Category Archives: Astronomy

Harvest Moon – September 19, 2013

Harvest Moon over Vista HouseThanks to our friends at OMSI – Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – for information about the upcoming Harvest Moon – September 19

September’s full Moon, called the Harvest Moon, refers to the full Moon that comes closest to the first day of autumn. Depending on the year, the Harvest Moon can fall before or after the autumnal equinox which arrives annually on or near September 22. This year, the Harvest Moon reaches full phase on September 19 at 4:13 am PDT.

Before the advent of artificial lighting, our ancestors were acutely aware of the daylight hours waning more rapidly around the autumnal equinox – the time when the Sun rises due east and sets due west – than at any other time of year. But back then, people also understood lunar behavior, harvesting by the light of the Moon.

The Harvest Moon will appear as a large orange full moon low above the eastern horizon after 6:40 pm on September 18, followed by sunset at 7:15 pm in the west. The orange color of a moon near the horizon is a true physical effect. When looking toward the horizon, we are actually looking through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere than when looking directly overhead. The atmosphere scatters blue light (the reason the sky looks blue). The thickness of the atmosphere in the direction of a horizon scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through. So a moon near the horizon takes on a yellow, orange or reddish hue.

The bigger-than-usual size of a moon seen near the horizon is a trick your eyes play on you, called “the moon illusion.” The illusion is a matter of perception, a trick of the brain, which perceives the Moon when seen overhead as closer than the Moon seen at the horizon. When an object is perceived to be nearer, the brain may compensate by making it look smaller to us. Likewise, an object thought to be farther away will be seen as larger.

Each full Moon during the year has been named throughout the years; next month’s full Moon is the Hunter’s Moon, and it will come this year on October 18. Enjoy!

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
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Portland Oregon 97214

Now showing in OMSI’s Kendall Planetarium: Perfect Little Planet and Secrets of the Sun

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The Blue Moon – August 31, 2012

Blue Moon

The Blue Moon – August 31, 2012

(From our friends at OMSI)

A blue moon is usually explained as a full moon, which occurs twice in the same month. In August 2012, it is on the 1st (8:27 p.m. PDT) and 31st (6:58 a.m. PDT). A blue moon occurs every 3 to 4 years, when the date for one full moon falls on or near the beginning of a calendar month so that the following full moon comes before the end of the same month.

There are several different meanings for the term ‘blue moon. ‘ The phrase ‘blue moon’ has been around over 400 years, but during that time its meaning has shifted around a lot. The earliest reference was cited in The Maine Farmers’ Almanac, 1937. The almanac states that when there were two full moons in a calendar month, calendars would put the first in red, the second in blue.”

In astronomy, as stated above, a ’blue moon’ is the second full moon to appear in a single month. However, in meteorology, the correct definition of a blue moon is the physical explanation of why, on rare occasions, the moon appears blue. The scattering of moonlight causes a “blue moon” by smoke particulate. The red end of the spectrum is scattered more than the blue end of the spectrum, which causes light seen from the moon to look more blue: hence, a blue moon.

Despite the differences in meaning, in general terms, the rarity of seeing a moon that looks blue and/or the rarity of two full moons appearing in one month prompted the well-known saying “once in a blue moon,” which means something that happens very rarely.

Happy Blue Moon!

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National Student Solar Spectrograph Competition – Team Registration Awards Deadline September 30, 2012

National Student Solar Spectrograph Competition (NSSSC)

An Opportunity for Undergraduates to Participate in a Real World Research Experience

Ask yourself the following questions:

Spectrograph

Register your team today for the National Student Solar Spectrograph Competition! Build awards available for teams registered before September 30, 2012~

  • Are you looking for a real world design problem?
  • Do you want to participate on an interdisciplinary team?
  • Do you want experience with mechanical components, optics, electronics and software?
  • Are you looking for an independent study or a capstone project?
  • Do you want to travel to the ‘Big Sky’ state?
  • Do you want a chance to win scholarship and travel prizes?

If you answered yes to these questions then this competition is for you! Get your team of 3 to 6 students together and register today.

The yearly National Student Solar Spectrograph Competition (NSSSC) is Montana Space Grant Consortium’s Education and Public Outreach (EP/O) Program for NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) mission. A Spectrograph is an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum by separating the incoming light into its characteristic frequencies of wavelengths (spectrum). Spectrographs have a wide range of complexity from simple grating or prisms to the cutting edge IRIS spectrograph.

The NSSSC provides students from across the country the opportunity to work as part of an undergraduate interdisciplinary team to design, build and test a ground based solar spectrograph. Over the course of nine months, teams come up with their own science goals and then build an instrument to collect data in support of their goals. Teams then travel to Bozeman, MT to demonstrate their instruments and present their results in a competitive science fair environment. There are four judged categories: best build, best design, best science and best presentation. Each student on the winning teams receives a scholarship award of $3,000 and a travel award to a NASA launch.

College students interested in designing a spectrograph can now register for the 2012-2013 competition. Build awards of $2,000 per team are available for teams that register by Sept. 30.

Comments about the NSSSC:

“NASA is in a unique position to use scientific space missions like IRIS to foster student interest in science and engineering,” said Diane DeTroye, of NASA’s education office in Washington, D.C. “Giving students a chance to get hands-on experience often encourages them to pursue and continue STEM studies. This helps build an important pipeline of talent for future NASA missions.”

“The concept of having undergraduates design, build and test a scientific instrument is certainly unique as far as I know. This is a marvelous opportunity for young people to develop high level skills in instrument building. Using the instrument to answer science questions makes it even better. I commend and thank you for this wonderful experience. All of us will learn so much as we successfully complete this project. NSSSC provides participating students a better chance for admission to the graduate school of their choice. Also, they will receive better fellowships when they are accepted to graduate school. It will give some of them a direction for their career. I know of no other opportunity to engage in instrument design and application.” – Edmond Wilson, Faculty Advisor Harding University

“The opportunity to work on a real project has been a true motivation for our students who can feel isolated at a small school with no significant research going on.” – Jim Boger, Faculty Advisor Flat Head Valley Community College

The 2012-2013 Final Competition Dates are May 15-18, 2013 in Bozeman, MT. Any questions please contact Randy Larimer at rlarimer@ece.montana.edu or 406-994-6085

Registration and more information is available at http://www.spacegrant.montana.edu/iris/

Social Media Link: http://www.facebook.com/NASANS3

Correction – Notice to Solicit SDT for NRO optical hardware

Notice of Intent to Solicit Science Definition Team for National Reconnaissance Office Optical Hardware via Dear Colleague Letter
NNH12ZDA012D
August 21, 2012

NOTE added August 21, 2012: This community announced is being reissued to (a) clarify the nature of the parallel coronagraph study, (b) correct the export-control driven eligibility requirement from U.S. citizens to U.S. persons, (c) announce a wider survey for potential uses of the telescope assets that will be undertaken later in 2012, and (d) correct some typographical errors (including what NRO stands for).

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has recently transferred to NASA optical hardware the equivalent of two Hubble-class optical telescopes. The description of these telescope assets can be found at http://science.nasa.gov/science-committee/subcommittees/nac-astrophysics-subcommittee/ (click on the presentation by Moore for the July 30-31 2012 meeting). This Notice of Intent is to alert the astrophysical community that the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ intends to release a “Dear Colleague” letter to solicit applications from interested individuals for the formation of a study group for the possible scientific use(s) of the ex-NRO telescope assets for advancing the science priorities of the 2010 Decadal Survey (New Worlds New Horizons; available at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/BPA/BPA_048094).

The “Dear Colleague” letter will be issued by NASA no earlier than August 31, 2012. Applications will be due approximately two weeks after the issuance of the “Dear Colleague” letter.

The Science Definition Team (SDT) will consist of 12-15 members of the astrophysics community with extensive scientific and/or technical background in the science areas outlined by the Decadal Survey. The primary tasks of the SDT will be to assess the possible use(s) of the telescope assets in the following two cases:

i.  Use of the telescope assets “as is” to advance the science priorities described in the 2010 Decadal Survey for a Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope; and

ii. Use of the telescope assets “as is,” plus a coronagraph to advance the science priorities described in the 2010 Decadal Survey for the detection and study of exoplanets.

Both studies will be conducted by the SDT selected as a response to the Dear Colleague letter. The findings of the SDT for both studies will be provided in a report to NASA no later than April 30, 2013. Please see the schedule below for the anticipated milestones.

Applicants from U.S.-based research and academic institutions, Government laboratories, and industry will be asked to submit to NASA a cover letter describing the reasons for their interest in the SDT and the capabilities and experiences that they bring to the SDT, a statement of commitment to perform the tasks assigned to the SDT within the allocated timeframe, and a one-page resume.

Only travel expenses to participate in face-to-face SDT meetings will be covered by NASA.

Only U.S. persons (for the purpose of ITAR, i.e., U.S. citizens and permanent residents see http://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/nasaecp/Webbrfg/tsld018.htm) are allowed to apply due to the export-controlled nature of the assets.

NASA reserves the right to cancel the issue of the “Dear Colleague Letter” at any time should programmatic and/or other reasons warrant it.

Tentative Schedule:
August 31, 2012                   Dear Colleague letter issued by NASA
September 19, 2012            Applications material due to NASA
October 5, 2012                    Selections announced
November 2012                    First SDT meeting
April 30, 2013                       SDT report due

In addition to the astrophysics study of a specific use of the ex-NRO telescope assets described above, the NASA Science Mission Directorate will lead a broad study to assess a range of potential uses of these telescope assets across the SMD portfolio, including Heliophysics, Planetary Science, and Astrophysics, and will include integration with HEOMD and Space Technology as active partners. Information about the broader study, and opportunities for the community to participate, will be forthcoming later in 2012.

NOI – Science Definition Team for National Reconnaissance Orbiter Optical Hardware

Notice of Intent to Solicit Science Definition Team for National Reconnaissance Orbiter Optical Hardware via Dear Colleague Letter
NNH12ZDA012D
August 20, 2012

The National Reconnaissance Observatory (NRO) has recently transferred to NASA optical hardware equivalent to two Hubble-class optical telescopes. The description of these telescope assets can be found at http://science.nasa.gov/science-committee/subcommittees/nac-astrophysics-subcommittee/ (click on the presentation by Moore for the July 30-31 2012 meeting). This Notice of Intent is to alert the astrophysical community that the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ intends to release a “Dear Colleague” letter to solicit applications from interested individuals for the formation of a study group for the possible scientific use(s) of the ex-NRO telescope assets for advancing the science priorities of the 2010 Decadal Survey (New Worlds New Horizons; available at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/BPA/BPA_048094).

The “Dear Colleague” letter will be issued by NASA no earlier than August 31, 2012. Applications will be due approximately two weeks after the issuance of the “Dear Colleague” letter.

The Science Definition Team (SDT) will consist of 12-15 members of the astrophysics community with extensive scientific and/or technical background in the science areas outlined by the Decadal Survey. The primary tasks of the SDT will be to assess the possible use(s) of the telescope assets in the following two cases:

i.  Use of the telescope assets “as is” to advance the science priorities described in the 2010 Decadal Survey for a Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope; and

ii. Use of the telescope assets “as is” plus a coronagraph defined in a parallel study to advance the science priorities described in the 2010 Decadal Survey for the detection and study of exoplanets.

The findings of the SDT will be provided in a report to NASA no later than April 30, 2013. Please see the schedule below for the anticipated milestones.

Applicants from U.S.-based research and academic institutions, Government laboratories, and industry will be asked to submit to NASA a cover letter describing the reasons for their interest in the SDT and the capabilities and experiences that they bring to the SDT, a statement of commitment to perform the tasks assigned to the SDT within the allocated timeframe, and a one-page resume.

Only travel expenses to participate in face-to-face SDT meetings will be covered by NASA.

Only U.S. citizens are allowed to apply due to the export-controlled nature of the assets.

NASA reserves the right to cancel the issue of the “Dear Colleague Letter” at any time should programmatic and/or other reasons warrant it.

Tentative Schedule:
August 31, 2012    Dear Colleague letter issued by NASA
September 19, 2012   Applications material due to NASA
October 5, 2012   Selections announced
November 2012   First SDT meeting
April 30, 2013   SDT report due

Questions that cannot wait for the issuance of the Dear Colleague Letter may be addressed to Dr. Rita Sambruna, Astrophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, at rita.m.sambruna@nasa.gov or (202) 358-2166.

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American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) – Call for Abstracts – Deadline August 31, 2012

The American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) has extended its Call for Abstracts to August 31, 2012. To submit an ASGSR abstract on-line go to http://asgsr.org/index.php/2012-asgsr-call-for-abstracts.html

The meeting will take place November 28th – December 2, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Westin New Orleans Canal Place. The Life and Physical Sciences community will meet to discuss gravitational and space research in physical phenomena and biological sciences. Joint symposia are planned to discuss interfaces between biological and physical sciences, space health issues from the flight surgeon’s perspective, and gravity related issues in life support systems. A draft program can be found at ASGSR 2012 Meeting Program

Students are encouraged to submit. All accepted abstracts from students would be presented as posters. The student poster session and competition is planned for Saturday, December 1, 2012. Student poster competition awards will be presented at the Saturday night banquet for the best posters, as judged by a panel of scientists. Students will participate in the competition by presenting their work during scheduled poster sessions. Students can request travel assistance by checking the box on the abstract submittal form.

Accepted abstracts will be compiled by topic and published in the meeting program distributed at the meeting. After the conference, extended abstracts and papers can be submitted for publication to the peer-reviewed ASGSR journal.

EXAMPLES OF TOPICS FOR ANNUAL MEETING (flight and ground-based research)

Space Radiation
Harsh Environments
Impacts from ISS Research
Combustion Science
Complex Fluids
Fluid Physics
Fundamental Physics
Materials Science
Habitability and Life Support
Development, Growth and Genetics
Translational Space Medicine – Bone, Muscle, Immune
Gravity Sensing and Neurophysiology Regulatory Physiology
Structural Systems/Muscle Physiology Astrobiology/Exobiology Biotechnology/Instrumentation
Cell Biology
Education and Outreach
Microbiology
Space Biomedical Research
Spaceflight Countermeasure Research
Acceleration Environment and Effects
Interactions between Environmental Signals- Gravity, Light, Temperature, etc.

ASGSR membership is not required for abstract submission, but meeting registration and attendance is required for oral or poster presentation and inclusion in the meeting program. For more information, please contact Ms. Jobi Cook, ASGSR meeting organizer, at asgsr@rocketmail.com

ROSES-12 Amendment 13 – Proposal Due Date Change for The Outer Planets Research Program

The Outer Planets Research (OPR) program supports diverse scientific investigations that contribute to the understanding of the outer Solar System, including the giant planets, their satellites, and smaller solid bodies including comets, asteroids, and Kuiper Belt objects. The program includes both data analysis from NASA missions and fundamental research.

The due date for proposals to Appendix C.7, the Outer Planets Research Program, has been delayed to November 2, 2012, so as not to overlap with the 44th Annual Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Notices of intent to propose are still requested by August 24, 2012.

On or about August 10, 2012, this Amendment to the NASA Research Announcement “Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2012” (NNH12ZDA001N) will be posted on the NASA research opportunity homepage at http://nspires.nasaprs.com/ and will appear on the RSS feed at: http://nasascience.nasa.gov/researchers/sara/grant-solicitations/roses-2012

Tables 2 and 3 of the Summary of Solicitation for this NRA will be updated to reflect this change.

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NASA Seeks Proposals for Keck Telescope Access – Deadline Sept 13, 2012

NASA is soliciting proposals to use the Keck Telescopes for the 2013A observing semester (February 2013 – July 2013).

NASA intends the use of the Keck telescopes to be highly strategic in support of on-going space missions and/or high priority, long term science goals.  NASA Keck time is open to a wide range of disciplines including exoplanets and solar system topics, galactic, and extragalactic topics, cosmology and high energy astrophysics.

This semester and continuing into future semesters, there is limited time available for observations of targets based on public Kepler data or data obtained through the Kepler Guest Observer programs.  Proposals are also sought in the following discipline areas: (1) investigations in support of EXOPLANET EXPLORATION science goals and missions; (2) investigations of our own SOLAR SYSTEM; (3) investigations in support of COSMIC ORIGINS science goals and missions; (4) investigations in support of PHYSICS OF THE COSMOS science goals and missions; and (5) direct MISSION SUPPORT.

The proposal process is being handled by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) at Caltech and all proposals are due on 13 September 2012 at 4 pm PDT.  Please see the website http://nexsci.caltech.edu/missions/KeckSolicitation/index.shtml for further information and the proposal submission site.

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