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Friday, April 18 2014 @ 03:42 PM CDT

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AOAS to End "Stars in the Parks"

General NewsFor the past three years, AOAS has worked with the City of Ft Smith Parks Department as partners in their "Friends of the Park" program. According to the guidelines of the program, a participating partner agreed to perform some type of work or hold some public events in a regular manner in trade for free room rentals.

For our AOAS bi-monthly meetings held 6 times each year on the first Friday of even-numbered months, we agreed to hold public observing events at Carol Ann Cross Park that we called "Stars in the Parks" in exchange for our room rental fees. Our "Stars in the Parks" events seemed a perfect partnership with the Parks Department from our perspective, but regretably, these highly successful public events will come to an end after this year.

Visitors at the April 16, 2005 "Stars in the Parks" event catch a glimpse of Saturn through a large telescope. As many as 125 people attended that particular event, as at least 11 AOAS members with 8 telescopes helped share our universe with the general public for more than 3 hours.
In our first 19 years at the Creekmore Park facility, we had frequently found ourselves faced with one loud group or another on the opposite side of a partition between the Magnolia and Azalea Room. We would have a hard time hearing anything in our meeting while a room filled with screaming kid's at a child's birthday party competed with us on the other side of the partition.

We had moved our meetings to the River Parks Events Building in 2005, but earlier this year, the Parks Department asked us to move back to Creekmore Park and the problems we'd had there. Our members want to use this opportunity as an attempt to more closely associate AOAS with an educational facility, and we are currently working to finalize an agreement to meet at UA Fort Smith for the next 2 years or so.

We are working towards an eventual, long-term meeting location at the future NEW Van Buren Public Library after it's construction is finished in late 2007 or 2008. We hope to make many solid relationships with Van Buren Library, with the VB High School and with UA Fort Smith as well, which will keep us associated with education taking us far into the 21st Century.

The July 1st night of public viewing at Carol Ann Cross Park. These visitors had to stoop WAY over to catch a final quick glimpse of Saturn for the current 2006 observing season. This night saw about 35-40 visitors, with 8 AOAS members using 6 telescopes for approximately 2 hours.
The new short-term meeting location is being negotiated and will be announced officially as soon as the details are finalized.

We have also decided on "going mobile" in 2007 as we attempt to set up public observing nights in surrounding towns. We'll offer one or two public nights in the Ft Smith/Van Buren area, and a few more in outlying area towns. These public events have been too successful for us to drop them completely, but just as importantly, our members also want to continue the practice. We truly enjoy getting out to help people experience the universe our way. We're just looking for an educationally friendlier place to hold them.

And so, we ask everyone to watch your local town newspapers and if we come to your town next year, come out and enjoy the view with us. Let us share with you our little neighborhood of the Milky Way galaxy, and maybe even a few neighboring galaxies.

We'll also help all those folks who want to learn how to get the most out of a small telescope, and we offer regularly held summer classes in the "Basics of Astronomy" as well. We just may be setting up an event in your hometown and we hope to see you there!

Thanks everyone.....please come out and visit with us soon!


Bob Moody

President, AOAS

Caretaker, Coleman Observatory

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Designing America's Return to the Moon - Part One

Lunar & PlanetaryThe designing of the spacecraft is underway that will someday soon return man to the moon. The actual construction won't be far behind. This new NASA program to return American astronauts to the moon and eventually to Mars is called CONSTELLATION, and I have to wonder whether this project will be any easier to complete than the Apollo Project of the last Century?
Apollo 17, last manned mission to the moon, sits in early morning bathed in floodlight and the gathering sunlight. When will we return to the moon?

Which young man or woman in today's high schools, or which college freshmen will be members of the first crew of astronauts to return to the Moon? It could just as easily be an Arkansas-led crew as to have a crew leader from any other state. I'm just biased towards the youth of our area. Who knows, but how wonderful that day will be when we finally return with the first lunar landings of the new millenium no matter where they may call home.

The knowledge that what we do this time around will be in preparation for an eventual permanent moon base, one designed for long-term lunar stays will make it all the more special. Much of what we leave behind on the surface with these next missions will in some way be utilized as permanent structures or storage facilities from where many truly far-ranging lunar exploratory excursions will depart.

NASA's Constellation Program will become the new "Apollo Program" of today, with the eventual long-term goal being nothing less than a manned mission to our sister planet, MARS!

The APOLLO Program - 1963-1972
An early NASA illustration of the Saturn I, the "mid-sized" Saturn V launch vehicles alongside the gigantic (proposed but not built) Nova rocket design which would have used 5 stages instead of the four used in the Saturn V.

President John F. Kennedy rallied the entire country to [achieve] the goal of landing a man on the moon, and [return] him safely to the Earth" in a speech to the joint house in 1963. And though Dubya is no "Jack" Kennedy by a long, LONG shot, he did lay out the goal for America to return to the Moon and establish a permanent moon base as a precursor to an eventual manned trip to Mars sometime in the future. So far, engineers are only working on the new designs for both a new heavy-lift rocket and a new crew rocket. I can liken it to how the Apollo program grew and evolved from what was first envisioned to what we finally had later when we actually began our first exploration of the moon between 1969 and 1972.

Early in the "Race to the Moon" when America and Russia were competing to see who could put a man on the moon ahead of the other, there was no definitive design for what our first moon rocket would look like. About the only thing most engineers could say for sure was that it would take an enormous vehicle to achieve the launch to orbit of whatever we'd be sending on out beyond Earth to the moon. Whatever it was to be would have to achieve a speed of at least 25,000 mph while pushing dozens of tons in the right direction. Not even the design of the flight plan was in place when we saw one of our first concept pictures such as the image above.

Some engineers wanted to build a gigantic single-stage behemoth that would go directly from Earth to the moon as a single unit. The laws of physics demanded that that idea be scraped in favor of smaller multi-stage vehicles. Weight was going to be the deciding factor in how we got to the moon, if indeed, we could even get there at all.
The evolution of designs for the Lunar Module for the Apollo program. What was first designed was not especially similar to what the final version looked like. Weight decided nearly all of the design changes seen in this image.
The flight plan that was finally settled upon was for a very large rocket with four stages that would place in orbit the crew module and another craft designed ONLY for landing on the moon, a "Lunar Module". These two components would be shot away from Earth by the third stage at the required speed of 25,000 mph in order to escape the gravitational pull of Earth, and allow the two primary components to reach and finally orbit the moon.

The crew module, called the Command Module, would sustain a single astronaut in orbit around the moon while the other two of a three-man-crew would enter the Lunar Module for the trip down to the surface of the moon. All the consumables for the trip would be contained in what was called the Service Module which would remain mated to the Command Module until just before re-entry into the atmosphere by the Command Module and the crew.

This flight plan was referred to as Lunar Orbit Rendezvous due to the Command and Lunar Modules being required to dock, undock and descend, and later return to orbit to once again dock, and allow for the three man crew to return safely to the Earth in the Command/Service Module leaving the now useless Lunar Module behind. In the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon", the fifth episode called "Spider" deals specifically with all that went into the Luner Orbit Rendezvous mission and the extremely difficult problems involved with the creation of the Lunar Modules by the Grumman Corporation. Enormous difficulties were encountered, and overcome, and this is my personal favorite episode of this outstanding and important series.

Click read more for the rest of Part One including images of our new rocket designs.
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Celebrating 40 Years of Intent Listening

NASA Space PlaceBy Diane K. Fisher

For over 40 years, the “Mars” 70-m Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, has vigilantly listened for tiny signals from spacecraft that are billions of miles away.
(Click image for larger view.)
In nature, adjacent animals on the food chain tend to evolve together. As coyotes get sneakier, rabbits get bigger ears. Hearing impaired rabbits die young. Clumsy coyotes starve. So each species pushes the other to “improve.”

The technologies pushing robotic space exploration have been like that. Improvements in the supporting communications and data processing infrastructure on the ground (the “ears” of the scientists) have allowed spacecraft to go farther, be smaller and smarter, and send increasingly faint signals back to Earth—and with a fire hose instead of a squirt gun.

Since 1960, improvements in NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) of radio wave antennas have made possible the improvements and advances in the robotic spacecraft they support.

“In 1964, when Mariner IV flew past Mars and took a few photographs, the limitation of the communication link meant that it took eight hours to return to Earth a single photograph from the Red Planet. By 1989, when Voyager observed Neptune, the DSN capability had increased so much that almost real-time video could be received from the much more distant Planet, Neptune,” writes William H. Pickering, Director of JPL from 1954 to 1976, in his Foreword to the book, Uplink-Downlink: A History of the Deep Space Network, 1957-1997, by Douglas J. Mudgway.

Mudgway, an engineer from Australia, was involved in the planning and construction of the first 64-m DSN antenna, which began operating in the Mojave Desert in Goldstone, California, in 1966. This antenna, dubbed “Mars,” was so successful from the start, that identical 64-m antennas were constructed at the other two DSN complexes in Canberra, Australia, and Madrid, Spain.

As Mudgway noted in remarks made during the recent observance of the Mars antenna's 40 years of service, “In no time at all, the flight projects were competing with radio astronomy, radio science, radar astronomy, SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence), geodynamics, and VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) for time on the antenna … It was like a scientific gold rush.”
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A Galaxy of Things to Explore with NASA Quest

Education OutreachNASA Quest has competitions where students can vie for prizes and help design futuristic spacecraft, aircraft and habitats. Current contests include the Lunar Outpost Design Challenge, helping to design the systems for living and working on the moon. Click here to go directly to NASA Quest.

Learn how our young students of the Arkansas River valley can join in on design competitions for how we'll live and work on the Moon, how we'll survey and explore the surface of Mars, and an entire universe of possibilities just by going to the NASA Quest site.
Meet the people of NASA and look over their shoulders as they make NASA's goals a reality. Whether in the area of aerospace design or training for space walks, NASA Quest is a rich resource for educators, kids and space enthusiasts who are interested in meeting and learning about NASA people and the national space program. NASA Quest allows the public to share the excitement of NASA's authentic scientific and engineering pursuits like flying in the Shuttle and the International Space Station, exploring distant planets with amazing spacecraft, and building the aircraft of the future. Click here to learn more about NASA Quest.
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ArkLaTex Star Party - 2006

General NewsThe Red River Astronomy Club will host their Second Annual ArkLaTex Star Party beginning Sept. 21 - 24, 2006 near Nashville, Arkansas. Of course, the main attraction is the dark sky. This years presentations will include a Mission Specialist (name to be announced by AAS), a Cosmochemist, a presentation on the mysterious lights of Gurdon, Arkansas and a workshop on image processing by a panel of experts.

Rex's Astro Stuff will have a wide variety of accessories available for sale. We offer free camping, observing field power for laptops and scopes, a shower, T-shirts, swap meet, bottomless coffee pot, cocoa and snacks plus our now famous ArkLaTex give-away. Thris's BBQ will have a catering trailer on site. What has become the hallmark of the star party is the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. 4 days / 3 nights.

For details / registration: http://www.rrac.org
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From Thunderstorms to Solar Storms...

NASA Space Placeby Patrick L. Barry

New GOES-N satellite launches, carrying an imaging radiometer, an atmospheric sounder, and a collection of other space environment monitoring instruments.
(Click image for larger view.)
When severe weather occurs, there's a world of difference for people on the ground between a storm that's overhead and one that's several kilometers away. Yet current geostationary weather satellites can be as much as 3 km off in pinpointing the true locations of storms.

A new generation of weather satellites will boost this accuracy by 2 to 4 times. The first in this new installment of NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites series, called GOES-N, was launched May 24 by NASA and Boeing for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) (A new polar-orbiting weather satellite, NOAA-18, was launched May 2005.)

Along with better accuracy at pinpointing storms, GOES-N sports a raft of improvements that will enhance our ability to monitor the weather?both normal, atmospheric weather and “space weather.”

“Satellites eventually wear out or get low on fuel, so we've got to launch new weather satellites every few years if we want to keep up the continuous eye on weather that NOAA has maintained for more than 30 years now,” says Thomas Wrublewski, liaison officer for NOAA at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Currently, GOES-N is in a “parking” orbit at 90° west longitude over the equator. For the next 6 months it will remain there while NASA thoroughly tests all its systems. If all goes well, it will someday replace one of the two active GOES satellites?either the eastern satellite (75°W) or the western one (135°W), depending on the condition of those satellites at the time.

Unlike all previous GOES satellites, GOES-N carries star trackers aboard to precisely determine its orientation in space. Also for the first time, the storm-tracking instruments have been mounted to an “optical bench,” which is a very stable platform that resists thermal warping. These two improvements will let scientists say with 2 to 4 times greater accuracy exactly where storms are located.

Also, X-ray images of the Sun taken by GOES-N will be about twice as sharp as before. The new Solar X-ray Imager (SXI) will also automatically identify solar flares as they happen, instead of waiting for a scientist on the ground to analyze the images. Flares affect space weather, triggering geomagnetic storms that can damage communications satellites and even knock out city power grids. The improved imaging and detection of solar flares by GOES-N will allow for earlier warnings.

So for thunderstorms and solar storms alike, GOES-N will be an even sharper eye in the sky.

Find out more about GOES-N at goespoes.gsfc.nasa.gov/goes. Also, for young people, the SciJinks Weather Laboratory at scijinks.nasa.gov now includes a printable booklet titled “How Do You Make a Weather Satellite?” Just click on Technology.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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Summer Astronomy Classes Offered by AOAS

Education Outreach"Astronomy for Beginners" and "Astronomy for Elementary Teachers" classes are being offered by AOAS this summer.

Learn the basics of Astronomy this summer. Choose either the "Astronomy for Beginners" or if you're a teacher of 4th 5th or 6th graders, take our "Astronomy for Elementary Teachers" class. Classes start July 11.
The Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society (AOAS) will offer summer classes in the Basics of Astronomy for the general public, and additionally for the first time, a special class for area Elementary School Teachers specifically for grades 4 thru 6. All classes will be four weeks in length and will begin July 11.

“Astronomy for Beginners” will be a general information class in the basics of the science of astronomy, but focusing on the hobby of amateur astronomy more specifically. Students will “learn by doing” things such as by learning how to identify constellations, how to distinguish planets from normal stars in the night sky, and a very generalized understanding of how the universe works. This course is heavy on observing and students will observe each week of class and will discover how to use telescopes or binoculars and the different types of telescopes and binoculars, what to expect from a telescope, and what NOT to expect from a telescope. A book is recommended for the class, and the student is encouraged to purchase either of the two books suggested below, or both books if they so desire. The book(s) are not required for the class and even if no book is used students will still learn a great deal each week. A computer and Internet connection will also be very helpful but is not required. Every student will receive a CD-ROM of more than 200 space images from Hubble Space Telescope, and simple star charts of several constellations to help them identify these constellations on their own.

“Astronomy for Elementary Teachers” will focus on how Elementary School Teachers can supplement their classes with a basic knowledge of how astronomy relates to other science topics such as Physics, Chemistry, Geology, even Biology and Mathematics. However, there will be no mathematical requirements expected in these classes. These classes for teachers will specifically address the Arkansas State Requirements as set forth in the Benchmarks for Education. “Teacher” students will learn how to help their own students become involved with several hands-on activities that will help reinforce what their own textbooks cover in astronomy.

Click "read more" for the rest of the information on these classes.
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How do I take astronomical pictures?

Astro ImagingI have long wished to take pictures of the moon, planets, galaxies and nebulae with my telescope. How can I afford this, you ask? Isn't this extemely complicated? No! You can start taking astronomical pictures today.

You can use a simple film camera, or an inexpensive digital camera. Today a 4- or 5- mega pixel camera can be had for less than $200. With that said, you are probably saying "Prove It!" OK. Let's try a Kodak Easyshare Z730 camera. This one can be obtained from numerous online retailers for less than $170 and is capable of up to 64 second exposures. With this camera, and a $35 adapter that clamps on to your telescope eyepiece at one end and then screws in to your tripod mount hole on your camera, you are ready to go. With this set up you are able to photograph the moon and planets through your telescope.

You can do this with a telescope as small as 4.5 inches across. You also never need to buy film since you can keep reusing your digital film. I will follow up with articles showing you how to do more complex astro photographs with simple equipment. In my next article I will offer some simple examples. Have fun. That is what our hobby is all about. Any questions you are welcome to email me. Simply click on my byline above, and send me an e-mail.
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AOAS Education Director's Road Sign Report

General News6/27/06

AFTER turning west from Ark Hwy 59 and Old Uniontown Road, this is the first of our Coleman Observatory signs that potential visitors will see at the intersection of Old Uniontown and Pine Hollow Rd..
I met with the Crawford County 911 sign crew yesterday in the morning. Thanks to them we put up 3 of the four Coleman Observatory road signs directing folks to our observing facility. The road crew was very helpful in meeting our needs for placing these signs where we wanted them. I am working with them on trying to get the fourth sign put up at State Hwy 59 & Old Union Town Rd. We cannot put anything up in the state right-of-way. Hopefully, we will be able to get special permission to place this on some private property where it may be easily seen on Hwy 59.

Another special thanks to the Crawford County 911 sign crew!

Chuck Larson

Click "read more" to see the other two installed signs.....
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No More Missed Visits

General News
Dr. Chuck Larson, AOAS Education Director, holds one of the four 8"-by-36" signs that will soon be mounted on county street signs on the way to Coleman Observatory.
AOAS Education Director, Dr. Chuck Larson, recently took the initiative to arrange with Crawford County Judge Jerry Williams to have permanent signs mounted on county intersections helping to direct visitors to Coleman Observatory. By the end of June, there will be signs for Coleman Observatory at every major intersection from 59 Hwy to Wildwood Rd., all because Chuck took the initiative to get it done.

For the last three years, I've been painting and re-painting signs to place at some of the intersections on the way to Coleman Observatory to help our visitors get here as easily as possible. Some of those signs have survived, and some have been destroyed and then re-displayed as soon as I could get to it.

But last week, Chuck Larson called me up with a real shocker.....he'd decided to ask his friend, Crawford County Judge Jerry Williams, if he would allow the placement of signs on county roads to direct visitors out to Coleman Observatory from Van Buren. To Chuck's surprise, Judge Williams not only agreed to the request, but offered up the metal signs themselves, AND a crew to install them.

Chuck then went to PAC Printing in Van Buren and asked about having lettering professionally placed on the metal signs. The signs themselves were metal and painted in a midnight blue color. The printer worked with Chuck to determine how best to create an attractive sign that would last a long time. They decided on using a contrasting yellow color to outline the letters. But instead of using yellow letters on the blue signs, they fabricated a yellow mask with the letters cut out of the yellow mask giving the impression of blue letters and a blue border being placed on a yellow background. An unusual and unique combination that gives a dramatic effect.

Judge Williams had also told Chuck that he would direct the 911 personnel to install the signs at all the major intersections where they needed to be. By next week (June 26-30) we will see the signs in place and I can't wait! These signs look so good, and they draw the eyes to them, and we should never again have to wonder about whether someone is having trouble finding us way out here on Wildwood Rd. I hope all AOAS members will thank Dr. Larson for taking this initiative. It's a really great thing that he's done here, and we'll be grateful to him for as long as these fabulous signs last, and beyond.

Thanks, Chuck....'ya did (REAL) good!

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