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

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

Saturday, March 18th, 7PM at Sommer-Bausch Observatory (SBO), in the downstairs lab/classroom. The feature talk will be on the Messier catalog of objects, by Dr. Steven Hartung. One of the earliest catalogs of deep space objects, the Messier catalog contains some of the most beautiful nebulae, clusters and galaxies, all of which are accessible by an observer with an eyepiece.

Messier Catalog

The Messier Marathon

March is the time of year when a few dedicated soles will attempt to view all the objects in the catalog in a single night. The feat is known as the Messier Marathon, and it can only be attempted during the New Moon in early spring. By working across the sky from dusk to dawn it actually possible to view them all in a single session.

M20 and M21. Image credit NOAO
M51. Image credit AURA/NOAO/NSF

Observe With the New Telescopes

We will breeze the full catalog in a Messier Marathon sequence at presentations speeds, and then go up on the observing deck and use the new telescopes to looks for a few of the brighter messier objects available to us in the early evening.

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, February 18th, 7PM at SBO

Saturday, February 18th, 7PM at Sommer-Bausch Observatory (SBO), in the downstairs lab/classroom. The feature talk will be on exoplanets, planets around other stars, by CU research and teaching professor, Dr. Zachory Berta-Thompson.

Exoplaneteer

Professor “Z” describes himself as an “Exoplaneteer”. He is a researcher focused on finding and learning about planets outside our solar system, and trying to understand what we are seeing. In his own description of his research, “Our Solar System is kind of weird. We have no planets that are intermediate in size between the Earth and Neptune, yet the Universe seems to be teeming with such planets. The central goal of my research is to understand the structure, composition, and evolution of these small exoplanets.”

Please join us for the talk, followed by observing (weather permitting) with the brand new Sommers-Bausch Observatory telescopes.

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

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

CU-BASS-Parking

Scenes and links from the January meeting

The “Join the Crowd” talk at the January meeting was all about active participation crowd-sourced citizen science. Here are the links to the projects that were mentioned:

Galaxy Zoo and the entire Zooniverse collection of projects:
https://www.zooniverse.org/

SOHO comet hunters:
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/soho/solar-observatory-greatest-comet-hunter-of-all-time
https://sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil/
Somewhat surprisingly, Firefox and Chrome claim that there is a certificate problem with the the Navy link, and it may require you to manually accept an exception to access it.

Tomnod, satellite based Earth observing:
https://www.tomnod.com/ or
https://www.facebook.com/Tomnod/

Even though the skies were not very clear, the group also enjoyed taking a look at the new Sommers-Bausch Observatory telescopes, and we did manage a few brief glimpses of the Orion Nebula.

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

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

Saturday, January 21st, 7PM at Sommer-Bausch Observatory (SBO), in the downstairs lab/classroom. The feature talk will be a look at doing astronomy and astrophysics on the web just for the fun of it, by Dr. Steven Hartung.

For the Love of the Thing

The word amateur has an original meaning that is very different from some of our modern connotations. The the modern interpretations range from someone who is not a professional and engages in an activity without pay, to something that is shoddy and of unprofessional quality. In the French origin of the word, the amateur is a lover, one who does a thing for the love of it. In the case of astronomy and astrophysics, amateurs of the field can participate in many new ways via the web, without ever needing to use a telescope. Via various web resources you can:

  • View and classify galaxies
  • Find exo-planets
  • Discover comets
  • Identify gravitational lenses
  • And a whole lot more

Join The Crowd

Even if you own a telescope, you may not be as enthusiastic about going out and observing in the depth of night in January in Colorado. But with a warm home and an internet connection, you can participate in real space science investigations. So grab a warm drink, your favorite slippers, and you laptop and see what you can find in the universe.

It turns out that humans are still better at pattern matching than most computer algorithms for a wide variety of objects and visual representations.  In order to take advantage of this fact, crowd-sourcing has become widely used as an effect method of detecting, classifying, and even training automated software. Plus, many projects have made their crowd-sourced applications fun and entertaining to use. If you happen to make one of the more interesting discoveries, most projects will include your name on the scientific paper describing what was found.

In addition to crowd sourcing, other ad hoc communities have grown on their own around public data sets.

In this month’s talk we will show you what some of these projects are up to and where you find out more about them. A great place to start is Zooniverse.org, but we will also discus some other platforms and projects.

BASS Officers

This is also the first meeting of 2017, so we start the meeting with BASS members casting their ballots for the 2017 officers. All positions are filled and there are no contested positions, but our bylaws call for a ballot vote to be completed annually. The officer candidates on the ballot for 2017 are:

  • President – Steve Hartung
  • VP – Suzanne Traub-Metlay
  • Secretary – Dave Bender
  • Treasurer – Will Thornbug (2yr term)

In addition, Alison Friedli will remain on for the second year of her two-year term as webmaster.

We would also like to thank Wayne Green for 7 years of stepping up to fill the roll of VP. Wayne carried a lot of the meeting organization and outreach operations over that time. Wayne intends to remain an active member of BASS, but will be focusing his efforts more on doing research with small and medium sized telescopes. Anyone interested in research-grade observational astronomy, or image processing and analysis, should contact Wayne.  He has several telescopes coming online and many opportunities in telescope commissioning, data collection, image pipeline development, and image analysis.

Parking near SBO (building 422 on the map), use lot sections 419 and 423:

CU-BASS-Parking