Evening with the Stars — Spring 2015


“Year of the Dwarf Planets”
Saturday, April 25th, 8:00 pm
Craig Auditorium – GEB 233

This year, the two largest Sun-orbiting bodies outside of the eight major planets, will be visited for the first time by our robotic explorers. The DAWN spacecraft is moving into its final orbit around Ceres, the largest asteroid, and the New Horizons spacecraft will arrive at Pluto, the first known Kuiper Belt Object, this summer. Both spacecraft have sent back images and data on their targets and we will look at the new discoveries made by these two missions and how they’ve changed how we view small bodies in our Solar System.

Following the presentation, and provided the skies are clear, we will go to the Paul Tebbe Observatory on the roof of the Classroom and Laboratory Building (CLB) to view the night sky through a variety of telescopes. Some of the visible objects we will be able to observe are:

  • The Moon
  • Jupiter
  • The Orion Nebula
  • The Pleiades
  • M3 Globular Cluster

For more information about Evening with the Stars or our astronomy program at JCCC, please contact one of our astronomers:

Evening With the Stars, Spring 2014

The Johnson County Community College
Astronomy Department Presents our Spring 2014

Evening with the Stars!

“The Black Hole Conundrum”


This spring, JCCC’s Professor William Koch presents some of the latest thinking about black holes.  These theoretical testing grounds are forcing physicists to rethink some of our most fundamental principles of physics, principles that form the very foundation of our understanding of the universe.

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

  • The Orion Nebula
  • The Beehive Cluster
  • Jupiter
  • The Moon

WHEN: April 5, 2014, at 8:00pm

WHERE: The Craig Auditorium, GEB 233

For more information, contact either Doug Patterson, dpatter@jccc.edu, at (913) 469-8500 x4268, or William Koch, wkoch@jccc.edu, at (913) 469-8500.

Black Hole Conundrum Slides

Evening With the Stars Spring 2013

Photographer and amateur astronomer, Tom Martinez, will share his images, techniques and love for astrophotography.

Following the talk, weather permitting, Professors Doug Patterson and Bill Koch will host an observation of the night sky at the Paul Tebbe Observatory atop of CLB.  Visible objects include: the Moon; Jupiter; the Orion Nebula; the Beehive Cluster.

When: April 20, 2013, at 8:00pm

Where: The Craig Auditorium, GEB 233

For more information, contact either William Koch, wkoch@jccc.edu, at (913) 469-8500 x3725, or Doug Patterson, dpatter@jccc.edu, at (913) 469-8500 x4268.

Tom Martinez

Tom’s early, self taught, darkroom work and portfolio of prints was enough to get him a job with the Hallmark Cards Photo Lab, where he honed his craft and learned from Hallmarks best photographers. Tom’s love of astronomy merged with photography perfectly when he joined the Astronomical Society of Kansas City in 1978. In the past 35 years he has served the club as vice president, president, newsletter editor and currently ASKC historian.

Digital cameras, CCD astrographs, telescopes and the night sky now keep him busy after retiring from Hallmark Cards in 2006. Tom’s astrophotos have been published in various astronomy magazines here in the USA and abroad.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 5.29.00 PM

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 wkoch@jccc.edu, 913-469-8500 x3725
Prof. Doug Patterson at dpatter@jccc.edu, 913-469-8500 x4268

Like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JCCC.Astronomy
Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JCCCAstro

Noon At Nerman Features Galileo’s Garden

The “Noon At The Nerman” program connects artwork throughout the Johnson County Campus to the scholarly activities of the faculty here on campus. This past month, Dr. Doug Patterson, Professor of Astronomy, was invited to lead off the Fall Semester with a discussion of the Galileo’s Garden sculpture that now resides on the south lawn in front of the new Sustainability Building.

During Dr. Patterson’s talk, he refered to Prof. Paul Tebbe’s work with the analemma when the Galileo’s Garden sculpture was next to where the fountain between the SCI and GEB buildings is now.  Thanks to Dr. Anita Tebbe, we rediscovered a video of Prof. Tebbe’s public talk demonstrating the analemma and the overlay he and his students made for the sculpture.

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 http://rbsp.jhuapl.edu/.

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, heather.mull@ftecs.com.

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.

Learn more about our Astronomy courses, public events, and more.