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Monday, September 22 2014 @ 03:10 AM CDT

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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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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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Dr. Derek Sears To Speak At AOAS December 19th Meeting

Lunar & Planetary
Dr. Derek Sears will present a lecture on the possibility that liquid water may exist under Mars-like conditions at the Friday, December 19th dinner/meeting of the Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society at 7:30 PM, in the Rose Room at Creekmore Park. The title, "Water on Mars: Tales of a Martian Mud Machine" will reveal the results of his recent groundbreaking research project which proved that liquid water CAN exist under Mars-like conditions (See story, "Done Deal...Liquid Water CAN Exist on Mars!")

Dr. Derek W.G. Sears is a professor in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) and is the director of the Arkansas Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences. Recently, he led a team of graduate students into new territory by first building a special chamber where the conditions on the surface of Mars could be duplicated, and then determining whether liquid water might be able to exist there. Their conclusion? YES, liquid water CAN exist on Mars!

Since the days of Percival Lowell and H.G. Wells in the late nineteenth century, Mars enthusiasts have thought that the Red Planet might harbor liquid water. Lowell believed he could see "canals" on the surface of Mars, which he mistook for a vast planet-wide irrigation system that brought liquid water from the frozen polar regions down and across the arid desert regions of equatorial Mars. When mankind's first spacecraft visited in the mid-60's, what we found was a cold, dead landscape not too different from the way the surface of the moon appeared. Water, it was thought, couldn't possibly exist under such dry and barren conditions.
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Current Comets

Lunar & PlanetaryA couple of comets are fast approaching. Comet 2P ENCKE is at magnitude 14(+-) and approaching fast. Comet C/2002 T7 is now at magnitude 10+ and brightning steadly for its visit to our skys next May. I have images of these two comets from 10/18 (morning skys). To view these images, click the comet name at the top of the page on my web site.

Good luck, Mike Holloway
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Asteroid 2003 QQ47

Lunar & PlanetaryAsteroid 2003 QQ47 is being closely monitored by British astronomers after they discovered it may pass uncomfortably close to Earth on March 21, 2014. Judging from the size of the asteroid, scientists predict it could have the same impact as 20 million Hiroshima-size atomic bombs. The good news is that astronomers are unsure of their calculations.
(Ref.: Popular Mechanics, Vol. 180, No. 11, Nov. 2003, 'Tech Watch' p.24)
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Galileo End of Mission Status

Lunar & Planetary
JPL Press Release: September 21, 2003

The Galileo spacecraft's 14-year odyssey came to an end on Sunday, Sept. 21, when the spacecraft passed into Jupiter's shadow then disintegrated in the planet's dense atmosphere at 11:57 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The Deep Space Network tracking station in Goldstone, Calif., received the last signal at 12:43:14 PDT. The delay is due to the time it takes for the signal to travel to Earth.

Hundreds of former Galileo project members and their families were present at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for a celebration to bid the spacecraft goodbye.

"We learned mind-boggling things. This mission was worth its weight in gold," said Dr. Claudia Alexander, Galileo project manager.

Having traveled approximately 4.6 billion kilometers (about 2.8 billion miles), the hardy spacecraft endured more than four times the cumulative dose of harmful jovian radiation it was designed to withstand. During a previous flyby of the moon Amalthea in November 2002, flashes of light were seen by the star scanner that indicated the presence of rocky debris circling Jupiter in the vicinity of the small moon. Another measurement of this area was taken today during Galileo's final pass. Further analysis may help confirm or constrain the existence of a ring at Amalthea's orbit.
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Done deal: Liquid water CAN exist on Mars!

Lunar & Planetary
SURFACE WATER POSSIBLE UNDER MARS-LIKE CONDITIONS

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A team of researchers from the University of Arkansas has measured water evaporation rates under Mars-like conditions, and their findings favor the presence of surface water on the planet. Water on the planet's surface makes the existence of pastor present life on Mars a little more likely, according to the group.

Derek Sears, director of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, and his colleagues graduate student Shauntae Moore and technician Mikhail Kareev reported their initial findings at the fall 2003 meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the AAS.
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Mars 2003! Update

Lunar & PlanetarySteve Culivan, NASA/ASEP (Aerospace Education Services Program), has accepted an invitation to attend the Mars 2003 festivities on August 23. Mr. Culivan has conducted numerous workshops and training sessions for educators and students, including sessions that provide teachers the certification to be eligible to borrow moon rocks from NASA. He will be presenting one educational session, on Mars, for students and teachers only. (Educators and students are asked to bring their school ID for admission purpose.) Another presentation on Mars will be presented for the general public. Presentations are scheduled for the south gallery of the Fort Smith Arts Center. Seating is limited to approximately 100.

I regret that Dr. Ray Stonecipher, Professor of Astronomy (retired), University of Wisconsin, will not be able to attend. He had previously accepted an invitation to attend and be a presenter, and serve as a special consultant for the AOAS Executive Committee on the future plans for AOAS. Another event, In Wisconsin, that he had agreed to attend as a special speaker and fund raiser for the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society (Door County, Wisconsin) was rescheduled on a conflicting date for the August 23 Mars 2003, thus he had to withdraw his previous acceptance. However, he is very interested in possibly assisting AOAS in the future.
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MARS 2003 To Be AOAS' Biggest Public Event Since 1986

Lunar & Planetary
Check out our new MARS 2003 T-Shirt...
Many of our members remember our big Halley's Comet Watches hosted by AOAS in 1985 and 1986. Our event at Vasche Grasse Park near Lavaca, AR in January of '86 was our largest to date with an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 people attending. Later that year, our Ben Geren Park Comet Watch netted us another estimated 2,000 to 2,500 attendees.

... or how about our regular club T-Shirt!
Lots of things have happened since those days. We've moved to a new and MUCH closer observing location north of Van Buren, but through all the ups and downs, we've maintained a steady focus on education and increasing public awareness about astronomy.

This August 23 will be our next and potentially biggest EVER public event for the closest approach of Mars in nearly 60,000 years! AOAS is working closely with the Ft Smith Art Center downtown to host the event, which coincides with the culmination of our jointly sponsored "Space Art Contest"

Mike Richardson, Programs Director for the Art Center, is coordinating the event with several area groups, businesses and local media, and has gotten the interest and support of the City of Ft Smith. Booths will be set up around the Art Center grounds with food and beverages for sale, as well as an AOAS Education Station in the gazebo at the Center where we'll post pictures and information about the planet Mars. We'll also have a booth set up in the gazebo where
Either T-Shirt is available for $10 for AOAS Members or $12 for Non-Members. Contact us for more information.
we'll take memberships and sell our world famous AOAS club logo t-shirts, and our new MARS 2003 t-shirts. Several items have been donated by area businesses as drawing give-aways to everyone who makes a minimum $2 donation, with the winners being announced by radio station KISR 93.7 through a live remote broadcast. All the while, AOAS members will be set up at various locations on the Art Center grounds giving telescopic views of Mars!

More...
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Dust Storms Raging on Mars?

Lunar & PlanetaryALERT ISSUED by the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers July 2, 2003

ALPO issued a dust storm alert on Wednesday July 2 to all Mars section recorders. It seems that dust storms originating in the Hellas Basin region are gathering strength, threatening to become a global event. See the full story in the ALPO Mars Section.

Here you'll find the most recently posted observations by the ALPO recorders, including both sketches and pics/CCDimages. The page opens some 100 or more images from the past few months. Notice in the top (most recent) section that many images are from noted Arkansas Mars recorder P. Clay Sherrod of the Arkansas Skies Observatory.

We will keep a close watch on this site as well as all AOAS Mars observers should be sketching and imaging Mars at EVERY opportunity in case these are the last few days that surface details will be visible if these storms truly do become global. Watch for a gradual "smoothing" of coloration and a decrease of details in surface features which would indicate that Mars closest approach in recorded history will likely be a washout for the day of closest approach on August 27.

Story origianlly submitted by AOAS member Bob Moody.

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