August 24 – Star Clusters

m13

M13 in the constellation Hercules

Evening Highlights:

Star clusters are our galaxy’s oldest inhabitants and formed first as the galaxy was forming.

  • M13 – First discovered by Edmond Halley (of Halley’s Comet fame) in 1714, and one of the oldest and most densely populated globular clusters with nearly one million stars.
  • M5 – Some amateur observers swear that M5 is the finest globular cluster north of the celestial equator for small telescopes – even better than the celebrated M13, the Great Hercules cluster.  Spanning 165 light-years in diameter, M5 is one of the largest globular clusters known.  It contains more than 100,000 stars, as many as 500,000 according to some estimates.
  • M9 – is a globular cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus.  It is positioned in the southern part of the constellation to the southwest of Eta Ophiuchi, and lies atop a dark cloud of dust designated Barnard 64.  It is one of the nearer globular clusters to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy with a separation of around 5,500 light-years from the Galactic Core.  Its distance from Earth is 25,800 light-years.
  • The might planets Jupiter and the rings of Saturn will also be available in the night sky this evening.
  • The presentation, free and open to the public, will start about 8:00 pm, and observing at 8:30 pm.  Available seating is limited.  You are welcome to bring a chair.
  • Follow this link to tips for having a great observing night!

Please note that this event is held “weather permitting”, and is cancelled if it is raining or excessively windy; announcement of a cancellation will be posted both on this page as well as facebook.com/sdbhasPlease arrive well before the presentation is to begin so car lights do not damage night vision.


The Life of a Globular Cluster

Globular clusters, part of the more general stellar cluster classification which includes open clusters, are a close collection of stars often arranged in a sphere that is over 100 light years in diameter, and range in number from hundreds of thousands to over one million stars.  These pearls of the night sky, over 150 of which orbit the Galactic center, are some of the oldest objects in the Milky Way and increase in concentration toward the Galactic center near Sagittarius and Scorpius.  Globular clusters form from molecular clouds, which are clouds of gas and dust that collapse due to gravity and eventually form stars. It’s generally believed that when the universe – and thus the Milky Way Galaxy – was very young, hydrogen and helium were essentially the only elements present and, as a result, stars formed during this period were very metal-poor (the term metal is used for any element heavier than helium).  The lives of stars vary greatly in length, but as they near the end of their lives they begin to generate elements heavier that helium (i.e. metals) such as lithium, carbon and nitrogen, and either gradually shrug these elements into space as they age (some eventually becoming planetary nebulae), or expel them much more violently if the star goes supernova.  Thus, each succeeding generation of stars generally contains a higher proportion of metals leading to the conclusion that metal-poor stars are much older, possibly over 12 billion years old.  Globular cluster formation, age and composition continues to be a very active area of research.


July 19 – BHAS Celebrates Apollo’s 50th Anniversary

Lunar Lander

Evening Highlights:

There will be a special presentation video of the Apollo 11 mission assembled from a number of original live coverage sources including newly restored NASA footage; and home video taken by folks who drove to Cocoa Beach, Florida in the summer of 1969 to watch history in the making.

This extraordinary undertaking inspired many here and abroad.  It organized and measured the best of our energies and skills, ensuring America would be first to set foot on the Moon.

The mighty planets Jupiter and the rings of Saturn will be visible in the night sky.  And later in the evening around 11:00 pm, the Moon will rise for viewing of the Apollo landing site.

The presentation will start about 8:30 pm, and observing shortly after 10:00 pm.  The video presentation is nearly an hour and a half long.  Limited seating is available for the outdoor presentation.  Bring your favorite camp chair for a comfy seat.  Follow this link to tips for having a great observing night!


Please note that this event is held “weather permitting”, and is cancelled if it is raining or excessively windy; announcement of a cancellation will be posted both on this page as well as facebook.com/sdbhasPlease arrive well before the presentation is to begin so car lights do not damage night vision.


June 7 – Galaxies

M81 in the constellation Ursa Major (Big Dipper)

M81 in the constellation Ursa Major (Big Dipper)

Evening Highlights:
  • M51: The Whirlpool Galaxy, which is actually two galaxies colliding – M51A and M51B – is a beautiful grand-design spiral galaxy found in Ursa Major, and is over 23 million light years away.
  • M81: A spiral galaxy in Ursa Major, over 12 million light years away.
  • M82: A starburst galaxy in Ursa Major, over 12 million light years away.  M81 and M82 can often be seen together in a single field of view.
  • The Leo Triplet (also known as the M66 Group) is a small group of galaxies about 35 million light-years away in the constellation Leo.  This galaxy group consists of the spiral galaxies M65, M66, and NGC 3628.
  • The mighty planet Jupiter and a crescent Moon will be visible in the night sky this evening.
  • The presentation will start about 8:30, and observing at 9:15.
  • Follow this link to tips for having a great observing night!

Please note that this event is held “weather permitting”, and is cancelled if it is raining or excessively windy; announcement of a cancellation will be posted both on this page as well as facebook.com/sdbhasPlease arrive well before the presentation is to begin so car lights do not damage night vision.


Our Home Galaxy

Our home, the Milky Way Galaxy, is a barred spiral galaxy, meaning it has the spiral arms most people often associate with galaxies, but it also has a distinct bar of stars emanating from the center of the galaxy.  Thought to be at least 100,000 light years in diameter and to have four distinct spiral arms, there is some evidence the Milky Way could actually be as much as 180,000 light years in diameter and have only two arms.  Our solar system is approximately 27,000 light years from the galactic center; so, assuming the Milky Way is 100,000 light years in diameter, we’re in the suburbs.  There are three main types of galaxies – elliptical, spiral and irregular – and several variations of each, with the majority of galaxies being barred spirals.  The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are on a collision course, and will collide in approximately 4 billion years.


June 8 – Galaxies

M81 in the constellation Ursa Major (Big Dipper)

M81 in the constellation Ursa Major (Big Dipper)

Evening Highlights:
  • M51: The Whirlpool Galaxy, which is actually two galaxies colliding – M51A and M51B – is a beautiful grand-design spiral galaxy found in Ursa Major, and is over 23 million light years away.
  • M81: A spiral galaxy in Ursa Major, over 12 million light years away.
  • M82: A starburst galaxy in Ursa Major, over 12 million light years away.  M81 and M82 can often be seen together in a single field of view.
  • M31: The Andromeda Galaxy, a spiral galaxy and only 2.5 million light years from Earth.  M31 is also the only galaxy that can be seen with the naked-eye.  However, M31 does not rise this evening until very late at night – we will try to show M31 on August 31.
  • The planets Venus and Jupiter will be visible early in the evening, while later Saturn and Mars will be visible.
  • If you arrive by car, please park by 8:20 PM.  Bring a chair if you can.  Our presentation will start about 8:40, and observing at 9:30.

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August 3 – Planetary Nebulae

NGC6960, The Veil Nebula, in the constellation Cygnus (The Swan)

Evening Highlights (revised 2/24/18):
  • The Ring Nebula (M57) , a planetary nebula nearly 2300 light years from Earth.
  • The Blue Racquetball, NGC 6572, a smooth disk brighter toward the center, 3,500 light years away is optimally viewed at 22:15 but well situated from dusk until past midnight.
  • The Dumbbell Nebula (M27), a planetary nebula, approximately 1360 light years from Earth.
  • The Bowtie Nebula, NGC 40, is well situated in Cepheus for viewing until very late in the night.  It is 3,700 light years distant, and an easy target.
  • The Blinking Planetary Nebula, NGC 6826, at a distance of 3,600 light years will be high up in the sky all night, and should be easily visible in the Meade 12″ scope.
  • Four planets are visible in the sky tonight.  Venus (magnitude -4.3) can be seen after sunset.  Jupiter (-2.1) will be nice in the SSW at dusk, Saturn (0.2) in the southern sky, and Mars (-2.7) will be in the SE at its brightest.
  • If you arrive by car, please park by 8:00 PM.  Bring a chair if you can. A video on nebulae will be shown at about 8:20.  Observing will begin about 9:05.

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August 17 – Double Stars

Albireo

Albireo in the constellation Cygnus (The Swan)

Evening Highlights:
  • Albireo: Appearing as a single star in the constellation Cygnus, through a telescope it resolves to a beautiful double system of gold and blue.
  • Alcor and Mizar: Found in the handle of the Big Dipper/Ursa Major, it’s one of the few naked eye double stars.  Even more interesting – it’s actually a sextuple system!
  • Epsilon Lyrae: Found in Lyra, if looking through binoculars you’ll see two widely separated stars.  Look through a telescope, and you’ll find that each ‘star’ is actually a double!
  • Saturn: With its rings tilted at 26 degrees this year, will be a good target early, and Mars (-2.5) will be bright but low in the south later in the evening.
  • If you arrive by car, please park by 7:40 PM.  Bring a chair if you can.  Our presentation will start about 8:00, and observing at 8:45.

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