August-September, 2009 Vol. 3 No 4
PO BOX 951, Topeka KS 66619
The official newsletter of Farpoint Observatory and the Northeast
Kansas Amateur Astronomers' League
A Word From The President Brad Hutton
There is a lot happening with the best Amateur Astronomy club in the region, most of which is great. But we are saddened by the loss of a member. Pres. Brad Hutton brings us up to date.
The Cool Chemistry of Alien Life Jet Propulsion Laboratory CIT
The June Space Place Article. The Amazing Spitzer Telescope has been unable to find hydrogen cyanide around dwarf stars. This is important, apparently because HCN formation requires splitting a nitrogen molecule into two nitrogen atoms, a step needed in the formation of HCN. It takes ultraviolet radiation to provide the energy for that step, and dwarf stars have too low energy to produce significant amounts of UV light. HCN is required to form adenine, one of the crucial encoding molecules in DNA and RNA. So any life around a dwarf star would have to be reeeeeeaaaly alien! Its genetic encoding would have to be done in some entirely different way.
The Newbie Corner Brad Hutton
How Brad solved the problem at Windy Hill Observatory of being able to take great flat field images when needed 24/7 using a light box made from electroluminous film. For those who are not familiar, it is essential to have a flat field image to cancel out the effects of any lensing and optical path irregularities on the camera's photographic output, just as it is essential to have a dark field image to cancel out the electronic noise in the camera's pixels. It is easy to get a dark image, by just exposing an image with the camera aperture completely closed. But getting a new flat field image in the middle of the night is real problem. And if something changes in the camera or in the optical path, you have to get a new flat field in order to continue fine imaging. This is how Brad solved it at his Windy HIll Observatory.
SARSAT To The Rescue NASA
This is the July Space Place Article. Did you know that over 25,000 people, including individual hikers and bikers, have had their lives saved by a network of satellites that belong to the US and to RUSSIA? It is SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite-aided Tracking) network, and it uses the doppler effect as it passes over homing beacons. Even more interesting, these instrument packages are piggybacked on our network of weather satellites. Now THAT is killing two birds with one stone.
Spotty Universe References and Notes Graham Bell
Here are the references and active links to the references that Graham promised, in support of his presentation at the July General Meeting. Graham explained the basic premise and reasoning in Janna Levin's mind-bending book, "How The Universe Got Its Spots - Diary of a Finite Time in A Finite Space" from Princeton University Press. In this book, Levin presents and supports her view that our universe is finite based on geometry and topology. This is cutting edge cosmology. There was a drawing for this book at the meeting. Lo and behold, the winner was yours truly, the editor of this newsletter. I think it is the only drawing I have ever won in my life. I only wish I could understand it...or maybe not.