Photo: "Solstice Skies over Stephens" Photo by David Dreimiller.

“Solstice Skies over Stephens” Photo by David Dreimiller. While it’s not actually solstice quite yet, the low sun and cloudy skies certainly go with the season!

 

The date of our final scheduled observatory Open Night has passed and Stephens Memorial Observatory will close for the season. If we enjoy a stretch of clear nights this winter, we may open for a special Open Night event (we would love to show you the Orion Nebula) so watch this website and our Twitter feed for updates. Otherwise, we’ll hope to reopen in March for monthly sessions. Until then, we wish you a happy holiday season and a new year full of peace and happiness.

Advertisements

Open Night Canceled

StephensAstro —  December 15, 2017 — Leave a comment

Due to current and predicted weather conditions, tonight’s scheduled Open Night at the Observatory has been CANCELED. If driving conditions are safe, please consider attending a free, fun indoor StarLab planetarium presentation tonight. See the previous post for all of the details….

Photo: StarLab Portable Planetarium

StarLab Portable Planetarium


 
We expect we will cancel our scheduled Friday night Observatory event due to cloudy skies and possible snow. There is, however, a special treat awaiting sky-watchers on campus and it’s indoors, you know, where it’s warm!

The portable StarLab planetarium will be set up and open to the public! Free of charge! No tickets required! Folks can just come any time from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. The more the merrier. We will run 20-minute programs in the dome and have a few things planned while people are waiting or as they leave.

The StarLab will be set up in the Gerstacker science building on the Hiram College campus, not far north of the Post Office: 11700 Dean St.; Hiram.

So, come on out and enjoy a fun and informative evening snug inside StarLab. And to everyone we wish a happy holiday season, as well as peace and happiness in the coming new year!

Photo: The Pleiades

The Pleiades (M45) – By Rawastrodata

UPDATE: Due to inclement winter weather conditions, we expect we will CANCEL this planned event. Skies are predicted to be cloudy with a high likelihood of snow, and temperatures in the 20s can be expected.

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Friday, December 15, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Given good skies, visitors will see the stars of the Pleiades and Hyades clusters. Other objects of interest will also be sought. Most of the Observatory’s Open Nights take place on Saturdays but this special Friday event is in support of a related program on the Hiram campus.

Cloudy skies at the scheduled starting time cancel the event and in that case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

5:30 PM – UPDATE: Due to current and expected poor sky conditions, this scheduled Open Night has been CANCELED. We hope to have better luck on a special night: Friday, December 15.

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Saturday, November 25, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Given good skies, visitors will see the stars of the Pleiades and Hyades clusters. Other objects of interest will also be viewed. Early arrivals might get a look at the Moon but neighboring trees will either block us entirely or cut viewing short!

Cloudy skies at the scheduled starting time cancel the event and in that case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Photo: Fireball Meteor, Oct. 20, 2017. Credit: NASA/All-Sky Fireball Network

A Grand Orionid Fireball Meteor Imaged over Hiram Friday, October 20. Credit: NASA/All-Sky Fireball Network

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Thursday night, NASA’s network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 23 Orionid fireballs over the USA –meteors that flare brighter than the planet Venus shines– a result of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at speeds exceeding 65 km/s (145,000 mph). Among several fireballs recorded by the Fireball Network camera on the Hiram campus was the grand meteoric streak pictured above; that fireball was also recorded by the camera located at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh in the wee hours of Friday morning. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Oct. 21-22 with as many as 25 meteors per hour. The meteor shower is called “Orionid” because the “falling stars” appear to originate from the vicinity of our sky occupied constellation Orion. Visit Spaceweather.com for observing tips and sky maps. — From a report by Spaceweather.com plus local contribution.

Weather conditions may be best for us overnight Friday as the Orionids shower builds towards its peak. https://www.accuweather.com/

Weather conditions may be best for us overnight Friday as the Orionids shower builds towards its peak. https://www.accuweather.com/

Photo: Kilonova discovered. Credit: NASA and ESA. Acknowledgment: A.J. Levan (U. Warwick), N.R. Tanvir (U. Leicester), and A. Fruchter and O. Fox (STScI)

On 17 August 2017, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo Interferometer both detected gravitational waves from the collision between two neutron stars. Within 12 hours observatories had identified the source of the event within the lenticular galaxy NGC 4993, shown in this image gathered with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The associated stellar flare, a kilonova, is clearly visible in the Hubble observations. This is the first time the optical counterpart of a gravitational wave event was observed. Hubble observed the kilonova gradually fading over the course of six days, as shown in these observations taken in between 22 and 28. Credit: NASA and ESA. Acknowledgment: A.J. Levan (U. Warwick), N.R. Tanvir (U. Leicester), and A. Fruchter and O. Fox (STScI)

On 17 August 2017 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo Interferometer both alerted astronomical observers all over the globe about the detection of a gravitational wave event named GW170817. About two seconds after the detection of the gravitational wave, ESA’s INTEGRAL telescope and NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope observed a short gamma-ray burst in the same direction.

In the night following the initial discovery, a fleet of telescopes started their hunt to locate the source of the event. Astronomers found it in the lenticular galaxy NGC 4993, about 130 million light-years away. A point of light was shining where nothing was visible before and this set off one of the largest multi-telescope observing campaigns ever — among these telescopes was the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

Several different teams of scientists used Hubble over the two weeks following the gravitational wave event alert to observe NGC 4993. Using Hubble’s high-resolution imaging capabilities they managed to get the first observational proof for a kilonova, the visible counterpart of the merging of two extremely dense objects — most likely two neutron stars. Such mergers were first suggested more than 30 years ago but this marks the first firm observation of such an event. The distance to the merger makes the source both the closest gravitational wave event detected so far and also one of the closest gamma-ray burst sources ever seen.

“Once I saw that there had been a trigger from LIGO and Virgo at the same time as a gamma-ray burst I was blown away,” recalls Andrew Levan of the University of Warwick, who led the Hubble team that obtained the first observations. “When I realised that it looked like neutron stars were involved, I was even more amazed. We’ve been waiting a long time for an opportunity like this!”

Hubble captured images of the galaxy in visible and infrared light, witnessing a new bright object within NGC 4993 that was brighter than a nova but fainter than a supernova. The images showed that the object faded noticeably over the six days of the Hubble observations. Using Hubble’s spectroscopic capabilities the teams also found indications of material being ejected by the kilonova as fast as one-fifth of the speed of light.

“It was surprising just how closely the behaviour of the kilonova matched the predictions,” said Nial Tanvir, professor at the University of Leicester and leader of another Hubble observing team. “It looked nothing like known supernovae, which this object could have been, and so confidence was soon very high that this was the real deal.”

Connecting kilonovae and short gamma-ray bursts to neutron star mergers has so far been difficult, but the multitude of detailed observations following the detection of the gravitational wave event GW170817 has now finally verified these connections.

“The spectrum of the kilonova looked exactly like how theoretical physicists had predicted the outcome of the merger of two neutron stars would appear,” says Levan. “It ties this object to the gravitational wave source beyond all reasonable doubt.”

The infrared spectra taken with Hubble also showed several broad bumps and wiggles that signal the formation of some of the heaviest elements in nature. These observations may help solve another long-standing question in astronomy: the origin of heavy chemical elements, like gold and platinum. In the merger of two neutron stars, the conditions appear just right for their production.

The implications of these observations are immense. As Tanvir explains: “This discovery has opened up a new approach to astronomical research, where we combine information from both electromagnetic light and from gravitational waves. We call this multi-messenger astronomy — but until now it has just been a dream!”

Levan concludes: “Now, astronomers won’t just look at the light from an object, as we’ve done for hundreds of years, but also listen to it. Gravitational waves provide us with complementary information from objects which are very hard to study using only electromagnetic waves. So pairing gravitational waves with electromagnetic radiation will help astronomers understand some of the most extreme events in the Universe.”