Great GAAC Meeting Friday May 11, “Space Junk” with Dr. Jonathan McDowell

high earth orbitThe Gloucester Area Astronomy Club is fortunate indeed to have Dr. Jonathan McDowell with us this month, at 8:00 pm Friday May 11 at the Lanesville Community Center, speaking on “Space Junk: A Traffic Crisis in Outer Space.” All GAAC activities are free and open to the public.

Dr. McDowell is an Astrophysicist with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a mathematician and a programmer. Dr. McDowell maintains one of the world’s best databases of orbital material launched into space – aka space junk.

It’s been over 60 years since the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and space is getting busier and busier.

There are over 1,500 working satellites up there, but there are also over 18,000 known pieces of orbital debris whizzing around at up to 18,000 miles an hour. At that speed, a collision with even a small piece of junk can ruin your whole day.

Dr. McDowell will talk about the demographics of the satellite population: who is putting satellites up there, what are they doing, what the space junk is, why there’s so much of it — and most important, what can we do about it?

Join us on May 11th for this colorful, engaging and important talk. Come early for great goodies, fun conversation with friends old and new, and really cool and accessible science.

You can subscribe to Dr. McDowell’s monthly space report here:

http://www.planet4589.org/space/jsr/jsr.html

To learn more about the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club, see the website at http://gaac.us, our facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/gaacpage, or follow us on twitter, @GAACster. Come see us! No special knowledge or equipment is needed to have a great time. There is no cost.

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Terrific GAAC Meeting Friday Night 4/13: Gravitational Waves

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Sam Palmer (Electronics Engineer, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Lecturer on Astronomy, Harvard University) will be GAAC’s April speaker, with a presentation on the LIGO gravitational wave observatory.

What are gravitational waves? Check out  https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/, which describes them as “…ripples in space-time (the fabled “fabric” of the Universe) caused by massive objects moving with violent accelerations (in outer space that means objects like neutron stars or black holes orbiting around each other at ever increasing rates, or stars that blow themselves up).” That’s a picture of a LIGO observatory, above.

We’re really looking forward to this one.

More on our speaker:

Sam Palmer is an Electrical Engineer and Radio Astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  A member of the CfA’s Radio & Geoastronomy Group, Sam built the 1.2 m “Mini” radio telescope which has been hugely instrumental in increasing our understanding of the structure and chemistry of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The radio telescope has been mainly dedicated to obtaining what is by far the most extensive, uniform, and widely-used survey of dense, star-forming molecular clouds in our Galaxy. A total of 24 PhD dissertations have so far been written based on observations or instrumental work with these telescopes, and many more undergraduate students have participated in the observations either in course laboratories or as observing assistants.

Join us Friday night, April 13 at 8:00 pm at the Lanesville Community Center for an evening of fun, accessible science, great conversation and lots of goodies.

The Gloucester Area Astronomy Club meets on the second Friday of the month at 8:00 at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan Street in Lanesville. You can find out more about the club on our Website, Facebook page, or twitter, @GAACster.

 

March 9 Meeting of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club: What’s Up Next at NASA

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This month’s GAAC meeting will feature club member Steve Kolaczkowski with a preview of NASA programs scheduled for the next couple of years.

Will we land on Europa or Enceladus? Sail the Methane seas of Titan? Go back to the moon? Add to all the hardware on Mars, revisit Jupiter or Saturn, send another spacecraft racing out to the stars with New Horizons and the Voyagers? Come to our Friday, March 9 meeting, 8:00 pm at the Lanesville Community Center and see what might be next!

We’ll have all the goodies you associate with a GAAC meeting, all the great conversation and of course a colorful, entertaining, informative presentation with Steve. You’ll always leave GAAC knowing something you didn’t know coming in — come early and get a good seat for this one.

We hope to see you next Friday!

The Gloucester Area Astronomy Club meets from 8:00pm to 9:30 on the second Friday of the month at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan Street in Lanesville. There is no cost, and all are welcome. Plenty of off-street parking. For more info on the club see the website, Facebook Page, or follow us on Twitter, @GAACster.

Astrophotography Program at Feb 9 Gloucester Area Astronomy Club Meeting

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Image Copyright © 2018 Phil Orbanes, GAAC

As I write, it’s yet another cold, grey day, but GAAC has the perfect antidote to February — on Friday night, February 9 at 8:00pm, we will bring you our annual evening of astrophotography.

Five of our best astrophotographers will each show off a handful of favorite pictures they’ve taken of galaxies, nebulae and other astronomical objects, and will tell you what each one is, how big and far away it is, and any interesting issues they had getting the shot.

This event is always a colorful, fun and exciting evening, one that will leave you with a new appreciation of what these folks do, as well as a lot of new knowledge about the strange, distant and compelling objects they photograph.

Come early to see friends old and new, grab a good seat and some great goodies, and share some terrific conversation and some wonderful views. See you on the 9th!

The Gloucester Area Astronomy Club meets from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm on the first Friday of the month at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan St in Lanesville. See the website for more info, or the Facebook Page, or follow us @GAACster.

All are welcome, and there is no cost. Plenty of free off-street parking.

Come to the GAAC Holiday Party Dec 8!

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GAAC is extremely fortunate to have Sky & Telescope Magazine Senior Editor Kelly Beatty as our speaker for the December 8 Holiday party, with a riveting presentation on “The Sputnik Years.” Kelly will show us how it all happened, who was involved, and what some of the many important historic results of that event have been.

October 4, 1957 marked the beginning of the Space Age, with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union. The satellite sped by over the heads of the world, and the space race was on. Everything that came later, from John Glenn to Neil Armstrong, from the Mercury rockets to the moon landings, to the Voyagers and the Rovers, to New Horizons’ visit to Pluto, follows from this one little satellite.

Kelly Beatty has been honored twice by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society. In 2005 he received the Harold Masursky Award for meritorious service, and in 2009 he was honored with the inaugural Jonathan Eberhart Journalism Award. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Astronomical League Award (in 2006) for his contributions to the science of astronomy and the American Geophysical Union’s Cowen Award for Sustained Achievement in Science Journalism (2009).

Kelly holds a Bachelors degree in geology from the California Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University. During the 1980s he was among the first Western journalists to gain firsthand access to the Soviet space program. Asteroid 2925 Beatty was named on the occasion of his marriage in 1983, and in 1986 he was chosen one of the 100 semifinalists for NASA’s Journalist in Space program.

GAAC meets on the second Friday of every month at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan street in Lanesville. All are welcome, and there is no cost. No special knowledge is necessary to have a great time. For more info on the club see the website at http://gaac.us, the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/GAACpage, or follow us on twitter, @gaacster.

Final GAAC Sawyer Library Talk of 2017

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On Saturday afternoon October 28 at the Sawyer Free Library, from 2:00 to 4:00 we will have the final astronomy program of 2017 at the Sawyer Free Library, presented by the Gloucester Lyceum and the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club.

Astrophotographer and astronomy club stalwart Phil Orbanes will discuss, in an entertaining and colorful presentation, a dozen famous stars and their lifestyles, from Aldebaran to Sol, from the intemperate “live fast and die young” crowd to the more introspective and generally cool-headed class M red dwarves.

Phil will explain the ways in which astronomy’s HR diagram of stellar life cycles can be explained by the sidewalk outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and which star would show up where, from Barnard’s Star to the Dog Star. This will be a fun and informative program you won’t want to miss.

Next, Dr. Mario Motta will present a photographic record of his trip to see the great total solar eclipse of 2017. Mario spared no effort to find an observing spot out west where the weather would allow the best viewing and recording of the eclipse, and he will share the story of his trip and the terrific photos of the actual eclipse with the audience.

We’ll see a marvelous array of photos of the eclipse from start to finish, including some amazing shots of totality taken by Dr. Motta and by others as well.

October 20 Meeting of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club

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GAAC is a week later than usual this month! The Oct 20 meeting, 8:00 pm at the Lanesville Community Center, will be well-worth the wait, with Dr. Bill Waller and a presentation titled “Surfing the Galactic Froth.”

This is pretty cool. As it turns out, space is not so empty after all, but instead is shot through with frothy stuff.

According to Dr. Waller, this phenomenon arises mostly from microscopic grains of dust, irradiated and warmed by stars within our Galaxy’s disk, and concentrated in nebular regions of recent star formation and subsequent stellar death.

There’s a lot we can learn from these complex emissions, which provide a record of processes that have structured and powered supposedly empty interstellar space for the past 100 million years. Some of these features can be described in terms of “filaments,” “loops,” and “shell fragments,” while others appear more random – appearances that are consistent with turbulence and other processes.

In his usual colorful and irreproducible style, Dr. Waller will consider some of the hot stars, intense stellar winds, and supernova explosions that power the galactic froth, and will present recent images of this nebular emission from three nearby galaxies.

The Gloucester Area Astronomy Club meets on the second Friday of the month (except for this October!) at 8:00 pm at the Lanesville Community Center, 8 Vulcan St in Lanesville.  More information of the club can be found on the website at http://gaac.us, the facebook page, at http://www.facebook.com/gaacpage, and on twitter, @GAACster.

There is no cost, and there is plenty of free off-street parking. The public is warmly invited; there is no special knowledge required to have a great time.