Thank you to the Haunted Observatory Crew October 29, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, halloween, Jack o'Lanterns, Observatory, pumpkin
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This last Friday we had our annual Halloween open house at the observatory. Thanks to all the pumpkin carvers and heroes who made it all possible!
And some of our favorite heroes of the night
Family Open House Tonight September 28, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory, Ring Nebula
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Tonight beginning at 8:30 we will have our monthly open house at the EIU Observatory. This month we will have a full moon and with clear skies, we will observe the Ring Nebula through the 16″ main scope. Some come on out and meet the members of the Astronomy Club and rotate our dome!
Gamma Ray Bursts by Danielle Thompson July 24, 2012Posted by missthompsondhs in Astronomy, Gamma Ray Bursts, General.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, Gamma Ray Burst
In an extremely distance galaxy far far away, billions of light years away from Earth, something remarkable happens nearly every day. The brightest and most energetic events known to the universe perform an electromagnetic lightshow. This extravagant phenomenon releases as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun does in its entire lifetime. This amazing occurrence is thought to be connected to the explosive death of a massive star or the collision of neutron stars. These spectacular incidents, known as gamma ray bursts, that only occur on average for 20-40 seconds produce sudden intense flashes of gamma radiation that outshines everything else in the sky.
The discovery of the first gamma ray burst was a fortunate derivative of nuclear war defense using U.S. Vela satellites in the late 60’s. The US military satellites were carrying gamma ray detectors because nuclear reactions from bomb tests would give off gamma radiation. The satellites detected a flash of gamma radiation uncharacteristic of any nuclear weaponry. Surprisingly, this discovery was not of urgent concern to the US and over the next ten years with improved technology more information was collected and finally published in a scientific journal.
A later version of an Italian-Dutch satellite, BeppoSAX, launched in 1996 was equipped with not only a gamma ray but an x-ray detector allowing for the observation of the first “afterglow” of a gamma ray burst. An afterglow is caused from the burst colliding with the interstellar gases emitting longer wavelengths. Today NASA satellites are used to create the Gamma-ray Burst Coordinates Network (GCN) which coordinates space and ground-based observations to allow for better viewing of gamma ray bursts’ afterglows.
Further investigation into gamma ray bursts due to the improvements of satellites has allowed for the classification of long and short duration bursts. Long bursts have to last for more than 2 seconds and astronomers are fairly certain the cause of long duration gamma ray bursts is a rapidly rotating massive star, greater than 100 solar masses, and known as a supernova that is collapsing to form a black hole. Short duration bursts make up 30% of all bursts and are thought to be caused by neutron stars colliding. While studying long and short duration bursts, it has been discovered that no two bursts have the same light curve, this is a mystery that still plaques astronomers today.
A new possible explanation for gamma ray burst is a hypernova. Scientists refer to a hypernova as a “failed supernova”, which is still a massive star whose core has collapsed but didn’t go boom. The hypernova’s shock wave doesn’t blow off the outer layers like a supernova does. The outer layers fall into the central neutron star or black hole and produces enormous amount of heat and radiation with an outcome of higher luminosity than a supernova. A hypernova has become the favored possible explanation because gamma ray bursts are more luminous than a supernova. The actually existence of hypernovae is still a hot debate.
Some astronomers suffer from ergophobia, the fear of energy, and the fear that our galaxy the Milky Way could experience a bad day. The scenario of a gamma ray burst firing its extremely energetic radiation at planet Earth is dishearting. The intense gamma rays would be stopped by the Earth’s stratosphere but the ozone layer would be destroyed. Would the depletion of the ozone layer inevitable cause a mass extinction? Gamma ray bursts fuel the speculation that there is a conceivable end to life as we know it on Earth.
GUEST POSTS THIS WEEK July 20, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU
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Over the next few days we will have a special treat. Some guest bloggers from my summer astronomy class for science teachers will be commenting on some cosmic and terrestrial topics that caught their interests this summer.
OBSERVATORY OPEN HOUSE 9:00PM TONIGHT June 29, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory
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Come to the Saturn viewing tonight. Last month was a little cloudy, but tonight looks clear. Viewing this close to the summer solstice, not only is it HOT (103 today), but the sun sets the latest of the year. So we will begins at 9:00PM TONIGHT. Parking is at the campus lot near the Methodist church. Because of construction on 4th street you may have to approach from the South.
TRANSIT OF VENUS TODAY June 5, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets, Solar and Space weather, Sun.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, Solar System, Transit of Venus
Come to the Charleston public library to view the transit of Venus. From 4:30pm to 6:00PM TODAY!!
FUNDRAISER AT YERKES OBSERVATORY February 19, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Observatory.
Tags: ARI, Astronomy, Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory, Yerkes Observatory
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You are invited…
Yerkes Observatory event Friday Feb. 24th – 7:00 PM
In 2012, Yerkes will be engaged in a series of fund-raising events to support the restoration and upgrades of Yerkes telescopes and support funding for Yerkes Education Outreach programs. On Friday evening February 24th, Yerkes will host the first of these events.
Supporting SKYNET and Yerkes telescopes
Funds from this first event will be used specifically to upgrade the mirror coating and operation of the Yerkes 41″ reflector, and to support the redesign of the optics of the reclaimed Hands-On Universe 30” telescope by Robert Holmes of the Astronomical Research Institute. Both of these telescopes are operable through SKYNET (http://skynet.unc.edu/), a world-wide network of telescopes, used by scientists, and teachers and students associated with our Yerkes Education Programs and our Collaborators, including Hands-On Universe (HOU) and International Asteroid Search Campaign (IASC).
Limited participation, register now!
Participation will be limited to 100 guests; cost $50 per person. There will be several scientists, engineers, educators and students attending to mingle with the guests to discuss SKYNET, our participation in SKYNET and the plans we have to restore Yerkes telescopes. If weather permits, guests will also be invited to do some stargazing through the Yerkes great refractor. Wear warm clothes (domes are not heated) and shoes appropriate for climbing narrow stairs; flashlights are suggested as well.
It is our hope to find benefactors among the guests who will be interested in a contribution beyond the initial $50.
Name___________________________________________ Address___________________________________________ City______________________________ State _____________ Zip__________ YES, _____________ Person(s) will attend @ $50 per person
Check enclosed for $_________________
Checks payable to: University of Chicago, Yerkes Observatory
Send checks to Yerkes Observatory, 373 W. Geneva Street, Williams Bay, WI 53191 Additional information, phone: 262-245-5555, fax: 262-245-9805
You may also register online at http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/yo_feb24/index.html
BACK AGAIN! February 9, 2012Posted by jcconwell in Asteroid, Astronomers, Astronomy.
Tags: Asteroid, Eastern Illinois University
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It’s been a busy two months. The end of one semester the beginning of a new semester, but I wanted to share a bit of good news for myself. I’m now official part of the solar system, While there have been some people who wished they could send me into orbit the picture,as you can see below, does not quite mean I’m there yet.
It does mean I’ve just got an asteroid named after me! It’ s a main belt asteroid between Mars and Jupiter, with a maximum magnitude of 15. My thanks to Robert Holmes, director of the ARI observatory, and an adjunct faculty member in the physics department at EIU, who discovered the asteroid and did the naming.
The official designation is 128925 Conwell or 2004 TJ70. You can see more information on this asteroid at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) site:
NEW PODCAST: Countdown for Upcoming Solar Eclipses November 15, 2011Posted by jcconwell in Podcast, Sun.
Tags: 365 days of astronomy, Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Podcast, Solar eclipse
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Description: Noted astronomer Dr. Jay Pasachoff talks about the upcoming solar eclipses through 2017.
Bio: Jay Pasachoff, Chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Eclipses, is Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College. He has viewed 53 solar eclipses, and is an expert on both their use for scientific observations and their use for public education. Pasachoff is past president of the International Astronomical Union’s Commission on Education and Development and Chair-Elect of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society. He received the Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society. Pasachoff is the author of textbooks on astronomy and of the Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, and co-author of Nearest Star: The Surprising Science of Our Sun and, on a more technical level, The Solar Corona. His research at the two eclipses of 2012 is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
16″ Telescope in the Repair Shop November 6, 2011Posted by jcconwell in Observatory, telescopes.
Tags: Eastern Illinois University, EIU, Observatory, telescope
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The campus observatory’s 16″ telescope has been under the weather for the last month or so. We thought it might have been electrical problems in the building, but my two students, Tyler and Hannah traced it to one of the circuit boards that deal with the RA (Right Ascension) drive. That’s the motor that moves the telescope East and West, and also tracks objects as the Earth rotates. You can see the picture below as Hannah puts the mount back together to ship it off to Meade. Sometimes the best education happens when things don’t work. There is no better major than physics to teach problem solving skills.
We hope to have the telescope back and running in a couple weeks. Until then we can use the 30″ telescope we helped refurbished at ARI, and the 16″ telescopes in Chile.