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July 1999 Issue

Astronomy
Throughout the Net

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News Throughout the Net
Updated Weekly


Venus Shines - Venus puts on a dazzling display at dusk - DISCOVER, June 1999.


SETI@Home Stats - 402,000 volunteers have devoted 29.4 million hours of CPU time to help search for extraterrestrial life. - Astronomy Throughout the Net, May 29, 1999.


The Red Planet in 3D - New data from Mars Global Surveyor reveal the topography of Mars better than many continental regions on Earth. - Space Science News, May 27, 1999.


Age of the Universe - About a Billion Years Younger than previously thought.- ABC News, May 25, 1999.


Stormy Weather on Mars - The Hubble Space Telescope photographed an enormous storm swirling near the Martian north pole on April 27, 1999. - Space Science News, May 19, 1999.


Another Moon for Uranus - A 25-mile-wide hunk of rock has become the latest in Uranusí collection of moons. The current name certainly needs improving, though. - ABC News, May 19, 1999.


Venus and the Moon - will put on a dazzling show May 17 through May 19. - Space Science News, May 12, 1999.


Ring Around a Galaxy - Hubble Space Telescope takes a look at NGC 4650A. - Space Science News, May 8, 1999.


Nearby Asteroid Belt - To close for comfort. Near earth asteroid belt may be unstable. - ABC News, May 5, 1999.


Close Encounter with Mars - The Red Planet makes its nearest approach to Earth in 1999 this week and next - Space Science News, April 23, 1999.




June Skies


Current Phase
of the Moon


June 07 - Last Quarter
June 13 - New Moon
June 20 - First Quarter
June 28 - Full Moon


Astronomy Magazine - The Sky Show in June.

Sky & Telescope - June 1999 Skies.



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Quote of the Month

At the very moment that humans discovered the scale of the universe and found that their most unconstrained fancies were in fact dwarfed by the true dimensions of even the Milky Way Galaxy, they took steps that ensured that their descendants would be unable to see the stars at all. For a million years humans had grown up with a personal daily knowledge of the vault of heaven. In the last few thousand years they began building and emigrating to the cities. In the last few decades, a major fraction of the human population had abandoned a rustic way of life. As technology developed and the cities were polluted, the nights became starless. New generations grew to maturity wholly ignorant of the sky that had transfixed their ancestors and that had stimulated the modern age of science and technology. Without even noticing, just as astronomy entered a golden age most people cut themselves off from the sky, a cosmic isolationism that ended only with the dawn of space exploration. - Carl Sagan, Contact.

Measuring the Night Sky

Ever wonder why a circle is 360 degrees. Ancient Babylonian Astronomers noticed it took about 360 days for the sun to make a full cycle of the sky. A degree was then defined as the distance the sun moved each day in relation to the background stars.

The sky that circles the earth is 360 degrees. From horizon to the opposite horizon is 180 degrees. If you stood in a field the spot in the sky directly overhead is called the zenith. From the horizon to the zenith would be 90 degrees. (full story)


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Product Review



Solar Filters .

Sunspots appear as dark spots on the surface of the Sun. They typically last for several days. Very large sunspots may last for several weeks. Sunspots are magnetic regions on the Sun. The strength of the magnetic field is thousands of times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field. There are usually two sets of sunspots and each set contains a group of sunspots. One set will have positive north magnetic field. The other set will have negative south magnetic field. The darker parts of the sunspot is called the umbra. This is where the magnetic field is strongest. The lighter part of the sunspot is called the penumbra.

In 1610, Galileo was the first to observe the sunspots with his new telescope. Daily observations were started at the Zurich Observatory in 1749. Currently there are two "official" sunspot numbers reported. The International Sunspot Number is compiled by the Sunspot Index Data Center in Belgium, and the NOAA sunspot number is compiled by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Sunspots occur over an 11 year cycle. During this 11 year cycle the number of sunspots seen on the Sun increases from nearly zero to over 100, and then decreases to near zero again as the next cycle starts. This year, and next year, will be the peak time for sunspots.

If you are interested in observing sunspots using your telescope, you will need a solar filter and a low power eye piece. Solar filters can be purchased at your local astronomy store. Never use your telescope to look at the sun, without a solar filter. The filter must be specially designed to look at the sun using a telescope. Otherwise, eye damage will occur. Never look directly at the sun without proper eye protection. See your eye doctor for details.


ET Are You Listening

SETI@Home has brought together a half a million people world wide to listen for ET. Using a radio telescope they are analyzing signals from space. Listening to see if extraterrestrial life is trying to communicate with earth. Now, project "Cosmic Call" is sending signals into space to see if extraterrestrial life is listening for our signals.


On May 24, 1999, project "Cosmic Call" started sending the first in a series of interstellar radio messages into space using a 70-meter radio astronomy dish at the Evpatoriya Radio Astronomy facility in the Ukraine. The "Cosmic Call" project was developed by Encounter 2001, LLC and Energia, LTD. Encounter 2001 whose partner company Celestis, Inc. (Houston, TX) successfully launched the cremated remains of Gene Rodenberry, Timothy Leary, and many others into space. Energia, LTD (Alexandria, VA) is the US representative of the Russian aerospace company that operates the MIR space station program and is the prime Russian contractor for the new International Space Station.

Each "Cosmic Call" is aimed towards 4 stars in the area of the night sky known as the "Summer Triangle", outlined by the prominent summertime stars Deneb, Vega and Altair. The Summer Triangle is easily observable in the northern hemisphere of Earth. The 4 target stars are between 50 to 70 light-years from Earth. So it will take only 50 to 70 years for the transmission to reach its destinations. These four stars were deemed likely prospects to harbor life supporting planets as selected by a team of scientific experts. The 4 Target Stars the message will be sent to are HD190360, HD190406, HD186408 and HD178428 as noted in the Henry Draper star catalog, one of the most commonly used star catalogs.

The messages will consist of 2 parts: Part 1, designed by the science team, will involve anticryptic messages conveying detailed information about Earth and humanity; and Part 2 will consist of the names and personal messages of the Encounter 2001 participants.

"Despite modern telecommunications, only once in the history of humanity has a high-powered message been sent in the direction of other worlds---and that 1974 message was limited to only a few scientists," says Charles M. Chafer, president of Encounter 2001, LLC. "This mission is another of humanity's early efforts to accomplish perhaps its greatest social, technological and spiritual imperative: First Contact."

The Encounter team believes that this mission shows that with the emergence of global cooperation, even amidst international unrest, countries can peacefully join together in offering this unprecedented opportunity to everyone. For $14.95 you can send your name and a 30 word personal message into space. February 14, 2000 and February 14, 2001 are the next dates the messages are scheduled to be sent. People interested in participating in the Encounter 2001 mission, can call 1-800-ORBIT-11, or visit their web site, . Encounter 2001

Before You Go To
A Dark Sky Site


Before you go to a dark sky site you have to check out these web sites.

Stellar Scenes Naoyuki Kurita, an Amateur Astrophotographer in Japan, has created one of the best Amateur Astronomy Sites on the Web. On this web site Naoyuki displays astronomy photographs he has taken over the last 10 years. Be sure to visit his Constellations section. Naoyuki has photographed constellations and then connected the stars to define the constellation. Very effective. He goes on to present information on the constellation and pictures of major stellar objects within the constellation in an informative way. This site is worth a visit.

Inconstant Moon - Explore the moon and learn about the most easily observable astronomical object in the night sky. Inconstant Moon offers a calendar where you can discover what might be seen on a particular night. A full description of the moon, including pictures, are given for every night of the year.






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