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Wednesday, February 5th 

Madelyn Helling Library

Community Room

7:00 pm


This month's talk:


Ancient Astronomy - Part 2

David Buchla


Part 1 of this talk (given in the January meeting) included an overview of phenomena associated with all ancient cultures and showed ancient stone structures with specific alignments (particularly Stonehenge).  It also included a discussion of Michael Molnar’s 1999 theory of the Star of Bethlehem, which is based partly on astrology at the time. Due to time restraints, discussion of Babylonia and Egypt is moved to Part 2.  Part 2 will primarily cover the ancient astronomy associated with the Mediterranean area – namely the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks.  

The earliest records were from the Babylonians. The Greeks overlapped some of the Babylonian science with their own innovations. They went from "flat earthers" with many fanciful myths of the heavens run by the gods to forming reasonable models for the solar system based on observations. They constructed geometric models of their science; one model in particular is considered the first analog computer (the Antikythera Mechanism). The ancient Greeks borrowed from the Babylonians but were sophisticated observers on their own right and they set the stage for the development of modern science. 

Time permitting, we may cover some of the instruments developed in ancient China. Chinese observation records were the most accurate and detailed in the world with huge star catalogs and records of comets, supernova, and meteor showers included. David has visited the ancient observatory in Beijing and will share a few of his photos of the instruments.

A link to both parts of Dave's talk will be provided to members that request it.

A replica of the front face of the Antikythera Mechanism

All are welcome! Bring a friend!


President’s Rant

Hi NC Astronomers,

Here comes February, ready or not.

We are, unapologetically, fair weather astronomers. After all, no one has yet developed a reliable cloud filter for small telescopes. Every year, I become more of a warm-weather astronomer as well. Something about the number of layers that I require to be comfortable. I dunno.

In the news, NASA has ended the mission of the Spitzer Space Telescope which was launched in 2003. It was a member of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with Hubble, Compton Gamma Ray telescope, and the Chandra X-ray telescope. Now only Hubble and Chandra are left. Spitzer is perhaps best known for discovering 7 Earth-size exo-planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Farewell Spitzer.

Did you notice the wonderful picture of the granulations of the sun’s plasma? The picture is one of several produced by the new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui. One of the smaller granules in the photo is about the size of Texas! Puts it in perspective, don’t you think?

At our club meeting on Wednesday February 5th, we will vote on the slate of board members for 2020. There is only one change, Hilary Steinmetz has volunteered to learn the outreach ropes from Dave Buchla. Thank you, Hilary.

Speaking of Dave, I hope that you enjoyed the first installment of his series on “Ancient Astronomy” in January. He will present the second portion at the meeting this month. To think, this began with an interest in stone circles!

See you on Wednesday.

Clear, warm skies,



Outreach - David Buchla

We have not had any requests for outreach at this time. The library scopes are progessing slowly. We have all of them now and John is not finished with them before we turn them over to the library.

This is my final summary as Outreach Chair. After 12 years on the board, I was planning to step down from the board totally, but John asked me to hang around and help out with the transition. So for now, I will help as an "at large" board member. Meanwhile, Hilary Steinmetz has ageed to run for the Outreach job. I think we should all be thankful she is willing to run and take on this important job. The following is from Hilary by way of introduction:

    I was raised on a family farm near Sacramento. On clear nights we could see the Milky Way and many stars. My mother taught me and my siblings the constellations and the stories behind them. When I first attended college, even though I was a non-science major, I took an astronomy class. Employment, marriage, and children diverted me from that interest but I always enjoyed reading about new discoveries in astrophysics and am a fan of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

Last summer I realized now was the time to delve back into astronomy when my six year old grandson named all the planets in order, knew that Pluto was now a dwarf planet, and named some of Jupiter and Saturn’s moons. He lives near Squaw Valley, which has a telescope in the village where one evening we were able to look at the moon. He was interested. My goal now is to get a telescope for him and explore the sky with him. And I took two astronomy courses through OLLI this fall.

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 continue to move into the New Year, 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!

Betelgeuse and the Crab Nebula: Stellar Death and Rebirth

David Prosper

What happens when a star dies? Stargazers are paying close attention to the red giant star Betelgeuse since it recently dimmed in brightness, causing speculation that it may soon end in a brilliant supernova. While it likely won’t explode quite yet, we can preview its fate by observing the nearby Crab Nebula.

Betelgeuse, despite its recent dimming, is still easy to find as the red-hued shoulder star of Orion. A known variable star, Betelgeuse usually competes for the position of the brightest star in Orion with brilliant blue-white Rigel, but recently its brightness has faded to below that of nearby Aldebaran, in Taurus. Betelgeuse is a young star, estimated to be a few million years old, but due to its giant size it leads a fast and furious life. This massive star, known as a supergiant, exhausted the hydrogen fuel in its core and began to fuse helium instead, which caused the outer layers of the star to cool and swell dramatically in size. Betelgeuse is one of the only stars for which we have any kind of detailed surface observations due to its huge size – somewhere between the diameter of the orbits of Mars and Jupiter - and relatively close distance of about 642 light-years. Betelgeuse is also a “runaway star,” with its remarkable speed possibly triggered by merging with a smaller companion star. If that is the case, Betelgeuse may actually have millions of years left! So, Betelgeuse may not explode soon after all; or it might explode tomorrow! We have much more to learn about this intriguing star.

The Crab Nebula (M1) is relatively close to Betelgeuse in the sky, in the nearby constellation of Taurus. Its ghostly, spidery gas clouds result from a massive explosion; a supernova observed by astronomers in 1054! A backyard telescope allows you to see some details, but only advanced telescopes reveal the rapidly spinning neutron star found in its center: the last stellar remnant from that cataclysmic event. These gas clouds were created during the giant star’s violent demise and expand ever outward to enrich the universe with heavy elements like silicon, iron, and nickel. These element-rich clouds are like a cosmic fertilizer, making rocky planets like our own Earth possible. Supernova also send out powerful shock waves that help trigger star formation. In fact, if it wasn’t for a long-ago supernova, our solar system - along with all of us - wouldn’t exist! You can learn much more about the Crab Nebula and its neutron star in a new video from NASA’s Universe of Learning, created from observations by the Great Observatories of Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer:

Our last three articles covered the life cycle of stars from observing two neighboring constellations: Orion and Taurus! Our stargazing took us to the ”baby stars” found in the stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula, onwards to the teenage stars of the Pleiades and young adult stars of the Hyades, and ended with dying Betelgeuse and the stellar corpse of the Crab Nebula. Want to know more about the life cycle of stars? Explore stellar evolution with “The Lives of Stars” activity and handout:

 Check out NASA’s most up to date observations of supernova and their remains at


Click to Contact
President John Griffin
Vice President Rick Bernard
Secretary/Treasurer Paul Bacon
Outreach Coordinator Hilary Steinmetz
Emeritus Officer 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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