin Manning at the Weston Middle School late last month. The skies were not great but 50 kids and parents looked at Venus and the Moon before the clouds do what clouds always do. We grabbed some solar scopes from members Franco Fellah and Martin Hamar and went to the Discovery Museum for Space Day where once again, the skies were not wonderful but we met several hundred families that came to watch the tethered balloon launch and the 5 foot long model rocket launches. We did get in some great views of the sun between the clouds!
In the meantime, we were contacted by our new member Lou Chavenello who likes to organize Meet Up groups for various events across the area. He thought that putting one together for the Rolnick Observatory might be a popular event. He was right! We had over 50 (just about the max we can handle) show up for several hours of fun observing under a mostly full moon. While the Moon is not what we generally like to have blasting it’s natural light pollution, it was just fine for this group. We had many of our members show up to help out as well as our friends from the Astronomical Society of New Haven. It wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without Greg & Cheryl Barker showing up with their 18” Dob and mounted binoculars. All in all, it was a wonderful night and we raised $450 for the Rolnick Observatory. Thanks to everyone, let’s do it again!
As we continue our public march into the community with our astronomy friends and educators, the gang at ASNH asked us to help out at ConnJam 2012 at the Orange Fairgrounds in Orange CT, May 11th or 12th, depending on the weather. 3,000 Boy Scouts and their families descend on the fairgrounds and we’ll be there with telescopes! It sounds like a madhouse but it should be a lot of fun. If you can join us, please email and let us know!
As far as the sky is concerned this month, make sure you check out Saturn. It’s at opposition April 15th and easy to find to the left of Spica. Bob and I looked at it just before midnight on Friday with the 25 when it was just about 40 degrees high, about an hour from transiting. It was one of the best views I’ve had of the 6th planet. We counted 5 moons, saw the cassini division easily and could make out banding on the planet’s “surface”. It’s up all summer but don’t miss a chance to see this at it’s closest with a great telescope!
Mars is racing away quickly but it’s still easy to see features on the planet. The North polar cap is shrinking in the summer sun and that’s a lot more difficult now but it’s still a great looking object.
Venus doesn’t set until almost midnight and is about as bright as it ever gets. Jupiter is quickly becoming a “get it while you can” object as it is setting quickly behind the trees. Mercury is high in the sky in the morning and the rest of the planets are still in the Sun’s glare.
The Lyrids may be pretty decent this year with no moon, check ‘em out around April 16 – 25th.
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Welcome to new members Elana Festa, Lou Chavenello and Dean Wittleton. And our renewing members M Dolores Paoli, Quintin Brantley, Kathie Moskovitz and Bob Tobin. As members, we can’t thank you enough for your support! We do humbly ask that if it’s time for you to renew your membership, please do so today. We’ll be clearing and purging our membership list soon and you will no longer receive updates from the Rolnick Observatory. We ask you to continue to help out our important non-profit organization. Everyone who has not paid their dues will soon get an email or phone call to ask you to continue your support. Remember, WAS is an all volunteer 501(c)3 that is only supported by memberships and donations. Unless you just joined or renewed, All memberships are due May 1 2012; please renew today!
While you’re writing that check to renew your membership, now until April 18th buy $40 worth of WAS Wear and get $5 off your order! Use code SHOPTA1
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Our Next Meeting is Tuesday April 17, 8:00pm
Join us for cutting edge cosmology as we host Columbia University’s Dr. Chuck Hailey, Professor of Physics. Dr. Hailey is optics lead on the delayed but soon to be launched (June?) NASA X-Ray space telescope NuSTAR; the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array.
Hailey attended Cornell University and Columbia University, where he received his Ph.D. in physics. He spent 10 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In 1995 he returned to Columbia University, where he is the Pupin Professor of Physics and Co-Director of the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory.
Dr. Hailey worked in the 1980s on atomic physics. Drifting back to astrophysics in the early 1990s he was the US Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator for the Reflection Grating Array on the XMM-Newton Observatory. He also worked on imaging hard X-ray telescopes for ballooning. In the late 1990s and early 2000s his research group at Columbia developed the thermally-slumped glass approach to optics fabrication along with the precision mounting technologies for the glass, which were successfully employed on the HEFT balloon experiment, and are being implemented on NuSTAR. In addition, he conducted observational research on neutron stars and on supernova remnants. He is also PI of the GAPS dark matter experiment.
Dr. Hailey, Astronomy Apple Cider and an all new Cal’s Corner should make this a really interesting and a very well attended meeting. Come early!
We’re sorry that our original speaker Dr. Kerstin Perez was unable to attend the meeting but Dr. Hailey needed her in Japan to work on the GAPS dark matter balloon experiment. We hope to reschedule her again in the near future!
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”Searching the sky for exploding stars, black holes and distant planetesimals” Continuing our line up of interesting speakers, we’ll host David L. Rabinowitz on May 15. David is a researcher at Yale who has been instrumental in detecting Near Earth Objects as well as Kuiper Belt Objects using massive CCD cameras.
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Big 2012 Rolnick Observatory Events:
Saturn at Opposition: April 15
Lyrids Meteor Shower: April 21-22
Biggest Full Moon of 2012: May 5
David L. Rabinowitz: May 15 – Yale research scientist. “Searching the sky for exploding stars, black holes and distant planetesimals ”
WAS celebrates International Astronomy Day: May 26
The Transit of Venus: June 5
WAS Annual Picnic and Elections: June 19
The Perseid Meteor Shower: August 11
Professor Mark Swanson: August 21
Bob Meadows Annual Stellafane Report: September 18
Mordecai-Mark Mac Low: October 16 – Curator of the American Museum of Natural History, Department of Physics
Phil Harrington: November 16 – Founding member of WAS, contributing editor to Astronomy Magazine and author of many books including the recently published ultimate observing list for amateurs: Cosmic Challenge
David Mestre: December 18 – Director of Space Science Education at the Discovery Museum and Planetarium drops in for the annual WAS Holiday Party!
The World Not Ending: December 21
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ASTROWEB SITE OF THE MONTH
by Cal Powell
As the weather gets warmer, it is time to start working on your golf game — on a course that is out of this world! At Golf Sector 6 (located on the Cassini mission’s web site at http://ciclops.org/sector6/golf.php?js=1) you can play 18 holes on the moons of Saturn. You have to be careful to adjust your swing to the gravity of each Saturnian satellite. If you hit the ball too hard, it will exceed escape velocity and never return!
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
Mike Miciukiewicz, who is making the pier for the 16 inch telescope, has programmed the plasma cutter for the flat plates and tried to find a shop to do the angle cut of the tube. He didn’t find a shop, so he may have to rough cut it and grind it. He was busy preparing the payload for the Discovery Museum balloon launch on April 1. He said that after that, he would concentrate more on our pier.
Charles Scovil’s daughter works for a crane company, and they are willing to lift the pier into the dome. We will have to be flexible on the date, so they can do it when they have a crane in the area.
Carl Lancaster modified the Orion Short Tube 80 for viewing the transit of Venus. He added a 2 inch focuser, a solar filter, and a video camera. A solar filter was ordered for the 16 inch telescope.
Dan Wright and Bob Meadows set up the Mosquito Magnet. Bob replaced the drive wheel on the dome. Bob and Dan mowed the lawn for the first time April 12.
There was an impromptu star party on April 13 to take advantage of the clear night. We viewed Venus, Mars, Saturn, satellites, comet Garradd, the supernova in M95, galaxies, and nebulae.
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
2 Bob Meadows Bob Tobin Quintin Brantley
9 Tom Davis Nick LaRocca Evan Tilley *Franco Fellah
16 Bob Blasko Karl Procop K. Moskovitz *Dan Wright
23 Mike Bellacosa Frank Cirino Adam Yates *Carl Lancaster
30 Bob Meadows David Ives Niles Lathrop
6 Tom Davis Bob | Tobin Evan Tilley | *Franco Fellah
13 Bob Blasko | Karl Procop | Quintin Brantley – Cherry Springs –
20 Mike Bellacosa | Nick LaRocca | K. Moskovitz | *Dan Wright
27 Bob Meadows | Niles Lathrop | Adam Yates
Call Bob or make arrangements for someone to cover your shift if you can’t make it. We’re counting on you.