Last night we went to the Schommer Astronomical Observatory at Rutgers University. On the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month the observatory is open to the public.

The telescope there is a 20-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector. Unfortunately, according to the guy running the session (a grad student named Libby), someone broke the focusing controls a week or two ago, so it was a little disappointing.

Still, it’s the largest scope I’ve ever looked through. We checked out Saturn, Mars, Betelgeuse and Sirius. I also saw my first 2 Messier objects, M42 (the Orion Nebula) and M45 (the Pleiades). Just 108 (or 107 depending on who you ask) to go!

Even with the focusing problems, it was a fun night out. Libby was informative, teaching us some star hopping with his green laser pointer as well as explaining what we were seeing through the scope. I will go to another session in April when Jupiter is up (if not before).

Mars Recon Mission Briefing Friday

From NASA news:

NASA Announces Mars Mission Briefing

NASA will brief news media about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission at 1 p.m. EST, Friday. The event is in NASA’s auditorium, 300 E Street SW, Washington.

The NASA spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Mars on March 10, 2006. It will provide more information about the planet than all previous NASA Mars missions combined. Participants will address mission goals and the sequence of events necessary to successfully place the vehicle into orbit around Mars.

The briefing will run live on NASATV. Man, I love NASATV.

For more about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, see the mission home page at NASA.

If anyone has a Celestia script for this mission, please let me know. If I find one I will post it here.

February 22, 2006 | Posted in: Astronomy | Comments Closed

Go SuitSat Go!

On February 4th, a spacesuit stuffed with ham radio equipment was shoved out of the International Space Station. The idea was for it to orbit the Earth, broadcasting on 145.990 MHz FM for a few weeks before burning up in the atmosphere. There are also awards given to classes who receive and decode the messages being broadcast.

At first there seemed to be a problem with SuitSat, and it was prematurely declared dead. But it was still going as of yesterday, although the transmissions are apparently very weak.

An excellent hi-res color image of the SuitSat is here at NASA.

February 15, 2006 | Posted in: Astronomy, Tech | Comments Closed

Burning Interests Log

As I’ve written before, my hobbies and interests change often. I decided to start to write them down to see how they change over time. This is just for my own curiousity about myself and probably pretty boring for the rest of you but here it is anyway.

The Burning Interests of the moment are (in no particular order):

  • Tablet PCs
  • Drawing / Sketching
  • Astronomy