Astronomy on Tap and a blue moon this week

It’s a light calendar of astronomy events for Easter week, but you can celebrate Astronomy on Tap Seattle’s third birthday and enjoy our second blue moon of the year!

Happy three to AOT

AOT March 28It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since a group of graduate students in astronomy started up the Astronomy on Tap Seattle lecture series, but this week’s edition will mark the 36th consecutive month that they’ve offered interesting talks, astronomy trivia, fun prizes, and great beer. Head to Peddler Brewing Company in Ballard at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 28 for updates on the astronomy AOT has covered in the last year, and a look at the exciting new science that has come out recently—neutron star mergers, new planets, and more!

It’s free, but buy some beer. Bring your own chair to create premium, front-row seating.

Blue moon

It turns out “once in a blue moon” isn’t all that rare! Saturday’s full moon will already be the second one this year, at least by the definition that a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. We had a blue moon in January, too; see the video below of Seattle Astronomy’s Greg Scheiderer talking on KING-TV’s New Day Northwest about the super blue blood moon.

The next blue moon after this week will be on Halloween in 2020.

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Museum of Flight launches podcast

Flight Deck PodcastThe Museum of Flight has launched a new podcast, titled Flight Deck.

Two of four episodes published so far have space or astronomy themes. One is a look at the mix tape that Pete Conrad listed to while on SkyLab; the tape is part of the Apollo exhibit opened at the museum last year. The other is an interview with astronaut Scott Parazynski.

There’s also an interesting look at The History of Legroom on airliners. It gives me cramps just thinking about it!

The museum plans to publish a new episode every other Tuesday. You can find episodes at this link, on SoundCloud, or you can subscribe using your favorite podcast app. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Seattle Astronomy Podcast while you’re at it!

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Calendar: Public star parties and club meetings galore this week

There are four area astronomy club meetings and five free public star parties on the docket for the coming week.

SAS welcomes BPAA

Steve Ruhl, president of the Battle Point Astronomical Association, will be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Seattle Astronomical Society at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 in the Physics/Astronomy Building on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Ruhl will talk about the association’s Edwin Ritchie Observatory, John Rudolph Planetarium, and the club’s array of events open to the public. That’s their 27.5-inch telescope in the observatory at left.

Other club events this week include:

Star parties

The Seattle Astronomical Society will host four free public star parties this week. The first is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, March 23 at Covington Community Park. The following three are slated for 8 p.m. Saturday, March 24 at Green Lake, Paramount School Park, and the Green River Natural Resources Area in Kent. All are subject to cancellation in cases of poor weather; keep an on on the SAS website for the latest.

The Tacoma Astronomical Society plans one of its public nights for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The all-weather program will be about black holes. They’ll break out the telescopes for observing if weather permits.

Planetaria

There’s a new program this week at the WSU Planetarium in Pullman. The show, titled Strange Universe, takes a look at some of the quirky, oddball objects in the cosmos. The program runs at 7 p.m. Friday, March 23 and again at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 25. Admission is $5 at the door, cash or check; they don’t accept credit cards.

Check our calendar page to find links to other local planetaria and their schedules, and to scout out other astro-events in the coming weeks and months.

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Serious fun with astronomy, history, and literature

The University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences is presenting a monthly Serious Fun Lecture series, and the event next week includes Brett Morris, co-founder of Astronomy on Tap Seattle and a Ph.D. candidate in the dual-title Astronomy and Astrobiology Program. Morris will be one of three speakers to tackle the topic “Secrets and Mysteries.”

Brett Morris

Brett Morris

“We hope to evoke your curiosity, with mysteries and secrets across disciplines,” Morris said. “I’m honored to be speaking alongside two distinguished faculty who work in history and literature, and wade into mysteries just as much as astronomers do. I’ll tell the story of one of the most important astronomers you’ve never heard of, and the mystery she uncovered in our Universe—and how we might solve it.”

The other speakers will be Andrew Nestingen, Chair and associate professor in the Scandinavian Studies Department, and Laurie Sears, Walker Endowed Professor in History.

The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, February 21, in the Brechemin Auditorium, which is on the east end of the School of Music’s main floor in the Music Building on the UW campus in Seattle. The lecture is free but registration is required.

A March lecture in the series will be about dragons, and in April they’ll take on time.

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Astro Biz: Starburst

StarburstMany businesses, products, and places have names rooted in space and astronomy. We’re featuring one every week on Seattle Astronomy.

This week’s Astro Biz is Starburst candy. Starburst, according to the company website, was invented in 1960 in the UK under the name “Opal Fruits.” The candy found its way to the US in 1967—no doubt part of the British Invasion—and was re-named Starburst. The candy’s trademarked tagline is Unexplainably Juicy™, which makes it an especially good Astro Biz, because there’s still much in the science that can’t be explained. Plus, Starburst is a brand of Wrigley which is a subsidiary of Mars, and so you’ve got many levels of Astro-ness in there.

Since Starburst has been around for a long time, you may wonder why it took so long for it to appear as an Astro Biz. Truth be told, while I sometimes go on field trips to shoot photos of Astro Bizes, most of them are just things I stumble across, and I just happened to notice Starburst the other day at our local market.

More info:

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Calendar: UW colloquium and AOT Seattle this week

A couple of interesting talks and no less than five club meetings fill the astronomy event calendar for this week.

UW Astronomy Colloquium

Juno at Jupiter

Juno at Jupiter. Image: NASA

Come learn about what the Juno mission is accomplishing at Jupiter. Sam Gulkis of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of the co-investigators for Juno, will speak at the University of Washington astronomy colloquium at 4 p.m. Thursday, February 15 in the Physics/Astronomy Auditorium on the UW campus in Seattle. Often the colloquia are a little heavy for the non-scientist audience, but this one sounds approachable. Gulkis will discuss how Juno peeks under Jupiter’s clouds using microwaves and other techniques, and he’ll fill us in on some of the mission’s early findings.

Astronomy on Tap Seattle

AOT Feb 2018Astronomy on Tap Seattle has an unusual Friday gathering this month, with two talks, astronomy trivia, and great prizes on the docket for 7 p.m. February 16 at Peddler Brewing Company in Ballard. The topic for the evening will be Cosmic Explorers. Dr. Jen Sobeck, a senior research scientist in the UW Department of Astronomy, will talk about the Harvard Computers—the women who mapped the sky! Dr. Elizabeth Tasker, author of The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2017) will talk about “Earth 2.0” and the search for a habitable world. (By the way, if you buy the book from that link, Seattle Astronomy gets a small royalty at no cost to you! It helps us do what we do. Thanks!)

AOT is free, but remember to buy beer. Bring a lawn chair to create your own front-row seating!

Cosmic love

The Washington State University Planetarium in Pullman has a special show planned for Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, February 14. “Some Like It Hot” will show at 7 p.m. and again at 8:30. It’s not the movie with Marilyn Monroe, and Tony Curtis; this planetarium show is all about temperature—from the frigid to the muy caliente, the universe has it all.

Admission is $5 cash or check at the door. No credit cards are accepted at the planetarium.

Check our calendar page for a list of links to other planetaria in the area.

Astronomy club meetings

The Island County Astronomical also plans a public star party for 7 p.m. Friday, February 16 at Fort Nugent Park in Oak Harbor.

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Astronomy’s neglected stepchild

Robert Reeves has been an astronomer for nearly 60 years. The Moon was his first love; he shot his first photograph of it in 1959, and laments that it isn’t such a popular target for amateur astronomers any more.

Robert Reeves

Astrophotographer and author Robert Reeves was the guest speaker at the annual banquet of the Seattle Astronomical Society on Jan. 28, 2018. Photo: Greg Scheiderer

“The Moon is not just that big ball of light pollution in the sky,” said Reeves during his keynote talk at the Seattle Astronomical Society’s annual banquet last month. “The Moon used to be a target for American technology. The Moon was a place to be explored; it was a destination.”

Reeves was interested in the Moon even before there was a space program. We were all agog during the race to land on the Moon, but when the race was won many moved on to other things.

“Back then American heroes rode a pillar of fire and dared to set foot on another world,” Reeves said. “The scientific mindset, the desire to explore the solar system was there. That was a time when America was only limited by its imagination; we could do anything we wanted to do”

Alas, Reeves notes, politics is different now.

“America has lots its will, it’s lost the guts to go into deep space,” he said. “We’ve been rooted in low-Earth orbit for four decades.”

“Space exploration is not the same, but the Moon that we wanted to go to still beckons us,” he added.

Bringing the Moon back

Reeves’s talk was titled Earth’s Moon: Astronomy’s Neglected Stepchild. He aims to turn that around.

“I’m here to bring the Moon back,” he said. “The Moon is still a viable target; we can see it from our own back yard.”

Reeves is a prolific writer about astronomy. His first published article appeared in Astronomy magazine in 1984. Since then he’s written some 250 magazine articles and 175 newspaper columns about the topic. In fact, just days after his talk here the March 2018 issue of Astronomy arrived, including an article and photos by Reeves about hunting for exoplanets. His mug also appears, along with one of his lunar photographs, on a back-cover advertisement for Celestron.

Reeves has written five books in all, including three how-to manuals about astrophotography: Wide-Field Astrophotography: Exposing the Universe Starting With a Common Camera (1999), Introduction to Webcam Astrophotography: Imaging the Universe With the Amazing, Affordable Webcam (2006), and Introduction To Digital Astrophotography: Imaging The Universe With A Digital Camera (2012). All are from Willmann-Bell.

Reeves feels the webcam book helped launch a whole industry and trained a generation of astrophotographers. He points out that back in the 1960s you could count the number of good astrophotographers with the fingers of one hand. Now there are thousands of people turning out great images, and they all get to use superior gear.

“Amateur instruments off the shelf today just blow away what the pros used to do on the Moon, and it’s relatively easy to do this,” Reeves said. I asked Reeves if he laments the passing of film photography. He said he did, a little, noting with a laugh that he has four decades worth of photography that is obsolete! But he said the fact that he can turn out more better-quality images in less time with digital makes up for that.

Check out Reeves’s website for a image-processing tutorial, to buy prints and posters, and find lots of other lunar photography information.

Asteroid 26591 is named Robertreeves and asteroid 26592 is named Maryrenfro after his wife; Renfro is her maiden name. It is believed they are the only husband and wife with sequentially numbered asteroids named after them! Robert noted that his takes about four years to orbit the Sun, while Mary’s goes around in about 4.4 years.

“Every ten years I catch up to her,” he said, “so for eternity I’m going to be chasing Mary around the solar system.”

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Books by Robert Reeves:

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