Monday, December 28, 2015

New U.S. Asteroid Mining Law May Comply w/ Outer Space Treaty of 1967


Artist conception of asteroid mining.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , "Asteroidmining" by NASA - http://www.thespacereview.com/archive/90a.jpg another version existion on the nasa.gov web. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Asteroidmining.jpg#/media/File:Asteroidmining.jpg )

By Marcia S. Smith, SpacePolicyOnLine.com

The Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) has issued a position paper concluding that a new U.S. law that grants property rights to resources mined from asteroids or other space objects by U.S. companies does not violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.  The United States is a signatory to that treaty and whether or not the law complies with the treaty is matter of some debate in space law circles.

The law's provision applies to extraction and use of resources from space objects generally, but is commonly referred to as asteroid mining because two U.S. companies are proposing to do that.  It is part of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act that was signed into law by President Obama on November 25.  While the law affects a variety of commercial space activities, the space resource mining provision is receiving the most attention.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) was negotiated long before the technical feasibility of mining asteroids existed.  Some question today whether it is technically or economically feasible, but two U.S. companies, Planetary Resources Inc. and Deep Space Industries, are promoting the idea.   Planetary Resources is widely credited with getting the legal issues on the table and convincing Congress to include the provision in the law and the President to sign it.  The argument is that while it may be many years before anyone actually mines resources from asteroids, investors are needed now and they want clarity before putting their money into such ventures.

More - Link >>> http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/international-institute-of-space-law-ok-with-u-s-asteroid-mining-law

Source: SpacePolicyOnLine.com .
              2015 December 28.

More on the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act ---
Link 1 >>> http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/president-signs-fy2016-ndaa-commercial-space-bills-into-law
Link 2 >>> https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2262

SPACE Act of 2015: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPACE_Act_of_2015

More on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty

More on Asteroid Mining: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_mining

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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Asteroid & Christmas Full Moon

http://en.es-static.us/upl/2015/12/asteroid-2003-SD220.png
Views of Near-Earth Asteroid 2003 SD220 from the Arecibo Radio Observatory, on
recent dates (Image Sources: NASA, National Science Foundation).

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

This Christmas Eve, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can take the night off, as the first Christmas Full Moon since 1977 will light Santa Claus' travels around the world for Christmas 2015! And, so long as Santa does not fly beyond the orbit of the Moon, he will not have to worry about colliding with the most recent asteroid that will fly by the Earth on Christmas Eve.

                                Near-Earth Asteroid 2003 SD220

Near-Earth Asteroid 163899, also known as 2003 SD220, will pass the Earth at a distance of more than 28 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. So, this asteroid will pass the Earth, safely, without any effects on our planet.

There is no evidence that any earthquake has occurred following a close pass of Earth by a near-earth asteroid, as some recent media reports have alleged for the the passage of 2003 SD220. And, the passage of Earth by 2003 SD220, today, will not even be particularly close. Due to this great distance, sighting the asteroid with an amateur telescope will be extremely difficult.

This blog post is being posted at the precise time Near-Earth Asteroid 2003 SD220 is predicted to pass the Earth on Christmas Eve, Thursday Morning, 2015 December 24 at 8:08 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 13:08 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The distance between the Earth and the asteroid, at this time, is calculated to be about 6,787,600 miles / 11 million kilometers.

This asteroid has been known for more than a decade. It was discovered on 2003 September 29 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search (LONEOS) at Percival Lowell's namesake observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona. Of course, the 2003 prefix of the asteroid's scientific designation, 2003 SD220, indicates the discovery year of the asteroid: 2003.

Since this Earth passage by 2003 SD220 was well predicted by scientists, scientific observations of the asteroid have been occurring for more than a month. The huge radio / radar dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, the NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Solar System Radar, and the Very Long Baseline Array have all been watching this asteroid as it passes the Earth.

Near-Earth Asteroid 2003 SD220 has an elongated shape, a fairly large size, and does have some craters on its surface, according to recent observations. Scientists estimate that this asteroid is about 1.25 miles / 2 kilometers long. And, it is now known to rotate, with one full rotation taking about 11 days.

Because this asteroid is known to pass the Earth on a fairly regular basis, NASA will consider a future robotic or human mission to visit this asteroid sometime in the future. Today's encounter between the Earth and this asteroid is only the first of 5 predicted encounters over the next 12 years.

The next passage of Earth by 2003 SD220 will occur in 2018. NASA has calculated that 2003 SD220 will definitely not be a risk of hitting the Earth, at least for the next two centuries.

                                       Christmas Full Moon

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the Full Moon of December will occur on Christmas Day. This Full Moon will occur on Friday Morning, 2015 December 25 at 6:11 a.m. EST / 11:11 UTC.

Mathematically, the chance that a Full Moon falls on Christmas Day is the same chance that it will fall on any other particular day of the year. It happens twice every 59 years.

The last Christmas Day Full Moon occurred in 1977, and after this year the next will occur in 2034, followed by Christmas Full Moons in 2053 and 2072 (so, mark your calendars!). Normally, the Metonic Cycle of the calendar year would mean that a Christmas Day Full Moon should occur every 19 years. The Greek Astronomer Meton, in the fifth century B.C., noticed that the calendar seems to repeat every 19 years, hence, this cycle was named in his honor.

So, 19 years from now will be another Christmas Day Full Moon. However it has been 38 years (two 19 year cycles) since the last Christmas Day Full Moon. This is because the Metonic Cycle is not exactly 19 years. We missed a Christmas Day Full Moon 19 years ago by hours; the Full Moon occurred on Christmas Eve, instead, in 1996.

This Christmas Full Moon, tonight and tomorrow, will provide the brightest moonlight of the entire year! This is due to the fact that Christmas comes just three days after the Winter Solstice, the shortest daylight of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, which occurred on Monday Evening, 2015 December 21 at 11:48 p.m. EST / December 22 at 4:48 UTC.

In our sky, the Moon lines-up opposite the Sun, both appearing to travel along the Ecliptic, the apparent path on the celestial sphere where we find the major planets of our Solar System as well as the Sun and the Moon. This is due to the fact that all of these major bodies travel within a particular plane of the Solar System.

When we view the Moon in our sky, it appears to do the opposite of what the Sun does. When the Sun is high in the sky near the Summer Solstice in June, the Moon is low in the sky. This is because at the Summer Solstice, the North Pole is tilted the maximum extent (23.44 degrees) toward the Sun and away from the Moon.

When the Sun is low in the sky near the time of the Winter Solstice in December (when the North Pole is tilted the maximum extent, 23.44 degrees, away from the Sun and toward the Moon), the Northern Hemisphere receives the lowest number of sunlit hours for the year. Then, the Moon is high in the sky and a Full Moon at this time is bright and appears in the sky for the longest length of time for the year.

The December Full Moon in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth was known to Native Americans as the Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon, and sometimes also referred to as the Moon Before Yule. Other names given to the December Full Moon have been reported by the Farmers' Almanac (Oak Moon) and The American Boy's Book of Signs, Signals and Symbols published in 1918 for use by the Boy Scouts (Wolves Moon and Big Moon).

Of course Cold Moon refers to the cold temperatures that begin with the start of the Winter season this month. And, the Moon Before Yule was used by the Christian settlers to refer to the Full Moon before Christmas Day (Yule being an early religious festival observed by Germanic peoples, later absorbed and equated with Christmas); of course, this name would not be used during years when the December Full Moon is after Christmas Day.

With the longest night of the year occurring near the Winter Solstice, this justifies the term Long Nights Moon, as the Full Moon is visible all-night long, rising approximately at sunset and setting approximately at sunrise. And, this month's Moon is high in the Northern Hemisphere sky, as this is the time of the year that the Sun is the lowest in the sky; traveling high in the sky also means the Moon stays in the sky longer.

A couple centuries ago, when night artificial lighting had little effect and the December Full Moon brightened a snowy field, one might see how some people may refer to this as a Big Moon.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the December Full Moon is known as the Strawberry Moon, Honey Moon, and Rose Moon.

More on the Full Moon: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_moon

More on Full Moon names ---
Link 1 >>> http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/full-moon-names
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_moon#Farmers.27_Almanacs
Link 3 >>> http://www.farmersalmanac.com/full-moon-names/

Image of the Full Moon photographed by the Apollo 11 astronauts in July of 1969, during the spacecraft's trans-Earth journey homeward after the first landing of astronauts on the Moon, approximately 10,000 nautical miles from the Earth
(Image Source: NASA):
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/12/astronomical-calendar-2015-december.html

Popular Christmas & Winter Planetarium Sky Shows Shown at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (1939 to 1991), including full scripts of each show:
The Star of Bethlehem >>> http://buhlplanetarium3.tripod.com/skyshow/bethlehem/
The Stars of Winter >>> http://buhlplanetarium3.tripod.com/skyshow/winter/

Related Blog Post ---

"Winter & SpaceX Launch w/ Web-Cast Tonight; Ursid Meteors Peak Dec. 22."

2015 Dec. 21.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/12/winter-spacex-launch-w-web-cast-tonight.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              2015 December 24.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter & SpaceX Launch w/ Web-Cast Tonight; Ursid Meteors Peak Dec. 22

http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/pix/graphics/solsticeimage008.png
This graphic generally shows the location and configuration of the Earth, in relation to the Sun, during the time of Solstices and Equinoxes during the year.
(Image Source: ©1999, Eric G. Canali, former Floor Manager of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science and Founder of the South Hills Backyard Astronomers amateur astronomy club; permission granted for only non-profit use with credit to author.)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The season of Winter officially begins late this evening in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, at the moment of the Winter Solstice, on Monday Evening, 2015 December 21 at 11:48 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) / December 22 at 4:48 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC); at the same time, the season of Summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere. A day later, the annual Ursid Meteor Shower peaks.

Also, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will be launched from Cape Canaveral this evening, after being postponed from last evening. And, about ten minutes after the 8:33 p.m. EST / Dec. 22 1:33 UTC launch, SpaceX will make their first attempt to land the first-stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, in an upright position, on solid ground—back at the Cape Canaveral launch site.

Both previous attempts at a first-stage landing (on a barge in the ocean) failed, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is confident that the problems from the first two attempts have been rectified. If the landing is successful, this will be a milestone in the goal of making these rockets re-usable.

However, the primary goal of this mission is to deliver 11 satellites into orbit for a world-wide communications company called ORBCOMM. This will be the first SpaceX launch since the explosion, after launch, of a Dragon cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station six months ago.

An Internet web-cast of the launch will be available. An Internet link to this web-cast is located at the end of this blog post.

                                       Winter Solstice 2015     

In etymology, the word solstice comes from the Latin terms sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still). In ancient times, astronomers / astrologers / priests recognized that one day of the year the Sun would appear to reach its lowest point in the sky for the year. The motion of the Sun's apparent path in the sky (what is known astronomically today as the Sun's declination) would cease on this day, before reversing direction.

With our current Gregorian Calendar, this usually occurs on, or very close to, December 21. In ancient times, when people used the Julian Calendar, the Winter Solstice occurred on, or very close to, December 25, what we now know as Christmas Day. Mid-Winter festivals, at the time of the Winter Solstice, were common in ancient times. Instead of competing with these traditions, the early Roman Catholic Church Christianized the Winter festivals by observing the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 (the actual birth date probably occurred in August or September).

Today, we know that, while the Sun does have motions, it is actually the motion of the Earth, tilted on its axis 23.44 degrees while revolving around the Sun, that causes the Earth's seasons. Hence, as the Earth arrives at the point in its orbit around the Sun, when the south polar axis is most directly inclined toward the Sun (thus, the Sun appears at its lowest point for the year in the Northern Hemisphere sky) around December 21, this marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (and the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere).

 

Alternately around June 21, the Summer Solstice marks the beginning of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere (and the Winter Solstice begins Winter in the Southern Hemisphere) when the Earth reaches the point in its orbit when the north polar axis is most directly inclined toward the Sun.

The day of the December Solstice is the only time of the year when local Noon actually occurs at the South Pole. Conversely, it is also the only time of the year when local Midnight occurs at the North Pole. And, of course, it is the reverse during the June Solstice: the North Pole reaches local Noon for the only time in the year, while the South Pole reaches local Midnight for the only time in the year.

Although the Winter months in the Northern Hemisphere are known for the year's coldest weather, the Earth is actually at the point in its orbit closest to the Sun (astronomically known as the point of perihelion) on or very near January 2. The Earth is farthest from the Sun, each year shortly after the Northern Hemisphere's Summer Solstice, on or very near July 5 (the point of aphelion).

Solar radiation, and hence heat from the Sun, depends on the length of daylight and the angle of the Sun above the horizon. The tilt of the planet's axis toward the Sun determines the additional and more direct solar radiation received by a planet's northern or southern hemisphere, and hence, the warmer season of the respective hemisphere.

The Winter Solstice is known as the "shortest day of the year" and the "longest night of the year" as the Sun shines on the Northern Hemisphere for the shortest length of time for the entire year, on this day. For this reason, Homeless Persons' Memorial Day is commemorated on December 21.

Interestingly, the climate of a locale in the Southern Hemisphere is, on average, slightly milder than a location at the same latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, because the Southern Hemisphere has significantly more ocean water and much less land. Water warms-up and cools-down more slowly than does land. The only exception is the Antarctic which is colder than the Northern Hemisphere's Arctic region.

                                                Ursid Meteor Shower

Almost 24 hours after the Winter Solstice, on 2015 December 22 at 9:00 p.m. EST / December 23 at 2:00 UTC, comes the peak of the Ursid Meteor Shower, which actually begins on December 17 and usually lasts about a week ending December 24, 25, or 26. The Ursids seem to comprise a narrow stream of debris originating from Comet Tuttle. Hence, it is difficult to see Ursid meteors outside of a 12-hour window before and after the peak, where possibly 12 meteors per hour could be seen.

The Ursid Meteor Shower is so-named because most meteors appear to radiate from a point near the Star Beta Ursae Minoris (apparent meteor shower radiant) in the Constellation Ursa Minor (better known as the asterism the "Little Dipper"), which is the brightest star in the bowl of the Little Dipper. Some people call these meteors "Umids," in an attempt to emphasize that their apparent radiant is Ursa Minor, not Ursa Major (the asterism the “Big Dipper”).

However, you should not, necessarily, be looking only at the Little Dipper when looking for meteors in this shower. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky at any time (although a meteor's trail may tend to point back toward the radiant).

Of course, meteor showers. like all celestial observations, are weather-permitting. If there are more than a very few clouds in the sky, meteors will be much more difficult to find. Clear skies are something not always available in the skies of late Autumn and early Winter. And, it is always best to get away from city lights, for the opportunity to see the smaller, dimmer meteors. As always, the best time to view any meteor shower is between local midnight and local dawn, when the Earth is actually rotating into the stream of meteoric debris.

Binoculars and telescopes are not very useful for finding meteors. Meteors streak across the sky in a very short period of time, far too short to aim binoculars or a telescope. So, the best way to view a meteor shower is to lie on a blanket or beach towel on the ground, or use a reclining chair, in an area with a good view of the entire sky (with few obstructions such as buildings, trees, or hills), and keep scanning the entire sky.

So, if you go out to see the Ursid Meteor Shower, start looking for meteors around local midnight, or perhaps a little later. Make sure you have a good site where you can see most of the sky, and that sky is relatively clear. Be sure to dress properly for the early morning temperatures, now that Winter has just begun.

And, you want to go out ahead of time, before you actually start looking for meteors, to get your eyes accustomed to the dark sky. Dark-adapting your eyes for meteor-watching could take up to a half-hour.

More on the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Internet Web-Cast: Link >>> https://livestream.com/spacex

More on the Winter Solstice:
Link 1 >>> http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/WinterSolstice.html
Link 2 >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter

More on a Solstice: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice

Popular Winter Planetarium Sky Shows Shown at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (1939 to 1991), including full scripts of each show:
The Star of Bethlehem >>> http://buhlplanetarium3.tripod.com/skyshow/bethlehem/
The Stars of Winter >>> http://buhlplanetarium3.tripod.com/skyshow/winter/

More on calendars ---
       Gregorian Calendar: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar
       Julian Calendar: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_calendar

More on the Ursid Meteor Shower: Link >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UrsidsA

More on the Homeless Persons' Memorial Day: Link >>> http://www.hchmd.org/memorialday.shtml

Related Blog Post ---

"NASA Orders SpaceX Astronaut Launches." 2015 Nov. 22.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/11/nasa-orders-spacex-astronaut-launches.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Friday, December 18, 2015

Citizen Scientists Name 14 Stars & 31 Exo-Planets































(Image Source: International Astronomical Union)


By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

This week, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced the final names of stars and planets, outside of our solar system, given by members of the general public from an IAU-sponsored contest in October. This was truly an international contest as 573,242 votes, for the names of the stars and planets included in the contest, were cast from 182 countries and territories. Plaques, commemorating their contribution to science, will be awarded to the citizens who provided the winning name or names.

Unlike the naming of a stadium or concert hall, no one pays money for the official naming rights to stars or planets (despite “star-naming” radio commercials you may have heard over-the-years). The IAU is responsible for officially naming all stars and planets found by astronomers.

This contest was managed by the International Astronomical Union, established by professional astronomers in 1919, which normally allows the discoverer of a star or planet to name the object. However, as a way to get the public more involved and interested in Astronomy and Space Exploration, the IAU allowed citizen scientists to name a group of recently found celestial bodies.

Earlier, 200 proposed names were offered by organizations of amateur astronomers, and organizations of other interested people, from 45 different nations. The IAU reduced those names to a “short-list.” It was from this short-list that the public was able to vote. Public voting, naming stars and planets, was completed on October 31, for this IAU project which actually began in 2014..

The IAU Executive Committee Working Group on the Public Naming of Planets and Planetary Satellites over-saw the final stages of the contest and validated the winning names from the public vote. The winning names will be used as common / popular names for the objects. However, the original scientific designations for each object will remain for use by astronomers and other scientists.

After extensive deliberations, the IAU did decide to annul the vote for the name of one exo-planet, “tau Bootis,” as the winning name did not conform to IAU rules for the naming of exo-planets. The IAU will organize a separate contest, for the naming of “tau Bootis.”

The new names that were accepted, for the 31 exo-planets and their 14 host stars, came from mythological figures from different cultures and throughout history, famous scientists, fictional characters, ancient cities, and words from by-gone languages.

IAU News Release on the Naming of Exo-Worlds:
Link >>> http://www.iau.org/news/pressreleases/detail/iau1514/

Complete List of New IAU-Approved Names of Exo-Worlds (scroll down to near end of page for the complete list): Link >>> http://nameexoworlds.iau.org/names

More on Citizen Science Projects:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/FAQ/citizenscience.html

 Related Blog Posts ---

"Name an Exo-Planet by Oct. 31." 2015 Oct. 14.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/10/name-exo-planet-by-oct-31.html


"Deadline to Add Name to NASA Mars Lander: Tuesday Night." 2015 Sept. 6.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/09/deadline-to-add-name-to-nasa-mars.html 

 

"Public: Help Name Pluto & Charon Surface Features, New U.S. Rocket." 2015 March 30.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/03/public-help-name-pluto-charon-surface.html

 

Schools: Name 5 Craters on Mercury By Jan. 15. 2015 Jan. 11.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/01/schools-name-5-craters-on-mercury-by.html

 

"Asteroid Named for Henry Buhl of Buhl Planetarium." 2014 June 26.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2014/06/asteroid-named-for-henry-buhl-of-buhl.html

 

"Captain Kirk: Name Pluto Moons 'Vulcan' & 'Romulus'. 2013 Feb. 14.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/02/captain-kirk-name-pluto-moons-vulcan.html

 

"Contest to Name Pluto's Newly-Found Moons." 2013 Feb. 12.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/02/contest-to-name-plutos-newly-found-moons.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

Want to receive SpaceWatchtower blog posts in your inbox ?
Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Monday, December 14, 2015

Astronaut Job Applications Now Accepted by NASA


Pittsburgh native James Irwin was one of 19 astronauts selected
by NASA in April of 1966. He became the 8th man to land on
the Moon on 1971 July 29. Now, a search is on for more
astronauts to carry-out the future missions of NASA
(Image Source: NASA).

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Today (2015 December 14), NASA is now accepting applications for the position of Astronaut. Applications will be accepted through 2016 February 18. Final Astronaut candidate selections are expected by mid-2017.

Successful applicants could fly on any one, or more, of four spacecraft: International Space Station, one or two commercial crew spacecraft in development (Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon), and NASA's Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.

“NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars and we’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to help get us there,” said NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden. “Today, we opened the application process for our next class of astronauts, extraordinary Americans who will take the next giant leap in exploration. This group will launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft and blaze the trail on our journey to the Red Planet.”

NASA is seeking Astronaut candidates from many different backgrounds, including engineers, scientists and physicians.

Astronaut candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Candidates also must have at least three years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration astronaut physical.

More about a career as a NASA Astronaut & application requirements:

NASA News Release on Astronaut Search:
Link >>> http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/be-an-astronaut-nasa-accepting-applications-for-future-explorers

More on the life of the late NASA Astronaut James Irwin:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/bio/Pghastronauts.html#irwin

Sources: NASA, Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

50th Anniversary: Kecksburg, Pa. "UFO" Incident


This is a model of the object that witnesses say crashed near
the Pittsburgh suburb of Kecksburg, Pennsylvania on 1965
December 9. This model was originally created in 1990 for the
NBC television series "Unsolved Mysteries," and is now on
display near the Kecksburg Fire Department. The article linked
to this blog post includes a more recent photograph of this model,
which includes the article author, Professor Francis G. Graham.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , "SpaceA" by Navy2004 - Own work. Licensed under
CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SpaceA.JPG
#/media/File:SpaceA.JPG )

Fifty years ago today (2015 December 9), a large fireball was seen by thousands of people over at least six U.S. states and the Canadian Province of Ontario, including the metropolitan areas of Detroit and Pittsburgh. This fireball crashed near the small Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania village of Kecksburg, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

While the media reported the fireball as a meteor, witnesses of the crashed object claim otherwise. Soon the State Police sealed-off the area and the U.S. Army was called-in to investigate. Although military officials claim they found “absolutely nothing,” some witnesses report that the Army removed some type of object from the crash site on a flatbed truck.

Known by some in the UFO field as “Pennsylvania's Roswell” incident, there have been several hypotheses as to what actually crashed in the woods that late afternoon fifty years ago. While some people contend that it was an extra-terrestrial spacecraft, other people think it more likely was a spacecraft of terrestrial origin, possibly a Russian probe that had been bound for Venus.

The following is a link to an article, "The Kecksburg Chronicles," which provides a survey of what is known about this event, and some of the hypotheses of what may have crashed near Kecksburg in 1965. The author of this article is Francis G. Graham, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Kent State University, who grew-up near the site of the Kecksburg “UFO” incident. Professor Graham also founded the American Lunar Society and for many years was a Planetarium and Observatory Lecturer at  Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.

"THE KECKSBURG CHRONICLES" by Professor Francis G. Graham:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/ufo/kecksburg/THE-KECKSBURG-CHRONICLES.pdf

Source: Francis G. Graham, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Kent State University and Founder of the American Lunar Society. More on Professor Graham:
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/02/former-buhl-planetarium-observatory.html

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Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Monday, December 7, 2015

Science, Not Gender, to Determine Military Jobs for Women


World War II poster for recruiting women to serve in the
U.S. Navy as a "WAVE" (Women Accepted for Volunteer
Emergency Service). At this time women in the Navy were
limited to only certain jobs. Next year, all military jobs
will be available to all women who qualify.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org , ""YOU'LL BE HAPPY TOO, AND FEEL SO PROUD SERVING AS A WAVE IN THE NAVY." - NARA - 516239" by Unknown or not provided - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22YOU%27LL_BE_HAPPY_TOO,_AND_FEEL_SO_PROUD_SERVING_AS_A_WAVE_IN_THE_NAVY.%22_-_NARA_-_516239.jpg#/media/File:%22YOU%27LL_BE_HAPPY_TOO,_AND_FEEL_SO_PROUD_SERVING_AS_A_WAVE_IN_THE_NAVY.%22_-_NARA_-_516239.jpg )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that all combat roles in all U.S. military service branches would be open to women within 30 days. Instead of gender, science would be used to determine who would qualify for military jobs.

During the official announcement, Secretary Carter said, women will “be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They'll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men."

Just before leaving his post as Defense Secretary almost three years ago, Leon Panetta had announced the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat roles in the military. The military services were instructed to study the issue and start an implementation plan by January of 2016.

In a television interview with Gwen Ifill, co-anchor of the PBS News Hour, Secretary Carter said, “We have an all-volunteer military, and in order to have as we have in the future what we have today, which is the finest fighting force the world has ever known, I need to be able to reach into the entirety of the American population. So I want to recruit from all pools.

“Now that doesn’t mean that you get to do whatever you want if you’re a female, any more than you get to do what you want if you’re a male. There are standards, physical, mental, emotional, and so forth associated with each of our specialties.”

Secretary Carter further said, “We’re focused here on mission effectiveness, protecting our country and protecting our people. That’s the principal reason to do this, and so we’re going to need to do it according to standards and no quotas.”

According to studies reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, three things are important for combat readiness: mental health, physical capability, and proper training. These studies show that men and women can, generally speaking, mentally handle the stress of military service equally.

Physically, on average, men do have the edge due to greater upper body strength. However, this is why women will be allowed to test for all military jobs, to find the select women who can meet the stringent physical requirements. Science and observation will be used to fill military jobs from now on. Proper training will ensure that no physical requirement is lessened for gender equality.

Secretary Carter denied a request from the Marine Corps for an exception to the new policy.

In a joint statement from U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairmen of the Armed Services Committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively, they said, "Secretary Carter's decision to open all combat positions to women will have a consequential impact on our service members and our military's warfighting capabilities." Although, Senator McCain had supported Secretary Panetta's lifting of the ban on women filling military jobs in 2013, but at that time he had urged that the military maintain their "rigorous physical standards."
.
Secretary Carter acknowledged that his Thursday decision could lead to more debate regarding whether women should be required to register for Selective Service, as men must do when they reach the age of 18. The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since 1973, however young men have still been required to register, in case the draft is ever reactivated in time of emergency.

The United States is not the only country opening military jobs to women. In October, India announced that women could now pilot fighter planes in the Indian Air Force. Martha McSally, now a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona, was the first female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force in 1991.

Video: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Interviewed on the PBS News Hour:
Link >>> http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/full-interview-ash-carter-on-a-military-turning-point-for-women-in-combat/

"Women in Combat: A Perspective from Affective Science," Harvard University:
Link >>> http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/jenniferlerner/files/mccarthy_david_-_women_in_combat_a_perspective_from_affective_science.pdf

Related Blog Post ---

"Science & Lifting of Ban on Women in Combat." 2013 Jan. 27.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2013/01/science-lifting-of-ban-on-women-in.html


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

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Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Deep Space, Fast Radio Bursts Mystify Scientists

An artist's rendition of a fast radio burst
This artist's impression of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) reaching Earth illustrates the telltale smearing of radio waves that indicates the FRB's long journey through deep space. The colors represent different radio wavelengths, with longer (red) wavelengths arriving after shorter (blue) ones. This effect occurs when radio waves travel through plasma-rich regions of interstellar and intergalactic space.
(Image Source: Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium)

By Lee Billings, Scientific American Magazine

What shines brighter than the Sun, appears for only a split second and lights up Earth’s skies thousands of times each day?

If you’re stumped, don’t worry—experts are too. For nearly a decade, astrophysicists have been struggling to explain perplexing millisecond chirps of radio waves pinging through the heavens. Now, several new studies are bringing researchers closer to solving the mystery by narrowing the search for the radio flashes’ origins to youthful stellar outbursts in distant galaxies.

Dubbed “Fast Radio Bursts,” or FRBs, the first of these bright, brief events was announced in 2007 by the West Virginia University astrophysicist Duncan Lorimer and colleagues, based on data from the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. The radio signal that streamed into the Parkes dish was curiously smeared out, with its high-frequency waves arriving a fraction of a second earlier than its low-frequency counterparts—an effect attributed to scattering by diffuse plasmas that fill interstellar and intergalactic space. The more smeared a radio signal is, the more plasma it has passed through, and the farther it has presumably traveled through space. Analyzing the smear, Lorimer and his collaborators made a rough estimate that the burst could’ve come from up to a few billion light-years away. If they were in fact coming from so far away, and if more could be found, FRBs offered a way for astronomers to better measure vast cosmological distances and to probe deeper into the dark spaces between stars and galaxies. The search was on.

Based on small surveys of tiny patches of sky, since 2007 astronomers have published more than a dozen additional FRB detections, and are discussing another dozen or so that have yet to appear in the literature. Extrapolated across the entire sky, these meager results suggest FRBs are flashing overhead as often as ten thousand times per day. And if, as most researchers believe, FRBs originate far beyond our Milky Way, that means each one is releasing anywhere between an hour’s to a year’s worth of our Sun’s total energy output in the span of a few milliseconds.

Still, the sources for FRBs remain unknown. What could cause such intense, frequent events? Researchers have proposed so many answers over the years that there are now more theories for FRB origins than there are observed FRBs.

More - Link >>> http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fast-radio-bursts-mystify-experts-mdash-for-now1/?WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20151203

More on Fast Radio Bursts: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_radio_burst

"Solving A Mystery: CMU Researchers Help Find Elusive Space Signal":
Link >>> http://wesa.fm/post/solving-mystery-cmu-researchers-help-find-elusive-space-signal

Source: Scientific American Magazine.

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gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Astronomical Calendar: 2015 December

http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/as11-44-6667.jpg
This month we will experience the first Christmas Day Full Moon since 1977, and this will not happen again for another 19 years! This image of the Full Moon was photographed by the Apollo 11 astronauts in July of 1969, during the spacecraft's trans-Earth journey homeward after the first landing of astronauts on the Moon, approximately 10,000 nautical miles from the Earth
(Image Source: NASA).

Astronomical Calendar for 2015 December: 
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/astrocalendar/2015.html#dec

Source: Friends of the Zeiss.
              2015 December 1.

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Send request to < spacewatchtower@planetarium.cc >..

gaw

Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
SpaceWatchtower Blog: < http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/ >
Also see: South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, & More: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
About the SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >
Twitter: < https://twitter.com/spacewatchtower >
Facebook: < http://www.facebook.com/pages/SpaceWatchtower/238017839577841?sk=wall >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Centennial: Einstein's General Theory of Relativity

Leo with Einstein

















Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh (AAAP) Co-Founder
Leo J. Scanlon (left), who would later become one of the first Buhl
Planetarium lecturers, thanks Albert Einstein (right) for visiting the
AAAP booth at the 1934 convention of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science in Pittsburgh.
More Information: Link >>> http://old.3ap.org/features/leo/leoScanlonBio6.shtml
(Sources: AAAP, Scanlon Family Collection; Photo Reproduction:
© Copyright David Smith)


By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

One hundred years ago today, Physicist Albert Einstein completely unveiled his General Theory of Relativity before the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. It was on 1915 November 25, the fourth of a series of lectures over four consecutive Thursdays, where he detailed the mathematical field equations that explained and supported his General Theory of Relativity.

Dr. Einstein's General Theory of Relativity continues today as the best explanation of gravity in modern Physics.

Interestingly, Dr. Einstein made revisions in his field equations, from one lecture to the next, during the four lectures in November of 1915. Throughout this month, he continued conferring with academic colleagues, regarding these equations.

Until this time, scientists had relied on Isaac Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, which said that gravity was a “force” that attracted two objects of mass to each other. Hence, by this theory, the “force” of gravity, caused by the large mass of the Planet Earth, strongly attracted all objects found on the Earth (including us) to the Earth.

In the General Theory, Dr. Einstein explained gravity as a warp in space-time, caused by the mass of matter. Hence, the large mass of the Planet Earth caused such a large warp in space-time that other objects near the Earth would simply follow the warp, “falling” toward the Earth. By this explanation, we (and every other object on the Earth) are simply following the warp toward the Earth.

In the General Theory of Relativity, no gravitational force deflects objects from their natural, straight pathways. Rather, gravity corresponds to changes in space and time, which changes the straightest-possible path of an object to a possibly curved path.

With the General Theory, Dr. Einstein also recognized that gravity and motion were equivalent. To an observer, the pull of gravity from a planet was no different than the pull felt by a moving rocket or a moving elevator.

The General Theory implies the existence of Black Holes, the end of life of some of the most massive stars. Black Holes are considered “black” because these are regions of space where space and time are distorted to such an extent that nothing, not even light, can escape.

The General Theory of Relativity predicts the existence of gravity waves, which have since been indirectly observed. As of mid-September, scientists are trying to directly detect gravity waves, using a Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which uses a laser to detect the slight changes caused by gravity waves.

Also predicted by the General Theory, the path of light is bent, as it passes through a gravitational field from a body of great mass, known today as gravitational lensing. To test this prediction required great precision, as the deflection of light would be very slight. However, no experiment on Earth would provide the accuracy necessary to confirm the prediction.

Sir Frank Watson Dyson, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, proposed confirming this prediction by using a Total Eclipse of the Sun which would occur in 1919. The May 29 eclipse would allow the observation of stars from the bright Hyades Star Cluster, as the light from these stars passed close to the fully eclipsed Sun. With this star light passing so close to the Sun, the Sun's gravitational field would deflect the star light, and accurate measurements of this deflection could be performed.

English Astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington agreed to make the observations necessary to confirm this prediction. He first measured the “true” positions of the stars in January and February of 1919. In May, he observed the eclipse from the remote island of Principe, in the Gulf of Guinea off of the west coast of Africa. He also sent a second expedition to observe the eclipse from Sobral, Brazil, in case the African site was clouded-out during the eclipse.

Good observations of the eclipse were made from both locations. Sir Eddington announced his findings, confirming Dr. Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, on 1919 November 6. Until then, a young, fairly unknown physicist, the next day Albert Einstein was on the front page of newspapers around the world!

An often told story is when a student of Dr. Einstein asked about the possibility the solar eclipse would not confirm the General Theory. Dr. Einstein, who often was convinced of a theory without experimental evidence, was reported by the student to have said, “Then I would have been sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct.”

However, University of Winnipeg History Professor David R. Topper, in his 2007 book, Quirky Sides of Scientists, reports that this quote is probably a myth. Dr. Topper writes, “In a meticulously researched study of the story, Klaus Hentschel has convinced me the event never happened, and that it was a reconstruction by the student much later than the event (in the 1950s) to support her view that Einstein shared her philosophical (neo-Kantian) viewpoint (which he did not).” Klaus Hentschel is a German physicist and the head of the History of Science and Technology section of the History Department of the University of Stuttgart.

Just ten years before the presentation of the General Theory, Albert Einstein had unveiled his Special Theory of Relativity, which is now an experimentally well-confirmed physical theory regarding the relationship between space and time. The two postulates of the Special Theory of Relativity are:

  1. The laws of physics are invariant in all inertial systems;
  2. The speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, no matter the motion of the light source.

Even today, the Special Theory of Relativity is the most accurate model of motion at any speed. And, from the Special Theory arose the idea of mass—energy equivalence, better known by the general public as the famous equation E = mc2.

More on the General Theory of Relativity: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_relativity

More on the Special Theory of Relativity: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_relativity

More about Albert Einstein: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein

More on Albert Einstein's speaking engagement at the 1934 convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Pittsburgh and his meeting with the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh: Link >>> http://old.3ap.org/features/leo/leoScanlonBio6.shtml

Photograph of Albert Einstein's desk the day before he passed-away:
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/bio/einstein/pix/Einsteindesk.jpg

Related Blog Post ---

"Laser Observatory May Directly Detect Gravity Waves." 2015 Oct. 7.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2015/10/laser-observatory-may-directly-detect.html 


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

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