Yearly Archives: 2012

Venus Transit (SJAA at NASA)

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Clouds did not prove to be a problem today for this rare event to see Venus cross the Sun.

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02V12-TearDrop

Teardrop Effect with Venus at 2d Contact
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04V12-TV

 Better Than TV!!
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07V12-WOW

Over Exposed H-alpha showing, Venus, Sunspots, Faculae, and Prominences
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06V12-VenusFlare-goodEXpose

Normal Exposure in H-alpha
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08V12-littlegirl

Girl with Solar Glasses
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09V12-Michael

SJAA Member Michael Packer
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10V12-Girls

Got Venus Transit? Transit Lovers
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12V12-MalikaTREE

Malika’s Sunspotter Projector showing Venus through the Trees!
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VenusHalfway

Venus Transit about half across
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VenusTrees
Venus and Sunspots through the Trees

Posted in Blog, Solar


Eclipse Report & Solar Observing June 03 2012

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park   weather permitting

With at least 7 Sunspot groups the SP number was well over 100 today. Take a look at this great photo by SJAA member Robert Duvall and note the sunspot detail at 3:30 O’clock at the edge of the solar disk.

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2012-06-03half2

Today’s prominences (plasma flares) were all around the solar disk and changing shape rapidly over just a couple minutes. At 2 O’clock on the solar disk was the largest plasma stream extending perhaps 7 Earth diameters out from the photosphere. From 5 to 7 O’clock were a myriad of prominences exhibiting different structure from detached plumes, spicules to branching trees. Not many prominences were seen projected on the solar disc (compared to last month’s report or during the annular eclipse). This may have something to do with the high sunspot count and distribution. At any rate several sunspots were exquisite showing fine penumbra detail as seen in Teruo’s (SJAA member and leader) SC scope. Solar faculae were evident among many of these sunspot groups.

Speaking of the annular eclipse, here is a great time lapse compilation by SJAA member Malika using eyepiece projection. She was near center line in Navada.

YouTube Video

I took this image at center line near Mt. Lassen:

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01UPClose

**More pics of eclipse and SJAA’ers at Lassen center line here **

Not all of us SJAA’ers or the public made it to center line. Indeed the crowd at Houge Park was the largest ever seen (perhaps 600 plus folks over the course of this “lunar transit”.

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SJAA+EClipse

Eclipse Day at Houge Park

VENUS TRANSIT: BE SURE TO VISIT HOUGE PARK TUESDAY 2:30 to SUNSET

Posted in Blog, Solar


Size of stars

Here is an amazing video showing how the planets of our solar system compare to each other and to our own Sun and then just how small our Sun is compared to some really big giants out there.

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info


4 minute Transit of Venus Movie

Here’s a 4 minute movie on the upcoming transit of Venus. Join SJAA for the Transit of Venus on Tuesday June 5th. Details at www.SJAA.net. The  transit starts around 3PM and will still be in front of the Sun as it sets after 7PM.

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar


Study The Moon

Studying the Moon

Michael Packer’s site on Studying The Moon has dates and times to observe some of the best features on the lunar surface including ancient shield volcanoes and lava flows:

http://www.packerlighting.com/Lunar_Articles/Moon%20Article%201of6.html

Posted in Blog, Local Blogs


Mega Sunspot – Mega Flares – May 12 2012

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park   weather permitting

Special thanks goes to SJAA member Patricia Madison for setting up this solar event as part of Don Edwards S. F. Bay National Wildlife Refuge “Birdfest”. She had a neat “make a sundial” booth (see below pic) for kids set up and often holds star parties at the park as well at Lick Observatory.

Sun ClockHandheld Sundial (thanks Dalana Castrell)

Today – SJAA setup its scope at the Don Edwards Nature Center to help celebrate Birdfest. We are at the peak of migratory bird season across US and certainly nearing the peak of solar activity. Sunspot 1476 was an easy naked eye object – mammoth sunspot group in a 6 inch scope. But holy mackerel the plasma stream from 1471 was stellar (thanks Malika for info on this flare – 7.5 times the size of Earth).

Image of  both Sunspots from 3 days ago.

“Wow” was the word of the day from the families that looked through the scope. One kid was so jazzed by the sun he asked at the face painting booth to have all the planets put on face:

Painted face boy

Later in the day a prominence from a sunspot that will be in view tomorrow was spectacular – looking like a miniaturized aurora or curtain on the sun’s horizon. All in all a truly a stellar day. 

  Viewing Sun

Posted in Blog


Friday and Saturday SJAA Astronomy Day

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

We held Astronomy Day Part 1 at Houge Park Friday night and wow what a great time. Sky was good, scopes were plenty and crowd was the largest I’ve seen. A crescent moon allowed for great views of the giant fault system Rima Hyginus which is connected by a groove to the rille Ariadaeus. The moon did not disappoint deep sky viewers. Many Messier objects were up, M44 and Leo, Virgo galaxy clusters were high in the sky. Of course planetary viewers got good looks at Saturn, Mars, and Venus. Venus is about at its brightest right now as it is both close to Earth with decent phase. And Mars just recently went through its retrograde.

Saturday was Part 2 – Solar Viewing at the New Public Library on the San Jose University Campus. A steady stream of people over the course of the day amounted to innumerable exclamations of “Wow, Amazing, Sick, and You Got To Check This Out…” H-alpha flares were all around the solar disk and I couldn’t tell you which ones we like most. At 9 O’clock on the solar disc were two massive prominences that resembled two gargoyles or Lions facing each other – elaborate bookends indeed! At 12 O’clock there were 3 prominent flares – one looked like a giant bonfire in a fireplace and next to it was a detached prominence that looked like a flame from a Bic lighter. Inside the solar disk there was a terrific number of sunspots and filaments (dark sinuous features that are prominences projected on solar surface). The sunspot count was likely in the 80’s with about 6 sunspot groups.

Below Malika with two Solar projection systems.

AstroDaySmall

Recently she took a nice image of a 100+ sunspot day which we’ll post.

KevinKiller

Later in the day Kevin came with his sunspot KILLER 10″ filtered scope!

End Note :  Great Astronomy Weekend!!

Side Note:  Not having visited the The San Jose Campus for a long time I was blown away by the fantastic diversity and new library – a beautiful place. Check out a book and check the place out.

Posted in Blog, Solar


Log your own Sunspot Number Part 2 of 2 Plus a graph showing Solar Max expected in early 2013

Like observing the planets in our solar system, observing the sun on a daily or weekly basis gives one an intimate knowledge on its workings and beauty. I have enjoyed watching the storm clouds on Jupiter and the Great Red Spot change over time. But watching the sunspots on the surface of our sun and their effect on space weather throughout our solar system is quite cool, dare I say scorching!!! Especially as we approach solar maximum.

By regularly counting sunspots you can determine for yourself if solar activity is increasing or decreasing and might even catch a solar flare. In Part 1 I introduced the formula for calculating your own sunspot number:

R  =  k (10g+s)

R is the sunspot number; g is the number of sunspot groups on the solar disk; s is the total number of individual spots in all the groups; and k is a variable scaling factor that accounts for observing conditions and the type of telescope used.

You don’t need to know your personal scaling factor “k” to log your own sunspot number. Just set it equal to 1. However

k = Rp/ISN

Where k is your personal scaling factor, Rp is your sunspot count (Rp = 10g+s) and ISN is International Sunspot Number as calculated by the The Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC).

At the end of everyday SIDC publishes a Provisional ISN that you can use as the ISN. It is within 5% of final value so you don’t have to wait until the end of the calendar month to get the Definitive ISN. You can get the daily Provisional ISN here along with an Estimated ISN for the upcoming day (and use estimated if provisional is not reported). This data can be e-mailed to you once a day by signing up here.

SIDC has calculated the average sunspot number for past months and came up with this nice graph showing is change over several years with a prediction of when the next solar maximum will be (early 2013).

SunspotGRAPH Click for Full Size

Don’t wait for the solar max to start observing. As you can see by this graph there are months, let alone individual days, that the sunspot number can “flare” into the 100’s. In fact flares don’t depend on a lot a sunspots to happen – one big sunspot group is enough.

Posted in Blog, Education & Reference Info, Solar


SJAA Solar Observing Program for Sunday April 1st

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

Our new Solar Program is seeing a great mix of new astronomers, solar observing regulars and families walking by to see “what’s-up”:

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gilscope

Our beautiful star Sol is what’s up! Last month we had a terrific sunspot count of 70 and one decent sized prominence. Today we had a sunspot count of around 50 with huge prominences positioned at 3, 5 and 8 o’clock around the solar disk. 3 o’clock was a spectacular double loop prominence where magnetic field lines loop plasma right back to the Sun’s surface. It roughly had the shape of a weeping willow tree. At 9 o’clock we had an emission that looked like a sloop, a sailboat with a head and main sail… Or it looked like a giant nose in profile depending on who you talk too. At 5 o’clock we had  5 prominences all larger than the size of the Earth by several times. Also a classic Earth sized sunspot with a well defined penumbra was seen in the same field of view.

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EarthSize
(A)                                     (B)

Prominences (A) are small plasma flares. The ones we saw today were 2-3 times the size of Earth. Sunspots (B) appear dark because they are cooler relative to their surround. They usually come in pairs (two together) and are typically twice the size of Earth. The one we saw today at 5’oclock was isolated and about 1.5x bigger than Earth.

Now running side-by-side with Solar Observing is SJAA’s new Scope Tune-up Program (thanks to people like Dave Ittner). Got a scope you need help with? Bring it on by! And binoculars like the ones below can be fitted with solar filters to safely view the sun.

JoseBinosClub member Muzz checks out some giant Binoculars with Rob.

Log your own Sunspot Number (Part 2 of 2) will be posted in a couple of days. Check out the March Solar Program blog for Part 1.

Posted in Blog, Solar


SJAA Solar Observing Program for Sunday March 4th

Observe The Sun Safely – Never look at the Sun without a proper filter!
Solar Programs are held 1st Sunday of every Month 2:00-4:00 PM at Houge Park  weather permitting

One of the largest sunspot groups seen in a long while was visible on the Sun today. Below is an image of it coming into view a day earlier – just fantastic for all scopes equipped with a standard solar filter. In solar filtered binoculars it might of looked like two groups but small solar scopes at moderately high power showed tiny sunspots connecting the two larger dark regions. This Sunspot is associated with a large solar flare expected to hit Earth’s Magnetosphere around Friday March 9th.

In all, 5 Sunspot Groups were seen with over 30 individual spots! Let Solar Observing begin folks! Several of these groups were easily seen in an eyepiece projection system

Photo-0081Eyepiece Projection System (Thanks Malika)

Hydrogen Alpha Views in the club’s New H-Alpha scope showed the usual spiked prominences all around the Sun’s limb with one Earth-sized plasma ejection at 4 O’clock in scopes field of view.

Clip_4aSolar Observers and SJAA 100m H-Alpha Scope

Log you own Sunspot Number (Part 1 of 2)

Scientists track solar cycles by counting sunspots – cool planet-sized areas on the Sun where intense magnetic loops poke through the star’s visible surface.

Counting sunspots is not as straightforward as it sounds. Suppose you looked at the Sun through a pair of (properly filtered) low power binoculars – you might be able to see two or three large spots. An observer peering through a high-powered telescope might see 10 or 20. A powerful space-based observatory could see even more – say, 50 to 100. Which is the correct sunspot number?

There are two official sunspot numbers in common use. The first, the daily “Boulder Sunspot Number,” is computed by the NOAA SpaceEnvironment Center using a formula devised by Rudolph Wolf in 1848:

R  =  k (10g+s),

where R is the sunspot number; g is the number of sunspot groups on the solar disk; s is the total number of individual spots in all the groups; and k is a variable scaling factor (usually <1) that accounts for observing conditions and the type of telescope (binoculars, space telescopes, etc.). Scientists combine data from lots of observatories — each with its own k factor — to arrive at a daily value.

pFor example, looking through Ed’s refractor during this months program I saw 5 groups and about 30 individual sunpots. This give a sunspot number of:

R = k (10 x 5 + 30) = 80 if k = 1

The NOAA Solar Spot Number for March 4 was 70. I got the number of groups right but spots that I thought were individual were likely resolved in a larger aperture scope to be connected ie one and the same.

The other official sunspot number in common use is called Wolf number. It’s also known as the International sunspot number, relative sunspot number, or Zürich number. We’ll explore this numbering scheme and the k value in Part 2 but if you want to do some researching on you own check out this pdf.

Posted in Blog, Programs, Solar


New Solar Observing Program

As mentioned in the blog post looking back at 2011, the Board of the San Jose Astronomical Association, after long and thoughtful discussion, decided to move forward with the idea of initiating the SJAA Solar Observing Program.

The cornerstone of this program is the club’s acquisition of a telescope that is suitable for viewing the sun in a rich and meaningful way, as well as a mount that is up to the task of handling public events.  We recently took delivery of a Lunt Visual Package and conducted the first solar observing session yesterday, 5 Feb 2012 on the grounds of San Jose’s Houge Park.

Our newest board member, Michael Packer, is running the solar program.  His plan is to have a solar day at Houge Park on the first Sunday of every month.  The exact dates of the solar program will be made available once they are assembled, so please keep an eye out for the schedule on the SJAA’s website.

Here is Michael’s report from the first solar day:

The 1st Solar Program was a success especially for those who stayed through Superbowl kick-off time, when the clouds opened up.  About 20 people strolled by and many stayed the distance. In addition to SJAA’s new H-alpha solar scope, we had solar-filter-equipped scopes and binoculars set up to safely view the sun along with a beautiful eyepiece projection system.

Before 3:30pm we were able to observe, through the cloud layer, 3 Sunspot groups (1 complex) plus several faculae. 3:30 onwards we could bump the magnification up to 100x and see prominences all around the sun with the largest on the opposite side to the sunspot region. The 100mm aperture views of these emissions in H-alpha was just spectacular.

SJAA Solar Programs will now be held on the 1st Sunday of every month 2:00-4:00 PM. The next program is March 4th. As with this 1st program, we will hand out material on how to observe, sketch and record sunspot activity. You can also visit The Astronomical League webpage at www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/sunspot/sunsptcl.html

Virtually all commercial scopes can be equipped with a solar filter to safely view the Sun as it approaches Solar Maximum over the next several years. Drop by our program to see for yourself. You don’t need a H-alpha scope to follow this progression. However H-alpha observing allows one too see the solar flares and plasma eruptions that in size, dwarf the Earth. And SJAA now has a H-alpha scope for all of us to see these events!

Congratulations to the membership of the SJAA, as well as the public in general, for the addition of this valuable new program!

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Programs


SJAA’s Mentoring Program

I mentioned it in a previous post, but now I’d like to formally announce the San Jose Astronomical Association’s new Mentoring Program – An Introduction to Observational Astronomy.   This program, available to SJAA members, has a prime objective of pairing up people new to the hobby with others who have experience to share and can make themselves available to help get the new folks up to speed in a safe and personal environment.

This program covers the following areas:

  • how the night sky works,
  • the types of objects you can see,
  • the types of scopes available to use,
  • how how to find objects,
  • and many additional topics.

Taking place monthly, the mentoring program provides a crash course designed to get you up to speed in two nights.  The first night, held at San Jose’s Houge Park on a Friday night, is a hands on personal tour of the gear and the tools so that you know what you’re doing. The second night, held at a local, semi dark site, will be spent under the stars, getting some hands on experience practicing chart reading and star hopping skills.  You’ll be there with someone to guide you and let you ask those seemingly stupid questions (disclaimer: there’s no such thing).  After the two nights, you should be self sufficient to take it from there, though of course, as an alum, you will always have someone to turn to with questions.

Like I mentioned, this program is available to SJAA members (basic annual membership is only $20), and the SJAA also has a fantastic telescope loaning program in the event you don’t have your own scope yet because you don’t where to start.  It’s the perfect combination and a heck of a deal!

Dave Ittner is the brains and the brawn behind this program. He’s also the main mentor who’s sharing his skills.  Members are encouraged to participate, as either a mentee (someone who could use the personal guidance) or a mentor (if you would like to reap the rewards of giving newbies an initial, confidence building boost). For additional information or to join the program please contact Dave Ittner at sjaamentor <at> gmail.com.

Speaking for the SJAA, I am proud to share this new and valuable program to help achieve the organization’s mission of educating the public in science and astronomy.

Rob Jaworski
Secretary
San Jose Astronomical Association

Posted in Anouncements, Blog, Programs


Dr Filippenko’s Dedication of his SJAA Talk

Before too much time slips by after Dr. Alex Filippenko’s talk at last Saturday’s SJAA meeting, I would like to provide a recap of the exciting event.  But I will do that separately; right now, I’d like to let you know that Dr. Filippenko dedicated his talk to a close friend and colleague of his who recently passed, Weidong Li. Weidong was described by Alex as instrumental and invaluable to his research. Alex also mentioned that Weidong’s family is now struggling financially and could use some assistance.  He said that a web site has been established in Weidong’s memory and to manage donations. The SJAA would like to make a respectful request to its membership that if it’s at all possible, please help Weidong’s family by making a donation at the web site above, either by sending a check or using PayPal.

Dr. Filippenko wrote the following about the time he was able to spend with Weidong.

Weidong and the Lick Observatory Supernova Search
by Alex Filippenko, Professor of Astronomy, UC Berkeley

————————————————

In 1996, my team at UC Berkeley completed the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) at Lick Observatory, a 0.76-meter robotic reflector whose purpose was to discover and monitor supernovae (exploding stars). Dick Treffers (my chief engineer) made most of the hardware work correctly, and Michael Richmond (my graduate student) had written much of the software several years earlier. We found our first supernova (SN 1997bs) in April 1997; see http://stupendous.rit.edu/richmond/kait/ngc3627.html.

But progress on our Lick Observatory Supernova Search (LOSS)  was slow; I didn’t have anyone dedicated full time to the project. So, I advertized for a postdoctoral researcher and was delighted when Weidong Li, a young graduate at the Beijing Astronomical Observatory, applied for the job. I knew that Weidong led a team that found SN 1996W and several other supernovae using a telescope quite similar to KAIT. (I think this makes him the first Chinese astronomer to discover a supernova since 1054 AD!) I offered him the position and was delighted when he accepted.

Weidong arrived at UC Berkeley in September 1997, and though it took him a few months to improve the software enough, in March 1998 he found SN 1998W and SN 1998Y, and LOSS really got going. The rest, as they say, is history: LOSS became, for about a decade, the world’s most successful nearby supernova search, responsible for about 40% of those found each year; see http://astro.berkeley.edu/bait/public_html/kait.html.

In total, it discovered almost 900 supernovae, many of which were quite young and thus scientifically most valuable. All of this was due to Weidong’s incredible dedication, knowledge, ability, and enthusiasm. I have rarely met anyone as driven and passionate about their work; whenever there were problems with KAIT, for example, he would drive up to Lick Observatory and try to fix them, sometimes spending several days on the mountain with little sleep. If a really time-critical and  exciting event came up, like a gamma-ray burst, he would stay up late at home, making sure KAIT conducted a thorough set of follow-up observations of the optical afterglow. I greatly admired him for all that he did.

Weidong became my right-hand man, leading LOSS and also collaborating with me on a very large number of research papers. I trusted him completely with everything KAIT did, and gave him nearly full authority in running LOSS. He also played a large role (and in many cases the leading role) in mentoring many dozens of undergraduate students who checked the KAIT supernova candidates each day, as well as some graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in my group. For example, he was the main advisor to Jesse Leaman, whose PhD thesis was the supernova rate in galaxies as derived from LOSS. Weidong and I were very proud that he played such a major part in developing the careers of so many young new scholars.

In public and technical presentations, I highlighted Weidong’s enormous contributions, joking that my main goal each year was to secure his funding, and also that KAIT/LOSS would completely fall apart if he were to be “hit by a bus.” I always worried that he might be lured away from me by another research group, or by a higher paying nonacademic job… but I couldn’t imagine that the world would lose him so suddenly, forever.

Weidong was a great astronomer and a wonderful friend. In many ways he was irreplaceable, and my  research team will never be the same without him. He was also a very warm, generous, cheerful person who wanted to enrich the lives of others and make them happy. He had amazing spirit, and was tremendously excited about astronomy.  It’s difficult to believe that he is no longer with us, and his unexpected, tragic departure has created a hole in my heart that will never again be filled.

Farewell, my dear Weidong. We had an amazing 14 years doing science together, and I’ll always cherish your memory.

Posted in Blog


Looking Back, Looking Forward

Now that the year has come to a close and another has already begun its limited engagement, on behalf of the SJAA, I would like to take a look back at the year now done and recap the accomplishments of the club.

In January, our loaner program took a much needed revamp as we took receipt of seven new Orion Dobs, all of the XT Classic variety, ranging from a six inch to a ten inch model.  Once those scopes were assembled and made available for loan, they were all quickly snatched up by members eager to give them a try. They all have been out on continuous loan since.  I’d like to give a big Thank You to Dr. Lee Hoglan for continuing to run our valuable loaner program and ensuring that these new units are available to our members.

In the fall, the board took up the discussion again about the club acquiring a solar scope, with an intention of creating a Solar Observing program.  A solar scope committee was formed, and after thoughtful deliberation, the decision was made to put in an order for a 100mm Lunt Visual Package.  This telescope will be the keystone of the new Solar Observing Program, which is being spearheaded by SJAA member Michael Packer.  More information will soon be on the Announce mail list, but let me give a preview by saying that the solar scope will be set up for public viewing on a roughly monthly basis at a regular location, most likely at our base of operations, Houge Park.  We will also bring it to outreach events such as art and wine festivals and other community events to further our educational mission.

Speaking of Michael Packer, he is not only a member of the club, but he is now the newest member of the SJAA Board of Directors.  At the December board meeting, Michael joined the board in a special vote to fill a vacancy left by departing board member Gordon Reade.

Also speaking of outreach activities, we have been trying to raise the visibility of the SJAA in the local San Jose and south bay community.  In 2010, we manned a booth at the Celebrate Cambrian festival, an event put on by the City of San Jose to bring residents closer to local business and community organizations.  In 2011, we did it again at the same event, with an estimated 700 people stopping by to take a peek at the sun through a properly fitted solar filtered telescope.  We had so much interest that this past September, for the first time and on very short notice, we were provided with a chance to have a booth at the Almaden Art and Wine Festival in San Jose. A call was put out to the SJAA members, and a very generous handful of individuals stepped up to work a couple of hours at the booth, again, providing information about the SJAA and nice late summer views of the sun.

This year, the SJAA has developed a Mentoring Program to help members who are new to astronomy get into the hobby.  Dave Ittner is driving the effort and making himself available as the charter mentor, and is looking for people who are interested in being mentored as well as more experienced people who can play the mentor role.  More information will be forthcoming to both the Announce mail list as well as the website about the Mentor Program, but if you can’t wait, please contact Dave directly.

On another outreach front, the SJAA is working with the Santa Clara County Open Space District to support their Starry Nights program.  The program is the brainchild of SJAA member Chris Kelly, a docent at the Open Space District, and involves providing the public a chance to view the night sky from a relatively dark site in the south bay area, the District’s Rancho Cañada del Oro preserve.  Beyond Chris, the SJAA has been represented there at least three times throughout the course of the year, and we are working on making this site available, under certain conditions, to the SJAA.  If you are not familiar with the Open Space District, please visit their website and plan a trip to their preserves, and be sure to keep a watch for the next Starry Nights event at Rancho Cañada del Oro.

What also needs mentioning is the school star party program.  Almost every weeknight of the school year, dedicated volunteers with the SJAA, led by long time member and two time Gregory Award winner Jim Van Nuland, are out at a local south bay area schools, showing the night sky with a variety of telescopes.  What keeps them going are the Oohs and Aahhs coming from the students, teachers and parents as they see, for the first time, Saturn’s rings or the craters of Earth’s moon or the Galilean satellites of Jupiter.

The Dr. A. B. Gregory Award is the formal SJAA recognition of a member of the local amateur astronomy community who has demonstrated “Outstanding Contributions of Time and Effort to Others in Amateur Astronomy”.  In 2011, the award was presented to Rick Morales, a long time ranger at Fremont Peak State Park who was instrumental in helping to establish the Fremont Peak Observatory. A very well deserved congratulations to Rick!

Finally, the club has continued to support its mission to provide educational opportunities to the public by organizing and hosting beginner astronomy classes and monthly speakers.  We have had a fantastic line up of speakers come throughout the year; the list of past speakers and their topics can be found at this link. We have a good pipeline of speakers for 2012 already, and leading the pack at January’s General Meeting, which is coming this Saturday, 7 January, is the very engaging and entertaining Dr. Alex Filippenko.  This is a lecture not to be missed, and I expect we will have a full house!

Of course, the SJAA will continue its tradition of hosting Friday night public star parties at Houge Park.  The 2012 calendar (not available) has been developed and is available for review, which includes not just our Friday night events but the General Meetings, our annual auction and swap meet, and all of our regular events.

Be sure that you are signed up for the SJAA Announce mail list, or at least check the website regularly for upcoming events.  Looking back at 2011 makes it obvious that the SJAA is a vibrant and engaged organization that meets its educational mission in a variety of ways.  And there are more ways and other ideas too!  If you have an inkling to get involved and be an active part of the SJAA, we would love to help you get started! Don’t hesitate to contact me, Rob Jaworski, or any member of the board.  Or, drop by any of the SJAA Board meetings, which are held at the same location and about 90 minutes before the start of the monthly General Meetings.

Have a great 2012, and we look forward to seeing you in the dark!

Posted in Articles, Blog, Programs