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


Space Station Flyovers

May 24, 2008

Has anyone been out in the evening to watch the International Space Station fly overhead? If not, you still have a chance. In fact, several each night for the next few weeks.

The reason is that, due to the station’s orbit around the Earth, and Earth’s orbit around the sun, the station is almost in constant sunlight at this time. So the normal morning or evening visible passes are doubled, or even tripled, in some instances.

As was written back in August of last year, there are reasons why the station varies in brightness, and also where you see it in the sky. An excellent place to find out when it will be visible is Heavens-Above.com, were all you have to do is input your location (you can do it via city, or latitude and longitude) and the site will generate predictions for your location (it also shows when other satellites, and the space shuttle – when flying – are visible). As a courtesy, we have included a link for Grand Rapids predictions in the right sidebar.

Friday evening’s flyover was extremely bright. The only objects in the night sky brighter than ISS are the moon and the planet Venus.

In the photograph above (click on the pic for a larger version), the space station is shown flying over the James C. Veen Observatory on the evening of May 23rd. The station is approximately 200 miles above the Earth, orbiting at just over 17,000 miles per hour. In the image, the station traveled almost 100 miles in the short time it took to make the exposure.

The predicted passes for the next week do not have the space station as bright, but it will still be unmistakable in the evening (and nighttime) skies. And as an added bonus, the flyovers at the beginning of June will also feature the space shuttle Discovery, which lifts off May 31 on a mission to deliver a new module to the space station.

So if you have clear skies, go out some evening and look up to see the space station fly over your town. Wave if you wish – the astronauts can’t see you, but they will appreciate the support. And make sure you get your kids to see this.

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.