Don’t miss the July 2 total solar eclipse, online or via NASA TV

Photo of August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. Credit: NASA/Gopalswamy
The corona, a region of the Sun only seen from Earth when the Moon blocks out the Sun’s bright face during total solar eclipses. The corona holds the answers to many of scientists’ outstanding questions about the Sun’s activity and processes. This photo was taken during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. Credits: NASA/Gopalswamy

Be sure to be watching July 2 at 4:00 PM EDT as the total solar eclipse is presented live from Chile, via San Francisco’s Exploratorium. You will not be able to directly see the eclipse from the USA; the total solar eclipse will be visible from a narrow part of the South Pacific Ocean, Chile, and Argentina.

The Exploratorium will be bringing the total solar eclipse to you, no matter where you are. The have sent a team to Chile to broadcast from within the path of totality. Enjoy this full, unnarrated view of the eclipse from the telescopes at the National Science Foundation’s Cerro Tololo Observatory.

Live Telescope View – Not Narrated:
https://www.exploratorium.edu/video/total-solar-eclipse-live-july-2-2019

Live Coverage – Broadcast Style:
https://www.exploratorium.edu/video/total-solar-eclipse-2019-live-coverage

NASA has partnered with the Exploratorium to provide the coverage which it will livestream: three views via separate players on the agency’s website (all times EDT):

  • Live views from telescopes in Vicuna, Chile, without audio, from 3 to 6 PM
  • A one-hour program with live commentary in English, from 4 to 5 PM
  • A one-hour program with live commentary in Spanish, from 4 to 5 PM

NASA Television will also carry the English-language program on its public channel. Both programs will feature updates from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and Magnetospheric Multiscale missions.

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Happy Solstice 2019!

Photo: Solstice Sunset by Alan Studt
After Sunset: A crowd gathers at Lakewood Park, enjoying sunset on June 21, 2019. Photo by Alan Studt.

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) was well-represented this year at the annual Lakewood Solstice Celebration held on the shores of Lake Erie. CAA members brought 11 telescopes to help support a successful annual Summer Solstice program at Lakewood City Park.

Photo: Child gets support looking through telescope. Photo by Alan Studt.
Getting by with a little help, a boy is supported as he looks through a solar-safe telescope at the Sun. CAA President William Murmann tends his scope. Photo by Alan Studt.

Lakewood Park features an amphitheater-like Solstice Steps facility where visitors are able to view the Great Lake. The evening event draws thousands and boasts food, music, activities and, thanks to the CAA, safe solar viewing and after-sunset astronomy.

Photo: CAA Members at Lakewood Park. Photo by Carl Kudrna.
Plenty going on as CAA members tend their telescopes either offering views of the Sun or waiting til sundown and darkness. Photo by Carl Kudrna.

Attendees enjoyed clear, sunny skies for most of the day right up until just before sunset. Safe solar viewing was offered through a variety of telescopes and filters though, because Sun was at Solar Minimum, there wasn’t much to see on old Sol’s face.

Photo: Seeing the Sun. Photo by John D. Burkett.
Viewing the Sun through a large refractor telescope. Photo by John D. Burkett.

A group of clouds moved across the Lake Erie horizon from the northwest covering the Sun and obscuring Mars and Mercury, which also should have been visible at sunset.

Photo: Partial Sunbow. Photo by Alan Studt.
Clouds and crowds during sunset at the 2019 Lakewood Solstice Celebration. A portion of a sunbow forms an arc at the right. Photo by Alan Studt.

After sunset, however, Jupiter rose above the trees in the east, providing an opportunity to show visitors Jupiter and a few of his Galilean Moons.

Photo: Telescope silhouetted. Photo by Alan Studt.
A grand vintage telescope is silhouetted against the blue evening twilight as a guest views planet Jupiter. Photo by Alan Studt.

CAA member Jay Reynolds again organized and coordinated the Solstice astronomy program with the city of Lakewood. Reynolds passed along compliments from the city for the timely and organized manner in which members arrived, unloaded, and kept the flow going as members set up their telescope systems.

Photo: Telescope and Eyepiece. Photo by John D. Burkett.
Waiting for Dark. A telescope is set up, waiting for dark skies and an opportunity to view Jupiter. Photo by John D. Burkett.

Lakewood city officials and staff welcomed and supported CAA as part of their annual event. Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers and his wife, expressed how much they enjoy coming to the event and this (telescopes) was their favorite part!

Photo: Lakewood Solstice Steps. Photo by Alan Studt.
Lakewood Park’s Solstice Steps at sunset. Photo by Alan Studt.

The Lakewood Solstice Celebration is one of several public events in which CAA members provide astronomy outreach programming. “It’s what we do.”

This report by CAA President William Murmann and others.

June 10 meeting: LIGO presentation to be featured

Photo: Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Livingston, LA. Image Credit: LIGO
Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Livingston, LA. Image Credit: LIGO

The June 2019 meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) will take place on Monday, June 10, beginning at 7:30 PM. CAA member and officer Tim Campbell will discuss the history of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), a new and unique type of astronomical instrument. The LIGO system is, however, based upon a nineteenth century instrument developed and first used here in Cleveland. Campbell will also describe his visit to the facility in Livingston, Louisiana. This talk will be a basic-level companion to our July talk to be presented by Dr. Madeline Wade. Assistant Professor of Physics, Kenyon College.

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks. Meeting programs are open to the public. Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Public Night at Letha House Saturday, June 8

Photo: Waxing Crescent Moon, July 29, 2017. Photo by James Guilford.

Come see deep-sky objects, planets, and the Moon up close using the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association’s (CAA) telescopes, from 9:00 to 11:00 PM, Saturday, June 8.

The CAA Observatory will be open for public viewing, and members will be available to answer your questions. Activities and/or displays will be set up inside the barn for further interest on cloudy nights. Given clear enough skies, visitors may view Earth’s Moon, planet Jupiter, and star clusters through a variety of member-owned telescopes.

This is an outdoor program so attendees should dress appropriately for conditions; use of insect repellent is also recommended.

Click here for more information about the observatory and its location!

May 13 membership meeting and the summer sky

Sky Map Image: The Summer Triangle
The Summer Triangle Asterism

Click here for larger image!

The May 2019 general membership meeting will feature a program entitled, “How to find Your Way Around the Summer Sky” to be presented by club member Gary Kader; he is director of the Burrell Memorial Observatory at Baldwin Wallace University, Berea. Bring the family and your curiosity; copies of Sky and Telescope magazine star maps will be provided.

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks. Meeting programs are open to the public. Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Imaged: The first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow

Photo: Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon. Credit: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.
Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon. Credit: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

April 10, 2019 — Today, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, Event Horizon Telescope researchers reveal that they have succeeded in unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration — was designed to capture images of a black hole.

This breakthrough was announced in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The image reveals the black hole at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun.

“This is a huge day in astrophysics,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “We’re seeing the unseeable. Black holes have sparked imaginations for decades. They have exotic properties and are mysterious to us. Yet with more observations like this one they are yielding their secrets. This is why NSF exists. We enable scientists and engineers to illuminate the unknown, to reveal the subtle and complex majesty of our universe.”

The EHT links telescopes around the globe to form an Earth-sized virtual telescope with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. The EHT is the result of years of international collaboration and offers scientists a new way to study the most extreme objects in the Universe predicted by Einstein’s general relativity during the centennial year of the historic experiment that first confirmed the theory.

“We have taken the first picture of a black hole,” said EHT project director Sheperd S. Doeleman of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. “This is an extraordinary scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) played a pivotal role in this discovery by funding individual investigators, interdisciplinary scientific teams and radio astronomy research facilities since the inception of EHT. Over the last two decades, NSF has directly funded more than $28 million in EHT research, the largest commitment of resources for the project.

Black holes are extraordinary cosmic objects with enormous masses but extremely compact sizes. The presence of these objects affects their environment in extreme ways, warping spacetime and super-heating any surrounding material.

“If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow — something predicted by Einstein’s general relativity that we’ve never seen before,” explained chair of the EHT Science Council Heino Falcke of Radboud University, the Netherlands. “This shadow, caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon, reveals a lot about the nature of these fascinating objects and allowed us to measure the enormous mass of M87’s black hole.”

Streaming out from the center of M87 like a cosmic searchlight is one of nature’s most amazing phenomena: a black-hole-powered jet of subatomic particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. In this Hubble image, the blue jet contrasts with the yellow glow from the combined light of billions of unresolved stars and the point-like clusters of stars that make up this galaxy. Credits: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Streaming out from the center of M87 like a cosmic searchlight is one of nature’s most amazing phenomena: a black-hole-powered jet of subatomic particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. In this Hubble image, the blue jet contrasts with the yellow glow from the combined light of billions of unresolved stars and the point-like clusters of stars that make up this galaxy.
Credits: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Multiple calibration and imaging methods have revealed a ring-like structure with a dark central region — the black hole’s shadow — that persisted over multiple independent EHT observations.

“Once we were sure we had imaged the shadow, we could compare our observations to extensive computer models that include the physics of warped space, superheated matter and strong magnetic fields. Many of the features of the observed image match our theoretical understanding surprisingly well,” remarks Paul T.P. Ho, EHT Board member and Director of the East Asian Observatory. “This makes us confident about the interpretation of our observations, including our estimation of the black hole’s mass.”

Creating the EHT was a formidable challenge that required upgrading and connecting a worldwide network of eight preexisting telescopes deployed at a variety of challenging high-altitude sites. These locations included volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, the Chilean Atacama Desert, and Antarctica.

The EHT observations use a technique called very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI). which synchronizes telescope facilities around the world and exploits the rotation of our planet to form one huge, Earth-size telescope observing at a wavelength of 1.3mm. VLBI allows the EHT to achieve an angular resolution of 20 micro-arcseconds — enough to read a newspaper in New York from a sidewalk café in Paris.

The telescopes contributing to this result were ALMA, APEX, the IRAM 30-meter telescope, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano, the Submillimeter Array, the Submillimeter Telescope, and the South Pole Telescope. Petabytes of raw data from the telescopes were combined by highly specialized supercomputers hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and MIT Haystack Observatory.

The construction of the EHT and the observations announced today represent the culmination of decades of observational, technical, and theoretical work. This example of global teamwork required close collaboration by researchers from around the world. Thirteen partner institutions worked together to create the EHT, using both pre-existing infrastructure and support from a variety of agencies. Key funding was provided by the US National Science Foundation, the EU’s European Research Council (ERC), and funding agencies in East Asia.

“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” concluded Doeleman. “Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world’s best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes and the event horizon.”

April 8 Membership Meeting: The Great Melbourne Telescope rises again

Photo: Author Trudy E. Bell, M.A.
Trudy E. Bell, M.A.

The April 2019 Membership Meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association will take place on Monday, April 8 beginning at 7:30 PM. The evening’s program, “Rising From the Ashes: Restoration of the Great Melbourne Telescope,” will be presented by Trudy E. Bell, M.A. Ms. Bell is a Sky & Telescope Contributing Editor, 2006 recipient of the American Astronomical Society’s David N. Schramm Award, and board member of the Antique Telescope Society.

When completed in 1869, the Great Melbourne Telescope was the world’s largest equatorial reflector. Today, 150 years later — after a bushfire that devastated the Mount Stromlo Observatory — Australian opticians and machinists are restoring the GMT to become one of the world’s largest telescopes for public outreach! Ms. Bell’s latest article about the restoration appears in the October 2018 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine.

Photo: Photo: The Great Melbourne Telescope was built by Thomas Grubb of Dublin in 1868 and erected at Melbourne Observatory in 1869. It was a reflector telescope with a speculum (metal) mirror of 48 inches. Image Courtesy:  Museums Victoria
Photo: The Great Melbourne Telescope was built by Thomas Grubb of Dublin in 1868 and erected at Melbourne Observatory in 1869. It was a reflector telescope with a speculum (metal) mirror of 48 inches. Image Courtesy: Museums Victoria

The CAA’s monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks. Meeting programs are open to the public. Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.