This week and early next, the nearly full Moon will make deep-sky viewing nearly impossible, but Mars will be untouched, as will that other category of stellar gems, double stars. Neither is affected much by moonlight, so bring it on.
Big news about Belmead in Powhatan! As many of you know, we have developed a partnership over the past few years with Belmead in Powhatan, a beautiful, historic and relatively convenient dark sky location. We have held joint observing and outreach education events at Belmead near the mansion and at more light-shielded sites on the property. Unfortunately, the owners of the property, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia, have decided to sell the entire 2,200 acre tract. The local Virginia staff at Belmead was not involved in the decision and this turn of events was very much a surprise to them. More information is presented in this article by Laura McFarland in the RTD and Powhatan Today.
When Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, he painstakingly photographed portions of the sky using a 13-inch telescope at Lowell Observatory and compared images from successive nights, looking for objects that showed movement between images. Objects that moved over the course of a night would be within in our solar system.
Mr. Tombaugh used a device called a blink comparator which allows the operator to view two photographic images, rapidly switching between the two. The human eye-brain combination is exceptionally good at seeing changes in the images. Objects that showed movement could be noted for further investigation. Any moving body that appeared where no object was known to exist would be a candidate for an undiscovered asteroids or planet.
The RAS Fall picnic was a success thanks to our master chefs, kind visitors who brought an array of delicious items, grilling equipment, Belmead for hosting us and the clear dark skies of Powhatan County. All conspired to make for a great picnic. Thanks to all. A blog post about the event with pictures captured by attending astronomers is here.
VAAS 2015 was a success (except it was rainy, so we enjoyed all of the indoor activities). A short slideshow appears here. Many thanks to the Charlottesville Astronomical Society, University of Virginia and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Headquarters for supporting the event.
Total Lunar Eclipse, Sunday, September 27, 8:00 PM: Weather permitting, RAS will view the total lunar eclipse from the Science Museum of Virginia and will broadcast the event at http://ustream.tv/channel/richastro. The Museum will be open until midnight with indoor astro activities from 8 PM – 10 PM! Please join us if you can. If the weather is favorable, this should be an excellent opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse – The events will be well placed at a convenient time to view.
– Eclipse begins: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 8:11 PM
– Maximum: Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 10:47 PM
– Ends: Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 1:22 AM
– Duration: 5 hours, 11 minutes. More details here.
Be sure to go outside August 12, to see one of the best meteor showers of them all. The Perseids Meteor Shower will peak tomorrow morning around 2 am EST, but there should be plenty to see all night long.
Staunton River State Park has been formally designated as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Skies Association. Read the press release here. Many congratulations and thanks to Staunton River State Park and the Chapel Hill Astronomy Club for making this happen (particularly Adam Layman, Park Manager and Jayme Hanzak, Chapel Hill Club President)!
The New Horizons spacecraft has reached Pluto and is transmitting data back to Earth. This is an outstanding achievement. Because of the distance to Pluto, it will take some time to receive all of the data collected during the flyby. More information from NASA is here.