From the Director

Rex
by Rex Parker, Phd director@princetonastronomy.org

Next meeting by Zoom on Feb 09 at 7:30.  We continue to dream of getting back together in Peyton Hall on campus, but for the next few months at least we anticipate running the meeting virtually with Zoom.  The meeting on Feb 09 will feature a guest speaker from Princeton University Astrophysics Dept. – see the section below by Program Chair Victor Davis for more information.

Meanwhile I’d like to reiterate the request for financial contributions to the Gene Ramsey Memorial Reconstruction Fund.  It’s a great way to honor Gene, who did so much for many years for AAAP and especially the Observatory.  For more information please see Assistant Director Larry Kane’s appeal via e-mail sent to all members Jan 16.  Checks to AAAP can be mailed to Treasurer, Amateur Astronomers Assoc. of Princeton, Inc., PO Box 2017, Princeton, NJ 08543. Contributions can also be made electronically via a secure ‘Donate’ button at the end of Larry’s appeal in this issue of Sidereal Times  or by clicking the donate button on the website. Contributions are tax-deductible.  Please consider corporate matching if that is an option for you.

Challenging the paradigm.  At the January meeting we talked about renewed interest in the extrasolar traveler Oumuamua, a quite unusual “cometary” object that swiftly flew in and out of the solar system in late summer 2017.  It was studied by every telescope that could see it for about 11 days before it was gone, including some of the most sophisticated instruments in the world. The data collected are remarkable.  I have been following the story ever since, and members may recall we had a couple of discussions about it at AAAP meetings.  Not surprisingly most professional astronomers interpret Oumuamua, at least publicly, as a highly unusual natural interstellar object. Avi Loeb, noted astrophysicist and among other roles the chair of the Harvard Astronomy Dept. and the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies, is one of the few with the courage and insight to say that Oumuamua may really be alien tech. 

Dr. Loeb’s new book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publishers) was published January 26.  With strong Princeton connections that will be familiar to AAAP members, the book confronts the age-old question “are we alone?” in a new and exciting way.  Dr Loeb suggests that in 2017 evidence passed through our solar system which answers “no” to the question.   The book shows how the existing paradigm of astronomy and science needs to change, and might be able to, in order to see this question differently.  The astrophysical evidence is provided, examined critically, and interpreted.  The author considers what consequences would follow if scientists gave it the same credence they give to conjectures about supersymmetry, extra dimensions, dark matter, and the multiverse, which have less supporting evidence than Oumuamua provides.  He also asks are we as a civilization ready, if the answer is “no we are not alone”.  This important work is central to the interests of our organization.  So I am challenging AAAP members to read the book for a serious discussion aiming for the March meeting.

Of moths and the milky way.  What’s plaguing the dark skies and astronomy is really bothering the birds, moths, and butterflies, too.  Light pollution and skyglow are obscuring our ability to see ourselves in relation to the cosmos, and most of the global population will never see the Milky Way galaxy we are part of.  And now we are learning that artificial lighting at night is greatly distressing many other animals, especially birds and insects.  Life evolved and flourished on earth over millions of years in rhythm with diurnal/nocturnal light cycles and seasons, but the cadence has been disturbed by excessive artificial outdoor lighting.  Moths and butterflies (the order Lepidoptera) are particularly sensitive to both the intensity and spectral character of artificial light – blue light interferes more than amber-tinted lights.  Artificial light at night confuses adult moths and blocks normal behavior, trapping them in the glow and interfering with their life cycle and reproduction. And many bird species rely on caterpillars for protein and other nutrients. A meta-analysis of the literature was reported by Boyes et al. in 2020 in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, Is light pollution driving moth population declines? A review of causal mechanisms across the life cycle. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/icad.12447

Beyond the direct glare of light fixtures, reflection and scattering of all those photons by ground and atmosphere is perceived by our eyes as skyglow, the background brightness that obliterates all but the brightest stars.  Making it even worse, the installation of energy saving LED outdoor lighting actually worsened the problem initially because atmospheric scattering is greater for the shorter wavelength blue light of early LED’s than it is for the amber colors subsequently developed. 

The degree of light pollution at AAAP’s Observatory at Washington Crossing State Park is likely to get worse with the large scale development now being planned to satisfy the state’s affordable housing dictate.  Fortunately, Hopewell Township has a very good outdoor lighting ordinance, recently updated with a requirement for amber-colored LED’s (color temp. 2700 K or below).  If your town does not have an updated lighting ordinance, ask the municipal leaders to consider the Hopewell ordinance as a model.  The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) also provides  documents and references for towns and individuals https://www.darksky.org/.  Along with the IDA, the US Naval Observatory in Flagstaff AZ has been at the forefront of the physics and photometric technology to measure light pollution. They discovered the light source color (spectral power distribution) relationship to skyglow brightness, and created the first guidelines for amber LED’s.   

Land preservation, large scale and local, is hugely beneficial to preserving both darker skies and threatened animal species.  Fields of native plants and wildflowers are the most critical habitat for moths and butterflies and their caterpillars, and every acre preserved is one that doesn’t have outdoor lighting.  As amateur astronomers we can urge our friends and neighbors to minimize contributing to light pollution by following a few guidelines:  full cutoff shielding of light fixtures, using the minimum light needed for the task at hand, shutting off outdoor lights before turning in for the night.  Swap your outdoor lights for amber-yellow LED lamps, and eliminate blue-tinted lights that are most harmful to circadian rhythms and dark skies.  It can get worse — yet it can also get better. 

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From the Assistant Director

by Larry Kane

To all AAAP members,

In mid January, I sent an email to the entire AAAP membership, announcing the establishment of the Gene Ramsey Memorial Observatory Reconstruction Fund in order to raise money that will go to the repairs needed by the observatory Gene spent so much of his time and love to maintain.  If you did not receive this email, please let me know and I will forward it to you.

After this initial email, I sent a follow-up announcement which pointed out that donations by check should be made to the AAAP, not the fund.  Doing so will help our Treasurer keep track of the donations if they are designated as a donation being made for the repair fund.  To do this, write a three or four word description on the “memo line” of your check.  You can also donate electronically using the ‘Donate’ button at the end of my appeal or via the ‘Donate’ button on the website. Remember that the AAAP is a 501 (c) 3 organization. This means that any donation you make is deductible from your federal income taxes.

Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the AAAP Board and membership voted to spend up to $10,000 for the repairs to the columns that support the structure’s roll-off roof. Repairs cannot be made at present, but this provides a unique time period in which we can raise the needed funds.  As I am writing this article, we have pledges to the fund of $2,200. Therefore, I am urging all of the members of the AAAP, to make a donation in any amount that you are comfortable making.  Doing so will both honor the memory of Gene and his positive impact on the observatory, and insure that once the repairs are completed, the club will be able to continue its invaluable program of public outreach and education. 

Another fundraising avenue we will follow is a direct approach to the vendors that AAAP members support with their purchases of astronomy equipment.  If you look back at the last year or so, it is probably a considerable amount of money spent in pursuit of your hobby.  Therefore, I am requesting that each AAAP member send to me an estimate of your expenses for the last twelve months, the vendors that supplied your equipment, wherever they are, and your zip code.  This information will be used, without your name, to compile a list of the economic impact the AAAP has had on each vendor that our membership has supported.  Hopefully, this support will translate to financial support for our observatory.  

Please email me at assist.director@princetonastronomy.org if you have any questions or concerns.

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From the Program Director

by Victor Davis

The February meeting of 2021 will take place (virtually) on Tuesday, 9th at 7:30 PM. (See Joining the Meeting with Zoom below for details). This meeting is open to AAAP members and the general public. Due to the number of possible attendees, we will use the Waiting Room. This means when you login into Zoom you will not be taken directly to the meeting. The waiting room will be opened at 7:00 PM. Prior to the meeting start time (7:30 PM) you may socialize with others in the waiting room. The meeting room has a capacity of 100 people.

For the Q&A session, you may ask your question using chat or may unmute yourself and ask your question directly to the speaker. To address background noise issues, we are going to follow the rules in the table below regarding audio. If you are not speaking, please remember to mute yourself. You are encouraged, but not required to turn your video on.

Meeting EventParticipant Can Speak?Participant Can Self-Unmute?
Rex’ General RemarksYesYes
Victor’s  Speaker IntroductionYesYes
Speaker PresentationNoNo
Q&A SessionStart All on MuteYes                                    
Journal Club presentationStart All on MuteNo
5-minute bio breakYesYes
Business MeetingStart All on MuteYes
Director’s closing remarksNoNo
   
Only the Business part of the meeting will be locked.

Featured Speaker: Princeton University postdoc Dr. Guðmundur Kári Stefánsson will speak on Searching for New Worlds with Next-generation Astronomical Instruments.

Exoplanet science has seen an explosion in activity since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system in the 1990s. We now know of over 4,000 exoplanets, and that rocky planets are prevalent in the Galaxy. Is it just a matter of time when we will detect Earth 2.0? In this talk, Dr. Stefánsson will discuss new and exciting discoveries in exoplanet science, and in particular his ongoing research on developing and using next generation technologies to better detect and characterize exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. The main science goal of these new instruments is to better detect rocky planets orbiting in the habitable-zone—the region around the star where liquid water could be sustained on the surface of the planet. Dr. Stefánsson will end with a look to the future, discussing what exciting possible science results await with upcoming and future ground- and space-based observatories.

Dr. Guðmundur Stefánsson is a Henry Norris Russell Fellow at Princeton University. His research focuses on developing and using next-generation instruments to better detect and characterize planets outside our solar system. Dr. Stefánsson received his PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the Pennsylvania State University in 2019 as a Fulbright and NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow. As part of his PhD research, he led the development of a new technique employing Engineered Diffusers—low-cost nanofabricated optical devices capable of molding the focal-plane image of a star into a stabilized top-hat shape—capable of delivering space-quality photometric observations of transiting exoplanets from the ground. Dr. Stefánsson contributed to the design, construction, and commissioning of two next-generation planet-finding spectrographs—The Habitable-zone Planet Finder and the NEID radial velocity instrument—designed from the bottom-up to detect terrestrial planets orbiting in the habitable-zone of nearby stars.

January’s Journal Club Presentation: Ira Polans will speak on Johannes Kepler, Parallax, and the Astronomical Unit, describing how Kepler and his contemporaries measured the size of the Solar System.

AAAP webcast:  This month’s AAAP meeting, beginning with Rex’s opening remarks and ending at the break before the business meeting, will be webcast live on YouTube and recorded for subsequent public access on AAAP’s YouTube channel. Be aware that your interactions during this segment, including questions to our guest speaker, may be recorded for posterity. Here is YouTube live link https://youtu.be/isNIMP7rD14.

Using Zoom: While we are, social distancing the AAAP Board has chosen to use Zoom for our meetings, based our belief that many members have already have used Zoom and its ease of learning. One of its great features is you can choose whether you want to install the software on your computer or use it within your browser.

How to Join the February Meeting: For the meeting, we are going to follow a simple two-step process:

  1. Please make sure you have Zoom installed on your computer. You do not need a Zoom account or need to create one to join the meeting. Nor are you required to use a webcam.
  2. Please visit our website for the link to the meeting
  3. This session will be recorded and saved on YouTube. Send me an email at program@princetonastronomy.org if you have any concerns.

NOTE: We plan to open the meeting site 30 minutes to the 7:30 start time. This way you won’t have to rush to join the meeting. A maximum of 100 attendees can join the meeting.

More Information: The Zoom site has many training videos most are for people who are hosting a meeting. If you’re unsure how Zoom works you might want to view the videos on how to join a meeting or how to check your computer’s audio and video before the meeting.

We hope to make these short presentations a regular feature of our monthly meetings. If you are interested in presenting a topic of interest, please contact either director@princetonastronomy.org or program@princetonastronomy.org. We’d like to keep our momentum going!

Upcoming Programs: Here’s a look ahead at upcoming guest speakers. We’re expecting to conduct virtual meetings for the remainder of this academic year. In an effort to turn necessity into a virtue, we’re casting our recruiting net a bit wider than usual, inviting speakers for whom a visit to Princeton would be impractical or inconvenient. Suggestions for guest speakers for September, 2021 and beyond are welcome.

March 9 – Keivan Stassun: Prof. Stassun is the Stevenson Professor of Astrophysics at Vanderbilt University. He will describe The Life and Death of Stars, the title of a course he delivered for The Learning Company.      

April 13 – Alexandra Kroll Davatzes: Prof. Davatzes is an Associate Professor at Temple University. Her talk will describe Precambrian Meteor Impacts and Implications for Early Earth.

May 11 – Alex Hayes: Prof. Hayes is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University and Director of its Spacecraft Planetary Image Facility. He will speak on Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System, plus he will give a brief report on the Mars 2020 mission.

June 8 – Anna Schauer: Dr. Schauer, a new mother, is the NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. She leads the team researching what she’s nicknamed the Ultimately Large Telescope, a lunar liquid-mirror telescope that will aim at investigating First Star Formation.

Looking forward to you joining us on Zoom or YouTube Live webcast at the February meeting!

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Minutes of the January 12, 2021 AAAP General Meeting

by Larry Kane, Assistant Director

●  The meeting convened at 7:30 PM via Zoom.

●  A presentation on the physics of a refracting telescope, including a history of several instruments, including our own Hastings-Byrne was provided by member John Church.

●  Amateur Astronomy Journals section was provided by Bob Vanderbei, with astro images he has taken over the last twelve months and Bill Murray, reviewing the history of Project Diana.

Business Meeting:

●  Director Rex Parker presented a discussion of the 982.00 Mhz signal that came from the region of Proxima Centauri and lasted 30 hours. He also introduced a discussion of the suggestion by Avi Loeb, of Harvard University, that Oumuamua  (the interstellar object that entered our solar system) was sent by alien intelligence.

It is described in his recent book Extraterrestrial.

Observatory:

●  Observatory Chair, Dave Skitt, stated that two groups came out to view the “great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.”

●  Dave also had a Zoom meeting with a member of the public wanting advice on buying a telescope. This was followed by statements from several members who were also approached to give advice on the same subject.

●  Dave and Tom Swords discussed the purchase of “Bahtinov masks” to aid in the focusing of telescopes and cameras..

Program Manager:

●  Victor Davis said that speakers are lined up until the end of the current academic year. He indicated that virtual meetings are allowing for the retention of speakers who would not normally come to Princeton to speak at our meetings. He added that this is “surprisingly easy.”

Meeting adjourned at 10:00PM

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How Did Hastings Design Our Objective?

by John Church

PART I

I’ve often wondered what actual methods Charles Hastings used when designing the 6-1/4” objective now sitting at the business end of our fine refractor in Washington Crossing State Park.  I’ll start by quoting Hastings’ own words on p. 39 of Vol. 2 of the Sidereal Messenger for 1883:

“Anxious to test still farther the theory [i.e. the theory which he had developed from scratch when starting his lens design work, see below], I constructed an objective of 6-1/3 inches aperture [reduced to 6-1/4 inches by Byrne’s cell] of entirely different materials and curves resembling those chosen by Fraunhofer in most of his objectives.  This also was made strictly in accordance with the theory and with the most gratifying results,  Of interest to the optician is the fact that its focal length differed by less than 1/10 of an inch from that given by calculation. [Note:  H. designed for a focal length of 91 inches, while this lens has an actual focal length of 91.07 inches, i.e. 2313 mm.]  This lens is now in the possession of Mr. C. H. Rockwell, at Tarrytown, N.Y., and was used by him at Honolulu in observing the last transit of Mercury.  Though I have not had the opportunity for testing the telescope in astronomical work which I could wish, the ease with which I saw ζ Bootis double in 1879 (Hall 0”.55, 1874.4) and γ2 Andromedae elongated during the same summer, convinces one that it is of the highest excellence, even independently of the severe physical tests to which it has been subjected in my hands.”

The theory that Hastings was referring to was elaborated at some length in an article in the American Journal of Science for March 1882 (Third Series, Vol. XXIII no. 135), p. 167.  The general idea was to concentrate the greatest amount of visible light energy into the smallest possible area. By considering the intensities of the various wavelengths of light, he arrived at the conclusion that the wavelength for the minimum intercept distance (i.e. back focus or distance from the rear vertex of the rear element of the achromat) for paraxial (i.e. nearly central) rays should be 5614 A., which is a solar line visible in a good spectroscope and very close to the wavelength of maximum sensitivity of human vision.  He also concluded that when achromatism was considered, the marginal rays for the C line (6561 A.) and a wavelength as close as possible to 4990 A. should be united.  He found that the closest spectroscopic line readily available was at 5005 A.  Hence this was his recommendation, and it fact it was achieved in our actual objective (Sky & Telescope for March 1979, p. 294).

Hastings didn’t publish the actual calculations which led him to these conclusions. However, he did write the following passage in this same article:  

 “The second objective had a clear aperture of 6-1/4 inches and a focal length of 91 inches.  The crown lens is in advance and the curves are such as to satisfy, for a first approximation, the conditions proposed by Sir John Herschel [Phil Trans.1821, p. 222].  This form, though ordinarily known as Herschel’s, cannot be said to differ from that chosen by Fraunhofer at a date earlier than that of the publication of Herschel’s paper.”

The so-called “Herschel condition” is that spherical aberration should vanish not only for objects at infinite distances (i.e. astronomical objects), but also at nearer points for use as a terrestrial telescope. This would also allow easy testing of lenses in the workshop and on convenient daytime objects in the vicinity.  It continues to be a useful principle in this area, but it’s mathematically incompatible with the Abbe or “sine condition” that both spherical aberration and coma should be made as small as possible in astronomical telescopes.  It’s fortunate however that satisfying the Herschel condition coincidentally leads to objectives with very low coma that are usually perfectly satisfactory for astronomical work.

In the second article of this series I plan to go more completely into the Herschel condition and determine if Hastings actually tried to make our objective follow Herschel’s  formulas.

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Annie Jump Cannon and the Creation of Stellar Classification

by Athena Basu

Many of you are probably familiar with the Harvard System of Stellar Classification. In this system, the O B A F G K M sequence groups stars in terms of apparent color and effective/surface temperature. O describes the bluest and hottest stars (> 30,000 K), while M includes the reddest and coolest stars (2400-3700 K). Each class is also subdivided by numeric digits – 0 indicating the hottest and 9 the coolest of each class (e.g. B8 like Rigel or G2 like our sun).

More recent classification systems – like the Morgan Keenan (MK) system – remain very similar to their precursor, but also add a Luminosity class to distinguish between stars of different sizes and total luminosities (for example, differentiates between a red dwarf vs a red giant) with our sun classified as G2V (the Roman numeral indicating that it is a main sequence star).

But how was the Harvard System created? For that, we will have to delve into the story of Annie Jump Cannon.

Who was Annie Jump Cannon

I first learned about Annie Jump Cannon – one of the most influential female astronomers in history – in Episode 8 of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. In 1896, she was hired by Harvard Observatory Director Edward C. Pickering to join Harvard’s female team of “Computers”; The “Harvard Computers” examined data taken by the observatory, aiming to map and catalogue every star to a photographic magnitude of 9. There, Cannon manually classified over 350,000 stars (more than anyone else in a lifetime) and revolutionized astronomy with the creation of the modern star classification scheme – on which stellar astronomy is based – all during a time where pursuit of careers in higher academia (or just careers in general) was not accepted for women.

Annie Jump Cannon – born on December 11, 1863 – was the eldest daughter of Wilson Cannon and Mary Jump. She developed her interest in astronomy in part due to her mother, who taught her the constellations and encouraged her to pursue the sciences at Wellesley College. There she studied physics and astronomy under the mentorship of Sarah Frances Whiting – who later inspired her to learn about spectroscopy – and became the school’s valedictorian. After graduating with a degree in physics in 1884, she traveled around Europe with a box camera and learned about the new art of photography, with her photos published by the camera manufacturer upon her return. Later she attended Radcliffe College to continue her studies in astronomy and was hired by Edward C. Pickering at the Harvard College Observatory. Cannon maintained a positive outlook on life in the face of adversity. She faced many challenges in her life and work – from sexist attitudes of the time challenging her success at every turn, to losing her hearing to scarlet fever even before starting her career, and the loss of her mother and greatest supporter at a young age – yet still managed to be a joyful and driven person through it all.

Annie Jump Cannon developed the Harvard system to fulfill the need for a robust yet straightforward classification scheme. She created the spectral classes O B A F G K M based on the strength of Balmer absorption lines (the specific wavelength emissions of hydrogen atoms) and sorted bright stars into these categories. Interestingly, it was not until after the Harvard system was created, that it was realized the spectral classes reflected star temperature. Her refinement of star classification processes was also incredible. At first progress was slow; from when she first joined the computers to the mid-point of her career, Cannon improved the cataloging technique from handling around 1 star per day, to 200 an hour. Using just a magnifying glass she could accurately classify stars down to 9th magnitude from their spectral pattern.

In 1901, Annie Jump Cannon published her first catalog of stellar spectra. For her work, she was later appointed the Curator of Astronomical Photographs at Harvard and in 1914 made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1922 her stellar classification system was formally adopted by the International Astronomical Union and is still in use today with minor modifications. She collaborated with Cecilia Payne, who was completing her PhD in Astronomy at Harvard, to show that stars were mostly composed of hydrogen and helium – a radical idea at a time when scientists believed the earth and sun had the same ratio of elements but at different temperatures.

In 1919 she took over from Pickering to run the Harvard Computers and in 1925 Cannon became the first woman to be given an honorary doctorate from Oxford. She retired in 1940 but continued to work at the Harvard Observatory until she died a year later at the age of 77. She had a big influence on women gaining respect in science and particularly astronomy, and to this day there is the Annie Jump Cannon Award given to outstanding female astronomers in North America for their post-doctoral research, most recently won by Laura Kreidberg for her work on exoplanet atmospheres.

Annie Jump Cannon and her colleagues in the Harvard Computers, such as Henrietta Leavitt who observed variable stars that led to Edwin Hubble discovering galaxies and their distances, and Antonia Maury who figured out the relative sizes of stars from their spectra, had an incredible impact on the last century of astronomy and should be remembered long into future.

Athena Basu – some info about me

I joined AAAP over 3 years ago and became the youngest QO and Keyholder at age 14. I have found it to be a wonderful group of smart and helpful people that increased my interest in observational astronomy and motivated me to get my first decent telescope – a 10” Dobsonian. Currently I am a High School Senior in Bucks County PA and hoping to go to college in September to study Astrophysics.

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Meet our new member Lisa Ann Fanning

My name is Lisa Ann Fanning – I live in Marlboro Twp., NJ. I have been very casually observing since 2019. My husband, Rob  and I, are avid birders, so my beginning efforts have been utilizing a Swarovski 65mm spotting scope with 20-60x zoom eyepiece. The beginners’ book series that got me hooked was John A. Read’s

“50 Things” series (50 Things to See on the Moon and 50 Things to see with a Telescope.)  In July of 2020, when Comet NEOWISE became the star attraction, my interest was re-generated. I reached out to John in mid-July to understand what options I had for any type of beginner’s training and he informed me that he was co-hosting the Explore the Universe certificate series for Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) with Jenna Hinds, outreach coordinator. I completed my certificate in October, 2020 and have since begun work on my Explore the Moon certificate. I am a member of the RASC’s Halifax Centre.   As a newer member,  I was asked to share my thoughts and experiences in a short piece in the Jan/Feb edition of SkyNews. I was also one of a few folks interviewed to tell my story in a CBC Radio interview about how my interest in Astronomy was ramped up during the pandemic and my connection, as an American member of the Halifax Centre.

I was also recently asked to join Astronomy By the Bay’s Sunday Night Astronomy Show (an online Astronomy show broadcast on Facebook Live and YouTube by an Astronomy club in New Brunswick, CA.) On that show, I told my story as a beginning Astronomer, my connection to Halifax Centre, how I have since done some online work to share with my birding friends about how they can enjoy Astronomy with much of the equipment they already have. My pet project for December was documenting the Conjunction through my spotting scope. 

I have since been gifted a friend’s old Orion SkyQuest XT10, which I am currently learning how to use.   I am excited to join AAAP.

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Snippets

compiled by Arlene & David Kaplan

-NYT

Did an Alien Life-Form Do a Drive-By of Our Solar System in 2017? On Nov. 12, 2018, Avi Loeb, then the chairman of the astronomy department at Harvard, and a young research associate, Shmuel Bialy, published a paper in the highly prestigious Astrophysical Journal Letters arguing that humans may have discovered the first evidence of alien technology…more

-NYT
-NYT
-NASA/ESA/JPL

Citizen scientists create 3D map of brown dwarfs in our sun’s neighborhood A citizen scientist group has created the most complete map to date of brown dwarfs neighboring our solar system. Celestial bodies known as brown dwarfs, which are essentially failed stars, are too big to be considered planets and too small to be considered stars…more

-NASA

Missing: One Black Hole With 10 Billion Solar Masses One of the biggest galaxies in the universe seems to lack its dark centerpiece. Astronomers are searching the cosmic lost-and-found for one of the biggest, baddest black holes thought to exist. So far they haven’t found it…more

-NASA

NASA’s Mega Rocket to the Moon Faces Setback After Test A test firing of the engines of the Space Launch System was halted after only about a minute, meaning NASA astronauts may have to wait longer before setting foot on the moon again. After billions of dollars and a decade of work, NASA’s plans to send astronauts back to the moon had a new setback…more

-NYT

A Bitter Archaeological Feud Over an Ancient Vision of the Cosmos The Nebra sky disk, which has been called the oldest known depiction of astronomical phenomena, is a “very emotional object.” The disk is small — just 12 inches in diameter — but it has loomed large in the minds of people across millenniums…more

-CNN

A distant galaxy dies as astronomers watch Galaxies die when the stars that live in them stop forming. Now, for the first time, astronomers have witnessed this phenomenon in a distant galaxy. Scientists were able to glimpse a galaxy as it ejected almost half of the gas it uses to form stars. They captured this rare observation…more

-Vito Technology

 Meet the First Comet of 2021! On January 3, 2021, an American astronomer Gregory J. Leonard discovered a new comet at the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona, USA. It was named C/2021 A1 (Leonard) – the letter “C” means “non-periodic comet”, and “2021 A1” indicates that it was the first comet discovered in the first half of January 2021…more

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