A couple of weekends ago I went to Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier to see their new production - "Silent Sky". One of my former students landed a role so I went mainly to see her...
...and I was transported by this play and this production. As a drama director, I have seen a LOT of plays, and this was easily one of the most exciting, joyous, inspirational, moving, life-affirming plays I have ever seen.
The play revolves around the life of Henrietta Leavitt, who, in the early 1900's, discovered the period-luminosity relationship for Cepheid variables, which enabled us, for the first time to really determine the scale and size of the universe. Yeah, I know, I'm a physics/astronomy nut - but there were so many things here - the struggle and joy of scientific discovery; the struggle of women to be taken seriously as scientists; the struggle to balance family life with a devotion to one's profession... There is so much to think about, as I am still.
The production has come to an end, but if another group mounts a production near you, go see it! I don't think you'll be disappointed!
Susan Baxter, an editor at TelescopeWatch.com, reached out to NKAF, noticing the similarities in our mission. She graciously prepared this summary of upcoming astronomical events and the graphic image below - it's a wonderful resource for keeping track of events in the heavens!
2018 Astronomical Events Every Stargazer Has To Witness
Last January 31, 2018, a lot of stargazers, stargazing enthusiasts, and ordinary people were waiting for the Super Blue Blood Moon. It was a rare astronomical phenomenon that combined a blue moon, a supermoon, and a total lunar eclipse. Images have shown a big full moon, beaming a bloody-like crimson orb. If you weren’t able to witness it, you still have a chance to see it again because the next Super Blue Blood Moon will be in 2037.
Another rare celestial event, which happened last March 7, was the planetary linear alignment of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon. Shining brightly in the middle of the alignment is the Antares; it’s the core star of the constellation Scorpius. That would have been a breathtaking sight to look through a telescope.
On March 15, you could have seen a highly visible Mercury as it moved along the greatest elongations. But not to worry. You still have many chances to get a glimpse of the celestial body on April 29, July 12, August 26, November 6, and December 15.
Ten days after the spotlight of Mercury was the return of the Sky Palace or the Tiangong-1. It was launched in 2011 as the first prototype space station of China, traveling the deep space to gather spatial information. Apparently, it ended its official journey in March 2016 and was expected to return the Earth’s atmosphere on March 25, appearing as a cluster of fiery projectiles in the night skies.
Unfortunately, those astronomical events have already happened, except for Mercury’s high visibility. Every stargazer could have ticked them off their “celestial” bucket list. However, the year is still young; there are still so many heavenly phenomena to be excited about, and Telescopic Watch was keen enough to create an infographic for those must-see events. You can check it out here.
...but we're about to start our spring and summer observing parties! Keep posted on upcoming events!
During this winter, we've been running the robotic telescope via the Skynet interface, testing its capabilities and doing some wonderful imaging. During the long, dark nights of winter it's ideal for taking long time-series images. In particular, my students and I been able to grab several very good exoplanet transits, some of exoplanets that have not been observed in a while. Some of the data we have gathered seems to differ significantly from the published values - we'll be able to add to the body of knowledge about some of these! Keep posted for our final results!
Brad Vietje has continued to work closely with AAVSO and gather photometric data for recent supernova and nova events - with credit given on the AAVSO website to Brad and NSO! Congratulations!