Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50 Year Celebration Saturday Night 7/20

The 50th anniversary of the first human footsteps on the Moon will be celebrated on Saturday, July 20 from 8 PM to 10 PM at the Lanesville Community Center (8 Vulcan Street). 

There will be sharing of memories, along with a presentation by former Navy Seal Earl Kishida who helped retrieve the Apollo astronauts at sea. Astronomer Bill Waller will then discuss what we have learned from lunar exploration, and what lies ahead. 

The evening will end with a toast to the Apollo astronauts and to the thousands of people who supported their pioneering missions. The event is free with donations accepted in support of the Rockport Community Observatory Project being led by the Educational Foundation for Rockport.  For more information, please contact Bill Waller at williamhwaller@gmail.com.

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July 12 Meeting of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club: How do Stars and Planets Form?

This month we’re fortunate to have Catherine Zucker of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as our guest speaker. Catherine will show us how we have begun to derive accurate distance measurements to large, star-forming molecular clouds in the Milky Way galaxy, and what that means for astronomy.

Why go to all this trouble? Obtaining accurate distance measurements to molecular clouds is important for understanding the star and planet formation process. The advent of large photometric surveys and the Gaia mission offer an unprecedented opportunity to derive the distances and properties of hundreds of millions of stars, as well as the molecular clouds between them. 

Without resorting to scary math, Catherine will explain how we have combined these data with statistical methods to create a new 3D map of molecular clouds in the solar neighborhood (the nearest 10,000 lightyears). As it turns out, these phenomena are surprisingly interrelated — using interactive visualization software, we can find new connections between long-studied molecular clouds that reveal a link between individual star-forming regions and the larger Galactic environment.

The Gloucester Area Astronomy Club meets on the second Friday of every month (except August) at 8:00 pm at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan Street in Lanesville. There is no cost, and all are welcome. For more info on the club, see the website or Facebook page, and you can follow us on Twitter, @GAACster.

June 14 Meeting of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club, with Steve O’Meara

“Spoke” markings in Saturn’s rings are visible in the lower left.

Our speaker for the June 14 GAAC meeting will be none other than Steve O’Meara, the very accomplished astronomer and writer who, very unexpectedly, observed apparent “spokes” in Saturn’s ring system in 1976. Steve reported observing these phenomena with the 9 inch refractor at Harvard (an interesting account of the reception of O’Meara’s observations is available here, in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage). His observations were discounted by colleagues and professionals, who pointed out that no such thing could persist due to differential rotation of the rings.

Then in 1980 the Voyager 1 spacecraft visited Saturn, reported spokes in the rings, and got credit for the discovery. Some speculate that this may be because of an inherent distrust of visual observation as opposed to photographic astronomy. In his talk, Steve will speak about his observations of Saturn and the events that followed. This is sure to be a fascinating and colorful account, and, incidentally, a welcome affirmation of the value of careful visual observational astronomy — a good story all around.

Come and hear this riveting tale of discovery and professional and scientific intrigue. GAAC meets at 8:00 pm on the second Friday of every month except August, at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan Street in Lanesville. More information can be had at the club’s website, Facebook page, or on Twitter, @GAACster. There is plenty of off-street parking, and all are welcome. There is no cost.

May 10 Meeting of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club: the Leviathan of Parsonstown

At our May 10 meeting, Amateur astronomer and perennial GAAC favorite Dwight Lanpher will speak about his visit last September to Birr Castle, County Offaly, Ireland to examine “the Great Telescope.” Any review of the history of astronomy will likely discover this large telescope called the “Leviathan of Parsonsonstown.” Built in Ireland in 1845 by the 3rd Earl of Rosse, it was the largest telescope in the world for 70 years. Each of two 72″ speculum-metal mirrors were alternately mounted in a 54′ long tube, suspended between two purpose built castle walls.

Dwight’s dynamic presentation will show details of how the telescope was operated and the modifications that were made during a $1,200,000 renovation in 1995. Images will also include the last remaining of the two, 3-ton, speculum mirrors examined during the return trip at its current location at the Museum of Science in London.

When not visiting ancient telescopes, Mr. Lanpher travels throughout New England and eastern Canada attending astronomy meetings as liaison for clubs in Maine, New Hampshire and a few, including GAAC, in Massachusetts, and observing at their star parties when the opportunity avails. Professionally, Mr. Lanpher works as an Electrical Engineer.

This will be a fun, informative meeting, full of large telescopes, a large chocolate cake, and large but thoroughly graspable ideas. We hope to see you there!

The Gloucester Area Astronomy Club meets on the second Friday of every month except August. There are no dues or fees, and there’s plenty of free parking.

For more information on the club, see the website, Facebook page, or Twitter, @GAACster.

Nov 9 Meeting of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club: Stars and Exoplanets

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This month GAAC is pleased to have as its speaker Sarah Blunt from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Sarah’s presentation is titled “Know thy Star, Know thy Exoplanet.”

Sarah’s talk is based on the simple fact that nearly every known exoplanet (a planet around another star) has been discovered indirectly; that is, in order to detect and characterize the planet, we make measurements of its host star.

Because of these relationships, many exoplanet measurements have been limited by our knowledge of their stars at the time the planets were detected. In this talk, Sarah will discuss exoplanet discoveries that have now been made possible by more precise stellar data, and will introduce ongoing stellar research that has the potential to improve our understanding of exoplanets.

There are more planets out there than stars —  hundreds of billions just in the Milky Way alone.

See you there, 8 Vulcan Street in Lanesville, 8:00 pm on the 9th — lots of good things to eat, lots of fun stuff to know, and great conversations to be had! All are welcome, there is plenty of off-street parking, and there is no cost. No special knowledge or equipment is needed to have a great time.

For more info on GAAC, see the club website, Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter, @GAACster.

Gloucester Area Astronomy Club Halloween Meeting Friday Oct 12

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At our Friday night October 12 GAAC meeting we are pleased to have with us Phil Orbanes, the North Shore’s preeminent astrophotographer, with “Tales from the Cosmic Dark Side,” a Halloween-themed presentation illustrated with Phil’s excellent photos, touching on all sorts of dark objects — Dark Nebulae (and Bok Globules), Molecular Clouds,  Integrated Flux Nebula, Dark (“Rogue”) Planets, “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy.” Calling on examples from the Pipe nebula through the possible eventual heat-death of the universe, Phil will elucidate the universe of dark phenomena all around us.

We’ll see you there, 8:00 pm at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan St in Lanesville. There is no cost, and all are welcome. There will be goodies of every stripe, friends old and new, and just a generally good time to be had by all.

For more information on the club you can check out the website, the Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter, @GAACster.

Program Note: Friday 7/13 Meeting of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club

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Friday night at 8:00pm, July 13, the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club is pleased to host Astronomy Magazine columnist and President of the Amateur Astronomy Makers of Boston, Glenn Chaple, with a presentation titled “Double Stars For Backyard Telescopes — Double Stars are TWICE the Fun!”

In the 19th century and early decades of the 20th, when refractors were the telescopes of choice, double stars were the favorite fare of amateur astronomers. With the discovery in the 1920s that the so-called “spiral nebulae” were actually distant galaxies and the emergence in popularity of the reflecting telescope, double stars took a back seat to deep-sky objects.

Light pollution has made it harder and harder to observe deep-sky objects, but double stars remain relatively unaffected by streetlights or the Moon. As a result, double stars are regaining popularity among backyard astronomers.

In a colorful and informative presentation, Glenn will explain the nature of double and multiple stars, discuss the history of double star astronomy, and offer hints on observing double stars with unaided eye, binoculars, or telescope. He’ll conclude with a look at a Top Ten double star list, the Double Star Marathon, and resources for the double star enthusiast; you’ll come away well-prepared for some double-star observing.

We’ll hope to see you on Friday July 13, from 8:00 to 9:30, for an evening of great snacks, great conversation, and a terrific presentation by a GAAC favorite.

GAAC meets on the second Friday of every month except August, at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan Street in Lanesville. There are no dues or fees, and the public is warmly invited. No special knowledge or equipment is needed to have a great time. For more info on the club and its activities, see the website, Facebook page, or follow the club on Twitter, @GAACster.