From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD director@princetonastronomers.org

Transition to real time and space.  After two-and-a-half years gathering virtually we are coming to the last of AAAP’s monthly Zoom sessions on October 11.  Beginning in November we will again hold our meeting in person at Princeton University’s Peyton Hall.  The Oct 11 meeting is an important one for members to attend, as we have invited the famed Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb as guest speaker.  You may recall our vigorous discussion of his provocative book “Extraterrestrial” at a meeting a year and a half ago.  Avi Loeb is one of the foremost thinkers examining the data from the highly unusual extra-solar-system “asteroid” Oumuamua in the fall of 2017. He and colleagues are proposing new ways to prepare for, and instrumentally detect, objects from other star systems passing through our local neighborhood.  See the article below from Program Chair Victor Davis for more information on the talk.  We hope to see you at the Oct 11 meeting – let’s have a big AAAP presence to welcome Dr. Loeb for this important presentation.

Storms, rockets, and the lunar south pole observing challenge. Hurricane Ian’s rage across Florida on September 28-29 seriously threatened the Space Coast, as the core of the storm passed right over Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. NASA had wisely rolled back the massive Artemis I moon rocket and hardware into the giant vehicle assembly building, and the facilities suffered only minimal damage. A number of other rocket launches are planned for the next couple months. The Artemis rocket will now be readied for its next lunar orbit launch window, forecast Nov 12 to 27 according to reports from NASA (source, Ars Technica). 

For those of you taking the lunar south pole observing challenge that I issued last month, the challenge remains right in front of us.  The degree of difficulty is surprisingly high because most phases of the moon do not present the area close to the south pole to earthly observers – the pole is over the horizon.  Lunar libration presents the south pole craters to our view only a couple of nights each month.  See my article in last month’s Sidereal Times for more information on the south polar region, the discovery of water in that area, and why this is so important to lunar exploration.  Below, I offer my best effort so far to image the south pole region. In the pre-dawn hours of Sept 21 the weather cooperated here in New Jersey, and I rose at 4am to see a beautiful crescent moon (after the last quarter) rising in the east. The images below reveal some of the near-south pole region craters, although those closest to the pole were not visible on this occasion. After studying a moon atlas, I identified several craters and concluded that the south-most features in this image are within 50-100 miles of the south pole.  Looks like I’ll have to go for it again in the upcoming months.  If you succeeded in the challenge, please submit your telescopic images to Sidereal Times, and send them on to me for showing at upcoming meetings.

Close but not quite there – lunar south pole region.  I took these images Sept 21 with a 12.5” reflecting telescope and a ZWO ASI071MC camera.  Southern craters were identified by comparing to The Virtual Moon Atlas, available free on line.  Image by RAParker.

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