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FREE Trips to the Moon!

Computers & SoftwareVirtual Moon Atlas Expert 2.0. [NOW v. 3.5 avail] - Use this URL to install a FREE software package that will allow you to have some of the most fun on the moon you can ever imagine, right from the comfort of your home.

Virtual Moon Atlas is a freeware software program that gives you some pretty impressive abilities to study the moon on your home PC. I've only found and loaded this fascinating program a few days ago, yet from the little time I've spent playing with the zoom and movement buttons, I'm thoroughly impressed. Taken with the fact that this program is a FREE download, I absolutely had to write this quick little article to let everyone know about it. Click on "read more" below for the address to download VMA for yourself.
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A Summer Vacation Tracking Down UFOs

NASA Space PlaceBy Diane K. Fisher

Two cameras on MISR made these images of the same part of the Mojave Desert. The camera pointed at an angle of 26 forward saw the flashes from two solar electric power generating stations. These objects are nearly invisible at the other angle.
Erin Schumacher's summer job for NASA was to look for UFOs. Erin is a 16-year-old high school student from Redondo Beach, California, attending the California Academy of Mathematics and Science in Carson. She was one of ten students selected to work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena as part of the Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program, or SHARP.

But is studying UFOs a useful kind of NASA research? Well, it is when they are "unidentified flashing objects" that appear in certain images of Earth from space. Erin worked with scientists on the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) project to track down these mysterious features. MISR is one of five instruments onboard the Earth-orbiting Terra satellite. MISR's nine separate cameras all point downward at different angles, each camera in turn taking a picture of the same piece of Earth as the satellite passes overhead. Viewing the same scene through the atmosphere at different angles gives far more information about the aerosols, pollution, and water vapor in the air than a single view would give. Ground features may also look slightly or dramatically different from one viewing angle to another.

Erin's job was to carefully examine the pictures looking for any flashes of light that might be visible from just one of the nine angles. Such flashes are caused by sunlight bouncing off very reflective surfaces and can be seen if a camera is pointed at just the right angle to catch them. Because the satellite data contain precise locations for each pixel in the images, Erin could figure out exactly where a flashing object on the ground should be. Her job was then to figure out exactly what it was that made the flash-in particular, to see if she could distinguish man-made objects from natural ones.
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Total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday October 27

Education Outreach
This image is by Ft Smith astronomer Rick Day of the May 15th, 2003 Lunar Eclipse.
Last Total Lunar Eclipse for the Americas until 2007

Public Invited to Share Eclipse Views October 27th

On Wednesday evening, October 27th, the Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society invites the public to join us at Carol Ann Cross Park in Ft Smith to view a Total Lunar Eclipse. Viewing will begin at 7:00PM. The eclipse will begin at 8:14PM and mid-eclipse will be at 10:04PM. This lunar eclipse will be the last of its kind until 2007.

Come join members of the Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society to view the last total lunar eclipse of the year, as well as the last lunar eclipse until 2007 for any of the Americas. As always, we offer these public observing sessions for free, and the public is encouraged to bring your own cameras and telescopes and we'll help you take home an image of the eclipse of your own.

This will also be the last "Stars in the Parks" event for this observing season. We have enjoyed working with the Ft Smith Parks Department to bring the public a little taste of amateur astronomy, and we will schedule another season for next year to begin in mid-March. Check back often to find the 2005 schedule of dates and locations in January.
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Keck Interferometer Team to Make Stars 'Disappear'

Astro Imaging
October 8, 2004 (PLANET QUEST) -- The technological magicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the W.M. Keck Observatory are a step closer to performing a vanishing act on a cosmic scale.

What's left when you remove a star?

This demo illustrates how the bright light of a star obscures the faint surrounding material. NOTICE To view this demo, go to: http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/ to the PlanetQuest page where this article originated. Once there, click on the art in the upper corner, then use the slider provided to "dim" the light and reveal a dust disk.

Interferometry: A new window on the Universe

With an instrument recently installed as part of the Keck Interferometer, they can make stars disappear almost completely from a telescope's view and reveal the close-in regions where planets may have formed. This fall, astronomers will continue integration and test of the instrument, called the "Nuller," which will contribute to NASA's search for planets around other stars.

"We have successfully combined infrared light from both 10-meter (33-foot) Keck telescopes using the new Nuller instrument," said Dr. Jim Fanson, Keck Interferometer project manager at JPL. "This permits a so-called 'visibility' measurement, where we can measure the size of objects with exquisite precision.

"Later this year, when we complete our functional tests of the Nuller, we'll be ready to attempt our first null measurement," Fanson said.

The Keck Interferometer is a NASA project that combines light from the world's largest optical telescopes to create a new type of telescope with unprecedented power. An interferometer is a device that gathers light waves from multiple telescopes, and then combines the waves in such a way that they interact, or "interfere" with each other. Depending on how the light waves are combined, they can combine constructively, creating higher intensity, or they can combine destructively, creating lower intensity The resulting light pattern, called an "interference fringe," can be decoded by astronomers to make high precision measurements, such as a star's diameter or the size of an accretion disk around a black hole.
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AOAS Will Buy Planetary and Deep Sky Imagers

Astro Imaging
The NEW Meade DeepSky Imager
We have long wanted to dabble in the new technology of CCD Imaging with our telescopes; we now have instructions to purchase imagers and equipment necessary to practice remote telescope control and astro-imaging!

At the October 15th meeting, the members in attendance saw us find the money and the will to go ahead with plans to buy a Meade Deep Sky Imager (retail $299.95 Meade Instruments) and a Celestron NexImage Solar System Imager (retail $149 now at $99 introductory price). How did we raise $540 for the project you ask? Dr. Chuck Larson once again stepped up to the plate for his latest "homerun" effort by presenting us with a check for $500!!!

We will order the imagers after a quick check of prices and availability. We will then turn our attention to finding a way to connect our CGE 1400 14" telescope that we've dubbed "CETUS" to the two computers inside the trailer. We had considered an RF Wireless Router to communicate between the computer inside and my old laptop attached to CETUS outside. However, we have now decided to run a cable to make a solid connection between the computers in the system. Webmaster Dave Grosvold has the hardware to do this and will donate everything along with his time to make this happen. Personally, I don't know where we'd be without Dave and Dr. Larson. We'd certainly be nowhere close to where we are now without their tireless and unselfish efforts.
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Astronaut Gordon Cooper, Jr. Dies

General News
Gordon Cooper Jr., the astronaut who piloted the sixth and last flight of the Mercury program and later commanded Gemini 5, died earlier today at his home in Ventura, Calif. He was 77 years old.

"As one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper was one of the faces of America's fledgling space program. He truly portrayed the right stuff, and he helped gain the backing and enthusiasm of the American public, so critical for the spirit of exploration. My thoughts and prayers are with Gordon's family during this difficult time," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe.

The youngest of the original seven astronauts, Cooper's flight in his Faith 7 capsule stretched the capabilities of the Mercury spacecraft to the limits. The mission, May 15 and 16, 1963, lasted more than 34 hours and 22 orbits. That was more than three times the longest U.S. human space flight until that time, and far exceeded the initial design capability of the capsule. During his flight, Cooper also became the first astronaut to sleep in space.

Check out the full story at: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/features/cooper_obit.html

Image Left: Cooper in the "white room," waiting for test activities to resume in preparation for his Mercury launch in May of 1963. Photo credit: NASA.
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Resisting Retirement: Earth Observing 1

NASA Space Placeby Patrick L. Barry

These images, made from EO-1 data, are of La Plata, Maryland, before and after a tornado swept through May 1, 2002
The Hubble Space Telescope isn't the only satellite that scientists have fought to keep alive beyond its scheduled retirement. Scientists also went to bat for a satellite called EO-1, short for Earth Observing 1, back in 2001 when the end of its one-year mission was looming.

The motivation in both cases was similar: like Hubble, EO-1 represents a "quantum leap" over its predecessors. Losing EO-1 would have been a great loss for the scientific community. EO-1, which gazes back at Earth's surface instead of out at the stars, provides about 20 times more detail about the spectrum of light reflecting from the landscape below than other Earth-watching satellites, such as Landsat 7.

That spectral information is important, because as sunlight reflects off forests and crops and waterways, the caldron of chemicals within these objects leave their "fingerprints" in the light's spectrum of colors. Analyzing that spectrum is a powerful way for scientists to study the environment and assess its health, whether it's measuring nitrate fertilizers polluting a lake or a calcium deficiency stressing acres of wheat fields.
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Waiting for Cassini's "Safe Arrival" Call

NASA Space PlaceBy Diane K. Fisher

Right after entering Saturn orbit, Cassini sent this image of the part of the Encke Gap in Saturn's rings
The evening of June 30, 2004, was nail-biting time at Cassini Mission Control. After a seven-year journey that included gravity assist flybys of Venus, Earth, and Jupiter, Cassini had finally arrived at Saturn. A 96-minute burn of its main engine would slow it down enough to be captured into orbit by Saturn's powerful gravitational field. Too short a burn and Cassini would keep going toward the outer reaches of the solar system. Too long a burn and the orbit would be too close and fuel reserves exhausted.

According to Dave Doody, a Cassini Mission Controller at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, there was a good chance the Earth-bound Cassini crew would have to wait hours to learn whether or not the burn was successful. Of the three spacecraft-tracking Deep Space Network (DSN) complexes around the globe, the complex in Canberra, Australia, was in line to receive Cassini's signal shortly after the beginning of the burn. However, winds of up to 90 kilometers per hour had been forecast. In such winds, the DSN's huge dish antennas must be locked into position pointed straight up and cannot be used to track a tiny spacecraft a billion miles away as Earth turns on its axis. "The winds never came," notes Doody.

The DSN complex at Goldstone, California, was tracking the carrier signal from Cassini's low-gain antenna (LGA) when the telltale Doppler shift in the LGA signal was seen, indicating the sudden deceleration of the spacecraft from the successful ignition of the main engine. Soon thereafter, however, Goldstone rotated out of range and Canberra took the watch.
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BIG Binoculars Add to AOAS' Arsenal

20 X 100 Apogee Astro-Vue binoculars with built-in Nebula Filters arrived in July and we now have them ready to use on the mounting below.

Thanks to donations from our members in attendance at the June 18th meeting, we ordered and received a wonderful pair of LARGE binoculars for use at all our outings. Upon receipt of the binoculars, I was eager to see what they looked like and took this image. I can't wait for a clear night to try out the built-in Nebula Filters with this new mount!

These binoculars were made possible by donations totaling $400 at the June 18th meeting from the following members: Roberta Parks ($100), Margaret Brogley ($100), Chuck Larson ($100), Joe Roam ($60), Cathy Goodwin ($20) and Sue Burgett ($20). Thanks to all of you for making the funds available for this purchase without dipping into our building fund.

Mounting finished 09-10-04

At our "Stars in the Parks" outing at Carol Ann Cross Park on May 21st, members Richard and Valerie McMullen from Fayetteville came armed with a pair of 20X80 binos. Several of us who attended were impressed by the image of comet Q4 NEAT as it continued it's climb northward towards the Big Dipper. As most amateurs know, the BEST way to see a comet is through binoculars. It's the only way to magnify the image and keep most, if not all, of the tail in the field-of-view.

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Comet C/2003 K4

Astro ImagingThis comet is placed in the western sky low just after dark. You can still see it for the next week or two before it dives behing the Sun to reappear for our frients in the southern half.


A new comet has been discovered which promices to be a 4th magnitude comet well placed for us in January passing over M45. C/2004 Q2 will give the ones that image a good target with lots of objects like M45 to help enhance your images. Thanks, Mike Holloway

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