Return to site

Club Meeting Summary - Dec. 2, 2021

· Club Meeting Summary

Southern Maine Astronomers

Club Meeting

2 December 2021, 1830 hrs


Attending were members Russell Pinizzotto, Ara Jerahian, Greg Thorup, Dwight Lanpher, Bob

Dodge, Forrest Sumner, George Bokinsky, Kerry Kertes, Al DiSabatino, David Manchester, Abby

Gardner, Scott Lovejoy, Jon Wallace, Rowan Gobele-Bane, Mike Mack, Ron Thompson, Nicholas

Wall, Maame Andoh, Kevin Kane, John Saucier, Paul Schumann, Roy Reigel, Dave Thibeault, Tom

Catterall and Rob Burgess, and guests Doug Lund-Yates, Carl Gurtman, Janis Bright and Greg



1900: Rob Burgess opened the formal portion of the meeting welcoming new member Maame

Andoh from Simmons University.


Recent activities by members: Ara reported on the EAA presentation done through the auspices of

the Cape Elizabeth Library on November 9. Rob introduced the evening on behalf of the club while

Russ provided detailed discussion of constellations visible at this time of the year and which housed

the imaging targets, while Ara managed image capture and explanation of the process. About 80

people attended and a recording of the meeting is on the library’s website. The library would like to

make this a quarterly event. Rob also mentioned that James Shields made a presentation at the

Windham Library on basic observing on Nov 8. The star party scheduled for Nov. 10 was cancelled

due to weather. Rob reported he recently purchased a map on the path of the total eclipse on April

8, 2024 he will post at Neptune Dr. and a road atlas for the path from Mexico to Atlantic Canada.

Maine will experience about 3 min 30 sec of totality along the center line, running from Moose

River/Jackman, through Baxter State Park and exiting Maine along Rt. 1 north of Houlton. There

was a suggestion to schedule a gathering around the James Webb Space Telescope launch later

this month.


Announcements: Rob reminded everyone to renew their memberships as we approach year-end

and asked members to consider a donation to help the club strengthen its financial condition and

build an endowment. There will be a star party at the Waldorf School in Freeport on Dec 3 at 5 p.m.

There will also be a star party for the Ladies Adventure Club at Neptune Drive on Friday, Dec 10 at

5:30 p.m. Volunteers to assist with both are welcomed. The Dec 10 event will occur rain or shine; if

inclement we will do some short indoor presentations. The January club meeting will focus on basic

astronomy and observing tips for those new to astronomy as was done last year. Members are

invited to volunteer to offer short presentations (5-10 min) on topics they have found important on

their learning curve. The Club Directors will meet via zoom on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 9:30. All are

welcome to attend.


Guest Speaker: Jon Wallace - Micrometeorites. Rob introduced Jon who is a member of SMA

and comes to us with a distinguished career in scientific education as an award-winning high school

physics teacher in Connecticut; as an instructor at Wesleyan University’s Project ASTRO; and as

operator of Naugatuck Valley Community College’s Observatory. As a geologist by training Jon has

been collecting meteorites since the mid 1980’s but only in the last four to five years has been

focusing on micrometeorites, corresponding with the first “urban” find of such objects in 2016.


Jon described a painstaking process of sorting through raw material – with about a pound of gritty

raw material to find a single micrometeorite per year. Jon gets his materials from flat rooftops and

rain gutters. The objects he seeks are in the range of 150 to 400 microns which is about 2-4x the

width of a human hair. Jon first sorts that material through various sized sieves, and then pulls out

all magnetic particles and finally reviews the candidate items under a microscope. For those

determined to be truly extraterrestrial, Jon photographs them with another microscope, using “focus

stacking photography” requiring hundreds of images at slightly different foci with software then

combining them into a finished image that is fully in focus. Jon estimates that he expends about 20

to 30 hours of work to find one micrometeorite. Since his search began, Jon has recovered about



Jon explained that these objects appear on the chondritic spectrum of chemical classification, falling

into S-type, I-type and G-type, with S-type being the most common, representing 97% of all finds.

These objects are often barred olivine objects, exhibiting parallel ridges with glass between them.

These objects hit the upper atmosphere at 25,000 to 150,000 miles per hour and are heated by

friction and ram compression. Larger meteorites are heated mostly by ram compression then

experiencing ablation as layers melt off, in the so-called “fireball stage.” Jon showed a map that

revealed meteorites fall fairly uniformly across the Earth. A speed of about 24,000 mph is required

to create an impact crater. Five meteorites have been found in Maine, including in Nobleboro,

Castine, Searsmont, Walnut Hill and Andover.


It is estimated that approximately 60 tons of micrometeorites hit the earth every day, representing

about 1 micrometeorite for every 10 square feet per year. The origin of these materials appear to be

comets, asteroids and the interplanetary dust left over from the formation of our solar system, the

particles that can occasionally be seen as the zodiacal light. Jon said that as these particles enter

our atmosphere and become subject to heating they will react with elements in our atmosphere and

thereby give us insights into conditions on Earth potentially eons ago, depending upon the age of the



Why go through all this effort to find such tiny objects? Jon said the effort gives us better

understanding of our Solar Systems’ origins, they are beautiful objects in terms of structure and

surface features, each is as unique as a snowflake, and they are the most abundant extraterrestrial

material on Earth – so we should be studying them! Jon invited those with more interest to visit his

website or contact him directly.


Constellation Tour: Russ Pinizzotto provided another wonderful tour through one of the larger and

more obscure (because of its dimness) constellations in our northern skies, Camelopardalis. The

constellation appeared as early as the 1600’s, with the term’s name being derived from the Latin

terms for “leopard camel” – a creature with humps and spots, i.e., a giraffe. Its boundaries largely

filled in the void left by the boundaries of the constellations around it. It straddles both worlds with

parts of it touching the Milky Way, with star clusters and nebulae, while other parts head into deep

space, hosting galaxies. There are no Messier objects in Camelopardalis (C, for short), but there

are two Caldwell objects and four Herschel 400 objects.


Alpha C is a nice binocular object, a widely spaced double star that is akin to the beauty of Alberio in

Cygnus, with a blue and a gold star. In photography, this star shows a huge shockwave of hydrogen

around it. 32 C (Struve 1964) is another double. Zeta C is a variable star, showing a magnitude

variation from 9.8 to 14.5 every 23 days.


There’s a beautiful asterism in Camelopardlis called Kemble’s Cascade, named after a Franciscan

friar. It’s a long string of quite colorful stars. In the immediate vicinity, but technically just across the

border in Cassiopeia, is Kemble’s Kite, another asterism. Pazmino’s Cluster in nearby – a cluster or

an asterism? Finally, Collinder 464 is as asterism of a dog (it looks like a mini-Leo to this scribe).


There are several galaxies of note, although they are all quite faint. Caldwell 5 (IC 342) is called the

Hidden Galaxy, Mag 8.6 – a beautiful spiral seemingly hidden and reddened by an intervening dust

cloud.. There is also a nice spiral galaxy (Caldwell 7, NGC 2403), part of the Hershel 400. NGC

1961 is a nice spiral galaxy at 195 Million LY; NGC 2655, another spiral at 79 MLY and NGC 1569 a

dwarf Irregular Galaxy at only 10 MLY where new star formation is extraordinarily intense. NGC

2366 is another Irregular Galaxy. UGC 3697 is the Integral Sign Galaxy, a long, skinny backwards

sine sign. Finally MACS0647- JD is a candidate for the farthest known galaxy at 13.26 BILLION LY.

It is one of the likely targets of the new James Webb Space Telescope once it’s operational.


Nearer the Milky Way one finds the Oyster Nebula (NGC 1501), a quite spectacular planetary

nebula, actually brighter than M 57 in Lyra. NGC 1502 is dense open cluster, near Kemble’s



The meeting concluded about 21:30.


Rob Burgess

President, SMA