by Rex Parker, Phd firstname.lastname@example.org
Astronomy in the Time of Coronavirus
AAAP’s operations at both Peyton Hall on campus and the Observatory at Washington Crossing State Park are closed until the coronavirus crisis normalizes and group gatherings are once again allowed. We’re probably all feeling stress from the disruptions. I deeply hope that you and yours are staying healthy and making the best of it during this difficult period.
AAAP Officer Elections coming up
In order to conduct elections of officers in keeping with our constitution and by-laws, I have asked John Church to be nominations chair. He will report this month on the status of a slate. The elections will be conducted via e-mail or survey on-line since we cannot meet in person. I am in discussions now with the Board regarding process and will be communicating the election plan to members by May.
Starlight for Our Eyes
Science and the study and practice of astronomy can be a great theme to pursue while we are immobilized at home with social distancing in place. Of course, it would help a little if our local skies would clear up, our retinas need starlight. Unfortunately, most professional as well as amateur centers for astronomy are shuttered. The entire mountain top observatory cluster in Chile (Cerro Tololo) where I do remote astronomy is now shut down, like the rest of the planet. So the image below is from the last data we were able to get.
NGC 2736 (image below) is part of a large supernova remnant in the constellation Vela in the southern sky, 820 light years away – close by astronomical standards. It was first described by England’s Sir John Herschel in March 1835 during his 4 year period doing astronomy in South Africa. Sometimes called the Pencil Nebula, NGC 2736 is a glowing sheet of gases and particles ejected from the supernova event about 11,000 years ago. Today a pulsar sits at the center of the original star. The red regions in the image below are mainly ionized hydrogen and the blue ionized oxygen, gases ejected from the inner layers of the star when it exploded. According to David Malin, the section seen here is part of a roughly spherical shell outlining the expansion of the supernova explosion, but that connection is really only visible in X-ray telescope images. The connectivity in optical wavelengths is obscured by dust from the explosion. The exploding star is thought to have quickly reached a brightness over 200 times that of Venus. Our human ancestors and animals and birds alike would have been dazzled by the sudden appearance of a daystar in 9000 BC, much as we are amazed by its remnants in the deep sky today.
NGC 2736, supernova remnant in the constellation Vela in the southern sky. Astrophoto by Rex Parker with Star Shadows Remote Observatory at Cerro Tololo in Chile.