AAAP October 14 Meeting, 7:30 PM, NASA Mission Specialist, Mark “Indy” Kochte, “New Horizons: The Adventure to Pluto.”

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The October Meeting of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh will be held at 7:30 PM, October 14, 2016, at Carnegie Science Center, Riverview Cafe, One Allegheny Ave.Pittsburgh, PA 15212  and features the  NASA New Horizons Mission Specialist Mark “Indy” Kochte*, speaking on “New Horizons: The Adventure to Pluto.”  * Please refer to bio at the end of this post.

Pluto has long been considered an oddball planet since it’s discovery, but over the decades we have learned much about what it is and what it isn’t. Now, after a 9.5 year voyage that covered over 3 billion miles, the New Horizons spacecraft, the first manmade object from Earth to visit this little planet, has shown us that Pluto is SO unique and unlike anything we might have imagined since it’s discovery 70-odd years ago. What new wonders await discovery? Join Mission Operations team member Mark ‘Indy’ Kochte on a journey of wonder to a place in our own solar system that the awesome Hubble Space Telescope can only barely resolve.

The speaker will be at the top of the evening shortly after 7:30 PM.  Following the speaker there will be a brief recess followed by the monthly business meeting. Please check back for updates.

NASA New Horizons Mission Specialist, Mark "Indy" Kochte, Photo Credit: Kyle Cassidy

NASA New Horizons Mission Specialist, Mark “Indy” Kochte, Photo Credit: Kyle Cassidy

Heads up there is a 21+ Night  upstairs in the Carnegie Science during the meeting. There are also some extra activities going on around the building. It should be great fun!

Carnegie Science Center Parking Lot charges a flat $5 fee. AAAP Meetings are free and open to the public.

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Summer Milky Way Over West Virginia, Matt Deiterich Wins Astronomy Magazine Picture of the Day September 16, 2016

Summer Milky Way Over West Virginia by Matt Dieterich wins Astronomy Magazine Picture of the Day , September 26, 2016.

Summer Milky Way Over West Virginia by Matt Dieterich wins Astronomy Magazine Picture of the Day , September 26, 2016.

Congratulations Matt!  More on Matt’s work here .



Respectfully submitted, Kathy DeSantis.

Allegheny Observatory Open House, Friday, October 7, 2016

Allegheny Observatory Source:

Allegheny Observatory:  Source:

It is Annual Open House Tour time at Allegheny Observatory!

The tour is free and open to the public but reservations are required and limited in number. Members of the public who would like to attend the open house should telephone the observatory at 412-321-2400 between 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Monday through Friday.

AAAP members who would like to volunteer should email  Lou Coban as outlined in AAAP’s September Guide Star Newsletter. The AAAP has been helping out at the Allegheny Observatory Open House for at least half a century. Our members  keep that tradition going by showing a strong by offering to set up scopes on the observatory’s front lawn and in other capacities.

The Allegheny Observatory, founded on February 15, 1859, is one of the world’s major astronomical research institutions.  It is four miles north of the Golden Triangle (downtown Pittsburgh) atop Observatory Hill in Riverview Park. AO is part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh , eight miles away in Oakland. Originally dedicated to general public education,  by 1867 the facility was Read more

Upcoming AAAP Star Parties – September 10th & 24th at Wagman Observatory – September 23rd & 24th at Mingo Observatory

The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh opens its observatories to the public on the following dates and locations: Wagman Observatory on September 10th & 24th (both Saturdays) and Mingo Observatory on September 23rd (Friday) & 24th (Saturday). No reservations. No charge. No limit to group size. Just show up. Our star parties feature a rich array of celestial delights. Experience the AAAP telescopes and those of our members as they reveal our solar system and more distant objects, including galaxies and nebula.

More information: Mingo Star Parties Guide

More information: Wagman Star Parties Guide

Although admission is free, we gladly accept donations at the observatory entrance desks to cover the cost of operation. There is no smoking or alcohol permitted on our observatory grounds. Please drive slowly and carefully and be aware of pedestrians, especially children. Children must be under direct parental supervision at all times.

Our helpful and informed all volunteer staff will be happy to assist you to gain in knowledge and appreciation of the night sky. Read more

AAAP September 9, 2016 Monthly Meeting, 7:30 PM, Bayer Science Stage, Carnegie Science Center

Meeting Update:

Thank you to Astrobotic Technology and their Public Relations and Customer Care Coordinator Mandy Fleeger and Senior Electronic Engineer John Branthoover and the 28 Members and 3 Guests who attended the AAAP September Meeting! Not bad attendance considering the Liberty Bridge was closed. Mandy and John informed us on Astrobotic Technology,  the premier private space technology corporation in the world, and is it based here in Pittsburgh! John’s talk was fascinating with still images and video showing robots fit for harshest terrains and conditions, flying autonomous crafts capable of LIDAR informed decision making for landing site selection and independent landing, drones in lava tubes, etc. Astrobotic is the only firm to win all three Google Milestone Prizes. Mr. Branthooler designed the camera which won Astrobotic’s Google Milestone Imaging Prize.  In contention for the Google Lunar X Prize, Astrobotic will launch to the Moon no later than the end of 2017. In the meantime they are partnered with Airbus and DHL and continue with each additional  freight contract to increase the profitability of the mission. We have special announcement for AAAP members who attended the meeting as well as those who missed it. Let this announce to our Members Only we are invited to a private tour.  If you are interested in one of the proposed tours, date/time to be determined, please send and email to with “A Private Tour” in the header stating your  preference to day or evening along with your full name as registered on the AAAP Membership List, email address and phone number. A $5 across the dues increase will occur January 1, 2017. It does not apply to Student Memberships. Early bird 2017 dues paying now, prior to January 1 avoids the increase. AAAP is Participating in Washington Gives Day, Tuesday September 13, 2016. Please see the calendar for upcoming observatory star parties and off-site observing events. Best Regards.  Kathy D. ,  AAAP Vice President

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AAAP Business Meeting – Friday, September 9th, 2016 at the Carnegie Science Center

Guest Speaker John Branthoover Soft-Lands On the Moon

The September 9, 2016 meeting speaker comes to us from Astrobotic Technology, the lunar logistics firm spun out of CMU’s robotics institute in 2007. John Branthoover, one of Astrobotics’ senior electrical engineers, is our guest. Team Astrobotic won three Google Milestone Prizes: The Landing Prize ($1 million), Mobility Prize ($500,000), and Imaging Prize ($250,000), for a total of $1.75 million in prize winnings! Astrobotic has entered into partnerships with DHL and Airbus in their competition for the Google LunarXprize as well as their quest to establish a regular privately-owned lunar payload system. Astrobotic is one of three companies partnered with NASA through the Lunar Cargo Transport and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) to advance robotic landing capabilities. Their newly unveiled Peregrine lander features Aerojet Rocketdyne engines. Their next launch is planned for 2017.

The September meeting takes place in the Carnegie Science Center’s Bayer Science Stage starting at 7:30 pm. It’s been a long time since the U.S. soft-landed anything on the Moon. This is a good chance to learn about the next Giant Leap.