Star Gazer November 2018

Star Gazer November 2018


Schoonover Observatory 670 N. Jefferson Street, Lima, Ohio 45801

Mailing Address: Lima Astronomical Society, Box 201, Lima, OH 45802

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The Star Gazer is written by Sherry Cottle Graham. Please forward comments, suggestions, or to unsubscribe/subscribe to this newsletter to SherryCottle@gmail.com.

November 2, 2018 General Meeting starts at 8:00 P.M. at the Schoonover Observatory

Presentations:

November 2nd – Mark Casazza will present, “Weather Forecasts, the Bane of Astronomers”.

Come hear about the recent upgrades and future possibilities for the Society and the observatory.

Scheduled Events

2018

  • November 2 – Receiving nominations for next year’s Board of Officers. The candidates will be voted on during this meeting.

2019

  • January 20, 2019, there will be the ‘Great American’ lunar eclipse, visible in 50 states
  • 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Lunar Landing, May 4th, 2019 at the Neil Armstrong Airport.
  • Night Out at the Neil Armstrong Museum, May 19th, 2019.

Under the Dome    

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy

Jen Brown, an amateur astronomer who is based in New York, contacted me and offered a link to an article that she wrote. She said, “It’s a 6k word beginner’s guide helping people get into Astronomy.” Due to the length of this article, I am providing a link to it so that you can read her article. Click on the following ICON to access, “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy.”

Thank you, Jen, for sharing your work with LAS.

Welcome aboard LAS Members

The Lima Astronomical Society expresses its gratitude to our members (new and old). We encourage our members to join us at the observatory, get involved, and let us know what you hope to experience during our meetings and special events. We are looking forward to meeting and forming a new fun filled family who enjoy sharing our love of stargazing.

Receiving Nominations for LAS Board of Directors

David Humphreys, President, will accept nominations for next year’s officers during our upcoming meeting. These are the offices that are open: President, Vice President, Secretary Recording, Secretary Communications, and Treasurer.  Please submit your nominations during our meeting on Friday, November 2nd, 2018.

These are currently the candidates who are nominated for these offices:

President: David Humphreys

Vice President: Michael Ritchie

Secretary: Sherry Graham

Treasurer: Randy Wapperom and Michael Ritchie

Members at Large (2): John Joseph and Mark Casazza

The History of Astronomy

Mike Thaman presented the “History of Astronomy:” during the October 5th general meeting. During this time, we learned about Mike and his love of science and astronomy. He shared stories about his time in the classroom, teaching a wide variety of scientific topics which included astronomy.

Mike took us though the ages and showed us how our knowledge of our solar system expanded with each leap in technology. His enthusiasm for astronomy was evident as it generated an exhilarating conversation afterwards. Many attendees enjoyed sharing their memories of astronomical events.

International Astronomy Day at Schoonover Park

On Saturday, October 13th, from noon to 6 PM, the Lima Astronomical Society hosted an open house at the Schoonover Observatory. It was a nice sunny day with partly cloudy skies. We had many guests visit us during this event.

Michael Ritchie setup a telescope with a solar filter for our guests to observe the sun. David Humphreys and Doug Wire opened the dome and offered daylight star gazing for our guests. He enjoys demonstrating how we can find Venus in the sky in the day.

David designed a planetary model that demonstrated how far apart the planets in our solar system are. He used Google Earth to be able to determine where each pole had to be placed for optimum visibility. Michael Ritchie helped him setup this display which attracted much attention. On each station, he provided details about the planet that was represented at that point.

A close up of a tree

Description generated with very high confidence

This is a model which shows the relative distance between our planets.

Astronomical Calendar for 2018

Date     GMT Event

       (h:m)

  • November 5, 6 – Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 5. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for viewing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 6 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 23.3 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
  • November 7 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 16:02 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waxing gibbous moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good early morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 23 – Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 05:40 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter’s Moon.
  • December 7 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 07:20 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • December 13, 14 – Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent early morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • December 15 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 21.3 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.
  • December 21 – December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 22:23 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • December 22 – Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 17:49 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule.
  • December 21, 22 – Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. This year the glare from the full moon will hide all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you might still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

In the News

Mission to Mercury Launches

By: Emily Lakdawalla | October 20, 2018

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The BepiColombo spacecraft, a joint European-Japanese mission to Mercury, rocketed away from Earth to begin its seven-year trek to the innermost planet.

Image of BepiColumbo launch

BepiColumbo launches atop an Ariane 5 rocket, seen in this video still.
ESA / CNES / Arianespace

We’re going back to Mercury! . . .eventually.

The BepiColombo spacecraft launched October 19th, at 9:45:28 p.m. EDT, atop an Ariane 5 rocket from an equatorial launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, beginning a seven-year journey to Mercury. The voyage began perfectly, atop towering pillars of flame that lit up the early morning sky and remained visible until the side boosters burned out 2 minutes later, leaving the steady light of the main rocket stage visible as a greenish point in the sky.

BepiColombo’s journey will return it to Earth, past Venus twice, and take it by Mercury six times before finally settling in to orbit on December 5th, 2025. The mission is a combined effort of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Questions that Need Answering

Messenger's Mercury

Mercury as seen by the Messenger spacecraft on January 14, 2008, about 27,000 km from the planet. 
NASA / APL / Carnegie Institution for Science

Getting to Mercury is difficult — so difficult that fewer spacecraft have visited Mercury than have visited Saturn. NASA has sent two spacecraft: Mariner 10, which completed three flybys (all over the same hemisphere) in 1974 and 1975, and Messenger, which accomplished its orbital mission from 2011 to 2015.

Messenger was one of NASA’s low-cost Discovery missions. It accomplished a lot with its diminutive payload, producing a global photo map as well as more detailed maps of topography and composition in the northern hemisphere. (The spacecraft’s elliptical orbit took it too far from the southern hemisphere for detailed mapping.) Messenger made discoveries about Mercury’s magnetic field and the tenuous cloud of atoms that fly in space around the planet, confirmed the presence of ice at the poles, and identified places with relatively recent geologic activity. But it left us with more new questions than it answered old ones — as any good survey mission should do.

How can the terrestrial planet with the biggest iron core have so little iron in its crust? Why is its core so big? How can its crust have so much sulfur when it’s the closest planet to the Sun? Why is its magnetic field shifted to the north of the planet’s center? Why do some of Mercury’s craters have dark rays, and others bright? What process formed the bizarre Swiss-cheese features called “hollows”?

Two Spacecraft in One

Image of BepiColumbo spacecraft stack

BepiColombo before transfer to the final assembly building. JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter is seen at the top of the stack, ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter is in the middle, and ESA’s Mercury Transfer Module is at the bottom.
ESA / CNES / Arianespace / S. Martin (Guiana Space Center)

BepiColombo will bring flagship-class science to Mercury to answer questions both old and new. It comprises two science spacecraft. One, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), was built by ESA and will operate in a nearly circular orbit close to the planet. The other, Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), was built by JAXA and will fly in a much more elliptical orbit, far from the planet. The two will always be in the same orbit plane, making it easy to do simultaneous observations of the behavior of the magnetic field and particles in different locations near Mercury.

BepiColombo’s science package recapitulates Messenger’s but with sharper and broader vision and the advantage of two spacecraft. Both probes carry magnetometers, to study how Mercury’s internally generated magnetic field responds to buffeting from the active Sun. Both carry instruments to study the planet’s exosphere — the neutral atoms and ions knocked off Mercury’s surface by incoming radiation. MMO also has a dust counter, something Messenger didn’t have.

MPO has cameras and spectrometers to take photos and compositional measurements of the surface. From its nearly circular orbit, MPO will get much closer to Mercury’s surface and obtain much sharper images than Messenger could, placing its observations in context with the benefit of Messenger’s map. MPO will try to understand the composition of Mercury’s crust and the nature of its volcanic activity, and will search for evidence of the timing of Mercury’s shrinking along near-surface faults. Messenger hinted at small-scale faults on which shrinking could be occurring today; MPO will try to determine if the innermost planet is still active. Scientists are particularly interested in seeing Mercury’s south pole up close and in detail for the first time, to find out whether it has reservoirs of ices and organic-rich materials, as the north pole does.

(Article continues after graphic.)

A Long Road Ahead

Graphic of BepiColumbo mission profile

This graphic was created for the Planetary Society’s member magazine, The Planetary Report, and is reproduced here with permission.

It’s not easy to get to Mercury. A spacecraft has to shed a huge quantity of angular momentum to get close to the Sun and settle into orbit around the small planet. BepiColombo will be getting a ride from a third spacecraft built by ESA, the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM). MTM will use solar-electric propulsion, its huge solar panels powering ion thrusters that will continuously fire for most of the journey. Shortly before arriving at Mercury, BepiColombo will drop the MTM, thus avoiding the requirement of slowing down into Mercury orbit with all that extra mass.

BepiColombo has a long way to go, but it’s accomplished the most dangerous part of its mission — the launch. Mercury Orbit Insertion in December 2025 should be a piece of cake by comparison. By the time the spacecraft completes its sixth flyby of Mercury in January of that year, it will be traveling slow enough to be captured naturally, by Mercury’s own gravity, the seventh time the planet and spacecraft meet.

Mission Statement

Mission Statement: To promote knowledge of astronomy and science (in general) for the residents in and around our community.

Membership Renewals for 2018 year are now due. Please send your checks to:  Lima Astronomical Society, Box 201, Lima, OH 45802.  The price is: Student $15: Individual $20: Family $25: Life Time $300.

End of Star Gazer

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