46 Astronomical League Certificates - How I Did It?

Mike Hotka

Talk outline

  • Introduction
  • Who am I?
  • Setting Intentions and Goals

  • Use of an Astronomical Database

  • Preparing your Observing Outing

  • Where to Go Observing

  • Achieving Better Contrast in the Field of View

  • Star Hopping Tutorial

  • What to Record While Observing

  • Post Observing Activities

  • Astronomical League Observing Program Discussion

  • How to Complete Southern Hemisphere Observing Programs

  • Summary Wrapup

  • Questions

Bio: 

Mike Hotka has been an amateur astronomer for almost 50 years. It all started when he was 10 and Santa brought a small, Tasco refracting telescope. Being cold in Iowa that time of year, he poked his new telescope out an upstairs bathroom window and first looked at Polaris. Mike became a member of the Astronomical League in 1984 and made his first Astronomical League certificate observation on July 12, 1986, when he recorded observing M57 for the Messier Observing Program. Many observations later, he has completed 37 of the Astronomical League’s Observing Programs, receiving 46 certificates in the process. Mike’s presentation will share his experiences in observing, how he prepares and records a night of observations, touch on the 3 telescopes he built, share tips on how to complete some of the more advanced Observing Programs and much more useful information to help make your personal observing more fun and rewarding. For more information about Mike and his observing, visit his website, http://www.mikehotka.com.
Mike Hotka

Date: 

Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 11:15

Location: 

Ballroom

Europa Clipper Mission

Dr. Wladimir Lyra, California State University at Northridge, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Where is the best place to find living life beyond Earth? It may be that the small, ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn harbor some of the most habitable real estate in our Solar System. Life as know requires liquid water and these moons have lots of it under their icy crusts. In this talk I will explain the science behind why we think we know these oceans exist and what we know about the conditions on these worlds. I will focus on Jupiter’s moon Europa, which is the target of the upcoming JPL flagship Europa Clipper mission. I will also show how computational models of mantle convection are helping to inform our understanding of worlds like Europa.

Bio: 

Wladimir Lyra is an assistant professor at California State University at Northridge, Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is also a research associate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a visitor at Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he received his Ph.D. in astronomy in February 2009 from Uppsala University, Sweden. Lyra is a recipient of the Sagan Fellowship, the prestigious postdoctoral research grant named after the famous astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan. The highly competitive grant is given to support independent research that is broadly related to the science goals of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration program, the primary goal of which is to discover and characterize planetary systems and Earth-like planets around nearby stars.

Date: 

Friday, August 18, 2017 -
10:00 to 11:00

Location: 

Ballroom

Explore New Frontiers with the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission to Near-Earth Asteroid Bennu

Dolores H. Hill, Sr. Research Specialist Lunar & Planetary Laboratory

Abstract

Dolores Hill will discuss highlights of the exciting NASA mission to near-Earth asteroid Bennu and invite amateur astronomers to join the mission’s citizen science program: Target Asteroids!/Target NEOs! (the Astronomical League’s companion observing program). You can be an important partner in the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission and contribute observations to benefit future generations!

Dolores will show the innovative method that will be used to obtain a sample from asteroid Bennu without actually landing on the asteroid itself and explain why return of a pristine, protected sample is important. The robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in September 2016. Upcoming Earth Gravity Assist will take place this September to propel the spacecraft out to asteroid rendezvous in 2018 and sample return to Earth in 2023. Already the mission has made important discoveries about Bennu and the orbital evolution of small asteroids. The samples will reveal new information about the oldest solids and organic material in the Solar System. Earth-based astronomical observations, images, spectra and a variety of maps will significantly advance our understanding of asteroid-meteorite connections, providing direct “ground truth” comparisons.

This long-term mission serves as a pathfinder for future asteroid missions and provides opportunities for amateur astronomers and public outreach. Target Asteroids! and Target NEOs! enlist amateur astronomers to observe a particular list of asteroids of interest to the OSIRIS-REx science team and future spacecraft designers.  While there are much astronomical data available for Bennu, the carbonaceous target of the OSIRIS-REx mission, additional observations of other asteroids allow scientists to learn more about the entire asteroid population and place Bennu in context. Because some of these asteroids will be targets of future spacecraft missions as well, the data submitted will be useful for a long time. OSIRIS-REx Ambassadors share information about the mission with their local clubs and communities. We invite you to join the team!

*OSIRIS-REx is an acronym: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource, Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer

Bio: 

Dolores Hill is a meteoriticist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona, co-lead of Target Asteroids!, a citizen science project of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission and Target NEOs! an Astronomical League Observing Program. In addition to her work analyzing meteorites, she has a lifelong interest in amateur astronomy and began as co-lead of Target Asteroids! in 2011. Dolores is a longtime member of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and Meteorite Section Coordinator for the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. She was co-founder of the Sunset Astronomical Society in Midland, Michigan and was a member of the Warren Astronomical Society in the Detroit-area. She has observed long period variable stars with the AAVSO and chased grazing occultations with IOTA. Asteroid (164215) Doloreshill is named after her. In 2013 the OSIRIS-REx mission’s Target Asteroids! citizen science project was honored as a White House Champion of Change for Citizen Science http://osiris-rex.lpl.arizona.edu/?q=target_asteroids.

Date: 

Friday, August 18, 2017 -
14:45 to 15:45

Location: 

Ballroom

Recent Advances in Astronomy: A Visual Tour

John Bally, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, University of Colorado, Boulder

The recent completion of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the upgrade to the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, development of adaptive optics on 8 to 10 meter telescopes, and astronomy satellites such as Chandra, HST, Spitzer, Herschel, WISE, and Planck are revolutionizing our understanding of the Universe and documenting its stunning beauty.  

I will take the audience on a visual, multi-wavelength tour of the Orion region. I will start with the large-scale view of the entire Winter sky from visual to radio wavelengths where we see the expanding Orion-Eridanus superbubble created by Orion’s massive stars over the last 5 to 10 million years.   I will then zoom into the cauldron of star formation activity inside and immediately behind the Orion Nebula and show the remarkable images produced by HST, ground-based adaptive optics, and the ALMA array.  The new sub-arcsecond resolution data reveals the complex interplay between the violent birth of massive stars and the hundreds of lower-mass ones that may once host future planetary systems.

Bio: 

John Bally, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, University of Colorado, Boulder. John Bally did his undergraduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and obtained his PhD at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, earning his PhD in millimeter-wave radio astronomy in 1980. He joined AT&T Bell Laboratories for 11 years as a Member of Technical Staff, working in the Radio Physics Research Department at Crawford Hill in Holmdel NJ with the group that discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background. While at AT&T, he studied interstellar molecular clouds, the outflows and jets produced by forming stars, and built sensitive mm-wave receivers. He participated in several expeditions to the South Pole in Antarctica to set-up the first permanent astronomical observatory there. Since 1991, he has been a professor of astrophysics in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has made extensive use of the world’s major observatories such as the Hubble, the facilities of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, and the facilities on Mauna Kea in Hawaii such as Gemini and Caltech Sub-millimeter Observatory. He is now a user of the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array, ALMA, which is the most ambitious ground-based telescope ever built. His current research includes the formation of stars and planetary systems, the first blind search for dense, dusty clumps that may soon or are currently forming clusters of stars. During the last decade he has concentrated on massive star and cluster formation. He has recently re-kindled his interests in cosmology and is exploring the Lee Smolin hypothesis of “cosmic natural selection” in which black holes produce Universes. This theory may provide an `explanation’ for the so-called anthropic principle and for the small but non-zero value of the cosmological constant. This highly speculative and “risky” research direction is a natural outgrowth of his interest in massive stars, the most massive of which form stellar-mass black holes at the ends of their lives. John Bally is an avid skier, and owns a home in Breckenridge, CO where he operates a small observatory.

Date: 

Saturday, August 19, 2017 - 11:15

Location: 

Ballroom

Save Our Night Skies Update

Bob Gent

Bob Gent will give an update on the campaign to save our night skies and reduce light pollution.  He will provide real-world examples where communities have passed outdoor lighting ordinances, and successfully put the brakes on the growth of light pollution.  He will also discuss the recent report by the American Medical Association on the need to restrict LED streetlights.  Bob recently served on a local city's outdoor lighting code task force, and he will share the techniques used to update an outdated lighting code.

Bio: 

Lt Col Bob Gent is a retired USAF Space Systems Officer. He worked with space-based telescopes many years before Hubble was launched. From 2007 to 2008, he served as President of the International Dark-Sky Association, and from 2002 to 2006, he was President of the Astronomical League, a federation of nearly 300 astronomical societies. Over the past 20 years, he has spoken to dozens of international, national, state, and local legislative bodies on the problems and solutions of light pollution. In 2000, the International Astronomical Union renamed a minor planet BobGent (10498) in his honor for his work in night sky preservation. In 2015, he won the Astronomical League award for exceptional accomplishments in astronomy. On August 21, 2017, Bob will be celebrating his birthday on the day of the Total Solar Eclipse.

Date: 

Saturday, August 19, 2017 - 13:45

Location: 

Ballroom

Eclipses and Science Fiction

Dr. Stephanie J. Slater

Across a wide variety of science fiction movies and books, eclipses capture the audiences’ attention. Dr. Slater provides an overview of how eclipses are used by talented authors of science fiction to highlight the human experience in futuristic settings.

Bio: 

Dr. Stephanie J. Slater is the Director of the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research and a Research Professor of Engineering from Capital College. Dr. Slater is a well-known lecturer on the science and socio-cultural aspects of science fiction and an expert on the popularization of science. An author of three books and numerous articles, Dr. Slater connects culture and science as a speaker at conferences around the world.
Stephanie Slater

Date: 

Saturday, August 19, 2017 - 10:00

Location: 

Ballroom

What’s So Hard About Understanding Eclipses?

Dr. Tim Slater

 Of all the wonders of the sky, perhaps the most awesome is that unexpected appearance of an eclipse. Yet, many students encounter unexpected difficulty in explain the physical processes leading to eclipses and their prediction. Recent advances in cognitive science help explain students’ reasoning difficulties and give guidance to amateur astronomers trying to demystify eclipses for the general public.

Bio: 

Dr. Tim Slater is a Professor at the University of Wyoming where he holds the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair for Science Education. As a member of the UW Physics and Astronomy Department and the College of Education, he is recognized as an expert in education and public outreach in astronomy and space sciences. Professor Slater earned his Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina, his M.S. from Clemson University and he holds two bachelors’ degrees from Kansas State University. He is an author on nearly 100 refereed articles and 11 astronomy textbooks, is the winner of numerous awards, and is frequently an invited speaker on improving public understanding of science.
Tim Slater

Date: 

Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 10:00

Location: 

Ballroom

J. Kim Malville

J. Kim Malville

The talk will summarize the archaeoastronomy of three sites of the ancient world: Nabta Playa in southern Egypt, the earliest known example of megalithic astronomy in the world, Chaco Canyon and its Great House communities in Colorado and New Mexico, and Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of Peru. Nabta Playa is in the western desert of Egypt, west of Abu Simbu and was occupied from about 10,000 year BEC to perhaps 2500 BEC when the desert became hyper-arid. Beginning around 5000 BCE, a ceremonial center was built on the western edge of an internally drained lake, providing the nomadic pastoralists water and forage for their herds. They constructed a stone circle, which marks north-south and June solstice sunrise/December solstice sunset. Their most fascinating activity was to place series of megaliths in the sediments of the lake, which are oriented to Arcturus, Sirius, and α Centauri.

Chaco Canyon in New Mexico appears to have been a major pilgrimage center during the period 1000-1100 CE. The first major astronomical event was the December solstice sun rising above Fajada Butte, as seen from a nearby Great Kiva. Other astronomy involves possible petroglyphs of the 1054 supernova, the 1066 apparition of Halley’s comet, and a total eclipse of 1097.  Great Houses were located to provide views of the sun and moon rising above dramatic features on the horizon, such as the moon at major lunar standstill at Chimney Rock.

Machu Picchu is the crown jewel of the Inca empire, encapsulating much of the power and mystery of the astronomy of the empire. The Inca emperor was viewed as the descendent of the sun, and massive ceremonies were established at Cusco and elsewhere to confirm and enhance his status. Evidence of those celebrations are abundant in the archaeological record..


Machu Picchu at June Solstice


The Calendar Circle of Nabta Playa at December solstice sunset


December solstice sun rising above Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon.

 

Bio: 

During the International Geophysical Year Dr. Malville wintered over at Ellsworth Station in the Antarctic where he studied the aurora australis. He obtained his BS in physics from Caltech and his PhD in radio astronomy and solar physics from the University of Colorado. He has taught and engaged in research at the Universities of Michigan, Colorado, Oslo (Norway), Sao Paulo (Brazil), James Cook (Townsville, Australia),and The University of Wales Trinity-Saint David (Lampeter, Wales) . At Colorado he served as the Chairman of the Department of Astro-Geophysics, and directed the University’s Honors Program as well as CU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. His research interests have ranged from the aurora, the interstellar medium, solar physics, and, most recently, archaeoastronomy. For many years he carried out measurements of the corona and prominences at eclipses, enjoying the challenges of running complex experiments in remote parts of the world. In 1997 he was a member of the team that revealed the world’s oldest known megalithic astronomy at Nabta Playa near Abu Simbel in southern Egypt, earlier than Stonehenge by more than a millennium. In 2003 he was involved in the rediscovery of Llactapata, previously lost in a cloud forest near from Machu Picchu. He is presently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado, and Tutor at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, UK. Books that he has written or edited include A Feather for Daedalus, Prehistoric Astronomy of the Southwest, Canyon Spirits: Beauty and Power in the Ancestral Puebloan World, Ancient Cities, Sacred Skies: Cosmic Geometries and City Planning in Ancient India, and Pilgrimage: Sacred Landscapes and Self-Organized Complexity. His latest book is coauthored with Gary Ziegler and involves their discoveries and re-discoveries in Peru: Machu Picchu’s Sacred Sisters: Choquequirao and Llactapata. Astronomy, Symbolism, and Sacred Geography in the Inca Heartland.

Date: 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 17:15

Location: 

Ballroom

Pro-Am Collaboration Workshop

Carolyn Collins Petersen, CEO of Loch Ness Productions

Carolyn will be talking about the Pro-Am experiences that she has had including comet and other observations.  She has been involved with the International Halley Watch and will share what she had learned about comets and the solar wind from her observations.

Bio: 

Carolyn Collins Petersen is an award-winning science writer and astronomer. She is CEO of Loch Ness Productions, a unique multimedia production company specializing in cosmically creative content. She has written more than 50 documentaries about astronomy and space science, appearing in domed theaters and observatory exhibits around the world. Her exhibit work can be seen at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and she had a short exhibition about climate change at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. In 2013, she co-produced a video about light pollution called "Losing the Dark", for the International Dark-Sky Association, which is showing worldwide on domes and in classrooms. She is currently working on a fulldome immersive show about recent astronomical discoveries. Carolyn is also part of the lecturer team for Smithsonian Journeys, teaching about astronomy and space exploration for selected cruises and land tours. Carolyn is a former editor for Sky Publishing's SkyWatch Magazine and was an associate editor for Sky & Telescope Magazine from 1997-2001. Carolyn wrote "Astronomy 101", a beginner's guide to astronomy. She has also written several books about astronomy including "Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive" and the best-selling "Hubble Vision", about the accomplishments of the Hubble Space Telescope. Her latest book, on the global history of space exploration, is due out in late 2017. Carolyn studied education, astronomy, and physics at the University of Colorado, followed by a stint in graduate school, where she took a Masters' in Science Journalism and Telecommunications Engineering. She enjoys reading science fiction, doing hand crafts, and hiking in the mountains near her Colorado home.

Date: 

Friday, August 18, 2017 - 14:00

Location: 

Tiffany/Champagne Rooms

MMS mission delivers promised measurements of ‘magnetic reconnection

Patricia Reiff, Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Rice

“Space weather is driven by the interactions between the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field, and one of the most important of these interactions is ‘magnetic reconnection,’ a fundamental process that occurs when magnetic fields interact with plasmas,” said Rice University physicist Patricia Reiff, co-author of a new paper about MMS results that’s available online this week from the journal Science.

For Reiff and her MMS colleagues, including mission principal investigator and Rice alumnus James Burch, vice president of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, this week’s results are the culmination of a process that began with the initial idea for MMS more than 25 years ago.

Reiff said MMS, a collection of four identical spacecraft that orbit in a pyramid-shaped formation about 6 miles wide, is specifically designed to study region of space tens of thousands of miles above Earth’s surface that is a prime location for magnetic reconnection. This region, known as the “magnetopause,” is where the solar wind — a plasma of positive ions and negative electrons that stream continuously outward from the sun — comes in contact with Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by Earth’s magnetic field.

“Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process that’s responsible for the aurora borealis and australis and space storms here on Earth, as well as for solar flares on our own sun and analogous stellar flares elsewhere in the universe,” said Reiff, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice who began studying Earth’s magnetosphere more than 45 years ago with instruments left on the moon by Apollo astronauts.

“When two magnets come together, reconnection is the process whereby the magnetic field rearranges itself to link the north pole of one magnet with the south pole of the other,” she said.

Reconnection occurs when the two magnets are not exactly co-aligned. If reconnection occurs in a vacuum or an electrically non-conducting medium like Earth’s lower atmosphere, the process occurs at the speed of light and has no effect on the surrounding medium.

But each medium of space measured by MMS — the solar wind and the magnetosphere — contain a fully ionized plasma that is an excellent electrical conductor. The plasma’s negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions orbit in opposite directions about a given magnetic field line.

MMS mission spacecraft assembly
The MMS mission’s four spacecraft stacked and ready for encapsulation in the launch nose cone at Kennedy Space Center. (Photo courtesy of NASA KSC)
“When the field lines of two different magnetic fields meet in space — as they do at the magnetopause — and try to reconnect, these gyrating particles initially resist,” Reiff said. “Each field line tends to retain its own distinct set of orbiting charged particles. Reconnection occurs when the field lines draw nearer one another than the distance of the ions or electrons orbiting them, and when it occurs, the energy released by the merger is transferred to the particles, which accelerate rapidly, sometimes at nearly light speed.”

This critical distance, known as the diffusion region, is considerably larger for ions than it is for electrons, and MMS is the first spacecraft designed to probe the much smaller “electron diffusion region” where the electrons become decoupled and reconnection actually occurs. The MMS plasma instruments are much faster than any previously deployed to measure the magnetosphere, and are thus designed to catch reconnection “in the act” on its most microscopic scale.

- See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2016/05/12/nasa-probe-results-could-improve-space-weather-forecasts-2/#sthash.FXN5jNS5.dpuf

Bio: 

Professor Patricia H. Reiff is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and was the founding Director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University. Her research focuses on space plasma physics, mostly in the area of magnetospheric physics: "space weather". Her research includes study of the aurora borealis, magnetic reconnection, solar wind-magnetosphere coupling (including solar wind control of magnetospheric and ionospheric convection), and magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling. She was the first person to prove, using Dynamics Explorer dual spacecraft data, that the aurora is caused by a mid-altitude electric field. She was a Co-I on the "IMAGE" magnetospheric imaging mission (launched March, 2000), Jim Burch, SWRI, P.I., and was the first to propose radio sounding of the magnetosphere, which that spacecraft included as a key instrument. She was a Co-Investigator on the "Peace" plasma instrument on the ESA "Cluster 2" 4-spacecraft suite which were launched in July and August 2000. She is a Co-Investigator for science and E/PO (Education and Public Outreach) on the "Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission" which launched in March 12, 2015. She is instrumental in bringing real-time space weather forecasts and "Space Weather" information to the public. Her "Space Weather" software, which can be found in many fine museums, can be downloaded free from MMS.rice.edu. She is a partner in the "Heliospheric Education Consortium" from NASA, and is developing "iClips", immersive educational clips for use in planetarium domes. She is working on a show on magnetism and will create a clip for the 2017 solar eclipse. She is the director for a major project which has developed an off-ramp for the information highway by "Creating the Public Connection" , bringing real-time earth and space science data to museums and schools (originally sponsored by NASA's Digital Library Technology Program). Over ten million people have interacted with her exhibits and planetarium shows at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and other museums, and another five million with her web sites. Over 300,000 of her educational CD and DVD-Roms and planetarium videos have been distributed through her spinoff company spaceupdate.com. She has also been a leader in public education activities, including being director for four years for teacher education projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Eisenhower Foundation, in collaboration with Dr. Carolyn Sumners of the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS). Their latest collaboration is the creation and marketing of "Discovery Domes", portable digital theaters to teach earth and space science, with over 260 installations in 33 countries and 34 states, through her distribution company ePlanetarium. She has guided many scientific tours, including total solar eclipse trips to Canada in 1979, Louisiana (annular), Mexico in 1991, Peru in 1994, the Caribbean in 1998, the Black Sea in 1999, Madagascar in 2001, Libya in 2006, China in 2008 and 2009, Tahiti in 2010, annular in May 2012, Australia in November 2012, transatlantic in November 2013, and an Indonesian trip in 2016. = She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union , where she serves on the SPA Public Education Committee. In 2009, she received the AGU "Athelstan Spilhaus Award" and in 2013 she won the "SPARC" Award (Space Physics and Astronomy Richard Carrington Award) for service in public education. She is the Rice University representative and former Chair of the Council of Institutions of the USRA - the Universities Space Research Association. She has served on advisory committees for NASA, NSF, NCAR, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NAS/NRC and AAU. She tweets at "@discoverydome" and "@PatReiff"and has an outreach Facebook persona "Discovery Dome". She has a Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/eplanetarium/ that has all her fulldome planetarium shows to view for free. Her educational videos about space science can be found at http://mms.rice.edu/mms/index_multimedia.php. Her MMS Mascot "Trigger" has his own web page, his own "Trigger MMS" Facebook page, and twitter feed "@TriggerMMS"

Date: 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - 16:00

Location: 

Ballroom

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