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This month's talk:
Happy Thanksgiving NC Astronomers,
As I write this article, it’s Thanksgiving week. This started me thinking of the many things for which I am thankful. I’m grateful for a loving wife, a happy home, good friends, good neighbors, decent health, people who share my passion for learning, and people to share the joy of astronomy with. This is not an exhaustive list, but just a few high points.
I looked back over previous “Rants” to see what I had written about in other years. In 2017, we had just had the first meeting of “Astronomy on Tap”. In 2018, Don Machholz had recently bagged his 12th comet. At this writing AOT continues to combine good conversation with good beer, and I believe that Don is still in Arizona trying to find number 13.
On Monday, November 11th, several of us converged at the Washington Road vista point to observe the Mercury transit. It was a beautiful morning, and a good view of a rare occurrence.
As I always seem to do at this time of year, I am appealing for new officers. Several of the current officers have been serving for way too long. We would appreciate some new perspectives. Please consider serving your club.
See you all on December 4th for the meeting.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Outreach - David Buchla
As announced in the last newsletter, we received the grant from the disbursement of the funds of the discontinued Public Education Enrichment Fund. Paul ordered two 4.5 inch Orion StarBlast telescopes and three 6 inch StarBlast telescopes that John will modify slightly and turn over to the Nevada County Library for distribution to the different branches of the library. We added better eyepieces to the basic package and have some money left for maintenance/repairs. We are pleased to be able to provide this resource to the community thanks to help from Judy Nielsen, who distributed the funds and included our group.
While it was not officially an outreach event, a number of us traveled to Washington Road to view the Mercury transit on November 11. It looked good in solar telescopes as a small black dot. Some of our group are in the photo below.
NCAstronomers at Washington Road overlook
Mercury transit taken by Juniper and Jim Slouber
Incidentally, the Wahington Road site is a good site for dark skies. The drawbacks are some large logs that block access for vehicles, so telescopes need to be move beyond the barriers by carrying them. A second drawback in a lack of restrooms but the site has an excellent open area. There is an excellent horizon and good parking. Look for future star parties at this site.
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.
Each month we choose several current topics in Astronomy and share our ignorance.
Astronomy on Tap will meet on
The third Monday 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!
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,
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 nightsky.jpl.nasa.org to find local clubs, events, and more!
The Orion Nebula: Window Into a Stellar Nursery
By David Prosper
Winter begins in December for observers in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing cold nights and the return of one of the most famous constellations to our early evening skies: Orion the Hunter!
Orion is a striking pattern of stars and is one of the few constellations whose pattern is repeated almost unchanged in the star stories of cultures around the world. Below the three bright stars of Orion’s Belt lies his sword, where you can find the famous Orion Nebula, also known as M42. The nebula is visible to our unaided eyes in even moderately light-polluted skies as a fuzzy “star” in the middle of Orion’s Sword. M42 is about 20 light years across, which helps with its visibility since it’s roughly 1,344 light years away! Baby stars, including the famous “Trapezium” cluster, are found inside the nebula’s whirling gas clouds. These gas clouds also hide “protostars” from view: objects in the process of becoming stars, but that have not yet achieved fusion at their core.
The Orion Nebula is a small window into a vastly larger area of star formation centered around the constellation of Orion itself. NASA’s Great Observatories, space telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer, Compton, and Chandra, studied this area in wavelengths we can’t see with our earthbound eyes, revealing the entire constellation alight with star birth, not just the comparatively tiny area of the nebula. Why then can we only see the nebula? M42 contains hot young stars whose stellar winds blew away their cocoons of gas after their “birth,” the moment when they begin to fuse hydrogen into helium. Those gas clouds, which block visible light, were cleared away just enough to give us a peek inside at these young stars. The rest of the complex remains hidden to human eyes, but not to advanced space-based telescopes.
We put telescopes in orbit to get above the interference of our atmosphere, which absorbs many wavelengths of light. Infrared space telescopes, such as Spitzer and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, detect longer wavelengths of light that allow them to see through the dust clouds in Orion, revealing hidden stars and cloud structures. It’s similar to the infrared goggles firefighters wear to see through smoke from burning buildings and wildfires.
Learn more about how astronomers combine observations made at different wavelengths with the Night Sky Network activity, ‘The Universe in a Different Light,” downloadable from bit.ly/different-light-nsn. You can find more stunning science and images from NASA’s Great Observatories at nasa.gov.
This image from NASA’s Spitzer missions shows Orion in a different light – quite literally! Note the small outline of the Orion Nebula region in the visible light image on the left, versus the massive amount of activity shown in the infrared image of the same region on the right. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/IRAS /H. McCallon. From bit.ly/SpitzerOrion
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