Cosmos Remake Didn’t Let Us Down

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Cosmos party at Amy’s house.

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this blog, you’re the type that thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of Cosmos last night. (If you missed it, watch it here). It had an estimated 5.8 million viewers. How cool is that??!?

The show opened with Neil deGrasse Tyson taking us on a tour of the solar system in an updated version of the Ship of the Imagination (much cooler than the 1980 version). The show also included the story of Giordano Bruno, the first man to see a vision of a limitless universe. The Cosmic Calendar followed, which started with the big bang and put the timeline of our universe into perspective.

Needless to say, Amy and I really enjoyed the show. To commemorate the event, we threw a Cosmos Party that included our respective spouses. Chocolate wine, strawberries, cheese, homemade cookies, chips – all on a table that usually holds our star charts and binoculars. Who says astronomy is boring??

It turned out that Cosmos wasn’t the only spacey thing going on last night, either. As soon as Cosmos ended, the local PBS station aired Apollo 17: The Untold Story of the Last Men on the Moon.

We also peeked in on a live web cast from Slooh.com, who was tracking asteroid 2014 CU13 from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands. This asteroid, approximately 623 feet wide, whizzed by us today about 1.9 million miles (a mere eight times the distance between the Earth and the moon). Slooh hoped to draw attention to the asteroid so amateur astronomers will help efforts to pinpoint its orbit.

A good time was had by all, and it was nice to do some indoor astronomy for a change. Hope you got all of Amy’s tweet’s during the show!

Lynn

Countdown to Cosmos

Promo for Cosmos
Promo for Cosmos

Every Tuesday for the past few years the Astro Babes have gotten together for a ‘meeting’.  We picked Tuesday because a local pizza place had $2 margarita’s. What better reason to get together than that?  These meetings started as a way for the two of us to go have margarita’s and pizza and talk about whatever needed to be discussed at the time.  Sometimes it was astronomy related sometimes not, but each week we had an agenda, took notes and planned the next meeting.

It was during these meetings that we planned our club talks and dreamed up some of our now famous adventures.  Sadly, the pizza place is no longer there, but Tuesday nights are still dedicated to our meetings. This past Tuesday we set aside our valuable Astro Babe meeting time to watch a live Q & A with the makers of the new Cosmos series.

This live webcast was watched by nearly 75,000 people – which could explain why neither of my tweets made it through! The webcast gave us a look at the new host, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  I have to say that I’m a big fan of his. He comes across as enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable in all things astronomical. I’m looking forward to the premier even more now!

We plan on doing some tweeting during the premier so if  you’re not already following us please do!

https://twitter.com/astro_babes

Have a great Cosmos party!

Amy

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Mars Meteorite Road Trip

At the end of September, the Astro Babes attended a lecture in Madison that was part of the “Biosignatures: What Does Life Leave Behind?” exhibit. (See the related “Trip to Mars” blog entry). It was a rare opportunity to hold a piece of Mars in our hands.

Here are a few pictures from this latest adventure.

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Barbara Millicent Roberts, our new guest blogger, astronaut, and notable Martian expert, accompanied the Astro Babes on this road trip. As a Martian expert, Roberts she said she was excited to see the Tissint meteorite from Mars.

 

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The reception and the preview of the meteorite exhibit was held by invitation only.

 

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A presentation entitled “How to Build an Astrobiology Exhibit in 1,272 Easy Steps” was followed by a reception in the museum. The evening not only featured a piece of Mars, but also a rare opportunity to hold another piece in our hands.

 

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Amy holding an actual piece of Mars during the visit to the UW-Madison Geology Museum. The owner, a private collector from Arizona, loaned this piece to the museum for the opening of this meteorite exhibit.

 

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Close-up of the Red Planet.

 

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Roberts was really excited about having an actual piece of Mars rest on her lap. “I was so nervous someone had to hold me up!” she said.

 

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Here Roberts is catching a glimpse of the main attraction, the Tissint meteorite, that is believed to have broken off the Red Planet around 700,000 years ago. Its landing was witnessed in Morocco in 2011 which makes it extremely rare.

 

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Behind the smile, Lynn is contemplating stuffing this 320 lb. Canyon Diablo Iron Meteorite fragment into her purse. This meteorite was found near Winslow, AZ, and is one of many pieces on display.

 

Here are some fragments of the Mifflin meteorite that landed in southwestern Wisconsin
The exhibit included some fragments of the Mifflin meteorite that landed in southwestern Wisconsin in 2010. The Astro Babes were there and had a chance to do a little meteorite hunting of their own. (See the related “Hunting for Meteorites” blog entry.)

 

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What Mars party would be complete without a little wine and some custom-made Martian doughnuts?

Sputnikfest 2013

IMG_3718Last year we were only participants, but this year, the Astro Babes brought solar telescopes to Sputnikfest in Manitowoc.

Once the 3 p.m. Alien Drop crowd cleared out, we set up just a few steps away from the ring where the chunk of Sputnik IV landed in 1962 at the intersection of Eighth and Park streets.

The crowd was non-stop to take a peak at Venus or the sun through the three solar telescopes and the three projections that we set up. Tom from Appleton and Jim from Manitowoc brought their scopes and a sunspotter – thanks for your help guys! The rest of the equipment we borrowed from NPMAS.

Although there weren’t any sunspots to see, Tom’s Coronado revealed several CME’s that really impressed the crowd.

 

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Smile – Cassini’s Watching!

Say cheese, or batman, or fuzzy pickles or whatever it takes to get that perfect smile. You’ll want to look good for this one!

On Friday July 19th the Cassini spacecraft 900 million miles from earth will be taking our picture, in an event being called “The Day the Earth Smiled”.   I imagine that this could be one of those events that you’ll look back on and remember where you were, or what you were doing when that historic photo was taken.Saturn

Now I know that to Cassini,  earth will be just a tiny blue dot, and of course no one will see you in the photo standing on top of a building with a huge “Hi Mom” sign, frantically waving your arms and staring up at the sky.  But YOU’LL know that at that moment a beautiful and historic image is being taken from many miles from earth.

While Cassini has taken several photos of the earth over the last nine years, this is the first time that the public has know about it in advance. Making this a special event!

So on Friday at between 2:27 and 2:47pm Pacific daylight time (they’ve accounted for light travel times) whether you choose to go outside and make a scene, or you just take a moment to glance outside, make sure you stop, if only for a moment and smile. You’ll be taking part in recognizing a truly amazing event!

Oh… and don’t forget to say cheese!

Amy

Super Moon – Super Kid

As you well know – on Sunday June 23rd,  we had the appearance of the ‘supermoon’. This time it happened to coincide with the appearance of a ‘superkid’.   I stood in the yard, bathed in the beautiful moonbeams, trying to soak in the moment.  While it’s not an extremely rare event, it doesn’t happen every day. Then just when I thought I’d go inside, my daughter peeked outside and said, “hey mom, put up your telescope so I can take a picture!”

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Well, talk about your rare events! No need to ask twice! I went inside and grabbed my 90mm Meade that sits as a permanent fixture in our family room. I set it up quickly on the back patio. The moon hung just over the neighbors house, a perfect spot. She carefully put her smart phone up to the eyepiece and within seconds had snapped off about four great photos.  Side note – I was a bit jealous that it was so easy for her. I’ve tried to get a good through the eyepiece picture and it’s NOT easy!

Then almost as quickly as it began, it was over. Off she went into the house to share her photo with the world, well, her world anyway.

I’ve been to star parties, seen rare transits, watched eclipses, watched an asteroid tumble by the earth and even met an Apollo astronaut. Of all the rare astronomical events I’ve seen, the most cherished moments are the ones like this, when my children step into my world for a moment and see it the way I do.

Amy

Iridium Flares – Not UFO’s!

iridiumHave you see those weird lights in the sky? Chances are their not UFO’s. Some of them may be Iridium flares! In November I posted about some fun ways to add a quick observing session to a family gathering. One thing I mentioned were Iridium flares. I thought I’d talk a little more about them and what they are.

A satellite flare is sunlight bouncing off the reflective surface of a satellite and sending it directly back to earth. The satellite will appear to flare, or brighten suddenly then disappear. Here’s a link to an animation that shows what a flare looks like.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flare_Simulation.gif

Iridium satellites are a group of communication satellites that orbit the earth in low earth orbit at about 485 miles above the earth. The ‘constellation’ as it’s called, consists of 66 satellites. They orbit the earth from pole to pole every 100 minutes.

The satellite’s unique shape of three polished door sized panels focuses sunlight directly down to earth, causing what we call ‘Iridium Flares’.

While you may see one of these by chance, you’re more likely to spot one with some outside help. One of our favorite sites is Heavens-above. Once you set it to your location you can click on the link to Iridium Flares. You’ll get a list of visible flares for your location, the brightness, altitude and other pertinent information.

Some of these flares are so bright they are visible in the daytime! I have yet to see one of those, the trouble is that they are dangerously close to the sun (from our perspective) and very difficult to see.

These are always fun to see, and fun to impress your family with.  Find out when a bright flare will happen, then plan to be outside when it does! Make your ‘prediction’ and amaze your friends and family! It’s no rabbit out of a hat, but still fun.

Ta da!

Amy