January 3, 2012 Meeting
Due to the holiday schedule, this month's meeting will be on Tuesday.
Bartlesville Public Library Meeting Room
Oklahoma City Astronomy and
The Night Sky Network
by Christian Bruggeman
Christian Bruggeman is editor of the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club newsletter, Gazer's Gazette. He will discuss OKCAC's amateur astronomy activities, accomplishments and future plans, as well as the important benefits of The Night Sky Network.
Current News from Sky and Telescope
Gypsum layer found on Mars. Evidence of a history of flowing water found by NASA's rover Opportunity. It's always nice to have such an important discovery by a rover that was never to have lived this long.
Sun “sandblasts” the Moon. The Solar wind creates "sputtering" on the moon that ejects dust into the thin atmosphere. Solar flares can cause an increase in sputtering as much as 50 times.
NASA’s Dawn mission to the asteroid Vesta. It appears that Vesta is more than an asteroid. It seems it has a crust, mantle and an iron core. Vesta is a protoplanet.
The Kepler mission has found a world where liquid water could exist in abundance. It's called Kepler-22b, circling around an 11th-magnitude star 600 light-years away in Cygnus near the junction with Lyra and Draco. It's 2.4 times the diameter of earth with a 290 day long orbit. The mass and density have yet to be discovered, so the composition of Kepler-22b will have to wait for now.
NASA’s Space Place
P a g e 9 G a z e r ’ s G a z e t t e V o lu m e 4 4 I s s u e 1 2
Re-thinking an Alien World:
The Strange Case of 55 Cancri e
Forty light years from Earth, a rocky world named "55 Cancri e" circles perilously close to a stellar inferno. Completing one orbit in only 18 hours, the alien planet is 26 times closer to its parent star than Mercury is to the Sun. If Earth were in the same position, the soil beneath our feet would heat up to about 3200 F. Researchers have long thought that 55 Cancri e must be a wasteland of parched rock. Now they're thinking again. New observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that 55 Cancri e may be wetter and weirder than anyone imagined. Spitzer recently measured the extraordinarily small amount of light 55 Cancri e blocks when it crosses in front of its star. These transits occur every 18 hours, giving researchers repeated opportunities to gather the data they need to estimate the width, volume and density of the planet.
According to the new observations, 55 Cancri e has a mass 7.8 times and a radius just over twice that of Earth. Those properties place 55 Cancri e in the "super-Earth" class of exoplanets, a few dozen of which have been found. Only a handful of known super-Earths, however, cross the face of their stars as viewed from our vantage point in the cosmos, so 55 Cancri e is better understood than most. When 55 Cancri e was discovered in 2004, initial estimates of its size and mass were consistent with a dense planet of solid rock. Spitzer data suggest otherwise: About a fifth of the planet's mass must be made of light elements and compounds—including water. Given the intense heat and high pressure these materials likely experience, researchers think the compounds likely exist in a "supercritical" fluid state. A supercritical fluid is a high-pressure, high-temperature state of matter best described as a liquid-like gas, and a marvelous solvent. Water becomes supercritical in some steam turbines—and it tends to dissolve the tips of the turbine blades. Supercritical carbon dioxide is used to remove caffeine from coffee beans, and sometimes to dry -clean clothes. Liquid-fueled rocket propellant is also supercritical when it emerges from the tail of a spaceship. On 55 Cancri e, this stuff may be literally oozing—or is it steaming? —out of the rocks. With supercritical solvents rising from the planet's surface, a star of terrifying proportions filling much of the daytime sky, and whole years rushing past in a matter of hours, 55 Cancri e teaches a valuable lesson: Just because a planet is similar in size to Earth does not mean the planet is like Earth.
It's something to re-think about. Get a kid thinking about extrasolar planets by pointing him or her to "Lucy's Planet Hunt,"; a story in rhyme about a girl who wanted nothing more than to look for Earth-like planets when she grew up. Go to http:// spaceplace.nasa.gov/story-lucy.
The original research reported in this story has been accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The lead author is Brice-Olivier Demory, a post-doctoral associate in Professor Sara Seager's group at MIT. Artist’s rendering compares the size Earth with the rocky “super-Earth” 55 Cancri e. Its year is only about 18 hours long!
Thanks to the OKC Astronomy club for this article. Gazer's Gazette Volume 44 Issue 12
Lasers and Astronomy
By: Jerry Mullennix
I am sure most of you remember when we used to just point to any area of the sky with a finger to teach astronomy. Along came the green laser and from our perspective much changed in pointing our scopes and teaching astronomy. Although, I really wonder sometimes, how much astronomy we really teach when we turn them on and point them? It seems to me if the group is too young they lose all interest in astronomy and the questions turn to the laser itself. Sometimes it happens with much older groups. I am writing this note because in the past week there were two incidents in the area of our observatory of lasers being pointed at aircraft. I seriously doubt any of our group had anything to do with these events, but It still does not hurt to point out the seriousness of such action anyway. IT IS A FEDERAL CRIME TO POINT A LASER AT OR IN THE VICINITY OF ANY AIRCRAFT. I can assure you the FBI does not take this lightly either, as they have contacted us in regards to finding the individual responsible. One of my favorite things to do, when I have time, is read newspapers from other parts of the world to gain perspective. One article I read in a Russian newspaper had an article about a pilot on approach at night when he was hit with a green laser. It was the best description I’ve read of what happens in an aircraft when a laser shines in. He said “because the cockpit is lights out except for instrumentation, when the laser shined in all of us in the cockpit saw nothing but the green glare that lit the cabin and it was extremely diﬃcult to read my panel as I landed the plane. Some instruments went blank because they are green lit as well and could not be seen” As astronomers we are acutely aware of how sensitive the pupil is to light and how long it takes the human eye to recover from light glare and build more purple visual, let alone if the pilot had been hit in the eye with a laser. It might never recover. You couple this with the fact he has hundreds of lives depending on him to land that plane safely and it makes perfect sense the FBI would be hunting violators down as vigorously as if they had robbed a bank. Use lasers responsibly people’s lives and freedom depend on it.
(Thanks to Jerry Mullennix and the Astronomy Club of Tulsa. http://www.astrotulsa.com/Archive/201112.pdf)
The December “What’s Up…” publication is now available on the League website. www.astroleague.org
ALCORS: Please make sure your members get a chance to read this by emailing this to individual members, posting it on your club’s website or possibly providing this to your newsletter editor for use with your newsletter. This is one of several methods the League uses to communicate with our members, so we appreciate your help in distributing this information timely.
This issue includes
· Christmas greetings
· A report on the League’s collaboration with Keck Observatory
· Awards deadline dates and presentations articles for several 2011 awards
· Alcon 2012 general information-registration to be available on website approximately December 26
· Award application forms for National Young Astronomer Award, Horkheimer Service Award and the Horkheimer/O’meara Journalism Award
President, Astronomical League
February 6, Monday. Bartlesville Public Library Meeting Room (tentative)
Newsletter Contributions Needed
Our club newsletter is reaching more people each month, and member contributions in the form of short articles, interesting news items, alerts of upcoming astronomical events or activities, descriptions of personal observations or useful equipment, and observing tips, are encouraged. Recurring columns or multipart articles are also welcome. Please submit your contributions to Mike Woods or to email@example.com .
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