jump to navigation

NEW Podcast: The Universe in 10 Minutes January 30, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Podcast.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Great News! 365 days of Astronomy is back for another year. Due to a private donor, the Eastern Illinois University Physics department is proud to be able sponsor another 12 podcasts, one a month, for the year 2010.  Our first one for the year is a special treat today, that shows the international flavor of astronomy.


Today’s podcast was  produced simultaneously in the US and Mexico. TecnoCasters is an international podcast, specially created for the Spanish speaking audience in the world, (todays podcast is in English), and or for all of those who want to improve their Spanish speaking skills and love technology at the same time. Hosted by Juan D. Guevara, Pedro Riveroll, Lorena Galan and Raul Mitre, TecnoCasters offers a funny and friendly point of view about the gadgets and technology you’ll come across in your ordinary day.

Observatory Open House Tonight! January 29, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Observatory.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Come see the wonders of the winter sky. Orion, the Pleiades, and a full moon are out tonight, and Mars is in opposition. Rain or shine, if there are no clouds we will open the dome and look through the 16″ telescope. If there are clouds, just come on by, look around, and ask questions about the universe.  Admission is free and all are welcome.

Rare Outburst of the Recurrent Nova U Scorpii Begins January 28, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Nova, stars, supernova, white dwarf.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Artists rendition of the recurrent nova RS Oph Credit: David Hardy/PPARC

(From Universe Today): Today, two amateur astronomers from Florida detected a rare outburst of the recurrent nova U Scorpii, which set in motion satellite observations by the Hubble Space Telescope, Swift and Spitzer. The last outburst of U Scorpii occurred in February of 1999. Observers around the planet will now be observing this remarkable system intensely for the next few months trying to unlock the mysteries of white dwarfs, interacting binaries, accretion and the progenitors of Type IA supernovae.

One of the remarkable things about this outburst is it was predicted in advance by Dr. Bradley Schaefer, Louisiana State University, so observers of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) have been closely monitoring the star since last February, waiting to detect the first signs of an eruption. This morning, AAVSO observers, Barbara Harris and Shawn Dvorak sent in notification of the outburst, sending astronomers scrambling to get ‘target of opportunity observations’ from satellites and continuous coverage from ground-based observatories. Time is a critical element, since U Sco is known to reach maximum light and start to fade again in one day.

COSMOLOGY Tonight! January 27, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Cosmology.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Astronomy Club meeting tonight! Room 2153, Physical Science Building.

Dr James Conwell will be giving a talk on Cosmology, the study of the Universe as a whole. How it all began with the Big Bang!

Robert Holmes Wins the 2009 Edgar Wilson Award January 19, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomers, Astronomy, Comets.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

Bob Holmes is an adjunct faculty member in the EIU Physics department and director of the private observatory Astronomical Research Institute.

2009 Comet Awards Announced

Cambridge, MA – Finding a comet can be a quick way to get some immortal fame — and a little spending money, as well. An annual award of several thousand dollars for discoveries of comets by amateur astronomers has just been announced for five individuals in five different countries.

The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) — operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the International Astronomical Union (IAU) — has announced the recipients of the 2009 Edgar Wilson Award for the discovery of comets by amateurs during the calendar year ending June 11. This is the eleventh consecutive year that these Awards have been given; money for the Awards was set aside as part of the will bequeathed by the late businessman Edgar Wilson of Lexington, Kentucky, and administered by the SAO.

The following five discoverers receive plaques and a cash award this year:

  • Robert E. Holmes, Jr., of Charleston, Illinois, for his discovery of comet C/2008 N1 on 2008 July 1
  • Stanislav Maticic at the Crni Vrh Observatory in Slovenia, for his discovery of comet C/2008 Q1 on 2008 Aug. 18
  • Michel Ory of Delemont, Switzerland, for his discovery of comet P/2008 Q2 on 2008 Aug. 27
  • Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan, for his discovery of comet C/2009 E1 on 2009 Mar. 14
  • Dae-am Yi of Yeongwol-kun, Gangwon-do, Korea, for his discovery of comet C/2009 F6 on 2009 Mar. 26

Bob Holmes receiving the Edgar Wilson award

The funds available for the first annual Award amounted to approximately US$20000 (twenty thousand dollars), as a total amount to be split among the award winners for that year; in the years since the first Award, the amount of money available has oscillated considerably, usually below, but sometimes above, the first-year amount (evidently due to the investment policies of the bank trustees, which are kept confidential). For the purpose of this Award, the Award year is the period of twelve months beginning and ending on June 11.0 UT. The first Award was for the year ending on 1999 June 11.0. The Award is usually announced within a month after the end of each Award year.

EIU Astronomy, Haiti and How you can Help January 14, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

As you saw in a previous post, we have a connection to Haiti, through the EIU Newman Center. Just this last week, Julia Novotny, a astronomy option physics major, and astronomy club member, was delivering five telescopes from the astronomy club to the schools around Barasa, Haiti. They just got back January 9th, safe and sound.

Julia and a teacher from Haiti, with one of the Galileoscope

After the Earthquake, Haiti is not so lucky. Here is a email I received from Roy Lanham today.

At the bottom you can see a list a of places and ways to help

1.  Ann Schwingel (EIU ALUM in Jeremie) emailed me late last night and she is fine.  Minor damage.  Asking for prayers.

2.  Sr. Mary, Patrick and Vivian and Matthew 25 (PAP)(use to be Visitation House) sent out an email this morning:  They are fine.  House sustained minor damage.  They have turned their house and soccer field into a field hospital.  Three Haitian doctors showed up and they are aiding the injured.  Asking for prayers.   Domo and his family are okay.  Gusnord our translator, Serge, Fritznor (translators from other trips) they have not heard from.  They don’t know if they are okay.  Please keep them in your prayers.

3.  Heard from the sisters in Gwo Mon.  They are okay.  minor damage. Some buildings collapsed in Gwn Mon.  Fr. Nesly is in PAP, but he is okay.  Asking us for prayers.

4.  Heard from Michael Ritter.  We are working with him on Gadyen Dlo (clean water)  He is okay.  He stayed in Boudin last night:  here are his exact words:  “I was thinking I would never experience a worst night’s sleep than when I was in Barassa.  I was wrong.”  The rectory was heavily damaged and they stayed outside.  Him and thirty haitians slept on the rocks.

5.  I have heard from Fonkoze.  It looks like everyone is safe, with the exception of some family members who died.  I think Leigh Carter from Washington DC is in Haiti and was injured.  Please keep them in your prayers.

6. We have heard nothing from the folks in Barassa and Fon Veret.  Here is hoping the quake did not do damage up there.  I will contact when I know.  Please keep them in your prayers.


I am going to make three suggestions:

1.  Keep praying.  For you Catholics please add in a prayer to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  Mary, under this title is the patron saint for Haiti.

2.  For immediate impact:  Give to Catholic Relief Service, or any other aid agency you have come to know and love.  I do know that CRS have people on the ground right now in Haiti.  The devastation is immense, and they will be able to do much good.  You can go directly to www.crs.org.

3.  More long term, as in the weeks and months ahead:  We just don’t know where the long term needs yet.  They are huge even without such a disaster.  However, we are setting up an Earthquake Relief fund starting today.  This fund will be used as the picture becomes clearer in Haiti over the next couple of weeks with our partner groups.  The recovery obviously will be long term.  It will take years I am sure, but I am also certain that in the next couple of weeks direct aid will be needed for the folks we work with in Haiti.  These checks should written to Newman Haiti Fund with earthquake relief in the memo line.  I promise all this money will go to direct relief in Haiti as we see the picture in Haiti more clearly in the weeks to come.

I only have a few emails of HC alumni and others who are friends of Haiti.  Can you please, please pass this email onto other folks from your time here, or you might be interested in giving.

Blessings to you.
Rete ak Bondye,

Roy Lanham


Checks can be sent to Newman Center, 500 Roosevelt street, Charleston Illinois 61920,  made out to “Newman Haiti Fund” with earthquake relief in the memo line.

Even faster is crs.org. They have been lucky to still have facilities working after the quake, with feet on the ground.

For a list of other organizations you can go to CNN’s site of relief organizations


Thanks and Please Help,

Jim  Conwell

Astronomy Club Tonight! January 13, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

At 8:00 PM tonight in room 2153 Physical Science Building.

Bill Wolf will be giving a talk on his REU work over the summer at Syracuse University,  modeling astrophysical jets.

New Results from AAS Press Conference on Black Holes: Including Charleston Native, Dr. Julia Comerford January 10, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, Black Holes.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

An image of the galaxy COSMOS J100043.15+020637.2 taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope. Image courtesy Dr. Julia Comerford.

The 215th AAS (American Astronomical Society) meeting was just completed in Washington DC. The wonders of new media will allow people to see some of the interesting topics. One of them I selected for todays blog is the news conference on Black Holes. There are five interesting talks seen on ustream, one of them by Dr. Julia Comerford, a researcher from UC Berkeley, who happens to have grown up here in Charleston.


For a nice article by our friends at Universe Today on Dr.  Comerford’s talks, go to the link below.


American Astronomical Society Live Stream This week January 4, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy.
Tags: ,
add a comment

This week the AAS is meeting in Washington DC.  Astronomy cast is showing a video stream from the conference this week at


Happy New Year! IYA Ends, But The Spirit Lives On! January 1, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009, Podcast, telescopes.
Tags: , , , ,

Happy new year. While 2009 the International Year of Astronomy is Over , several project live on. One of these is the podcast, 365 Days of Astronomy . The Physics department has sponsored 12 of these in the last year, and we hope to sponsor 12 more in 2010.

Here at EIU we have many local projects, one is ongoing even as I speak. The Astronomy Club has finished putting together 13 Galileoscopes.  Five of these  are being delivered by  Julia Novotny ( and astronomy option physics major), in cooperation with the Newman Center Haiti Connection, to schools near Barasa, Haiti.

Hannah, Bob, Josh, Julia, and Tiandra with telescopes for schools

Hannah, Bob, Josh, Julia, and Tiandra with telescopes for schools

Five more will be assembled next semester, for a total of 13, to the the Carl Sandburg school, here in Charleston, Illinois