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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Observe August’s Eclipse with an AM Radio

Solar eclipses are more than exceptional visual astronomical phenomena; they’re pretty interesting from a radio viewpoint too. Should it be cloudy over your location on eclipse day, you can still make some interesting observations using a basic AM radio.

Sudden changes can take place in radio reception when the day changes into night and vice versa. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of driving in your car at night, listening to some program on the AM dial, when the announcer will identify the station as WBBM in Chicago. This might seem odd if you are listening from Albany, New York, more than 700 miles (1,100 km) from the Windy City. Yet, cases like this happen every night.

At night, electrons in the ionosphere's F2 layer can refract radio waves broadcast by AM stations, allowing them to be picked up by receivers many hundreds of miles away. This schematic shows the ionosphere reflecting the waves, though actually, they refract along curved arcs when passing through the ionosphere. Adapted from Wikipedia Commons
At night, electrons in the ionosphere's F2 layer can refract radio waves broadcast by AM stations, allowing them to be picked up by receivers many hundreds of miles away. This schematic shows the ionosphere reflecting the waves, though actually, they refract along curved arcs when passing through the ionosphere. Adapted from Wikipedia Commons

A total solar eclipse produces an expansive, round area of darkness and greatly reduced sunlight that travels across Earth’s surface in a relatively narrow path during the daytime. Its effect on sunlight’s local intensity is remarkably similar to what happens at sunrise and sunset. Distant radio stations along and near to the path of totality might briefly experience enhanced propagation, thus making long-distance reception possible during a solar eclipse, unlike any other time.

We can thank Earth’s ionosphere for natural long-distance radio reception at night. The ionosphere is composed of a set of tenuous, electrically conductive layers that consist of both neutral and charged particles, extending from altitudes of approximately 30 miles (50 km) to more than 250 miles (400 km). The ions present in the ionosphere interact with radio waves in two ways. They can either absorb the waves, thus reducing their intensity and reducing signal strength, or they can refract the waves, changing their direction; conceptually this is akin to a radio-wave "mirror".

Read Full Source Article at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/2017-total-solar-eclipse/how-to-hear-the-solar-eclipse/
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Monday, June 12, 2017

ATEO Nearing First Light

In our previous post "ATEO Feeling at Home at SkyPi" regarding the installation of the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO), we mentioned the focuser needed some improving before achieving first light. We just received an update from John at SkyPi Online Observatories that the hardware necessary for the upgrade is in and the focuser is now in the hands of their machinist. John stated that by the end of this week he should have the revamped focuser back and that he and the staff at SkyPi will be completing the telescope build. The timing for first light will be perfect due to the waning phase of the moon.

Insight Observatory's Systems Engineer, Muir Evenden, with the  Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO)
Insight Observatory's Systems Engineer, Muir Evenden, with the
Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO)

While the telescope's focuser is being attended to since our return from the ATEO's installation in New Mexico, Insight Observatory's System's Engineer and Co-Founder, Muir Evenden, has been continuing his development of the telescope's online interface. This web-based application will allow students, educators, and the general public to access the telescope remotely from anywhere in the world. 

As Muir continues his work on the telescope's interface development, Insight Observatory's Project Developer and Co-Founder, Michael Petrasko, continues to work on promoting awareness to educational communities and forums regarding the future availability to the 16" telescope. If all goes according to plan, the ATEO remote robotic online telescope will be accessible this upcoming July 2017.
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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Observers Track the Next New Horizons’ Target

January 1, 2019, is still several months away, however, for members of NASA's New Horizons team, it's hurtling toward them like a freight train. That's when the spacecraft will fly past the distant Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 at close range.

Astronomers guess that it's between 25 and 45 km (15 and 30 miles) across, but the exact size depends on the reflectivity of its surface — and that's unknown. In fact, they needed the Hubble Space Telescope to discover this incredibly dim speck (magnitude 27½) at all. It's some 6½ billion km (43.3 astronomical units) from the Sun, a third farther out than Pluto is.

The stellar "shadow" cast by 2014 MU69 took about 11 minutes to sweep across Earth, so from any given location the star would disappear for no more than about 2 seconds.
The stellar "shadow" cast by 2014 MU69 took about 11 minutes to sweep across Earth,
so from any given location, the star would disappear for no more than about 2 seconds.

"This object has so far proven to be impossible to detect from the ground," laments Marc Buie (Southwest Research Institute). "100% of the data we have directly on 2014 MU69 is from HST, starting with the discovery images and then onward to additional images for astrometry."

To learn more and guess less, Buie and the New Horizons team have turned to an observing technique that can be even more powerful than HST: stellar occultations. It turns out that 2014 MU69, currently drifting among the rich star fields of Sagittarius about 5° northeast of the Teapot, passes directly in front of three stars this year: June 3rd, July 10th, and July 17th. That's the good news. The bad news is that these stars are themselves very faint, and (as the maps below show) getting into the predicted tracks presents plenty of challenges.

Read Full Source Article at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/solar-system/observers-track-new-horizons-next-target/
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