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Tuesday, October 21 2014 @ 08:34 PM CDT

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Zooming In On Our Weather

General NewsUse the weather satellites as the local meteorlogists do. Make your monitor, monitor your weather.

We as amateur astronomers watch the weather above us as carefully as our local weathermen. After all, our hobby depends on how clear the skies are. Use the site listed here to pull up an image from the GOES weather satellite and the instructions in the rest of the story to make your own decisions about whether to set up tonight, or NOT!

http://www.ghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/GOES/goeseastconus.html
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Space Weather

NASA Space PlaceBy Patrick Barry and Tony Phillips

Radiation storms, 250 mile-per-second winds, charged particles raining down from magnetic tempests overhead ... it sounds like the extreme weather of some alien world. But this bizarre weather happens right here at Earth.

Scientists call it "space weather." It occurs mostly within the gradual boundary between our atmosphere and interplanetary space, where the blast of particles and radiation streaming from the Sun plows into the protective bubble of Earth's magnetic field. But space weather can also descend to Earth's surface. Because the Earth's magnetic field envelops all of us, vibrations in this springy field caused by space weather reverberate in the room around you and within your body as much as at the edge of space far overhead.

In fact, one way to see these "geomagnetic storms" is to suspend a magnetized needle from a thin thread inside of a bottle. When solar storms buffet Earth's magnetic field, you'll see the needle move and swing. If you live at higher latitudes, you can see a more spectacular effect: the aurora borealis and the aurora australis. These colorful light shows happen when charged particles trapped in the outer bands of Earth's magnetic field get "shaken loose" and rain down on Earth's atmosphere.

And because a vibrating magnetic field will induce an electric current in a conductor, geomagnetic storms can have a less enjoyable effect: widespread power blackouts. Such a blackout happened in 1989 in Quebec, Canada, during a particularly strong geomagnetic storm. These storms can also induce currents in the metallic bodies of orbiting satellites, knocking the satellite out temporarily, and sometimes permanently.
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Venus Transit Available from South Africa

Astro Imaging
Our friends from Bloemfontein Centre of the Astronomical Society of South Africa (ASSA), in cooperation with Boyden Observatory near Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa, have offered us a web link to a sister club's site in Pretoria, SA as Venus passes in front of the Sun on June 8.

My correspondence with the ASSA member Gerrit Penning continues with our discussion on what their club and other organizations in SA might be doing for the transit. Gerrit sent us the following link so that anyone who's interested might be able to check on the progress of Venus as it crosses the Sun's disk the evening of June 7th and 8th.

The link address is: http://www.etacarina.co.za/astrocam.htm.

This link is provided by Mauritz Geyser of the Solar Section of ASSA Pretoria Centre, in Pretoria, South Africa. This transit will take about 6.2 hours to happen with the end of it coming at around 6am local CDT. That would place the beginning of the transit starting at just before midnight CDT on the evening of Monday, June 7th.

UPDATE: 10:20 PM...
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Why We Should Care About Math and Science Scores

Chart Room

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was a child growing up in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. As a youngster of only two-and-a-half, I distinctly remember being taken outside with my mom and dad, my uncle, aunt, cousin and grandmother all standing around the yard with even a few neighbors waiting for something. It was a starry night and suddenly my uncle cried out, “There it is!” and pointed to the sky. Approaching from the southwest was a moving star, a satellite known as Explorer 1, the first U.S. made object to orbit our little world.

That’s one of my earliest memories, and yet the recollection seems as clear as if it were a recent thing. It would be another year or two before we’d have our own television set and years more before I’d begin to understand how fast things were changing. Saturdays spent watching Commander Cody fly around with his rocket backpack were my favorite pastime. In the first grade my fellow students and I were crowded into a classroom with the only TV in Liberty Elementary School to watch Alan Shephard ride a tongue of flame skyward as the first American astronaut.

My grandparents had been born in the late 1800’s. They had seen fantastic changes in their world in the first half of the 20th Century going from riding to town in a horse-drawn wagon to automobiles. My parents had gone from seeing travel by trains and cars to travel by planes and spacecraft. I’ve seen the birth of the Space Age and the most fantastic findings of the 1980’s and 90’s with the exploration of our solar system and the discovery of the first extra-solar planets orbiting around neighboring stars. Watching Explorer 1 from this context now “feels” like something out of the Stone Age.

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An AOAS Vision of the Future

Chart Room A long time ago, in a place far, far away...... wait a minute, that has been done already. It does, however, make for a good segue into what I want to say in this new and very different section of your AOAS web site. Here, I will summarize through numerous upcoming articles what we have long wanted to do as one of the most active astronomy clubs (for our size) in the entire country.

Efforts are underway to provide AOAS with our own portable planetarium and science equipment which will benefit not only our club meetings and astronomy classes, but also area school systems. In addition to this, we also want to develop an advanced, remotely accessible, research-grade telescope and imaging system to be used for professional type observing programs by our members and will once again also be made available to area schools as well as the University of Arkansas Fort Smith.
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Comets, Jupiter, M13, The Big Dipper, and Astrophotography for Dummies

Rolled out the telescope last night for some comet observing. I found Neat relatively quick with the binoculars but it took me some time to find it with the scope. It was descent but I guess it is fading pretty fast. Looked at Saturn and it is still one of the prime objects in the sky right now. Swung over to Jupiter and was so impressed with the view there that I decided to break out the camera again and make another vain attempt at photographing the sky. Experimented with some zoom and exposure settings and occasionaly battled with the autofocus on the camera but finally acquired some reasonable pictures of the giant planet. Also took some wide field views to get the moons as well.

By then I thought I would kick back and just take in the night sky when I noticed the constellation Hercules approaching the center point of the sky above. Decided to try to make another attempt to photograph M13. Easily found it in the scope, focused and then attached my camera. Set exposure time to 15 seconds(The max on my Canon G3) and fired away. To my suprise the preview actually showed an image. Once again I took several pictures experimenting with various settings on the camera. Most of the time I was able to obtain a preview image. Decided to try something more challenging so I brought up the ring nebula(M57). Nothing noticeable on the preview with any of the various zooms or exposure times. By now it was around 2:30am and I thought I would try for a picture of the Big Dipper. Not much showing on the preview so was not sure what I would get when I downloaded. Really makes you appreciate what Mike has to go through while he is photographing comets that he can't even see.
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Astronomy Classes to be Offered at VB Center for Art Education

Education OutreachLearn about some of the history and basics of Astronomy starting June 1, 2004.

Astronomy is the "Queen of Sciences", primarily because so many other disciplines of science are used to tell us about the distant objects in our solar system, or our Milky Way galaxy, or the rest of the universe.
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Catch Saturn Before It's Too Late

Education OutreachAs Saturn sets in the west, the last good evening views of the Ringed Planet until next spring means if you want to see those rings you have to attend one of the next three AOAS Public Observing Nights. Watch brilliant Venus, Mars and Saturn as they change their positions every clear evening and then all pass one another and trade places in the sky over the next few weeks. And don't forget, there are two comets in the west, too. (See story "Comets On The Doorstep" below)
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Drive the Mars Rovers!

Education Outreach
NASA's M2K4 Web site launched an interactive program giving any citizen of cyberspace the chance to drive NASA's Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, across the red planet.

"This experience gives visitors to NASA's Web site the chance to explore Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum, without having to make the 300-million-mile trek," said Dennis Armstrong, NASA's Kennedy Space Center Public Web Information Manager. "We're hoping users will count on this feature as a great source to find out about Mars Exploration Rover discoveries. A lot of people already have. During the first 10 days of program operation, we received more than 210,000 page views," Armstrong said.

The interactive experience is frequently updated with the latest pictures and data from the Mars Rover missions. Drivers of the digital Martian duo can examine the same points of interest investigated by the real rovers. M2K4 is a multimedia experience that gives Web users the chance to explore the Mars Exploration Rover missions up close. Interactive features include animations of the mission, Martian trivia, and the chance to virtually drive across the surface of Mars.
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Good Heavens or How it all began for me

Backyard AstronomyGood Heavens or How it all began for me
A Cosmic tale by Charley McLane

As a kid growing up in Fort Smith, Arkansas we were blessed with clear dark skies and a neighbor who didn’t mind our strangeness being conducted in their yard where the building contractor had bulldozed the elms and the oaks so as to speed construction of a duplex. My dad’s uncle had filled his mind with tales of mythology and the constellations. Later in WWII he had used this knowledge to refer to people and events along with a supposed time of writing to secretly convey where they were stationed across North Africa and into Italy. Sputnik went up and I forgot about 57 Chevy’s and turned my eyes skyward. My dad made charts of orbital times and visibility. Next thing I knew we had a globe with an orbital ring to aid viewing footprint plotting. We would lie on a sidewalk warmed from the day and while we waited for another orbit, my dad Clarke, would fill the time with knowledge passed down from the ancients. It was a great time, a kid, his dad and something out there.

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