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Thursday, April 17 2014 @ 04:23 PM CDT

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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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Black Holes: Feeling the Ripples

NASA Space Place
Astronomers have finally confirmed something they had long suspected: there is a super-massive black hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy.  The evidence? A star near the galactic center orbits something unseen at a top speed of 5000 km/s.  Only a black hole 2 million times more massive than our Sun could cause the star to move so fast.  (See the Oct. 17, 2002, issue of Nature for more information.)

Still, a key mystery remains. Where did the black hole come from? For that matter, where do any super-massive black holes come from? There is mounting evidence that such "monsters" lurk in the middles of most galaxies, yet their origin is unknown. Do they start out as tiny black holes that grow slowly, attracting material piecemeal from passing stars and clouds?  Or are they born big, their mass increasing in large gulps when their host galaxy collides with another galaxy?

A new space telescope called LISA (short for "Laser Interferometer Space Antenna") aims to find out. Designed by scientists at NASA and the European Space Agency, LISA doesn't detect ordinary forms of electromagnetic radiation such as light or radio waves. It senses ripples in the fabric of space-time itself--gravitational waves.
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Most Distant Object in Solar System Discovered

Lunar & Planetary
March 15, 2004 -- NASA-funded researchers have discovered the most distant object orbiting Earth's Sun. The object is a mysterious planet-like body three times farther from Earth than Pluto.

"The Sun appears so small from that distance that you could completely block it out with the head of a pin," said Dr. Mike Brown, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., associate professor of planetary astronomy and leader of the research team. The object, called "Sedna" for the Inuit goddess of the ocean, is 13 billion kilometers (8 billion miles) away, in the farthest reaches of the solar system.

This is likely the first detection of the long-hypothesized "Oort cloud," a faraway repository of small icy bodies that supplies the comets that streak by Earth. Other notable features of Sedna include its size and reddish color. After Mars, it is the second reddest object in the solar system. It is estimated Sedna is approximately three-fourths the size of Pluto. Sedna is likely the largest object found in the solar system since Pluto was discovered in 1930.
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Education OutreachAOAS and the Ft Smith Parks Dept have teamed up to give the public an opportunity to view stars and planets from here within the city of Ft Smith. We call our program, “Stars in the Park”, and these outings will utilize the materials from the Night Sky Network, a joint collaboration between NASA, JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. These events are FREE and open to the public.

The dates and locations for these public nights are as follows:

MARCH 26 OR 27 (CAC) (I say OR because if Friday's are clouded out, we'll do Saturday)
SEPTEMBER 17 or 18 (CAC)
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Comets On The Doorstep - Where Once There Were Two, Now There Are THREE !

Lunar & Planetary
Comet 2002 T7
Mike Holloway © 2003
Comet - Small Solar System body, consisting of frozen volatiles and dust. Comets are believed to be icy planetesimals remaining from the time of the Solar System's formation 4.6 billion years ago. The word "comet" derives from the Greek kometes, a long-haired star, which aptly describes brighter examples.

Source - Oxford Astronomy Encyclopedia, 2002: Philip's (Division of Octopus Pub) p. 89-91

If all goes well, a pair of bright comets may grace our skies in late April through May, and one may linger into the early summer. Not since Comet Hyakutake in 1996 and Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 have there been such bright comets well placed for viewing. These "small Solar System bodies" are known as C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) and C/2002 T7 (LINEAR).

Now, add comet C/2004 F4 Bradfield to the mix. Bradfield has just recently been discovered by 76 year old Australian amateur astronomer William A. Bradfield in March, but wasn't officially named until April12th. Bradfiled adds this to his previous 17 comet discoveries since 1972.

Comet Bradfield was not visible to this observer the morning of April 25 at approximately 5:30-6:00 am. Estimates are that it was at magnitude 4.4 today, and that it will dim by 1/2 magnitude per every 2 days over the next week, making it nearly impossible to find without binoculars. See the Astronomy Picture of the Day for April 27 for a time-lapse image of Bradfield rising at: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/archivepix.html

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