AAAP 2018 Star Party Season Kicks-Off This Weekend

The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh kicks-off its 2018 Star Party Season this weekend with the added “fireworks” of the Lyrid Meteor Shower and the weather looks good to very good all weekend! Wagman Observatory will have a star party on both Friday and Saturday starting at 8:05 PM. Mingo Observatory will open on Saturday at 6:00 PM for Safe Solar Viewing. Also on Saturday during the day, there will be AAAP telescope viewing and astronomy activities at the Westmoreland Earth Day, 1-6 PM, Winnie Palmer Nature Center, Latrobe, PA. On Sunday, AAAP will be at the Mt. Lebanon Earth Day (SUNDAY, 22nd APRIL 2018,11am – 3pm, MT LEBANON PARK, 900 Cedar Blvd, Mt. Lebanon, PA15228) offering telescope safe solar viewing and astronomy activities.  At Laurel Hill State Park the Earth Day Celebration starts early at 9AM, Saturday, at the Visitor Center.

During the daytime events, enjoy safe solar viewing and astronomy activities.  Night sky observing begins at dusk. Look for Lyrid Meteors when the sky darkens. These meteors will be best seen before dawn on Saturday and Sunday mornings. See the planet Venus. View the Waxing Crescent Moon. Catch a last glimpse of the Orion nebula and other wonders of the Spring sky such as the galaxies in the Coma-Virgo Cluster, planetary nebulae and star clusters. These events are free and open to the public. Star party donations are appreciated. Be sure to obtain our 2018 Star Party Schedule, printed copies at our events and downloads on our website.  Contact AAAP via Facebook or our website calendar for more updates and more information.

Special Hotel Rates for Nights of Mingo Star Parties

While you are visiting Washington County, for the Mingo Observatory Star Parties the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency  (WTPA) would like to encourage you to further explore Washington County’s dynamic entertainment venues, historic attractions, shopping complexes and dining opportunities. To enhance the opportunity, the WTPA is offering  Special Star Party Hotel Rates available the nights of Mingo Observatory Star Parties. Please download the flyer for more information.

Spring is Here

Spring is here and AAAP is gearing up for the 2018 Star Party Season! Our AAAP observatory star parties kick-off in 3 weeks with Wagman on April 20 & 21 and Mingo on April 21. We have external star party events before that. AAAP has two spring 2018 meeting dates remaining on April 13 and May 11, at Carnegie Science Center.  Stay tuned and keep an eye on our Facebook Events and www.3ap.org website and calendar.

8:30 – 9:30 PM, Saturday, March 28, 2018 is Earth Hour

8:30 – 9:30 PM, Saturday, March 28, 2018 is Earth Hour.

The Earth Hour website: “Starting as a symbolic lights out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring millions of people to take action for our planet and nature.”

As amateur astronomers we are particularly aware of distracting lighting and loss of the night in our Greater Pittsburgh Area over increasingly short periods of years. Night is needed not only to see the stars but also for the biology of humans and other living things. Over-bright lights and unshielded poorly aimed light is not only wasteful energy inefficiency but is also not doing what it is meant to accomplish. Let Earth Hour with its basis in grassroots, remind us of ways to make a difference even at the home – neighborhood by effecting good lighting that recognizes glare, light trespass, shielding, color temperature of LED lighting, etc. and to ask community leaders and officials to do the same.

The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh often talks about lighting at our outreach events and shares many members with the Pittsburgh Chapter of the International Dark Sky Association.

AAAP Meetings Planned for April 13 and May 11, 2018 Carnegie Science Center

The remaining AAAP spring meetings prior to the annual summer hiatus are scheduled for Friday, April 13, 2018 and Friday, May 11, 2018 at the Carnegie Science Center Science Stage.  The speaker presentations are at 7:30 p.m. Weather-permitting look for an announcement on possible rooftop stargazing prior to the speaker presentation. The monthly members business meeting follow the break after the speaker.

Recall the Gravitational Wave announcement 2017 October 16th, the advanced LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories announced the discovery of a new type of gravitational wave signal,  caused by the collision of two neutron stars. The gravitational wave event occurred on 2017 August 17th, and was accompanied by a gamma-ray burst. NASA’s Swift satellite quickly maneuvered to look at the object with its X-ray and UV/optical telescopes. The spacecraft saw no X-rays – a surprise for an event that produced higher-energy gamma rays. Instead, it found a bright and quickly fading flash of ultraviolet (UV) light. This bright UV signal was unexpected and revealed unprecedented details about the aftermath of the collision. The short-lived UV pulse likely came from material blown away by the short-lived disk of debris that powered the gamma-ray burst. The rapid fading of the UV signal suggests that this outflow was expanding with a velocity close to a tenth of the speed of light. The results of the Swift observations were published in the journal Science. The discovery of this powerful wind was only possible using light, which is why combining gravitational waves and light in what is called ‘multi-messenger astronomy’ is so important. Credit: NASA/Swift

Our April 13, 2018 speaker is Mike Siegel, PhD the Ultra Violet Optical Telescope Lead on the Swift Telescope, recently renamed the Neil Gehrels Swift Telescope. He will talk to us about the Swift Telescope, what it can see, mainly x-ray or higher energies and how it operates. NASA’s Swift mission is dedicated to studying the gamma-ray burst/black hole connection.  In an automatic mode the Swift is able catch gamma ray bursts, as well its three main instruments can be aimed at objects of interest including black holes, comets, bright stars, distant galaxies, etc.

May 11, 2018 brings us Mark Kochte, NASA New Horizons Mission Specialist to talk with us about, Pluto and Beyond.  He will update us on the New Horizons Mission to Pluto and the upcoming invitation to spend New Year’s Day, January 1, 2019 with the NASA’s New Horizons visit to distant  Kuiper Belt Object 2014 Mu69, 44.2 a. u. from the Sun.

Please join us at these presentations, which are free and open to the public.

AAAP Meeting, March 9, 2018, “Storms in Space – Ion Dynamics in the Earth’s Magnetosphere and It’s Implications on Earth” by Amy Keesee, PhD

Update: Due to the weather there will be no 6:30 PM Rooftop Stargazing.  The AAAP Meeting convenes at 7:30 PM inside the Science Stage. There is another group meeting at 7 PM inside the Science Stage for a brief orientation.

We wish to extend a warm welcome to AAAP members, guests, AAAP Facebook Fans, Wagman Star Party Fans, Mingo Star Party Fans, etc.! Join us as we kick-off the 2018 Astronomy Weekend with a pre-meeting Meet & Greet with Roof Star Gazing at 6:30 PM (weather-permitting) at the Carnegie Science Center Planetarium-Rooftop Observatory, 1 Allegheny Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Members may bring their telescopes. The meeting starts at 7:30 PM in the Planetarium. AAAP members remain for the business meeting after the lecture.

The meeting presentation features Dr. Amy Keesee, a Research Associate Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at West Virginia University. Dr. Keesee’s research focuses on ion dynamics in the Earth’s magnetosphere. As a member of the NASA TWINS Mission of Opportunity Science Team she studies ion heating during geomagnetic storms using Energetic Neutral Atom data from the TWINS and the MENA (from previous NASA IMAGE Mission) instruments. Additionally she works in Dr. Earl Scime’s Lab, using laser-induced fluorescence to understand ions and neutral atoms in helicon source plasmas. Through a collaboration with NASA IV&V Educator Resource Center she teaches workshops and a summer course for pre-service and in-service educators to learn about Sun Science and Space Weather using iPads. She is very involved with the West Virginia Chapter of the Association for Women in Science. Dr. Keesee has three sons she is raising in Bridgeport, WV where her husband is a hospitalist internal medicine doctor. Get ready to enjoy a talk on delving into current NASA heliophysics research on Sun activity at an ionic level and its implications to Earth as well as how school age children can learn Sun Science and Space Weather.

These AAAP events are free and open to the public.  There is a $5 Parking Lot Fee.