Tag Archives: Victoria Meadows

Busy week ahead on the astro calendar

There’s something for everyone on this week’s astro calendar, with a new scale model solar system opening, two great lectures, a theater/science mashup, and a variety of club events on the docket.

A new scale model of the solar system that you can explore through geocaching opens today, May 1, on Bainbridge Island. Check out our article or podcast from last week to learn more.

Proxima b

You’ve probably heard by now of the discovery of a planet orbiting our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri. (If not, check out our article featuring UW professor Rory Barnes discussing the possibility of the habitability of Proxima b.) The UW Astrobiology Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute will host a panel discussion about the planet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 3 in room 120 of Kane Hall on the university’s campus in Seattle.

The panelists include Guillem Anglada-Escude, lead discoverer of the planet and University of London lecturer; Victoria Meadows, University of Washington astrobiology professor and primary investigator for the Virtual Planetary Laboratory; Barnes; and Olivier Guyon, University of Arizona professor and project scientist for the Subaru Telescope.

It’s free but registration is required; as of this writing there were still some tickets available.

Searching for Martians

Bob Abel talkMars may have been habitable before Earth was, and might be still. So where are the Martians? Olympic College professor Bob Abel will give a talk about the history of Mars and the prospects for past, present, and future life there at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 4 in room 117 of the Engineering Building on the Olympic College campus in Bremerton. It’s free.

Abel gave a talk on the same topic last week at Astronomy on Tap Seattle. Our recap of that event is coming soon.

Astronomy Day at MOF

The Museum of Flight celebrates Space Day during its Free First Thursday at 5 p.m. May 4. Local astronomy clubs will be on hand with information about their activities and they’ll have telescopes for observing if the weather cooperates. A special presentation at 6 p.m. will take a look at the technical challenges of getting Apollo to the Moon, and what that means for present-day space efforts. Tony Gondola, a solar system ambassador and coordinator of the museum’s Challenger Learning Center will be the speaker.

The event runs through 9 p.m.

Mashing up science and theater

Centrifuge2Infinity Box Theatre Project will present Centrifuge 2 at 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday, May 5 and 6, at Stage One Theater on the North Seattle College campus. Centrifuge pairs science writers and playwrights to craft brand-new one-act plays featuring current science. Seattle Astronomy’s Greg Scheiderer participated in the event last year and will be one of the science writers again this time around. Check out our article and podcast from last year to learn more about Centrifuge and Infinity Box.

Open house at TJO

The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory at the University of Washington will hold one of its bimonthly open houses at 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 3. The topic for the evening’s talk had not been published as of this writing. Volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society will be on hand to offer tours of the observatory and, weather allowing, a look through its vintage telescope.

Club events

The Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 2 in room 175 of Thompson Hall on the University of Puget Sound campus in Tacoma. The topic will be club participation in viewing the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.

The club will also offer one of its free public nights at 9 p.m. Saturday, May 6 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The indoor session will be a presentation about constellations. They’ll break out the telescopes for observing if the sky is clear.

The Spokane Astronomical Society plans its monthly meeting for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5 at the planetarium at Spokane Falls Community College. Club member Nick Monkman will talk about the ABCs of finding objects in the night sky.

The Seattle Astronomical Society plans its monthly free public star parties for 9 p.m. Saturday, May 6 at two locations: Green Lake in Seattle and Paramount Park in Shoreline. Bad weather causes cancellations, so watch the website for updates.

You can always scout out future events on our calendar page.

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!

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!