Tag Archives: Ron Hobbs

Answering What If? Friday in Bremerton

Planetarium events and a handful of astronomy club functions highlight the astronomy calendar for this week.

Pacific Planetarium in Bremerton plans shows titled “What If?” this Friday, July 15 at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m. The sessions will take on some of the queries posed in the book What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) by Randall Munroe, the former NASA scientist turned cartoonist and creator of the comic xkcd. Admission to the programs is $5.

For those traveling to the planetarium from the east side of the sound, it is less than a mile from the Bremerton ferry terminal. Save the car fare and walk on!

Pacific Science CenterThe Willard Smith Planetarium at Pacific Science Center features daily programs on a variety of topics, and they have offerings suitable for all ages. Check our calendar, or theirs, for the schedule.

Astronomy club events

Olympic Astronomical SocietyThe Olympic Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 11 in room Art 103 at Olympic College in Bremerton. Talks on the agenda will cover the summer night sky, explosions in space, and core collapse super novae.

beaslogo_300The Boeing Employees Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting Thursday, July 14 in the Boeing “Oxbow” Recreation Center, Building 9-150, Room 201. The program will be “Juno to Jupiter: Piercing the Veil,” a presentation by solar system ambassador Ron Hobbs about the Juno mission, which arrived at Jupiter last week. A social half hour begins at 6:30 p.m. with the program slated for 7 p.m. All Boeing employees, friends and family are invited. Non-Boeing guests must be escorted, so please RSVP to BEAS president David Ingram.

You can get a preview of the program by reading our recent article with Hobbs or listening to the podcast directly below.

Tacoma Astronomical SocietyThe Tacoma Astronomical Society plans one of its free public nights for 9 p.m. Saturday, July 16 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The all-weather program will cover constellations and star-hopping. If the skies are clear club members will be on hand with telescopes for observing.

Up in the sky

Mercury and Venus will be very close together while Saturn and the Moon do a little dance on Friday. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance by Sky & Telescope have more observing highlights for the week.

 

 

Juno at Jupiter, lots of nearby events this week, too

Happy Independence Day! After a five-year flight NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter today, and there are astronomy club meetings and events galore on the calendar for the rest of the week.

Juno at Jupiter

The Juno mission arrives at Jupiter with some science objectives that may explain much about our solar system’s largest planet, and could help shed some light on planet and system formation as well. Check out our previous post and podcast with Solar System Ambassador Ron Hobbs for a preview of the mission.

Club events

Tacoma Astronomical SocietyThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 5 in room 175 of Thompson Hall on the University of Puget Sound campus in Tacoma. The program topic will be the final of three parts on the synthesis of elements. A show and tell is planned as well, as club members have been busy with astrophotography.

The Tacoma club also will hold a star party July 7-10 on the property of a club member near Goldendale. It’s for members and guests only, but what a perfect time to join!

Spokane Astronomical SocietyThe Spokane Astronomical Society plans its monthly meeting for 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 8 at the Riverview Retirement Community, 2117 East North Crescent in Spokane. Guest speaker Michelle Boss, meteorologist with KREM TV, will give a presentation about astronomical weather patterns.

The Battle Point Astronomical Association will offer three events on Saturday, July 9 at its Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park BPAA logoon Bainbridge Island. Their BPAstro Kids programs at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. will share information about the scale and size of our solar system, and participants will get to make their own solar systems to hang up at home! (Check our post and podcast with Dr. Erica Saint Clair, who heads up BPAstro Kids.) Following at 8:30 p.m. astronomer Steve Ruhl, in a belated tribute to David Bowie, will give a presentation about “space oddities” in our Solar System. Observing will follow if weather permits. Events are free for BPAA members, small donation suggested for non-members.

Stargazing at a volcano

Mt. St. HelensThe Mount St. Helens Sky and Star Party will be held Saturday, July 9 at the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center at Coldwater. The event is part of the 2016 Summer on the Mountain Series of public events at Mount St. Helens and is co-hosted by the Mount St. Helens Institute, Rose City Astronomers, the Friends of Galileo Astronomy Club, and the United States Forest Service/Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Festivities get under way at 1 p.m. with solar viewing, crafts, and other activities. There will be guest speakers, a buffet dinner, and observing after dark if the weather holds.

Open house at TJO

Theodor Jacobsen ObservatoryAnother of the twice-monthly open houses is coming up at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 6 at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Student talks will be given by Lev Marcus about the colonization of space, and Isaak Nanneman about eccentric scientists. Volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society will give tours of the observatory and, if weather is clear, offer a look through its vintage telescope.

Up in the sky

The great summer of Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn continues with all three planets marvelously placed for viewing. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy have more observing highlights for the week.

Juno set to answer big questions at Jupiter

Almost five years after it was launched, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, and Ron Hobbs is pretty excited about it. Hobbs, a Seattle-based NASA Solar System Ambassador, recently learned the inside scoop about the Juno mission during a teleconference with the mission’s principal investigator, Dr. Scott Bolton, who is the associate vice president for the space science and engineering division at the Southwest Research Institute.

Juno at Jupiter

Artist concept of Juno at Jupiter. Image: NASA/JPL.

“The Juno mission is about reverse-engineering the recipe of the soup that is our solar system,” Hobbs said. He noted that the Sun contains the vast majority of the mass in the solar system. After the Sun was born, Jupiter formed next, and it weighs two-and-a-half times more than everything else—the rest of the planets, comets, asteroids, the works.

Juno has four main scientific objectives, according to Hobbs: figuring out what’s at Jupiter’s core, studying the planet’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, and figuring out where its water came from.

Water

Ron Hobbs

NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Ron Hobbs. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“The present theories about the solar system origin and evolution do not explain how Jupiter was enriched in heavy elements,” Hobbs said, noting that, in astronomical terms, anything above hydrogen or helium is considered heavy. “The key to understanding how the giant planets form, and then how the rest of the planets form, and how other planetary systems form is really the key to how those heavy elements got into Jupiter.”

Hobbs noted that the Galileo mission in 1995 sent a probe into Jupiter in search of water but didn’t find much. Scientists speculate they may have just gotten unlucky, and hit a sort of Sahara Desert area of Jupiter. Juno will avoid that problem by using antennas to measure microwave radiation from Jupiter; we’ll be able to tell how much water is there by how much energy is absorbed. It’s a lot less costly than probes and we’ll be able to get measurements from all over Jupiter and to greater depths.

Atmosphere

Juno will answer questions about Jupiter’s most visible features as it studies the Jovian atmosphere.

“It’s going to be able to get atmospheric composition, temperature, cloud opacity and dynamics to depths greater than 100 bars at all latitudes,” Hobbs said. “We’re really going to start to understand what those belts and zones that we see here from Earth are composed of.”

Magnetosphere

“Jupiter has a huge magnetosphere, and there’s still some uncertainty about how it formed,” Hobbs noted. Like Earth’s Van Allen Belts, there’s a lot of radiation trapped there.

“They’re so intense at Jupiter that any spacecraft going into them is in danger of having its electronics fried,” Hobbs said. “Humans, living things, would never survive; the radiation levels are just incredible.”

Juno will make polar orbits around Jupiter. Previous missions have taken equatorial orbits. Hobbs said the polar orbit will help the craft avoid intense radiation, and will create some great imaging opportunities.

“We know that Jupiter has incredible aurorae, but they’ve never been seen up close,” Hobbs said. “In polar orbit Juno is going to be able to get close-up views.”

Gravity science

Jupiter is known as a “gas giant,” but scientists believe it has a metallic core of really heavy elements: iron, nickel, silicon and the like. They don’t know for sure.

“The gravity science that Juno will do will answer that question, will tell us the interior structure,” Hobbs explained.

Juno will study the interior of Jupiter by mapping both its gravitational and magnetic fields. Hobbs said scientists expect to find metallic hydrogen.

“We believe that at some point down in this giant body hydrogen is under so much pressure that it becomes a metal,” Hobbs said. “We believe there’s a whole ocean, if you will, or mantle of metallic hydrogen.”

About Juno

Hobbs said Juno is the second mission of NASA’s New Frontiers program. New Horizons, which flew past Pluto last summer, was the first.

“New Frontiers is a follow-on to the Discovery program, where NASA basically funds investigator-led missions,” Hobbs said. “The Discovery missions are all low-cost missions, largely to the inner solar system, but there were enough targets of opportunity that they saw the need for an expanded program.”

Juno will make 33 orbits of Jupiter, each taking about two weeks. It will get within 5,000 kilometers of its cloud tops. The electronics are protected from radiation inside a 200-kilogram titanium vault. The craft is powered by huge solar panels that are about 80 feet across as the craft spins. It will be the furthest we’ve sent a solar-powered spacecraft.

Juno Cam

Junocam photo of Earth

This image of Earth was taken during the close flyby of NASA’s Juno spacecraft on October 9, 2013. The coastline of Argentina is at the upper left, and clouds cover much of Antarctica at bottom. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Juno will be spinning, which makes photography a challenge. But we love our space images, and Hobbs said the craft carries the Juno Cam to grab photographs, though it’s not considered to be an official scientific instrument. Still, it took some great images of Earth during a gravity-assist fly-by in 2013. Hobbs said Juno Cam is naturally outside the titanium vault, which will leave it exposed to radiation.

“I’m looking forward to getting those pictures taken and down here on Earth early on in the mission, because I have a feeling it’s going to be one of the first things that gets fried,” he said.

Hobbs is looking forward to getting data from Juno starting next month.

“It’s a cool mission and it’s answering some really fundamental questions,” he said. “We’re going to learn a lot about our place in the universe once again.”

Podcast of our conversation with Ron Hobbs:

Astronomy on Tap Seattle debuts in new venue

One of our favorite local astronomy events moves to a new venue for the first time and is the highlight of our calendar this week.

AoT April 27, 2016At this month’s Astronomy on Tap Seattle the newest University of Washington professor of astronomy, Jessica Werk, will give a talk titled, “The History of You: The Rather Tumultuous Past of the Atoms in Your Body.” UW graduate student Ethan Kruse will give a talk titled, “To Infinity and Beyond: The Mind-boggling Scale of the Universe.” The event will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 at Hilliard’s Beer Taphouse in Ballard.

Astronomy on Tap Seattle is a free monthly event organized by graduate students in astronomy at the University of Washington. It spent its first year at Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company but has outgrown that space, and is moving to the larger Hilliard’s just a hop and a skip up Leary Way.

Dawn in the asteroid belt

Ron HobbsThe Eastside Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27 at the Lake Hills Library in Bellevue. NASA Solar System Ambassador Ron Hobbs will give a presentation about our modern understanding of the belt of minor planets between Mars and Jupiter. He will discuss the Juno mission that is on its way to Jupiter and what we might learn about the giant planet’s role in the creation of the feature we call the asteroid belt.

Closeup of Pluto

Grundy

Will Grundy. Photo: Lowell Observatory.

We won’t even have all of the data from Pluto back from New Horizons until late this year, but we’ve already learned a lot about the former ninth planet. Astronomer Will Grundy of Lowell Observatory will be at the University of Washington this week to talk about some of the scientific highlights and puzzles that the New Horizons science team is investigating. He will also briefly touch on plans for January 2019 when New Horizons will get the first up-close look at a small Kuiper belt object. The talk , part of the UW astronomy colloquia series, will be at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 28 in room A102 of the Physics/Astronomy Building on the UW campus in Seattle.

Up in the sky

You can catch transits of Jupiter’s moons Io and Europa on Friday evening. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy have other observing highlights for the week.

Busy Presidents Day week ahead

Happy Presidents Day from Seattle Astronomy. We celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln this week. Perhaps, though, we should observe Astronomers Day, because some big-name birthdays fall this week as well. Nicholas Copernicus was born Feb. 19, 1473—he would be 543—and Galileo was born Feb. 15, 1564—452 years ago this day. Maybe it is because of these two most important scientists that there are so many great astronomy events on the calendar this week!

Show me a rose

Rose City AstronomersWe’re planning a road trip to Portland, where the Rose City Astronomers will hold their monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15 at the OMSI auditorium. Dr. Gregory Bothun of the University of Oregon will give a talk titled, “Astronomy, Big Data, and the Future.” The premise: we’re collecting astronomical data at an astronomically increasing pace, but human processing and thinking about all of this information can’t keep up. Is astronomy in danger of becoming a “pixel archive science?”

Silent Sky and These Things Abide

Silent SkyTaproot Theatre in Greenwood continues its run of Silent Sky, Lauren Gunderson‘s play about astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, through Feb. 27. This Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. the theatre will host a special conversation with the play’s director, Karen Lund, and Adrian Wyard of the Counterbalance Foundation as they discuss the search for truth by both science and religion, the history of the conversation between faith and science, and the possibilities for future dialogue. It’s free, but seating is limited, so contact the theatre if you wish to attend.

Watch for a post about our conversation with Wyard coming soon!

Decisions, decisions

There are two good events coming up on Wednesday, Feb. 17, but alas, you can only be in one place at a time, unless this whole multiverse thing is true.

AOT SeattleThe fine folks from Astronomy on Tap Seattle, organized by astronomy graduate students from the University of Washington, will host their monthly confab of astronomy, trivia, prizes, and beer at 7 p.m. at Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company in Ballard. This month UW astronomer Dr. John Parejko will give a talk titled, “Detect the Ancient Universe Like a BOSS,” and Dr. Fabio Governato will speak about “Dark Matter, Black Holes and other reasons to work with NASA’s fastest supercomputer: Pleiades.” It’s free, but bring beer money.

Meanwhile the Seattle Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in room A102 of the Physics/Astronomy Building on the UW campus in Seattle. Astronomy Ph.D. student Phoebe Upton Sanderbeck will give a presentation about how measuring the temperature of the universe can help us understand its development.

Saturn’s moons of promise

Pacific PlanetariumPacific Planetarium in Bremerton will feature its monthly third Friday astronomy talk this Friday, Feb. 19 with hourly presentations at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m. NASA Solar System Ambassador Ron Hobbs will share the latest findings about the environments on Saturn’s moons Enceledus and Titan, where liquid water and methane flow, which might provide the necessary conditions for life to develop. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door or in advance online.

The Mercury 13

Mercury 13Sally Ride became the first American woman in space when she flew on a space shuttle mission in 1983. More than two decades earlier 13 U.S. women were training for flight in the Woman in Space program. Of course, the Mercury 13 never got off the ground. At 2 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Museum of Flight aviation expert Philip Tartalone will explore the genesis of the Woman in Space Program, the personalities involved, the testing, and the social mores of the early 1960s that ultimately doomed the program. The presentation is free with admission to the Museum.

Up in the sky

Jupiter will be at opposition next month, but it’s already placed pretty well for viewing in the late evening these days. 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.

Astronaut visit, three club meetings this week

A talk by a visiting astronaut and three astronomy club meetings highlight the week on the Seattle Astronomy calendar, and two of the week’s featured events are on the west side of Puget Sound.

Astronaut Wilson speaks at MOF program

Stephanie Wilson

Astronaut Stephanie Wilson. Photo: NASA.

Astronaut Stephanie Wilson, the second African-American woman to travel to space, will give a talk at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Museum of Flight. Wilson, who flew on three shuttle missions, appears in recognition of Black History Month and in conjunction with the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program, named after the Washington native astronaut who died in the space shuttle Columbia tragedy. The program brings in mentors for at-risk students and gives them exposure to aerospace education, improving their chances to graduate from high school.

The talk is free with admission to the museum.

Astronomy clubs meet

Three area astronomy clubs have their regular meetings scheduled this week.

The Olympic Astronomical Society gathers at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1 in room Art 103 on the Olympic College campus in Bremerton. The club has a half-dozen interesting talks on its agenda for the evening.

Tacoma Astronomical Society will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2 in room 175 of  Thompson Hall on the campus of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Popular speaker Ron Hobbs, a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, will give a talk about the DAWN mission to Ceres.

The Spokane Astronomical Society plans its monthly meeting for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 in the planetarium at Spokane Falls Community College. Guest speaker and program information hadn’t been published as of this writing.

First Friday Sky Walk

Pacific PlanetariumIf you haven’t checked out Pacific Planetarium in Bremerton, this Friday would be a good time to do so. The planetarium presents a First Friday Sky Walk each month, with the next being on Feb. 5. These family-friendly presentations give a look at what’s up in the night sky for the coming month. The first show is at 5 p.m. and it is repeated hourly through 8 p.m. Before or after shows you can explore the planetarium’s space science exhibits and activities. Volunteers from the Olympic Astronomical Society will be present to answer your astronomy questions.

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.

Up in the sky

The Moon passes near Mars, Saturn, and Venus this week as the early-morning lineup of planets continues. 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.

Follow the Seattle Astronomy calendar to keep up to date on astronomy happenings in the area.

SAS banquet Saturday, Leavitt play opens this week

An appearance by “Mr. Eclipse” and the opening of a play about noted astronomer Henrietta Leavitt highlight the events on this week’s Seattle Astronomy calendar.

SAS banquet

EspenakThe Seattle Astronomical Society will hold its annual banquet on Saturday, Jan. 30 at the Swedish Club on Dexter Avenue in Seattle. The keynote speaker for the event will be Fred Espenak, known as “Mr. Eclipse” for his long career tracking, viewing, and writing histories of eclipses. Espenak will speak about preparing to view the Great American Solar Eclipse, the total solar eclipse coming up in August 2017 that will be the first visible from the lower-48 since 1979.

Tickets for the banquet are sold out. Check our preview of the event from earlier this month.

Silent Sky opens at Taproot

FB_Silent_Sky_banner_lowline_700x259Silent Sky, the true story of the work of American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, will have its Northwest premiere when it opens Wednesday at Taproot Theatre in Greenwood.

The play, written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Karen Lund, will run through Feb. 27. Leavitt discovered the relationship between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars. Her work at Harvard College Observatory received little attention during her lifetime, which spanned 1868–1921, but her discovery was the key to our ability to accurately determine the distances to faraway galaxies.

Remembering fallen astronauts

It’s hard to believe that Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger that killed seven astronauts. Oddly enough, all three U.S. space disasters happened about this time of year. This Apollo I fire killed three astronauts on Jan. 27, 1967, and the shuttle Columbia was destroyed on re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003. The Museum of Flight pays tribute to the fallen fliers with its annual astronaut remembrance weekend this Saturday, Jan. 30.

The museum plans displays and video looking back at the events. NASA JPL solar system ambassador Ron Hobbs and Museum of Flight Challenger Learning Center coordinator Tony Gondola will give a presentation at 2 p.m. Saturday remembering the astronauts who paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.

Ready, Jet, Go!

Ready, Jet, Go!The Pierce College Science Dome and KBTC public television team up Sunday, Jan. 31 for a special event to launch the new PBS KIDS astronomy show Ready, Jet, Go! The event runs from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. and includes hands-on science activities and screenings of the program at 10 a.m. and noon in the planetarium.

TAS public night

taslogoThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold one of its public nights at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The planned program will be about Apollo missions to the Moon. Club members will be on hand with telescopes for observing, weather permitting.

Up in the sky

The Moon passes near the star Regulus in the constellation Leo on Monday, Jan. 25 and flirts with Jupiter on Wednesday evening. 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.