Astronomy Club: October Newsletter

October 29, 2019

Posted by Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

It’s been a busy year for Astronomy and Spaceflight enthusiasts, as we can safely say that a new Space Race is fully underway. The original Race was between 2 countries, the United States and the USSR.

With nearly 15 countries having the ability to launch their own rockets and put a satellite into space, the field has become quite crowded. While many nations have had their astronauts in orbit, they have been put there by only 3 countries: United States, Russia and China. Many nations, as well as private companies, have their sights set on the Moon as a steppingstone to Mars. China currently has a rover operating on the far side of the Moon, while Israel and India have sent missions to the Moon over the summer with varying degrees of success. Private companies SpaceX (Elon Musk), Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) and Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson) are planning manned launches in early 2020 with the hopes of commercializing space travel and eventually taking humans to Mars.

Who will win this race? Ideally, all of humankind.

– Bill Reed

News and Current Events

The ringed planet is rolling deep! – This month astronomers announced the discovery of 20 more moons around Saturn, bringing its total number to 82—the most for any planet in the Solar System. This surpasses the total for our Solar System’s largest planet, Jupiter, which has 79 moons. These new moons are relatively small, at less than 3 miles in diameter. Astronomers believe these are fragments from an earlier, larger orbiting body.

Want eternal fame? – This is your chance to make history by participating in a naming contest for these new moons. Tweet your suggested moon name to @SaturnLunacy and with your reason. Click here for details.

Upcoming Mercury Transit – An incredible celestial sight will occur on Monday, November 11 when our innermost planet, Mercury, will pass across the face of the Sun. This event will begin at about 7:30 a.m. and finish around 1 p.m. Even though Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days, it rarely passes directly in the line between Earth and the Sun. DO NOT try to view the transit without proper equipment and filters. Please join us at the Center where we will have properly equipped telescopes available to view this event (weather permitting). Stay tuned for details…

Gadgets and Gear

Interested in Astrophotography? – One of the most challenging aspects of viewing the night sky is photography. With very little light to work with, capturing a great image can be difficult. Costly equipment and long nights out in the elements can make this a daunting task for those new to imaging the night sky. Introducing the Stellina Smart Telescope: This self-contained astrophotography rig contains everything you need to capture images from the comfort of your couch via a wireless connection to your mobile device. It will suggest, find and track an object, take a picture, process the image and send it right your phone. 

Mind-blowing Facts

You lookin’ at me? – The human eye, with its 135-degree field of view, has the equivalent resolution of a 576-megapixel camera (not all of it usable). Our eyes are sensitive enough to see a single candle, at night, from 1.7 miles away. While our eyes capture an image, our brain interprets what we see. Did you know our eyes project the work upside down onto our retinas? The brain flips it for us to comprehend. While it is amazingly capable being about an inch in diameter, the eye of the giant squid (Architeuthis) is about the diameter of a dinner plate with the pupil the size of a baseball.

Billions of stars? – On the darkest night, we can only see a few thousand stars with the naked eye. Of these thousands of stars, each one is a part of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Without optical aid, there is the Andromeda Galaxy which is big and bright enough to be seen. This galaxy is a close twin to the Milky Way and is speeding on a collision course with us at 250,000mph. Don’t be alarmed, it won’t get here for another 4.5 billion years.

Astro-tainment – Space and Media

This month we reviewed “The Future of Humanity.”

This book, written by Michio Kaku, takes you on a journey into space to explore possible outcomes and destinations for humanity. The author illustrated both the challenges and benefits to humankind, off the surface of our home planet, on our inexorable march into the future.

Topic: Astronomy