Tag Archives: Battle Point Astronomical Association

Kick off the new year with Open Mic Science and a meteor shower

A meteor shower and an astronomy talk at Open Mic Science highlight the first full week of the new year on the Seattle Astronomy calendar.

Dark matter

biopenmicOpen Mic Science on Bainbridge Island has been hosting events monthly, except during the summer, for about three years now, but this month’s talk will be the first in the series about astronomy. Steve Ruhl, who is president of the Battle Point Astronomical Association, will give a talk titled “Cosmology, Dark Matter, and Dark Energy” at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at the Treehouse Café on Bainbridge.

Open Mic Science, A Bainbridge Science Café, is free. The series is based on the principles of Cafe Scientifique and is committed to the public understanding of science.

Quadrantid meteor shower

By EarthSky Communications, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

The radiant point for the Quadrantid meteor shower. By EarthSky Communications, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons.

The Quadrantid meteor shower is the first of the year. The good news for meteor watchers in early 2016 is that the Moon will be a waning crescent, so it shouldn’t interfere much with the view. The bad news is that the peak for this particular shower is shorter than most. Look for Quadrantids any time after midnight and into the wee hours of Jan. 4 before dawn. This article from EarthSky has lots of information about viewing the Quadrantids.

Venus will have an exceptionally close encounter with Saturn on Friday, Jan. 8, and will also pass close to the Moon on Wednesday. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy run down other observing highlights for the week.

Club events

taslogoThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5 in room 175 of Thompson Hall at the University of Puget Sound. The program will be the second of three parts on nucleosynthesis of elements.

BPAAThe Battle Point Astronomical Association plans its monthly planetarium show for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9 at the Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. The program, “The Solar-Powered Battle Point Sundial,” will explore the history, art, and science of sundials and celebrate the new sundial the group built in the park last year. Telescopes will be available for observing, weather permitting, and sundial shows for kids will precede the main presentation at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Free for club members, $2 suggested donation for non-members.

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Occultation, meteor shower highlight week’s events

An occultation of Venus, a meteor shower, and a couple of talks about the nature of light are the highlights of this week’s Seattle Astronomy calendar.

Let there be light

The co-authors of the new book Coloring the Universe: An Insider’s Look at Making Spectacular Images of Space (University of Alaska Press, 2015) have three appearances set in the Seattle area over the next couple of weeks. In the book the authors describe how large, professional telescopes work, what scientists learn with them, and how the scopes are used to make color images. Coloring the Universe is filled with brilliant images of deep space as well as an insider’s perspective by the people who make them.

Megan Watzke, press officer for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, will give a talk titled “The Unseen Power of Light” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 8 at Town Hall Seattle. Watzke will explore the many, often surprising ways light interacts with us and shapes the universe we live in. She’ll also share images from another of her books, Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2015).

Travis Rector, professor of astrophysics at the University of Alaska Anchorage, will make a presentation about Coloring the Universe at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 10 at Ada’s Technical Books on Capitol Hill. Rector’s talk will focus on what professional astronomers do, and what they don’t do, when making spectacular images of the heavens.

Both Rector and Watzke will appear next Wednesday, December 16 at the monthly meeting of the Seattle Astronomical Society.

Moon occults Venus

If we get a little break in the clouds this morning we’ll have a chance to watch the Moon occult Venus! Get out a little before 8 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7 and you’ll have a chance to watch the Moon move in front of Venus. You may need binoculars; Venus can be awfully tough to spot in the daylight. Universe Today has a good article about how to view this event.

The week’s other viewing highlight is the Geminid meteor shower, which will peak Sunday and Monday, December 13 and 14. This article from EarthSky.org has everything you want to know about this meteor shower.

This week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope includes other observing highlights for the week.

What’s next for humans in space?

Would you love to see humans walk on Mars? The Enterprise Forum Northwest will host a discussion about the challenges of going to Mars at the Impact Hub Seattle at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 9. A panel will discuss the technological hurdles, biomedical risks, competing priorities, cost, and other factors involved. The discussion will be moderated by Alan Boyle, aerospace and science editor for GeekWire, and panelists will include former astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Aerojet Rocketdyne executive Roger Myers, Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources, and University of Hawaii professor Kim Binstead.

Tickets for the event are $39 and are available online.

The Seattle Futurist Society will host a discussion of our future in space beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at We Work at the Holyoke Building. Speakers include Kati Rissanen, an independent professional who comes from the academic world of futures studies, and Robert P. Hoyt, CEO & Chief Scientist at Tethers Unlimited Inc.

Tickets are $10 and are available onlne.

Astronomy club events

taslogoTacoma Astronomical Society will hold one of its public nights at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 12 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. They will offer a presentation about the Christmas Star. On Bainbridge Island the Battle Point Astronomical Association will offer a planetarium show, Silly Star Wars Xmas Special, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Astronomer Dave Fong will take participants on a journey to places far, far away that could have inspired scenes in Star Wars. It’s free for BPAA members, $2 donation suggested for nonmembers. Both events will have telescopes available for observing if weather permits.

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Seattle Astronomy calendar, week of June 8

A visit from a space policy expert and a bunch of astronauts on the town highlight this week’s space and astronomy events in the Seattle area.

Dr. John M. Logsdon, the former director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University and a leading expert on and historian of space policy, will visit The Museum of Flight this week. Logsdon will talk about his book, After Apollo?: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program, in a lecture at the museum at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 13. The book is one in a series of Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology, which includes Logsdon’s 2010 tome John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon.

This will not be the first visit to Seattle for Logsdon this year; he spoke on a similar topic at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in town back in January. Read our coverage of that talk and pick up the book in advance. Logsdon will sign books after his talk.

Astronauts on the town

Astronaut

Astronaut cavorts at Kubota Garden on Earth Day in this Museum of Fight photo.

Museum of Flight fans are probably familiar with Astronaut, a character who has been a staple in the museum’s advertising and social media since he came on board in 2012. You’ll be seeing a lot of Astronaut around town this summer. As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration this year, the museum has created the public art project Astronauts on the Town. Artists have decorated 25 six-foot-tall fiberglass versions of Astronaut, and they will be on display at various public locations around town, with deployment beginning Friday.

No doubt many selfies will be taken with Astronaut during the course of the summer. All 25 statues will return to the museum in September for an anniversary event.

Planetarium show on Bainbridge Island

BPAAThe Battle Point Astronomical Association offers a planetarium show this Saturday, June 13 beginning at 8:30 p.m. The topic will be “Exploring our Solar System.” Dr. Erica Saint Clair will discuss six decades of exploration of the solar system with landers, rovers, and probes. It’s an especially timely topic as New Horizons speeds toward its July encounter with Pluto.

If the weather is good they’ll also open up the Edwin Ritchie Observatory and have other telescopes available for viewing the heavens. The event is free for association members, $2 donation suggested for nonmembers, $5 for families.

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Battle Point sundial project nearing completion

Seattle Astronomy was excited to get a note over the weekend announcing that the Battle Point Sundial Project is nearing completion. The Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) reports that its spectacular, 12-foot-tall equatorial bowstring sundial should be installed near its Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island within the next few weeks, depending on the delivery schedule of the sundial’s fabricator.

Sundial foundation

The foundation is prepared for the Battle Point Astronomical Association equatorial bowstring sundial. From L-R: Dylan Sievertson (PHC Construction, built the foundation); Nels Johansen (BPAA Vice Pres); David Browning (Sundial Engineer); Bill Baran-Mickle (Sundial Artist/Designer). Once the foundation was aligned and leveled, more concrete was poured around it to lock it in place. The Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory is in the background. Photo: Malcolm Saunders.

The BPAA has had this project on the drawing board for a long time. After slowly collecting funds over the years at their planetarium shows and other events, they reached a critical mass two years ago. Committed volunteers started to drive the project, and in late summer of 2013 they launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $17,000 to bring their kitty up to the $30,000 they needed to build the sundial and install it in the park. The campaign drew some 75 donors, including Seattle Astronomy, and though it fell somewhat short of its goal, the attention the campaign attracted drew other outside funding, including a $1,000 grant from the North American Sundial Society, and BPAA amassed enough cash to move ahead with the project.

Their original goal was to have the sundial installed and dedicated by last spring, but they ran into some delays as sometimes happens with construction projects. They’re on track now with the foundation in place and ready for sundial delivery, and the sundial itself is fabricated and painted and ready to roll.

The sundial will be more than just a celestial timepiece. It will be a work of art and a conversation starter, and it will be a focal point for the BPAA’s facilities, which include the Ritchie Observatory, home of the 27.5-inch Ritchie Telescope and the John H. Rudolph Planetarium.

Other reading:

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Seattle Astronomy calendar, week of April 6

A salute to the Mercury Seven, plus a planetarium show and Yuri’s Night highlight the Seattle Astronomy calendar for this week.

Mercury Seven

The Mercury Seven. Front row L-R: Schirra, Slayton, Glenn, and Carpenter. Back row: Shepard, Grissom, Cooper. Photo: NASA.

It was 56 years ago April 9, in 1959, that NASA announced which men had been selected as the Mercury Seven, the first group of U.S. Astronauts. The seven were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. The death of Carpenter in 2013 left Glenn as the only living member of the original astronaut corps.

Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff is a fascinating telling of the story of the astronauts, and the 1983 movie version of the book, directed by Philip Kaufman, is fantastic as well. I still chuckle at the cast names: Ed Harris played John Glenn, Scott Glenn portrayed Alan Shepard, and Sam Shepard was cast as Chuck Yeager. There’s also a local note on the film; Seattle actress Pamela Reed portrayed Trudy Cooper, Gordo’s wife. Reed recently had a recurring role in the TV series Parks and Recreation, and was on the Seattle stage as Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Seattle Rep last year.

Yuri’s Night

LogoYurisNight_WHITEring_TRANSPARENTbackground250x250Sunday, April 12, marks the 54th anniversary of human spaceflight. On that date in 1961 Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person launched into space. Worldwide on and around this date there are many observances of Yuri’s Night to commemorate the feat.

Only two area events are registered on the Yuri’s Night website. The Seattle Chapter of the National Space Society will meet at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 12 at the Museum of Flight, and a Yuri’s Night observance will be held next Saturday, April 18 at 5 p.m. at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver, Washington.

Club events

At lot of eyes were on the sky on April 11, 1986 when Halley’s Comet made its closest approach to Earth during its most recent visit to the inner solar system. Area clubs will be looking skyward this Saturday to mark the date.

The Everett Astronomical Society holds its monthly meeting at 3 p.m. April 11 at the main downtown branch of the Everett Public Library. Program details had not been announced as of this writing.

That evening beginning at 7:30 the Battle Point Astronomical Association hosts a planetarium program and evening of observing at its Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. The program topic is telescopes: the great ones of history, new ones on the drawing boards, and which one is right for you. Club members will be on hand with scopes for observing if weather permits.

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BPAA shoots for summer solstice for sundial dedication

We received a nice package in the mail this week: a wonderful, clear-sky-blue Battle Point Astronomical Association Sundial t-shirt, the perk for our support of last year’s Indiegogo campaign that helped finalize funding for the project. (Here’s our story with details about the planned sundial.)

Sundial t-shirtBPAA reports that work on the sundial is progressing in earnest. They’ve completed the engineering on the foundation and are working with the artist on the details of the construction of the 12-foot-tall equatorial bowstring sundial near the association’s Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. Once those are finalized they’ll arrive at the price for construction and get under way. They’re hoping to be able to dedicate the sundial on the summer solstice. In the meantime watch for the handsome t-shirts around town. They include the coordinates of the sundial so you’ll be able to find it easily once it is built!

You probably won’t get a t-shirt, but you can still donate to the sundial project by visiting the BPAA website. Make sure to designate your contribution for the sundial. Funds received in excess of the cost of the sundial will be applied to a planned plaza around it.

Sundials at EAS

Speaking of sundials, “Mr. Sundial” himself, UW astronomy Prof. Woody Sullivan, will be the guest speaker at Wednesday’s meeting of the Eastside Astronomical Society. Sullivan will give a talk titled, “Sundials Around Seattle and Beyond: Fascinating Mixtures of Astronomy, Art, Design and History.” Sullivan is a sundial buff who helped design the sundial on the southwest wall of the UW astronomy building as well as the small sundials used on the Mars Exploration Rovers that landed in 2004. He also has designed many sundials around Seattle, and created the Seattle Sundial Trail, mapping 21 sundials around the city. Sullivan lent his expertise to the video that supported the BPAA’s Indiegogo effort.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Newport Way Library, 14250 SE Newport Way in Bellevue.

Watch the Seattle Astronomy Calendar to find out about space and astronomy events in the area, and visit the Seattle Astronomy Store to purchase our favorite astro books and gear.

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All systems go for Bainbridge sundial project

A sundial project that the Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) has had on the drawing board for years will become reality by summer if all goes as planned. A fundraising effort anchored by an Indiegogo campaign has been a success.

“We’re only about $150 short of where we need to be, so on the strength of that we’re moving ahead,” said Frank Petrie, a BPAA member who is heading up the sundial effort. “It’s a done deal.”

Sundial model

BPAA members, with artist Bill Baran-Mickle at the center, pose with a model of the proposed sundial. BPAA photo.

Interestingly, the Indiegogo campaign fell well short of its goal, raising just $6,610 of the $17,000 needed to meet the project budget of about $30,000. Petrie said, however, that the campaign helped raise the overall visibility of the sundial project.

“A lot of donations came in outside of Indiegogo,” he said. “Even though we fell well short of our Indiegogo goal, all of this other money coming in outside of Indiegogo was able to bring us to the point where we successfully funded the project.”

The North American Sundial Society chipped in with a grant of $1,000 and several other significant private donations also were made.

“It was really gratifying to see how people stepped up and really got enthusiastic about the project and supported it,” Petrie said.

He gave a big nod to University of Washington astronomy professor Woody Sullivan, known in some circles as “Mr. Sundial.” Sullivan appeared in the video supporting the sundial campaign and also connected BPAA with the Sundial Society.

Bainbridge Island sculptor and metalsmith Bill Baran-Mickle is finalizing the design for the equatorial bowstring sundial, which will stand 12 feet tall. Petrie said the next steps are some engineering for the foundation for the sundial, which will be erected in Battle Point Park near BPAA’s Edwin Ritchie Observatory, then building the foundation, fabricating the sundial, and installing it.

“We hope to complete all that process by late spring, so hopefully we can have a dedication in late spring or early summer,” Petrie said.

Petrie added that additional contributions would be welcome. There’s a long-term plan to build a plaza at the sundial site, but that if enough donations are made in the coming months they could speed up the time line on that. Contributions can be made by check or online at the BPAA website. Earmark any contributions for the sundial project.

Petrie admitted that the original goal was pretty ambitious.

“It was a little daunting, but I’ve been really gratified. The Bainbridge Island community is good that way. They get excited about stuff like this,” Petrie said, adding that it wasn’t just islanders. “The response has been pretty overwhelming from all over. That’s been really nice.”

We look forward to attending the dedication of the sundial next summer if all goes as planned.

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