Tag Archives: Eastside Astronomical Society

Solstice sunset watch and LIGO info on our calendar this week

The calendar year is winding down, and astronomy clubs are hustling to get a last few events in before we plunge into 2017.

Rose City AstronomersThe Rose City Astronomers eschew their usual formal meeting for their annual holiday potluck at 6:30 p.m. Monday, December 19 at the OMSI auditorium in Portland. Leftovers from the event have traditionally been donated to a homeless shelter, and this year the astronomers are also collecting warm clothing for donations, figuring that astronomy folk may have a supply of such to bring comfort to those late-night sessions at the eyepiece.

The Eastside Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 20 at the Lake Hills Library in Bellevue. NASA Solar System Ambassador John McLaren will give a talk about the history of scientific exploration of the Sun, and look ahead to future efforts to learn even more about our nearest star.

Seattle Astronomical SocietyThe Seattle Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 21 in room A102 of the Physics/Astronomy building on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Joey Key, a professor at the University of Washington-Bothell, will talk about the next LIGO run searching for gravitational waves, which will also involve astronomical collaboration is search of an elusive “multimessenger source,” a signal that could be detected both in gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation. Interesting stuff!

Vikings

VMMEPPThe Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project plans an informal information session for 4 p.m. Tuesday, December 20 at the Hillsdale Library in Portland. This family-friendly event will feature artifacts from the Viking mission, activities for kids, and lots of information about Viking history. Check out our recent article and podcast about the project. The year end is a good time to lend a little financial support to this great history project, too!

Solstice sunset watch

Join Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info and watch the first sunset of winter at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, December 20 at Solstice Park in West Seattle. The solstice is at 2:44 a.m. PST on Wednesday. Sunset that evening is officially listed as 4:20 p.m., but Enevoldsen says they’ve noted that it’s typically about ten minutes early because of the horizon at that spot. She gives a fun and informative presentation about the mechanics of the seasons, and is persistent about it—this will be her thirty-first seasonal sunset watch. That’s a lot of solstices and equinoxes! Come by even if it’s cloudy, because the Sun sometimes sneaks through anyway, but driving rain makes it a no-go.

Futures file

You can scout out future astronomy events on our calendar. The page also features a full schedule of planetarium and stage science shows at Pacific Science Center.

Up in the sky

The Ursid meteor shower peaks this week. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy offer more observing highlights for the week.

Talk about Proxima b highlights week’s calendar

Thanksgiving week is a little light on astronomy events, but there are several club meetings and an interesting talk on the calendar.

Habitability at Proxima b

Victoria Meadows

Victoria Meadows. Photo: UW.

There has been a great deal of talk about exoplanet Proxima b since its discovery in orbit around our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, was announced this summer. The planet’s orbit is within the habitable zone of the star, but there’s still a great deal of question about how habitable planets can actually be when they orbit are close to M dwarf stars such as Proxima Centauri. Victoria Meadows, a professor of astronomy at the University of Washington and principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory, will talk about how they’re modeling the Proxima system and prospects for observing this interesting exoplanet at 3 p.m. this Tuesday, November 22 during an astrobiology colloquium in Physics/Astronomy Auditorium 118 on the UW campus in Seattle.

If you can’t be there in person you can view the presentation via live stream.

Club events

Rose City AstronomersThe Rose City Astronomers will hold their monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, November 21 at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. The guest speaker will be Troy Carpenter, administrator of the Goldendale Observatory State Park in Washington, who will talk about the limitations of human vision, how those limitations hinder our ability to observe the universe, and the technological solutions of the past century that allow us to transcend these challenges. Carpenter will also talk about the Goldendale Observatory upgrade project.

The Island County Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, November 21 at the Oak Harbor Library. No information about guest speakers or programming had been published as of this writing.

Ron Hobbs

Ron Hobbs. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

The Eastside Astronomical Society will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 22 at the Lake Hills Library in Bellevue. Guest speaker Ron Hobbs, a NASA Solar System Ambassador, will talk about how amateur astronomers and other citizen scientists are contributing to space exploration by helping to process the deluge of imagery that comes down daily from space probes.

Futures file

You can scout out future astronomy events on our calendar. New additions to the calendar this week include:

Up in the sky

Jupiter will appear very close to the Moon on Thanksgiving day. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy offer more observing highlights for the week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Beer and art with your astronomy

This week’s busy Seattle Astronomy calendar includes a new opportunity to mix astronomy and beer, the opening of a spacey art exhibit, and several club events.

Astronomy and beer

PubSciWe’ve been enjoying Astronomy on Tap Seattle for about a year now—in fact, it will celebrate its first birthday March 23—and now there’s another opportunity to enjoy your favorite beverage with your favorite hobby. Pacific Science Center will host one of its PubSci events at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 2 at Hilliard’s Beer Taproom in Ballard. Matt Tilley, a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington Department of Earth and Space Sciences and Astrobiology Program, will give a talk titled, “The Magnetospheres Of Solar System Planets And Beyond.” Tilley will explain how planetary magnetic fields can be used to explore things light years away and how this matters for the search for life on exoplanets.

Hilliard’s will donate one dollar to the Pacific Science Center for every beer sold at the event, so drink up for a good cause.

Coincidentally enough, Astronomy on Tap is also held in Ballard, at Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company. This may well make Ballard the astronomy and beer capital of the world. Or at least of Seattle.

Art on the Moon

NASA photo.

NASA photo.

An out-of-this-world art exhibit will open with a gala party at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at King Street Station in Seattle. Vital 5 Productions cooked up the idea for the Giant Steps exhibition and contest to challenge students, artists, engineers, architects, designers, and other space enthusiasts to imagine and propose art projects on the surface of the Moon. The one deemed best by a panel of judges will be worth $10,000 to its creator.

Tickets to the opening are $25 and are available online. The organizers suggest your shiniest costumes, though space helmets are optional. If you can’t make the big shindig, you can see the exhibit for $10 from noon until 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays during March.

Planetariums this week

Pacific Planetarium in Bremerton will present its First Friday Sky Walk show this Friday, March 4, running every half hour between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The show takes a look at what objects will be visible in the night sky during the month. Tickets are $3 and are available online or at the door. For those coming from the east side of the sound, the planetarium is less than a mile from the Bremerton ferry terminal.

The Willard Smith Planetarium at Pacific Science Center has a full slate of shows for a variety of ages on Saturdays and Sundays. Check their calendar, or ours, for the schedule. Planetarium shows are $3 in addition to regular Science Center admission.

Astro club events

It’s a busy week for area astronomy clubs.

The Eastside Astronomical Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29 at the Willard Geer Planetarium at Bellevue College. Patricia Terhune-Inverso, longtime EAS member and astronomy instructor at the college, will demonstrate how she uses the planetarium to teach her daily classes. The Eastside Astronomical Society started out as Friends of the Planetarium back in the early 1970s. Check out the interesting history article on the club’s website.

SpokaneThe monthly meeting of the Spokane Astronomical Society will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 4 in the planetarium in Science Building #28 at Spokane Falls Community College. Program details had not been published as of this writing.

The monthly meeting of the Tacoma Astronomical Society will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 1 in room 175 of Thompson Hall at the University of Puget Sound. We didn’t have information about the program as of this writing.

taslogoTacoma also will hold one of its free public nights at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. There will be a presentation about binocular astronomy and, weather permitting, astronomers and telescopes will be ready to observe the night sky.

Up in the sky

Jupiter is nearing opposition and so now is a good time to observe the largest of the planets and its Galilean moons. The Moon passes close to Saturn on Wednesday. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have other observing highlights for the week.

Seattle Astronomy calendar, week of March 23

This week we celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of Saturn’s moon Titan and the birthday of a couple of titans of space science, we observe Dwarf Planet Pride Day, and take a look at some stars and movies.

Christiaan Huygens discovered Titan on March 25, 1655. The Dutch astronomer and mathematician had been doing an extensive study of Saturn’s rings. As a nod to his work the ESA named its Titan lander after him. The Huygens probe rode along with the Cassini mission and landed on Titan in January 2005. Ten years later its work is long finished, while Cassini still works the rings. Not to feel too sorry for Huygens, though, as he also has an asteroid, a crater on Mars, and a mountain on the Moon named after him.

von Braun

Wernher von Braun. Photo: NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center.

Look up rocket science in the dictionary and you just might see a photo of Wernher von Braun there. It might even be this one! Von Braun was born March 23, 1912 and is generally considered one of the fathers of rocket science.

Pierre-Simon Laplace shares a birthdate with von Braun. The great scientist sometimes called “The Newton of France” was born March 23, 1749. We expect that, in Paris, Newton was known as “The Laplace of England.” In any event, Laplace was one of the first to postulate the idea of black holes, and is known for advancing the hypothesis that the solar system formed out of a nebula of dust and gas.

The Eastside Astronomical Society meets at 7 p.m. March 24 at the Lake Hills Library in Bellevue. They’ll watch the movie Gravity, including the special features, and discuss the science of the flick afterward.

Celebrate Dwarf Planet Pride Day March 28 in Greenwood, with the fun starting at 1:30 at the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company. They’ve landed some cool guests, including Alan Stern, the principal investigator for the Pluto-bound New Horizons mission, Pluto expert Dr. Sarah Ballard of the UW, and Alan Boyle, science editor at NBC News and author of A Case for Pluto. The whole thing is a project of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing center for young people.

There are several chances for observing this weekend. Weather permitting, the Seattle Astronomical Society will hold its monthly free public star parties Saturday evening at Green Lake in Seattle and Paramount Park in Shoreline. Tacoma Astronomical Society has its public night that same evening at Pierce College in Steilacoom, with a program about aurorae. Check the websites for times, directions, and schedule updates.

The cool observing event of the week comes on Tuesday evening, when the Moon crosses the Hyades star cluster. La Luna will pass very close to the star Aldebaran about midnight on the 24th, Pacific time, and if you can get to Alaska or northwestern Canada you could see the Moon actually occult the brightest star in the constellation Taurus. Find other observing highlights from Astronomy magazine’s The Sky This Week.

Seattle as sundial capital of North America

“I am passionate about sundials,” says Woody Sullivan, professor of astronomy at the University of Washington. “I have a goal to turn Seattle into the sundial capital of North America.”

Most of us don’t think of Seattle as the capital of anything related to the Sun, and we’re especially grumpy about it in the midst of a relentlessly gloppy March. But Sullivan points out that the second half of our year has long, clear days, and he observes that while people in, say, Phoenix often seek to escape from the Sun, we celebrate it.

“In Seattle, when the Sun comes out you go running out to see your sundial!” Sullivan says.

Sullivan gave a talk titled “Sundials Around Seattle and Beyond: Fascinating Mixtures of Astronomy, Art, Design, and History” at a recent meeting of the Eastside Astronomical Society in Bellevue. While the designation of sundial capital is hardly an official one, Sullivan thinks Seattle is on the way because of its large collection of interesting, well-cared-for public sundials.

The sundial on a SW-facing wall of the University of Washington Physics/Astronomy building was the first Sullivan helped build and design, 20 years ago.

The sundial on a SW-facing wall of the University of Washington Physics/Astronomy building was the first Sullivan helped build and design, 20 years ago.

Sullivan’s academic interests include astrobiology, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and the history of astronomy. His passion for sundials came about almost by accident. When the UW was constructing a new physics/astronomy building in the early ’90s, he suggested that a sundial should be placed on one of its large, outside walls. The architects went for it, and Sullivan spent a couple of years supervising the design and installation of the sundial.

“This is what got me into sundials, and ever since my life has been changed,” he says.

Inspired by the design of a sundial at the Sorbonne in Paris, the UW dial is on a wall that faces southwest. That means it’s design is asymmetrical, “which I think is more interesting from an aesthetic point of view,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan notes that all good sundials have a motto, and the one for the UW dial is “What you seek is but a shadow.”

“I thought that was good for a university,” he says. “It feels like it’s making progress.”

In a nod to our northwest weather the dial also is inscribed with a little poem:

I thrive on the Sun
Can’t work in the rain
So if I’m beclouded
Please come back again.

There’s a wealth of information about the UW dial on the web, including a webcam.

If you visit a Seattle sundial you will notice that the it doesn’t agree with your watch.

“Sundials do not tell you clock time,” Sullivan explains. “Your watch is off because we keep the same time as the people in Spokane. That ain’t right! Solar noon”—the moment when the Sun is due south and highest in the sky—”happens there 20 minutes before it happens here.”

Mars dials.

Sullivan helped design pancam calibration targets like this one that also serve as sundials on the three rovers on Mars.

Sullivan gave us a look at numerous other sundials in the area, and he’s had a hand in the design and construction of many of them. They’re in parks and at schools and even on picnic tables. He supported the Battle Point Astronomical Association in its successful effort to fund a new sundial on Bainbridge Island which is scheduled to be completed this summer.

In addition to all of those here on Earth, Sullivan also helped design three sundials that are now on Mars. The rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity all have targets that are used for color calibration of their cameras in light and in shade. Bill Nye the Science Guy, who is now CEO of the Planetary Society, saw a mockup of the target, a disk with a post in the middle of it, and immediately thought it should be a sundial. Nye got Sullivan involved in the design. Coincidentally, Tyler Nordgren, astronomer who keynoted the Seattle Astronomical Society‘s annual banquet in January, was also part of the team that put it together.

Woody Sullivan

Woody Sullivan brought a variety of small sundial samples to his talk, and the conversation continued well past the end of his formal presentation.

There’s also a bit of baseball on the Red Planet. As Sullivan and Nye share a passion for baseball in addition to their love of sundials, they made weight-saving cutouts in the bases of the Mars dials in the shape of home plate. Seattle’s Museum of Flight has Sullivan’s copy of the Mars dial on display in its space gallery.

Sullivan’s talk was tremendously well received. One EAS member noted that she switched her scheduled night at the opera to be at the talk instead. Staff at the library at which the talk was held booted us out well after closing time, and even at that the discussion continued in the parking lot for a good 45 minutes more.

Check out Sullivan’s sundial trail website for a guide to visiting Seattle sundials.

Other reading:

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.

Worlds collide on weekly Seattle Astronomy calendar

When Worlds Collide poster

When Worlds Collide is a 1951 science fiction film starring Richard Derr and Barbara Rush. Battle Point Astronomical Association takes a look at the real history of planetary collisions Saturday at its planetarium.

An interesting planetarium show from Battle Point Astronomical Association tops this week’s astronomy calendar. In “When Worlds Collide” BPAA investigates the collisions that have shaped the planets in the solar system, and that have altered Earth’s history. When, they ask ominously, will Earth get rocked again? The show starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Rudolph Planetarium at the association’s Ritchie Obervatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. They’ll have telescopes on hand for observing, weather permitting.

The title of the show reflects the 1951 science fiction film directed by Rudolph Maté. Interestingly, there’s a remake in the works to be directed by Stephen Sommers and released in 2012.

Astro Spies on the Eastside
Eastside Astronomical Society meets Tuesday and will show the program AstroSpies, a NOVA documentary that aired a few months back on PBS. It is about the top secret space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union to build manned space stations as spy platforms. Interesting stuff! They’ll also be taking a look at photos of Tempel 1 from Stardust NExT. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Lake Hills Library.

Seasons
Tacoma Astronomical Society has a public observing night set for Saturday. They’ll look at the reasons we have seasons. The event gets under way regardless of weather at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The scopes come out if the weather is clear, though!