President's Perspective May 2012

Its finally here! The event we have all been waiting for, the annular solar eclipse!

By now, I am sure all of you know that we will be having an annular solar eclipse, very visible in Reno, on Sunday, May 20th. The ASN has partnered with the Planetarium, KNPB TV, the Nevada Historical Society, and a couple of other groups to host an 'official viewing' at the MaClean Observatory in UNR's Redfield Campus. Although there are some members-only activities, this event is generally open to the public. And the latest estimates peg more than 1,000 people showing up at this venue to see the eclipse!

Before delving into the details as known, I want to emphasize safe viewing of the eclipse. I am reasonably sure that everyone here knows you cannot directly look at the sun without a proper viewing aid. Doing so would risk permanently damaging your eyesight. This is the number 1 point we all need to drive home to people wishing to view the eclipse.

Viewing aids for solar observing generally fall into three classes-- 1.) Optical filters that allow direct observation of the sun, 2.) Projection devices that project an image of the sun onto a viewing screen of some sort, and 3.) Telescopes properly equipped with solar filters. Let's look at these methods a little more closely.

Number 1, Optical filters that allow direct observation of the sun. The solar glasses we are handing out are an example of this kind of device. These are the easiest way to view the sun, and they give an image limited only by the visual acuity of the user. But they have to be manufactured, and that takes time and money. They also give a small image of the sun. But that said, this is how the vast majority if the public will see this eclipse. Solar viewers are available from Jim Fahey, the Planetarium, Sierra Safari Zoo, and several other places. I carry some around pretty much all the time now, and sell a few here and there. Other officers are doing this as well, and indeed, every ASN member should avail themselves of a few to sell to family, friends, etc. The ASN price for these has been $2 each, or 5 for $5, (Hint, come to Tuesday night's meeting!)

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President's Perspective April 2012

It has been a busy couple of months for me, so I haven't had a lot of time to write stuff. My employer, KNPB TV, got a grant to build a new production control room. The challenge with this project was having to install about half a million dollars of…

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February 2012 President's Perspective

2012 sure has gotten off to an interesting start!

Who would have imagined the kind of weather we have been having, in January? It has made some possibilities for astronomy that otherwise wouldn't have been. I've taken advantage of these possibilities. But it seems every time I get the 'scope set up, it suddenly clouds over! Even so, I have managed to get some observing done, despite the 'water vapor nebulae'. And this is certainly better than most Januarys I have experienced since I moved here in 2000.

I also want to mention the Holiday party we held at Tim Burn's house on January 14th. What a good time we all had! There was more food than anyone could eat. There was a lot of fun. And a wonderful white elephant gift exchange (except that there was some very nice stuff in the gift exchange!) Interestingly enough, there were beautiful dark skies at Tim's house, but no one remembered to bring a 'scope. And just like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the skies were clouded over (and a nasty wind had picked up) by the time I got home.

February is the last of three months of 'deep winter' here. But even though we may still be in the deep throes of winter, astronomy activities are heating up! Just looking at the schedule of upcoming events, there is something for (almost) everyone.

There are the usual events. Our Public star parties this month are on Friday, February 3rd (at Redfield Campus Observatory at dusk) and on Friday, February 17th (Sparks Marina park at dusk). There is the member's meeting on Tuesday, February 14th (7 PM at Fleischmann Planeterium on the UNR campus)(I do not know what the topic is yet). The monthly Board of Directors meeting always follows the general meeting, and is open to all members.…

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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 http://www.stargazersonline.org/webcast/ . 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!…

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November 2011 President's Perspective

September and October were fun months for the ASN!

September saw us do a rather fun activity we have never really tried before-- a picnic. The date was September 24th, and the place was Wilson Commons. The weather did not cooperate, at least, not at first. There were unforecast thunderstorms…

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