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Club Meeting Summary - Jun. 2, 2022

· Club Meeting Summary

Southern Maine Astronomers

Club Meeting

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.

 

Announcements:

  • 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

2002.

 

Next month – the Astronomical League’s Observing Challenge for Globular Clusters.

 

The meeting concluded about 8:30 p.m.

 

Rob Burgess

President, SMA

 

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