Updates and Twitter

March 20, 2009

Hello all readers.

I know it’s been months since an update, but I promise to “get back on the horse” and maintin this site more faithfully. With this being the International Year of Astronomy, there is much going on.

In the meantime, I want to make everyone aware that the astronomy club now has a Twitter feed. With that, we will be giving more up-to-date reports in addition to our website and this blog.We believe it will especially come in handy during our public night season, as we make “go/no-go” decisions in case of “iffy” weather conditions.

So if you would like to check us out on Twitter, please follow the link below, or on the side menu.

GRAAA on Twitter


Veen Observatory Public Night – April 26

April 24, 2008

If the skies are clear Saturday night, the James C. Veen Observatory – located south of Lowell, MI – will be open for public tours and telescopic observations, weather permitting. Here are the particulars:

Time: 9.00pm – Midnight
Admission: $3 – Adults, $2 – kids 17 and under, under 5 free

If you are not sure whether we will be open or not, there are a couple of ways to check. First, you can call 616.897.7065 after 6.30pm where a recorded message will be updated with the latest information, or you can visit the club’s website, which will be updated at that time as well.

Full information on Public Nights can be found on the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association website – graaa.org. Just click on the Public Night link in the menu.

There you will find a map showing directions to the observatory, and a FAQ about visitors’ nights. On the main page of the site, click on the OPEN sign, and you will be taken to a page with particulars about the specific night detailing what objects will be featured through the telescopes.

The main feature will be the planet Saturn. Views through the telescope will show its rings, and several of its moons. Along with Saturn, we will show off some of the finest objects of deep space as well, including nebulas and star clusters. And who knows what else. The sky’s the limit.

If you go out to the observatory, we’d love to hear your thoughts about the experience. You can leave comments here, or drop an email to graaa @ graaa.org


Hey! Want to Visit an Observatory?

April 17, 2008

In just a little over a week, the 2008 Public Night Season will begin at the James C. Veen Observatory, located south of Lowell, Michigan. If you haven’t been there before, or it has been a while, you are in for a great experience and a fun time.

Twice a month (if the skies are clear) – beginning at the end of April and continuing through the end of October – the members of the local astronomy club (Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association, or GRAAA) open the facilities to the public for tours, A/V presentations, and the opportunity to look at some of the wonders of the night sky. Some of the objects including the Moon and the planets, and even things further out into space: galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae full of gas and dust.

Listed below are the dates of the 2008 Public Observing Sessions, along with the times the observatory will be open…

April 26 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
May 10 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
May 31 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
June 14 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
June 28 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
July 12 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
July 26 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
August 9 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
August 30 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
September 13 – 8:00pm until 11:00pm
September 27 – 8:00pm until 11:00pm
October 11 – 7:30pm until 10:30pm
October 25 – 7:30pm until 10:30pm

Although we have these dates listed as being open, we will be open if the sky is clear only. Really, you can’t see much through a telescope if it’s raining.

So if you are interested in coming out on one of these nights, your best bet is to visit the club’s website (listed on the right) on the night you wish, and see if we are open. If you’re not near a computer, you can call us at 616.897.7065 and a recorded message will tell you if we are open or not.

The Public Night page on the website has a full schedule, plus some of the featured objects for each session. You will also find detailed information on the Public Nights, plus a FAQ.

It’s a fun time for the whole family. We hope to see you at the observatory this year.


NASA Astronaut to Speak in Grand Rapids

April 14, 2008

The notice is a little late, but for those of you who might be interested, NASA astronaut David C. Leestma will be speaking on Wednesday evening, April 16th, at the Public Museum in Grand Rapids Michigan.

The Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association is proud to co-sponsor this special event with Grand Valley State University, the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, and the Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship Fund.

Captain Leestma is currently the Manager of the Advanced Planning Office at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. His position entails heading a team involved in strategy for development and implementation of this country’s most ambitious of all human space programs: return to the moon and an expedition to Mars.

His presentation, “Flying in Space: What It’s Like and What’s Ahead” will include his experiences as a NASA astronaut, his missions, and a look ahead to an exciting future for exploration, as humans progress toward missions throughout the star system.

The presentation begins promptly at 8.00pm. Persons interested in attending are encouraged to arrive early, as seating is limited. Please mark your calendars and join us for what is sure to be a memorable evening for all.

For more information, please visit this page on the GRAAA site.


Special Presentation: Mars Rovers

February 12, 2008

The Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association is having a special event on Tuesday, February 19th. A special guest speaker will give a program on the Mars Rovers, and meteorites on the planet Mars.

Special Presentation at the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Meijer Theater, starting at 7.30pm. Our special guest – coming in for this presentation – is James Ashley, NASA Fellow and Executive Director of Minor Planet Research, Inc. He will be speaking on “The On-going Search for Meteorites on Mars (their numbers, their significance, and their future…)”

About the Topic:

Meteorites do not just occur on Earth, but also on other bodies in the solar system. Discoveries of meteorites and meteoroid impact on the Martian surface have been made by the Mars Exploration Rovers and Thermal Imaging System (THEMIS) camera aboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

Mr. Ashley will be explain the process of meteorite hunting on another world, the phenomenon of Near-Mars Objects (NMOs), what we have found, and why we care.

About the Speaker:

James Ashley is a NASA-sponsored doctoral candidate at Arizona State University’s School for Earth and Space Exploration, where he is working as a Payload Downlink Lead on the Mars Exploration Rover science team. He is also using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES) instrument on both rovers to address questions relating to meteorite weathering on the martian surface. James co-founded Minor Planet Research, Inc., in 2000 to assist in addressing the impact hazard, and developed the Asteroid Discovery Station to foster interest in science and discovery among the world community of young explorers. He has given more than 1,000 public presentations on astronomical and geological topics, and served as science consultant for the History Channel program ~ Comets: Prophets of Doom.

The program begins at 8.00pm. This meeting is open to the public. All are encouraged to attend.