The 2015 OTAA Convention, hosted by the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA), was a friendly gathering featuring socializing, information, and hot weather. Members from area astronomy groups were in attendance, mixing with CAA membership at the Letha House Park Observatory site.
Observatory Director and CSU Research Astronomer Jay Reynolds gave an up-to-date presentation on space mission results from DAWN (at asteroid Ceres), and New Horizons and its just-completed flyby of the Pluto-Charon system.
After the lecture came a convivial cookout and potluck dinner which, in turn, was followed by the highly-anticipated annual door prize drawing. The hoped-for late-night star party was thwarted by clouds that moved in from the north. Spirits remained high, however; this is Northeastern Ohio after all, and clouds go with the territory!
The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association would like to thank the following vendors for their generous contributions to our recent convention. Their donations of raffle items helped to make the event such a great success.
Astrozap – Member-Owned Purveyor of Telescopes and Accessories
We had another successful public star party last night (July 25) for the Medina County Park System. CAA members brought 12 personal telescopes to Letha House Park for the 9 PM event. Our observatory director, Jay Reynolds, manned our observatory so guests could also use the club’s large scopes.
Our park hosts, Ron and Mary Hank, estimated that we had at 50 or more guests attend the star party. This included a mixture of adults and children. We had clear skies until about 11:30 PM when things clouded over. Jay said the sudden appearance of clouds had something to do with the dew point.
So far our programs for the park district in May, June, and July have had clear skies and great turnouts from the public. Let’s hope this is a trend that continues through the summer.
Apologies if I miss anyone but thanks to: Bill & Carol Lee, Larry Smith, Carl Kudrna, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Tim Campbell, Bruce Lane, Jay Reynolds, Bob Wiersma, Dave Watson, Dave Nuti, Chris Christe, Susan Petsche, and Alan Studt who joined me for our program.
In the center left of Pluto’s vast heart-shaped feature – informally named Tombaugh Regio – lies a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains and has been informally named Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), after Earth’s first artificial satellite. The surface appears to be divided into irregularly-shaped segments that are ringed by narrow troughs. Features that appear to be groups of mounds and fields of small pits are also visible. This image, released July 17, was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers). Features as small as one-half mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. The blocky appearance of some features is due to compression of the image.
Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) are complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless — possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.
After a decade-long journey through our solar system, New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto Tuesday, about 7,750 miles above the surface making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth. The three-billion-mile journey took about one minute less than predicted when the craft was launched in January 2006. The spacecraft threaded the needle through a 36-by-57 mile (60 by 90 kilometers) window in space — the equivalent of a commercial airliner arriving no more off target than the width of a tennis ball.
The Pluto story began only a generation ago when young Clyde Tombaugh was tasked to look for Planet X, theorized to exist beyond the orbit of Neptune. He discovered a faint point of light that we now see as a complex and fascinating world. As a tribute to Tombaugh, who died in 1997 at age 90, a tiny canister of his ashes was placed inside the New Horizons spacecraft.
“Pluto was discovered just 85 years ago by a farmer’s son from Kansas, inspired by a visionary from Boston, using a telescope in Flagstaff, Arizona,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Today, science takes a great leap observing the Pluto system up close and flying into a new frontier that will help us better understand the origins of the solar system.”
New Horizons’ flyby of the dwarf planet and its five known moons is providing an up-close introduction to the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, an outer region populated by icy objects ranging in size from boulders to dwarf planets. Kuiper Belt objects, such as Pluto, preserve evidence about the early formation of the solar system.
Exciting images of Pluto’s largest moon — or co-dwarf planet — Charon were also captured.
Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles.
A swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from left to right, suggesting widespread fracturing of Charon’s crust, likely a result of internal processes. At upper right, along the moon’s curving edge, is a canyon estimated to be four to six miles (seven to nine kilometers) deep.
New Horizons traveled more than three billion miles over nine-and-a-half years to reach the Pluto system.