Morgan County Skies?
News of the Morgan County Observatory Foundation (MCOF)
more at the MCOF website: http://www.nitesky.org
Summer Skies - Coming
Events: MARS! Closest in 60,000
June 27 MCOF Members’ Night at the Observatory (New
Moon, June 29)
June 29 Moon, Mercury and Saturn are close to each
July 2 Moon and Jupiter are 4 degrees apart
around 5 pm
July 4 Public Star Party at Greenwood School
July 8 Venus and Saturn seem within 1 degree of
each other (4 am)
July 10 Pegasid meteors (maybe?); Antares is close
to the Moon
July 13 Full Moon – Hay Moon or Thunder Moon
July 16 Moon and Mars within 1 degree after midnight
July 19 Star Show at the Ice House
July 25 MCOF Members’ Night at the Observatory (New
Moon, July 29)
July 25 Jupiter and Mercury are less than 1 degree
apart (9 pm)
1 Public Star Party at Greenwood School
2-3 Morgan County Youth Fair, Widmeyer
12 Full Moon – Green Corn Moon or Grain
August 22 MCOF Members’ Night at the Observatory
(August 27 New Moon)
August 28 Mars is at its nearest to Earth in 60,000
years (more or less)
29 Public Star Party at Greenwood
10 Full Moon – Harvest Moon or Fruit
19 MCOF Members Night at the
Observatory (September 25 New Moon)
23 Autumn Equinox – Summer ends at 6:48
26 Public Star Party at Greenwood
October 10 Full Moon – Hunter’s Moon
11-12 MCOF Observatory Open House –
Apple Butter Festival
More information can come
Boles, President MCOF (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Fye, The Sky Guy (email@example.com )
Armstrong, MCOF webmaster (firstname.lastname@example.org
Lands, Newsletter Editor (email@example.com)
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NOTES FROM DAVE FYE, THE SKY GUY
big story in this years summer sky will be the planet Mars. Mars begins the summer rising around
midnight with the brightness of the brightest star, Sirius. Mars rises earlier
and earlier and grows brighter and brighter as the weeks go by. In the month of August, the Earth will come
about as close to Mars as it ever gets.
It will be close enough so that much detail will be visible in a small
telescope. I would certainly recommend
attending the Foundation Star Parties this summer where Mars will be a big
The Earth passes Mars in its orbit about
every two years. This happens because
the Earth travels faster in its orbit than Mars since we are closer to the
Sun. So we pass Mars as we did in 2001,
move ahead and finally catch up with the Red Planet again. This time though, since our orbits aren’t exactly
round, we are going to be closer when we pass than we have been in over 1000
years; 34.7 million miles. This will
happen on August 27th. The
member’s night on August 22nd and the public Star Party on August 29th
should give us the best views we have ever had of the planet Mars.
will be in the evening sky all summer. Go outside after dark and look to the south about halfway up the
sky. You will see a bright reddish star
shining with a steady light. This will
be the red planet Mars. There is
another reddish star in the southern sky in the summer, and that would be Alpha
Scorpio, Antares. Mars will be farther
east than Antares and will be much brighter.
Mars will also shine with a steady light, and Antares will twinkle.
Of course we shouldn’t forget the Perseid
Meteor Shower, peaking August 11th to the 15th. You could see up to 100 meteors per
hour. Meteors are small pieces of rock
that enter our atmosphere at great
speed, heating up for a second or two due to friction, then disappearing. Annual meteor showers are caused by pieces of discarded matter
from passing comets. The Perseids are
known as The Tears of St Lawrence and are traveling in the same orbit as that
of Comet Tuttle of 1862. The biggest
meteor display ever recorded was the Leonid meteor storm of November 1966. More than 10,000 meteors per hour were seen
Be sure to check out the
Summer Triangle of first magnitude stars:
Vega in the constellation Lyra, Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, and
Altair in the constellation Aquila.
They all can be seen high in the eastern sky after dark and form a
noticeable triangle. Vega is one of the
brightest stars in the sky.
Lots of meteor showers occur
over several days,
and the maximum time is still a matter of guesswork – and also good luck in not
having a full moon that decreases the darkness. This year, 2003, has lots of moonlight interference. Why not visit http://www.imo.net/calendar/cal03.html for some ideas on picking good times for viewing
the different meteor showers?
Kevin’s Corner: Kevin’s Corner:
MCOF will hold a
public Star Party on Friday night July 4th 9:00PM on the observatory grounds at
Greenwood School. Everyone is invited
to come out and view the wonders of the night sky through the many wonderful
telescopes available with the experts from the Foundation to guide you. Many wonderful celestial objects will be
visible including the planet Jupiter, the Ring nebula, Andromeda galaxy, double
stars and much more. Refreshments will
be served and door prizes will be given away.
Come out and see the construction progress on the Morgan County
Observatory and get a peek through the powerful 16" Cassegrain telescope
housed there. A short movie on the 2001
Mars Odyssey mission from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab will be shown. Informative exhibits, contests for kids and
hands on astronomy activities will be present.
Foundation would like to thank the following new or returning members and
donators for their generous support: Dave & Barbara Fye, Kathern & Ansel Gere, Bert Muti and John Menke of
Menke Scientific (http://www.menkescientific.com), Charles Braun, Luke Christie, Morgan County Retired Teachers Association,
United Way of Berkeley & Morgan County, and the Town of Bath. Member benefits include: quarterly
newsletter, yearly calendar, voting rights at MCOF general meeting, admission
to 'Members Only' events and notification of all events. All donations of $50 or more will be
memorialized on Founding Members’ plaques to be displayed inside the
Observatory. The next 'Members Only'
night will be held Friday July 25th 9:00PM at the observatory. If you are not a member, you may obtain
membership there for $20/individual or $35/family.
out and enjoy the dark skies of Morgan County while learning more about
astronomy and the stars. In the event of rain or mostly overcast skies, this
event will be rescheduled for Saturday night July 5th. Upcoming events include
an Indoor Star Show July 19th 7PM at the Ice House, Public Star
Parties at the observatory August 1st and 29th, Exhibit and lectures at the Morgan County
Fair August 2nd and 3rd.
To get to Greenwood from Berkeley Springs, follow Rt 522 South 2 miles
and take a left on Winchester Grade Rd (Rt 13), then travel 9 miles and park at
the school on the left. For information 304-258-1013, http://www.nitesky.org , or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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Observatory Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit educational organization founded
in 1999. Current officers are: Kevin Boles, President; Brice Williams,
Vice-president; Roger McIntire, Secretary ; Karen Shoemaker, Treasurer. Additional members of the Board of Directors
are: Pat Aragon, Robert Campbell, Warren
Hart, Leigh Jenkins, Bill Lands.
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Let’s go to Mars!
This summer has lots of people sending up their rockets. Have you seen this NASA challenge that seems
LOT MORE about Mars is at this site! http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/
What the Mars Global
Surveyor does and sees: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/
Learn more from the
latest news releases of the Ames Research Center http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov/
course, it takes a little time to travel millions of miles! The NASA's Mars Exploration Rover
(MER) project began by launching the first of two unique robotic geologists on
June 8. The second, bound for a
different site on Mars, launched about June 25. The first MER will arrive at Mars on Jan. 4, 2004, the second,
Jan. 25. Plans call for each to operate for at least three months. More information about the Mars Exploration
Rover Mission will be updated at : http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer/
Monster Trucks on Mars by Patrick L. Barry and Dr. Tony Phillips
We all know what Mars rovers look like now: Robotic platforms, bristling with
scientific instruments, trundling along on small metallic wheels. Planetary
rovers of the future, however, might look a little different-like miniature
Enormous, inflatable tires can easily roll right over the rocks and rugged
terrain of alien planets, just as they bound over old cars like as many speed
That's the idea behind a novel concept for robotic planetary rovers known as
the "big wheels inflatable rover." Unlike rovers similar to the
Sojourner robot that explored the surface of Mars in 1997 that depend on
instructions sent from Earth or complex programmed intelligence to steer
through rough terrain, this rover has three beach ball-like tires roughly five
feet across that make it a true off-road vehicle.
"We sent this rover out to Death Valley, to a place called Mars Hill that
has a general geological formation like Mars, and nothing could stop it,"
says Jack Jones, the mastermind of the inflatable rover concept at JPL.
"It just kept going and going and going."
Lots of current research is
devoted to developing advanced robotic intelligence that allows rovers to
detect rocks in their path and maneuver around them. The alternative to such
on-the-spot intelligence is tedium: Ground controllers on Earth working out the
maneuvers by hand and waiting an hour or more for the instructions to travel to
the distant planet.
A "big wheels" rover would need such computer intelligence to avoid
very large boulders, but Jones asks, "Why worry about every little rock,
pebble, and crack when you can just roll right over most of them?"
Jones imagines a scenaro where multiple inflatable-wheel rovers could be sent
out to explore the Martian terrain-easily and quickly traversing the rugged
terrain. Samples gathered by the rovers could be returned to a central,
stationary laboratory module for detailed analysis.
The "Big Wheels"
inflatable rover doesn't mind a few boulder-sized rocks,
matter what planet they're on!
"The Martian surface is really very, very rough with a lot of rocks, and
to be banging this laboratory equipment up and down over all of these rocks
aboard the rovers doesn't make much sense," Jones says. "I suspect it
might be better to leave it in a central location."
At the moment it's all very speculative; NASA currently has no definite plans
to send inflatable rovers to Mars. But who knows, one day monster truck-like
vehicles could be zipping over Mars' rough, red surface.
Kids can baffle their friends with a robot puzzle (including a "Big
Wheels" rover) they make themselves at
http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/robots/robot_puzzle.htm . For adults, find out
more about NASA's inflatable rover program at
This article was provided by the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract
with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Other NASA links for all ages and interests are:
http://spaceplace.nasa.gov ; http://spacelink.nasa.gov/ercn ; http://learn.arc.nasa.gov/ ; http://education.nasa.gov/products.html
; http://education.nasa.gov/products.html ; http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Instructional.Materials/.index.html ; http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Educational.Services/.index.html
Moments - - Enjoying A Sense of Place and Time by Bill Lands
MARS – A
Roamin’ Roman War God
The Viking lander reported our
neighboring planet Mars may be the richest source of iron ore in the solar
system. Its iron oxide rust-colored
reflected sunlight led astronomers to name it for the bloody god of war. Mars has a 4,200 mile diameter, but it had
only an apparent 6 arcsecond diameter in February with a reflected sunlight
brightness of about 1.0 magnitude.
However as Mars came closer to Earth at the summer solstice, it gained a
brighter magnitude of -1.5 and a
diameter over 10 arcseconds - - - that will expand to 16 arcseconds within
weeks and eventually reach 25 arcseconds by August 27. Then, it’s distance of 34 million miles
(0.373 astronomical units) may be the closest approach of Mars for over 50,000
years. For a while, it’s visual
brightness of -2.9 apparent magnitude makes it one of the brightest objects in
the sky until it moves on and becomes dimmer.
By the time of the Apple Butter Festival, it will pale to about the
brightness of Sirius (-1.45) and then be near magnitude 1 by New Years Eve.
ARES – A
Giant Greek War God
A red supergiant star at
the heart of the constellation Scorpius glows with its own reddish light of
absolute magnitude -4.7 from over 600 light years away (more than 3 billion
million miles). By the time that light reaches Earth, it has an apparent
brightness only near 1 - - like the “red” planet named for the Greek war god,
Ares (later the Roman, Mars). That led
to the name, Antares (anti-Ares), the rival of the war god. Antares doesn’t approach and withdraw the
way that Mars does. They may look similar in January, but certainly NOT this
More than two thousand years ago, the Greek astronomer, Hipparchus listed stars from first
magnitude (the brightest) to sixth magnitude (the faintest) with a
second-magnitude star appearing 2.5 times brighter than a third-magnitude
star. Later measurements found that
four stars are brighter than first-magnitude, but instead of changing the
scale, these bright stars were given negative magnitudes (Sirius, -1.45;
Canopus, -0.73; Rigel Centaurus, -0.1; Arcturus, -0.06). The most important
thing to remember is that as a star's brightness decreases the assigned
magnitude becomes more positive. Usually,
people in cities see only the few dozen stars that are more brilliant than magnitude
2. (See http://members.ncats.net/astro/reference/mag.html
). Better sky conditions in Morgan
County let you easily see three stars in the Little Dipper's bowl and six of
the Seven Sisters (Pleiades; M45), which are brighter than 4.4. The apparent brightness
of a star decreases inversely and exponentially with its listed magnitude, with
magnitude 1 stars being a hundred times brighter than magnitude 6.
The Full Moon is about one-half of a
degree wide (30 arcminutes) with its 2,160 mile diameter from 238,000 mile
distance. With an extended arm, your
little finger covers an angle of about one degree, three fingers covers 5 degrees,
a fist covers about 10 degrees, extended index and little fingers cover about
15 degrees, and extended thumb and little finger cover about 20 degrees. My unaided eye’s 1X - 60 degree field of
vision is converted with binoculars into a 7X – 8 degree angular field with
greater details about “what’s out there”.
How much more detail could we see with the 16-inch Cassegrain telescope
with its 240X – 0.25 degree angular field of view? One-quarter of a degree, or 15 minutes of arc, is a small piece
of sky to see compared to the 60 degrees sweep of view with an unaided eye - -
but it comes with a wonderful increase in details with its deeper focused view
of our universe. Visit the MCOF
observatory and take a look.