Starry Bulletin Board

As if to celebrate what seems the return of good weather, several exciting astronomy-related events are planned for this week. They are:

*** Tuesday night, June 16, the Salt Lake Astronomical Society’s general meeting hears accounts of a trip to Hawaii observatories that several club members made recently. All are welcome at the session, which starts at 7:30 in the University of Utah Engineering/Mines Building, classroom 105. The location is shown on a map posted on the Internet HERE.

*** Wednesday, June 17, Space Shuttle Endeavour should lift off at 3:40 a.m. MDT, says NASA. The 16-day flight, STS-127, was delayed because of a hydrogen leak that has been fixed. Its goals include five spacewalks to complete the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory, a component of the International Space Station. UPDATE: LAUNCH SCRUBBED AT LEAST UNTIL JULY 11, says NASA. Another hydrogen leak is to blame.

*** Wednesday, June 17-Saturday, June 20: Bryce Canyon National Park hosts its ninth annual Astronomy Festival. For many, the highlight of the festival will be star-gazing in the clean, dark skies, using the telescopes and expertise of volunteers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society — assuming the weather allows. The star shows start at 10 p.m. each night and end at 12:30 a.m., except that Wednesday’s ends at midnight.

[Salt Lake Astronomical Society members set up 50 telescopes at an earlier Astronomy Festival hosted by Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo from Bryce festival web page.]

Keynote speaker on Wednesday is John Stoke of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, discussing “Hubble and Beyond, Far Beyond.”

Thursday’s and Friday’s events include a model rocket building and launching workshop, and discussion led by ranger Kevin Poe, “Scared of the Dark?” on Thursday and “Dark Wars” on Friday. In addition, Tom Haraden will discuss “Bats: Masters of the Night” in the visitor center, 8:30-9:30 p.m. Friday

Saturday includes a model rocket building and launching workshop and presentations on “Starry Starry Parks” by Wally Pacholka, “The First Star People” by Sean Duffy and “The Time Machine” by Geoff Goins.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

*** Thursday, June 18, is the likely date for the launch of two lunar probes, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). They are to roar into space on an Atlas V rocket.

According to NASA, LCROSS is designed to confirm or disprove the presence of water ice on the moon by an amazing experiment.

“LCROSS will excavate the permanently dark floor of one of the Moon’s polar craters with two heavy impactors in 2009 to test the theory that ancient ice lies buried there. The impact will eject material from the crater’s surface to create a plume that specialized instruments will be able to analyze for the presence of water (ice and vapor), hydrocarbons and hydrated materials,” says a NASA site dedicated to the project.

When an impact spews material into space, scheduled for October, it should be visible through some amateur telescopes.

Meanwhile, the LRO will be mapping the moon’s surface and studying possible future landing sites.

*** “Flight to the Moon,” a new production that focuses on the LCROSS and LRO probes, began playing recently at Clark Planetarium in the Gateway. A planetarium release says the 10-minute program will be shown Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays before “Night Vision,” a narration about what’s going on in the sky and with astronomy.

The planetarium has worked closely with NASA to create the production, says the release.

Mike Murray, Clark Planetarium programs manager, is quoted as saying the facility has used NASA discoveries in the past, but never before partnered with the space agency on a project. “Americans briefly visited the moon 40 years ago,” he added, “now it’s time to explore that world to help prepare for future explorations of the moon and Mars.”

[Future lunar colony as imagined by NASA and Clark Planetarium]

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