Calling All Amateur Astronomoers…You Input Is Needed.

The Night Sky Network is conducting a new survey of amateur astronomers located in the United States. We wish to better understand the landscape of educational outreach performed by astronomy clubs and assess the needs of the amateur astronomy community for the next five years.
You can take the survey here: http://bit.ly/2014astrosurvey  
Your answers will directly influence the future of the Night Sky Network’s efforts to help astronomers around the country bring the wonders of space and the night sky to the public. We continually work to improve our materials and website and need your input to learn where we can best focus our efforts.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Star Party Weekend.

For those of you that have a chance, you are more than welcome to come out to the Riverside Astronomical Societies dark sky site (GMARS).

Site map of GMARS

If you would like more information or directions, they can be found here.  We have two houses, 8 beds, 3 bathrooms, 1 kitchen, internet available, and lots of good people and good times.

Please be sure to come early in the afternoon on Saturday so that everyone can see who you are before it gets dark and you can meet and greet other club members.  It will also give you time to eat!  That’s right, we will be hosting our usual Star-B-Que Saturday evening.  It is free, but if you would like to bring something, it is a pot luck.

No matter what you skill level, you will find something to look at.  You don’t even need to bring your own telescope.  You can wander around and look through other peoples telescopes.  Don’t worry we are a friendly bunch ( except for that SOB of a Club President…wait…that’s me!).

If you would like to set up your own scope, we usually have pads available and there is a whole lot of field that you can also use.  There is electricity on the field that is also available.  It looks like the weather gods are going to be nice this weekend (the viewing was AWESOME last weekend).

I hope to see you there.  If not, I hope you can make an evening of observing somewhere.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

RAS General Meeting Recap.

We started off the evening with our usual reports, but unfortunately, our Chief Observer had a work commitment and could not make the meeting.

2014-06-14 19.15.09

This months “What’s Up?” speaker was Cherly Wilcox and her talk was about atmospheric optics.  What is atmospheric optics you ask (like I did), it is all the nifty things that you can see in the sky from clouds, to rainbows and other phenomenon that you sometimes see if you look up.

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I didn’t know that the dark area between two rainbows was called Alexander’s band, which was named after Alexander of Aphrodisias who first described it in 200 AD.

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Moonbows are always a good time.  Moonbows are formed just like rainbows, only with moonlight.

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Crepuscular rays (also known as God rays) in atmospheric optics, are rays of sunlight that appear to radiate from the point in the sky where the sun is located. I didn’t know what they were called, but I do now.  I have taken lots of pictures just thinking that they looked nice.

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Anticrepuscular rays are similar to crepuscular rays, but seen opposite the sun in the sky. Now I will have to be on the lookout for them.

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The green flash is always something to look for at sunset.  I have only seen it once, and I have never gotten a photograph of it.  I will just have to try harder.

Chris Butler

This month’s main speaker was Chris Butler. He is a science artist, lecturer & media producer.  His talk, “Our Little Corner of the Galaxy — The Realm of the Super-terrestrials,” was facinating in that he produced a 45 minute animated video that he voiced over.  It will be available on his website.

Chris is an internationally renowned artist, public speaker, and educational program producer whose work focuses on science, nature, and maritime subjects. His illustrations have appeared in thousands of publications worldwide, from the Times of London to Scientific American. A graduate of California State University Fullerton’s school of Television and Film Production, Chris has served as a art director and animator on both educational and entertainment programs. Among his screen credits are the National Geographic IMAX film “Forces of Nature” (2003) and Griffith Observatory’s “Centered in the Universe,” (2006). Chris has produced and presented live science educational programming since 1985 which has been featured at hundreds of events.”

His talk will prompt some of this weeks posts as it raised a lot of questions for me, so as I explore them, I will tell you about what I find out.  This is just one of the benefits of attending your local astronomical club’s meetings.  You never know what you will learn.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Off To The Show.

I am heading out this morning to the RTMC and the Starlight Festival. I have gone to the bank just in case there is some little astronomical trinket that I cannot live without, and packed my camera.  I should have some photos for you for next weeks posts.

I hope those of you that can make it stop me and say hello if we meet.  You may not recognize me without the suit, but the face is a great give away.  That and the fact that I might have some drool out the corner of my mouth if I am near any of the high-end astronomy equipment (gee ma, it’s only $10,000 for that astrocamera!).  Of course my mantra usually is:  “I’m happy with my setup, I’m happy with my setup, I’m happy with my setup…”  As any of you that have any sort of hobby were equipment is involved (baking, RC vehicles, etc.), that mantra is a lie.  You can never have too much or not need the latest and greatest.  I think the thought goes like this: “If I have this one (or more) new piece of equipment, I’ll be able to do X, or I will finally be able to do Y, or I will have everything I need to accomplish my goal of Z!”  Really, that one thing will make me better at, or finally able to do the pinnacle of my hobby!  I’ll be able to turn professional!

Such are the dreams of hobbyists everywhere.  Never give up your dreams for the mundane.

Have a safe and festive holiday if you are in the U.S., and don’t forget to remember our veterans on Monday, we have a lot more now in need of help and acknowledgement than we have had since WWII.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

The solar system is cool. Here are 10 things you might not know.

The hottest planet isn’t closest to the sun.

Pluto is smaller than the USA.

George Lucas doesn’t know much about “asteroid fields.”

You can make volcanos using water as magma.

The edge of the solar system is 1,000 times farther away than Pluto.

Almost everything on Earth is a rare element.

There are Mars rocks on Earth (and we didn’t bring here).

Jupiter has the biggest ocean of any planet.

Even really small bodies can have moons.

We live inside the sun.

This artist's concept puts solar system distances in perspective. The scale bar is in astronomical units, with each set distance beyond 1 AU representing 10 times the previous distance. One AU is the distance from the sun to the Earth, which is about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers.  NASA's Voyager 1, humankind's most distant spacecraft, is around 125 AU.  Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech

1. The hottest planet isn’t closest to the sun. Many people know that Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, well less than half of the Earth’s distance. It is no mystery, therefore, why people would assume that Mercury is the hottest planet. We know that Venus, the second planet away from the sun, is on the average 30 million miles farther from the sun than Mercury. The natural assumption is that being farther away, it must be cooler. But assumptions can be dangerous. For practical consideration, Mercury has no atmosphere, no warming blanket to help it maintain the sun’s heat. Venus, on the other hand, is shrouded by an unexpectedly thick atmosphere, about 100 times thicker than our own on Earth. This in itself would normally serve to prevent some of the sun’s energy from escaping back into space and thus raise the overall temperature of the planet. But in addition to the atmosphere’s thickness, it is composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. The carbon dioxide freely lets solar energy in, but is far less transparent to the longer wavelength radiation emitted by the heated surface. Thus the temperature rises to a level far above what would be expected, making it the hottest planet. In fact the average temperature on Venus is about 875 degrees F, hot enough to melt tin and lead. The maximum temperature on Mercury, the planet closer to the sun, is about 800 degrees F. In addition, the lack of atmosphere causes Mercury’s surface temperature to vary by hundreds of degrees, whereas the thick mantle of carbon dioxide keeps the surface temperature of Venus steady, hardly varying at all, anywhere on the planet or any time of day or night!

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2. Pluto is smaller than the USA. The greatest distance across the contiguous United States is nearly 2,900 miles (from Northern California to Maine). By the best current estimates, Pluto is just over 1400 miles across, less than half the width of the U.S. Certainly in size it is much smaller than any major planet, perhaps making it a bit easier to understand why a few years ago it was “demoted” from full planet status. It is now known as a “dwarf planet.”

3. George Lucas doesn’t know much about “asteroid fields.” In many science fiction movies, spacecraft are often endangered by pesky asteroid fields. In actuality, the only asteroid belt we are aware of exists between Mars and Jupiter, and although there are tens of thousands of asteroids in it (perhaps more), they are quite widely spaced and the likelihood of colliding with one is small. In fact, spacecraft must be deliberately and carefully guided to asteroids to have a chance of even photographing one. Given the presumed manner of creation, it is highly unlikely that spacefarers will ever encounter asteroid swarms or fields in deep space.

4. You can make volcanos using water as magma. Mention volcanoes and everyone immediately thinks of Mount St. Helens, Mount Vesuvius, or maybe the lava caldera of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Volcanos require molten rock called lava (or “magma” when still underground), right? Not really. A volcano forms when an underground reservoir of a hot, fluid mineral or gas erupts onto the surface of a planet or other non-stellar astronomical body. The exact composition of the mineral can vary greatly. On Earth, most volcanoes sport lava (or magma) that has silicon, iron, magnesium, sodium, and a host of complicated minerals. The volcanoes of Jupiter’s moon Io appear to be composed mostly of sulfur and sulfur dioxide. But it can be simpler than that. On Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Neptune’s moon Triton, and others, the driving force is ice, good old frozen H20! Water expands when it freezes and enormous pressures can build up, just as in a “normal” volcano on Earth. When the ice erupts, a “cryovolcano” is formed. So volcanoes can operate on water as well as molten rock. By the way, we have relatively small scale eruptions of water on Earth called geysers. They are associated with superheated water that has come into contact with a hot reservoir of magma.


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5. The edge of the solar system is 1,000 times farther away than Pluto. You might still think of the solar system as extending out to the orbit of the much-loved dwarf planet Pluto. Today we don’t even consider Pluto a full-fledged planet, but the impression remains. Still, we have discovered numerous objects orbiting the sun that are considerably farther than Pluto. These are “Trans-Neptunian Objects” (TNOs), or “Kuiper Belt Objects” (KBOs). The Kuiper Belt, the first of the sun’s two reservoirs of cometary material, is thought to extend to 50 or 60 astronomical units (AU, or the average distance of the Earth from the sun). An even farther part of the solar system, the huge but tenuous Oort comet cloud, may extend to 50,000 AU from the sun, or about half a light year – more than a thousand times farther than Pluto.

6. Almost everything on Earth is a rare element. The elemental composition of planet Earth is mostly iron, oxygen, silicon, magnesium, sulfur, nickel, calcium, sodium, and aluminum. While such elements have been detected in locations throughout the universe, they are merely trace elements, vastly overshadowed by the much greater abundances of hydrogen and helium. Thus Earth, for the most part, is composed of rare elements. This does not signify any special place for Earth, however. The cloud from which the Earth formed had a much higher abundance of hydrogen and helium, but being light gases, they were driven away into space by the sun’s heat as the Earth formed.

7. There are Mars rocks on Earth (and we didn’t bring here). Chemical analysis of meteorites found in Antarctica, the Sahara Desert, and elsewhere have been shown by various means to have originated on Mars. For example, some contain pockets of gas that is chemically identical to the martian atmosphere. These meteorites may have been blasted away from Mars due to a larger meteoroid or asteroid impact on Mars, or by a huge volcanic eruption, and later collided with Earth.

8. Jupiter has the biggest ocean of any planet. Orbiting in cold space five times farther from the sun than Earth, Jupiter retained much higher levels of hydrogen and helium when it formed than did our planet. In fact, Jupiter is mostly hydrogen and helium. Given the planet’s mass and chemical composition, physics demands that way down under the cold cloud tops, pressures rise to the point that the hydrogen must turn to liquid. In fact there should be a deep planetary ocean of liquid hydrogen. Computer models show that not only is this the largest ocean known in the solar system, but that it is about 40,000 km deep – roughly as deep as the Earth is around!

9. Even really small bodies can have moons. It was once thought that only objects as large as planets could have natural satellites or moons. In fact the existence of moons, or the capability of a planet to gravitationally control a moon in orbit, was sometimes used as part of the definition of what a planet truly is. It just didn’t seem reasonable that smaller celestial bodies had enough gravity to hold a moon. After all, Mercury and Venus have none at all, and Mars has only tiny moons. But in 1993, the Galileo probe passed the 20-mile wide asteroid Ida and discovered its one-mile wide moon, Dactyl. Since then moons have been discovered orbiting nearly 200 other minor planets, further complicating the definition of a “true” planet.

10. We live inside the sun. Normally we think of the sun as being that big, hot ball of light 93 million miles away. But actually, the sun’s outer atmosphere extends far beyond its visible surface. Our planet orbits within this tenuous atmosphere, and we see evidence of this when gusts of the solar wind generate the Northern and Southern Lights. In that sense, we definitely live “inside” the sun. But the solar atmosphere doesn’t end at Earth. Auroras have been observed on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and even distant Neptune. In fact, the outer solar atmosphere, called the “heliosphere,” is thought to extend at least 100 A.U. That’s nearly 10 billion miles. In fact the atmosphere is likely teardrop shaped due to the sun’s motion in space, with the “tail” extending tens to hundreds of billions of miles downwind.

This post is based on a talk called “Ten Things You May Not Know About the Solar System,” given by  Dr. Victor Andersen of the Community College of Aurora, Colorado, in October, 2010.

Reblogged from: http://earthsky.org/space/ten-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-solar-system

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.

Ahhh a classic song for a classic satellite.

Almost as classic as those shorts!  Anyway, 36 years ago, on August 12, 1978, the International Cometary Explorer (ICE) spacecraft (originally known as International Sun/Earth Explorer 3[(ISEE-3)]) satellite, was launched.

It was part of the ISEE (International Sun-Earth Explorer) international cooperative program between NASA and ESRO/ESA to study the interaction between the Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind.

There were three spacecraft, a mother/daughter pair (ISEE-1 and ISEE-2) and a Heliocentric orbit spacecraft (ISEE-3, later renamed ICE).

On a historical note, ISEE-3 was the first spacecraft to be placed in a halo orbit at one of Earth-Sun Lagrangian points (L1). It was later sent to visit Comet Giacobini-Zinner and Comet Halley, and became the first spacecraft to fly through a comet’s tail.  Unfortunately, ICE is not equipped with cameras, so no pretty pictures, but it did gather some great data.

Due to costs, NASA shut down the spacecraft On May 5, 1997, or did they.  It turns out that ICE has be fully functioning since the “shutdown” command was sent.

Now a group wants to retrieve the satellite, get it back into position and chase another comet.  NASA needs about $125,000 to bring ICE back to life and send it on another comet hunting mission.

So a crowdfunding campaign was started here and has gone passed the half way mark.  Most of the funds are from average people (a testament to how much people like space).  If they are successful, it would make me revisit my Let’ Buy A Space Station idea.   You should also check out the other projects on Rockethub.  You might find something that interests you.

Of course you know this post could have been titled ICE, ICE baby.

P.S. you knew this was coming so don’t blame me.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman