Monday, October 19, 2020

Watch Live Tue.: NASA Probe Grabs Asteroid Rocks to Bring Back to Earth

BennuAsteroid.jpg
Asteroid 101 955 Bennu, compiled from 12 images photographed by NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission on 2018 December 2. (Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona - https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-newly-arrived-osiris-rex-spacecraft-already-discovers-water-on-asteroid; see also https://www.asteroidmission.org/?attachment_id=12476, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74979917)
 

 

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Early Tuesday evening, NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe will “TAG” asteroid Bennu, collecting rocks and dust samples for an eventual return to Earth. On-line, NASA-TV will provide live coverage of the event.

The OSIRIS-REx mission has been in orbit of asteroid 101955 Bennu since 2018 December 3, after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 2016 September 8. It has taken two years to survey and map the asteroid's surface, to determine good sites for the TAG (Touch-and-Go) maneuver.

The asteroid is much rockier than expected. The “Nightingale” site chosen for the landing is only the size of a few parking spaces. If the first TAG does not succeed, OSIRIS-REx has only two other chances to attempt a sample collection, possibly at other sites. To stir-up rocks and dust samples, the probe carries three pressurized nitrogen canisters to fire at the collection site, from the end of the probe's robotic arm, one canister for each collection attempt.

Descending to the surface of Bennu will take about four hours, about the same time as one rotation of the asteroid on its axis. However, after descent, the TAG sample procedure will be quite short: only 16 seconds! After each collection attempt, the space probe will hover above the site to determine if the attempt was successful, before either attempting again or returning to orbit.

After successfully collecting material from Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will slowly launch into orbit of the asteroid, where it will stay for the rest of this year. Next year, OSIRIS-REx will begin the journey home, with the Bennu sample materials, which is expected to take about two years.

OSIRIS-REx is expected to land in the Utah desert on 2023 September 24. The spacecraft and Bennu samples will then be recovered and taken for study by scientists.

Bennu is considered a "rubble pile" asteroid, formed in the deep past, possibly near the time our Solar System was formed. Gravity slowly forced remnants of collisions of material to come together forming this asteroid. Bennu looks something like a spinning top, with a diameter of about 0.33 statute mile / 500 meters.

Bennu has a slight chance of hitting the Earth in the distant future. In fact, NASA ranks Bennu as the second-most likely asteroid to hit Earth, perhaps sometime in the last 25 years of the 22nd century. Although, even this chance is rather remote.

Determining Bennu's orbit of the Sun, which varies, is important for a final determination if the asteroid could impact the Earth sometime in the future. The orbit of Bennu changes due to the heating of the Sun-side of the asteroid, and then this solar energy is dissapated into Outer Space when that side of the asteroid turns away from the Sun. 

Last month, NASA reported that scientists have discovered that some meteorites from the asteroid 4 Vesta have been found on Bennu. “We found six boulders ranging in size from 5 to 14 feet (about 1.5 to 4.3 meters) scattered across Bennu’s southern hemisphere and near the equator,” said Daniella DellaGiustina of the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson. “These boulders are much brighter than the rest of Bennu and match material from Vesta.”

NASA's OSIRIS-REx science team also recently reported that Bennu observations have led to a conclusion that some of the carbon-rich materials of the asteroid could have seeded Earth with the chemicals necessary for the beginning of life. These conclusions came from six studies published in the journals Science and Science Advances on October 8.

Two Japanese missions have accomplished similar asteroid sample return missions in the recent past. The Hayabusa spacecraft returned tiny grains from asteroid 25143 Itokawa in 2010. Hayabusa-2 returned shrapnel from asteroid Ryugu last year.

Live coverage of the event begins on NASA-TV at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 21:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on Tuesday, 2020 October 20. Touch-down of the spacecraft is expected at about 6:12 p.m. EDT / 22:12 UTC.

NASA-TV: Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public

Internet Links to Additional Information:

NASA OSIRIS-REx Mission:

Link 1 >>> https://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OSIRIS-REx

Asteroid 101955 Bennu: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/101955_Bennu 

Asterioid 4 Vesta: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4_Vesta

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
               Monday, 2020 October 19.

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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: < http://www.planetarium.cc >                                                               Buhl Observatory: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Monday, October 12, 2020

October: Closest View of Mars Until 2035

  Mars appears as a red-orange globe with darker blotches and white icecaps visible on both of its poles.

October is the best month for viewing the planet Mars until September of 2035.This is a true color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft during its 2007 February 24 fly-by of the planet, from a distance of about 149,129.1 statute miles / 240 000 kilometers.

(Image Sources: European Space Agency, Wikipedia.org, By ESA & MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56489423)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

October is the best month to view the planet Mars, due to its closeness to Earth, until September of 2035.

Tuesday (October 13) at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 23:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) will mark the closest Opposition of Mars, when Earth will lie directly between Mars and the Sun. At Opposition, Mars will rise in the eastern sky approximately at local sunset, stay in the sky all night long, and set in the west approximately at local sunrise.

Actually, Mars came the closest to Earth on October 6 at 10:18 a.m. EDT / 14:18 UTC, when the distance between Earth and Mars was about 38.57 million statute miles / 62.07 million kilometers.

Although Mars is not quite as close as will be in 2035, or that it was in 2003 or 2018, it is still close enough for a good show in the sky. This is a good time to take a look at Mars, whether with the naked-eyes (one-power), or observing more detail on the Martian surface with binoculars or a telescope.

So, starting Tuesday (October 13), people can view Mars just about any time once it gets dark, weather-permitting of course. The best time to look for Mars is low in the eastern sky shortly after sunset (as Mars begins to rise). Or, you can look low in the southern sky in the middle of the night (as Mars appears to travel from east to west in the night sky), or low in the western sky just before sunrise (as Mars begins set).

This month, Mars, with an apparent visual magnitude of -2.6, will be the brightest object in the night sky, other than the Moon and the planet Venus. It will even be a little brighter than the planet Jupiter (at about apparent visual magnitude of -2.3), for this month.

You may need a higher elevation, with few obstructions such as trees, buildings, and hills, to see Mars. For most of this month Mars will be approximately +5 degrees declination, north of the celestial equator. But, as mentioned, it will be one of the brightest objects in the night sky this month, glowing with a reddish-orange tint. So, when you do find it, you will, likely, be sure it is Mars.

Close approaches between Earth and Mars occur about every two years, due to the different orbits of the two planets around the Sun. While Earth takes 365.256 days to travel around the Sun, Mars takes 686.98 Earth days / 1.88 Earth years to complete one solar orbit.

Not every close approach of Mars is as close as others. Mars' distance from the Sun varies quite a bit, depending on where Mars is located in its solar orbit. When Mars is closest to the Sun (as it is this month), and at the same time close to the Earth, these are the times when Mars is the closest in distance to the Earth.

Many people may remember the close approach in 2003, when Mars came closer to Earth than it had in 60,000 years. On 2003 August 27, Earth and Mars were only 34.65 million statute miles / 55.76 million kilometers apart.

Two years ago on 2018 July 31, Mars was almost as close as in 2003. At that time Mars came within 35.78 million statute miles / 57.59 kilometers of the Earth.

Set your calendars: Mars will not be closer than in 2003 until 2287 August 28, when it will approach Earth from a distance of 34.60 statute miles / 55.69 kilometers.

The end of this month will mark the 82nd anniversary of the famous radio broadcast, The War of the Worlds. It was on the evening of 1938 October 30, the day before the Cross-Quarter Day of Halloween, that the CBS radio's Mercury Theater on the Air, presented a radio adaptation of the famous H.G. Wells 1898 novel, The War of the Worlds.

Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the radio drama began as fictional news bulletins regarding the landing in central New Jersey of invaders from the planet Mars. Occurring one day before Halloween, and with war threatening in Europe (less than a year before the beginning of World War II), this radio broadcast caused a public panic as few people heard the disclaimer at the beginning of the program that this was a work of fiction.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Planet Mars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars 

NASA Missions to Mars: Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main/index.html 

More on 1938 Broadcast of The War of the Worlds:

Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com/wlcr.html#warofworlds 

Related Blog-Posts ---

"NASA Laser Retroreflector Going to Mars on Perseverance Rover.

Wed., 2020 Oct. 7.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/10/nasa-laser-retroreflector-going-to-mars.html

 

"Thur.-AM U.S. Joins China & U.A.E in Race to Mars; Watch Launch Live."

Mon., 2020 July 27.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/07/thur-am-us-joins-china-uae-in-race-to.html

 

"For Students: Mars 2020 Name the Rover Essay Contest By Nov. 1."

 Tue., 2019 Oct. 15.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2019/10/for-students-mars-2020-name-rover-essay.html

 

"Place Your Name on Mars 2020 Rover Microchip By This Monday, Sept. 30."

Thur., 2019 Sept. 26.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2019/09/place-your-name-on-mars-2020-rover.html

 

"Spring to Begin: Vernal Equinox on Earth Wednesday & on Mars Saturday!"

Wed., 2019 March 20.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2019/03/spring-vernal-equinox-begins-march-20.html

 

"'War of the Worlds' Panic Broadcast: 75th Anniversary." Tue., 2013 Oct. 29.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/10/war-of-worlds-panic-broadcast-75th.html 

 

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
               Monday, 2020 October 12.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >  

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

NASA Laser Retroreflector Going to Mars on Perseverance Rover

small dome called the Laser Retroreflector Array on the Perseverance rover

In the upper left of this image is the Laser Retroflector, which will be located near the center of NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover in the larger image. Some time in the future, a Mars orbiter spacecraft will be able to use a laser to determine the exact location of Perseverance on the Martian surface.

(Image Sources: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology)


By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Astronauts on the lunar landing missions of Apollo 11, 14, and 15 installed Laser Retroreflectors on the Moon, so scientists could better determine the distance between Earth and the Moon. Now, NASA is sending a Laser Reflector to Mars, on the Perseverance Rover, for similar scientific experiments.

Laser Retroreflectors are small arrays of special mirrors which reflect a laser beam directly back to its source, as a bicycle reflector reflects traffic light back to the vehicle source. Scientists use Laser Retroreflectors for laser ranging experiments, such as distance between planets or the distance between an object in orbit and a planet. Such experiments can also be used to determine the shape of a planet, the orbit of a planet, and how the planet's orbit changes over time.

In the case of the Laser Retroreflectors left on the Moon, laser beams are directed from Earth to the Moon; scientists measure the time it takes the laser beam to reach the Moon and return to Earth. The result of this experiment has provided detailed data regarding how the Moon is slowly moving farther away from the Earth. At the present time, the Moon is moving 1.49 inches / 3.8 centimeters away from the Earth each year.

Laser ranging experiments, using Apollo-era Laser Retroreflectors, continues to this day.

In the case of Laser Retroreflectors on Mars (smaller than the Laser Retroreflectors left on the Moon), it is currently not possible to conduct laser ranging experiments directly from the Earth, due to the great distance between the two planets. A future Mars orbiter spacecraft will use a laser, not yet developed, to conduct laser ranging experiments from Martian orbit.

Scientists, then, will be able to determine the location of rovers on the surface of Mars. As NASA will know the precise orbit of the spacecraft originating the laser beam, scientists will then be able to derive the laser ranging data sought from the Laser Retroreflector on the Martian surface. This could also make future landings on Mars more precise.

These laser ranging experiments could also provide future proof of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. As Perseverance is mobile, scientists will be able to receive data from several points of reference on Mars. This will help determine the influence on Mars' orbit from curvature in space-time. This could help scientists understand how gravity shapes our Solar System, and possibly even understand the roles of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in our Universe.

Perseverance will be the first rover on Mars to be equipped with the palm-size Laser Retroreflector Array (LaRA). A smaller Laser Retroreflector was also installed on NASA's Mars InSight Lander, which does not independently move, which landed on Mars on 2018 November 26. A Laser Retroreflector will also be aboard the European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars Rover scheduled for launch in 2022.

Perseverance launched toward the Red Planet on July 30, at 7:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 11:50 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It is expected to land next February 18, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 20:00 UTC, in Mars' Jezero Crater.

Originally titled NASA's Mars 2020 mission, the Perseverance Rover was designed with the assistance of the Curiosity Rover engineering team, to create a more robust Mars rover. The Perseverance Rover will have a major astrobiology mission, as well as investigate the planet's geology. The project is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

During its travels on the planet, Perseverance will collect soil samples and store the samples in special containers. NASA expects to retrieve these sample containers and return them to Earth for scientific analysis, during a potential, future Mars sample-return mission.

 

 Internet Links to Additional Information ---

NASA Mars 2020 Mission: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_2020 

NASA Perseverance Rover: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseverance_(rover) 

Laser Retroreflector: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroreflector

Image: Laser RetroReflector on the top deck of the Mars InSight space lander, for laser range-finding from Martian orbit and future node in a proposed Mars geophysical network:
Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/11/astronomical-calendar-2018-november.html

 Planet Mars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars

 Related Blog-Posts ---

 

"Thur.-AM U.S. Joins China & U.A.E in Race to Mars; Watch Launch Live."

Mon., 2020 July 27.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/07/thur-am-us-joins-china-uae-in-race-to.html

 

"'InSight' Space Probe to Land on Mars Monday Afternoon." Mon. 2018 Nov. 26.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2018/11/insight-space-probe-to-land-on-mars.html

 

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Wednesday, 2020 October 7.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc > 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Astro-Calendar: 2020 Oct. / SpaceX Launch & Halloween 'Blue' Moon!

     

This is an image of a "Blue" Moon from the Partial Lunar Eclipse of 2009 December, as seen from southwestern Ireland. There are two Full Moon phases in October. The first Full Moon, which is also the annual Harvest Moon, occurs on October 1 at 5:05 p.m. EDT / 21:05 UTC. The second Full Moon of October, the annual Hunter's Moon and sometimes referred to as a "Blue" Moon, occurs on the Cross-Quarter Day of Halloween at 10:49 a.m. EDT / 14:49 UTC (which is the smallest Full Moon of 2020).

October 31 will also mark the launch from Cape Canaveral of the first NASA / SpaceX operational (non-demonstration) Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station, with Crew-1: NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan's Soichi Noguchi. More info: Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-spacex-to-launch-first-commercial-crew-rotation-mission-to-international-space-station

The October 31 Full Moon satisfies one of two definitions of a "Blue" Moon: the second Full Moon in a calendar month. The original, classic definition of a "Blue" Moon is the third Full Moon in a calendar season with four Full Moon phases. It should be noted that the term "Blue" Moon is not an astronomical term, but promulgated in the 19th century by the Maine Farmer's Almanac--and, the color of the Full Moon rarely has a blue tint.

 (Image Sources: Wikipedia.org, By Codybird - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8877938)


Astronomical Calendar for 2020 October ---
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2020.html#oct

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2020 Sept. / Sept. 2 Full Moon NOT Harvest Moon."

Tuesday, 2020 Sept. 1.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/09/astro-calendar-2020-sept-sept-2-full.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              Thursday, 2020 October 1.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Autumnal Equinox: Fall Begins Tuesday Morning

    http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/pix/graphics/solsticeimage008.png
This diagram shows the position of the Earth, in relation to the Sun, at the time of the Autumnal Equinox, as well as the other equinox and solstices of the year.
(Image Source: ©1999, Eric G. Canali, former Floor Operations Manager of the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center - Pittsburgh's science and technology museum from 1939 to 1991) and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club; permission granted for only non-profit use with credit to author.) 

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower


The Autumnal Equinox, the beginning of the season of Autumn or Fall in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, begins Tuesday morning. In Earth's Southern Hemisphere, this equinox marks the astronomical beginning of the season of Spring.

The September Equinox occurs Tuesday Morning, 2020 September 22 at 9:31 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 13:31 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

On the day of the Equinox, the Sun appears directly overhead at local Noon on the Equator. At the moment of Equinox, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of Earth are illuminated equally. And, the time of Equinox is the only time when the Earth Terminator (dividing line on Earth between daylight and darkness) is perpendicular to the Equator.

This, and the reason for seasons on Earth in the first place, is due to the fact that Earth rotates on its axis, which is tilted at an approximate 23.44-degree angle from the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, this axial tilt causes one hemisphere of the planet to receive more direct solar radiation during that hemisphere's season of Summer and much less direct solar radiation a half-year later during that hemisphere's season of Winter. As mentioned, during an Equinox (about half-way between Summer and Winter, and about half-way between Winter and Summer) both planetary hemispheres receive an equal amount of solar radiation.


Although "Equinox" in Latin means equal-night, the day of the Equinox does not actually have an equal amount of daylight and nightfall, as it appears on the Earth's surface. If the Sun was just a pin-point of light in our sky, as all other stars appear, day and night would be equal.


But, because the Sun is a disk, part of the Sun has risen above the horizon before the center of the Sun (which would be the pin-point of light); so there are extra moments of light on the Equinox. Likewise, part of the Sun is still visible, after the center of the Sun has set.


Additionally, the refraction of sunlight by our atmosphere causes sunlight to appear above the horizon, before sunrise and after sunset.


September 25 will mark the Equilux ("equal-light"), the actual day with equal hours and minutes of the Sun above the horizon, and equal hours and minutes of the Sun below the horizon. The Equilux occurs twice each year, approximately 3-to-4 days before the Vernal Equinox, when Spring begins,  and 3-to-4 days after the Autumnal Equinox.


An urban legend that has been making the rounds for decades has it that eggs can be stood on their ends only during an Equinox, whether the Vernal Equinox in the Spring or the Autumnal Equinox in the Fall. This is completely false. Depending greatly on the size and shape of the particular egg, eggs can be stood on their ends any day of the year! Astronomy has nothing to do with whether an egg can stand on its end. If an egg can stand on its end on the Equinox (and, due to the shape and size of some eggs, this is not even possible), it can stand the same way any other day of the year.

In the last few years, with the help of the Internet and Social Media, another urban legend has become prevalent. Now it is claimed that brooms can stand, on their own, on their bristles, only on an Equinox day. This is also false. Again, as with eggs, if a broom can stand on its bristles by itself (this usually only works with newer brooms, with more even bristles) on an Equinox, it can do so any day of the year!

September 22 is also designated as the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day for this year.


Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Autumnal Equinox: Link >>> http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/AutumnalEquinox.html


Season of Autumn or Fall: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn

Equinox: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox


Equilux: Link >>> https://darkskydiary.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/equinox-equilux-and-twilight-times/


Earth's Seasons: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Season

Tilt of a planet's axis: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_tilt

Urban legend of eggs and brooms standing on their own, only on an Equinox:
Link >>> http://www.snopes.com/science/equinox.asp

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Link >>> http://www.ncoa.org/improve-health/center-for-healthy-aging/falls-prevention/falls-prevention-awareness.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              Tuesday, 2020 September 22.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Friday, September 18, 2020

Mystery Solved! Oldest U.S. Planetarium Projector Found & Recovered

                                Photo of Zeiss II
 Planetarium Projector at the Adler Planetarium
 in 1933
1933 photograph of the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector used from 1930 to 1969 at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. This projector was replaced by a Zeiss VI in January of 1970.
(Image Sources: Adler Planetarium and Friends of the Zeiss)
By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

A 50-year mystery has been solved! America's oldest planetarium projector, the Zeiss II / III Planetarium Projector operated at Chicago's Adler Planetarium from 1930 to 1969, has been found and recovered.

The author of this blog-post, Glenn A. Walsh, is proud to have assisted in the resolution of this mystery.

On 1930 May 12, Adler Planetarium opened in Chicago as the first major planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, a Zeiss Mark II from the Carl Zeiss Optical Works in Jena, Germany. Before World War II, four more Zeiss II Planetarium Projectors would find their way to America:

  • Philadelphia: Fels Planetarium, Franklin Institute (1933)
  • Los Angeles: Griffith Observatory (1935)
  • New York City: Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History (1935)
  • Pittsburgh: Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (1939)

The modern mechanical, projection planetarium was developed in Germany, with the first public showing on 1923 October 21 at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. This was the Zeiss Mark I, designed by the Carl Zeiss Optical Works.

Adler Planetarium operated their Zeiss II Planetarium Projector from 1930 until 1961. Then, this projector was upgraded from a Zeiss II to a Zeiss III.

According to Mike Smail, Director of Theaters and Digital Experience at Adler Planetarium, “In 1961, Adler upgraded their projector, adding the two collars or ruffs at the base of each starball that held individual projectors for the 42 brightest stars, an upgraded Moon projector, and new chromium-coated, photo-engraved star plates (replacing the original hand-punched copper plates).” Mr. Smail's statement was made during his presentation, “There and Back Again: 90 Years of Adler's Zeiss Mark II”, during the “History of Planetaria – What to Preserve and How” webinar, sponsored by the International Planetarium Society (IPS) History of the Planetarium Working Group on Thursday Morning, 2020 September 3.

It should be noted that all Zeiss III projectors are upgraded Zeiss II projectors. The Zeiss IV Planetarium Projector was the first all-new projector produced by Carl Zeiss, following World War II.

The Zeiss II / III last operated at Adler Planetarium on 1969 December 31. It, then, took two weeks to dismantle the Zeiss II / III, to prepare to be sent to Jackson, Mississippi. It took a couple more weeks to install the new Zeiss VI Planetarium Projector before it began presenting shows to the general public.

The Zeiss II / III was sent to Jackson, Mississippi for a yet-to-be built, new planetarium theater. So, it appeared that this historic projector would get a new life educating the citizens of Mississippi, as the citizens of nearby Baton Rouge, Louisiana were being educated by another historic Zeiss II / III projector used originally by the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

However, the Russell C. Davis Planetarium in Downtown Jackson opened in 1978, but with a different projector: the Minolta S-IV Planetarium Projector. This was the beginning, of what would be, a 50-year mystery regarding the fate of Adler Planetarium's historic Zeiss II / III Planetarium Projector.

The Russell C. Davis Planetarium had determined that the cost of rehabilitating Adler's 1930 projector was significantly more than the cost of a brand new projector from a different vendor. So, once Adler's historic Zeiss II / III Planetarium Projector left Mississippi, it took a convoluted route ending-up in a barn in central Ohio some years later. But for most of the 50 years, most people had no idea where the projector was located; the Ohio purchaser kept a low-profile and did very little with the projector.

About 20 years ago, planetarium historians Glenn A. Walsh and Brent Sullivan, with assistance from Gary Lazich, started looking for Adler's historic Zeiss II / III Planetarium Projector. Through research, including telephone and electronic mail interviews with people who had involvement with the Adler Zeiss Projector, a narrative started to be assembled showing what may have happened to the projector, although there were conflicting stories that were difficult to reconcile. Mr. Walsh compiled all of the stories on his History of Adler Planetarium Internet web-site, and he asked web-site readers to contact him if they had additional information. After April of 2008, no further information was received.

Mike Smail, during his September 3 presentation, announced that the Adler Planetarium had found and recovered the historic Zeiss II / III Planetarium Projector. He, then, provided a summary of what had happened to the projector over these 50 years (1970 to 2020).

Mr. Smail explained: “As previously mentioned, the Davis Planetarium opened in 1978, but with a Minolta S-IV projector at its core. Why not the Zeiss? When the team in Jackson investigated the actual costs of re-constructing and updating the Zeiss, they found it would be upwards of $230,000. And when they reached out to planetarium manufacturers for bid quotes, they received an offer from Viewlex (then Minolta’s US Distributor) that was about $100,000 less than Zeiss repair costs. Viewlex also offered Jackson $30,000 in trade-in for the Adler’s Zeiss. I can’t say I blame them for that choice, and they got 35 good years out of that new projector. Adler’s Zeiss then found itself shipped to Viewlex’s Long Island warehouse space, where it sat for the next year or two.

“In 1980, Viewlex Audio-Visual Inc. went bankrupt. The freight and storage company that owned their warehouse began calling up Zeiss planetariums around the country, looking for someone willing to pay $10,000 to purchase Adler’s Zeiss. One of their calls was to Sam Mims, one of the two Planetarium Curators at the Louisiana Arts and Science Center in Baton Rouge. Realizing the danger of this historic artifact being scrapped, Sam got a few investors together including his father and his co-curator Wayne Coskrey, and agreed to purchase the projector. Sam visited New York, inspected the projector, and that, coupled with freight company records confirmed that this was the Adler’s Zeiss. After finalizing the sales contract, the projector was then shipped to a warehouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

At this time, the Louisiana Arts and Science Center's planetarium was also a Zeiss Model III, having originally been installed as a Model II in Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory. But Sam and Wayne didn’t have plans to use the Adler Zeiss for spare parts, they wanted to get it in the hands of someone who could put it to immediate use, or preserve its historical value. The Baton Rouge group ran ads in Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, and even the Planetarian (IPS quarterly journal) magazines looking for a buyer.

“By 1987, they found a buyer. Don Greider, a solar engineer from Mechanicsburg, Ohio arranged to purchase Adler’s Zeiss with the goal of re-assembling it in his workshop. That was the last time anybody saw, or heard about the Adler Zeiss for over 20 years.”
When Adler Planetarium inadvertently made national headlines in 2008, when a Presidential candidate confused funding a new planetarium projector for an overhead projector, Don Greider heard about the controversy on National Public Radio (NPR). He called Adler Planetarium, offering to help provide replacement parts for Adler's Zeiss VI projector, which was nearly 40 years old. He also mentioned that he had, in storage, Adler's original Zeiss II / III projector.
Mr. Smail continued, “This led to a series of phone calls, and even an in-person visit over the next few years, but by the end of 2012, Don had dropped out of communication.
“On February 17 of this year (2020), I received a voicemail, forwarded from the museum’s main line. It was Don Greider’s son, Ken. He was making arrangements to clear out the barn, and wanted to know if we were interested in purchasing our Zeiss. On February 29, a small group from Adler drove out to the Greider farm, southwest of Mechanicsburg, Ohio in an attempt to verify that it was Adler’s Zeiss, and to inspect the condition of the parts. So what did we find?
"We discovered a number of sealed crates containing portions of a Zeiss Model III Planetarium Projector, as well as a wide range of ancillary components that were part of a Zeiss Planetarium projection system. We also identified a series of shipping labels that traced out the projector's journey from Chicago to Mechanicsburg. In the packing material surrounding the North planet cage were pieces of the December 21, 1969 (coincidentally, date of the Winter Solstice) Chicago Tribune, further confirming that this was the Adler's long-lost Zeiss.

“After a bit of back and forth, we settled on a price, and purchased our Zeiss back from the Greider family. We made a second trip to the farm in mid-June, to pack up as many of the small pieces as we could fit in our Adler van. The third and final trip was at the end of June; it was to oversee the removal of the final four crates.” All of the crates were then shipped, by truck, to Adler’s off-site storage warehouse in Chicago.

Mr. Smail concluded his presentation saying, “We’ll soon be starting the process of determining how we approach restoration and public awareness of the projector, with the eventual goal to restore and reassemble the projector for display at the Adler Planetarium.”

During his prepared remarks, Mr. Smail also said, “If you’re one of the folks like me who try to stay up on planetarium history, you may know much of what I’ve already said, thanks to the incredible research compiled by Glenn Walsh, Brent Sullivan, and Gary Lazich and stored on Glenn's planetarium history website.”

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Walsh had been a lecturer in The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center, Pittsburgh's science and technology museum from 1939 to 1991), using Buhl's historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector. He was also Astronomical Observatory Coordinator, in charge of Buhl's astronomical observatory using the historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope.

Brent Sullivan is a planetarium collector and restorer. He has also been Director of Acquisitions and Restorations of the private Planetarium Projector & Space Museum in Big Bear Lake, California.

Gary Lazich was Manager of the Russell C. Davis Planetarium in Jackson, Mississippi.

In 1994, Mr. Walsh started a grass-roots effort to prevent an Adler-type mystery from happening to another historic Zeiss Projector: the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector which had operated in Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium from 1939 to 1994. This is the only Zeiss II Planetarium Projector which had never had any major modifications from its 1939 installation.


Shortly after Adler Planetarium opened in 1930, several members of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh (AAAP – which had been established the previous year) visited Chicago to see this new way of explaining astronomy to the general public. As soon as they returned home, they immediately started lobbying to build a planetarium in Pittsburgh.

In 1935, the Buhl Foundation (then, the nation's 13th largest philanthropic foundation) announced that they would build a planetarium in memory of Henry Buhl, Jr., who had owned one of Pittsburgh's major department stores, Boggs and Buhl. The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science opened in 1939. AAAP co-founder Leo Scanlon (who, in November of 1930, had constructed the world's first all-aluminum astronomical observatory dome) was one of the first two Buhl Planetarium lecturers.

In 1995, Mr. Walsh petitioned Pittsburgh City Council for a special public hearing on the proposed sale of the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, which is legally owned by the City of Pittsburgh. At the conclusion of the 1995 May 18 public hearing, City Council decided the historic instrument should remain in Pittsburgh. Today, Buhl Planetarium's historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector is on public display in the first-floor Atrium Gallery of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center (located one mile southwest of the original Buhl Planetarium building, on the North Shore of the Ohio River).

Special Thanks: Mike Smail, Director of Theaters & Digital Experience, Adler Planetarium, Chicago

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

History of Adler Planetarium: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com/

Original Research Regarding Mystery of Disappearance of Adler Planetarium's Zeiss II / III:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/adler/mystery.html

Webinar Remarks of Mike Smail: "There and Back Again: 90 Years of Adler's Zeiss Mark II":
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/adler/09032020_Walsh_text.html

Recovery: Adler Zeiss II / III Planetarium Projector -- Photos:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/adler/pix/zeissiii/recovery.html

International Planetarium Society (IPS): Link >>> https://www.ips-planetarium.org/

IPS History of the Planetarium Working Group:
Link >>> https://www.ips-planetarium.org/page/historywg

Related Blog Posts ---

"75th Anniversary of America's 5th Major Planetarium." Fri., 2014 Oct. 24.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/10/75th-anniversary-of-americas-5th-major.html

 

"100 Years Ago: Planetarium Concept Born." Mon., 2014 Feb. 24.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/02/100-years-ago-planetarium-concept-born.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
               Friday, 2020 September 18.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

           More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Astro-Calendar: 2020 Sept. / Sept. 2 Full Moon NOT Harvest Moon

    
This year, 2020, is one of the somewhat rare years (usually once every three years) when the September Full Moon, which occurs on Wednesday, 2020 September 2 at 1:22 a.m. EDT / 5:22 UTC, is NOT the annual Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon will occur the first day of next month, Thursday, 2020 October 1 at 5:05 p.m. EDT / 21:05 UTC. Occurring in the late Summer or early Autumn, in September or October in the Northern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon provides farmers with additional light in the early evening, during the very busy harvest time.  The Harvest Moon has the same characteristics in the Southern Hemisphere, when it occurs in March or April. The Harvest Moon is considered the Full Moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox (usually two weeks before or after the Equinox), the beginning of the season of Autumn / Fall, which will occur this year on Tuesday, 2020 September 22 at 9:31 a.m. EDT / 13:31 UTC. While there are 20 days between the September Full Moon and the September Equinox, there are only 9 days from the September Equinox to the October Full Moon. Hence, the annual Harvest Moon occurs in October this year!
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org, By Tomruen - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53147136)

Astronomical Calendar for 2020 September ---
Link >>> buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2020.html#sep

 Related Blog Post ---

"Astro-Calendar: 2020 August / 1st SpaceX Crew Dragon Splash-down Aug. 2."

Saturday, 2020 Aug. 1.

Link >>> https://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2020/08/astro-calendar-2020-august-1st-spacex.html


Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              Tuesday, 2020 September 1.

                             Like This Post?  Please Share!

            More Astronomy & Science News - SpaceWatchtower Twitter Feed:
            Link >>> https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower

        Astronomy & Science Links: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#sciencelinks

                Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your in-box ?
                Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >.

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator:
http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >