Tag Archives: Battle Point Astronomical Association

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.

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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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Bainbridge sundial project in home stretch

The shadow is moving on the Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) as it seeks to raise the funds needed to build a large equatorial bowstring sundial near its Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. With a week left in the association’s Indiegogo campaign, they’ve raised $4,535 toward the goal of $17,000 needed to fully fund the project.

Sundial model

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

BPAA is actually a bit closer to the target than that. Frank Petrie, a BPAA member and part of the sundial committee, says they’ve raised more than $3,000 outside of Indiegogo since they launched the campaign about a month ago. Positive coverage of the effort has no doubt helped; in addition to our Seattle Astronomy article, the sundial project has received notice from the Bainbridge Island Review and Kitsap Sun. A contribution of $1,000 came in from the North American Sundial Society, which features a story about the BPAA effort on its website.

The budget for the sundial is $30,000. With previously received donations and contributions that have come in during the Indiegogo campaign, Petrie says they’re now within $10,000 of making the sundial a reality.

Even if they don’t reach the Indiegogo goal, they’ll receive funds pledged (less Indiegogo’s cut), and Petrie says they’ll bank that and take on other fundraising efforts until they have enough.

Why not resolve that worry and help them out today? Visit the campaign site, watch their video, read about the project and excellent perks for donors, and contribute to this worthy project. The sundial will be a significant piece of public art that will be a conversation starter, and it may well help spark some interest in astronomy.

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Bainbridge astronomers seek funding for sundial

The Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) has been working for many years on a plan to build a sundial next to its Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island.

“It has been in the master plan for the organization almost since the get-go,” says Frank Petrie, a BPAA member since 1996 who is part of the sundial committee. The sundial would be built on a berm north of the association’s observatory and would be visible throughout much of the busy park.

Sundial model

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

The project took a major leap toward reality with the launching of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign earlier this month. Petrie says the aim of the campaign is to raise the $17,000 they need to fully fund the sundial.

The budget for the spectacular, 12-foot-tall, bronze-clad steel equatorial bowstring sundial, designed by Bainbridge metalsmith Bill Baran-Mickle, is $30,000. BPAA has collected about $13,000 toward the project over the years from the donation jar at their monthly planetarium shows and community events, a pledge from its board, and recent grants from the Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District and the Bainbridge Community Foundation. The latter, Petrie says, indicated to BPAA that there was widespread community interest in the sundial.

“There’s interest in this project coming from the arts community as well,” he says, because of the renown of Baran-Mickle and the desire for more public art at Battle Point.

Woody Sullivan, a University of Washington astronomy professor also known as “Mr. Sundial,” makes a pitch for the project in the BPAA’s video on Indiegogo.

“Sundials connect you with the cosmos,” Sullivan says in the video. “They connect you with a more natural kind of time than a digital, flashing watch. They tend to slow you down, also, which is something I think we need in our 21st Century iPhone existence.”

Petrie says the sundial is a first step in BPAA’s ambitious vision for its astronomy programs at Battle Point Park.

“Our hope is to build an astronomy-related complex around our observatory in Battle Point Park,” he explains. “We have a number of features that we’d like to incorporate, and the sundial is one of those features.”

Another is an adjacent building for BPAA’s planetarium. Monthly planetarium shows are presently wedged into the Helix House, which also houses the observatory. But the space is small and cramped, and typically far more interested people show up than can be accomodated, forcing many to wait for a second show, or miss out.

“It’s been very, very popular, and that tells us that our long-term plan to expand is a good one,” Petrie says.

The popularity is well-deserved; BPAA puts on a good show. Seattle Astronomy recommends them highly.

Petrie calls the BPAA and its facilities “a little jewel” and says he loves the organization’s commitment to its mission.

“It’s dedicated to public outreach and getting folks interested in science,” he says. “We like to share the excitement that we have about science in general and astronomy in particular, and hope that we can reach as many folks as possible and get them excited as well.”

You can help share the excitement by contributing to BPAA’s Indiegogo campaign for the sundial.

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Weather angst and the Venus transit

Venus will transit across the face of the Sun Tuesday afternoon. This rare celestial event won’t happen again until the year 2117, and Northwest astronomy hobbyists, for good reason a highly pessimistic bunch when it comes to matters of cloud cover, have been warily watching the long-range forecasts since June 5 started to show up on the weather radar.

It is not looking pretty.

2004 Venus transit

The 2004 Venus transit was captured from Germany in this image by Jan Herold. Creative Commons, GNU free documentation license.

As of this writing, Saturday, June 2 at 4 p.m., the Seattle forecast for Tuesday afternoon was for clouds and a 30 percent chance of rain. The prediction for much of the Northwest looks similar. Our best bet as of the moment looks like Goldendale, with a forecast of merely partly cloudy and just a 10 percent chance of rain. (Really, we don’t care so much if it rains as long as it’s not cloudy!) Yesterday Moses Lake and Wenatchee looked promising, but those forecasts have flipped. We’d also been eyeballing the “rain shadow” of Sequim, but even that Olympic Peninsula town now has a wet forecast for Tuesday. The closest “sunny” forecast I am able to find is for Red Bluff, California. Do you roll the dice on an 11- or 12-hour drive, or hope for the best somewhere a little closer?

Many of us will likely be watching the weather forecasts up until Monday evening or Tuesday morning, making some last-minute decisions about where our chances look best for transit viewing, and then high-tailing it to those spots.

Of course, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that we’ll out-think ourselves on this decision. The lore of celestial event chasing is full of accounts of people who have made extreme travel efforts to get to places certain to be clear, only to find those locations socked in while the sky above their own backyards was crystal clear.

Why are we making such a big deal of this? Due to the peculiar geometry of the orbits of Earth and Venus around the Sun, we can only see a Venus transit occasionally. They come in pairs separated by eight years, and either 105.5 or 121.5 years go by before the next pair comes along. Tuesday’s transit is the second of a close pair. Unfortunately, the 2004 event wasn’t visible from the West Coast, and only the end of the transit was visible from the Eastern U.S. as the Sun rose that day. Europe, Asia, and Africa had the best views last time. So this is your last chance unless you make it to December of 2117.

There will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy the 2012 transit from Seattle if the weather cooperates. Events actually begin the evening before, Monday, June 4, at the University of Washington. Astronomy Professors Woody Sullivan and Victoria Meadows will give lectures about the significance and history of Venus transits. The talks begin at 7 p.m. in room 120 of Kane Hall on the UW’s Seattle campus. It’s free, but registration is required.

The UW will have several locations for viewing the transit when it begins at about 3 p.m. June 5. Viewing will also take place at the Pacific Science Center, Solstice Park in West Seattle hosted by Alice’s Astro Info, Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island hosted by the Battle Point Astronomical Association, and others listed here by the Seattle Science Festival. Many of these sites will at least have online feeds, so participants can watch the transit as viewed from less weather-challenged areas. Other astronomy clubs are likely to be holding formal or informal transit viewings. Check their websites; links to them are at the right.

Seattle Astronomy will likely be at the Solstice Park event, unless we’re beating it to Goldendale.

Remember, don’t look at the Sun without proper protection. You’ll zap your eyeballs. Standard sunglasses are not good enough. This NASA website has some good pointers about transit viewing, eye protection, and pinhole projectors, as does transitofvenus.org.

Let’s hope we don’t miss our chance to see an astronomical rarity!

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