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Sunday, September 24 2017 @ 11:36 am EDT

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AOAS Member Jon Stone, Jr. Earns AL Observing Award

General NewsSeventeen-year-old Jon Stone, Jr. received his Messier Club observing certificate from the Astronomical League last fall. By simply recording his observations as he found the first 70 targets in the Messier list of 110 deep-sky objects, Jon accomplished what only one other AOAS member has done......he EARNED his own Regular Messier Club Certificate.
I congratulate Jon Stone on receipt of his own Regular Messier Club Certificate for locating and logging at least 70 of the 110 objects in the Messier List.


You went out last night and set up your telescope to observe. As darkness gripped the sky you began with a couple of familiar objects that you know how to find, maybe a globular cluster or a double-star. You chose these because you know where they are, but you've recently been getting pretty good at "star-hopping". That's a method of looking at star charts and identifying and matching groups and patterns of stars with the charts, and then moving your telescope to some particular spot where your celestial target resides. Let's say it's M-104, a bright nearly edge-on galaxy on the border between the constellations of Virgo and Corvus. Your charts helped you find this galaxy and it seemed easy. You're proud of yourself for having accomplished this small personal feat of observing.

As you gaze at this new object you study it closely, and you notice how it's dark dust lane easily contrasts with the brighter glow of the nucleus. But at some point, you've had enough and you want to try finding something else, maybe a new globular cluster in Ophichus. Or, maybe you want to find another southerly "M-object" in Sagittarius or Scorpius, or an open star cluster like NGC-869 and NGC-884 in the northern regions, the famous "Double Cluster" in Perseus.

M-104 the "Sombrero Galaxy" on the border between Virgo and Corvus (Hubble Space Telescope image)
You have accomplished a goal of finding something new by the star-hop method, but you've also missed a golden opportunity to simply record the date, time, telescope and eyepiece(s) used, and a quick little word or two about what you just saw. The description might be something as simple as, "Found M-104;dust lane easy to see, looks like a Sombrero; easily found; nearly edge-on galaxy in Virgo". It will never again matter what object you want to locate once you've mastered the "star-hop method". When you can do that, then you can easily earn an observing certificate.

The vast majority of amateur astronomers do this same thing; they've learned how to use their telescope along with a star chart to locate dim objects, but neglected the chance to record their observations. It really is that simple. Just choose an object, find it by star-hopping, identify it as the correct object you're seeking, record your observation, and then move on to the next target and log that one the same way.

Click read more for the rest of this story.
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2006 Texas Star Party - Sign up Now!

General NewsThe great tradition of dark sky observing continues with the 28th Annual TEXAS STAR PARTY, April 23 - 30, 2006!

TSP WILL NOT BE MAILING A FLYER this year, so keep this e-mail or print it out!
  1. You should submit a Registration/Reservation Request Form to ENTER THE TSP DRAWING before January 14, 2005. This will provide you the highest possible chance of being selected as one of the 700 people who will be able to attend TSP this year. http://www.texasstarparty.org/draw.html or fill out the Request Form immediately at: http://www.alphadata.net/cgi-bin/forms/forms.cgi?form=3

  2. READ THE REST OF THIS E-MAIL BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR REQUEST.

  3. Participants at the TEXAS STAR PARTY can select from a variety of accommodations on the Prude Ranch, including bunkhouses, private cabins, trailer hookups, and campsites with convenient bathhouses. All accommodations include access to a TV lounge, a western-style dining room, and an indoor swimming pool. And of course the convenience of the observing fields!

    For rates and more information on ranch and nearby accommodations please visit: http://www.texasstarparty.org/travel.html

  4. The TSP Registration Fee (DOES NOT INCLUDE your accommodations ) is $50/person if you preregister before March 25, 2006. (Each additional family member is just $30 more.) For more information about TSP Registration rates and policies, visit: http://www.texasstarparty.org/tspreg.html
The drawing for names is in late January, and if your name is drawn you will get a TSP Registration Form (and optional Prude Ranch Reservation Form) to send in with your payments in February/March.

SIGN UP NOW!

Questions? Visit our website for the latest and complete details! http://www.texasstarparty.org/

We look forward to seeing you next April!

Sincerely,
the volunteers for Texas Star Party
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New Solar System found

General News

I was watching the ABC national news early this morning. They ran a crawler across the bottom of the screen announcing that a new solar system had been discovered 500 light years away.

I did not hear anything about this, nor see any other information on this since I had to leave early this morning to do a presentation on campus at UAFS.

Has anyone seen or heard about this???

Chuck Larson
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U. of A. Support of Nasa Hera Project

General NewsLocal journalists report that Derek Sears and his team at the University of Arkansas are among the leading contenders for the $450-mm NASA Hera project. This is a proposed mission to retrieve actual samples of an asteroid and return to Earth. I will contact Sears and find out if there is news that can be shared with the AOAS membership about this exciting mission. If they prevail in their bid, it appears that Fayetteville would become the brain-center for this major NASA project.
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AOAS Recipient of Anonymous Donation

General NewsOn July 9th, an anonymous donor presented AOAS with nearly $4,000 worth of astronomical equipment. Here is a run-down on what was donated and how we expect to use this new equipment. Since AOAS is a registered 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, every penny of this donation will be that much less that our donor will have to pay on his taxes next year!

Donated items - Here are displayed most of the items which were donated to AOAS on July 9, 2005. Items include...A Meade ETX 125EC w/UHTC telescope with #497 AutoStar controller on a #884 Deluxe Field Tripod...a hard case for the ETX...an LPI CCD camera...a DSI CCD camera...eyepieces, barlow lens, tele-extenders, everything needed for astrophotography...a Canon EOS Rebel Ti SLR camera with a 28mm to 90mm zoom lens and another 500mm mirror lens, along with all the accessories needed to use this camera with the telescope...a pair of Orion 12X50 binoculars...and a Dell Inspiron 1000 laptop computer (with a Dell 720 printer, not shown) with all the hardware and software needed to control the telescope and image with either of the CCD cameras...and finally a Logitech webcam (not shown). ALL of this equipment is in NEW condition!
When I first received an email about a donation on the afternoon of our July "Stars in the Parks" event at Carol Ann Cross Park on July 9th, I misread the message and thought I'd seen an amount of $400 in equipment that a man wanted to donate to AOAS. I arrived at the park and was helping another member set up his telescope for that night's observing when I saw our donor pull up beside my car. I joined him there and we began to unload things from his car into mine. After I saw the ETX telescope I said to him, "This is more than a $400 donation," to which he replied, "I know, it's more like $4,000."

I was absolutely stunned. I helped him finish loading the rest of the equipment into my car and he left, but not before asking that I never mention his name to the public, to which I agreed. As I went back to our group of members that were still assembling their telescopes for the star party, I still couldn't quite grasp what had just happened. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we now had a COMPLETE astrophotography and CCD imaging system along with a laptop computer for remote operation of all the equipment. All I could do at first was wander around with my mouth open muttering, "We just got a new telescope. We just got a new computer, and a new SLR camera, and TWO new CCD cameras", over and over again like the village idiot. It was all just a little too much and it simply wouldn't register in my brain.

Click "read more" for the rest of this story and/or to donate
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Discovery Orbits While the Shuttle Fleet is Grounded

General NewsWhen space shuttle Discovery blasted into orbit on July 26th, newly installed cameras detected another chunk of foam insulation breaking off from the main fuel tank yet again. After a billion dollar retrofitting of the main tank and hundreds of new upgrades to the shuttle fleet, that wasn't supposed to happen again. But because of that one piece being caught on camera as it fell away harmlessly without striking the orbiter, the entire fleet of remaining shuttles are once again grounded... indefinitely!

Shuttle Discovery launches at 10:39 a.m. Tuesday morning. It is now linked-up to the International Space Station "Freedom". Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth in the first week of August.
The most complicated machine yet conceived by man has more problems. Technically, it's not the orbiter that has the problem, but the totally redesigned main fuel tank that the orbiter depends on to reach space. Once again, the foam insulation on the tank failed to perform to required specifications. Scores of new cameras positioned to catch exactly this sort of thing did work perfectly and recorded a small piece of the sprayed-on foam coating falling off the fuel tank after the craft had blasted into the upper atmosphere on its way to space. That is exactly the same problem that was supposed to have been fixed which caused the catastrophic failure of the shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003. That accident cost the lives of seven astronauts.

Construction of the ISS "Freedom" is not complete and the space shuttles are the only type of spacecraft available to finish the job.
When the piece of foam came off and hit the leading edge of the left wing of Columbia during its liftoff in 2003, it opened a hole in the high-tech Reinforced Carbon-Carbon fiber material that allows the shuttle to safely return to Earth. That material is made to withstand temperatures of more than 4,000 degrees along the leading edges of the shuttles wings and nose section. With a hole possibly as large as a basketball in that area of Columbia's wing, superheated air moving at hypersonic speed invaded the interior portions of the wing and, in effect, acted as a blow torch to slice off that wing and destroy the Columbia and her crew.

This malfunctioning of the foam was never supposed to repeat itself, but as the cameras clearly show, it did.

The shuttle Discovery and her current crew of seven astronauts are safe and in route to dock with the International Space Station "Freedom". They'll deliver much needed supplies to the station, and repair a malfunctioning gyroscope that helps the station maneuver properly. On one of the three planned "space walks" or EVA's scheduled to accomplish these chores, the astronauts will try some newly devised proceedures to repair any tile damage that could potentially cause the destruction of the Discovery. Such repairs must be possible in the future in order to assure the safe return to whichever potentially damaged orbiting shuttle may be returning to Earth. Re-entry is the most dangerous portion of ANY spaceflight, and the type of accident that claimed Columbia was inevitable sooner or later.

Click "read more" for the rest of this story.

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Starting an Online Observing Log

General NewsIt seems amateur astronomers who are just beginning to observe face a number of challenges, but maybe none is as monumental as the task to learn HOW to observe effectively. I decided maybe there was something I could do about that, since I have spent a great deal of time bumping my head as I cruise the stars.

Since last summer, I’ve been keeping a Messier log in my home computer using the logsheets provided on the AOAS Web site. I like those sheets, but I somehow always manage to procrastinate when it comes to logging my finds. I decided it would be easier if my logsheets were available at work and elsewhere instead of just at home. The only way to accomplish this task was to keep my observing log online.

Then I realized that the effect of this project would be twofold – first, I would have access to my observing log from any computer, but second and more importantly, other novices can read about my experiences and get help. Maybe someone else is thinking about finding Ceres. I have done it. They can read my site and find out how to accomplish this. I can also share helpful sites and lead people to the AOAS site, so my log also becomes a public relations tool.
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Telescope Manufacturer Celestron Bought by Synta

General NewsI received the following message from Dr. Chuck Larson, AOAS Education Director, in an email this afternoon. Many people may not have realized that a deal was in the works for Celestron to be bought out by another company as I was unaware, but after reading the message below I feel that this might be a benefit to us as amateur astronomers in the long run. I offer this story as I received it for your inspection and contemplation.

CELESTRON PURCHASED BY SW TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION, A DELAWARE COMPANY, AFFILIATE OF SYNTA TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION

Leading telescope manufacturer purchased by long term overseas optics manufacturer

TORRANCE, CA -- April 6, 2005 --

Celestron, one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of telescopes, binoculars, spotting scopes and microscopes, today announced that SW Technology Corporation, a Delaware company, an affiliate of Synta Technology Corporation ("Synta") acquired all of the outstanding members ownership interests of the company. Synta is a well-known optics manufacturer that has participated in the development of some of Celestron's most popular products, such as the NexStar GT computerized telescope line. Synta has been a Celestron supplier for over 15 years.

Celestron will continue to be led by the senior management team of Joseph A. Lupica and Richard L. Hedrick with Chairman Alan Hale and Celestron founder Tom Johnson remaining as consultants. Synta and its related companies will continue to manufacture and supply other telescopes and related products for Celestron. As a result of the acquisition, Celestron will be in a position to meet all current financial obligations and continue to lead the product engineering, development and manufacturing processes from the Torrance, California headquarters. All product warranties will stay in effect and product support will not be interrupted or delayed. The company's first goal is to fill a three month backlog of product orders and work to resume full scale production and product development operations.

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Goodbye, Old Friend: Hubble Mission May End

General NewsThe White House under George W. Bush has announced that the Hubble Space Telescope will be allowed to die a sooner-than-expected fiery death. The announcement has been made that the planned robotic servicing mission scheduled for 2006 will be scrapped due to its estimated overall cost of some $1 billion. Without a servicing mission Hubble will fall back to Earth in the next few years.

The venerable Hubble Space Telescope has earned its place in history many times over. But perhaps more importantly, it has earned a place in the hearts of the American public. Hubble is our telescope, bought and paid for with American tax dollars, and loved as no science instrument has ever been loved. The American people should have some say in whether this decision shall be the final word for the gallant Hubble. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is, after all, funded by the American taxpayer. They, work for you.

News of this decision has been greeted with deep concern by scientists. Quoting Holland Ford, an astronomer for John Hopkins University in a story by Robert Roy Britt of Space.Com, “I sure hope it’s wrong….[this] means that a lot of excellent science that could be done will not be done.” Britt spoke with Ford by telephone Friday, January 21. “It will be a great loss for science. It will also be a great loss for the way in which Hubble communicates science through [it’s] images to people around the world,” Ford added. In the same Space.com article, the American Astronomical Society’s deputy executive director, Kevin Marvel, stated that rumors of Hubble’s demise had been circulating for several days. Thousands of astronomers represented by the American Astronomical Society, “[will] work to try and make sure that some sort of servicing [mission] is made available for Hubble,” said Marvel in his telephone interview with Britt.

Click "read more" for the rest of this story.
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A Solar Connection to the Aurora of November 7, 2004

The colorful aurora of Sunday, November 7, 2004, was widely seen in the Ft Smith/Van Buren area. Here are some current pictures of our Sun and the sunspot group responsible for this latest dance of "Fire in the Sky".

The colorful red and green aurora that lit up the skies over northwestern Arkansas last Sunday evening was caused by a huge blast of energized particles originating from the Sun a few days before. These high energy particles are produced by our Sun and exhaled in a sort of cosmic hiccup that sends the particles screaming away from the Sun in whatever direction the area that produced those particles happened to be facing when the exhalation occurred. This time, the area on the Sun which produced this aurora was pointed directly at Earth.

Aurorae are not uncommon. Energized particles from the Sun are streaming away from the solar surface all the time. The Earth's magnet field that protects us from harmful cosmic radiation, also acts to funnel the normal flow of solar material from our Sun and concentrate it into our atmosphere near the north and south polar regions. Hence the more widely known terms "Aurora Borealis", or Northern Lights, and "Aurora Australis", or Southern Lights. Thousands of people flock to areas of the world at high northerly or southerly latitudes on cruise ships or by air travel to places like Anchorage, Alaska, specifically to see these awesomely beautiful curtains of colorful light in the sky.

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