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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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Thursday, June 8, 2017

What Are Astronomical Artifacts?

In a nutshell, Astronomical Artifacts are objects erected or constructed by ancient civilizations that were used in conjunction with the visible celestial bodies that orbited the planet outside the Earth's atmosphere. Such objects as the stone circles at Nabta Playa in Egypt, as well as the pyramids and the construction of Stonehenge, are all considered ancient Astronomical Artifacts. The civilizations that built these monuments often used these objects for both religious ceremonies and astronomical purposes. There are some theorists that claim the enormous statues on Easter Island also had astronomical symbolism. Theories and debates over how these objects were created and what they were intended to be used for range from the simple to the extreme. Some believe these monuments were erected by civilizations that were far superior intelligently for their time in history, while others believe they provide evidence of extra-terrestrial visitation and interference with human history.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England - Image Credit: Joel Connors
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England - Image Credit: Joel Connors

The pyramids of ancient Egypt were constructed in alignment with the pole star and the Great Temple was built in alignment with the rising of the midwinter sun. These monuments assisted the Egyptians with determining different natural occurrences, such as the annual flooding of the Nile river basin. They also assisted the temple astronomers with following the different phases, conjunctions and rising of such celestial bodies as stars, planets and their natural satellites, or moons.

Stonehenge is another Astronomical Artifact. This monument has a much storied history dating all the way back to 8,000 B.C. There is significant evidence suggesting that at some of its earliest moments in history it was used as a burial facility. Archaeologists have uncovered several grave sites around the area where the stones are actually erected. They have also found evidence to suggest that several different generations of people used the area for different purposes. Religious rituals and ceremonies were also conducted at this historical site, and several theories exist as to how the stones were actually aligned and what they were intended for, most of which surround religious theories as well as astronomical symbolism in the formation of reading and charting stars and planets.

The Antikythera Mechanism was discovered in 1900 by sponge divers off the coast of the Greek Island Antikythera when they came across an ancient Roman-era shipwreck. This bronze device is about the size of a shoebox and baffled scientists and archaeologists for years. It wasn't until very recently that a British researcher, exploring the evidence and inscriptions on the mechanism, was able to identify and establish it as the oldest surviving astronomical computer. It has 30 wheels and dials that are covered in astronomical inscriptions and texts which have been used to decipher and translate ancient Greek languages that haven't been seen or used in over 2,000 years.

One of the oldest educated and intelligent civilizations in the history of humans is the Sumerians who were also steeped in the knowledge of Astronomy for their period in time. The Mul Apin tablet is an artifact that dates back to the time of the Sumerians. This device contained astronomical information, as well as significant dates for the rising and setting of specific constellations. It also included a record of omens that were predicted by the reading and mapping of celestial objects.

If you're new to the wonderful world of astronomy, or star gazing, a great outset would be Asynx Planetarium Software.

To download the software and to start your observations today, visit http://www.asynx-planetarium.com an invaluable source of information for beginners.

Christian Nuesch Article Source: What Are Astronomical Artifacts?
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