From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD director@princetonastronomers.org

60th Anniversary of AAAP!  This fall marks the 60th year that AAAP has been an astronomy club.  Yes, back in the fall of 1962, in the early years of the space race, AAAP filed for incorporation as a non-profit. We have met nearly every month (Sept-June) without fail ever since.  Now it’s time to decide what we want to do to mark this momentous occasion. Please send your idea on a 60th celebration event to the editors (editors@princetonastronomy.org) or me for consideration.

Welcome to a new season of AAAP monthly meetings.  Being in the Princeton orbit, naturally AAAP has kept a schedule based on the scholastic year ever since our beginning 60 years ago. So, the first meeting of the season Sept 13 marks a renewal of our monthly gatherings, even though we are not quite ready yet to hold face-to-face meetings again.  Whether by Zoom or in person, these meetings are truly the life-blood of the club, and we urge all new and experienced members to participate. There are many amazing advances in the science of astronomy that we really need to sort out together.  Please refer to my article in the mid-summer edition of Sidereal Times for an assessment of our possible meeting future at the Institute for Advanced Studies.     But for the next 2 months at least we will continue Zooming the monthly meetings. We have some exciting programs lined up and hope you will join us on Sept 13 at 7:30pm for the kick-off of the new season.  See the Program Chair’s section below for information about the guest presentation on Sept 13.

Observatory columns reconstruction completed.  One of the great benefits of the club is being able to use some serious astro equipment at AAAP’s Washington Crossing Observatory. And it isn’t surprising that, from time to time, we need to make significant investments to maintain the facility. In this case, I am pleased to announce that the much-needed concrete reconstruction work on the facility was completed in August.  At long last, 4 new steel-reinforced concrete pillars now support the massive roll-off roof.  The new columns will probably outlive the rest of the building, projecting a sense of strength and symmetry to the observatory (picture below).  The fit and finish are perfect. A big thank you goes to members who contributed to the reconstruction fund (see below).  You really came through – contributions covered essentially all of the approximately $10,000 project.

Contributors to the Observatory Reconstruction Fund:

Agarwal, Surabhi Kaplan, David Peck, James
Allen, EugeneKugel, Henry Polans, Ira
Braun, DouglasLetcher, David  Pullan, Rowena
Bristol-Myers SquibbMagnanao, TitusSandberg, Lee 
Cacciatore, LeonardMasters, John  Schneider, Mary  
Caruso, Rafael   Miller, DennisShea, Thomas 
Coats, TedMisiura, David Sherman, Richard  
Donney, TimMitrano, Michael Sindora, John
Fling, Jim  Mittelstaedt, RonSproles, Ed
Ganti, Prasad Mooney, Kevin Swords, Thomas 
Gong, Timothy Mroz, AileenWraight, Peter
Harding, JohnOwen, David
Kaplan, Arlene &
David Kaplan Fund
Parker, Rex     

Water ice on the Moon!  An ongoing theme (dare I say inescapable) in our club is lunar observing.  Only a few years ago wehad several presentations about the moon in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Apollo.  Now, returning human astronauts to the moon has never been more compelling, especially with the increasing evidence for water ice deep within the south pole craters of the moon.  The excitement is increasing as NASA’s Artemis 1 approaches its launch window at Cape Canaveral.  The Artemis project’s main goal is to return humans to the moon and set the stage for Mars with a moon base near the south pole, where water has been detected instrumentally by NASA’s orbiting probes. The necessary proof, of course, will be for astronauts to actually locate and recover samples of water ice.  

Lunar south pole region observing challenge.  A few of the southmost craters are named after earth’s Antarctic adventurers from a century ago: Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton (see Figures below). The moon’s rotation axis passes through Shackleton a few km from its center. Observing the polar craters edge-on with a telescope is a real challenge and requires a favorable libration in which the moon’s tilt reveals more of the south pole area. For an excellent high resolution imaging video of the south pole region and Shackleton crater, see this article from NASA and the Planetary Society.  https://www.planetary.org/articles/water-on-the-moon-guide  At the most favorable southern libration over a few nights each month an earth observer can see about 6 degrees beyond the pole.  Sky & Telescope lists the favorable libration dates for north and south poles on the almanac page (center-fold star map) each monthFor more ideas on when and how to observe the south pole craters, see Sky & Telescope, March 2022, “Meet Shackleton Crater: Future Moon Landing Site”.  Here I’m proposing a AAAP observing challenge to see how close to the south pole you can observe, image, and identify craters through a telescope at high magnification.  If you do succeed in getting an image that shows the near-south-pole craters, please send it in to Sidereal Times and we will talk about it at an upcoming meeting.

The deeper craters near the moon’s poles remain in permanent shadow and are extremely cold, below -200 deg C, where water ice is stable even in the vacuum of space. Deep shade turns out to be the key to whether abundant free water ice exists on the moon, and the answer means everything to future human habitation. Moon atlases as recently as the mid-90’s, such as my edition of “Astronomy Atlas of the Moon” (1996) by Antonin Rukl, states “there is no water on the moon – not even in the rocks”.  The first evidence for free water ice came from NASA’s Clementine and Lunar Prospector missions in the late 1990’s, and the instrumental data from more recent missions is convincing.  Imagine an astronaut actually holding ice crystals, and someday even drinking water from the deep polar craters of the moon.  Let’s hope that this happens in the next few years with Artemis, and that the Shackleton crater scenes in the acclaimed science fiction drama TV series, “For All Mankind”, do come true.

The lunar south pole region.  NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Oribiter (LRO) flew over the south pole and imaged the craters which hold permanent shading. The polar axis runs through Shackleton crater.  Credit:  NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.    https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/3686

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From the Program Chair

By Victor Davis

Welcome back from summer hiatus!  Though we’re still Zooming, we’re kicking off the 2022-2023 academic year with a “double header;” two AAAP members each giving approximately half-hour talks. Michael DiMario tells the story of how a group of amateurs affiliated with Yerkes Observatory made a “precovery” of dwarf planet Pluto on photographic plates decades before Pluto’s official discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Lisa Ann Fanning, a longtime birder and frequent photographic contributor to Sidereal Times, will speak on “Astronomical Events and Bird Behavior.” Here are the details:

The September 2022 meeting of the AAAP will take place (virtually) on Tuesday, September 13th at 7:30 PM. (See How to Join the September Meeting below for details). This meeting is open to AAAP members and the general public. Participants will be able to log in to the meeting as early as 7:00 pm to chat informally with others who log in early. We will not be using the “waiting room;” participants will enter the meeting as soon as they log in. However, you will enter the meeting space with your microphone muted. Please be aware you must unmute yourself to be heard by other participants.

For the Q&A session, you may ask your question using Zoom’s chat feature or you 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.

Michael DiMarioFeatured Speaker: Michael DiMario, PhD

Founder and CEO,  Astrum Systems

mjdimario@outlook.com

Pluto Precovery and the Resurrection of Yerkes Observatory

The dwarf planet Pluto was famously discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, using photographic plates he exposed at Lowell Observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona. There’s now evidence that serendipity played a role in Pluto’s discovery, since we now know that the dwarf planet is not massive enough to have disturbed Uranus and Neptune in such a way as to put a hypothetical “Planet X” where Tombaugh was told to look. Nevertheless, now that we do know where to look, could pre-1930 images have revealed Pluto? It turns out that Pluto has been “precovered” fourteen times, the earliest images taken on January 23, 1914 at the Konigstuhl Observatory in Heidelberg, Germany.

More recently, an even earlier “precovery” was accomplished at the University of Chicago Yerkes Observatory, located at Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Members of the Asteroid Search and Studies by Amateurs at Yerkes Group (ASSAY), a function of Yerkes’ Outreach Program, made a precovery of Pluto on two photographic plates dated August 20 and November 11, 1909.  At this time, Pluto was in the constellation Taurus. 

Pluto orbits the Sun once every 248.5 earth years at a mean distance of 39.53 au. Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has only traversed 27% of its orbit. The 1909 precovery increases the observed orbit to 36%. Dr. DiMario will discuss the precovery process and its significance. He will also discuss the status of Yerkes Observatory’s Revitalization.

Dr. DiMario is the Founder and CEO of Astrum Systems, a global consulting venture focused on employing systems engineering methodologies in early research and development. He is also actively engaged in creating a blog highlighting large and university-based observatories including solar and RF telescopes.

Dr. DiMario has five granted patents, numerous corporate trade secrets, a published book on systems engineering, a book chapter on systems engineering, and more than forty peer reviewed papers in regard to quantum magnetometry, systems engineering and quality management. He has been interviewed and quoted in Wired Magazine, GPS World, Sifted, and the Financial Times.

He holds a PhD in Systems Engineering, MBA in Management of Technology, MS in Computer Engineering, and significant course work in Space Science. He is President of Astrum Systems, a technology management consulting firm and co-chairs the INCOSE Early Systems Engineering and Research Working Group. He holds an amateur radio Extra class license, call sign K2MJD.

LisaFanning

Featured Speaker: Lisa Ann Fanning

la.fanning@yahoo.com

Astronomical Events and Bird Behavior

Many people are familiar with the effects of solar eclipses on animal behavior, but what about the stars or moon phases? What is their link to the bird and animal world? How is migration impacted? This program will explore all those and more with some interesting case studies.

Lisa Ann Fanning

Born and raised in New York City, Lisa Ann Fanning has always had a curiosity for the natural world, and that passion has only grown into her adult life. She is a longtime member and volunteer for Monmouth County Audubon and various other conservation organizations across New Jersey. She is also an amateur Astronomer, recipient of the Explore the Moon and Explore the Universe Observing Certificates from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, editor of the RASC’s Halifax Centre’s Nova Notes newsletter, creator of “Lisa’s Look Up!” on Facebook, a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton and contributor to their Monthly online newsletter, Sidereal Times and has appeared on several programs and podcasts.

AAAP webcast:  This month’s AAAP meeting, beginning with Rex’s opening remarks and ending at the beginning of 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. 

YouTube Link: Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton, April 12, 2022 Meeting, 7:30 PM EST

This session will be recorded and saved on YouTube. Send me an email at program@princetonastronomy.org if you have any concerns.

Using Zoom: While we are social distancing, the AAAP Board has chosen to use Zoom for our meetings, based on our belief that many members have already used Zoom and have found it easy to use. 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.

NOTE: The Zoom site has many training videos. 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.

How to Join the September Meeting:

  • Please make sure you have Zoom installed on your computer. You do not need a Zoom account or to create one to join the meeting. Nor are you required to use a webcam.
  • Please see below for the link to the meeting, or visit our website.

Join Zoom Meeting,   Meeting ID: 837 9968 3295   Passcode: 441861

There is no “Unjournal Club” presentation scheduled this month. As you may know, guest speakers receive a baseball cap with the AAAP logo embroidered upon it as a “thank you” for making a presentation to us. We’re expanding the hat giveaway to members who contribute an “Unjournal Club” presentation to encourage participation.

We hope to make these short presentations a regular feature of our monthly meetings. We’d like to know what members are doing or what members are thinking about in the broad range of topics encompassed by astronomy. A brief ten-minute (or so) presentation is a good way to introduce yourself and the topics you care about to other club members. If you are interested in presenting a topic of interest, please contact either director@princetonastronomy.org or program@princetonastronomy.org.

October 11, 2022 Avi Loeb, will speak on “The Galileo Project: The Search for Technological Interstellar Objects.”  Prof. Loeb, Professor of Science at Harvard University, is the author of the controversial book, “Extraterrestrial,” which examines the possibility that the unusual interstellar object Oumuamua may be not a wayward asteroid but a product of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Thanks and a tip o’ the AAAP cap to Rex for promoting Prof. Loeb as a guest speaker.
Future meetingsAlthough we do not expect to return to Peyton Hall in the foreseeable future, alternative venues are being sought to resume in-person meetings. Based on member feedback, the Board is acting on the commitment to continue virtual participation in the meetings via Zoom and/or YouTube even after in-person meetings resume.

As always, members’ comments and suggestions are gratefully accepted and much appreciated.

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AAAP Merchandise

by Richard Sherman

The AAAP store now has NEW merchandise that features our “Anniversary Edition” logo celebrating AAAP’s 60 years. Check it out at : https://aaap1962.logosoftwear.com/.  The password is SiderealTimes.  

The items with the new anniversary logo will have ” **Anniversary Edition** ” as the first words in the product description (note that the first 21 items on the page have the Anniversary Edition logo; the remaining items have our traditional logo).  If you want a different color, or are looking for a
product that you don’t see on the site, please email Rich Sherman at merchandise@princetonastronomy.org,  and we will make every effort to get that item for you.  Also, note that it takes about 3-4 weeks to receive your order.  

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In Search for Ideas to Celebrate the Club’s 60th Anniversary

by Surabhi Agarwal

This year our club completes 60 years of its formation. In the years following its formation, it steadily established itself as one of the premier astronomy clubs of our times. The club has been instrumental in promoting the wonders of the skies to the young and the young at heart. Our members visit schools and entertain and educate public at the impressive observatory in Washington Crossing State Park. Many of our members have been with the club for more than half its existence and have dedicated a good chunk of their lives to the club and its mission to introduce the public to the wonders of the universe and promote backyard observation.

For our golden anniversary, ten years ago, we arranged for a memorable discussion among some of the very renowned astronomers and astrophysicists on the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. We invited young children to write poems on astronomy and awarded the best amongst them. We also felicitated our long time members. All this was followed by a fancy and sumptuous dinner.

To celebrate the diamond anniversary this year, we are looking for ideas and assistance from all our members. Please send an email to the editors@princetonastronomy.org if you have any recommendations or if you would like to involve yourself to organize a memorable celebration.

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The Southern Skies

by S. Prasad Ganti

Some stars, constellations and galaxies are visible from the northern hemisphere which are not visible or barely visible from the southern hemisphere. Likewise, some stars, constellations and galaxies are unique to the skies as seen from the southern hemisphere. We are so used to seeing the north star with the big dipper and the cassiopeia constellations going in circles around it. North star lies directly above the north pole of the earth’s axis of rotation  and hence is not visible from the southern hemisphere. It stays in the same position all the nights of the year.

A significant constellation closer to, but not exactly above the south pole, is the southern cross. This is not visible from the northern hemisphere. Though I read that it is possible to see it very low in the sky as we go closer to the equator. I tried to look for it when I visited Key West in Florida, but was unsuccessful. I added to my bucket list to see the southern cross. 

Recently I had an opportunity to visit Brisbane, Australia to attend a family wedding. Although I did cross the equator in the early 1990s to visit Sao Paulo, Brazil on a business trip, I hardly knew about the southern cross. Also, the light pollution of Sao Paulo would not have helped anyway.  I prepared for the Australian trip by reading about the southern cross and the pointer stars. Hoping that this would help me in identifying using my naked eyes. I also loaded the Stellarium software on my phone. The southern cross is relatively easy to spot from anywhere in Australia. In fact, it is prominently displayed on the Australian flag. In the picture shown below, four stars forming some sort of a diamond shape at the right is the southern cross (with a fifth star inside), while the union jack is on the top left part of the flag.

On my first night in the suburbs of Brisbane, I was able to spot the southern cross. It was not bright due to the light pollution. I could not photograph it either. I just carried back the memories in my mind. I could see the southern cross on the second night as well, and from different locations in the neighborhood, but the third night was cloudy. I thanked my stars for the opportunity provided to me on the first two nights!

Below is the picture from the ABC science site https://www.abc.net.au/science/starhunt/tour/virtual/southern-cross/

The alignment of the cross changes with the season. At this time of the year, it is horizontal with the 2 bright pointer stars on the top. The bright white star on the left (actually on top in the real sky in August) is the Alpha Centauri, our nearest star about 4 light years away. The bluish star to its right is the Beta Centauri, which is also part of the constellation Centaurus.  To the right is the southern cross, also known as the constellation of crux. The brightest star is on the bottom and is labeled as Alpha Crux.

In Hindu weddings, one of the ritualistic steps is for the priest to take the bride and groom outside and point to the binary stars Alcor and Mizar (known as “Arundathi and Vashistha” in Indian mythology). Weddings can take place during day times also, but the priests know where these stars are supposed to be  in the sky. These stars are in the big dipper which is visible from the northern skies. But I was not sure if one can see it in the southern skies. I asked the priest, a scholarly gentleman, if these stars actually show up. He was sure he saw them. 

The picture of the big dipper is shown in the picture below, courtesy unsplash.com. It looks like a question mark. The second star from the bottom (in the tail of the question mark or handle of the vessel) is the Mizar/Alcor binary star system. Using a telescope, it is possible to clearly see the 2 stars instead of 1 with naked eye. 

It was a great experience down under seeing the southern cross and learning the Hindu names of Alcor and Mizar. 

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A New Book From Freelance Writer, Obaidur Rahman

The Mystery of Time Travel

Abstract

Time is a simple word, though it remains truly the most mysterious and vicious phenomena where every living and non-living ones are its victim. This antediluvian force of nature shows no mercy as it moves along every path, every corner sniffing over its wounded and marks victory over one after another. Time mystifies us with the maze of moments and wraps up in the illusion that it would last forever.

Tirelessly, we chase the days as we make it to the journey of life as we know it. The fixture of sunrise and sunset detonates the moments, and all familiarity seems like occasions held seconds ago. There is no escape. The mystic hands of the clock never greet one at the same spot twice.

But, what if we could actually travel back in time and into the future? 

Author/Book Link: https://independent.academia.edu/Obaid

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Greetings from new member, Bill Makoski.

My daughter gifted me this membership on Father’s Day.  I look forward to the lectures starting in September.  I also hope to come out to Washington Crossings Park for a Friday night gazing.  The one good Friday night this summer I was out of town.

I grew up in New Jersey and my father taught me about the night sky.  I am about to finish my career in the turbomachinery manufacturing and service industry and look forward to spending more time observing the night sky.

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Club Member Dennis Jamison’s Note

(In his own words)

Dennis-JamisonI wanted to let my fellow members know that I’ve moved away from NJ after a brief stay of only 14 months!  The reason is that my son got his dream job but it’s in Denver.  So we moved too, arriving two days ago.

I greatly enjoyed my time with the AAAP (even though mosDennis Jamison Denvert of it was via Zoom). The lectures and discussions were the best. I also got to attend the April 30 Keyholder training at the observatory and meet some of you in person. That was a memorable experience and I was looking forward to many more. The observatory is so impressive!  I’ve proudly described it to my astronomy friends outside of AAAP. 

I plan to renew my AAAP membership and continue to attend Zoom meetings from Denver whenever possible.  Please send me a renewal notice when the time comes, and let me know if I can help in any way with the AAAP’s outreach programs. 

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Snippets

compiled by Arlene & David Kaplan

-NYT

Webb Telescope Sees a Carbon Dioxide Atmosphere Way Out There The James Webb Space Telescope is having a fantastic rookie season.On Thursday a team of astrophysicists using the new telescope to probe exoplanets added to what has been a cavalcade of discoveries when they announced that they had detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time…more

-NYT
-NYT

African Crater Adds an Asteroid Strike to the Late Dinosaur Era About 66 million years ago, Earth was smacked in the face by an asteroid. No, not that one. Another one. In the journal Science Advances, scientists on Wednesday reported that a huge, buried pit off the coast of Guinea in West Africa had all of the appearances of an impact crater made by a meteor…more

-NYT

The Juicy Secrets of Stars That Eat Their Planets The sun has nourished life on Earth, but it will not be so hospitable forever. Five billion years into the future, our solar system’s star will grow so immense that Mercury, Venus and, possibly, Earth will be swallowed whole. It may seem like an ignominious end to our beloved home. But scientists think that this process of “planetary engulfment,”…more

-NYT

A Watermark, and ‘Spidey Sense,’ Unmask a Forged Galileo Treasure Galileo Galilei was peering through a new telescope in 1610 when he noticed something strange: several bright objects flickering around the planet Jupiter that seemed to change positions nightly. His discovery, of moons orbiting Jupiter, was a major crack in the notion, widely held since antiquity, that everything in the universe revolved around the Earth…..more

-NYT

Astronomers May Have Found the Galaxy’s Youngest Planet Over the last 30 years, astronomers have found more than 5,000 exoplanets, an eclectic menagerie of worlds far from our stellar neighborhood. The latest may be a mere infant. In the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters, scientists on Tuesday announced compelling evidence for a world just 1.5 million years old…more

-BBC

Nasa: Artemis Moon rocket second launch attempt called off The US space agency has had to postpone the launch of its new Artemis I Moon rocket for the second time in a week. Controllers were unable to stop a hydrogen leak on the vehicle, almost from the start of Saturday’s countdown procedure…more

– NYT

Biomass: Giant ‘space brolly’ to weigh Earth’s forests It looks for all the world like a giant brolly, but there’s no rain where it’s going. This immense reflector-antenna is heading into space, to “weigh” Earth’s forests. It’s a key component on the European Space Agency’s Biomass mission, now under construction in the UK at aerospace manufacturer Airbus…more

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