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In case you don't recognize the new ID, I am Laurent Pellerin, Founder
of Southern Nights Astronomical League. I know it has been a long
time since I was really active, but I'm glad to see so many still members.
I went through a divorce and received custody of my daughters, so I
was very busy for a while. I also moved and changed jobs! After 14
years managing the Seminole Community College Planetarium in Sanford,
Florida, I finally left it to my able assistant, Derek, and accepted
the position of Coordinator for the new Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in
Gainesville, Florida. I will still be very busy for the next few
weeks getting it ready for the Grand Opening on Labor Day Weekend, but
I will try to get Southern Nights back up and running after that.
For those of you in the Gainesville/Ocalla area, the Kika Silva Pla
Planetarium is a 64-seat, 35-ft dome planetarium located at Santa Fe
Community College with not one, but TWO star projectors! We have a
Spitz Digital SciDome full-dome system running Starry Night Dome
software. And we have the new state of the art, computerized, Goto
Chronos Mechanical-Optical star projector. This projector is only the
10th one installed in the world, and the only one operating in Florida
until the Saunders Planetarium in Tampa gets their's installed. With
its individual, computer controlled planets, sun and moon, it can jump
to any time/place on earth in the past 10,000 years or future 10,000
years, as well as demonstrate binary stars and inner system orrey. It
projects 8,500 pinpoint stars and numerous M-objects as well. It is
the best star field I've ever seen.
Admission fees of $4 Adults, $3 children 3-12 and seniors 60+, will be
waived until January to give you a chance to check us out for free.
Shows will be every Friday and Saturday night at 8:30 PM starting
August 31st. In the future, I plan to add full-dome movies (if I can
find corporate sponsors) and Celestial Concerts to the line up as
well. For now, Friday nights will be the never ending series,
"Southern Nights," utilizing both star projectors to teach
astronomical concepts, as well as teaching the constellations, with a
few stellar myths thrown in. Every episode will be a little
different. Saturdays will be our Feature night, starting with
"Planets in the House," utilizing the SciDome projector to travel (and
land) to the planets and update you with the latest information about
them. If you've ever used Starry Night on your computer, imagine it
projected across a 35-ft dome! Future Features will include, "Star of
the Magi," in December; "NightSpirits: Native American Star Lore"
January through April; and "AstroMyth Busters" in May.
Founder, Southern Nights Astronomical League
Coordinator, Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
Ahhh… The first sign of the end of Summer has arrived! Just as the
robin announces the beginning of Spring, so too does the Great Mars
Hoax announce the end of Summer. If you haven't gotten this e-mail
yet, you soon will. My colleagues and I, from Planetariums all over
the world, are already getting inquires about it. Here it is…
**** Two moons on 27 August *****
* August 27 the whole world is waiting for.............*
Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting
It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.
This will cultivate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M
miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am.
It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars
may come this close is in 2287.
Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will
ever see it again.
This e-mail is a hoax that will not die! Although it is based on some
truth from 4 years ago... Mars did come within 34.65 million miles of
the Earth on Aug 27, 2003, but even then, it was NOT even remotely as
big as the Moon. In fact, it appeared 69x SMALLER than the Moon!
The Moon is ¼ million miles away from the Earth and Mars is about
twice the size of the Moon. Therefore, Mars would have to get within ½
million miles to look as big as the Moon, not 34.65 million miles.
But, the e-mail is correct in that the next time Mars will get as
close as 34.65 million miles will be in 2287. (I'm not waiting around
for it.) So while there was a LITTLE truth to it 3 years ago, now
it's just another internet hoax that will not die.
HOWEVER! There IS a TRUE astronomical happening on Aug 28th this
year! (THIS year, i.e., 2007!)
There will be a Total Lunar Eclipse on the 28th starting at about 4:30
AM EDT (3:30 AM CDT, 2:30 AM MDT, and 1:30 AM PDT.) Moreover, this
should be a good one as the Moon will be passing deeper into the
Earth's shadow that it has done in the Lunar Eclipses of the past few
Ironically, even though the Moon will be in the Earth's shadow,
totally cut off from the Sun's light, it WILL appear as an orange-red
color during totality as it is lit by sunlight refracted, or bent,
through the Earth's air. In other words, it will be lit by all of the
sunrises and sunsets around the world. This means, that while Mars
will NOT be as big as a Full Moon on the night of August 27th, the
MOON will have the color of Mars a few hours later in the pre-dawn sky
of August 28th!
But remember, it's not Mars looking as big as the Moon… it is the Moon
looking like Mars!
Founder, Southern Nights Astronomical League
Coordinator, Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
This may come as a surprise even to members. Years ago a club
historian made up facts rather than research them and this series of
myths has even become part of the club website.
The club in Pensacola was founded by myself, Dan Malinsky, and Craig
Wicke June 18th, 1959. At first we were a very informal, junior club-
mostly a backyard telescope club. But, we soon expanded county wide
and changed the name to the county rather than Warrington. A few
years later-the most active members left for college and the new
generation of leaders (local college students) just did not have the
time needed to keep the club active. For most of the 1970's the club
In 1977 I returned to the area as a sabbatical leave replacement for
Wayne Wooten-who was leaving to work on a PhD. Wayne had been a
leader in the astronomy club at DeFuniak and contacted EAAA in 1966
to have shared activities. After a joint field trip to the Pensacola
Naval Air Station Planetarium and centrifuge, Wayne paid his dues to
join the Pensacola club but left to study at a university. Years
later, I talked him into going for the astronomy opening at Pensacola
Jr. College and he made it! Now, I was taking his place for a year
and he agreed to be faculty host for the club if I reactivated the
club while he was gone.
The old members had a couple of meetings to plan reactivation in
early 1978. We had a very good turnout for our first public meetings
with the planetarium as a draw. Old member, Harold Yesnes donated a
10" reflector with a mount heavy enough to hold a 24". An observatory
was planned. But, then Wayne made it to his first meeting since
joining a dozen years earlier and donated a 10" portable telescope
that resulted in the club offering public star perties at a variety
of places-especially at Fort Pickens.
Several attempts were made to build an observatory. One was built in
an Avion travel trailer with a dome mounted on top-but, it was found
that the dome would not clear any of the overpasses in any direction
toward dark skies. The city offered to finance a public observatory
on Scenic Highway-but, a sexual harassment suit by female employees
used up that funding. An observatory was planned at a model airplane
park, but....... The navy offered the club it's old planetarium---
but, then could not find it where it was supposed to be stored.
But, these folks don't give up.
I am leaving them 25% of my estate to build an observatory with a
minimum 15' dome and a minimum 16" telescope---which they already
have. They get the money in IRA's as my other heirs would have to pay
taxes when taking the money out. EAAA is tax exempt.
It has been a long time coming, almost half a century-but, expect
EAAA to have a nice observatory sometime in the future.
And, since EAAA was founded during Pensacola's quadricentennial (1559-
1959) (ignoring a period of over a century and a quarter when there
was no city there) you can expect EAAA to celebrate a half centennial
during Pensacola's 4.5th centennial in 2009.
Robert Blake, EAAA founder, 1959, EAAA reactivator, late 1977/early
1978. Planetarium director/asst. prof. Odessa College rtd.
Everyone, don't forget to congratulate Mr. Pellerin on his amazing
success with his Grand Opening of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in
Gainesville \this past weekend! He had an amazing turnout of over 500
people the first nights!!! He is definitely working hard to achieve
only the greatest possible things for our very own Santa Fe Community
College, so make sure to wish him the best!!
Congratulations Mr. Pellerin (a.k.a. "Daddy)!! You deserve it!!
Normally, one is not allowed to hike the rim trail around Meteor
Crater without paying $15 for the regular visit and $15 for the
guided walk around the crater. But, during the Flagstaff Science
Festival it is free to locals---even this displaced
Warrington/Pensacola amateur astronomer.
I reserved slots and sent invitations to the Flagstaff Hiking Club,
the Northern Arizona University Hiking Club, and the Northern Arizona
University Astronomy and Astro-biology Club. Only members of FHC and
their friends showed up.
The photographs mostly speak for themselves. When you see the ruins
of an old schoolhouse on the outside slopes of Meteor Crater-to the
upper left the skyline is Anderson Mesa---the Lowell Observatory Dark
Sky Site and the Naval Proto-type Optical Interferometer are at the
far end of this mesa about 15 miles as the crow flies. I live about 3
miles beyond there--about 18 as the crow flies miles from Meteor
Crater---but, by paved road---about a 70 mile drive.
Seeing the display reminded me that I am not just a (retired)
Odessa College planetarium director and asst. prof. of astronomy,
physics, and math---I also was curator of the Odessa Meteor Crater
collection-housed (at that time) at the college library. Since my job
only consisted of making sure (from time to time) that the case got
dusted----I tend to forget and have never listed that on my resume.
Many of the stories told now differ from what used to be told. The
meteoroid has grown from 81 ft. diameter to 154 feet. The guide said
that the stories have changed even in the few years she has been
The great historiographer, Arnold Toynbee, said that history is an
agreed upon pack of lies.
Here are the links for photographs.
Robert Blake, Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association founder
1959, reactivator, late 1977/early 1978, asst. prof., planetarium
director, and Odessa Crater Museum curator, rtd.
Those are some great Photos. I'm hoping to make a trip to Chaco
Canyon next summer to complete some research. With any luck, I'll be
able to see Meteor Crater myself, finally.
One of my colleagues at Santa Fe believes he has found a filled impact
crater in Florida about the same size. The satellite photos sure look
like it. He is going to be drilling next month hoping to confirm it.
It won't be easy as the shock patterns are difficult to identify in
limestone, but maybe he'll hit a chunk of chert which should display
the shock patterns well.
I'll post the results when he clears them.
Laurent A. Pellerin, Jr.
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
Santa Fe Community College
3000 NW 83rd Street, Office: X-132
Gainesville, Florida 32606-6210
352.395.5225 (Show Info)
Thanks for the kind words.
I am sorry that the links were not to Meteor Crater slideshows---
1, 2, & 3. At least they gave access to the photographs.
Here is a link to photographs that include one of the U.S. Naval
Observatory from 40 miles SSW on Apache Maid near the lookout tower.
For a map that shows the site in reference to Flagstaff-google
with "Apache Maid" as your search terms.
On the left horizon is a hill in front of Kendrick Mountain. The
dot on the right of the hill is the dome of the 61" about half a
miles west of Flagstaff.
The photographs I took with the lady friend from our walk across
Upper Lake Mary show the road going up the mesa to the Lowell
Observatory Dark Sky Site and the U.S. Navy Proto-type Optical
Interferometer. Look at the photograph that shows the peaks rising
above the dam. To the right of the dam you can see the road.
Since I live in a valley that cuts off the sunsets-when there seems
be a nice one developing, I scooter most of the way up the road for a
great sunset view. For 360 skies I go to the parking lot for the
Arizona Trail just outside the observatory grounds. A few weeks ago,
met the Northern Arizona University Astronomy and Astrobiology Club
setting up telescopes at the parking lot.
At one time there was an open house night for the public to look
through the 42" and 72" telescopes and they let me take pictures of
moon and Saturn through the eyepiece.
These remain some of the largest telescopes I have enjoyed-though, I
took my Odessa College astronomy classes to the observatory at Ft.
Davis, Texas to look through a 102".
Instead of going up the steep pavement to the observatory-continue
on the forest road about two miles to the Marshall Lake turnoff. This
is a designated (but undeveloped) camping area with great skies close
to the Dark Sky Site.
Hello Laurent,thought I'd stop by and share a sight I found,but the
story on how I ended up at this site.
It started the other day when I cane across a bit of news from the
past,and remembering a story I heard a long time ago,but,never looked
it up,"Mysterious signal 1927 Epsilon Bootes".Well,this story I read
on Thursday was,Australian radio telescope August 24 2001,Head line
"Powerful Radio Burst Indicates New Astronomical Phenomenon",I was
wondering where the signal came from,no it didn't come E-Bootes but
near the Magellanic Clouds.While looking for more on either story I
came across this web site;
This site had storys like;
Radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
This story spoke about 4 signals they have had in the past few years.
1991 VG, is about something in orbit around us.
I spent a while reading all sorts of storys,spent a few hours
there,all I can say is hope you and the other member enjoy the site...
The Today show just reported rising sea levels might amount to as
much as 4 feet in the next century.
This is frightening.
Flagstaff, with its hills and valleys averages 7,000 feet above sea
This would reduce that average to only 6,996 feet!!!!!!!
That sounds safe.
But, what if there is an extra high high tide????????
Some people could take refuge on Mars Hill-it towers hundreds of
feet higher than downtown Flagstaff-which is situated in a floodplain-
--and, it is only one mile from City Hall.
The extra cautious might go ten miles north of Mars Hill to the
Horchderfer Hills----which top out at 9,200 feet. Go north on Hwy. 89
as if driving to the Grand Canyon----park at the Flagstaff Nordic Ski
Center and run (don't walk) up the ski trails into the Horchderfer
Those truly paranoid might go up into the San Francisco/Kachina Peaks
which have two peaks at over 12,000 feet and one at 11,969 feet.
But, don't forget, Agassiz Peak is off limits because it has
Arizona's only Arctic Tundra and can not be traversed even when the
snow cover is very deep. In winter. Sometimes in summer.
Past posts of links have not worked well at this site. To find more
information on the Arctic tundra in Arizona-use:
http://www.google.com and the search terms: "Agassiz Peak"
amd "Arctic tundra"
One can hike around the base of Agassiz Peak. The Humphrey's Trail
goes to the saddle between Agassiz Peak and Humphrey's Peak-where one
finds the remains of an old dirt road that once allowed cars up to
about 12,000 feet but which is now in a Wilderness area---you can't
drive it. At the S.E. end of Agassiz Peak is a saddle with a cut off
tree that matches the angle to mount a telescope's equatorial mount.
Lowell Observatory once mounted a high altitude telescope here and
planned on an observatory at the site---but, the wash below the
saddle is in the direction from whence come the predominant winds.
This channeled even the slightest breeze at the telescope and made
for unsteady seeing.
Something to contemplate while the high tide waves lap at your feet
and you try to decide if you want to risk the fines for trampling the
Arctic tundra of Agassiz Peak.
Well, from in here Florida, at 60 feet above sea level, we can really
feel for you guys in Arizona. Just don't expect us to help you with
the moving... we'll already be fish food!
--- In Southern_Nights@yahoogroups.com, "Robert Blake"
> The Today show just reported rising sea levels might amount to as
> much as 4 feet in the next century.
> This is frightening.
> Flagstaff, with its hills and valleys averages 7,000 feet above sea
> This would reduce that average to only 6,996 feet!!!!!!!
> That sounds safe.
> But, what if there is an extra high high tide????????
> Some people could take refuge on Mars Hill-it towers hundreds of
> feet higher than downtown Flagstaff-which is situated in a floodplain-
> --and, it is only one mile from City Hall.
> The extra cautious might go ten miles north of Mars Hill to the
> Horchderfer Hills----which top out at 9,200 feet. Go north on Hwy. 89
> as if driving to the Grand Canyon----park at the Flagstaff Nordic Ski
> Center and run (don't walk) up the ski trails into the Horchderfer
> Those truly paranoid might go up into the San Francisco/Kachina Peaks
> which have two peaks at over 12,000 feet and one at 11,969 feet.
> But, don't forget, Agassiz Peak is off limits because it has
> Arizona's only Arctic Tundra and can not be traversed even when the
> snow cover is very deep. In winter. Sometimes in summer.
> Past posts of links have not worked well at this site. To find more
> information on the Arctic tundra in Arizona-use:
> http://www.google.com and the search terms: "Agassiz Peak"
> amd "Arctic tundra"
> One can hike around the base of Agassiz Peak. The Humphrey's Trail
> goes to the saddle between Agassiz Peak and Humphrey's Peak-where one
> finds the remains of an old dirt road that once allowed cars up to
> about 12,000 feet but which is now in a Wilderness area---you can't
> drive it. At the S.E. end of Agassiz Peak is a saddle with a cut off
> tree that matches the angle to mount a telescope's equatorial mount.
> Lowell Observatory once mounted a high altitude telescope here and
> planned on an observatory at the site---but, the wash below the
> saddle is in the direction from whence come the predominant winds.
> This channeled even the slightest breeze at the telescope and made
> for unsteady seeing.
> Something to contemplate while the high tide waves lap at your feet
> and you try to decide if you want to risk the fines for trampling the
> Arctic tundra of Agassiz Peak.
Drive out on Lake Mary Road about 8 miles and turn left at the
sign "Marshall Lake/N.P.O.I." N.P.O.I. stands for Naval Prototype
Optical Interferometer which is at the Dark Sky Site. On the way in-you
will see Lower Lake Mary. About a mile past the turnoff-you will see
picnic pavilions and parking for Upper Lake Mary.
Here are photographs
from: Arizona Daily Sun
Dark skies at 50: All win
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Fifty years ago, Flagstaff adopted a pioneering outdoor lighting
ordinance aimed at preserving the dark skies essential to the
continued viability of area observatories. Our town was the first in
Arizona to take such action.
As the population grew over the years, Flagstaff strengthened its
lighting ordinance and Coconino County enacted a very similar and
closely coordinated measure. Flagstaff astronomers are deeply
grateful for the support of the City, the County and our fellow
citizens. We should not forget, however, that the benefits of the
lighting ordinances extend beyond the observatories. For example, as
the Dark Sky Coalition has often noted, it is not just astronomers
who appreciate the beauty of the night sky. Unlike their urban
cousins, our kids grow up experiencing this spectacular component of
our natural environment.
In addition to esthetic benefits, the Flagstaff area derives an
ongoing financial return on its dark skies investment. Since 1958,
Lowell has grown from approximately 15 employees to more than 70. Our
annual operating budget of about $5 million is fueled by funds that
primarily originate outside and are spent inside the community. The
same can be said about the budget of the U.S. Naval Observatory
Flagstaff Station (USNOFS).
Encouraged by the community commitment to dark skies, both Lowell and
USNOFS have continued to make major capital investments in Northern
Arizona. According to a study by NAU's Center for Business Outreach,
Lowell's Discovery Channel Telescope, now under construction near
Happy Jack, will deliver an economic benefit to Coconino County, over
the useful lifetime of the telescope, of nearly a half-billion
dollars. The Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer at Anderson Mesa
is a project of similar scale.
Flagstaff is widely known as a community of dark skies and
observatories. This is a rare combination that sets our town apart
and helps draw a growing number of visitors. Last year, just under
76,000 people visited Lowell. Most were from out of town and about
half took part in our evening and nighttime programs. These people
eat in Flagstaff restaurants, buy gas at our filling stations, and
shop in our stores. Many spend the night here.
Flagstaff has demonstrated that astronomer-friendly outdoor lighting
is safe, attractive, and effective. It also is cost-effective. A
recent study by Chris Luginbuhl and Wes Lockwood estimates that, if
Flagstaff's current lighting standards were achieved throughout
Arizona, energy consumption would be reduced by 360 million kilowatt-
hours per year at a cost savings of $30 million annually. Nearly
200,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide would go into the atmosphere.
Indeed, it is essential that better outdoor lighting controls be
enacted statewide. The burgeoning population growth in the Valley and
in Pinal County is already adversely affecting Kitt Peak National
Observatory west of Tucson. Even from Anderson Mesa, on any clear
dark night, one can easily see the ominous glow from the Phoenix area
climbing above the southern horizon. At stake is the state's widely
acknowledged premier position in optical astronomy and the
corresponding large contribution in dollars and jobs to Arizona's
economy. (Visit the website of the Arizona Arts, Sciences, and
Technology Academy for details.) This story will have a happy ending
only if Arizona's political and business leaders engage this issue
seriously and soon.
Let's all take pride in Flagstaff's designation as the First
International Dark Sky City and give thanks for the wisdom of City
and County leaders who, over the past half-century, took important
steps to preserve the glory of the nighttime heavens for us all.
Bob Millis is the director of Lowell Observatory.
PS: I used to know Bob Millis as a nodding acquaintance---years after
I had given the tours for a year during my masters work at Northern
Arizona University. I don't shop at much at the uphill Basha's
grocery anymore. R Blake
Plutoid names in different orbit
With Greek and Roman gods running short, the newest dwarf planet is
named after a Polynesian fertility god.
By ANNE MINARD
Special to the Daily Sun
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Pluto might have been cast out of the lineup of solar system planets,
but the Flagstaff discovery is anything but lonely.
Pluto has so many companions in the outer solar system, in fact, that
astronomers have run out of Greek and Roman names to call them. So
they're getting multicultural.
The International Astronomical Union has announced the official name
of the fifth dwarf planet, discovered in 2005 by Mike Brown's team at
the California Institute of Technology: Makemake.
Pronounced MAH-kay-MAH-kay, the name refers to a Polynesian creation
Ted Bowell is a Lowell Observatory astronomer who presides over the
IAU's Division III, which oversees research in planetary systems. As
part of his role, Bowell is also involved with the IAU's two naming
committees that must approve new dwarf planet monikers.
"It looks as though we are starting to establish the idea that large
distant objects in the solar system be named after creation gods," he
All except for the ones that orbit two times for Neptune's every
three, that is. Those planets, locked into the same rhythm as Pluto,
are to be named after underworld mythological deities in honor of the
Brown said he was stumped for a time about what to call his latest
discovery. For the two years it was known in scientific circles as
2005 FY9, Brown was calling it Easterbunny -- because he found it a
few days after Easter.
"Suddenly, it dawned on me: the island of Rapa Nui," Brown said,
referring to the aboriginal name for Easter Island. "Why hadn't I
thought of this before?"
The name Makemake clicked for Brown and it clicked for the IAU, which
adopted the name just a month after deciding to use "Plutoid" to
label Pluto and other dwarf planets beyond Neptune.
The IAU coined the term "dwarf planet" in 2006, to accommodate Pluto
and other objects in its neighborhood -- called the Kuiper Belt --
that were then being discovered. But the new distinction also
included Ceres, the giant asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.
Now Ceres is the lonely one, as the only dwarf planet that's not a
Makemake's recognition couldn't have come too soon for Brown, who
submitted his idea six months ago.
"While a rose by any other name would surely smell as sweet, the
Kuiper belt object/dwarf planet/Plutoid formerly known mostly as 2005
FY9 now smells a good bit sweeter to me," he wrote on his blog.
ONLY AN ASTRONOMER COULD LOVE
Makemake was the chief god of the Tangata manu bird-man cult,
incarnated as sea-birds and symbolized as a man with a bird's head.
Makemake the dwarf planet is one of the largest objects discovered so
far in the outer solar system. It's about two-thirds the size of
Pluto and only slightly dimmer. The dwarf planet is reddish in color,
and astronomers believe the surface is covered with frozen methane.
"A lot of these objects have had sort of an obvious thing to hang the
name on," Brown said. Eris, for example, needed a name just after the
IAU's demotion of Pluto and the public outcry that followed.
Scientists had fairly exhausted the cadre of Roman and Greek god
names, but Eris remained: the goddess of discord and strife.
"Clearly I believe in astrology," Brown joked, "because that had been
waiting for us for a long, long time."
A WELCOME SHIFT
Brian Marsden has recorded the names of more than 12,000 asteroids
and other planetary bodies during his 30-plus years at Harvard
University's Minor Planet Center. He also sits on both IAU committees
that must approve new dwarf planet names: the Committee on Small Body
Nomenclature and the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.
Three other Flagstaff astronomers occupy positions on the committees:
the U.S. Geological Survey's Jennifer Blue, Lisa Gaddis and Ken
Tanaka, though the latter two members only approve names for Mars or
The Lowell Observatory's Bowell said Makemake was nearly unanimous
among the committees, and the only discussion came over whether to
hyphenate, combine or separate the two "make" parts.
"By having Makemake not be a Greek or Roman name," Marsden
added, "we've got away from that idea for these dwarf planets, and I
think that's good."
For his part, Brown has written quite a few names in the stars.
Among them are Quaoar, a creation force of the Los Angeles Tongva
tribe; Orcus, the earlier Etruscan counterpart to Pluto; Sedna, the
Inuit sea goddess, and Eris.
Brown may have at least one more name in the pipeline -- but first
the IAU will have to decide whether he got swindled or just scooped
by a competing Spanish team claiming to discover 2003 EL61 first.
ON THE WEB IAU Web site: www.iau.org Information about Pluto and the
other dwarf planets: www.iau.org/ public_press/themes/pluto Lowell
The Great (and Sometimes Serious) Debate About Pluto Jeanna Bryner
2 hours, 25 minutes ago
LAUREL, MD — The entrance to the debate over Pluto's planet status
said it all: With techno music blaring in the background, the two
debaters and a moderator walked into the auditorium, cameras flashing
and the audience clapping.
One debater, Neil deGrasse Tyson, did the boxing entrance à la Rocky.
That's how hot the matchup is between Pluto as a planet and Pluto as
Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden
Planetarium in New York, supports the demotion of Pluto. In the other
corner, Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in
Tuscon, Ariz., does not agree with the recent ruling that essentially
booted Pluto from the planet lineup.
The debate over whether Pluto should be considered a planet is part
of "The Great Planet Debate: Science as Process" conference here at
the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) that
runs through Saturday.
Before the idea-throwing began, debate moderator Ira Flatow of
National Public Radio's Science Friday threw out his own rule, "No
throwing of perishable items or missiles of any kind at the stage,"
Flatow said with a smirk.
In fact, the debate was filled with lots of applause, laughter and
some snide remarks, but mostly it was a friendly tussle. In fact,
neither Tyson nor Sykes clearly defined their specific positions on
Pluto and the definition of a planet.
How many planets?
In general, Tyson said astronomers need to come up with an entirely
new lexicon to group planets and planet-like objects together. He
also said Pluto is not like the other eight major planets in the
solar system and that it instead fits into the Kuiper Belt, a vast
region of objects beyond the orbit of Neptune.
"And I am certain Pluto is happier there," Tyson said.
Sykes said that if a non-stellar object is massive enough to be round
and it orbits a star, it ought to be a planet. Under this definition,
the solar system would have 13 planets, although more might be found
in the future beyond the orbit of Pluto. In addition to Pluto and the
other eight major planets, these would also include Ceres, Pluto's
moon Charon, Eris, and recently discovered Makemake.
In response to Sykes wanting to call all of these objects "planets,"
Tyson responded, "You need that word. I'm saying define it however
you want and then recognize how useless it is and then find another
term to group objects of like properties that are useful to planetary
scientists," Tyson said.
Tyson would rather not count planets and instead group objects
together that have similar properties, even if that means having
handfuls and handfuls of planets.
The debate marks another chapter in the Pluto saga, which began when
Pluto was discovered in 1930, as this object was an oddball compared
with its solar system buddies in its eccentric orbit, small size and
low mass (it is less massive than Earth's moon).
Some argued, then, that Pluto didn't fit in with the rest of the
solar system planets. The plot thickened in 2004 with the discovery
of Sedna, an object about three-fourths Pluto's size and about three
times as far from the sun. If Pluto fits the planet build then so
Caltech's Mike Brown added another twist to the story in 2005 when he
announced the discovery of 2003 UB313, a hopeful 10th planet in our
solar system. The object was round, orbited the sun, and the kicker —
it turned out to be larger than our then ninth planet, Pluto. In
2006, UB313 was officially named Eris.
"The Pluto controversy boiled up when Eris came up, because you
couldn't leave things the way they were," said Jack Lissauer of NASA
Ames Research Center in California. "You really had to contort things
to say Pluto was a planet and Eris wasn't. Things really came to a
Since then, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has labeled
Pluto a "dwarf planet" and then later, a "plutoid." Many planet
scientists were disgruntled over the 2006 IAU decision, which they
said involved a vote of just 424 astronomers out of some 10,000
professional astronomers and many other planetary scientists around
"Having a group of graybeards getting together and issuing a formal
definition is not a good idea," David Morrison of NASA Ames, told
SPACE.com, referring to the IAU's 2006 vote.
Delusion or debate?
Hal Weaver of JHU's Applied Physics Laboratory, called this week's
debate "a real scientific conference to lay out all the issues and
But Lissauer pointed out that even this conference has its
flaws. "This meeting isn't representative of planetary scientists
either. There is a very, very skewed distribution," Lissauer said
during a panel discussion.
No consensus was reached Thursday.
At the end of the debate, Pluto, as far as many astronomers are
concerned, remains in some sort of limbo.
And closing the debate, Sykes said, "I get the feeling Neil [Tyson]
is coming over to the right side of the fence."
Tyson's response: "The delusion continues."
Pluto's Identity Crisis Hits Classrooms and Bookstores
New Solar System Guide: The Latest Lingo
Gallery: Our New Solar System
Original Story: The Great (and Sometimes Serious) Debate About Pluto
Bringing the stars closer to home
The new Lutz telescope has energized NAU undergraduates and
By MICHAEL THIEL
Arizona Daily Sun
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Northern Arizona University is bringing the stars, nebular galaxies,
planets and the moon closer than ever before with the newly installed
Barry L. Lutz Telescope for Educational Advancement and Training.
Designed and constructed in Flagstaff by RC Optical Systems, the Lutz
is a Carbon-Truss 20-inch Ritchey-Chretien telescope of very high
quality with mirrors that are polished at an atomic scale, said
Morgan Conklin of RC Optical Systems. And with an estimated price tag
of $100,000, it did not come easy.
Nearly three years of planning, proposing and fundraising were
required in order to acquire the Lutz.
Financial support was a campus-wide effort, with donations
contributed from many different departments, professors, students and
members of the Flagstaff community.
As donations were received, members of the Physics and Astronomy
Department decided that if someone where to donate half of the amount
needed to acquire the telescope, then they would name the telescope
in honor of that donator.
Barry L. Lutz, interim dean for the College of Engineering, Forestry
and Natural Sciences, and Susanna Maxwell, office of the Vice Provost
for Academic Personnel, generously moved the project forward with
that $50,000 donation.
"As we get on toward retirement we began thinking about what we
wanted to leave behind. We wanted to invest in the future and the
students are the future," said Maxwell.
Lutz knew the need
The Physics and Astronomy Department has an exceptionally strong
program. And because Lutz is an astrophysicist and former chair of
the Department of Physics and Astronomy, he is familiar with the
equipment and realized the current equipment did not offer a strong
So when David Cornelison, chair of the Department of Physics and
Astronomy, made the proposal for the new telescope and planned to
make that a top priority, Lutz knew the equipment would provide a
concrete legacy toward the department and that the project was in
need of a major donor, Maxwell added.
During the first light ceremony Sept. 30, at the Atmospheric Research
Observatory on NAU's south campus, the new telescope was officially
named and placed into operation in time for the 2008 Festival of
Science. In just the first four days the dome was open for the
festival, approximately 500 people came to look through the eyepiece
of the Lutz telescope, said Stephen Tegler, a professor of Physics
Designed with traditional eyepiece observation, the telescope also
features an array of advanced technology. Some include the
telescope's computer-controlled positioning system, which allows for
pinpoint accuracy and easy movability when positioning the telescope
for viewing an object, and a charged coupled device camera.
The CCD camera is a useful tool for physics and astronomy majors
doing undergraduate research that involves the collection of
professional data .
"It's great to have a scope we can actually do projects on," said
Heidi Larson, a senior in the Physics and Astronomy Department and
member of the Astronomy club.
The observatory's 58-year-old infrared telescope could not produce
images with resolution comparable to the newer one.
"When it gets down to it, pretty pictures are great," said Kathy
Eastwood, a professor of Physics and Astronomy, during the first
Star light, star bright. Want to view the stars of the night?
The Atmospheric Research Observatory offers a unique viewing
experience for both the public and for physics and astronomy majors .
The Lutz benefits from Flagstaff's dark skies policies and its
elevation at 7,000 feet. That places the telescope above the Valley's
light pollution and into the clean and clear mountain air, where the
celestial twinkling can be observed.
On each clear Friday evening from 7:30 to 10 p.m., the dome is open
to the public. Anyone can view the stars, constellations or exotic
nebular galaxies through one of the observatory's 10-inch reflectors
or the Lutz. Staff from the Department of Physics and Astronomy,
along with students and members of the Astronomy club, will be
available during open viewing hours to assist in providing
information and answering questions about the telescopes and universe
In the works for the observatory include expanding open viewing hours
to Saturday nights and creating a Web page in order to upload data
and pictures captured by the telescope's CCD camera.
The Atmospheric Research Observatory was originally constructed by
Arthur Adel in 1952 with funding provided by the United States Air
Force. In the early 1960s, astronauts such as Neil Armstrong visited
the dome to search for lunar landing sites using the dome's original
The Atmospheric Research Observatory is located along South San
Francisco Street on NAU's south campus.
To contact the Department of Physics and Astronomy, call (928) 523-
2661 or e-mail astro.physic@....
Michael Thiel is a NASA Space Grant intern this year at the Daily
Flagstaff is so astronomy oriented that a local band is known as Dark
Sky Percussion. To learn more-search the net with "Dark Sky Percussion"
as your search term.
Search the yahoo article to see the photograph:
New Zealand town is in the dark — and proud of it
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Yahoo! Bookmarks Print By RAY LILLEY, Associated Press Writer Ray
Lilley, Associated Press Writer – Sun Feb 8, 11:03 am ET AP – A stone
chapel is shown on the edge of Lake Tekapo under the sparkling sky in
New Zealand's South Island … TEKAPO, New Zealand – This little town
is in the dark and proud of it.
Where other places greet the night by lighting up their streets and
tourist attractions, this one goes the other way — low-energy sodium
lamps are shielded from above, and household lights must face down,
The purpose: to bring out the stars.
The town of 830 people on New Zealand's South Island is on a mission
to protect the sight of the night sky, even as it disappears behind
light and haze in many parts of the world.
The ultimate prize would be UNESCO's approval for the
first "starlight reserve," and already the "astro tourists" are
A group of 25 are huddled at midnight on a bare New Zealand hilltop,
their faces numbed by an icy wind as they gaze up at the Milky Way.
"It's awesome, I mean it's like beyond words," says Simon Venvoort,
46, a management consultant from Amsterdam. "You see so much you
aren't aware of."
"You know that two generations now are growing up not being aware
that all this is out there because ... half of the world is light-
It's estimated that about one fifth of the world's population and
more than two-thirds in the U.S. cannot see the Milky Way from their
The "starlight reserve" idea germinated in UNESCO in 2005. Tekapo, in
the McKenzie Basin of South Island, was already on its own track,
seeking what locals were calling their "park in the sky." So Tekapo
was suggested as a pilot site because of its haze-free sky and
lighting controls already in place.
A UNESCO working party agreed last month to study what Graeme Murray,
chairman of the Mackenzie Tourism and Development Board, calls "a
heritage park in the sky."
"We helped make UNESCO world heritage look upward as well as around
them in protecting the world's heritage," he says.
The U.N. body has extended world heritage status to 878 historic,
cultural, ecological and natural sites around the planet, but none
includes the sky.
The idea faces significant challenges — UNESCO's conventions do not
mention the space above and around heritage sites, and there's still
the question of how to define a piece of open sky for conservation
The darkening of Tekapo began in 1965 to serve the Mount John
Observatory that opened on nearby Mount John. Town officials later
turned necessity into a virtue by expanding controls on public and
private lighting in a 19-mile ring around the town and observatory to
keep the sky dark.
Three new housing developments have spent extra money for "sky-
friendly" lighting. A skating rink even installed special lighting to
prevent ultraviolet light reflecting off its ice surface into the
"We've got a dark sky and we've got to hang on to it," said Murray,
who also runs a sky-watching ecotourism company.
Not that people here are bumping into each other or driving blind
during the night hours. And anyway, there's plenty of starlight, as
"We're certainly not living in the dark," said Lorna Inch, a real
estate agent. "We've got a beautiful sky that we all enjoy many
nights of the year. There's a lot of natural light from the stars,"
plus those dimmed residential lights.
Some 150 years ago, unlit nights were the friend of a sheep rustling
legend named James McKenzie and his faithful dog, Friday, as they
stole through the landscape, driving flocks of stolen livestock deep
into the basin that is now named after him.
Today a bronze statue of McKenzie's sheepdog stands — not floodlit —
on Tekapo's lake front.
Resident Fraser Gunn, a night sky photographer, said people initially
worried that with the light restrictions they wouldn't be able to
develop the town. "But that isn't the case at all."
Regional economic development manager Phil Brownie said the lighting
control ordinances "are not severe at all ... they do allow the
community to develop and build ... and haven't imposed any
Anna Sidorenko-Dulom, UNESCO coordinator of Astronomy and World
Heritage, calls the sky park "an interesting proposal which needs to
be evaluated," but adds that existing guidelines don't allow for
protecting the sky.
"We cannot promote sky protection or sky recognition through the
Convention on World Heritage. These are two completely different
things," she said by telephone from Paris.
The chairwoman of New Zealand's National Commission of UNESCO,
Margaret Austin, is more positive. She expects the park idea to be
considered by UNESCO's general conference in October.
The former science minister says other countries interested in the
idea are La Palma in the Canary Islands, Hawaii, Easter Island, the
Galapagos Islands, Portugal, Canada, Romania and northern Chile.
Death Valley, Calif., is one of several U.S. national parks working
to keep its lights low, the better to see the night sky. In Thailand,
people living alongside the Mae Klong River say the fireflies are
dwindling in number, chased away, they believe, by the ever-spreading
glow of electric light.
"There's enough movement now among the principal players for it to
gather momentum," said Austin. "The main sticking point is to get the
criteria in the convention changed so it can include the sky above
Atop Mount John, an astronomy guide's green laser stabs the night,
picking out another stellar feature for the astro tourists.
For the guide, Chris Monson from Phoenix, Tekapo offers a chance to
see something long lost to city-dwellers — "such pristine, dark
Back in cities like Phoenix, grandparents may have seen starlit
skies, but "now it's just something we hear about," he said. "We
don't get to experience the stars and those constellations."
Meteorite lands back home
By JOE FERGUSON
Sun Staff Reporter
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
For the last few years Tom Lynch has been using a 50-pound rock as a counter
weight for his grandson's basketball hoop.
The 61-year old retired General Motors worker had no idea the unusual rock he
bought at a yard sale near his home in South Milwaukee was worth $10,000 to
meteorite collectors. On Monday, Lynch completed a 1,700-mile journey in his
aging red Chevy van to return the rock to its rightful owners: The Meteor Crater
facility outside of Winslow.
Slightly more than 40 years ago, someone mysteriously smuggled the nickel-iron
meteorite out of the historic crater.
Lynch came into possession of the "basket meteorite" four or five years ago when
it caught his attention as he was browsing through a local rummage sale. He
bought it for $10.
The dark brown coloring and its weight led him to believe it was made from
copper or bronze -- something he could sell to recyclers for a small profit.
"I thought it was scrap metal," he said.
But the love for his grandson prevented the irreplaceable rock from being sold
"I used it as a counter weight for a basketball hoop," he said.
It was only after watching a program on the Travel Channel that Lynch got an
inkling it was no ordinary rock. A woman on the program had a simple test for
meteorites: A magnet would stick to the extraterrestrial objects -- but not your
Lynch had been curious -- the "rock" never rusted or showed any signs of wear
during the harsh Wisconsin winters. And the magnet's instant attraction was
proof positive he had something.
He then began bringing the meteorite to museums in Milwaukee and then Chicago. A
helpful mineral expert eventually learned that Lynch's rummage sale find was
actually a "hot" rock -- it had been stolen from Meteor Crater in 1968.
To help verify the meteorite was the same one stolen four decades ago, Lynch
bought a postcard the museum used to sell with a picture of the oddly shaped
Lynch said he paid more for the mint-condition postcard -- $15 -- than the
With the knowledge of its rightful place in Arizona, Lynch knew in his heart
what he had to do -- he needed to return the meteorite to its rightful owners.
"I just thought it was the right thing to do," he said.
He would turn down offers of up to $10,000 to sell it to collectors in exchange
for a $1,000 finder's fee, as well as a souvenir T-shirt and a hat.
ORIGINALLY FOUND BY A RANCHER
Brad Andes, the president of Meteor Crater Enterprises, said the basket
meteorite was found by a local rancher a few miles away from the crater. It was
called the "basket meteorite" because of its unusual shape -- a hole in the
middle resembles a basket.
Judy Prosser, the daughter of the rancher, was on hand for its historic return.
She remembers that the news of the theft rattled her rancher father.
"I was pretty young at the time, but I remember he was pretty traumatized," she
At first glance, Prosser couldn't immediately identify the meteorite.
"My memory isn't what it was," Prosser conceded.
The famous rock was almost returned to Meteor Crater several years ago when the
family that might have stolen it tried to negotiate a reward for its return,
An attorney representing the family had several discussions with Andes, but
talks eventually broke down over the matter of compensation.
"I don't pay people for stealing from us," he said.
Prosser said she worried that the return of the meteorite would spark a new wave
of scavengers trespassing across adjacent state-owned and privately held lands.
Members of the public often pick up rocks and bring them in, Andes said, only to
find out that they are usually just common rocks, not meteorites.
"What they actually find turn out to be meteor 'wrongs,'" Andes said.
The only thing missing from Monday's historic return of the meteorite, Prosser
said, was her father. He died several years ago.
"He would have loved to see this," she said.
Brad Andes of Meteor Crater carries the meteorite that was stolen in 1968, but
recovered on Monday. (Josh Biggs/Arizona Daily Sun)
Judy Prosser and Tom Lynch stand with the recovered meteorite on the rim of
Meteor Crater. Lynch found the stolen meteorite at a rummage sale in Wisconsin
and returned it to Meteor Crater on Monday. Prosser's father found the odd
shaped meteorite, and it was on display at Meteor Crater until it was stolen in
1968. (Josh Biggs/Arizona Daily Sun) Readers' Favorites
Judge orders FDA to let teens use Plan B
Lowell Observatory names new director
By DAILY SUN STAFF
Monday, May 04, 2009
An astronomer and deputy leader of astronomy for the federal National Science
Foundation has been named the new director of Lowell Observatory, to begin in
Eileen Friel was appointed by Lowell trustee Bill Putnam to become the
observatory's 10th director. She replaces longtime director Bob Millis, who is
stepping down June 15 after being director at Lowell since 1989. Friel will be
the first woman to lead the observatory, which was founded in 1894.
Read Tuesday's Arizona Daily Sun for a complete story.
50 years ago Pensacola's astronomy club was started as the Warrington Amateur
Astronomers Association---named for Pensacola's largest
suburb-Warrington---burned down during a Civil War bombardment but restarted.
About three years later-the club went county wide changing the name to that of
In the 1970's, the club went inactive when a new generation of officers did not
have the time to keep it fully active. In 1977 the original founder returned to
the area as a one year sabbatical leave replacement for Pensacola Junior
College's astronomy instructor, Wayne Wooten. After Wayne offered to host a
reactivated club when he returned the college made its facilities available to
the club including the Owens Planetarium. With this support-the club was
reactivated in 1978. Wayne Wooten soon donated a portable 10"----permitting the
club to host public star parties. In the 1980's the club began hosting the star
gazes at the Ft. Pickens campground-taking over from Frank Palma---who had done
the gazes since 1976 as a Pensacola Junior College faculty member.
When the club was started in 1959---Pensacola was celebrating its
Quadicentennial---400 years since the first settlement at Pensacola Bay---even
though a hurricane caused the governor to take his charter and leave the area
with only 50 remaining---because a hurricane had wiped out the supplies so the
area could not support 1300 colonists---so, after two years---most people left.
The next governor and charter did not arrive until more than a century and a
quarter. If Pensacola can celebrate 4.5 centuries with a gap that large, EAAA
can celebrate half a century---with a half dozen years gap. The club was
reactivated by the old members.
Of the founding fathers/original members: Craig Wicke lives in Homestead, FL,
Dan Malinsky lives in Gulf Breeze, FL, and Robert Blake lives 2-3 miles west of
the Lowell Observatory Dark Site.
Associated Press - July 15, 2009 10:34 PM ET
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A fire burning on the Tohono O'odham Reservation has forced
the closure of the Kitt Peak National Observatory west of Tucson.
The San Juan Fire is believed to have started Tuesday in a remote, mountainous
area of the reservation.
Tribal officials say the fire has grown to 400 acres.
The fire information page of the Southwest Coordination Center said a helicopter
and firefighting crews had been ordered to the fire scene.
Authorities say the fire is about five miles from Kitt Peak.
The tribe says "no structures are currently in danger and Kitt Peak is closed to
all nonessential personnel."
Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
Links I have used in the past have not worked well---so, try a google.com search
with the following search term:
"Astronomy club offers cosmic view to community"
In addition to 4.5 feet of snow last week---several buildings collapsed incl.
Bookman's with a quarter of a million used books, movies, etc.
Lowell announces layoffs
Story Discussion By DAILY SUN STAFF | Posted: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 5:00
am | (0) Comments
Font Size: Default font size Larger font size Lowell Observatory has laid off
three of its 60 employees and reduced the hours of five others.
Officials at the nonprofit Flagstaff institution cited a struggling economy and
the need to shift operating resources to the $44 million Discovery Channel
Telescope, which will begin preliminary operation in February 2011.
"We are committed to build the finest telescope of its kind, and we will," said
Eileen Friel, the observatory's director, in a press release. "But, our
endowment has been severely diminished by the recession just as major payments
are coming due."
"No one wants a reduction in force and the people we are losing are wonderful.
There was no alternative."
In an interview, Deputy Director Jeffrey Hall said the reductions were spread
widely among observatory staff. Lowell has a $5 million operating budget, and
spending as well as personnel are likely to increase significantly when the
telescope is fully operational in about two years.
"We will need to dramatically reposition the institution to support the DCT, and
this is the first step," Hall said.
The cutbacks announced Tuesday do affect the public hours of operation at the
Steele Visitors Center atop Mars Hill or the center's programs, Hall said.
The new telescope will feature a main mirror more than 13 feet in diameter. Its
funding was kicked off with a $10 million seed grant from Discovery
Communications and donations from a charitable foundation set up by the
Discovery Channel's founder, John Hendricks.
Lowell Observatory is also a major financial contributor, and capital
fundraising for the $44 million project continues.
The operating budget for the new telescope, along with instrumentation, will be
funded separately, Hall said.
The primary mirror is being polished at the University of Arizona Mirror Lab and
is due to be finished in mid-February. The telescope building is in Happy Jack
about 40 miles east of Flagstaff, and the mirror will be transported there in
the spring when the weather improves, Hall said.
The mirror will be housed temporarily in an auxiliary building at Happy Jack
while it is coated with a reflective surface. It will then be mounted in the
telescope building, followed in the fall by the arrival of the secondary mirror,
which has a diameter of about 4 1/2 feet.
A YEAR OF DEBUGGING
Hall said the first images from the Discovery telescope will be made about a
year from now, followed by at least a year of "debugging" -- adjusting and
calibrating the mirrors' alignments.
When fully operational, Hall said the DCT will serve scientific as well as
educational purposes. Astronomers will use its wide lens for comprehensive
surveys of near-Earth objects, and the Discovery Channel has plans to feature it
in its worldwide programming.
Hall said he expected Lowell's operating budget to increase significantly once
the DCT becomes fully operational, including additional scientific personnel.
Currently, Lowell has 19 astronomers on staff, along with postdoctoral fellows,
all of whom conduct a wide range of internationally recognized astronomical
As a retired planetarium director/asst. prof., on a fixed annuity, I find cheap
methods of amusement---incl. searching ebay for many things such as the most
expensive listed eyepiece, telescope, observatory, and planetarium. The current
most expensive item listed that can be found with the search
term----planetarium----is the pair of doors for Hayden Planetarium.
Try the link below:
Deco Aluminum entry doors - Hayden planetarium
When I was an elementary school student in the Pensacola/Warrington area---about
7 years before I started the Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association---the
local t.v. station showed old movies in the afternoon and for the late show and
I became a fan of Hollywood's Golden Age of movies.
One movie I remember had the leading lady going up to a huge observatory dome
and asking a man up at the telescope if they knew where her husband was.....He
told her they didn't know but, "We need him too!"
That movie is now available again. Here is an amazon.com review for THE HEAVENLY
Heddy Lamar plays an astronomer's wife who believes in ASTROLOGY!!!
This reminds me of one astronomy class at the University of Arizona. The
astronomy professor could not come down to the level of even the brightest
student---no matter how hard she tried. We would leave the class, after a test
in which none of us could even start to anser ANY of the questions---tearing our
hair out and asking one another....."you don't believe in astronomy, do you?"
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wartime Domestic Comedy in a Silly Story, Yet Graced by
Powell's Genuine Humanity, March 7, 2010
By Doug - Haydn Fan (California) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: THE HEAVENLY BODY (DVD)
Warner Archives has now issued a brace of Hedy Lamarr features, all at full
price. This is not exactly a consumer friendly act - the films of other
actresses of the period have been offered in very inexpensive box sets - see for
example The Glamour Collection Carole Lombard - The Glamour Collection (Hands
Across the Table/ Love Before Breakfast/ Man of the World/ The Princess Comes
Across/ True Confession/ We're Not Dressing). Why Ms Lamarr's films should
receive this frightfully high tariff escapes me - I can only surmise that the
studio believes her fans are willing to pay through the nose to see her films!
One certainly can't believe Warner thinks Hedy Lamarr does not qualify as
"The Heavenly Body" marks the end of Lamarr's association with MGM. Fans of the
William Powell/Myrna Loy films might take umbrage that a domestic comedy
starring Powell would fail to utilize Loy's comedic gifts, but the truth is that
Powell had often appeared with other actresses, and the problematic Ms Lamarr
had worked well in another earlier film with Powell, Crossroads,CROSSROADS. In
five previous films - against screen heavy-weights Gable and Tracy - Ms Lamarr's
quieter persona was largely overwhelmed. So MGM, as studios always are wont to
do, tried the more positive pairing with Powell again. Then 29 year old Ms
Lamarr was cast as the much younger, neglected wife of a famous astronomer,
played by 51 year old Powell. Next to the radiantly healthy Lamarr, the older
actor puts on his best cheerful style, but we are now an entire decade - and a
serious bout with cancer - later than the salad days when Powell as the older
husband in The Thin Man famously mixed it up with another 29 year old - Myrna
Loy. Lamarr for her part was coming off two 'exotic roles', and in "The Heavenly
Body" gets a far more natural role - though few housewives walk about decked out
in fabulous Irene designed outfits! MGM lavished the best cinematography for the
shooting, whether the movie was filmed by Planck or, as some suggest, Daniels,
Lamarr looks spectacular.
The movie's storyline is ramshackle, but an odd thing happens as the story moves
bumpily along. In combining wartime isolation - Powell spends his nights at the
observatory apart from his beautiful young wife - and the idea of Fate and
"Heavenly Bodies" pulls the movie out of the normal comic orbits. Horoscopes and
Astrology were a hot topic in 1943, as the war dragged on Americans were taking
on a more fatalistic viewpoint than the cheerful musicals and hoem front movies
of the time suggest. And the idea of Fate is futher enlarged with Powell's
discovery of a comet that will crash into the moon, paralleling his wife's
discovery of her own inner pulls to life outside their marriage, two twin themes
of Fate are set into motion.
In this case, represented by a handsome young man her old age doing duty as an
air raid warden until he can return to his real role in life as a globe-trotting
correspondent. James Craig, as wartime replacement for Gable, is fortunately low
key enough an actor for the soft-spoken Lamarr, and the two play nicely
together. With this new love angle in play the film juxtaposes and now further
champions the opening theme of Lamarr's supposedly 'feminine' Astology contra
Powell's scientific world of Astronomy. Seemingly out of nowhere a wartime story
appears, suddenly suprises with a very direct theme - the sudden discovery by
the wartime American woman, during prolonged separation, of the self and all
that goes with it in the way of personal choices.
Of course, in a light comedy of that era martial infidelity cannot succeed, but
the remarkable thing about "The Heavenly Body" is how far the film goes in
revealing the possibility. Everything in the film is topsy turvy, a world where
people eat breakfast at 6:30 in the evening, and go off to work in heavy winter
clothing on a warm summer day. Where the night shift of janitors work during the
day cleaning up around the 100" telescope at what is obviously the Wilson
Observatory, and plain spoken American Craig talks up luring exotic places to a
supposedly simple housewife, Lamarr, whose accent and beauty betray her as the
Powell's astronomer not only neglects his wife, he clearly thinks he's superior
to her because of his intellect - and this being a true comedy Powell suffers
mightly for his egotism. When he tries to browbeat his wife the film really
takes on some interest; Lamarr definantly uses her horoscopes as a defense
against her husband's controlling nature. In real life Lamarr had been married
to a much older, controlling man, so there's more here than a casual viewing
Topping the picture off is the stunningly handled scene at the observatory of
the gathering of astronomers and reporters to witness Powell's comet's crash
into the surface of the moon. As this scene progresses Powell obsesses not with
the impending destruction - a scene eerily fortelling the massive strike a half
century later on Jupiter - but his wife's journey up the opposite mountain to
their cabin and a rendevous with her new lover. Powell's orderly scientific mind
becomes more and more distraught as he watches Lamarr's journey, coinciding with
his comet's arrival. When his wife finally arrives at their cabin, just at the
instant of the comet's impact with the moon, Powell has become completely
unglued by jealously and a now far more important personal discovery - that he's
losing his wife. When I first saw this I thought Powell played this scene far
too over the top - now I'm not so sure. It's certainly a remarkable moment of
high destiny for a comic film.
All in all, "The Heavenly Body" is not for most film buffs. Powell/Loy fans will
resent the film, intellectuals will disaparage it, and even the average
easy-going movie goer will find much of it too long and tedious. Despite these
problems I've a soft spot for this film. There's something there, a certain
quality of honesty and understated truth missing in better scripted films. Much
of this must be credited to William Powell, who could charm a snake from a tree.
That the film doesn't hold together well, and the themes are heavy handed is
obvious. But Powell, and the genuinely radiant Lamarr do play well together, and
the suddeness and seeming irrationality of Lamarr's decision to leave her
husband finds Powell for the first time playing a new role - a mature man up
against time and aging. In a couple of years Powell would revisit this role in a
far more carefully controlled reading in "Mr.Peabody and the Mermaid", a film
long overdue for release on DVD. And near the end of his fabled career in a
smaller supporting role in "How to Marry a Millionaire" opposite the much
stronger screen persona - than Lamarr - Lauren Bacall. Once again Powell's love
interest is 29, but this time he's 61 and the final wedding with Bacall as May
bride doesn't come off - at least not for Powell! But in "The Heavenly Body" we
catch the first full shock of Powell, the screen's dashing boulevardier, facing
mortality - it's not subtle, and it's clearly there: no matter how much effort
and high jinks Powell brings to the film, ostensibly to perk up a slow plot
line, behind it all lurks an unstated recognition of something else going on. In
many ways this is one of Bill Powell's most touching roles. Watching this far
from perfect film calls to mind Prince Hal's quip on discovering what he thinks
is the corpse of Falstaff, "I could better spar'd a better man." This is one of
those movies that seem to say far more than the sum of their parts, and remains
in the memory when ostensibly better films are forgotten.
The film also presages what I think is one of Lamarr's best films, "Experiment
Perilous". An incipient development of destructive negative male behavior runs
through "The Heavenly Body" - Powell's character steals, lies, feigns deathly
illness, blackmails an astologer with federal arrest, and forges a horoscope -
all in an effort to hold onto his wife. Two films later in "Experiment Perilous"
this type of behavior is no longer remotely comic. Lamarr plays a terrified shy
woman, totally at the mercy of a controlling jealous husband - Paul Lukas - who
kills to keep her. EXPERIMENT PERILOUS George Brent, who had developed a low-key
semi-supporting leading man style up against the firebrand leading ladies of
Warners - he was in no less than 13 Bette Davis films! - takes on the role of a
sort of Pyschologist Lancelot to Lamarr's frightened Guinevere. Directed by
Jaques Tourneur, it's a sneakily subversive film, with Brent clearly emotionally
involved with his patient, and early on undermining and not saving her marriage.
Anyone wishing to try my admittedly convoluted reading of this difficult work -
which I DO recommend! - check the review of Amazon's listing of the French
DVD... Experiment Perilous [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - France ]
One small scene of the film is handled with a deftness only Powell could pull
off - each evening at a certain hour before setting to work at the observatory
he turns a small telescope onto the valley far below and focuses in on his
wife's bedroom window, where a silent Lamarr in nightgown waves back a
goodnight. In a strange way the oddity of it encapsules all the pin-up girl
pictures and photos of loved ones carried by soldiers far from home on their
distant and lonely wartime journeys.
Sometimes, when retirement bores me, I search ebay for words such as eyepiece,
telescope, observatory, and planetarium---highest price first.
This time I found something very interesting under "planetarium". I wish I had
enough use for this to be worth buying it!
The skies which graced Denver's Gates Planetarium can be yours!! Whether you're
looking to repair an instument or create your own (that's what I was going to do
- contact me), here's an example of a fine Minolta sky which can be yours
inexpensively! HEAVY FOR SHIPPING!
"BUY IT NOW" also gets you the slip-ring-equipped rotating bearing for joining
the two balls together into one unit and the motor to drive it in rotation, PLUS
a number of extra projectors (constellation, Milky Way, etc.)
Looking through the new books selection at the library, I recently selected
MURDER SHE WROTE: THE QUEEN'S JEWELS by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain.
Much of the action takes place on the Queen Mary 2. I was surprised to find that
that cruise ship has a planetarium. It must be a very large one as three hundred
participants are there for the talks given by the main character. The projector
is (apparently) used for atmosphere as stars are reflected from the blade of the
Googling "Queen Mary" and planetarium, I find that ship does have a planetarium.
Frank Palma told me that Wayne Wooten had made this announcement----and HE WAS
Viking Found Organics on Mars, Experiment Confirms
Using Mars-like soil taken from Atacama Desert, a study confirms Mars has
organics, and Viking found them. By Irene Klotz
Tue Jan 4, 2011 07:57 AM ET
10 Comments | Leave a Comment Print Email Facebook Tweet Digg Yahoo! Buzz THE
A reanalysis of Mars Viking experiments shows the probes did find organics.
The result was not initially understood due to the strong oxidation effects of a
salt in the Mars soil known as perchlorate.
A follow-up study on perchlorate-enhanced soil similar to what's found on Mars
revealed fingerprints of combusted organics.
enlargeThe Viking 1 Lander, illustrated in this model, touched down on the
western slope of Mars' Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold) on July 20, 1976.
Click to enlarge this image.
Have you ever wondered if the human race could survive on Mars?
Mars Lander May Have Detected, Then Destroyed Organics
Viking 2 Likely Came Close to Finding H2O
Aliens and UFOs
More than 30 years after NASA's Viking landers found no evidence for organic
materials on Mars, scientists say a new experiment on Mars-like soil shows
Viking did, in fact, hit pay dirt.
The new study was prompted by the August 2008 discovery of powerful
oxygen-busting compounds known as perchlorates at the landing site of another
Mars probe called Phoenix.
Scientists repeated a key Viking experiment using perchlorate-enhanced soil from
Chile's Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest and most Mars-like
places on Earth, and found telltale fingerprints of combusted organics -- the
same chemicals Viking scientists dismissed as contaminants from Earth.
"Contrary to 30 years of perceived wisdom, Viking did detect organic materials
on Mars," planetary scientist Christopher McKay, with NASA's Ames Research
Center in California, told Discovery News. "It's like a 30-year-old cold case
suddenly solved with new facts."
"If the Viking team had said 'Well, maybe there's perchlorate in the soil,'
everybody would have said they're crazy -- why would there be perchlorates in
the soil? It was only by having it pushed on us by Phoenix where we had no
alternative but to conclude that there was perchlorate in the soil … Once you
realize it's there, then everything makes sense," McKay added.
The Viking team's verdict that Mars lacked organics was the lynchpin argument
against another Viking experiment that looked for signs of microbial life. In
the experiment, a bit of nutrient-laced water was added to a sample of Martian
The air above the soil was then monitored for signs that the nutrients had been
metabolized. The instrument detected tracer gases the first time the experiment
was done, but subsequent runs did not. The results were considered inconclusive
and remain contested.
New evidence for organics on Mars does not mean Viking found life, cautions
"Finding organics is not evidence of life or evidence of past life. It's just
evidence for organics," he said.
But if NASA had realized there were organics on Mars, there might not have been
a 20-year hiatus in sending landers for follow-up studies, said Rafael
Navarro-González, with the Institute of Nuclear Science at the National
Autonomous University in Mexico.
"We might have had continuing missions," Navarro-González told Discovery News.
NASA plans to launch a follow-up mission to look for organics on Mars in
The research appears in last month's Journal of Geophysical Research.
Pluto plane chases shadow
StoryDiscussionImage (2)Pluto plane chases shadow
ERIC BETZ Sun Staff Reporter azdailysun.com | Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2011 5:15
am | (2) Comments
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The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, sat on the
tarmac during nighttime telescope operations at NASA�s Dryden Aircraft
Operations Facility in October 2010. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
. Loading… .
..On June 23, astronomers from Lowell Observatory boarded an airplane in
southern California and flew 1,800 miles out over the Pacific Ocean, positioning
themselves to glimpse Pluto's shadow as it raced across Earth's surface at
The aircraft was no ordinary plane, it was NASA's heavily modified Boeing 747
called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which is equipped
with a 8-foot-diameter telescope mirror as well an instrument designed by the
Lowell astronomers themselves for exactly such an occasion.
Their instrument is called the High-Speed Imaging Photometer for Occultation.
It's an incredibly fast and accurate electronic camera created to observe
somewhat rare astronomical events called occultations.
Occultations happen when a planet -- or other object -- passes in front of
another star in line of sight from the Earth.
"Occultations give us the ability to measure pressure, density, and temperature
profiles of Pluto's atmosphere without leaving the Earth," said Lowell
Observatory's Ted Dunham, who led the onboard team of scientists and is HIPO's
Dunham was also a member of the group that first discovered Pluto's atmosphere
during a stellar occultation observed by SOFIA's predecessor, the Kuiper
Airborne Observatory, in 1988.
The astronomers said that calculating exactly where the shadow would fall was
tough and they could only get an accurate calculation a few hours before they
were to start observing.
That night, Lowell astronomer Stephen Levine used facilities at the U.S. Naval
Observatory's Flagstaff Station to image Pluto and the star. Those images were
then sent to astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who
refined the exact prediction of where the shadow would pass.
A mere two hours before the occultation started, the MIT scientists called the
aircraft to say the shadow would pass 125 miles north of their intended flight
plan. At 45,000 feet above the Earth, the pilots then had to refile a flight
plan and wait 20 minutes for air traffic controllers to give them approval to
"Because we were able to maneuver SOFIA so close to the center of the
occultation, we observed an extended, small, but distinct brightening near the
middle of the occultation," said Dunham. "This change will allow us to probe
Pluto's atmosphere at lower altitudes than is usually possible with stellar
Eric Betz can be reached at ebetz@... or 556-2250.
Frank Palma started the Fort Pickens star parties and carried them on for
The first several years of public viewing at Fort Pickens was done not by
EAAA, which was inactive until 1978, but by PJC in the form of Frank Palma
taking PJC telescopes out to the campground at Fort Pickens campground-setting
them up and letting people view.
It is my fault EAAA did not take this over earlier. I had the oportunity in
1978, when the club was going again---but, I lacked the imagination to get the
club involved. That imagination was provided by Wayne Wooten who also donated
his 10" telescope---allowing the club to give such activities with its own
Frank Palma had asked me to take over the shows in 1978, when I was replacing
Wayne for one school year while he was getting his PhD. Frank seemed surprised
that I did not want to do it! Had the thought occured to me that I could get the
club involved I would have done it. Wayne was the one who got the club involved
in place of Frank Palma---I do not know in which year.
An old METEOR, possibly 1980, says the club had its telescope in the
Quartermaster building so it could be dragged out into the dry moat and used.
So, I assume the club had taken over for Frank Palma by 1980.
When I was the club president, 1959-1967 (at which time I left to major in
astronomy at the University of Arizona) I had wanted to give public
programs---but my 8" telescope (that I would like to donate to the club---with
conditions) was permanently mounted in concrete in our back yard and my father
was not willing for me to invite the public into our backyard.
We owe it all to Wayne Wooten that the club has been giving the star
programs---but, Frank Palma deserves credit for what he did in the 1970's.
When the club was reactivated in 1978, Harold Yesnes, a former member of the
1950's Pensacola Astronomy Club, took back the 10" reflector he had donated to
PJC, and, which had not been used in decades, (and, had a mount designed to
carry up to a 24") and gave it to EAAA to build an observatory. The observatory
plans were shelved when Wayne's 10" donation permitted public star
parties---allowing the public to know about the club and permitting a lot of
Robert Blake, EAAA founder 1959; EAAA reactivator 1978; planetarium
director/asst. prof. of astronomy, Odessa College, rtd.
PS: An examination of the old METEORs will verify this time frame. PSS: I
donated my copies of the METEOR that were printed in the late 1960s + late
1970's. Since these were mimeographed with blue ink---they are probably fading.
These should be restored to the club's history.
Just address an email to Southern_Nights@yahoogroups.com
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