From the President...

December 2011 President's Perspective


Another year is rapidly heading to a close...but it's not over yet!

This coming Saturday morning, December 10th, there will be a total lunar eclipse very early in the morning. The moon will enter totality at 6:06 AM and exit totality at 6:57 AM. At that point, the moon will only be 2 degrees above the horizon (invisible to much of Reno unless you are lucky enough to be on a mountaintop). Furthermore, sunrise will be only a few minutes away, at 7:09 AM. This should be a very interesting and unusual eclipse, and one very much worth getting up to watch.

The ASN will be working with the Planetarium to interpret this event to the general public. If you can, come out and join us from 5 to 7 AM at the planetarium. Hot drinks will be provided.

If you come out, one thing you will not see is me. Or, planetarium director Dan Ruby. If you look over at KNPB TV's studio building, you might see either or both of us, freezing on the roof. Why is this? It seems that WPBT TV in Miami, the folks that produce 'Star Gazer', will be covering this eclipse from KNPB and webcasting the event. (I think most readers of this column know I an the Assistant Chief Engineer of KNPB TV). Dean Regas and Marlene Hildago will be live in the studio providing commentary and answering viewer questions. You can learn more about it at . While they are talking, Dan Ruby and I will be operating a broadcast grade TV camera on a tracking mount on KNPB's roof, tracking the moon. This should be an interesting engineering exercise and a lot of fun! In preparation, I have figured out the celetial mechanics of this eclipse to the point I can say 'the moon will set over that telephone pole'. It will be interesting to see how close my predictions are.

In any case, the last time that WPBT did this webcast, they got 260,000+ hits. Not bad for an early morning event! We are expecting the same this time. This event is a big test to see how well things will work for the May 20th annular solar eclipse. Hopefully by then, the weather should be a bit warmer!

A little bit of eclipse trivia: If any of you saw the HBO miniseries 'Game of Thrones', you may remember one of the major storylines in that series (and the books by George R.R. Martin) concerns the Dothraki people. George Martin gave a few Dothraki words in the books, which were developed in to a full-blown constructed language by David Peterson of the Language Creation Society. I have taken on the task of learning Dothraki, and maintain a downloadable dictionary of the language. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that the language already has a term for 'total lunar eclipse', 'jalanqoyi'. It also has a term for 'total solar eclipse', 'shekhqoyi' and a number of other astronomical terms. Ask me next time you see me and I'll explain to you how to pronounce these words.

We have our regular members' meeting on Tuesday evening December 13th at 7PM at the planetarium. I am not sure what the topic is, but I think that it might be the second half of Tim Burn's presentation on the history of the ASN. Immediately following the meeting will be the Board of Directors/Programs Committee meeting. Members are always invited, and are encouraged to attend this meeting. Unlike most organizations' board meetings, the general membership may participate in the meeting.

Many of you know that ASN has telescopes for rent. For a long time, these telescopes have been stored in a place way out of Reno. Now, they have been moved much closer to town, so they are more generally available. Renting a 'scope is an excellent way to get started in astronomy, or try out a different kind of 'scope than you are currently using. Even though I have a nice 8 inch SCT, I have rented a 'scope to try out, in the past. You can contact any board member for more information on 'scope rental. In addition to telescopes, the ASN has an extensive library of astronomy books. I am hoping that a list can be compiled of these books and arrangements made to make them available for members to borrow.

The only other event happening this month is a public star party at Sparks Marina on Friday evening, December 16th. With Christmas shopping heading into its final week, there should be lots of people out there who might want to see the heavens up close.

And if you are looking for one more astronomical event in 2011 (or to start 2012), the midnight clumination of Sirius occurs at midnight, December 31st!

The ASN holiday party will, like last year, be held after the holidays, sometime in January. This seemed to work really well last year, and it helps people avoid 'holiday season burnout'.

Don't be surprised if there is some informal group viewing happening in December, January and February. Although the ASN has no official members' star parties during these months, some members have previously organized winter group stargazing at popular places like Trapshoot (weather permitting, of course, and weather has not cooperated much the last two winters).

A lot has happened this year for the Astronomical Society of Nevada, and we are looking ahead to perhaps the most exciting year for astronomy that I can remember. We have two really major events happening this next year. I think everyone knows about the annular solar eclipse on the 20th of May. Reno is one of the best places in the country to see this event, and it is going to be a BIG deal here. I know WPBT and KNPB plan to cover this event, which will most likely be held at the Redfield Campus's MaClean Observatory. There may also be a group organizing viewing down the track of maximum annularity, which passes just east of Reno.

Then just a couple of weeks later, on June 5th, we will have a transit of the sun by Venus. This will be the last transit of Venus until 2117, so you will not want to miss this. And even though this event is visible in Miami, it looks like WPBT will again be involved.

Along with these events, there will be all the other events that ASN has traditionally done-- public and private star parties, school and corporate events, and participation in major star parties like the Golden State Star Party.

So with an exciting year coming, keep looking up-- and ahead!!

Tim Stoffel

Category: President