Category Archives: News

Fall 2019 Evening with the Stars

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the afternoon of October 8, 2019, the JCCC Astronomy Department, in collaboration with Jackie Beucher, Vice President of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, brought in former NASA astronaut Dr. Steven Hawley, to speak about the Hubble Space Telescope. The event was a limited afternoon edition of the Astronomy Department’s fall Evening with the Stars program. Unlike all previous functions provided by the department, which were open to the public, this event was open only to JCCC students, ASKC members, and JCCC faculty and staff.

Dr. Hawley flew five shuttle missions and logged 770 hours in space. Hawley also served as Director of Space Science at Johnson Space Center. He received numerous awards, including NASA Distinguished Service Awards and NASA Exceptional Services Awards. Dr. Hawley was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2007. His career with NASA spanned nearly 30 years. He is currently an Emeritus Professor of Physics and an Adjunct Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas.

Dr. Hawley has some first-hand experience with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). His shuttle missions included the 1990 mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the 1997 mission to service Hubble. His talk very informative, and it gave the audience some unique insights into its construction and deployment, its problems, and its servicing. He also shared several humorous stories that one wouldn’t read or hear about anywhere else.

Because of poor weather, we were unable to have the customary open house at the observatory following the talk. We were prepared to set up special telescopes to observe the Sun. Since the Sun is very quiescent at the moment, we didn’t see the cancellation of the open house a significant loss. Given that we had a NASA astronaut as our speaker, the coolness factor of the event was already off the charts!

Alarming Astronomy: Strange Sights-Past, Present and Future

The JCCC Astronomy Department will once again open its doors and telescopes for an out-of-this-world evening on Saturday, April 13, 7:30 p.m. in Craig Community Auditorium (GEB 233). We welcome guest speaker Jay Manifold of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City. Manifold will speak on “Alarming Astronomy: Strange Sights—Past, Present and Future, exploring such questions as:

  • How did we ever survive 2012?
  • Why didn’t the world end on March 10, 1982—or May 5, 2000—or May 27, 2003?
  • Will asteroid Apophis get us anyway in 2029 or 2036?

Manifold will explore these questions and more. What makes this stuff so popular even when nothing happens? And how can we dial down the looniness?

Afterward, join J. Douglas Patterson and William Koch, JCCC professors of Astronomy, at the Paul Tebbe Observatory for a tour of the night sky. They will train our telescopes on the Moon, Mars, the Pleiades Cluster and the Orion Nebula.

About our speaker

Jay Manifold is a current member of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City and a former Vice-President, Board Member and Education Director of the organization. As a longtime volunteer and keyholder at Powell Observatory, he has delivered scores of presentations on astronomy to groups ranging from Cub Scout packs to JCCC classes, which he has assisted every semester since 2008. In fall 2009, he gave an Evening with the Stars talk titled “Asteroids, Black Swans, Global Catastrophic Risks, and How to Save Civilization.”

Blue Blood Supermoon!

Tomorrow morning, we get to see a particularly rare treat.  We get to see the second full moon of the month (a blue moon) while the moon is at its nearest point to Earth in its orbit, perigee (supermoon), and the Moon will enter the Earth’s umbral shadow resulting in a total lunar eclipse (blood moon).  So we get to see a blue blood supermoon of awesomeness!

The Moon will enter the Earth’s penumbral shadow at 4:51am, so get up early!  At 5:48am, the Moon begins to enter the Earth’s umbral shadow marking the beginning of the partial lunar eclipse.  The total lunar eclipse, when the Moon is fully encased in the Earth’s umbral shadow, begins at 6:51am and reaches the center of the umbra at 7:25am, a mere three minutes before moonset.

Although we won’t be able to see the entire eclipse event, we will get to see the beginning partial eclipse and the first half of the total eclipse.  It does have a benefit for the photographically minded.  With the eclipse happening near moonset, we will see the eclipsed moon behind familiar landmarks.  This provides an opportunity to make some really engaging photographs.

You can see the full timing details at

We will have our own photographs to share after the eclipse, but we welcome your contributions as well.  Share you images in the comments section below or on our Facebook page,

Happy Birthday Kansas

Today is “Kansas Day“, commemorating Kansas’ official admission into the Union and the beginning of statehood on this day in 1861.  You might wonder why on earth the Astronomy Department is talking about Kansas state history, but there is a connection:  the state motto.  The Kansas State Motto is “Ad astra per aspera.”  The translation of which is “To the stars through difficulties.”  Of course at the time of adoption, there was no space program.  Abraham Lincoln dropped the ball on that one.  Kansas was, however, on the cusp of the western frontier, and many of the risks of spaceflight are inherently the same as the pioneers endured.  They were on their own.  When problems arose, and they did, they had to work a solution themselves.

Today, we do have a space program, and it is still difficult.  That’s one of the reasons we go, though.  The difficulty spurs our creativity and innovation, and through that difficulty we find ourselves and our society enhanced.  So we strive to explore the space, our new frontier, and search for our place among the stars knowing that we will face many difficulties in doing so, but through those difficulties, we will grow and be enriched.  Happy birthday, Kansas!  Ad astra per aspera!

Evening With The Stars – Yes, there WILL be a 2013

Presents an

“Yes! There Will Be a 2013”

Saturday, October 20th at 7pm
Craig Auditorium, GEB 233

Professors William Koch and Doug Patterson debunk many of the rumors and myths surrounding the supposed End of the World scheduled for December 21, 2012.

Following the talk, and weather permitting, Profs. Koch and Patterson will lead an observation of the Night Sky at the Paul Tebbe Observatory atop the CLB.  Notable items that will be visible are

The Moon
The Ring Nebula
The Great Cluster of Hercules
The Andromeda Galaxy

For more information, contact
Prof. William Koch at, 913-469-8500 x3725
Prof. Doug Patterson at, 913-469-8500 x4268

Like us on Facebook at
Follow us on Twitter at

RBSP Finally On Its Way

The Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), after one delay and two scrubbed attempts to launch, lifted off of Space Launch Complex 41 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 4:05am this morning, right at the opening of its launch window. The two spacecraft, RBSP-A and RBSP-B, were stacked one on top of another, in the nose cone faring of an Atlas V rocket with a Centaur second stage booster to lift the two spacecraft into their final orbits.

It is RBSP’s mission to explore the trapped radiation belts, also known as the Van Allen Belts named after James Van Allen, an early pioneer in space science and exploration from the University of Iowa. Dr. Van Allen first predicted the existence of bands of trapped solar wind particles within Earth’s magnetosphere and his prediction was verified with our first mission to space, Explorer 1, for which Dr. Van Allen was the Principle Investigator.

You can find out more about the Van Allen Belts and the Radiation Belt Storm Probes at

Watch Party for the Launch of RBSP

NASA’S Radiation Belt Storm Probes

LIVE from Cape Canaveral – via NASA TV


Thursday, August 23, 3:08 A.M.

(yes, in the MORNING)


 HOBBS, 700 Massachusetts St.

Join us on the street in front of Hobbs at 700 Massachusetts St. to watch as NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) twin spacecraft take off aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral.

Part of NASA’s Living with a Star program, the two-year mission will investigate one of the most hostile regions of Earth’s space environment: the radiation belts. Especially in extreme conditions, space weather can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt GPS services.

RBSP’s instruments – the most advanced ever flown into the radiation belts – will let scientists solve the mysteries of how the belts change due to space weather. Fundamental Technologies, LLC, a Lawrence small business, is the Science Operations Center (SOC) for the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition Experiment (RBSPICE), one of four instrument suites on the spacecraft.

Dr. Ramona Kessel, Deputy Program Scientist for NASA’s initiative called “Living With a Star” (LWS), received her BS in Physics from Baker University in 1978, followed by MS and PhD degrees in Physics from KU in 1984 and 1986, respectively.

FREE DONUTS to the first 100 people – in honor of the donut-shaped radiation belts!

For more information, contact Heather Mull, Fundamental Technologies, 785-840-0800,

Brought to you by Fundamental Technologies, LLC and Hobbs, Inc.

Huge Crowds Come to See the Venus Transit

Photo by Josh Randel
Venus making its way across the face of the Sun imaged by former JCCC Astronomy student Josh Randel using his Nikon D80 and one of our 8" Celestron SCTs using a mirrored glass solar filter.
Our public open house for the Transit of Venus was surprising for a few different reasons. First, we had clear skies! Usually, when we plan a public observing events, that’s the signal for clouds to rush in from all directions and hover over the Paul Tebbe Observatory. Our second surprise after having clear skies was to have hundreds of people lined up to take a look at the Sun and Venus! Normally, we have a 50 or so people turn out for one of our events. For this past Spring’s Evening With The Stars program, we were elated to have 150 people come out. This past Tuesday, we EASILY had double that number if not more! People from the college and the community lined up down the stairwell from the roof and all the way down the hall on the 4th floor of the CLB, and all evening long, the line never shrank!

Photo by Don Bishop
A youngster taking a rare look at Venus and the Sun through our 12" Meade SCT. --Photo by Don Bishop
We apologize to those who weren’t able to make it to the roof before sunset, but for those who did, we got to see a fantastic and rare sight, Venus eclipsing the Sun! Venus is nearly as large as the Earth, and nearly four times the size of our Moon, but since it’s much further away from us, it’s angular size in the sky is much smaller than the Moon’s so when Venus passed directly between us and the Sun, it didn’t block the entire disc of the Sun, but only a part of it. Since Venus doesn’t orbit in precisely the same plane around the Sun as the Earth, it’s very rare that Venus ever passes directly between us and the Sun. Usually, Venus misses the Sun by a degree or two, but when the geometry is just right, we’re treated to a transit event like we were able to witness last Tuesday evening.

The dark disc of Venus passing across the face of the Sun wasn’t the only thing that visitors were able to see when they came to the Paul Tebbe Observatory. With the two different types of filters we were using to observe the Sun, we were able to see a number of sunspots, and some solar prominences, hydrogen and helium gas caught up in large magnetic arcs above the solar surface. After sunset, many stayed around and were able to see Mars and Saturn through the telescopes as well as the double-star Alberio.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening and we were overwhelmed and humbled by the magnitude of the turnout. We would like to thank everyone who came out to join us and look forward to our next observing event! To see more photos from the event, check out our page on Facebook.

Evening With The Stars

The JCCC Science Division presents an EVENING WITH THE STARS to be held on April 28th at 7:00pm in the Craig Auditorium, GEB 233.

Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Retired Professor of Physics from the University of Kansas and Principle Scientist at Fundamental Technologies, LLC, will give a talk on the history of space exploration, Human History in Space, looking at the major events in space exploration and discoveries that shape our understanding of Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy, and the Universe as well as discussing presently understood challenges and opportunities in space for present and future generations.

After the talk and weather permitting, we will have several telescopes set up to observe the night-sky at the Paul Tebbe Observatory on the roof of the CLB. Some objects of note that will be viewable are:

  • The Orion Nebula
  • The Beehive Cluster
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • and the Moon.

For more information, contact either William Koch,, at (913) 469-8500 x3725, or Doug Patterson,, at (913).

Lunar Eclipse Photos

This morning we got to experience a lunar eclipse! Unfortunately, the eclipse began as the Moon was setting, so we didn’t get to see the entire eclipse, just the beginning.

Anatomy of the Earth's shadow
Anatomy of the Earth's shadow
The penumbral eclipse began at around 5:30am this morning. During a penumbral eclipse, the Moon is in the penumbral shadow of the Earth, and from the vantage point of the Moon, you would have seen a partial solar eclipse as the Earth partially blocks the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon. At 6:45am, the Moon began to enter the Earth’s umbral shadow and we began to see a partial lunar eclipse. From the Moon looking sunward, if you’re in the Earth’s umbral shadow, the Sun would be completely blocked. You’d see a total solar eclipse! The total lunar eclipse began at 8:04am, but by then, the Moon had completely set. You would have needed to be further west to see the total eclipse, and all the way over in Japan to see the full duration of the eclipse. Next opportunity for us isn’t until 2014, but that eclipse we’ll be able to see fully.