Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Storms on Saturn

Space Weather News for Dec. 28, 2011

BIG STORM ON SATURN: Got a telescope for Christmas? Point it at Saturn. A giant storm even brighter than Saturn's rings is raging through the planet's cloudtops. Amateur images and sky maps are featured on today's edition of

GEOMAGNETIC STORM IN PROGRESS: At the time this alert is being written (mid-day UT on Dec. 28), a polar geomagnetic storm is in progress (Kindex=5). Observers report electric currents in the ground and intensifying Northern Lights over Scandinavia. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras: .

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Voyager has out distanced the Solar Wind

Received this link from a friend, Matt.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Earth like Alien planets

Got this link from Matt. Enjoy!

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Trips to Mars

received this info via email from our friend Matt:

Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press

Invoking the spirit of "Star Trek" in a scholarly article entitled "To Boldly Go," two scientists contend human travel to Mars could happen much more quickly and cheaply if the missions are made one-way. They argue that it would be little different from early settlers to North America, who left Europe with little expectation of return.

"The main point is to get Mars exploration moving," said Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University, who wrote the article in the latest "Journal of Cosmology" with Paul Davies of Arizona State University. The colleagues state — in one of 55 articles in the issue devoted to exploring Mars — that humans must begin colonizing another planet as a hedge against a catastrophe on Earth.

Mars is a six-month flight away, possesses surface gravity, an atmosphere, abundant water, carbon dioxide and essential minerals. They propose the missions start by sending two two-person teams, in separate ships, to Mars. More colonists and regular supply ships would follow.

The technology already exists, or is within easy reach, they wrote.

An official for NASA said the space agency envisions manned missions to Mars in the next few decades, but that the planning decidedly involves round trips.

President Obama informed NASA last April that he "'believed by the mid-2030s that we could send humans to orbit Mars and safely return them to Earth. And that a landing would soon follow,'" said agency spokesman Michael Braukus.

No where did Obama suggest the astronauts be left behind.

"We want our people back," Braukus said.

Retired Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell, who walked on the Moon, was also critical of the one-way idea.

"This is premature," Mitchell wrote in an e-mail. "We aren't ready for this yet."

Davies and Schulze-Makuch say it's important to realize they're not proposing a "suicide mission."

"The astronauts would go to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers of a permanent human Mars colony," they wrote, while acknowledging the proposal is a tough sell for NASA, with its intense focus on safety.

They think the private sector might be a better place to try their plan.

"What we would need is an eccentric billionaire," Schulze-Makuch said. "There are people who have the money to put this into reality."

Indeed, British tycoon Richard Branson, PayPal founder Elon Musk and Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos are among the rich who are involved in private space ventures.

Isolated humans in space have long been a staple of science fiction movies, from "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" to a flurry of recent movies such as "Solaris" and "Moon." In many of the plots, the lonely astronauts fall victim to computers, madness or aliens.

Psychological profiling and training of the astronauts, plus constant communication with Earth, will reduce debilitating mental strains, the two scientists said.

"They would in fact feel more connected to home than the early Antarctic explorers," according to the article.

But the mental health of humans who spent time in space has been extensively studied. Depression can set in, people become irritated with each other, and sleep can be disrupted, the studies have found. The knowledge that there is no quick return to Earth would likely make that worse.

Davies is a physicist whose research focuses on cosmology, quantum field theory, and astrobiology. He was an early proponent of the theory that life on Earth may have come from Mars in rocks ejected by asteroid and comet impacts.

Schulze-Makuch works in the Earth Sciences department at WSU and is the author of two books about life on other planets. His focus is eco-hydrogeology, which includes the study of water on planets and moons of our solar system and how those could serve as a potential habitat for microbial life.

The peer-reviewed Journal of Cosmology covers astronomy, astrobiology, Earth sciences and life.

Schulze-Makuch and Davies contend that Mars has abundant resources to help the colonists become self-sufficient over time. The colony should be next to a large ice cave, to provide shelter from radiation, plus water and oxygen, they wrote.

They believe the one-way trips could start in two decades.

"You would send a little bit older folks, around 60 or something like that," Schulze-Makuch said, bringing to mind the aging heroes who save the day in "Space Cowboys."

That's because the mission would undoubtedly reduce a person's lifespan, from a lack of medical care and exposure to radiation. That radiation would also damage human reproductive organs, so sending people of childbearing age is not a good idea, he said.

There have been seniors in space, including John Glenn, who was 77 when he flew on the space shuttle in 1998.

Still, Schulze-Makuch believes many people would be willing to make the sacrifice.

The Mars base would offer humanity a "lifeboat" in the event Earth becomes uninhabitable, they said.

"We are on a vulnerable planet," Schulze-Makuch said. "Asteroid impact can threaten us, or a supernova explosion. If we want to survive as a species, we have to expand into the solar system and likely beyond."


Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jupiter's Stripe

Space Weather News for Nov. 11, 2010

JUPITER'S MISSING STRIPE, RETURNING? Earlier this year when Jupiter's great South Equatorial Belt (SEB) vanished, researchers urged amateur astronomers to be alert for its eventual return. The SEB had come and gone before, they noted, and the revival was something to behold. Alert: It might be happening now. An energetic white plume is rising above Jupiter's cloudtops, possibly heralding the return of the giant planet's missing stripe. Visit for images and updates.

SPACE STATION FLYBY ALERT: The International Space Station is about to begin a series of bright evening flybys over North America. It's easy to see. Let your cell phone tell you when to look using our Simple Flybys app for Android and iPhone:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, November 5, 2010

PAS is at the Desert Botanical Gardens 11/5 and 11/6

Good afternoon and happy Friday to you.

The Phoenix Astronomical Society will be at the Desert Botanical Gardens on

Friday Nov 5 from 7pm to 9pm for an Adult Event
Sat Nov 6 from 6pm to 8pm for a Kids Event.

The Desert Botanical Gardent address is:
1201 N. Galvin Parkway Phoenix, AZ 85008 ...


And here is what's visible for both nights.
Sun set is 5:20
Mercury is visible at 5:30 and sets 5:50.
Mars is visible 5:30 and sets 6:30.
Jupiter is visible 5:30 and then throughout the night.
Dark is 6:50.

We hope to see you there!
For more fun Astronomy related events, be sure to visit the PAS Website Calendar
where you will find the event listed, on the date it is happening, and a forum link
to give you more details about the events. Some events require RSVP prior to attending,
while others, like the DBG events mentioned above are Public events hosted by the
location we are doing the event at, and so no RSVP is required for attendance.

The link directly to the PAS website calendar is:


Terri, Event Coordinator

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Phoenix Art Museum "Space Odyssey" Nov 5, 2010 6pm to 10pm

TONIGHT - Join us!!!

The Phoenix Art Museum is putting on SPACE ODYSSEY.
From 6pm to 10pm, tonight Nov 5, 2010, you can enjoy many of these activities & more:

* Making Foil Helmets and get your photo taken while wearing yours.
* Kids will launch air rockets and play with glow sticks
* Airbrush space tattoo-ist available

will be there, out front to show you the night sky.

Please note, we are near the Museum building to our East, so
objects rising in the East, such as Jupiter may do earlier in the evening,
may not be visible until later in the evening. But this is what we hope to
show tonight through 3 telescopes. Come visit us there!!!

Sun set is 5:20
Mercury is visible to the West at 5:30 and sets 5:50. We hope to have some scopes
set up prior to Mercury setting for the night.
Mars is visible to the West at 5:30 and sets 6:30.
Jupiter is visible 5:30 and then throughout the night, the building might
be in the way earlier in the evening. It will be at the Zenith at 9:14pm. I predict we will
be able to see Jupiter come over the Museum building by about 7:30.
Dark is 6:50.

Address of the Phoenix Art Museum is:
1625 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004

More details can be found in the PAS public forums at this link:

We would love to see you there, tonight!!!

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, October 28, 2010


For the links to these events, download the Upcoming Events file from this link & use the links within the document to quickly get to these events within the online PAS Calendar:

Nov 2: Cancer Treatment Center (CTCA) Star Party. RSVP is with Joe. This is a paid star party & Only PAS Members are to attend. Dinner may be provided. Contact Joe for details. Official time of event is 8pm to 10pm.

Nov 4: PAS Meeting – PVCC Library. Mike Marron is guest speaker with a topic that will knock your socks off! Meeting is from 7pm to 9:30pm. Everyone Welcome. Bring the whole family!

Nov 5: Desert Botanical Gardens (DBG) Star Party. Private event, PAS Members only. Sign up with Sam to help out. This is a paid star party. Event is from 7pm to 9pm.

Nov 6: Cuttin' Edge Observatory (CEO) Star Party. PAS Members only. RSVP is with Chris This event is held in Mayer, Az. All PAS Members welcome. Serious observers only.

Nov 12: Back up date for Nov 5: DBG star party.

Nov 14: PAS FREE Telescope Workshop at Bookmans - 19th Ave & Northern – 3:30pm to 5:30pm. RSVP is with Terri for this event. Bring your scope & accessories & learn how to use your telescope.

Nov 16: Back up date for Nov 2 CTCA star party.

Nov 17: Park Ridge Elementary School Star Party – Event is from 6pm to 8:30pm. RSVP is with Terri for this event. We need telescopes at this event.

Nov 17: Aerospace Star Party – Paid event at the Biltmore. Event is from 10pm to midnight. Paid workers have already signed up.

Nov 18: PAS Meeting of the Minds (MOMs). This is the PAS Business meeting where we Party & discuss topics. The MOMs Agenda can be found at this link: If there aren't enough topics to hold a minimum of a 1 hour meeting, the meeting is canceled, & the topics move to the next month's meeting. Everyone is welcome at this meeting. Check with Terri as to if the meeting is on or off. No RSVP is required.

Nov 27: Virtual Star Party (VSP) at Chris's in Goodyear. Bring your laptop & come image the night sky. RSVP is with Chris PAS Members only. This event begins at 6:30. Try to arrive ½ hour prior to allow time for set up.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Meeting of the Minds for Oct 28 has been CANCELED

Please enjoy your evening.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Sun Twister & Asteroid Flyby

Space Weather News for Oct. 28, 2010

SUN TWISTER: Earlier today, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded a spectacular eruption on the sun's northeastern limb. An unstable magnetic filament hundreds of thousands of kilometers long pirouetted and launched a fragment of itself into space. Earth was not in the line of fire, but the SDO movie is worth seeing anyway. Visit for cinema.

ASTEROID FLYBY: Asteroid 2003 UV11 will fly past Earth on Oct. 29th and 30th at a distance of only 1.2 million miles. Experienced amateur astronomers should have little trouble photographing the 600-meter wide space rock as it glides through the constellation Pegasus on Friday night, glowing about as brightly as a 12th magnitude star. Observers in North America and Europe are favored. Check for ephemerides and more information.

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: Would you like a call when geomagnetic storms erupt at your latitude? Sign up for Space Weather Phone:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Orionids Meteor Shower

Sent to me by Joe, who got it from AOL's site

Here is a short article from AOL news on the Orionids to share....
A spectacular stream of meteors believed to be leftovers from Halley's Comet is expected to streak across the skies this week, but a full harvest moon will compete for attention and may obstruct some of the show.

The meteors, a junior version of the famous Perseid meteor shower, are called the Orionids because they appear to shoot from the second-brightest star in the Orion constellation, or from the hunter's elbow. Up to 30 meteors -- fast, bright streaks like shooting stars -- could be visible each hour in the night sky, starting tonight, reports.

"The Orionids are fast meteors and also have fireballs. The radiant of the shower will be observed north of Betelgeuse, the brightest star in the constellation Orion, the Mighty Hunter," Graciano Yumul, an officer at the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, told GMA News.

The shower's radiant point is near the celestial equator, meaning that it'll be visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres, according to iSurf News.

Sponsored Links The annual show usually happens from Oct. 17 to Oct. 25, and this year it'll peak before dawn on Thursday. But that's also when a full moon will appear over North America, in most places on Saturday, perhaps dimming the light of the meteors. So the best viewing times are believed to be earlier in the week, when the moon isn't as bright. The best places from which to view the meteor shower are in rural spots that don't have other light pollution.

The Orionids are thought be caused by Halley's Comet, which was named for astronomer Edmond Halley and passes through the inner solar system once every 76 years. The last time was in 1986.

But every time Halley's Comet zooms past the sun, bits of ice and rock are evaporated off the comet and go flying into space. The debris hangs there in space and create the annual Orionid display.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society


Space Weather News for Oct. 20, 2010

SUNDIVING COMET: A newly-discovered comet is plunging toward the sun for a close encounter it probably will not survive. The comet is too deep in the sun's glare for human eyes to pick out, but it is showing up nicely in coronagraph images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Visit for latest movies.

ORIONID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, and this is causing the annual Orionid meteor shower. Bright moonlight is reducing the number of visible meteors; nevertheless, sky watchers are reporting some bright Orionids. The best time to look is during the hours before local dawn on Thursday, Oct. 21st, and again on Friday, Oct. 22nd. Check for a sky map and more information.

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: With the arrival of northern autumn, aurora season is underway. Would you like a call when geomagnetic storms erupt at your latitude? Sign up for Space Weather Phone:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, October 1, 2010

Approaching Comet

Space Weather News for Oct. 1, 2010

APPROACHING COMET: Green comet 103P/Hartley 2 is approaching Earth for a close encounter on Oct. 20th. At that time, the comet will be only 11 million miles (0.12 AU) from our planet and should be dimly visible to the naked eye from dark sky sites. It already looks great through backyard telescopes, as shown by images featured on today's edition of NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI spacecraft is en route to this comet for close-up studies and a daring flyby on Nov. 4th.

UPSIDE-DOWN LIGHTNING OVER THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER: An amateur photographer has photographed rare lightning-like discharges called "gigantic jets" shooting up from storm clouds near NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Visit for a movie and more information about the phenomenon.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fireball seen 9/21/10 & more

Space Weather News for Sept. 22, 2010

GLOBAL ERUPTION ON THE SUN: This morning between 0230 UT and 0600 UT, the northern hemisphere of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection, and at least two dark magnetic filaments lifting off the stellar surface. The event appears to be a smaller-scale version of the global blast in early August that sparked auroras over some US states. As before, NASA spacecraft recorded the action in detail. Visit for movies and updates.

SOUTHWESTERN FIREBALL RIVALS THE HARVEST MOON: Last night, sky watchers in the southwestern United States witnessed a brilliant fireball. It was almost as bright as the full Harvest Moon and caused a loud sonic boom over parts of New Mexico. A movie of the event is highlighted on today's edition of

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Monday, September 20, 2010

Close Encounter with Jupiter

Space Weather News for Sept. 20, 2010

JUPITER AT ITS BEST: Tonight, Sept. 20-21, Earth and Jupiter converge for their closest encounter in decades. The giant planet will soar across the sky at midnight, outshining everything except the Moon itself. Although big, bright Jupiter will remain close to Earth for weeks to come, tonight is the closest of all. Check for images and more information.

SPACE STATION RADAR ECHO: Over the weekend, the International Space Station flew through the radar beam of the US Air Force Space Surveillance System in Texas. The echo was strong enough to be heard by amateur radio operators across the southern USA. A sample echo is highlighted on today's edition of .

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: With the coming of northern autumn, aurora season is underway. Would you like a call when geomagnetic storms erupt at your latitude? Sign up for Space Weather Phone:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, September 17, 2010


Good afternoon,

PAS is hosting a super Star Party at PV Park tomorrow.
RSVP is requested to be sure I bring enough handouts for everyone.
Drop me an email at by noon tomorrow,
or if it is after noon but before 4:30pm, you can call my cell to let me know
you will be attending 602-561-5398. When you call, leave just your first name
and number of attendees coming with you.

You can find out all the info you need to know about this event at:

In brief, we are:

Observing the Moon
Observing anything else that is available in the night sky.

Sunset 6:15pm
Venus visible 6:15pm - sets 7:45pm
Moon visible all day into the night
Saturn visible 6:20 - sets 6:50pm
Mars visible 6:20 - sets 7:45pm
Jupiter rises at 6:45pm
Dark 7:20pm

We will be setting up about 5:30pm, to begin at 6pm, however
for those early bird arrivals, we hope to catch a planet or two.
From 6pm to dark we will show what we can of the planets
that are available first, then move our attention to the moon
and fainter objects.

PAS was awarded a Moon rock to share and have on display.
Come check it out. You can hold a piece of the Moon in your hand.

And Wendy from ASU will be providing posters for viewing,
and handouts about the moon. Thank you Wendy.

Mike will be there with his collection of Meteorites. Hold a real
meteorite in your hand. Mike loves and has a lot of meteorites to share.

At the moment, we have 3 scopes lined up to attend, but more may make it
before the end of the night.

Come have some fun with us. Your RSVP is requested.
Bring your own Chairs, snacks and drinks.
Bathrooms are available, but are not always the cleanest.

We'd love to have you join us.
Weather should be awesome.
You don't have to arrive on time, but you should let me konw you
are attending. Bring the whole family!!!

Terri, Event Coordinator

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spectacular Eruption

Space Weather News for Sept. 9, 2010

SPECTACULAR ERUPTION: Just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept 8th, the active region unleashed a spectacular eruption of plasma and extreme ultraviolet radiation. Earth was not in the line of fire--this time. Must-see movies from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and other spacecraft are highlighted on today's edition of

SPACECRAFT FLYBY ALERT: This is a good week for satellite watchers in the USA and Canada. Both the International Space Station and the US Air Force X-37B space plane are making a series of favorable passes over North American towns and cities. The spacecraft are easy to find using our Simple Satellite Tracker--an app for iPhones and Android. Visit for downloads and more information.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sept 2010 Newsletter is Ready for download

Please help yourself to a copy of the September PAStimes Newsletter,
ready for download at this link:

Have a super Wednesday!
Terri, Event Coordinator

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fireball on Jupiter

Space Weather News for Aug. 22, 2010

FIREBALL ON JUPITER: An amateur astronomer in Japan has video-recorded a fireball on Jupiter. This marks the third time in only 13 months that amateur astronomers have detected signs of something hitting the giant planet. Will the latest impact leave behind a visible cloud of debris? Visit for images and updates.

SPACE STATION and SPACE PLANE FLYBYS: This is a good week for satellite watchers in the USA and Canada. Both the International Space Station and the US Air Force X-37B space plane are making a series of favorable passes over North American towns and cities. The spacecraft are easy to find using our Simple Satellite Tracker--an app for iPhones and Android. Visit for downloads and more information.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cool time lapsed photography sites

A friend sent me these links, Enjoy!

He writes;

I came across this site today. Very nice wide field still and time-lapse photography.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Perseids Meteor Shower

Space Weather News for August 12, 2010

PERSEID METEOR SHOWER: The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway. Earth is passing through a wide stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, and each time a fleck of comet dust hits Earth's atmosphere--flash!--there is a meteor. Forecasters say the shower will peak on Thursday, August 12th, and Friday, August 13th. You can see Perseids flitting across the sky at any time between about 10 pm on Thursday evening and sunrise on Friday morning. Observers who get away from city lights can expect to count dozens of meteors per hour, especially during the dark hours before dawn.

Tune into for full coverage of the shower, including a live meteor radar, a "fireball cam," updated meteor counts and pictures from around the world.

BONUS: If you go outside a little early on Thursday evening, around sunset, you'll see a beautiful gathering of planets in the sunset sky--Venus, Mars, Saturn and the crescent Moon. It's a nice way to start a meteor watch. Sky maps may be found at

LOOKING FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION? Your cell phone can lead you right to it. Check out our field-tested satellite tracker for the iPhone and Android at

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mankind must abandon earth or face extinction: Hawking

Article sent to me by Matt.

Mankind must abandon earth or face extinction: Hawking

Mankind's only chance of long-term survival lies in colonising space, as humans drain Earth of resources and face a terrifying array of new threats, warned British scientist Stephen Hawking on Monday.

"The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet," the renowned astrophysicist told the website Big Think, a forum which airs ideas on many subjects from experts.

"Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space," he added.

He warned that the human race was likely to face an increased number of events that threaten its very existence, as the Cuban missile crisis did in 1962.

The Cold War showdown saw the United States and Soviet Union in a confrontation over Soviet missiles deployed in Cuba, near US shores, and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

"We are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history," said Hawking.

"Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill."

If we want to survive beyond the next century, "our future is in space," added the scientist.

"That is why I'm in favour of manned, or should I say 'personed', space flight."

His comments came after he warned in a recent television series that mankind should avoid contact with aliens at all costs, as the consequences could be devastating.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, August 6, 2010

Aug 21 & Aug 22 PAS Website will be down for maintainance

Please make a note that on Aug 21 and Aug 22 the PAS Website will be
down for scheduled maintenance. Do not send an email to Chris about this.
Instead, post it on your calendar so you know that you can not access the site
during those two days. Collect all info you need from the site
prior to the 21st of August. Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

A solar sunami

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Perseids Meteor Shower

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meteor Shower

Space Weather News for July 28, 2010

SOLAR ACTIVITY PICKS UP: Earlier today, magnetic fields looping over the sun's southeastern limb became unstable and erupted. The blast produced a bright, towering prominence that attracted the attention of amateur astronomers around the world. Meanwhile, on the sun's northeastern limb, a big new sunspot is emerging and it is crackling with C-class solar flares. Visit for images and movies.

METEOR SHOWER: The University of Western Ontario meteor radar is picking up strong returns from the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower, which peaks on July 28th. Sky watchers (particularly in the southern hemisphere) should be alert for meteors between about 10 pm and dawn. "Visual rates could be as high as 20 per hour," notes Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, "although glare from the nearly full Moon will make many of the fainter meteors difficult to see."

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: Did you miss the last big solar flare or geomagnetic storm? Don't let that happen again. Turn your cell phone into a full-featured space weather alert system:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Sky brightening over Kitt Peak

Sky brightening over Kitt Peak
Research done

Received link from astronomy friend

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sunday July 25, 2010 Bokman's Telescope Workshop

This Sunday 3:30 to 5:30 is a Bookman's Telescope Workshop.
Free & Open to the PUBLIC.
Bring the whole family.

This event is weather permitting.
We will cancel event if:
1) Falling rain at 3pm
2) Winds above 15mph

PAS Calendar: RSVP here if you can attend, please:

Forum discussion has been started here, about this event.

We hope to see you there!

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Solar Activity

Space Weather News for July 10, 2010

A LIVELY SOLAR ECLIPSE: Fast-growing sunspot 1087 is crackling with C-class solar flares. A spectacular eruption recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory is featured on today's edition of This surge in activity comes on the eve of a total eclipse of the sun over the South Pacific. Will eclipse chasers see material blasting away from the sun when the Moon hides the blinding stellar surface? It's a possibility. Stay tuned to for updates and pictures from the path of totality.

SUNSET CONJUNCTION: Look west at sunset. Venus is passing by 1st magnitude star Regulus. They're only a little more than a degree apart. Bright Venus catches the eye first. As the glow of sunset fades, Regulus pops out of the twilight a little below Venus. The view through binoculars is superb.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Orion SkyQuest XT6 for Sale $200

For Sale: Like new Orion SkyQuest XT6 Dobsonian Telescope with base. Originally purchased 12/12/2000 for $470.80. Comes with Telrad Reflex Light Sight - New $48.00, Star Light Flashlite, Moon Filter, 25mm eyepiece, 9mm eyepiece, Instruction Manual & "Where the Stars Are" - Astronomy software for windows. Asking price $200. Email Carol at or phone 602-863-6399

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Ozone is both good and bad. It’s good when it’s high in the stratosphere, where it protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. But at the top of the troposphere, ozone is a greenhouse gas. Mid-troposphere, ozone mops up pollutants. At the surface, though, ozone harms plants and causes health problems for animals—and us. The new “Ozone Trap-n-Zap” game on The Space Place gives you the opportunity to set things right. Ozone molecules fly in at all levels, and your job is to trap them where they will help and zap them where they won't. It’s fun and fast-moving, and you'll never be blasé about ozone again. Go to

Best wishes,

The Space Place Team

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Monty Python Song with Nasa photos

Got this from my good friend, Leah.

Just click once on the link below or paste it.

Speakers on. Photos by NASA.
Enjoy Your Journey!

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, June 25, 2010

Many ISS sightings coming this weekend

Space Weather News for June 25, 2010

SPACE STATION IN CONSTANT SUNLIGHT: For the next few days, the International Space Station (ISS) will be orbiting Earth in constant sunlight. This sets the stage for a remarkable sky show. Because the ISS is constantly illuminated, it shines brightly in the night sky every single time it passes overhead. Some observers can see the space station 3, 4, even 5 times a night. More information and flybys predictions may be found at

ANDROID FLYBYS: Spaceweather's "Simple Flybys" app is now available for Android phones as well as the iPhone and iPad. Details at

WEEKEND LUNAR ECLIPSE: On Saturday, June 26th, the Moon will pass through Earth's shadow, producing a 54% partial lunar eclipse. The event is visible from most of the Americas, Australia, Japan, east Asia and all of the Pacific Ocean. For readers in the USA, the best time to look is just before sunrise on Saturday morning. Visit for more information.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, June 11, 2010

Journey to the Stars

Received this awesome link from my good friend, Leah.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Life on Titan?

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Comet McNaught

Space Weather News for June 8, 2010

NEW COMET McNAUGHT: A fresh comet is swinging through the inner solar system, and it is brightening rapidly as it approaches Earth for a 100 million mile close encounter in mid-June. Comet McNaught (C/2009 R1) has a vivid green head and a long wispy tail that look great through small telescopes. By the end of the month it could be visible to the naked eye perhaps as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper. Because this is the comet's first visit to the inner solar system, predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain; amateur astronomers should be alert for the unexpected. Visit for sky maps, photos and more information.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

X-37B Sighting and Aurora

Space Weather News for May 25, 2010

X-37B SIGHTINGS: Amateur satellite watchers have spotted a US Air Force space plane similar in appearance to NASA's space shuttle circling Earth in a heretofore secret orbit. Known as the "X-37B," it can be seen in the night sky shining about as brightly as the stars of the Big Dipper. Flyby predictions and more information may be found at .

Would you like to turn your iPhone into an X-37B tracker? There's an app for that: .

AURORA WATCH: A magnetic filament on the sun erupted yesterday (May 24th), and the blast hurled a coronal mass ejection in the general direction of Earth. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras around May 27th when the advancing cloud is likely to deal a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jupiter is missing a belt

Received this from William:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Final Voyage of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Received this from my friend Matt,


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space shuttle Atlantis thundered away on its final voyage to orbit Friday, hoisting an experienced crew of six and a full shipment of space station gear.

Atlantis sped through a perfectly clear afternoon sky, blazing a trail over the Atlantic before huge crowds eager to catch one of the few remaining shuttle launches. More than 40,000 guests — the biggest launch-day crowd in years — packed the Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttle's destination is the International Space Station, which was soaring over the South Pacific at the time of liftoff. The shuttle should catch up with the orbiting complex and its six residents Sunday morning.

A piece of orbiting junk, however, was threatening to come too close to the space station. If necessary, Mission Control will order up a maneuver so the station can dodge the debris the night before Atlantis' arrival. The docking will not be delayed, even if the station has to move out of the way of the unidentified piece, NASA officials said.

"Good luck, godspeed and have a little fun up there," launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts just before liftoff. He said he was speaking on behalf of all those who have worked on Atlantis since construction began in 1980.

"Like you said, there are thousands of folks out there who have taken care of this bird for a long time," replied commander Kenneth Ham. "We're going to take her on her 32nd flight, and if you don't mind, we'll take her out of the barn and make a few more laps around the planet."

The astronauts — all repeat space fliers and all men — couldn't resist a little humor before they got down to business. They showed up for their steak and cheeseburger breakfast wearing blue and black smoking jackets, white shirts and black bow ties.

This 12-day mission is the last one planned for Atlantis, the fourth in NASA's line of space shuttles. Only two flights remain after this one, by Discovery and Endeavour. NASA plans to end the 30-year program by the end of this year.

Atlantis — which rocketed into orbit for the first time in 1985 — is loaded with fresh batteries and a Russian-built compartment for the space station. The 20-foot-long module is crammed with food, laptop computers and other U.S. supplies.

Ham and his men will install the compartment on the space station, and carry out three spacewalks to replace six old batteries and hook up an antenna and other spare parts.

Alexey Krasnov, chief of the Russian Space Agency's piloted program, said it was a miracle that Atlantis took off without any delays.

"It looks like that Atlantis is telling us, `Please use me again. I am capable,' " he said, smiling. "Maybe two-thirds of the launches were postponed by the weather or hardware ... and today it worked exactly as planned."

Only a few small bits of insulating foam were seen coming off the fuel tank during liftoff, nothing significant, officials said.

Launch spectators included Defense Secretary Robert Gates and late-night TV host David Letterman, as well as dozens of Russians. About 150 Twittering guests watched from Kennedy's media complex.

Matt Balan, 29, of Alexandria, Va., lost his network connection right at liftoff as he was trying to tweet. He finally got this message out a few minutes after the fact: "That was spectacular!!!!"

Even off-duty astronauts marveled at the sight of Atlantis rising one last time, snapping pictures with their cell phones. "That was an incredible launch," said Rick Mastracchio, who flew last month on Discovery. Some Apollo astronauts also showed up.

President Barack Obama wants NASA to focus on getting astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and into orbit around Mars by 2035. He canceled the previous administration's plan to return to the moon.

Friday's launch was NASA's fourth shuttle liftoff in six months. Now the pace will slow a bit. Discovery isn't due to fly until September, followed by Endeavour in November — at the earliest.

There's a chance that Atlantis could fly again after it returns to Earth on May 26. The shuttle will be prepped in case a rescue mission is needed for the last flight, by Endeavour. Assuming there's no emergency, Atlantis could be used for another supply run if the White House approves it, and that would close the shuttle program for good. Then the shuttles would head off to museums.

Immediately after watching liftoff, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told The Associated Press that he's encouraging one more flight for Atlantis and noted: "There's a good chance the president will approve it." He flew Columbia into orbit in 1986.

NASA's space operations chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, said he'd be glad to fly Atlantis in June 2011 with a minimal crew of four, if money is forthcoming. He estimates it would cost between $600 million and $1 billion to keep the shuttle program going beyond January.

Under the Obama plan, NASA astronauts will hitch rides to the space station on Russian Soyuz rockets for the near future.

NASA expects to keep the space station running through 2020.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, May 14, 2010

3D Movies of ISS

Space Weather News for May 14, 2010

Today's edition of features a remarkable 3D movie of the International Space Station (ISS) recorded by French astrophotographer Thierry Legault. No special glasses are required to see the ISS pop out of your screen in amazing detail.

The movie will whet your appetite for a weekend of bright spaceships and planets. On Friday, May 14th at 2:20 pm EDT, space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center on its final voyage to the ISS. An on-time liftoff would set the stage for an incredible sky show. On Saturday and Sunday, May 15th and 16th, many observers will be able to see Atlantis and the ISS flying past Venus and the crescent Moon in the evening sky. Visit for sky maps and more information.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tonight's Astro Event is Canceled 4/22

The Indoor / Outdoor Astro Event for tonight at PVCC is
canceled due to weather. See you at the next awesome, fun,
interesting PAS event!!! Enjoy your evening.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Monday, April 19, 2010

9 Planets Found

Received from Matt:

Astronomers find 9 new planets and upset the theory of planetary formation


(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– The discovery of nine new planets challenges the reigning theory of the formation of planets, according to new observations by astronomers. Two of the astronomers involved in the discoveries are based at the UC Santa Barbara-affiliated Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT), based in Goleta, Calif., near UCSB.

Unlike the planets in our solar system, two of the newly discovered planets are orbiting in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host star. This, along with a recent study of other exoplanets, upsets the primary theory of how planets are formed. There is a preponderance of these planets with their orbital spin going opposite to that of their parent star. They are called exoplanets because they are located outside of our solar system.

These and other related discoveries are being presented at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, this week. This is the first public mention of the new planets and the research will be described in upcoming scientific journal articles.

"Planet evolution theorists now have to explain how so many planets came to be orbiting like this," said Tim Lister, a project scientist at LCOGT. Lister leads a major part of the observational campaigns along with Rachel Street of LCOGT, Andrew Cameron of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and Didier Queloz, of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland.

Data from LCOGT was instrumental in confirming the new planet discoveries. By adding these nine new "transiting" planets, the number of known transiting planets has grown from 71 to 80. A transit occurs when a celestial body passes in front of its host star and blocks some of the star's light. This type of eclipse causes a small drop in the apparent brightness of the star and enables the planet's mass, diameter, density, and temperature to be deduced.

After the initial detection of the new exoplanets by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP), the team of astronomers combined data from LCOGT's 2.0-meter Faulkes Telescopes in Hawaii and Australia with follow-up from other telescopes to confirm the discoveries and characterize the planets.

The planets are revolving around nearby stars in our galaxy within 1,000 light years of our sun. Their stars are located in the constellations Pegasus, Virgo, Pisces, and Andromeda in the northern hemisphere, and Eridanus, Hydra, Cetus, and Phoenix in the southern hemisphere.

The nine planets are called "Hot Jupiters." These planets are giant gas planets that orbit close to their star. In the 15 years since the first Hot Jupiters were discovered, their origin has been a puzzle. Because they are both large and close, they are easier to detect from their gravitational effect on their stars, and more likely to transit the disk of the star. Most of the first exoplanets discovered were of this type.

The cores of giant planets are thought to form from a mix of rock and ice particles found only in the cold outer reaches of planetary systems. Hot Jupiters, therefore, must form far from their star and subsequently migrate inwards over the course of a few million years. Many astronomers believed this could happen due to gravitational interactions with the disk of dust from which they formed, which might have also subsequently formed Earth-like rocky planets. However, these new results suggest that this may not be the whole story, because it does not explain how planets end up orbiting in a direction contrary that of the disk.

According to the research team, the best alternative migration theory suggests that the proximity of Hot Jupiters to their stars is not due to interactions with the dust disk at all, but to a slower evolution involving a gravitational tug-of-war with more distant planetary or stellar companions over hundreds of millions of years. Bounced onto a tilted and elongated orbit, a wandering gas giant would suffer tidal friction every time it swung close to the star, eventually becoming parked in a near circular, but randomly tilted orbit close to the star. "In this scenario, smaller planets in orbits similar to Earth's are unlikely to survive," said Rachel Street.


Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a worldwide network of robotically controlled telescopes, which will enable astronomers to observe 24 hours a day, from both hemispheres. Currently, LCOGT operates two 2.0-meter telescopes: Faulkes North in Maui, Hawaii, and Faulkes South in New South Wales, Australia. LCOGT also has a telescope in Sedgwick Reserve, a nature reserve in Central California funded and managed by UC and UCSB. Over the course of the next few years, an armada of telescopes will be commissioned, distributed over six sites in both hemispheres of the globe, all controlled from LCOGT's headquarters in Goleta, Calif. These new facilities will be one of the largest networks of telescopes in the world, and will be an unprecedented tool for exploring the dynamic nature of a range of astrophysical phenomena. LCOGT's flexible approach to scheduling means the network provides responsive and highly efficient follow-up for large-scale surveys such as WASP. LCOGT is affiliated with neighboring UC Santa Barbara.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Space Shuttle Re-Entry for Mon Apr 19

Space Weather News for April 18, 2010

SPACE SHUTTLE RE-ENTRY: On Monday morning, April 19th, space shuttle Discovery will make a rare "descending node" reentry over the continental United States. The returning spacecraft will pass over or close to many towns and cities en route to landing in Florida at 8:48 am EDT, including Fort Peck Lake, Montana; Pierre, South Dakota; Sioux City, Iowa; St. Louis, Missouri; Tupelo, Mississippi, Birmingham, Alabama, and Jacksonville, Florida. Observers along western parts of the ground track could see the shuttle blazing through pre-dawn darkness. As Discovery makes its way east, it will enter daylight and fade into the bright blue background. If you can't see the shuttle, however, you might be able to hear it. The shuttle produces a sonic double-boom that reaches the ground about a minute and a half after passing overhead. Check for maps and more information.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Monday, April 5, 2010

Amazing Liftoff

Space Weather News for April 5, 2010
AMAZING LIFTOFF: This morning, space shuttle Discovery blasted off from Cape Canaveral at the crack of dawn. Longtime shuttle watchers say it was one of the most remarkable launches of the 30-year program. Discovery resembled a comet arcing across the sky as sunrise rays played across the ship's icy exhaust, creating an artificial noctilucent cloud. Images and eyewitness accounts are featured on today's edition of
GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A sharp gust of solar wind hit Earth's magnetosphere today, April 5th, at approximately 0800 UT and sparked the strongest geomagnetic storm of the year. The event registered 7 on the 0-to-9 Kindex scale of magnetic disturbances. Although the storm is subsiding now, it is not over; high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras. Latest images may be found in the gallery:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Space Shuttle Apr 5th

Space Weather News for April 3, 2010

SPACE SHUTTLE SKY SHOW: On Monday morning, April 5th, thousands of people gathered in Florida to witness the launch of space shuttle Discovery may get more than they bargained for. Just fifteen minutes before the shuttle takes off, the International Space Station (ISS) will fly over the launch site. The station's path across the dawn sky takes it right past the gibbous Moon--a beautiful close encounter! Photographers should be prepared for the ISS at 6:06 am EDT followed by Discovery's launch at 6:21 am EDT. Sky watchers with iPhones can prepare themselves by downloading our Simple Satellite Tracker (; it will guide you to the ISS and count down to the flyby so you can't miss it.

SUNSET PLANETS: This is for everyone. Venus and Mercury are having a close encounter on April 3rd and 4th. Look west at sunset to see the two bright planets beaming through the twilight only 3 degrees apart. Sky maps, pictures and more information may be found at

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Asteroid to hide nakey eye star

Big event!!!

Received from Sky & Telescope:

For millions of people next Monday night/early Tuesday morning, April 5-6, 2010, the naked-eye star Zeta (ζ) Ophiuchi will be occulted for up to 8 seconds when a passing asteroid, 824 Anastasia, blocks it from view. The 25-mile-wide path for seeing this event goes right over the Los Angeles region at about 3:34 a.m. PDT, then up through parts of Nevada, Idaho, western Montana, and finally almost right over the cities of Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, around 4:40 a.m. MDT.

This is the brightest asteroidal occultation (eclipse) ever predicted for North America involving an asteroid this large. The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) encourages as many as possible to try to see and time the event. This will let us obtain a detailed outline of the asteroid and accurately measure its size and shape.

Not just amateur astronomers, but anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of the sky can find the 2.5- magnitude star from the chart at right. Seeing a star suddenly vanish, then abruptly reappear several seconds later, is something you never forget.

Basically, try to time the start and duration of the eclipse with whatever resources you have, even if that's just your eyes and ability to count. You don't even need binoculars — although, if steadily held (such as against a fence post), binoculars would give a better view.

The star is bright enough to record with many camcorders, especially those with "night" modes. Very accurate observations can be made with such camcorders, so if you have one you are encouraged to use it. Time accurate enough for this event can be obtained here.

Much more information, links to detailed maps of the path, and ways to time this event with simple techniques are given on this page that Brad Timerson has put on IOTA's website. Here's one example:

After collecting as many reports, our findings will be posted on IOTA's asteroidal occultation results website. (Take a look at it now for an idea of the information we've learned from other such events.)

We look forward to adding your observation to the outline of Anastasia that we hope to obtain following the April 6th occultation.

Spreading the Word

If you are in the region of possible visibility (Southern California to Alberta), I urge you to pass this information on to friends, and especially to distribute it on astronomical society list servers so that nearly everyone in organized astronomy clubs throughout the region can learn of this rare event. You might even contact local media and help them prepare short messages pointing to the website page already mentioned. For general consumption, I recommend using the more familiar term "eclipse" rather than "occultation," but you can explain that "occultation" is the astronomical term used for phenomena like this.

Note: If you are viewing the e-mailed version of this AstroAlert, the pictures may not display properly. If that's the case, or to check for possible updates leading up to the event, look at the version of this AstroAlert on Sky & Telescope's website:

Also stay tuned to S&T's observing highlights.

Click here to subscribe to Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy.

Good luck, and clear skies!

David W. Dunham
Contributing Editor, Sky & Telescope
President, IOTA
Office e-mail:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Monday, March 29, 2010

Radio Active Sunspot

Space Weather News for March 29, 2010

"RADIO-ACTIVE" SUNSPOT: Over the weekend, big sunspot 1057 emitted a series of radio bursts that caused roaring sounds to issue from the loudspeakers of shortwave receivers. Visit today's edition of to hear a sample "roar" and to find out how you can build your own solar radio burst monitor.

FIRST FULL MOON OF NORTHERN SPRING: According to folklore, tonight's full Moon has a special name--the Worm Moon. It signals the coming of northern spring, a thawing of the soil, and the first stirrings of earthworms in long-dormant gardens. Step outside tonight and behold the wakening landscape. "Worm moonlight" is prettier than it sounds.

SHUTTLE SIGHTINGS: Space shuttle Discovery is set to launch to the International Space Station on April 5th. During the 13-day mission, the two spaceships will make a series of bright flybys over North America. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for viewing opportunities: And don't forget, there's an app for that, too:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, March 26, 2010

Balloon & Duct Tape

This link sent to me by my hubby.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Monday, March 15, 2010

ISS from 1998 to 2008

Got this article from my good friend Steve,

Subject: International Space Station
This is fast-moving but impressive.
Look at what happened from 1998 until 2008. In just ten years it
has grown and grown. Watch the pieces come together as they are
sent up from Earth. This is the International Space Station (ISS)
Assembly diagram, piece by piece. I had no idea the Space Station
had grown to this size. This is really cool.....
What a piece of engineering!!
Click here:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, March 5, 2010

Scale of the Universe

This is a well written piece about the scale of the universe .....
-- Bob

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nasa's next space destination

Received from Matt.

For NASA no easy answer for next space destination

WASHINGTON – Where to next? It's a simple question that NASA can't answer so easily anymore. The veteran space shuttle fleet is months from being mothballed and the White House has nixed a previous plan to fly to the moon.

For the first time in decades, NASA has no specific space destination for its next stop, although it has lots of places it wants to go. Future space flight, NASA officials say, now depends on new rocket science and where it can take us.

That uncertainty may not sit well with Congress, which will be grilling NASA chief Charles Bolden on Wednesday and Thursday in the first hearings since the George W. Bush moon mission was shelved.

There are only a few places in space where humans can go in the next couple of decades. NASA wants to go to all of them, with the ultimate destination, as always, being Mars.

"The suite of destinations has not changed over time," NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said in an interview. "The moon, asteroids, Mars — if you're going to go anywhere — is where we are going."

But with any itinerary there is a first stop. So what is that?

Check back in a couple of years. That's when new technology should be developed enough to answer that question, Garver said. President Barack Obama plans to divert billions of dollars from the Bush moon plan toward developing better rocketry.

"The best way to get anywhere ... is really invest in technologies that will reduce the cost, reduce the time, reduce the risk and so forth," Garver said.

Some of those technologies seem like science fiction. The possibilities noted by experts inside and outside of NASA include the equivalent of an in-orbit gas station, electric-hybrid rockets, nuclear thermal rockets, inflatable parts for spaceships, and methods of beaming power between Earth and space.

Former astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz, who has developed a new type of electric propulsion engine called VASIMR that the NASA leadership mentions specifically, said this new emphasis is especially welcome because six years ago NASA killed its advanced rocket technology program.

"We clearly need the technology leap if we really want to go to Mars," Chang-Diaz said. "We are not going to Mars on chemical rockets."

Chemical rockets are what has always been used to get into space and they require carrying lots of expensive fuel. Electric propulsion would get better mileage, but versions so far don't have nearly enough thrust to get off Earth.

To some critics, however, technology isn't as important as a destination. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who will be chairing Wednesday's Senate subcommittee hearing, plans to push for some kind of commitment and specific plan of action.

"The president is the only one that can lead the space program, and he ought to set a goal," Nelson said in an e-mail. "He needs to say where we're going and let NASA design the architecture to do it."

Former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern said he's waiting to hear what NASA officials outline in the Capitol Hill hearings, but he too has concerns about not having a precise destination.

"We need a destination and a timetable and that's really lacking," Stern said. He said that relying on technology to dictate a location "sounds like a program to nowhere."

Because human spaceflight is about inspiration, science and international cooperation, Stern said, "you need a specific destination, a proper noun, something that's capitalized."

The outline for much of NASA's future was sketched out by an independent spaceflight panel the White House appointed last year. Led by retired Lockheed Martin Chairman Norman Augustine, the panel laid out options, including canceling an immediate return to the moon and instead proposing a "flexible path."

Panel member Chris Chyba, a professor of astrophysics and public affairs at Princeton University, said just because the flexible path doesn't point to a specific starting point doesn't mean it's without a goal.

"You begin by saying what your goal is, not what your destination is," Chyba said. "And the goal is the human expansion into the solar system."

The spaceflight panel charted a possible roadmap, based on the easiest trips first, such as a flight to the moon but no landing. Next might be any of a handful of points in space where the gravitational pull between the Earth and the moon, or the Earth and the sun are equal.

Such locations are places of engineering importance because future space telescopes and other science satellites are slated to go there and this would allow astronauts to repair them. But they risk ridicule as flights to nowhere, Chyba said.

Then the panel suggested landing on a near-Earth asteroid, followed by flights to and around Mars and landing on a Martian moon. The panel also noted that landing on Earth's moon is "an obvious alternative" to Mars, maybe after an asteroid mission and serving as a possible training stop for other flights. The space agency also might still opt to go to the moon before anywhere else, NASA's Garver said.

Several experts believe the most sensible place for astronauts to go first is an asteroid.

"If the goal is ultimately the human exploration of Mars," landing on an object near Earth is a logical first step because it's easier, says Donald Yeomans, chief of NASA's near Earth object program.

What asteroids offer is a lack of gravity, making it easy to leave. Landing on larger objects, such as the moon and Mars, would require the extra but expensive thrust that chemical rockets provide, demonstrating the need for a hybrid vehicle.

Visiting an asteroid would have the appeal of some place new, would provide legitimate scientific study and could even help scientists figure out how to save Earth from some future killer asteroid, Stern said.

Another of the key points in future spaceflight will be the ability to stop in space to refuel or even switch vehicles, said NASA's new chief technologist Bobby Braun.

The future for NASA is not about future space destinations, contends MIT astronautics professor Ed Crawley, a member of the White House-appointed panel.

"It's about the journey," he said. "It's a journey of technology. It's a journey of discovery. It's a journey of capability. It's a journey away from the cradle. At some point we have to learn how to leave the planet."

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, February 19, 2010


Space Weather News for Feb. 19, 2010

DOUBLE FLYBY ALERT: Space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, Feb. 19th, at 7:54 pm EST. This sets the stage for a weekend of double flybys. The ISS and Endeavour will be circling Earth in mutual proximity, streaking through the night sky as distinct points of light. The show will continue until Endeavour lands at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, Feb. 21st, at 10:16 pm EST. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker to see if you are favored with an apparition:

NEW AND IMPROVED: SpaceWeather's Satellite Tracker app for the iPhone and iPod touch has been improved. It now predicts flybys worldwide, uses GPS location services, and more. Check it out at .

GREAT NORTHERN LIGHTS: This past week, Arctic sky watchers have seen some of the best auroras in years. It's another sign that the sun is coming back to life after a long, deep solar minimum. Recent images may be found in our photo gallery; start browsing here:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Monday, February 8, 2010


Space Weather News for Feb. 8, 2010

BIG SUNSPOT: The sudden emergence of big sunspot 1045 over the weekend has caused a sharp uptick in solar activity. The active region has produced three M-class and almost a dozen C-class solar flares since it appeared on Saturday. The strongest blast, an M6-class eruption on Feb. 7th, may have hurled a coronal mass ejection toward Earth. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras in the nights ahead as a result of this activity. Also, ham radio operators are picking up strong solar radio bursts using shortwave receivers. Sample sounds and images may be found at

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Friday, February 5, 2010


Received from Matt:

Hubble sees Pluto changing color, ice sheet cover

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer – Thu Feb 4, 4:17 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Spurned Pluto is changing its looks, donning more rouge in its complexion and altering its iceball surface here and there.

Color astronomers surprised.

Newly released Hubble Space Telescope photos show the distant one-time planet — demoted to "dwarf planet" status in 2006 — is changing color and its ice sheets are shifting.

The photos, released by NASA Thursday, paint a Pluto that is significantly redder than it had been for the past several decades. To the layman, it has a yellow-orange hue, but astronomers say it has about 20 percent more red than it used to have.

The pictures show icy frozen nitrogen on Pluto's surface growing and shrinking, brightening in the north and darkening in the south. Astronomers say Pluto's surface is changing more than the surfaces of other bodies in the solar system. That's unexpected because a season lasts 120 years in some regions of Pluto.

"It's a little bit of a surprise to see these changes happening so big and so fast," said astronomer Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "This is unprecedented."

From 1954 to 2000, Pluto didn't change in color when it was photographed from Earth. But after that, it did. The red levels increased by 20 percent, maybe up to 30 percent, and stabilized from about 2000 to 2002, Buie said. It's not as red as Mars, however, Buie said.

Buie said he can explain the redness, but not why it changed so dramatically and so recently. The planet has a lot of methane, which contains carbon and hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen gets stripped off by solar winds and other factors, leaving carbon-rich areas on the surface, which tend to be red and dark.

The Hubble photos were taken in 2002 and the analysis took a few years. But why Pluto changed so quickly was such a mystery that Buie held off for years on announcing what he had found, worried that he might be wrong. However, since Pluto's moon Charon hadn't changed color in the same telescope images, he decided the Pluto findings weren't an instrument mistake.

His analysis also found that nitrogen ice was shifting in size and density in surprising ways. It's horribly cold on Pluto with, paradoxically, the bright spots being the coldest at about -382 degrees Fahrenheit. Astronomers are still arguing about the temperatures of the warm dark spots, which Buie believes may be 30 degrees warmer than the darker areas.

Part of the difficulty in figuring out what is going on with Pluto is that it takes the dwarf planet 248 years to circle the sun, so astronomers don't know what conditions are like when it's is farthest from the sun. The last time Pluto was at its farthest point was in 1870, which was decades before Pluto was discovered. Unlike Earth, Pluto's four seasons aren't equal lengths of time.

Buie's explanation makes sense, said retired NASA astronomer Stephen Maran, co-author of a book on Pluto. "Pluto is interesting and poorly understood, whether it qualifies as a planet or not," he said.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society


This came to me by email. Enjoy!


Happens every time you are in line with the sun & shadow.

We work hard to keep it from happening in our photogrammetry aerial
by watching the sun angle during the flight. In a phoenix summer
this means flying very early, to keep the sun angle below 30 degrees.

Some times called a sun dog or glory.


Robert G. Parks

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society