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February 2012

February 2012 Meeting Notes

BAS met twice this month. Our official meeting was Saturday, February 11 at 3:00 p.m. in the Arvest meeting room, where KJRH meteorologist, George Flickinger, presented a very interesting two part program on Astronomy and Weather.  During the astronomy portion of the program he explained how to use several weather websites to predict good nighttime viewing conditions for amateur astronomers.  The weather portion of the program included lots of interesting and useful information about tornadoes in general, and the Joplin tornado in particular.

Since we had already scheduled the Bartlesville Library meeting room for the first Monday of the month, we held a non-meeting with no program or agenda.  It was a good opportunity for casual, impromptu discussion.

Business Meeting

Treasurer's Report

Beginning Balance 1/1/2012:              $1286.96

Income from 6 Membership Renewals:   $120.00

Ending Balance 1/31/2012:                $1406.96

Total Memberships = 35

Club Scope(s) Project

During the non-meeting we discussed ideas for purchasing a new club scope for private and public star parties, as well as educational events.  Jim Vogh has done some research on this, and suggested that a very large Dobsonian might be difficult to store and transport, as well as pose some viewing difficulties for small children.  He also pointed out that there might be significant advantage to a scope with "push to" digital Go To capabilities, or even motorized Go To.  Either of these would assist in finding objects relatively quickly, which can be an advantage at busy public events.  Furthermore, the automated tracking provided by a motorized Go To Dobsonian would offer considerable benefit, by keeping the target object in the field of view.  This would be particularly helpful at public and educational events, where, at times, there may be a constant stream of viewers lined up at the scope.

John stated that his original idea was for a large scope to serve as a centerpiece during public and educational stargazing.  Part of the advantage would be attracting attention by the sheer size of the telescope, but he admitted that cost, storage and transportation issues might outweigh this.  He also asked whether we need to purchase a smaller club scope, if it is basically a duplicate of existing members' scopes.

There were also questions and suggestions about the possibility of assembling a good club scope from some of the components of existing donated scopes.

No final conclusions have been made at this time.

Club Spring Star Party

During the club scope project discussion,  Mike Woods suggested that perhaps we should schedule a star party at his place, and encourage everyone to arrive early enough to evaluate the club equipment stored in his shed.  This will give us a chance to determine if we have any workable or easily upgradable scopes that could serve as our main club scope.  If not, we'll discuss what to do with the accumulated equipment and how to proceed on a club scope.  Everyone agreed that this is a good idea, and the star party date was set for March 17.  More information will be provided in an email, as the date approaches.

Possible Ranch Heights School Star Party

Joyce Gray-Ritchie and Steve Plank have been in contact with Mr. Mueller, of Ranch Heights, about scheduling a possible stargazing event at the school.  When the schedule has been established, details will be emailed to members.

December Program

Daryl has offered a DVD titled "The Star of Bethlehem, Unlocking the Mystery of the World's Most Famous Star" as a possible program for our December meeting.  He  outlined the overall content of the DVD, and it's emphasis on detective work using planetarium software, to arrive at an astronomical explanation for The Star.  The DVD will be reviewed before a decision is made.  Anyone with an opinion on this topic should contact John Grismore.

Observing Reports

The Sun has been fairly active recently, and Daryl reported on his observations of recent sunspots.  He has also accumulated a series of solar images and assembled them into an animated movie, showing motion of the sunspots from day to day, demonstrating the Sun's rotation.  He'll use this animation during his presentation on "Life Cycles of Stars" at our March meeting.  The discussion of solar activity also led to the topic of recent, spectacular Northern Lights displays at high latitudes.  Some members described their own past aurora observations from locations as far south as Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Others, unfortunately, reported that they have never observed auroras, even when living further north.

Recent Astronomy and Space News

Virgil Reese presented a brief summary of recent astronomical news.  He showed an infrared image of the Carina Nebula stellar nursery, a new barred galaxy image from Hubble, and an amazing  Hubble image of a gravitationally lensed galaxy, stretched into several arcs (one at least 45 degrees around).  He also discussed a potentially habitable planet in a triple star system, the close approach of large asteroid Eros, and the much closer flyby of a bus-sized asteroid that came well within the Moon's orbit on January 17.  The news also included evidence that Vesta, one of the largest asteroids, (currently being orbited by the Dawn spacecraft) may have frozen water, and speculation that Mars may have been too dry for surface life for at least 600 million years.  And finally, on the one hand was a stunning image of a Martian landslide in progress (with dust cloud floating in the thin atmosphere), and on the other hand, the disappointing news that NASA budget cuts may cancel several joint NASA/ESA Mars missions.

Sergey Pisetskiy presented a brief summary of recent space news.  Much has been happening ins space recently, and Sergey covered a wide range of topics.  Among the many important events were the end of the Space Shuttle era and the decision to extend the ISS mission until 2020.  Russia recently launched their first rocket from the Guiana Space Center and completed worldwide coverage by the GLONASS navigation system.  China has made rapid progress in space with the launch of their Tyangun-1 laboratory and Shenzhou-8 unmanned vehicle, as well as automated docking success.  The unfortunate loss of the Russian Mars mission, Phobos-Grunt, was a big disappointment.

Recent progress includes achieving lunar orbit by the twin GRAIL spacecraft, which will map the Moon's gravity field, recovery from a computer malfunction on Mars Rover Curiosity, currently on its way to Mars, and successful course correction for the Juno Mission, which will reach Jupiter in July 2016.  And finally, having served for nearly nine years, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, which mapped large portions of the sky at ultraviolet wavelengths, is being prepared for decommissioning.

Astronomy and Weather by George Flickinger

Our February meeting program, presented in the large meeting room at the east side Arvest Bank by KJRH meteorologist, George Flickinger, was very well attended, with 75 or 80 people in the audience.  In the first part of the program, George described some of the most useful and accurate websites for forecasting stargazing viewing conditions.  He explained how to use the websites, what information was available and how to interpret the data supplied to evaluate short term to medium term sky conditions.  Links to George's favorite sites for predicting stargazing conditions will be added to the astro links page of our BAS website <> .

In the second part of the program, George presented detailed information about last year's Joplin tornado, the timeline of it's formation, the track that it followed and the damage that it did.  Of particular importance was the fact that this tornado formed right on the western city limits of Joplin and intensified into and EF5 tornado in a matter of minutes.  This reduced reaction time for Joplin residence.  Furthermore, the storm followed a track that took it across some residential areas of mostly smaller, older homes.  This meant, not only were the homes less able to withstand the force of the winds, but they were also more densely concentrated, leading to greater damage and higher fatality rates.

For comparison, George displayed hypothetical tracks if this same storm had crossed Tulsa or Bartlesville.  This really brought home the immense swath of damage that an EF5 tornado can produce.  He also shared plenty of tips on tornado preparedness and safety.  To top it off, he gave away rain gauges to members of the audience with good questions.

BAS is very fortunate that Madison Barnett arranged for this excellent program.  This is by far the largest turnout we've had at a monthly meeting.

Next Meeting

Monday, March 5, in the Bartlesville Public Library Meeting Room.  Daryl Doughty will discuss Stellar Life Cycles.   For more information, see the meeting announcement on our website home page at <> .

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