SMA Zoom Meeting
2 July 2020
Attending: Rob Burgess, Russell Pinizzotto, Dwight Lanpher, Forrest Summer, Al DiSabatino, Bob Dodge, Jeff Jordan, Dave Thibeault, Ara Jerahian, Joan Chamberlin, James Shields, and George Bokinsky. Notice of the meeting was posted on the SMA webpage.
Rob Burgess made introductory remarks and sought comments from those attending:
Dwight Lanpher described “touchless” star parties as being planned in Northern Maine and briefly revealed his newly acquired Vaonis Stellina imaging system to be used at star parties. This system generated extended conversation and interest.
Russ Pinizzotto reported his radio telescope to be back in action. Conversation regarding the discovery of cosmic microwave background (CMB) and that the site of the original detection in New Jersey is now owned by Nokia but that the instrument still exists and is visited.
Ryan Hickox, Professor of Astronomy at Dartmouth Collage, was introduced by Rob Burgess mentioning education at Yale University, work in the United Kingdom, PhD from Harvard University in Astrophysics with post doctoral work at the CfA before current posting to Dartmouth College.
The title of his lecture was “Light from the Void: the Next Generation of Space-Based Telescopes” in anticipation of the retirement of the Hubble Space Telescope and to go beyond the yet to be deployed James Webb Space Telescope.
He introduced the topic with brief description of the currently deployed missions including Chandra, Fermi, HaloSat, Hubble, SOFIA, Spitzer, Swift, TESS, INTEGRAL, XMM-Newton, NICER, and NuStar. As a historical aside, Ryan described Lyman Spitzer’s “Project RAND” from 1946 proposing a space observatory operated by observers within a satellite orbiting Earth beginning with a 10” telescope and progressing to a “large reflecting telescope many feet in diameter.”
The planned missions each provide differing opportunities for research include Euclid, IXPE, LISA, and, the before mentioned, James Webb Space Telescope, The last mentioned mission has recently passed a deployment test of its mirror in the laboratory.
On completion of his remarks, a discussion of competing priorities, budgetary concerns, and opportunities for international collaboration ensued. Advances in mirror technology, satellites working as one, and other advances should enable better determinations of the properties of exoplanets, and imaging of “black holes.”
Constellation of the Month: Draco
Russell Pinizzotto continued his series on interesting observational opportunities in the night skies with Draco, the “Dragon.” Beginning with its position in the Northern skies winding between Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, Russ described how the meridional shafts of the great pyramids in circa 2450 BCE may have pointe to Thuban, alpha Draconis as the pole star.
Discussion included double stars on Draco of decreasing angular separation, and increasing degrees of difficulty for the binocular using observer. Also discussed include various galaxies in Draco of interest to the observer and imager.