Southern Maine Astronomers
2 June, 2022 7:00 p.m.
Attending were members David Gay, Kevin, Kane, Russell Pinizzotto, Greg Thorup, Forrest Sumner,
George Bokinsky, Ron Thompson, Paul Schumann, Howie Marshall, Greg Shanos, Ara Jerahian,
Jack Gelfand, David Manchester, Dwight Lanpher, Maame Andoh, Al DiSabatino, Tom O’Conner,
Jon Wallace, Kerry Kertes, Dennis Leiner, Joe Long, Abby Gardner, Roy Reigel, Craig Snapp, Mike
Efron and Rob Burgess and guests Doug Lund Yates and Joanne Mullen.
1900: Rob Burgess opened the formal portion of the meeting stating the club gained more new
members and welcomed David Feindel & Family, Shishira Adiga, Douglas Heroux & Family, Joe
Long and Dana Hutchins.
Recent activities by members:
- There was communal bemoaning of the clouded out Total Lunar eclipse on May 15 -16 and the Tau Herculid meteor shower about a week later. However, Greg Shanos from Sarasota, FL was able to see it and presented a beautiful montage of images. He also had clear weather for the meteor shower but reported it was unimpressive.
- Rob reported on Space Day at Poland Middle School on May 6 and explained the origins of the program, finishing its 24 th year. Rob presented a tour of active Solar System exploratory missions to four different classes of 20+ students.
- Jon Wallace reported on the Club’s first star party at Neptune Dr on May 14. There was a good turn out of club members to support the effort, even though it was mostly cloudy. Thanks to Jon, Kevin Kane, Kerry Kertes, Al DiSabatino, Russ Pinizzotto, Chris Parent, Bob Dodge, Jack Gelfand, Ron Thompson and George Bokinsky who helped out. Several families with interested kids came and got partial views of the full moon through Chris Parent’s Dob.
- The next meeting on July 7 will feature Stella Ocher, a PhD candidate at Cornell, speaking about the interstellar medium.
- There will be no club meeting in August.
- Greg Shanos will provide a talk in late fall on how best to view Mars at opposition.
- The next club star party at Neptune Drive will be Saturday, June 11 at 8 p.m.
- Rob urged members not signed up on Google Groups to do so as it is the primary means for communications within the club. Only slightly more than half the members are on Google Groups.
- The JWST will be releasing First Light images on July 12. An event will be organized for the club to share in this momentous occasion.
Guest Speaker: Open Forum on any large astronomical topics of the day
There was a general discussion around some of the larger topics of the day, some esoteric and
confined to scientists with others accessible to the general public. Why are there differing
calculations of the Hubble Constant? Can the general theory of the Big Bang really be a legitimate
theory when it rests on concepts of dark energy and dark matter, neither of which have been
empirically observed? How could the universe be as large as 94 billion light years across when the
age of the universe is estimated to be 14 billion years? Has the speed of light varied over time?
Should we follow Stephen Hawkings’ recommendation to be broadcasting messages in search of
extraterrestrial life, or should we maintain our obscurity presuming any superior alien life form would
be hostile? After discussion most of these imponderables remained unresolved but those in
attendance seemed to enjoy the colloquy.
Tour of Libra and Scorpius by Russ Pinizzotto
Russ noted that unlike most constellations from antiquity that featured gods or creatures Libra was
one of the few that featured an object – Scales – at least to Roman and Babylonian observers. The
Greeks saw the modern-day Libra as parts of the claws of the adjacent scorpion. Not far off the
galactic plane Libra is devoid of Messier or Caldwell objects. It does have a beautiful globular
cluster in NGC 5897 and two noteworthy galaxies – a “grand design” barred spiral in NGC 5885 and
another very circular barred spiral in NGC 5792. One noteworthy astronomical odd ball is
HD140283 – “Methuselah’s Star” which remains mostly hydrogen and helium despite its estimated
age of 13.6 billion years; it does not fit on the standard HR diagram.
As absent as Libra was of major object types, Scorpius compensates with four Messier, three
Caldwell and two Herschel objects. The red giant star Antares dwarfs our sun. If it were in our Solar
System it would extend out to between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter! Because Antares is on the
ecliptic Mars will pass by it periodically, hence the nickname “Rival of Mars.” The two are often
confused. A beautiful Globular Cluster, M4, lies not far from Anatres. M 6, an Open Cluster, the
“Butterfly Cluster” lies near the scorpion’s tail. M7, “Ptolmey’s Cluster” is an open cluster while M80
is another stunning Globular Cluster (slightly above and to the west of Antares).
Scorpius is also replete with numerous NGC objects: NGC 6451, the Tom Thumb cluster, NGC
6334, the Cats Paw or Bear Claw Nebula, NGC 6357, the Lobster or War & Peace Nebula are all
worth observing, as is Caldwell 75 (NGC 6124) and Caldwell 76 (NGC 6231), the Northern Jewel
Box cluster. Finally, Scorpius X-1 is the first X-ray source discovered outside of the Milky Way and it
is the brightest x-ray source in the sky besides the Sun. It was discovered in 1962 via a sounding
rocket launched from White Sands, NM, by Riccardo Giacconi who was awarded a Nobel Prize in
Next month – the Astronomical League’s Observing Challenge for Globular Clusters.
The meeting concluded about 8:30 p.m.