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Wednesday, January 8th 

Madelyn Helling Library

Community Room

7:00 pm


This month's talk:


Ancient Astronomy - Part 1

David Buchla


David will trace the history of astronomy starting with stone circles and describing early astronomy in various parts of the world. The first part of this two-part talk will be illustrated with many of his own slides included from locations like Stonehenge and Almendres Cromlech (the oldest stone circle in Europe) and talk will cover the astronomy of early Babylonians, ancient Egyptians and the various cultures in the Americas. The talk will conclude with a discussion of the Star of Bethlehem, with an interesting possible explanation with roots in Astrology.

Many stone cirles have astronomical alignments



All are welcome! Bring a friend!


President’s Rant

Happy New Year Friends,

The new year always comes as a shock to me. I’m comfortable with the old year and I could just keep going with it. But we’ve made another orbit of our Sun and it’s conventional to mark the occasion somehow. The ancients were aware of the rhythm of the seasons because they saw the same things happening at regular intervals.

Dave Buchla has been investigating ancient astronomy and will present a portion of his research at our meeting on January 8th.

One news item that has caught my eye is the report that Betelgeuse, the pulsating variable red super giant that is one of Orion’s shoulders, has diminished to its lowest magnitude in nearly a century. It is noticeably dimmer by my eye. Betelgeuse is tabbed as a star that may go supernova within the next million years, perhaps as soon as 100,000 years. Or it could go off tomorrow! Of course, it is approximately 600 light years away, so maybe it already has. We have never been able to study a star on the run-up to an explosion, so we don’t really know the symptoms. I guess that we’ll have to wait and see.

Have a safe and prosperous New Year, and I will see you on Jan. 8th.



Outreach - David Buchla

We received the three 6" outreach scopes and they will be turned over to the library after John modifies them a little. 

We have no outreach scheduled at this time. We do need a new outreach chair as I am not running for the board for 2020, so consider taking this rewarding program on!

I am doing the January and Febrary programs. I had been working hard on the Ancient Astronomy presentation and it turns out there was a lot of material out there and the talk got too big for one presentation. I split it into 2 talks as you may have seen on the speakers list. Hopefully you'll find the topic as facinating as I have as I did preparation for it. See you then.




Astronomy on Tap

NC Astronomer members continue to enjoy the beer  and 'blather' at the Ol' Republic Brewery. The beer selection at the Brewery is quite comprehensive, they seem to enjoy naming beers after astronomical topics and the environment is designed for in depth conversations on deeply philisophical questions. 

Image result for astronomy on tap

Each month we choose several current topics in Astronomy and share our ignorance.

Ol' Republic is on winter schedule and closed on Mondays until further notice.

 Astronomy on Tap will meet on

The third Tuesday of the month at 5pm


Come and join the conversation at

Ol' Republic Brewery below SPD in Nevada City!


Secretary/Treasurer - Paul Bacon


Our Mission is:

'Bringing' Astronomy to the Public'

a BIG Thank You

to all our members who join and make our programs possible!

As we usher in a New Year please help keep our wonderful little club financially healthy!

I will be collecting membership contributions

($20/year for member or family)

at our Monthly Meetings,

If you can't make the meeting, send your check to:

          NC Astronomers, %Paul Bacon,                    
10572 Oak St., Grass Valley, CA 95945


This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit to find local clubs, events, and more!

Spot the Young Stars of the Hyades and Pleiades

David Prosper

Orion is the last of a trio of striking star patterns to rise during the late fall and early winter months, preceded by the diminutive Pleiades and larger Hyades in Taurus. All three are easily spotted rising in the east in early January evenings, and are textbook examples of stars in different stages of development.

As discussed in last month’s Notes, the famous Orion Nebula (M42), found in Orion’s “Sword,” is a celestial nursery full of newly-born “baby stars” and still-incubating “protostars,” surrounded by the gas from which they were born. Next to Orion we find the Hyades, in Taurus, with their distinctive “V’ shape. The Hyades are young but mature stars, hundreds of millions of years old and widely dispersed. Imagine them as “young adult” stars venturing out from their hometown into their new galactic apartments. Bright orange Aldebaran stands out in this group, but is not actually a member; it just happens to be in between us and the Hyades. Traveling from Orion to the Hyades we then find the small, almost dipper-shaped Pleiades star cluster (M45). These are “teenage stars,” younger than the Hyades, but older than the newborn stars of the Orion Nebula. These bright young stars are still relatively close together, but have dispersed their birth cocoon of stellar gas, like teenagers venturing around the neighborhood with friends and wearing their own clothes, but still remaining close to home - for now. Astronomers have studied this trio in great detail in order to learn more about stellar evolution.

Figuring the exact distance of the Pleiades from Earth is an interesting problem in astrometry, the study of the exact positions of stars in space. Knowing their exact distance away is a necessary step in determining many other facts about the Pleiades. The European Space Agency’s Hipparcos satellite determined their distance to about 392 light years away, around 43 light years closer than previous estimates. However, subsequent measurements by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope indicated a distance of 440 light years, much closer to pre-Hipparcos estimates. Then, using a powerful technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), which combines the power of radio telescopes from around the world, the distance of the Pleiades was calculated to 443 light years. The ESA’s Gaia satellite, a successor to Hipparcos, recently released its first two sets of data, which among other findings show the distance close to the values found by Hubble and VLBI, possibly settling the long-running “Pleiades Controversy” and helping firm up the foundation for follow-up studies about the nature of the stars of the Pleiades.

You can learn more about the Pleiades in the Universe Discovery Guide at , and find out about missions helping to measure our universe at

Locate Orion rising in the east after sunset to find the Orion Nebula in the “Sword,” below the famous “Belt” of three bright stars. Then, look above Orion to find both the Hyades and the Pleiades. Binoculars will bring out lots of extra stars and details in all three objects, but you can even spot them with your unaided eye!

Close-up of the Pleiades, with the field of view of Hubble’s Fine Guidance Sensors overlaid in the top left, which helped refine the distance to the cluster. The circumference of the field of view of these sensors is roughly the size of the full Moon. (Credit: NASA, ESA and AURA/Caltech)

Click to Contact
President John Griffin
Vice President Rick Bernard
Secretary/Treasurer Paul Bacon
Outreach Coordinator David Buchla
At Large Greg Ouligian
At Large Greg Dolkas

NC Astronomers
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First Wednesday Of The Month
Madelyn Helling Library
Community Room
980 Helling Way
Nevada City 95959

10572 Oak St.
Grass Valley, CA 95945

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