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Wednesday, February 6, 7:00 pm.
Madelyn Helling Library
Community Room



 This month's talk:

Black Widow Pulsars

Toni Graybill

Black Widow Pulsars take their name from the spiders that express their love by consuming their male partners. Pulsars are very small and extremely dense neutron stars that are the core remains of a supernova explosion. They are so dense that matter no longer has separate electrons and protons but they are crushed into neutrons. Black Widow pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that are in close proximity to an innocent low mass star. Just as its namesake, the black widow spider, the pulsar consumes its mate. Toni will describe these systems and show photos in what is sure to be an educational evening.

All are welcome! Bring a friend!


President’s Rant

Hi Astronomers,

The universe is weird! No, really! It is!

I enjoy watching “How the Universe Works” on the Science Channel. The programs discuss current topics in cosmology in a fashion that is accessible to nearly everyone. The presenters are scientists and educators who are involved in the work being presented.

One of the recent episodes dealt with black holes. The super-massive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A-star (SgrA*), has been in the news frequently, most recently because the jet of matter being blasted from the center is aimed approximately toward our solar system. That is apparently an odd direction for the jet to go. It would be expected to be aimed perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy, not more or less parallel to the plane. We don’t have an answer yet.

Black holes come in different sizes also. Super-massive ones are thought to primarily exist at the center of galaxies.

Stellar mass black holes are created when a star of at least 4 solar masses dies. The Milky Way contains several hundred million of these guys.

Then, just to keep it interesting, astronomers have found intermediate-mass black holes (IMBH). One possibility is that they form from a star cluster merger. If several IMBHs in a region merged, that might generate a super-massive black hole.

Another way to produce a black hole is for two neutron stars (remember them?) to merge. This merger can also produce gravitational waves which, with luck, can be detected by LIGO, and coincidentally, add more weight to Einstein’s theories.

So, I say the universe is wonderful, but weird!

I hope to see you at the meeting on February 6th.

Keep looking up.

Note that our general March meeting will be a joint meeting with the Nevada Co. Camera Club on March 25th at the Unity in the Gold Country Church, 180 Cambridge Ct., Grass Valley, CA 95945. 



Outreach - David Buchla

Scotten School Science Night is March 14. We will set up after 4 pm and kids arrive at 5 pm. The event ends at 6:30. The moon is at first quarter, so we can use a few scopes to show the moon. We will have inside exhibits to set up and kids will be making star wheels so we can use a few members to help. 

We will be doing some outreach for children this summer at several branches of the Nevada Co. library; dates and times to be established. Stay tuned for more information.

Astronomy on Tap

NC Astronomer members continue to enjoy the beer  and 'blather' at the Ol' Republic Brewery.  Their beer selection is quite comprehensive and they seem to enjoy naming beers after astronomical topics. 

Image result for astronomy on tap

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

We will meet on (Note the CHANGE!)

The third TUESDAY of February 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!

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!

Hexagon at Night, Quartet in the Morning

David Prosper

                    The stars that make up the Winter Hexagon asterism are some of the brightest in the night sky and February evenings are a great time to enjoy their sparkly splendor. The Winter Hexagon is so large in size that the six stars that make up its points are also the brightest members of six different constellations, making the Hexagon a great starting point for learning the winter sky. Find the Hexagon by looking southeast after sunset and finding the bright red star that forms the “left shoulder” of the constellation Orion: Betelgeuse. You can think of Betelgeuse as the center of a large irregular clock, with the Winter Hexagon stars as the clock’s hour numbers. Move diagonally across Orion to spot its “right foot,” the bright star Rigel. Now move clockwise from Rigel to the brightest star in the night sky: Sirius in Canis Major. Continue ticking along clockwise to Procyon in Canis Minor and then towards Pollux, the brighter of the Gemini twins. Keep moving around the circuit to find Capella in Auriga, and finish at orange Aldebaran, the “eye” of the V-shaped face of Taurus the Bull.

Two naked-eye planets are visible in the evening sky this month. As red Mars moves across Pisces, NASA’s InSight Mission is readying its suite of geological instruments designed to study the Martian interior. InSight and the rest of humanity’s robotic Martian emissaries will soon be joined by the Mars 2020 rover. The SUV-sized robot is slated to launch next year on a mission to study the possibility of past life on the red planet. A conjunction between Mars and Uranus on February 13 will be a treat for telescopic observers. Mars will pass a little over a degree away from Uranus and larger magnifications will allow comparisons between the small red disc of dusty Mars with the smaller and much more distant blue-green disc of ice giant Uranus.

Speedy Mercury has a good showing this month and makes its highest appearance in the evening on February 27; spot it above the western horizon at sunset. An unobstructed western view and binoculars will greatly help in catching Mercury against the glow of evening twilight.

The morning planets put on quite a show in February. Look for the bright planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn above the eastern horizon all month, at times forming a neat lineup. A crescent Moon makes a stunning addition on the mornings of February 1-2, and again on the 28th. Watch over the course of the month as Venus travels from its position above Jupiter to below dimmer Saturn. Venus and Saturn will be in close conjunction on the 18th; see if you can fit both planets into the same telescopic field of view.  A telescope reveals the brilliant thin crescent phase of Venus waxing into a wide gibbous phase as the planet passes around the other side of our Sun. The Night Sky Network has a simple activity that helps explain the nature of both Venus and Mercury’s phases at

You can catch up on all of NASA’s current and future missions at

The stars of the Winter Hexagon

Image created with help from Stellarium



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

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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