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      Volume 9 Issue 2 February 2017      

Wednesday, February 1st 7:00 pm.
Madelyn Helling Library
Community Room

NcA Logo

Eclipse Photography

Due to the upcoming solar eclipse, there have been requests for a discussion of eclipse photography. Dave Buchla has agreed to give a short introduction to this topic (15 minutes). He has had several of his eclipse photos published in Astronomy Magazine. He will share tips and suggestions and answer questions on eclipse photography.

Experiencing Hubble - The Cat’s Eye Nebula (DVD with David Meyer)

The Hubble telescope has taught us a lot about planetary nebula. They are much more complex than originally thought. The detailed Hubble images have allowed astronomers to look into the exposed innards of dying stars and essentially perform a stellar autopsy. The ultraviolet radiation form the star ionizes the atoms in the expanding gas shell causing it to glow in light that reveals its makeup and structure. The Cat’s Eye is particularly interesting in that it seems to have periodic mass ejections about every 1500 years that has created concentric rings. As we look closer, we see that the Cat’s eye has bipolar symmetry. Other planetary nebula with bipolar symmetry are the Ant and the Butterfly Nebulas. David Meyer will explore these nebula in his discussion.

Bring a friend ... bring the kids!

President’s Rant

Hello Astronomers,

Ever since Dan St John gave his presentation on women in astronomy, I have paid more attention when I hear of women who were employed in unusual (for women) occupations. I grew up with a mother who had done many things and I assumed that every woman was just as capable, therefore odd jobs were no big deal. However, I now realize that such was not the case. To have women doing science, technology, engineering, or math was rare. This is the reason that much is made of the “Rosie the Riveters” of WWII, the aforementioned women in astronomy, and lately, the female “computers” at NACA (later NASA).

The February issue of Astronomy magazine has an article “Fighting for Visibility” by Korey Haynes that takes up the story of the African-American “computers” NASA employed at Langley, VA. that is detailed in the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and in the current movie with the same title. These women had not only their gender to overcome, but also their race. They were brilliant minds in an era when no women, let alone African-American women, were supposed to be smart. These were the people who calculated the trajectories for Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and most of the rest of the manned missions. And they did it without electronic computers! Slide rules and calculators anyone?

The Astronomy article is a good read, and if NASA history is interesting to you, perhaps the book would be also. I have no opinion of the movie as I haven’t seen it.

Keep looking up.


Outreach - David Buchla

We have three outreach events scheduled so far for this spring. The first is Scotten School Science Night on March 9. The moon will be rising at 3:30 pm. It is 11 days past new, so will be quite bright but should be okay for viewing during the science night. A few scopes outside are needed. Inside, we plan to have a display and a table for putting together star wheels. Help with those items is needed and appreciated. Let me know if you can assist.

Our second event is the STEM/STEAM expo at the fairgrounds on March 25 from 9 am to 3 pm. We definitely can use volunteers for this. Last year we were pretty busy helping with star wheels and explaining our astronomy exhibits. I am unable to attend this year as I have a prior commitment but will provide all materials. John Griffin will coordinate this event. Volunteers are needed; let John or I know if you can help out.

The third event is Astronomy Day. This year, we scheduled for the same time as the National event – April 29. We have some new exhibits and plans are a little different than past years. I will have a detailed plan to present at the March meeting and describe some of the changes then. For one, we will have the children’s room, where we plan to put together star wheels. We are working with Yolande Wilburn (the branch librarian) on coordinating the event and she has been a big help. As in the past, there is a huge amount of setup to accomplish and solar scopes are needed outside. More on this event in next month’s newsletter. As in all outreach events, help is really appreciated on these events. It is a total club effort that has made this successful for a number of years. Right now, if a club member could handle publicity, that would be a big help. Let me know if you can take this on via email or a call. To contact me, click here:

Secretary/Treasurer - Dan St. John

Many members have renewed their commitment to help us with our mission: 'Bringing Astronomy to the Public'.  I will again be collecting 2017 Dues/Donations ($20) at our February 1st meeting. Please bring your check (or CASH) to our next meeting and help us cover our expenses for Room Rent, Speaker Honorarium, Outreach Supplies and Miscellaneous Administrative Costs.

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

NC Astronomers, %Dan StJohn,
12296 Valley View Rd, Nevada City, CA 95959

a BIG Thank You to all our members who make our programs possible!

Comet Campaign:
Amateurs Wanted

by Marcus Woo

Visit to explore space and Earth science NASA Space Place Logo

In a cosmic coincidence, three comets will soon be approaching Earth—and astronomers want you to help study them. This global campaign, which will begin at the end of January when the first comet is bright enough, will enlist amateur astronomers to help researchers continuously monitor how the comets change over time and, ultimately, learn what these ancient ice chunks reveal about the origins of the solar system.

Over the last few years, spacecraft like NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI or ESA's Rosetta (of which NASA played a part) discovered that comets are more dynamic than anyone realized. The missions found that dust and gas burst from a comet's nucleus every few days or weeks—fleeting phenomena that would have gone unnoticed if it weren't for the constant and nearby observations. But space missions are expensive, so for three upcoming cometary visits, researchers are instead recruiting the combined efforts of telescopes from around the world.

"This is a way that we hope can get the same sorts of observations: by harnessing the power of the masses from various amateurs," says Matthew Knight, an astronomer at the University of Maryland.

By observing the gas and dust in the coma (the comet's atmosphere of gas and dust), and tracking outbursts, amateurs will help professional researchers measure the properties of the comet's nucleus, such as its composition, rotation speed, and how well it holds together.

The observations may also help NASA scout out future destinations. The three targets are so-called Jupiter family comets, with relatively short periods just over five years—and orbits that are accessible to spacecraft. "The better understood a comet is," Knight says, "the better NASA can plan for a mission and figure out what the environment is going to be like, and what specifications the spacecraft will need to ensure that it will be successful."

The first comet to arrive is 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, whose prime window runs from the end of January to the end of July. Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova will be most visible between mid-February and mid-March. The third target, comet 46P/Wirtanen won't arrive until 2018.

Still, the opportunity to observe three relatively bright comets within roughly 18 months is rare. "We're talking 20 or more years since we've had anything remotely resembling this," Knight says. "Telescope technology and our knowledge of comets are just totally different now than the last time any of these were good for observing."

For more information about how to participate in the campaign, visit

Want to teach kids about the anatomy of a comet? Go to the NASA Space Place and use Comet on a Stick activity!

An orbit diagram of comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak on February 8, 2017-a day that falls during the comet's prime visibility window. The planets orbits are white curves and the comet's orbit is a blue curve. The brighter lines indicate the portion of the orbit that is above the ecliptic plane defined by Earth's orbital plane and the darker portions are below the ecliptic plane. This image was created with the Orbit Viewer applet, provided by the Osamu Ajiki (AstroArts) and modified by Ron Baalke (Solar System Dynamics group, JPL).;sstr=41P

Click to Contact
President John Griffin
Vice President Rick Bernard
Secretary/Treasurer Dan St. John
Outreach Chairmen David Buchla
Program Chairmen Tony Finnerty
Amateur Telescope Makers Lonnie Robinson

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

12296 Valley View Rd
Nevada City CA 95959

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