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.
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!
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.
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:
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. 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.
If you take an introductory course in Astronomy, such as the ASTR 120 or ASTR 122 courses here at JCCC, you’ll learn that the Moon is airless, that it has no atmosphere. As with most things in astronomy, and science in general, that statement is more or less correct, but when you examine the Moon more closely, there are a lot of complications that arise. The Moon doesn’t really have an atmosphere in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely devoid of a shroud of gas. Recently, more information has been discovered about the Moon’s ionosphere, something that shouldn’t exist for an airless world. Check out this video from Science@NASA for the details.
Not that this will stop the conspiracy theorists who insist that Apollo happened on a soundstage, but for the rest of us, this is pretty darn cool! The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is in a very low orbit around the Moon, and using its hi-resolution camera it was able to capture images of the Apollo 12, 14, and 17 landing sites. You can see the equipment left on the surface, rover tracks, and foot paths left by the Apollo astronauts.
The Evening With The Stars this spring had a great turn out. Thanks to all who came out. Leo gave a great talk, and I’ve heard from many of the attendees that they really enjoyed the evening. Unfortunately, the weather was not as cooperative and clouds ruined our planned observing. We’ll try again in the Fall when we have our EWtS event again. Here are some pictures from the evening.