Jupiter and Venus as a “double star” June 30

June 30, 2015 Conjunction
Let’s hope for clear skies the evening of June 30 when the ongoing conjunction of Jupiter and Venus gets really cozy! Tuesday evening will see the two planets sharing a space only 1/3-degree apart in our sky; they will look like a brilliant double star. After Tuesday’s encounter, the planets will drift slowly apart night-by-night but will remain a beautiful sight in twilight. Chart courtesy Sky & Telescope – www.skyandtelescope.com

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June 20 public stargazing success

by William Murmann, CAA President

In spite of mostly-cloudy weather during the day, we had between 30 and 40 guests attend our public star party last night (June 20) at Letha House Park.

By the time the program started at 9 PM, the sky had cleared to the west and we had a great view of Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent Moon in a group.  The sky continued to clear from west to east and more objects became visible, including Saturn, Arcturus, Vega, etc.  Jay Reynolds was able to get the Ring Nebula, Saturn, M13, and other objects with the big scopes in the observatory.

Jay and I were the only ones operating telescopes — Jay in the observatory and me outside showing the crescent Moon — so we got quite a workout. Many thanks to Carl Kudrna, and to new members Nora Mishney and Lester Morris who helped at my scope giving me a chance to talk with guests at our indoor display.

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Telescope show and tell

Photo: Broadhurst, Clarkson & Company Refractor from England. Photo by James Guilford.

Broadhurst, Clarkson & Company Refractor from England

Among the member-owned telescopes shown and discussed at the June 8, 2015 meeting was a lovely antique refracting telescope. The ca. 1900 Broadhurst, Clarkson & Co. instrument was made in London. CAA member Steve discovered the scope while visiting England, purchased it, and shipped it home. The brass beauty needed no refurbishment by its new owner and sits atop a tall, wooden tripod with a unique mount. Steve told the audience the telescope was built to be used for both terrestrial and celestial observing. Interestingly, however, when the scope is arranged to view distant objects on land or sea, the user would likely need a step stool to reach the eyepiece!

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June 8 meeting: All about ‘scopes

The June 2015 meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association will feature a gathering of telescopes. Members are invited to bring their personal telescopes to the meeting so that various designs can be seen and compared, all in one place.

The meeting begins Monday, June 8, at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio. Visitors are welcome!

Click here for a map.

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A most memorable vacation photo

Photo: The Milky Way by Alan Studt

Milky Way Rising – Photo by Alan Studt – Click to Enlarge

Cuyahoga Astronomical Association member Alan Studt captured this wonderful photo of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, under some fairly challenging circumstances the night of May 23. He and his wife, Gale, were on vacation in Massachusetts when a celestial photo op presented itself.

“That … night happened to be the only clear night in the forecast during our vacation so I had to check it out. We were staying about six miles east of Hyannis in West Dennis, just a five-minute drive from the south shoreline of Cape Cod.

“The beach parking lot gates get locked at midnight and the ‘Teapot’ in Sagittarius didn’t clear the horizon until 11:45, so I didn’t have a lot of time to shoot. I didn’t know where else to go to stay out later until the Milky Way was higher so I had to to accept what I could get.

“The weather conditions were not great. Temps in the mid-40s with at least a steady 25 MPH wind gusting to 35 MPH. Gale thinks it was faster since the car was shaking when she went back in to wait for me. My tripods blew over before I hung bags with bottles of water, extra lenses and shoes on them… the cameras were not attached at the time.”

So, even under pressure of time and weather, Studt came home with something truly out-of-this-world as a memorable vacation photo: a sea of stars!

Studt’s Photo Notes: Looking out over Nantucket Sound/Atlantic Ocean. Three horizontal shots layered together in Photoshop. 90-degree view – east to south. Taken at West Dennis Beach, Massachusetts on a very windy evening just before midnight. The lights in the distance on the right are from Nantucket Island, 30 miles south. On the left, down at the end of the beach is The Lighthouse Inn, an old lighthouse that is now a restaurant. There was a waxing First Quarter Moon about — maybe 30 degrees — above the horizon in the west. Nikon D600, 24mm, f3.5, ISO 6400, 20 seconds. Processed in Lightroom & Photoshop CC

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First Public Star Party of 2015

Photo: Venus & Gemini Setting. Photo by James Guilford.

Venus and Gemini Setting over the lake in Letha House Park – Photo by James Guilford.

Saturday night, May 23, the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) held our first Public Star Party for 2015. The event took place at the club’s observatory situated on the grounds of the Medina County Park System’s Letha House Park in Spencer, Ohio. Members of the public were generally enthusiastic, excitedly moving between telescopes. The sky was beautifully clear and allowed excellent views of the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, the Hercules Star Cluster (M13), M81 & M82, and other astronomical wonders.

CAA President William Murmann wrote, “Thanks to everyone who attended and who brought scopes to help with the program!

“The park staff said we had about 50 guests join us, including families with children.  We had clear skies all day, but some high, thin wispy stuff moved in during the evening, although we had good observing.

“It was nice to see to James Guilford, Steve Spears, Chris Christe, Chris Burke, Paul Leopold, Suzie Dills, Trevor Braun, Bob Wiersma, Jay Reynolds, Rich Rinehart, Bill & Carol Lee, Tim Campbell and Mary Ann, Steve & Gail Korylak, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Dave & Jan Heideloff, Carl Kudrna, Larry Smith — and new member Anita Kazarian, who joined us.  Sorry if I missed anyone.

“Noteworthy for the evening–Steve Korylak spotted Comet Lovejoy with his scope.

“It was a nice program and a nice get together for members.  Thanks again.”

……………..

Simulated View of Moon and Acubens

Simulated View of Moon and Acubens

Among the objects the public viewed in beautiful detail was Earth’s Moon. Early in the evening not only could observers see the brightly-lit portion of the Moon but also the Earth-lit shadowed portion of the disk. Adding to the scene was a beautiful speck of a star near the horn of the Moon: Acubens, a star in constellation Cancer.

 

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Lopsided supernova reveals secrets of those enormous explosions

Photo: Remnant Supernova 1987A

The still-unravelling remains of supernova 1987A are shown in this image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright ring consists of material ejected from the dying star before it detonated. The ring is being lit by the explosion’s shock wave. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA

Written by Ker Than, Caltech News

New observations of a recently exploded star are confirming supercomputer model predictions made at Caltech that the deaths of stellar giants are lopsided affairs in which debris and the stars’ cores hurtle off in opposite directions.

While observing the remnant of supernova (SN) 1987A, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, recently detected the unique energy signature of titanium-44, a radioactive version of titanium that is produced during the early stages of a particular type of star explosion, called a Type II, or core-collapse supernova.

“Titanium-44 is unstable. When it decays and turns into calcium, it emits gamma rays at a specific energy, which NuSTAR can detect,” says Fiona Harrison, the Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics at Caltech, and NuSTAR’s principal investigator.

By analyzing direction-dependent frequency changes—or Doppler shifts—of energy from titanium-44, Harrison and her team discovered that most of the material is moving away from NuSTAR. The finding, detailed in the May 8 issue of the journal Science, is the best proof yet that the mechanism that triggers Type II supernovae is inherently lopsided.

NuSTAR recently created detailed titanium-44 maps of another supernova remnant, called Cassiopeia A, and there too it found signs of an asymmetrical explosion, although the evidence in this case is not as definitive as with 1987A.

Supernova 1987A was first detected in 1987, when light from the explosion of a blue supergiant star located 168,000 light-years away reached Earth. SN 1987A was an important event for astronomers. Not only was it the closest supernova to be detected in hundreds of years, it marked the first time that neutrinos had been detected from an astronomical source other than our sun.

These nearly massless subatomic particles had been predicted to be produced in large quantities during Type II explosions, so their detection during 1987A supported some of the fundamental theories about the inner workings of supernovae.

With the latest NuSTAR observations, 1987A is once again proving to be a useful natural laboratory for studying the mysteries of stellar death. For many years, supercomputer simulations performed at Caltech and elsewhere predicted that the cores of pending Type II supernovae change shape just before exploding, transforming from a perfectly symmetric sphere into a wobbly mass made up of turbulent plumes of extremely hot gas. In fact, models that assumed a perfectly spherical core just fizzled out.

“If you make everything just spherical, the core doesn’t explode. It turns out you need asymmetries to make the star explode,” Harrison says.

According to the simulations, the shape change is driven by turbulence generated by neutrinos that are absorbed within the core. “This turbulence helps push out a powerful shock wave and launch the explosion,” says Christian Ott, a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech who was not involved in the NuSTAR observations.

Ott’s team uses supercomputers to run three-dimensional simulations of core-collapse supernovae. Each simulation generates hundreds of terabytes of results—for comparison, the entire print collection of the U.S. Library of Congress is equal to about 10 terabytes—but represents only a few tenths of a second during a supernova explosion.

A better understanding of the asymmetrical nature of Type II supernovae, Ott says, could help solve one of the biggest mysteries surrounding stellar deaths: why some supernovae collapse into neutron stars and others into a black hole to form a space-time singularity. It could be that the high degree of asymmetry in some supernovae produces a dual effect: the star explodes in one direction, while the remainder of the star continues to collapse in all other directions.
“In this way, an explosion could happen, but eventually leave behind a black hole and not a neutron star,” Ott says.

The NuSTAR findings also increase the chances that Advanced LIGO — the upgraded version of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, which will begin to take data later this year — will be successful in detecting gravitational waves from supernovae. Gravitational waves are ripples that propagate through the fabric of space-time. According to theory, Type II supernovae should emit gravitational waves, but only if the explosions are asymmetrical.

Harrison and Ott have plans to combine the observational and theoretical studies of supernova that until now have been occurring along parallel tracks at Caltech, using the NuSTAR observations to refine supercomputer simulations of supernova explosions.

“The two of us are going to work together to try to get the models to more accurately predict what we’re seeing in 1987A and Cassiopeia A,” Harrison says.

Additional Caltech coauthors of the paper, entitled “44Ti gamma-ray emission lines from SN1987A reveal an asymmetric explosion,” are Hiromasa Miyasaka, Brian Grefenstette, Kristin Madsen, Peter Mao, and Vikram Rana. The research was supported by funding from NASA, the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and the Technical University of Denmark.

This article also references the paper “Magnetorotational Core-collapse Supernovae in Three Dimensions,” which appeared in the April 20, 2014, issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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