October 12 monthly meeting takes place via Zoom

Because our regular meeting place is closed in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, meetings of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) are taking place via the popular Zoom service.

The title of tonight’s talk is “Our Amazing Moon” presented by our local lunar expert Bill Murmann. He will discuss our nearest neighbor in space and the critical role it plays in our lives, and the possible role it may play in our future.

Here is how to attend the October 12 meeting via Zoom when “doors open” t 7:20 p.m. —

Either “Phone in” or watch and participate via “Zoom Video”.

Phone In: Just dial: 1-312-626-6799 (Chicago number)

You will be required to enter our Meeting Number: 987 496 1637

Or….

Zoom Video with video and audio, on your web browser. (No camera required)

https://csuohio.zoom.us/j/9874961637 (No password to enter)

If you are tech-savvy, go to Zoom.com, you can download and install their app on your phone, tablet, or computer, then join our meeting using the Meeting Number given above.

Meeting Agenda

7:20 Meeting will be opened to everyone. (Socializing is welcomed!)

7:30 Opening Announcement will be made (All will be muted)

Introduction of President for commentary

Vice President will introduce our speaker for the evening

Speaker will ‘take the floor’. (No questions during the presentation)

Question & Answer session (Please be patient, it does take time to manipulate)

8:20 (ish) President calls the CAA Business Meeting to Order (All Muted)

At conclusion of the meeting, everyone is welcome to stay to socialize.

2020 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded for research on Milky Way’s supermassive black hole

The central parts of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, as observed in the near-infrared with the NACO instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. By following the motions of the most central stars over more than 16 years, astronomers were able to determine the mass of the supermassive black hole that lurks there.
Credit:ESO/S. Gillessen et al.

Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez have jointly been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, at the center of our galaxy. Genzel, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, and his team have conducted observations of Sagittarius A* for nearly 30 years using a fleet of instruments on European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes.

Genzel shares half of the prize with Ghez, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in the US, “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy”, with the other half awarded to Roger Penrose, professor at the University of Oxford in the UK, “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.” 

“Congratulations to all three Nobel laureates! We are delighted that the research on the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy has been recognized with the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics. We are proud that the telescopes ESO builds and operates at its observatories in Chile played a key role in this discovery,” says ESO’s Director General Xavier Barcons. “The work done by Reinhard Genzel with ESO telescopes and by Andrea Ghez with the Keck telescopes in Hawaii has enabled unprecedented insight into Sagittarius A*, which confirmed predictions of Einstein’s general relativity.”

ESO has worked in very close collaboration with Genzel and his group for around 30 years. Since the early 1990s, Genzel and his team, in cooperation with ESO, have developed instruments designed to track the orbits of stars in the Sagittarius A* region at the center of the Milky Way. 

They started their campaign in 1992 using the SHARP instrument on ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The team later used extremely sensitive instruments on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Very Large Telescope Interferometer at the Paranal Observatory, namely NACO, SINFONI and later GRAVITY, to continue their study of Sagittarius A. 

In 2008, after 16 years of tracking stars orbiting Sagittarius A*, the team delivered the best empirical evidence that a supermassive black hole exists at the center of our galaxy. Both Genzel’s and Ghez’s groups accurately traced the orbit of one star in particular, S2, which reached the closest distance to Sagittarius A* in May 2018. ESO undertook a number of developments and infrastructure upgrades in Paranal to enable accurate measurements of the position and velocity of S2.

The team led by Genzel found the light emitted by the star close to the supermassive black hole was stretched to longer wavelengths, an effect known as gravitational redshift, confirming for the first time Einstein’s general relativity near a supermassive black hole. Earlier this year, the team announced they had seen S2 ‘dance’ around the supermassive black hole, showing its orbit is shaped like a rosette, an effect called Schwarzschild precession that was predicted by Einstein.

Genzel and his team are also involved in the development of instruments that will be installed on ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, currently under construction in Chile’s Atacama Desert, which will enable them to probe the environment even closer to the supermassive black hole.

A stunning portrait of Andromeda

The Andromeda Galaxy, or M31, is a favorite target and a challenge for amateur astro-imagers. CAA member Lonnie Dittrick was up to the challenge and produced this impressive portrait of the Milky Way’s immense neighbor.

CAA member Lonnie Dittrick recently produced a stunning image of the Great Andromeda Galaxy, aka M31. Here’s his story:

“The wife and I visited Cherry Springs {state park in Pennsylvania} during New Moon and had one excellent (and cold) night of stargazing and imaging (had taken time off anyways for Black Forest Star Party).  I had just finished modifying my Canon XSi and wanted a redo of M31 (done previously at home in Olmsted Falls) but now under pristine skies! Imaging was done with a Stellarview 70mm Apo refractor, consisting of 77 subs, two minutes each at 1600 ISO.”

By the way, Dittrick made the astronomical imaging modification to his Canon camera by himself — not a job for the fainthearted!

October 3: A brilliant pairing of lights

Earth’s Moon and Planet Mars will be just over one degree apart at 12:17 AM EDT, Saturday, October 3, as viewed from the Medina, Ohio area. Credit: Sky Safari/James Guilford

The night of October 2 – 3 will see a brilliant pairing of lights in our night sky. Earth’s Moon and planet Mars will shine close together — only a smidgen over a degree apart — in the southeast. As viewed from the Medina, Ohio area, Moon and Mars will be nearest each other at 12:17 AM EDT. Don’t worry if you can’t stay up, the two will be a beautiful pair to behold all night long.

Our Moon will be a day past Full and in its Waning Gibbous phase, so it will be round and bright. Mars, while too distant to be seen as a disc by the unaided eye, is nearing an unusually close approach to Earth during its opposition and will shine like a coppery star. Mars will be nearest to Earth, at 62 million kilometers (38,525,014 miles) distant, on October 6 and it won’t be that close again until 2035.

Opposition refers to a time in their orbits when Mars (or another planet) is opposite the Earth from the Sun — around that time is when the two bodies, on concentric racetrack orbits around the Sun, pass each other and are at their closest and brightest.