Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shoot for the Stars

“Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.” 
  - Les Brown

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kanawha and A Landlocked Virginia

This is a great 'strange map' and an interesting story. I'm sure Mr. Jefferson would not have approved of this. When Virginia seceeded from the Union, West Virginia seceeded from Virginia. This map represents a potential change in state boundaries and was created some time in 1861.

West Virginia is the state that seceded where others failed. When in 1861 the South broke away from the US to form the Confederacy, the Mountain State in its turn left Virginia to remain within the Union. The electoral process by which it did this was highly irregular, and its accession to the Union could be considered illegal and unconstitutional. But in wartime, legal niceties count for less than tactical advantage, and West Virginia became a full-fledged member of the United States in 1863. The wrangling about West Virginia’s secession stopped only in 1939, when it paid the final installment of its share of the pre-Civil War state debt to Virginia.

In this map Virginia is just a narrow strip along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Read the whole story at Strange Maps.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Methane on Mars

Despite the tabloid headlines this does not mean that life on Mars has been found. It does mean that they found something unusual and they will investigate further.

This is such a great time to be an astronomer!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Periodic Table of Videos

This is a great site for all the science geeks out there (like me)! It is from the University of Nottingham and has a video for every element on the periodic table. This is the video for Sodium.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Star Party - February 7, 2009

Star Party Program for February 7, 2009

7:00pm: Feature Program - "Planet Quest: The Search for Another Earth" 
Club member Tim Reinhard will discuss the various techniques being used to locate and study planets around distant stars. It is now clear that extra solar planets around distant stars are common. The big questions are: do any contain life as we know it? Is there another earth out there?

8pm and again at 9pm: Planetarium Show of the Night Sky
Assistant planetarium director Pete Detterline will conduct the planetarium show this month featuring interesting facts about the February night sky.
Please note: Planetarium seating is limited. Because the dome is lowered, visitors must be seated under the dome to see the planetarium show.

7pm – 10pm: Telescope viewing of the Night Sky
Weather permitting, our observatory telescopes, plus individual club member telescopes, will be available for you to look through at various night sky objects. Feel free to ask questions about the objects you see or the telescopes you are looking through. This is an outdoor activity so dress warmly.

620B E. Rock Rd., Allentown PA 18103
610-797-3476 •
A non-profit educational organization founded in 1957

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Today in Astronomy: January 11

William Tyler Olcott
January 11, 1873 – July 6, 1936

William Tyler Olcott was an American lawyer and amateur astronomer. In 1909, after attending a lecture by Edward Pickering, he developed an interest in observing variable stars. In 1911, he and professor Pickering founded the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). Olcott also published several books to popularize the field of amateur astronomy. The Moon crater Olcott is named in his honor.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Today in Astronomy: Simon Marius

January 10, 1573 – December 26, 1624

Simon Marius was a German astronomer. In 1614 Marius published his work Mundus Iovialis describing the planet Jupiter and its moons. Here he claimed to have discovered the planet's four major moons some days before Galileo. This led to a dispute with Galileo, who showed that Marius provided only one observation as early as Galileo's, and it matched Galileo's diagram for the same date, as published in 1610. 

It is considered possible that Marius discovered the moons independently, but at least some days later than Galileo; if so, he is the only person known to have observed the moons in the period before Galileo published his observations. Regardless of priority, the mythological names by which these satellites are known today (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) are those given them by Marius. The Moon crater Marius is named in his honor.

Simon Marius also observed the Andromeda "nebula", which had in fact already been known to Arab astronomers of the Middle Ages.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Today in Astronomy: Caroline Herschel

Caroline Lucretia Herschel
March 16, 1750 – January 9, 1848

Caroline Lucretia Herschel was a German-born British astronomer. She is the sister of astronomer Sir William Herschel with whom she worked throughout both of their careers. Her most significant contribution to astronomy was the discovery of several comets and in particular the periodic comet 35P/Herschel-Rigollet, which bears her name. The Moon crater C. Herschel is named in her honor.

Today in Astronomy: Galileo

February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642

Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer who played a major role in the scientific revolution. His achievements include the first systematic studies of uniformly accelerated motion, improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. Galileo's empirical work was a significant break from the abstract Aristotelian approach of his time.

It is Galileo's first use of a telescope in 1609 that inspired the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Today in Astronomy: Stephen Hawking

Stephen William Hawking is a British theoretical physicist and was born on January 8, 1942.

Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a position once held by Issac Newton. He is known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes, and his popular works in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general. These include the runaway popular science bestseller A Brief History of Time, which stayed on the British Sunday Times bestseller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

His key scientific works to date have included providing, with Roger Penrose, theorems regarding singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, which is today known as Hawking radiation.

Happy Birthday, Stephen!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today in Astronomy


January 7, 1610
Galileo Galilei observes the four largest moons of Jupiter for the first time. He named them and in turn the four are called the Galilean moons. Jupiter's 4 Galilean moons, in a composite image comparing their sizes and the size of Jupiter (Great Red Spot visible). From the top, they are Io,EuropaGanymede and Callisto