BASS Meeting Saturday, January 20th, 7PM at SBO

Lord of the rings?

β Pictoris was one of the first planets to be directly imaged. Interestingly, it appears that this planet’s orbit is almost edge-on from our line of sight. The planet has an orbit similar to something between Jupiter and Saturn in our own system, with an orbital period of about 20 years, and it is also a large gas giant, many times bigger than Jupiter. In the coming months it may pass in front of it’s star, Pictoris. There is some evidence in the astronomical record that it may have dimmed with a complicated profile in the past, at times that line up well with the schedule of transits. These measurements were made before anyone had any idea that there was even a planet there, and certainly not when anyone was staring at it 24/7.

This potential transit provides a rare chance to see evidence of rings or moons. Pictoris is a bright star, so this effort is focusing on small telescopes and even a dedicated cubesat (a tiny form-factor satellites, about the size of a toaster oven). There is a lot of small-science technology demonstration going into several attempts to make the first discovery ever of rings around an exo-planet.

(Image Credit: ESO/A.-M. Lagrange et al.)

Join us at the observatory for a talk about the efforts to observe this once in a twenty year opportunity.

Observing with the SBO deck telescopes after the talk, weather permitting. Dress warm.

BASS at SBO 01-2017

BASS Elections

Being January, we will ask our current active members to cast a ballot for the 2018 officers. The names on the ballot are uncontested this year, but we will go through the formality as usual. I am delighted to have help keeping BASS going forward, and bringing our attendees this unique venue for science talks and telescope access.

Alert on parking at CU Boulder!

The University has made some changes to the classification of the parking lot near Sommer-Bausch Observatory. Lot 419 that we have used for many years is no longer free after 5pm. We recommend using lot 308. Lot 308 is just west of Fiske Planetarium, which is still free and unrestricted after 5pm. You can park on the eastern side of 308, including the rows near section 305 which is metered.

 

Holiday BASS Potluck, Saturday December 16, at the President’s Residence

We had a few requests to revive the BASS Holiday, Not Quite Solstice, Potluck Celebration. 6PM-10PM at the Hartung household. BASS members, please bring a dish, with enough for a shared grazing type of small plates. Drinks will be provided. If you need details on the address, please email Steve at:
s(the usual period punctuation)hartung(you know the at symbol)computer(and another period)org.

Welcome to the new BASS homepage!

We’ll snack and chat, and enjoy the season. If the weather permits, we’ll put out a telescope or two.

BASS Meeting Saturday, November 18th, 7PM at SBO

Interstellar

While we detect particles whizzing into our neighborhood from unimaginable distances, we’ve never confirmed observationally that anything big has come in from interstellar space, until now. In the last two months an object first thought to be a comet has turned out to be a rock coming from somewhere near Vega. It is traveling so fast that after passing the earth and the sun it is now departing even faster than it came in.

We’ll take a look at this object, how it was found, and what the analysis is telling us about it. It has long been assumed that objects like this must exist, our own solar system must have tossed out similar objects that went somewhere, but only modern survey telescopes and high sensitivity cameras made this discovery possible.

File:A2017U1 5gsmoothWHT.jpg
Image credit: NASA; Alan Fitzsimmons (ARC, Queen’s University Belfast), Isaac Newton Group

Observing with the SBO deck telescopes after the talk, weather permitting. Dress warm.

BASS at SBO 01-2017
Time exposure with red-light painting at SBO 01-21-2017

Alert on parking at CU Boulder!

The University has made some changes to the classification of the parking lot near Sommer-Bausch Observatory. Lot 419 that we have used for many years is no longer free after 5pm. We recommend using lot 308. Lot 308 is just west of Fiske Planetarium, which is still free and unrestricted after 5pm. You can park on the eastern side of 308, including the rows near section 305 which is metered.

BASS Meeting Saturday, October 21st, 7PM at SBO

When neutron stars collide, they make waves!

In the last month, gravitational wave detection has earned the Nobel Prize in physics, and the most recent detection has validated the significance of this scientific breakthrough. Just this week it was announced that on August 17th a gravitational wave event was detected by three sensors for the first time, allowing rough triangulation of the event in the sky. Telescopes at all wave lengths from the radio to the gamma-ray were alerted and on the hunt. They were spectacularly successful, capturing data and images for the merger of two neutron stars across the electromagnetic spectrum. We’ll look at the event data, hot off the press, and discuss the significance of this breakthrough detection.

Neutron star merger
Artist conception of merging neutron stars radiating gravitational waves. Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Alert on parking at CU Boulder!

The University has made some changes to the classification of the parking lot near Sommer-Bausch Observatory. Lot 419 that we have used for many years is no longer free after 5pm. We recommend using lot 308. Lot 308 is just west of Fiske Planetarium, which is still free and unrestricted after 5pm. You can park on the eastern side of 308, including the rows near section 305 which is metered.

BASS Meeting Saturday, September 16th, 7PM at SBO

Remembrances of Cassini

In the classroom downstairs at the Sommers-Bausch Observatory (SBO) on the CU Boulder campus.

On Friday 9/15/2017, the Cassini spacecraft will make a controlled dive in the upper atmosphere of Saturn, ending an extraordinary mission of discovery around the ringed planet. We will look at some of Cassini’s accomplishments and many of its images. What was your favorite part of the Cassini mission?

Cassini entering the upper atmosphere of Saturn. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Alert on parking at CU Boulder!

The University has made some changes to the classification of the parking lot near Sommer-Bausch Observatory. Lot 419 that we have used for many years is no longer free after 5pm. We recommend using lot 308. Lot 308 is just west of Fiske Planetarium, which is still free and unrestricted after 5pm. You can park on the eastern side of 308, including the rows near section 305 which is metered.

BASS Meeting Saturday, July 15th, 7PM at SBO

Saturday, July 15th, 7PM at Sommers-Bausch Observatory. “Tabby’s Star: the curious case of an unusual variable system”. Everything from swarms of comets to alien mega-structures orbiting this star have been proposed. Think “Rendezvous With Rama” like structures; not likely, but the patterns in this stars behavior are so weird that somebody put that out there.

Tabby's Star
Tabby’s Star. Image Credit: Roberto Mura

Discovered by the Kepler space telescope, Tabby’s star is variable unlike any other. It dims periodically, as if something is passing in front of it, but the light curve is oddly complex, like it is being eclipsed by a bunch of things for a while, and then they move out of the line of sight.

During the last BASS meeting in June, the star begin to show signs of starting one of its dimming cycles and a call went for as many observations as possible. BASS members Alison Friedli and Wayne Green used the SBO telescope to successfully get some science quality images and reduce them to data for the light curve. The results where shared with the scientific community’s collection. After a brief description of Tabby’s Star and its brief history in modern astronomy’s focus, we will share how Alison and Wayne collected the data and shared it with the researchers investigating this cosmic mystery.

Following the talk, we will try  to go up to the observing deck and use the new telescopes (weather permitting, as always, and also the astronomy summer school is in session, so we may have to give them priority on the scopes). If we do get to use them, it is prime Saturn time this month.

New SBO deck scopes. Image by Gary Garzone

Parking near SBO (building 422 on the map), use lot sections 419 and 423, these lots are free after 5PM:

CU-BASS-Parking

BASS Meeting Saturday, June 17th, 7PM at SBO

Saturday, June 17th, 7PM at Sommer-Bausch Observatory (SBO), in the downstairs lab/classroom.  Our speaker for this Saturday is William Waalkes. He will be talking about exoplanet atmospheres and the title of his talk is “Tenuous Habitability”. William Waalkes, is a graduate student researcher in the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences department at the University of Colorado, who is focusing on detecting and characterizing atmospheres on rocky planets outside our solar system. His previous research has included the study of Cassini data from Titan’s atmosphere, characterization of simple organic molecules in pre-stellar cloud cores, and the analysis of nitrogen abundance in the Orion Nebula.

Image credit astrobiology.nasa.gov

Following the talk, we will go up to the observing deck and use the new telescopes (weather permitting, as always).

New SBO deck scopes. Image by Gary Garzone

Parking near SBO (building 422 on the map), use lot sections 419 and 423, these lots are free after 5PM:

CU-BASS-Parking

 

 

You never know who will show up at BASS…

During the May meeting at BASS, we were honored by a surprise visit from former NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld. Dr. Grunsfeld is a vetern of five space shuttle missions and his was the last human hand to touch the Hubble Space Telescope (gloved hand, of course) during its final repair mission.

Dr. Grunsfeld joined his friend and author Leonard David, who was our scheduled guest speaker to discuss the state of NASA’s human exploration of space (the good and the bad of it).

BASS Meeting Saturday, May 20th, 7PM at SBO

Saturday, May 20th, 7PM at Sommer-Bausch Observatory (SBO), in the downstairs lab/classroom. The feature talk will be by Leonard David, author of Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet“, the companion book to the acclaimed National Geographic series.

NG-MARS-COVERLeonard David is SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist, as well as a correspondent for Space News newspaper and a contributing writer for several magazines, specifically Aerospace America, the membership publication of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

He is also the co-author with Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin of Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration, and Space Careers, co-authored with entrepreneur Scott Sacknoff. Space Careers is designed for high school, college, graduate students – and job seekers of all ages, it is a source for understanding and finding a career in the space and satellite industry.

A limited number of Mr David’s books will be available for purchase, and he is willing to sign any of his books, purchased at the meeting or bring your own if you already own a copy.

Following the talk, we will go up to the observing deck and use the new telescopes (weather permitting, as always).

New SBO deck scopes. Image by Gary Garzone

Parking near SBO (building 422 on the map), use lot sections 419 and 423, these lots are free after 5PM:

CU-BASS-Parking

 

CU Astronomy Day, Saturday April 15th

Astronomy Day

BASS will once again be a part of the CU Astronomy Day event at Sommers-Bausch Observatory and Fiske Planetarium. This event is free and open to the public. The hours are from noon-11PM. BASS members will be on hand with club and personal telescopes for observing the Sun during daylight hours, and the night sky after sunset. BASS will be on observing deck at SBO.

There will be free talks and shows at the planetarium all day, and lots of science focused kid’s activities during the day. SBO will be filled with active science demonstrations inside. The heliostat will be observing the Sun during the daylight hours, and BASS will have out several telescopes with solar filters. After dark, we will transition to observing the night sky with BASS and SBO telescopes.

If you have a telescope and want to share it with the public, or just want to hang out with us on the observing deck for a while, please stop by. This is always a big event, and if the weather is nice, it will turn out a very substantial crowd over the course of the day.

SBO observing deck public event. Image credit: Keith Gleason