Oppy reaches Endeavour Crater

Photo: Edge of Endeavour Crater on planet Mars.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity arrived at the rim of Endeavour crater on Aug. 9, 2011, after a trek of more than 13 miles (21 kilometers) lasting nearly three years. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU. (Click on image to see full-size.)

PASADENA, Calif. – After a journey of almost three years, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the Red Planet’s Endeavour Crater to study rocks never seen before.

On Aug. 9, the golf cart-sized rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater’s rim. Opportunity drove approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) since climbing out of the Victoria Crater.

“NASA is continuing to write remarkable chapters in our nation’s story of exploration with discoveries on Mars and trips to an array of challenging new destinations,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Opportunity’s findings and data from the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory will play a key role in making possible future human missions to Mars and other places where humans have not yet been.”

Endeavour Crater, which is more than 25 times wider than Victoria Crater, is 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. At Endeavour, scientists expect to see much older rocks and terrains than those examined by Opportunity during its first seven years on Mars. Endeavour became a tantalizing destination after NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected clay minerals that may have formed in an early warmer and wetter period.

“We’re soon going to get the opportunity to sample a rock type the rovers haven’t seen yet,” said Matthew Golombek, Mars Exploration Rover science team member, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “Clay minerals form in wet conditions so we may learn about a potentially habitable environment that appears to have been very different from those responsible for the rocks comprising the plains.”

The name Spirit Point informally commemorates Opportunity’s twin rover, which stopped communicating in March 2010. Spirit’s mission officially concluded in May.

Geauga’s Observatory Park grand opening August 20

Photo: Oberle Observatory in Geauga Park District's Observatory Park. Photo by James Guilford.
Oberle Observatory in Geauga Park District's Observatory Park. Photo by James Guilford.

A special evening of activities is planned marking the 50th anniversary of the Geauga Park District. The event also serves as the public’s first viewing of its newest park, Observatory Park. Plans call for everything to get underway at 4:00 PM with a park dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Tours, entertainment, a hot dog dinner, and evening concert are planned. The evening culminates in a first-light ceremony at the new Oberle Observatory itself. Click here for the full schedule of events.

9:15 PM: “First Light Ceremony” Dedication and Ribbon-Cutting of the Oberle Observatory and Telescope. The Newtonian reflector boasts a universe-grabbing 25.5-inch mirror created by legendary local astronomer Norman Oberle. Sandy Oberle donated her late husband’s telescope to the Geauga Park District to continue his legacy by opening the heavens to the public. The ceremony will feature the Chagrin Valley Astronomical Society’s Ian Cooper and Sandy Oberle.

9:15 PM – Midnight: Stargazing hosted by the Chagrin Valley Astronomical Society.

Observatory Park, 10610 Clay Street, Montville Township
Event Open to the Public • Free Entertainment and Education for All Ages • Registration is not required. Call: (440) 286-9516 with questions.

Geomagnetic storm expected

NOAA Space Weather Bulletin August 4, 2011
NOAA Region 1261, very active over the past few days, produced the third of a sequence of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and Solar Radio Blackout Events early today. The net effect of that activity is convergent CMEs expected to disturb the geomagnetic field in the early hours, Universal Time (UTC) of August 5. G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm conditions are likely as well as a distinct chance of S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm levels being surpassed.

From SpaceWeather.com….
Moving at an estimated speed of 1950 km/s, this CME is expected to sweep up two earlier CMEs already en route. Analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab say the combined cloud should reach Earth on August 5th at 13:55 UT (9:55 AM EDT) plus or minus 7 hours: “The impact on Earth is likely to be major. The estimated maximum geomagnetic activity index level Kp is 7 (Kp ranges from 0 – 9). The flanks of the CME may also impact STEREO A, Mars and Mercury/MESSENGER.” High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Please visit SpaceWeather.com for full details and latest news!

If we happen to have clear(ish) skies Friday night, Aug. 5, it might be worth stepping outside well after twilight and taking a look. You never know, we might get auroras!

2011 Convention a great night

Photo: Sunset over the still lake at park. Photo by James Guilford.
The sun sets on a beautiful day, ushering in a clear night sky full of stars. Photo by James Guilford.

It was a great night at Letha House Park! CAA members and invited astronomy club members from the area gathered under gloriously clear skies for an evening of socializing and a night of excellent observing.

Many thanks to all those who attended this annual event, and to those who brought the good food for the pot luck and helped with its preparation!  Special thanks in this regard to Marianne Wadsworth, who helped VP Mike Williams with her grilling skills.

Board member Tim Campbell brought in all the great-tasting wieners, brats, and sausages for the event at an excellent price.  Our thanks to Bob Guttwein, president of Five Star Brand Meats in Cleveland, who offered the high-quality meat at a steep discount through Tim.

Photo: Lecturer with projected image of Saturn's moon Titan. Photo by James Guilford.
Featured speaker Jay Reynolds talks about the NASA Cassini mission, shown here with a projected image of Saturn's moon Titan. The new facilities at Letha House Park were much appreciated.Photo by James Guilford.

We had visitors from the Black River, Chagrin Valley, and Mahoning Valley clubs.  It was nice to host them!

Many thanks to our secretary, Steve Spears, who got a good supply of door prizes in spite of tight economic conditions. Caffeine kudos to Ray and Lynn Paul, who brought a large coffee pot and fixings for coffee lovers.

Special thanks to Gail Korylak, who helped with the clean-up.  Gail cleaned all the tables, moved all the tables and chairs, and then vacuumed the floor.  Earlier during the dinner, she also set up and arranged the food table.  She did a great job.

Our thanks also, of course, to Jay Reynolds, who gave an interesting talk about Saturn and the Cassini Mission.

Photo: Astronomers setting up telescopes in early twilight. Photo by James Guilford
2011 Convention attendees set up their telescopes under the clear skies of early twilight. Photo by James Guilford.

The recent improvements to the park gave telescope owners the opportunity to park on solid pavement and set up their instruments on earth. Adding to the pleasure was the fact that skies over the park were the best they have been in many a year for the CAA’s event. It was a great night, indeed!