This month’s PAC Meeting will be on Tuesday, May 29th. The “Program” for the evening will be a Nearest Star Party so we’ll change things up a bit providing the weather is clear. Prairie Astronomy Club members will set up their telescopes with various types of filters to view the sun beginning at 6:30 PM. Experienced club members will be available to answer your questions about solar viewing. After the star party, at about 8 PM everyone will adjourn to Hyde for a brief PAC meeting and Observing Chair Jim Kvasnicka’s Observing Report.
The dynamics of a star are fascinating to say the least. Formed by coalescing hydrogen gas that is compressed as more and more gas accumulates in the accretion disc until nuclear fusion ignites within. Throughout their lives they create the elements, the building blocks of the universe – forming even heavier elements in their death throes or, if massive enough, creating arguably the most intriguing object in our universe – a Black Hole. A combination of energy and gravity, for the most part, holds the sun together in a fragile balancing act that changes over time.
Our sun is a modest star by cosmic standards but it’s what gives us life here on earth. In the prime of its life (it is middle aged at about 4.5 billion years old) it’s our life blood. But it has a sinister side as well. If our planet is not undone by some unforeseen force our life giving sun will also be Earth’s executioner one day.
Over 800,000 miles across (you can line up 108 earth’s across the sun’s face and fit over 1,000,000 Earths inside it) is a roiling ball of hot gases and energy – certainly not a very hospitable place. The sun rotates just like all the planets. The sun’s “day” however is approximately 30 earth days long. But keep in mind that the sun isn’t solid so it rotates at different speeds (approximately 25 days at the equator and about 36 days at the poles). These differences cause problems with the magnetic fields and that makes viewing the sun lots of fun.
There are different types of filters that can be used to observe the sun. The most common for amateurs are White Light filters which are like looking with your own eyes but filtered down to make it safe (like wearing a welding mask) and much more expensive Hydrogen-Alpha filters which allow us to see details of the sun’s surface. We’ll have both types of filters set up. This will give everyone an opportunity to view through the different filters and talk to their owners.
Here are some links you might enjoy about the sun.
Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO): http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/ – you can see what the sun looks like now and kind of what you’ll see in May.
Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO): http://www.bbso.njit.edu/
Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO): http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/
The activity on the sun has heated up this year which makes it a lot of fun to view. But it’s knowing WHAT you’re viewing and a little bit about the dynamics involved that really makes solar observing so fascinating. So come join us for our Nearest Star Party at the May PAC Meeting.
DISCLAIMER: If we have cloudy skies Dave Churilla will give a short (20-30 minute) presentation inside at our regular meeting time (7:30 PM)
So come join us for this interesting program:
PRAIRIE ASTRONOMY CLUB MEETING
AT HYDE MEMORIAL OBSERVATORY (SOUTH SIDE OF HOLMES PARK LAKE)
TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2012
6:30 PM TO 8:30 PM
MAY’S PROGRAM – NEAREST STAR PARTY
IF CLOUDY, MEETING WILL BE AT THE REGULAR TIME
7:30 PM – 9 PM
If you’re interested in the hobby of astronomy, the Prairie Astronomy Club can help you get started. We meet every last Tuesday of the month at Hyde Memorial Observatory on the south side of Holmes Lake in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can meet some of the nicest people in Nebraska and certainly people more than willing to help you get started in astronomy.
June 2012: BBQ Social
We will have our June Social again this year. Chef Cajon Bob has graciously agreed to smoke more pork for the BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. There will be a nominal fee of $5 a head for the meal. We’ll let you know more as we get closer.
Jul 2012: NSP 2012 Update
Get Jason your photos from NSP and we’ll enjoy an evening of looking at the fun everyone had at there this year.
Aug 2012: Space Update
Jason Noelle will give a program – subject yet to be determined.
Sep 2012: Fun With Astronomy
The PAC Executive Board will put together a short collection of fun, humorous clips about space and astronomy. You don’t want to miss the fun.
Oct 2012: Computer Astronomy
This one is still tentative. Brian Sivill is considering giving a program on computer astronomy. Just what that entails – well, you’ll have to wait for the trailers J.
Nov 2012: Learn How to Buy a Telescope
This is our annual program for the public to help them learn what to look for in buying a telescope.