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.

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.


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


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.


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.


Close-up of the Red Planet.


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.


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.


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.)


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

Two fireballs streaked across meteoritethe night sky in Ohio last week: one on Sept. 26 and another on Sept. 27. The Astro Babes started crossing their fingers and hoping another Meteorite Road Trip was in their near future. But unfortunately, neither meteorite seems to be a candidate for a leaving a large number of sizeable meteorites in its strewn field.

One meteorite was moving too quickly and burned up, and the other was probably too small to drop any sizeable meteorites. Additionally, no meteorite finds have been reported so far, so there is not much hope that pieces from either meteorite survived the fall through the atmosphere.

To keep abreast of any new falls, Amy and I signed up for Yahoo! Alerts, and whenever a news story with keywords like “fireball” and “meteorite” shows up in the Yahoo! News feed, we receive an email. It’s a great way to quickly learn about any new falls in our neck of the woods.

Guess we’ll keep our meteorite hunting bags packed and our fingers crossed.

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New Member of the Team

barbie-head-shotThe Astro Babes want to welcome a new guest correspondent to our team! Barbara Millicent Roberts, an astronaut and notable Martian expert from Willows, Wisconsin, will be sharing her expertise in future blogs on our website.

Often referred to as “Mars Explorer Barbie,” Ms. Roberts officially began her assignment in collaboration with NASA in August. Her assignment coincided with the first anniversary of NASA’s Curiosity rover landing on Mars.

The Astro Babes want to express their gratitude to Ms. Roberts for agreeing to act as our official Mars Correspondent, and we look forward to her contributions in the near future.

A Whole Different World

1962 NASA rejection to Miss Kelly. No girls allowed.

Back in the early 60’s when I was a little girl, I would lie on the grass for hours and watch the clouds and planes and commercial jets fly over my head on their way to some place much more exotic than my front lawn in Sheboygan. It was there on that lawn that I decided I would be a pilot when I grew up. But the world was a different place in the 60’s.

A few weeks ago, I read about a rejection letter that a woman, identified as Miss Kelly, received from NASA in 1962. She had applied to be an astronaut but was turned down simply because she was a girl.

That story actually didn’t surprise me at all, but later, it occurred to me that most of the young women of today probably would not believe it was true.

I was 11-years-old when Miss Kelly received her rejection letter. It was right around that time that I told my Mom and my aunt that I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. With all-knowing snickers and smirks on their faces, they explained to me that there was no way that was going to happen. Girls were not allowed to be pilots. Only boys could be pilots. I could become a stewardess if I was tall enough and pretty enough, but that didn’t interest me at all.

Little did my Mom or my aunt know that that conversation not only ended my dreams of becoming a pilot, it ended a career path that would have led me to sending in my own application to NASA to become an astronaut some 30 years later.

It was only 21 years after Miss Kelly received that letter that Sally Ride took her first ride into space, and last month, NASA announced their newest group of eight astronauts – half of them are women. Things have sure changed since I was a kid.


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Green Bay Needs a Shuttle Too

Amid great fanfare, atlantisthe Space Shuttle Atlantis went on display at the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex yesterday. Seems like a perfect resting place. Atlantis will get lots of visitors who can do all sorts of other spacey things too, like watch a launch from Titusville, tour Cape Canaveral, or spend a day exploring the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

And the complex will get lots of other traffic from the zillions of people who visit Sea World and Disney and Universal every year.

But when I looked at a map of the shuttle retirement homes across the country, I found the Discovery in Virginia, the Enterprise in New York, and the Endeavor in California. That means the closest space shuttle to me and Amy is nearly a thousand miles away.

mapI’ve decided that arrangement is just a little too unfair. The West coast, East coast, and the South coast is covered, but there’s zero shuttle’s up here in the Midwest.

I’m proposing that we get one of those shuttles moved up here to the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay. The museum is a little small now, but we could add on a room or put it in the parking lot and keep it covered with a tarp.

There’d be lots of visitors. People who come to the Packers games could go check it out in between going to Stadium View and touring the Packers Hall of Fame. All the shuttle tee shirts and coffee mugs in the gift shop could be green and gold, and the Space Port Café could sell cheese curds and Miller beer. Sounds good to me. I wonder who I email to get the ball rolling?

Maybe Next Year

Over the weekend, Amy celebrated yet cake another birthday. In an effort to keep things uncomplicated in the past, we’ve acknowledged each other’s momentous occasions by simply going out for lunch. It usually includes Chinese food.

This year I thought about splurging and getting her something a little more spectacular. Sure, it is a little pricey, but what Astro Babe wouldn’t appreciate being one of the first 1,000 to get a ride on SpaceShipTwo?!? Nothing like speeding along in space at 2500 mph to get your heart rate up.

However, I read this morning that after the first 1,000 people have taken a ride, Richard Branson is planning on dropping the price from $250,000 down to $200,000. Not one to waste money, I guess that means that Amy will have to wait until next year. This year, she’ll have to once again settle for a card and a birthday lunch with chopsticks.

Sorry Amy. In the meantime, Happy Birthday! And have some cake!


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Supporting the International Dark-Sky Network

Although we don’t have a chapter nearby, our club has used the resources of the

The effects of light pollution.
The effects of light pollution.

International Dark-Sky Network, an organization that focuses on raising awareness of the adverse affects of light pollution. We support them not just because light pollution and sky glow make it harder for us to see faint objects, but because light pollution causes many other problems as well.

For astronomers, sky glow reduces the contrast between celestial objects, and makes it much harder to see fainter objects. That forces me, Amy, and all our fellow amateurs here to drive farther and farther to find a dark sky.

In the war against light, we can flock our telescope tubes with a dark cloth or use light shields. We can also use filters on our scopes that filter out the spectral lines that are emitted by sodium and mercury-vapor lamps, but these filters also reduce the brightness of objects and limit the use of higher magnifications.

Although it’s an inconvenience for us, scientists are finding that light pollution is a much more serious problem for nocturnal animals and plants. Artificial lighting affects how animals and insects interact. It prevents zooplankton from eating algae, which contributes to those nasty algae blooms that kill off lake plants and lower the quality of water. Moths and nocturnal insects change their pollination patterns, and artificial lighting causes all sorts of problems for Sea Turtles, frogs, and salamander hatchlings.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that four to five million birds are killed each year after being attracted to tall, lit towers. Migrating birds may also need polarized moonlight for navigation, which becomes invisible under heavy light pollution.

So light pollution is not just a problem for us amateurs, but also for our environment as well. If you or your club are not aware of or supporting the activities of the International Dark-Sky Network, this is a good time to get educated. Their website is also a terrific resource if, for example, you have a neighbor with a new sodium lamp that lights up the farms for miles, or you hear that a new car dealership is going up in your town.

Spend some time on their website and learn all about their efforts. You can help spread their message in your community, and you will be doing some good for your fellow astronomers and for the environment as well.


A Long Road to Divorce Court

If you haven’t had your head stuck in the sand lately, you’ve heard about the marsInspiration Mars Foundation’s recent proposal to send an older, “tested” couple to Mars in 2018. Dennis Tito, former space tourist on a 2001 Russian Souyez mission, is leading the foundation’s efforts to raise the $1 billion needed to make this journey a reality.

Because of my own first reaction to the idea of spending 501 straight days in outer space in a rocket-fueled closet with my husband, I decided to ask spouses of my friends how they think the trip would work out for them. Not surprisingly, it was universally considered a very bad idea.

Here is a general gist of their comments:

  • We might as well get divorced right now and get it over with.
  • No way. I’d murder him within the first two weeks.
  • She’d probably break something before we even left the atmosphere.
  • At least they’d have a flight plan so we wouldn’t have to stop and ask for directions.
  • We’d never make it back because when stuff started breaking, he’d never get around to fixing it.
  • After about three weeks of non-stop whining, I’d open the hatch and walk home by myself.
  • Could I just send my husband?
  • We should put some cameras in there and make it a reality show!
  • If she drives, we’ll end up at Venus.

I will leave it to your imagination to guess which one was my reaction.

I’ve given this a lot of thought since it was announced, and the only way that Tito can think this is a good idea is because he only spent seven days up there with a bunch of strangers with limited English skills. His wife was no where in sight.

I say, c’mon Tito, lead the way! Why don’t you and Liz be the first couple to step up and apply for the job. And don’t forget the cameras – that is one reality show I wouldn’t want to miss.

In the past 40 years, over 600,000 people have applied to be astronauts, so I’m sure there will be plenty of couples who will volunteer. And yes, some lucky couple will get the opportunity to pass within 100 miles of the surface of Mars – but I know for sure that it won’t be me and Joe!


New Nebula Found!!

I’ve discovered a nebula! A bright, annoying glow that obscures the night sky in the fall. It’s magnitude varies, with the brightest nights coinciding with – football.

Yes, it’s the Lambeau nebula. It’s always been there, but lately it has increased in annoyance. To help all those fans in the nosebleed section see the game, they’ve installed a new scoreboard in the south end zone that looms above the stadium. The thing is that it has a jumbo-tron on it that the astronauts on the ISS must be able to see. I mean really, does the entire northern hemisphere need to see the play by play?

Geeeesh, it’s a good thing I actually like football. I am a Packer fan after all, so I’ll have to learn to live with the minor inconveniences that go along with living near the stadium.

Maybe I can get them to schedule their night games when there’s a full moon. The night sky’s already lit up then.

I’ll bring it up at the next shareholders meeting. I’m sure they’ll listen to me!

What do you think?


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