Star Gazer December 2018

Star Gazer December 2018

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

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

Check us out on Facebook:  The Lima Astronomical Society.

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

December 7, 2018 General Meeting starts at 8:00 P.M. at the Schoonover Observatory

The Lima Astronomical Society Wishes

You and Your Family

A Happy Holiday Season!


Michael Ritchie will present “The Starships Project” and host a Round Table Discussion on Astronomy.

Scheduled Events


  • December 7th, last LAS meeting for 2018, The Starships Project by M.Ritchie


  • January 4, 2019 – the first LAS meeting for 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    

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.

Welcome New Members in October: 2018

Ryan and Stacy Brenneman

Randy and Teresa Schaefer.

Announcing 2019 Lima Astronomical Society Board of Directors

  • President: David Humphreys
  • Vice President: Michael Ritchie
  • Secretary (Communications and Recording): Sherry Graham
  • Treasurer: Randy Wapperom
  • Members at Large: John Joseph, Mark Casazza, and Doug Wire

Weather Forecasts, the Bane of Astronomers by Mark Casazza

Star gazing in Ohio is a constant challenge for our star gazing friends. With their equipment loaded in bags and boxes, a calendar of upcoming events in their hand, the focus turns to the sky – hoping and praying for a clear night with a blessing or two: the moon will not full, and the humidity will be null. But these conditions are a rare event, especially in the Ohio where its skies are typically cloud covered for the largest part of the year.

So, what do these star gazers do? They download and study all types of weather maps, radar sources, and weather forecasting software. Anything that will give them an inkling of hope that the clouds to open for a short time, granting an opportunity to capture a photograph or two of a heavenly object or a spectacular sight. Perhaps, this event might happen only once in a lifetime.

Mark certainly has his work cut out for him. He has a full list of weather and radar tracking applications. During this meeting, he diligently presented each one and how they benefit his efforts to find the right location, time, date, and humidity conditions to make his trip worthwhile.  As he calls the weather, “My greatest nemesis,” he is willing to share his swarth of applications with us.

If you are interested in learning or using these applications, you can send Mark Casazza a message at  He will send you a link to his presentation that lists these applications that he presented during our recent meeting.

Survey Monkey

Please take a few moments and take this survey for us. You can connect to it by clicking the following ICON below:  

Survey Monkey LAS Survey

A Star Gazing Tip from the President

In case you didn’t know, there is a fairly bright comet that will be coming closer to Earth than most comets get.  The comet is 46P Wirtanen and will be brightest  and closest December 12-16.  The comet is almost a naked eye object now, if we would only get some clear nights to see it. 

Tony Farnham, for the Wirtanen Campaign, sent this information to share:

They can be found on the Campaign website:

It is notable that when Wirtanen is at its closest point to the Earth, it will only be a few degrees away from the Pleiades.  This works as a great pointer for people who are familiar with the sky.  Astrophotographers should take note as well, as this will be a great setup for pictures.

Speaking of pictures, we encourage you to share any nice pictures that you obtain with the Amateur Observers Program (

Astronomical Calendar for 2018

Date     GMT Event


  • 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

NASA’s InSight Lander on Mars Just Set a Solar Power Record!

By Sarah Lewin, Associate Editor | December 2, 2018 02:00pm ET


 Click ICON to link to the article.

NASA’s InSight lander, which touched down on Mars Nov. 26 and successfully extended its large solar arrays hours later, is already setting records.

During its full first day on the Red Planet, the solar-powered lander generated more electrical power in one day than any previous Mars vehicle has, mission team members said.

“It is great to get our first ‘off-world record’ on our very first full day on Mars,” Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, said in a statement. [NASA’s InSight Mars Lander: Amazing Landing Day Photos!]

“But even better than the achievement of generating more electricity than any mission before us is what it represents for performing our upcoming engineering tasks,” Hoffman added. “The 4,588 watt-hours we produced during sol 1 means we currently have more than enough juice to perform these tasks and move forward with our science mission.” 

NASA’s InSight lander flipped open the lens cover on its Instrument Context Camera (ICC) on Nov. 30, 2018, and captured this view of Mars. Located below InSight’s deck, the ICC has a fisheye view, creating a curved horizon. Some clumps of dust are still visible on the camera’s lens. One of the spacecraft’s footpads can be seen in the lower right corner. The seismometer’s tether box is in the upper left corner.

NASA’s InSight lander flipped open the lens cover on its Instrument Context Camera (ICC) on Nov. 30, 2018, and captured this view of Mars. Located below InSight’s deck, the ICC has a fisheye view, creating a curved horizon. Some clumps of dust are still visible on the camera’s lens. One of the spacecraft’s footpads can be seen in the lower right corner. The seismometer’s tether box is in the upper left corner.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The 4,588 watt-hours InSight generated on its first sol, or Martian day, from solar power is well over the 2,806 watt-hours generated in a day by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which runs on a nuclear system called a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Coming in third was the solar-powered Phoenix lander, which generated around 1,800 watt-hours in a day, according to NASA officials.

After sending back its first photo of the landing site and extending its two solar arrays, each of which is about 7 feet in diameter (2.2 meters), InSight got to work photographing its environment and unlatching its robotic arm, which it will eventually use to deploy seismometers and a heat probe to learn about Mars’ interior.

And mission team members are busy inspecting the images they’ve received so far to learn more about InSight’s landing site, a lava plain called Elysium Planitia. They’ve found that the spacecraft is tilted by about 4 degrees, according to the statement, in a shallow impact crater filled with dust and sand. (This is no big deal; the lander can operate at up to a 15-degree tilt.) A steep slope could have hurt the spacecraft’s ability to get enough power from its solar arrays, and landing near rocks could have kept the spacecraft from easily opening both arrays, the researchers said.

“The science team had been hoping to land in a sandy area with few rocks since we chose the landing site, so we couldn’t be happier,” Hoffman said in the statement. “There are no landing pads or runways on Mars, so coming down in an area that is basically a large sandbox without any large rocks should make instrument deployment easier and provide a great place for our mole to start burrowing.”

So far, the team thinks the immediate area has few rocks, but higher-resolution images coming later on will give a more conclusive view of the surroundings. The team will use those views to plan out exactly how the spacecraft will place its instruments with its mechanical arm.

“We are looking forward to higher-definition pictures to confirm this preliminary assessment,” InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt, also at JPL, said in the statement. “If these few images — with resolution-reducing dust covers on — are accurate, it bodes well for both instrument deployment and the mole penetration of our subsurface heat-flow experiment.” (According to NASA, the spacecraft got its first view of Mars with a lens cover off Nov. 30.)

The $850 million InSight mission is scheduled to run for one Mars year, or nearly two Earth years. The data gathered by the lander will help mission team members map out the Red Planet’s interior structure in unprecedented detail, NASA officials have said. This information should, in turn, reveal key insights about the formation of rocky planets in general.

Mission Statement

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

Membership Renewals for 2019 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.

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. 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.

End of Star Gazer