From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD

Return to Peyton Hall, Nov 8 (7:30pm).  At long last we will meet again in person at Princeton University’s Peyton Hall auditorium for our next get together on Nov 8.  Peyton has been the home of Princeton Astrophysics for over 55 years. An interesting history of Peyton presented by Prof. Ed Jenkins in Dec 2016 recalls some of the famed astronomers who have graced its halls. See this link:  

Since we’ll be back on home turf, it’s appropriate that the guest speaker will be Prof. Michael Strauss, Chair of the Dept of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton. See the article below from Victor for more information on the talk.  The University asks us to park (for free) in the new garage at 148 Fitzrandolph Rd, at the corner of Faculty and Fitzrandolph Rd.  This is fitting, as the new garage is where Fitzrandolph Observatory was in the olden days. Important: arrive about 15 minutes early, as parking and walking to Peyton will take a good 15 minutes; see the walking map in Victor’s article below.  It’s essential to be aware of the COVID policy, below.  For those who cannot attend in person, Ira and Dave are working on setting up the tech for a Zoom “hybrid” meeting format from the auditorium.  But if you can attend, we really want to see you there in person on Nov 8! 

Princeton’s COVID policy.  AAAP members and public attending our meeting at Peyton Hall must abide by Princeton’s current rules.  The University requires all visitors to be either fully vaccinated, have recently received and be prepared to show proof of a negative COVID test, or agree to wear a face covering when indoors and around others. Conveners of meetings and hosts may continue to ask for proof of vaccine or attestations, though they are no longer required.  See the full policy here:

Lunar south pole observing challenge. The Artemis lunar rocket launch date has been reset for Nov 14.  The lunar south pole observing 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 articles in the last 2 month’s Sidereal Times for more information on the south polar region and the ongoing challenge.

Posted in November 2022, Sidereal Times | Tagged , | Leave a comment

From the Program Chair

By Victor Davis

Welcome Back to Peyton Hall!

The November 2022 meeting of the AAAP will take place IN PERSON on Tuesday, November 8th at 7:30 PM. As usual, the meeting is open to AAAP members and the public.

Hybrid Meeting

You may choose to attend the meeting in person or participate via Zoom or YouTube as we’ve been doing for the past few years. (See How to Participate below for details). Participants who choose to participate virtually 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’ve had some security concerns during a past broadcast, so we are re-instituting the Zoom waiting room. Please be patient for the host to recognize you and grant you entry into the meeting. Be aware that 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.

Meeting Event~TimeParticipant Can Speak?Participant Can Self-Unmute?
Pre-meeting informal chatting7:00 – 7:30Start All on MuteYes
Director Rex’s General Remarks7:30 – 7:40Start All on MuteYes
Program Chair Victor’s Speaker Introduction7:40 – 7:45Start All on MuteYes
Speaker Presentation: Prof. Michael Strauss The First Black Holes in the Universe: Searching for the Highest-Redshift Quasars7:45 – 8:45NoNo
Q&A Session8:45 – 9:00Start All on MuteYes                               
Biobreak/Book signing9:00 – 9:20YesYes
“Unjournal Club” – No presentation scheduledN/AStart All on MuteNo
Business Meeting9:20 – 9:50Start All on MuteYes
Director’s remarks/Informal chatting9:50 – 10:00Start All on MuteYes

Getting to Peyton Hall

The parking lots across the street (Ivy Lane) from Peyton Hall are now construction sites, unavailable for parking. We’ve been advised by the administration of the astrophysics department that we should park in the new enclosed parking garage off Fitzrandolph street and walk around the stadium and athletic fields. Here’s a map of the campus and walking routes from the parking garage to Peyton Hall. The map shows the recently completed East Garage. Not shown is an access road Sweet Gum that connects from Faculty Road to an entrance at the lower left corner of the garage. Stadium Road connects from Fitzrandolph Road to another entrance at the opposite corner (and higher level) of the garage.

Recent reconnaissance visits to campus show that the walk from the parking garage to Peyton Hall takes about 15 minutes. We will post small signs marking the path.

“Meet the Speaker” dinners

Along with our return to Peyton Hall, we are re-instituting our “Meet the Speaker” dinners at Winberie’s Restaurant & Bar at One Palmer Square. The restaurant has a meeting room that accommodates up to 30 people.  I have reserved this room for 5:45 pm on meeting night. Please contact me by phone or email if you are planning to attend.

image-1Featured Speaker: Michael Strauss, PhD

Professor and Chair,

Department of Astrophysics, Princeton University

The First Black Holes in the Universe: Searching for the Highest-Redshift Quasars A quasar, we now know, is a galaxy in which gas is falling into the central supermassive black hole. The glowing of that gas before it passes the event horizon is so energetic that it can outshine the rest of the galaxy.  Prof. Strauss will describe the search for the most distant, and thus highest-redshift, quasars in the universe, corresponding to a time less than a billion years after the Big Bang.  Using a wide variety of telescopes, Dr. Strauss and his colleagues are exploring the properties of these quasars with the aim of understanding how the black holes formed and grow and the relationship between them and the galaxies in which they reside.  The James Webb Space Telescope promises to give more insights to the question: How did a black hole with a mass of over a billion solar masses grow in less than a billion years after the Big Bang?

Michael Strauss, PhD Michael Strauss is professor and chair of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University.  He earned his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989, and did postdoctoral stints at Caltech and the Institute for Advanced Study before coming to Princeton. His research uses wide-field surveys of the sky to study the nature and evolution of galaxies and quasars, and to measure the large-scale structure of the universe to explore fundamental questions of cosmology.  He has served as Vice President of the American Astronomical Society, Deputy Project Scientist for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and Chair of the Science Advisory Committee of the Vera Rubin Observatory. 

“Welcome to the Universe” – Book Signing The universe is awesome. That’s very much preaching to the choir in this club, but to the public at large, that can be a tough sell. Empowering undergraduates to understand the universe was the purpose astrophysicist and director of undergraduate studies Neta Bahcall had in mind when she selected tonight’s guest speaker Michael Strauss, his Princeton colleague J. Richard Gott and science explainer and director of the Hayden Planetarium Neal deGrasse Tyson to devise and teach an undergraduate course to non-science majors at Princeton University. The course became enormously popular, and eventually the basis of several books giving a tour of the universe from an astronomical point of view. In due course (couldn’t resist), Princeton colleague (and AAAP member) Robert Vanderbei came on board to help visualize astronomical phenomena in three dimensions. At November’s meeting, a representative of Labyrinth Books will be selling copies of “Welcome to the Universe…” in three of its variations, and Profs. Strauss and Vanderbei will be on hand to sign them.

image-2 book1 book2

How to Participate if you are attending via Zoom:

  • 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 Link  Meeting ID: 841 7825 4415  Passcode: 834813

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. 

Join YouTube Live to listen to the speaker using the link below –


YouTube  Dr. Michael Strauss, Welcome to the Universe

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

“Unjournal Club”

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 or

A look ahead at future guest speakers:

December 13, 2022Ira Polans, former Program Chair of AAAP Rising nearly 400 feet above the desert floor in a remote section of ancient Anasazi territory in New Mexico is a sacred Native American site that a thousand years ago revealed the changing seasons to Anasazi astronomers. Ira will present a documentary film about the “Sun Dagger” and talk about indigenous people of New Mexico. Note that this film is solely for viewing by in-person members, as copyright restrictions will not permit broadcasting it on the internet.
January 10, 2023
Virtual meeting
Alyssa Pagan, Space Telescope Science Institute Alyssa works to process the JWST images that have been leaving us sockless. She’ll talk about JWST and her work turning its data into images. This meeting will be virtual only, while renovations to Peyton Hall’s lecture hall are completed.
February. 2023Jenny Greene, Princeton University Professor of Astrophysics Jenny recently wrote an article on middleweight black holes for Sky & Telescope. She will discuss the contents of her article.
March 14, 2023Joe DePasquale, Space Telescope Science Institute Joe is Senior Data Imaging Developer in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute. A colleague of Alyssa’s, Joe will describe his work turning JWST data into images.
April-May, 2023TBA
June 13, 2023Bill Murray, AAAP’s Outreach Director and staffer at NJ State Museum planetarium Bill will give his traditional planetarium show at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.

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

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Minutes of the October 11, 2022, AAAP Members General Meeting (online)

by Gene Allen, Secretary

The meeting was convened on Zoom by Director Rex Parker at 1929. He briefly described his agenda items:

  • Next month we return to Peyton Hall. Michael Strauss, Department Chair of Astrophysics at Princeton University, invited us back and will be our in-person speaker on November 8.
  • The Lunar South Pole Challenge is still alive, noting that it is turning out to be even more challenging than he thought. The NASA Artemis Program is targeting the south pole due to water being discovered in Permanently Shaded Regions there, but that area is barely viewable even when the Moon librates, or wobbles upward a bit. Members are challenged to view or image as near to Shackleton Crater as we can.

Program Chair Victor Davis introduced Speaker Dr. Avi Loeb at 2034 and he began his talk, “The Galileo Project: In Search of Technological Interstellar Objects,” with 79 people logged onto Zoom. The Galileo Project has been formed at Harvard University with non-government funds. It intends to make the search for objects that are signatures of extraterrestrial technology fully transparent and scientific. Much of his talk was based on his book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth. He makes a compelling case for Oumuamua being other than a rock, and whether or not one buys into his conclusion he well makes the point that if we are always expecting to see a rocky asteroid or icy comet, we will never be able to see anything else. He is very troubled about how mainline science only funds “safe” research and that stifles curiosity and outside-the-box thinking in young researchers. Furthermore, social media promotes herd mentality. He said that he is willing to risk his reputation, as a soldier might lay upon barbed wire to allow others to cross unharmed. He finds manned exploration unfeasible and advocates sending herds of self-replicating AI astronauts into the galaxy.

Questions ran from 2030 to 2100, then the meeting reconvened at 2105 with 56 attending on Zoom.

The AAAP was organized in 1962, and we have met very nearly every month since. Some ideas for how to commemorate our 60th Anniversary have been put forward, but more are being sought. Please send ideas to Surabhi at

The AAAP Merchandise Shop now has “Anniversary” logo items that were very cleverly designed. The words “Since 1962” have been added, so that it celebrates our longevity from this time forward. The logo does not “date” things to 2022. The link to the shop is found under the Members tab on the website.

Back to Peyton Hall for November, but Ivy Lane itself and the parking lots we used before the pandemic have been consumed by extensive campus construction that is expected to last years. Peyton Hall is no longer accessible from the north. The nearest parking is now the Stadium Drive Garage off Faculty Road, a fifteen-minute walk away. While that may limit participation by some, we feel we need to try. Renewing a connection to either the university or the IAS is important to maintaining our prestige. Subsequent visits have confirmed that we can accomplish hybrid (in-person plus Zoomed) meetings, although the exact hardware needed has yet to be finalized. The auditorium will be unavailable to us in January because its equipment is being “brought up to campus standards.” We expect that to help. Maps  and explanations will be added to the website before the meeting.

Director Rex Parker reissued his Lunar South Pole Challenge and described the difficulties of viewing and imaging the very bottom of the Moon. The lower left corner of the two-page star chart in Sky & Telescope magazine gives the date of the most favorable lunar libration for specific polar features. He recommends the Virtual Moon Atlas ( for well-labeled lunar observation. He also recommends taking an image into PowerPoint to label it, then back to jpeg. Member Tom Swords recommends a source of libration information ( combined with lunar illumination, because if too little of the Moon is lit by sunlight, nothing will be visible near the pole.

Member Michael DiMario reported that students have taken up the Lunar South Pole Challenge with the mammoth Yerkes 40 inch f/19 refractor.

Member Lisa Ann Fanning reported capturing a nice image of Jupiter at opposition with her cellphone, noting that Live Mode is actually doing some stacking.

Member Bob Vanderbei showed an image he made with a new diffraction grating that separates the OIII and Ha spectra. It required a 35 minute exposure to show distinct, displaced blue and red images (respectively) of the Ring Nebula, M57. If you missed it, or want to explore his work further, go to

Freehold resident Dave Bates is moving out of the area and has graciously donated his Orion SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope to the club. It is an older version of the current Model #10020, a 12” Dobsonian-mounted Newtonian reflector telescope with push-to computer guidance. After something like a decade of idleness it was adjuste d and recollimated in a couple of sessions by Member Tom Swords and Observatory Co-Chair Dave Skitt and the hand controller function was validated. Final laser collimation has been offered by Outreach Chair Bill Murray. It is being stored in the observatory and will be used in the adjacent field during Public Nights. It is very different from the other instruments that we own, so at the present time there is no intention to either sell or loan the scope.

Book recommendations included The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segre and Bettina Hoerlin, Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration by Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees.

Attendance had dwindled to 40 by 2145 and the meeting was adjourned at 2201.

Our membership currently numbers 186. Those who joined this calendar year number 51, with 25 of them joining since our June meeting. While 88 have renewed, 54 have failed to renew, giving us a 62% retention rate year-to-date. Renewal reminder emails are continuing to encourage members to praise what is working for them and call our attention to what we might do better. Very few respond to that request.

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DART and Impact

by S. Prasad Ganti

For the first time in human history, we sent a spacecraft and jammed it into a space rock and the trajectory of that piece got nudged as a result. It was a great attempt and a great result, and this will mean a lot for our future. 

Dimorphous is a small rock about 500 feet wide which orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is more of a binary asteroid system than a main asteroid and its satellite. DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is a simple refrigerator sized spacecraft which slammed into Dimorphous recently. A companion cube satellite (a micro satellite in form of a cube shape) called LICIACube went along with DART and separate out from DART before it went on a suicidal mission to strike Dimorphos. LICIACube recorded the impact. 

DART used advanced technologies like an ion engine called a xenon-thruster powered by advanced  solar arrays. It took about 10 months for the spacecraft to reach its target. The navigation was totally autonomous as no one was driving the spacecraft into the asteroid. 

Neither Didymos nor Dimorphous posed any risk to Earth. They were not on a collision course with Earth. This was just a demonstration mission to prove what is possible to defend against any intruders in future. There was no dearth of such planetary collisions in the past. Such collisions played a major role in Earth’s history. The impacts are very well documented in a book titled “Impact” by Greg Brennekca. 

About 150 million years ago  after the formation of the solar system, a Mars sized body named “Theia” collided with Earth and the  ejected material is supposed to have formed the moon. It is a plausible theory but yet to be proved. Lots  of smaller impacts in the form of meteorites have taken place and continue to take place to this day. It is possible that organic molecules came from outside in a meteorite. Every day about 100 tons of meteoritic material falls to earth, most of it is dust in the form of micro meteorites. 

Some of the bigger meteorites are supposed to have  brought the  metals found in the Earth’s crust and organic materials as well as water. Because the original metals from the formation of Earth sunk to the molten core. Whatever we extract today from the crust is supposed to have been brought to us courtesy of the meteorites. In fact, life on Earth may owe its existence to organic material and water which may have been delivered by these couriers from outer space.

All such collisions may not be so benign. An asteroid about 6 miles across smashed into the Earth about 65 million years ago and created a huge crater which lies beneath the water in Gulf of Mexico near the Yucatan peninsula. It led to the extinction of many species, notably the dinosaurs. There were several other extinctions in the past which may or may not be attributed to collision of larger meteors and asteroids. 

The collisions are not specific to Earth alone. Other planets and moons experience it too. At a cosmic level, merger of galaxies and black holes within neutron stars happen too. There are likely to be many such major collisions with the Earth in the future. Humanity’s endeavor is to detect and prevent such collisions as a self-preservation measure. We do have a monitoring process which identifies and catalogs all such rocks which are likely to collide with Earth at some point in future. The most probable candidates are watched very carefully. 

There are two strategies to encounter such collisions. One is to send a missile with a warhead to destroy an object. The risk with such an attempt is that the multiple resulting pieces could cause more dangers than the original one. Second strategy is to nudge the trajectory of the object so that it moves out of our way and prevents harm. Something like a nudge of a ball on the  billiards table. 

The second strategy was at work with the recent DART collision of Dimorphous. Some material from the asteroid was dislodged and erupted. But it still remained as one piece. But its orbit around Didymos has changed. It used to take  11 hours and 55 minutes for each orbit before. Now, the orbit is shorter by 32 minutes. This is better than expected improvement. The momentum of the slamming spacecraft got transferred to the orbiting asteroid and caused it to speed up. 

Lot of work still needs to be done to fine tune the strategy and be ready for the doomsday. But a great beginning for the future of humanity !

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Drowning In Light Pollution

by Gene Allen

I live in an old folks home. Well, not really. It’s an “active adult living community” built by K Hovnanian in the early 2000s. It is riddled with obscene street lamps and blinding bollard post lights along walkways. For a while I maneuvered toward getting the street lamps changed out, but we are mired in some Machiavellian arrangement with PSE&G that even our attorneys are unwilling to try to unravel. And some resident is always complaining about the lack of light somewhere, as if we need more!

Anyway, there used to be a tree at the curb in front of my house that would shelter me somewhat from an overbearing street lamp, but the tree was feeble and has expired. While I gained a more complete view of the ecliptic from my driveway, there is now plenty enough light by which to read, all night long. My patio in back faces north and fortunately the walkway is not right on top of me. Those nasty bollard lights go off around midnight, if I stay up that late, and someone has attenuated the closest ones with black spray paint, thank you very much! Still, house and trees substantially restrict my sky back there, and in general I can observe more DSOs as well as the planets in front.

So, in order to keep from drowning in brilliance, I built a box. Isn’t that what everybody does? Lacking a giant stepladder by which to make measurements, I estimated, made a cardboard prototype first, and came close enough that it’s not worth making another. The photos show me installing the light shield and my attenuated but still shameful “observing field.” I’m incrementally getting my optical train finalized and trying out filters, so it’s not yet ready for prime time. Cherry Springs it ain’t, but EAA is enough for me, and it’s working!

Note from the editor: Curbing light pollution has become an existential necessity. We astronomers bear a unique responsibility towards the conservation of our environment, not just for our generation but for future generations of mankind. What makes us unique is our knowledge of the cosmos and the fact that there is only one planet — the Earth for us to inhabit in the vicinity. There is no planet B unless you believe Elon Musk will turn Mars habitable. So, it is for us to create awareness and take action. Below are links to Light Pollution Map, sample light ordinances, outdoor light ordinance and a presentation that you can freely use to impress upon neighbors, friends and local politicians to take immediate steps to save our only planet and its rich lifeforms.

Light Pollution Map

Sample Light Ordinances provided by Rex Parker

Outdoor Light Ordinances adopted by the Township of Hopewell, Mercer County, New Jersey. Provided by Rex Parker.

Light Pollution Presentation To view it, open link in a new window and download it. You can save and use the presentation to urge people and local politicians to take sensible steps to curb light pollution.

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New Member Denise Baracia

I am a new member who joined a few weeks ago.  I am Denise Baracia and I live in Plainsboro, NJ.   I work as an outside sales representative for a lab equipment manufacturer and, prior to sales, I worked as an analytical chemist for many years in the pharmaceutical industry.   I enjoyed astronomy as a kid so, I recently purchased a new telescope in hopes of revisiting this hobby.  Here’s a photo of me and my 2 parrots Ayla and Nigel.

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From the Lens of Lisa

by Lisa Ann Fanning

Hello and welcome to this month’s installment of “From the Lens of Lisa.”

10/5/22 11:58 PM EDT After days of rain here in Central New Jersey, there was finally a tiny window of clear skies before more clouds rolled in. I took advantage of that window to view the Waxing Gibbous Moon.

iPhone 13 through Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 (32 mm eyepiece)

10/11/22 When you love sleep a lot but your husband says the words… “look at the Moon!” 🙂 (And the foliage is beginning to turn!)

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

10/16/22 The Moon was looking great as it was approaching Last Quarter! Some nice details on the terminator!

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

10/22/22 4:20 AM ET- Up early to look for Orionid Meteors (we saw 5,) I spent a lot of time looking up in this region last night during a rare NJ crystal clear night. Mars was also shining bright and the Hyades and Pleiades were also quite visible naked eye!

iPhone 13 for wide field
Detail: iPhone 13 through CelestronNexstar Evolution 8 with 13mm eyepiece (handheld)

Sharpened and contrasted using standard iOS tools.
Assembled and labeled in Bazaart

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compiled by Arlene & David Kaplan


What NASA’s Crash Into an Asteroid Looks Like NASA’s DART spacecraft was not able to take pictures of the very moment it slammed into an asteroid on Monday at more than 14,000 miles per hour. Or the aftermath. But telescopes on Earth, seven million miles away, were watching. The images they recorded revealed a spectacular outburst of debris rising from the asteroid after the collision…more


Neptune and Its Rings Come Into Focus With Webb Telescope No spacecraft has visited Neptune since 1989, when the NASA probe Voyager 2 flew past on its way out of the solar system. Neptune, which is four times as wide as Earth, is the most distant planet of our solar system. Voyager 2’s observations whetted the appetites of astronomers, who were eager to learn more about the ice giant…more


China’s Discovery of Lunar Mineral Could Add to Fuller View of the Moon Scientists found a single crystal of a new phosphate mineral while analyzing lunar basalt particles, which were collected from the moon two years ago by the Chang’e-5 mission. In December 2020, it became the first country in about four decades to bring back lunar rocks and soil, amassing several pounds of samples, experts said…more


Mars Is Mighty in First Webb Observations of Red Planet NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured its first images and spectra of Mars Sept. 5. The telescope, an international collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), provides a unique perspective with its infrared sensitivity on our neighboring planet, complementing data being collected by orbiters, rovers, and other telescopes…more

Webb reveals a galaxy sparkling with the universe’s oldest star clusters Using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), researchers from the CAnadian NIRISS Unbiased Cluster Survey (CANUCS) team have identified the most distant globular clusters ever discovered. These dense groups of millions of stars may be relics that contain the first and oldest stars in the universe…more

The composition of asteroidal cores in the early solar system Iron meteorites of the solar system are composed of parent cores belonging to the earliest credited bodies of the environment. The cores are formed in two isotopically distinct reservoirs including non-carbonaceous and carbonaceous types in the inner and outer solar system. In a new report…more

New evidence for liquid water beneath the south polar ice cap of Mars An international team of researchers has revealed new evidence for the possible existence of liquid water beneath the south polar ice cap of Mars. The researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, used spacecraft laser-altimeter measurements of the shape of the upper surface of the ice cap…more


NASA May Let Billionaire Astronaut and SpaceX Lift Hubble Telescope NASA announced on Thursday that it and SpaceX had signed an agreement to conduct a six-month study to see if one of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules could be used to raise the altitude of the Hubble Space Telescope, potentially further extending the lifetime of the 32-year-old instrument…more


New Europa Pictures Beamed Home by NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Europa, the ice-encrusted moon of Jupiter, is still everything it’s cracked up to be. Juno, a NASA spacecraft that has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, zipped within 219 miles of Europa’s surface early on Thursday, speeding by at more than 30,000 miles per hour…more

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From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD

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.

Posted in October 2022, Sidereal Times | Tagged , | Leave a comment