SETI [skyline] S&T's News Bulletin for July 2, 1999

Larry Klaes (
Tue, 06 Jul 1999 13:20:03 -0400

>Date: Sat, 3 Jul 1999 00:07:03 MDT
>From: "John Wagoner" <>
>X-Mailer: <IMail v5.04>
>Subject: [skyline] S&T's News Bulletin for July 2, 1999
> ====================
> July 2, 1999
> ====================
>UFO reports are certain to flood police stations along the U.S. East Coast
>as NASA conducts a series of sounding-rocket experiments beginning tonight
>and lasting through mid-July. The suborbital rockets will blast off from
>the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and arc out over the
>Atlantic Ocean. At the top of their trajectories, some 70 to 150 kilometers
>(40 to 95 miles) up, they'll release clouds of trimethylaluminum, a
>chemical that glows with a milky white luminescence as it disperses into
>the ionosphere. Scientists will be watching these clouds to study how
>metallic ions in the upper atmosphere interact with Earth's geomagnetic
>field and subatomic particles from the Sun. Observers in mid-Atlantic
>states may be able to see the glowing clouds with their naked eyes. To find
>out when and where to look, call the Wallops Flight Facility launch-status
>line at 757-824-2050 or visit the facility's Web site.
>On July 21, 1961, astronaut Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom became the second
>American in space, riding his Mercury spacecraft in a brief suborbital arc
>and splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Somehow
>the hatch blew off prematurely, and Grissom narrowly escaped as the
>spacecraft filled with water and then sank. Now, 38 years later, a salvage
>expedition has set out to recover the sunken spacecraft, which Grissom
>nicknamed Liberty Bell 7. In May salvage expert Curt Newport and his crew
>located the barnacle-encrusted capsule on the ocean floor about 90 miles
>northeast of the Bahamas, and yesterday they headed back out to the site to
>try to raise the spacecraft from its watery grave. Grissom won't be around
>to see it, though; he died in the Apollo 1 launch-pad fire in January 1967.
>Twenty people were killed Thursday morning as a gondola ascending a
>mountaintop observatory in the French Alps plunged 80 meters to the ground.
>The peak, called Plateau de Bure, is home to five 15-meter dishes used as
>an interferometer run by the Institute for Millimeter Radio Astronomy
>(IRAM). According to Philippe Chauvin, press officer for France's National
>Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), five of the passengers were an
>engineering team for the observatory. The others were private citizens and
>workers developing a sixth antenna. He explains that the accident is still
>under investigation -- it is unclear whether the cable broke or the gondola
>slipped off the cable.
>An instrument aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has
>provided astronomers with a new means of observing the far side of the Sun.
>Jean Loup Bertaux (National Center for Scientific Research, France) and his
>colleagues presented their results at a SOHO Workshop in Paris last month.
>SOHO's Solar Wind Anisotropies device (SWAN) will help scientists monitor
>sunspot activity and predict the timing and strength of solar storms, which
>can sometimes interfere with satellites and earthbound electronics.
>Sunspots and other intense solar events beam ultraviolet light into space.
>That light then bounces off hydrogen atoms that surround the Sun. SWAN,
>which measures high-energy radiation from all directions, can detect these
>reflections from the activity on the Sun's far side.
>On June 29th residents of Springfield, Vermont, voted to narrowly accept a
>state proposal to build Vermont's largest prison four miles from the site
>of the annual Stellafane convention, much to the dismay of the Springfield
>Telescope Makers and astronomers nationwide who campaigned to block the
>project. Light pollution from the 350-bed prison, opponents argued, would
>compromise the dark skies that have attracted astronomers to the site since
>1923. Stellafane's champions had hoped that the site's status as a National
>Historic Landmark and the gathering's attendance by up to 2,500 amateur
>astronomers who bring tourist dollars into the town would bolster their
>position. However, despite heavy last-minute campaigning by the group, town
>residents approved the $26 million prison by a margin of 69 votes, 1,633 to
>1,564. The week before the vote, prison opponents voiced their concerns at
>the Springfield Town Meeting. State engineer James Richardson gave
>assurances that the facility's location 800 feet below and four miles away
>from Stellafane's Breezy Hill would prevent light pollution from
>interfering with observing conditions and would brighten the sky by only 1
>percent. Astronomers scoffed at this estimate. Maryann Arrien, president of
>the Springfield Telescope Makers, collected more than 1,000 signatures
>against the prison and submitted the 365-page petition to Vermont governor
>Howard Dean the day before the vote. But the state's $7 million incentive
>package and promise of 160 new jobs proved too tempting to voters in the
>economically depressed region. In an e-mail message to Stellafane's mailing
>list of roughly 3,000, Wayne Zuhl, secretary of the Springfield Telescope
>Makers, said the group intends to continue to fight the state's plans. "We
>may have lost the battle," he wrote, "but the war is not over."
>Some daily events in the changing sky, from the editors of SKY & TELESCOPE.
> * Watching fireworks tonight? If the sky is clear, you can't miss
>summer's two brightest stars. Vega is the bright star very high in the
>east; it's pale blue-white and 25 light-years away. Arcturus is the
>brightest very high in the southwest; it's pale yellow-orange and 37
>light-years distant. Show them to family or friends!
> * The red giant star Antares (about 500 light-years away) shines due
>south right after dark around this time of year. The red planet Mars (7
>light-minutes away) shines in the southwest, somewhat brighter. Compare
>their colors.
> * Last-quarter Moon (exact at 7:57 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time).
> * Earth is at the aphelion of its orbit, our farthest distance from the
>Sun for the year (3.3 percent farther than at perihelion in January).
> * Venus appears about 1/4 degree from vastly fainter (5th magnitude) Nu
>Leonis. Use binoculars or a telescope!
> * Jupiter's moons Io and Europa are in conjunction, 8 arcseconds apart,
>at 3:51 a.m. EDT Thursday morning.
> * Venus and Regulus remain within 2 degrees of each other this evening
>through July 13th.
> * Some doorstep astronomy: Look high in the northwest after dark to see
>the Big Dipper; it's hanging bowl down.
> * Aldebaran emerges from occultation by the waning crescent Moon during
>morning twilight for eastern North America. For times and other details go
>MERCURY is just above the west-northwest horizon during evening twilight
>early in the week. Look for it about 45 minutes after sunset, far to the
>lower right of bright Venus.
>VENUS is the brilliant "Evening Star" (magnitude -4.4) low in the west at
>dusk. The much fainter real star a little to its upper left is Regulus.
>MARS (magnitude -0.3) shines orange in the southwest during evening. The
>fainter star to its lower right is blue-white Spica. In a telescope, Mars
>is only 11 arcseconds in diameter and shrinking.
>JUPITER (magnitude -2.3) shines in the east before and during dawn.
>SATURN (magnitude +0.1) is the dimmer "star" 14 degrees to the lower left
>of Jupiter (about 1 1/2 times the width of your fist at arm's length).
>URANUS and NEPTUNE, dim at magnitudes 6 and 8, respectively, are in the
>southeast to south during early morning hours. See the finder chart in the
>May Sky & Telescope, page 108, or at
>PLUTO, extremely dim at magnitude 14, is in Ophiuchus in the south right
>after dark. See the finder chart in the March Sky & Telescope, page 103, or
>(All descriptions that relate to the horizon or zenith are written for the
>world's midnorthern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude
>are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time, EDT, equals Universal Time
>minus 4 hours.)
>More details, sky maps, and news of other celestial events appear each
>month in SKY & TELESCOPE, the Essential Magazine of Astronomy.
>Copyright 1999 Sky Publishing Corporation. S&T's Weekly News Bulletin and Sky
>at a Glance stargazing calendar are provided as a service to the astronomical
>community by the editors of SKY & TELESCOPE magazine. Widespread electronic
>distribution is encouraged as long as these paragraphs are included. But the
>text of the bulletin and calendar may not be published in any other form
>without permission from Sky Publishing (contact or
>phone 617-864-7360). Illustrated versions, including active links to related
>Internet resources, are available via SKY & TELESCOPE's World Wide Web site
>In response to numerous requests, and in cooperation with the Astronomical
>League ( and the American Association of
>Amateur Astronomers (, S&T's Weekly News Bulletin
>and Sky at a Glance are available via electronic mailing list too. For a
>free subscription, send e-mail to and put the word "join"
>on the first line of the body of the message. To unsubscribe, send e-mail
>to and put the word "unjoin" on the first line of the
>body of the message. If you should have any problems either subscribing to
>or unsubscribing from the list, send a message to list administrator John
>Wagoner at for assistance.
>SKY & TELESCOPE, the Essential Magazine of Astronomy, is read by more than
>225,000 enthusiasts each month. It is available on newsstands worldwide. For
>subscription information, or for a free copy of our catalog of fine astronomy
>books and products, please contact Sky Publishing Corp., P.O. Box 9111,
>Belmont, MA 02478-9111, U.S.A. Phone: 800-253-0245 (U.S. and Canada); 617-
>864-7360 (International). Fax: 617-864-6117. E-mail: >864-7360 (International). Fax: 617-864-6117. E-mail: SKY
>& TELESCOPE's Web site: Clear skies!

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sun Aug 01 1999 - 16:28:41 PDT