|Ryukyu Astronomy Club Newsletter
|Volume 2, Issue 1||May 2003|
Next Club Meeting -
Conference Room B at the Camp Lester Naval Hospital
Every year in April or May, astronomy clubs around the world celebrate "Astronomy Day". In the case of the Ryukyu Astronomy Club, Astronomy Day fell on April 26th at the Lester Middle School. The school was holding its annual bazaar and Ron Leafgreen invited us to setup up a table. We started around 12 noon under cloudy skies that didn't tell of rain, but looked as if they would prevent us from showing the Sun through Tommy McGee's telescope (equipped with a safe solar filter). Nonetheless we had other things to do. We handed out flyers about RAC, Sky and Telescope's guide for a good start to astronomy and sky charts for April. We also had a little game with representations of the nine planets (to scale) each with Velcro on the back. Participants were invited to place the planets in their correct orbits in order to enter their name into the drawing for a pair of 10x50 binoculars. While the adults didn't fair too well, many kids (even a young lady of 6 years old) knew their stuff.
We had many visitors and eventually the Sun poked through the clouds and had several good-sized sunspots to see. At 4:30 we held the drawing for the binoculars and packed everything back into our cars. Special thanks to Ron Leafgreen for inviting us, Tommy McGee, Dino Alexander, Craig Bagley and Mike Swanson for manning the table, and Woody Huff, Ron Locker and John O' Briant for additional support.
Later that night, we held our monthly general meeting at 7PM at the hospital conference center. We viewed a very well done video on cosmology that is highly recommended for introducing family and friends to astronomy related thinking. The title is "Cosmic Voyage" (ISBN 0-7907-6795-3) and was originally produced for surround-video IMAX theaters.
After the video we discussed changes to the meeting format. Following are ideas discussed:
Please provide comments on these ideas by emailing Mike Swanson.
Things to See
Perhaps the biggest event of the month is Mercury's transit across the Sun. On May 7th from 14:13 to 19:32 local time, Mercury will pass across the face of the Sun, appearing as a small black dot. Such occurrences are fairly rare. Viewing the transit will require binoculars (steadied on a tripod) or a telescope, but in any case a SAFE SOLAR FILTER IS REQUIRED. Viewing the Sun for even an instant without proper protection will result in permanent eye damage to include blindness.
May is about the last month to get a good look at Jupiter, the king of planets. Jupiter is the brightest object currently visible in the early evening sky (other than the Moon), shining in clear white light high in the west after the Sun sets. On clear nights with steady seeing a telescope will easily show bands (the amount of detail will depend upon the seeing conditions and the size of your telescope) and the 4 Galilean moons. Galileo was able to see these moons in a telescope with an aperture of just 1 inch, so you can easily detect them even in a pair of binoculars with a steady support.
Several other celestial gems are scattered around the sky in the spring:
- Mel 111 - a wide cluster of many stars arrayed across 5 degrees of sky. A real treat in binoculars from a darker site.
- M3 - a nice globular cluster that really stands out as you increase the magnification in larger telescopes.
- M13 - considered by many to be the finest globular cluster in the northern skies - even binoculars will allow you to detect a fuzzy round ball.
- M92 - another fine globular cluster and a neighbor to M13.
- M64 - the Black-Eye Galaxy - a moderate-sized scope shows the dark dust lane that gives this city of stars its name.
- M104 - the Sombrero Galaxy - a spiral galaxy viewed almost edge-on, the Sombrero Galaxy has a very large central core that gives the appearance of a wide-brimmed hat.
- Mizar and Alcor - located at the bend of the handle in the Big Dipper, these two stars can be "split" without optical aid by those with very keen eyesight. With binoculars the divide between them is very easy to detect. In a telescope you can see that Mizar (the brighter of the two) is actually a binary star - two stars revolving around one another.
For more objects of interest and the locations of those listed above, download the latest chart from www.skymaps.com or visit www.SkyandTelescope.com and customize the online star chart for Okinawa's general location of 128 degrees East longitude and 26 degrees North latitude.
2003 marks the 30th anniversary of Astronomy Day. In 1973, Doug Berger, the former president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California (http://www.aanc-astronomy.org), established the event to bring visibility to the science of Astronomy through public-awareness activities. In the years since, astronomy clubs, planetariums and museums have embraced the idea and the event has spread around the world. Astronomy Day is scheduled each year in late April or early May on a Saturday with a Moon between the phase of a waxing crescent and the first quarter. Although many organizations hold events on the designated day, it is also common to schedule activities anytime during April or May. In 2003, May 10th is officially designated as Astronomy Day.
Planetariums and Museums often have special shows and exhibits. Astronomy clubs truly get into the spirit of "Bringing Astronomy to the People" by setting up telescopes and displays at shopping malls, parks and other public places. For many of the passers-by, they are treated to their first look through a telescope. A night with a waxing crescent Moon is selected as this is a target that is visible (and impressive) in the early evening hours, even in the well-lit walkways of an outdoor shopping center.
To assist organizations in planning successful activities, the Astronomical League (www.astroleague.org) and Sky and Telescope magazine (www.SkyandTelescope.com) have created the Astronomy Day Handbook. The Handbook is available for the cost of postage - visit the Astronomical League's web site for details.
Ryukyu Astronomy Club
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