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?

Analemma – Activity #1

Activity 1 So – here is the drawing I made from the dimensions of my apparatus, and the distances to both the equinoxes and the solstices.  The side marked “Gnomon” is the measurement from the ground to the height of the stick (gnomon).

I then measured the distance from the gnomon to the dots corresponding to the equinoxes and the solstices.

The drawing I used was full size. This drawing is just representative of my drawing. It’s not the actual drawing. It’s important for you to make the drawing full size in order to measure the angles for activity 1.

You will also need a protractor

For the first part of the activity – “measure the tilt of the earth’s axis using only your analemma and apparatus measurements.”

Take your protractor and measure angle a, then angle b. Then subtract b from a. This will be approximately 23 degrees which is the tilt of the earth’s axis.

Next – using your protractor measure the angle marked ‘latitude’. This is – you guessed it – your latitude!

Yea! One down  – three to go! Up next – Activity #2: with reference only to your analemma and measured dimensions of your observing apparatus, calculate the Sun’s path in the sky and produce a sketch or plot to depict that path.

Hmmmm – getting tougher!!


Asteroid 2013 LR6

Yes folks, another close shave. I can’t help but wonder why we’re finding so many of these NEOs lately. Is it because we’re finally taking the time to look? Or are people finally interested because of the near misses this year? Just something to think about.

Asteroid 2013 LR6 Orbit

Asteroid 2013 LR6 is smaller than QE2, about the size of the meteorite that exploded over Russia. The scary thing for me is that we just found this one on June 6th. That gives us a two day heads up. That’s just not enough time.

This one came in closer that the moon, at about 69,000 miles from the earth, whizzing by at 9.8km per second. It was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey. Lynn already took a sobering look at the business of searching for and dealing with these potentially hazardous space rocks so I won’t get into that.



Comet updates

Pan-STARRS C/2011 L4 with ion trail.

During our local astronomy club meeting last week, someone shared a recent picture of comet Pan-STARRS C/2011 L4, and I thought “Hey. I thought that comet was long gone! Maybe I should write an update on the comets.”

I discovered that L4 is still viewable in telescopes larger than 4” at a +11 magnitude, and photographing it reveals an amazing tail. An ion tail and a dust tail are clearly visible, while an anti-tail is pointing in the opposite direction towards the sun. I hadn’t heard of anti-tails, but apparently they form when the pressure of sunlight blows fresh dust back from the comet’s head.

L4 is making its way through the Little Dipper in June.


In the meantime, ISON is currently streaking towards us at a leisurely 50,351 mph. Touted as possibly the brightest thing since sliced bread, ISON may not put on the show that everyone promised. It stopped brightening at the beginning of this year and has stagnated around +16 magnitude. Although it briefly sprouted a bright tail, the coma faded and became smaller and less condensed.

Everyone is still waiting to see just what kind of show ISON will put on, and we’ll know the answer to that around November 10 when ISON is expected to be visible to the naked eye. All we can do now is keep our finger’s crossed.



The Analemma – Or, how I spent my summer vacation.


And my spring break, Christmas vacation, birthday and, well you get the idea.

So I spent the last year of my life running home at lunch, watching weather reports and planning when I could get the next dot on my analemma. So here’s the end result. Yes, that’s it.

I was thrilled to see the figure 8, however as you can see, I’m a little off center. It should be going straight up the center of the page. I’m a little off to the left. That means that I took my readings a tad early, a result of taking readings at noon by the clock. I should have used solar noon.

Solar noon is when the sun is at it’s highest in the sky. It actually happens at different times everyday, but you can calculate the ‘average’ time of solar noon. File that under ‘things to do differently next time’. HA – next time – I don’t think so!

Before I took it off the frame, I measured the distance from the tip of the gnomon to the dots marking the solstices and the equinoxes. I also had to measure the exact height of the gnomon.

These measurements are needed to complete the first activity, which is: with reference only to your analemma and measured dimensions of your observing apparatus, calculate (1) the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to its orbital plane, and (2) your observing Latitude.

Easy right? Well as it turns out, not too bad! But you’ll have to stay tuned!



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