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October 2015 First Light Newsletter
October, 2015 (Issue No. 135)
North Central Florida's
Amateur Astronomy Club
Serving Alachua County since 1987
Member Member
Astronomical League
Astronomical League's pin for Asterism Program.
NASA Night Sky Network
Astronomical League's pin for the Lunar II Program.
By Dr. Howard Cohen
Emeritus Associate Professor of Astronomy
University of Florida
Robert Munyer, AAC member, wrote a recent email (2015 August 31) about the DSCOVR video (2015
August 5) showing the Moon passing in front of an illuminated (full) Earth as viewed from the DSCOVR
satellite. Here, the Sun also illuminates the far side as the Moon that observers on Earth cannot see.
(Note: DSCOVR’s location is between Earth and Sun approximately one million miles from Earth where it
can monitor the Sun’s particles from the solar wind.)
If you have not seen this spectacular video, From a Million Miles Away, NASA Camera Shows Moon
Crossing Face of Earth? Then go to
Munyer’s informative email correctly explains the geometry of the video and includes some pertinent
remarks about the Moon’s “dark side.”
Unfortunately the use of the term “Moon’s dark side” has now become so pervasive through the media
creating a universal myth that the Moon truly has a dark side.
It does not.
On-line news stories about this video were filled with this term. Some examples:
“Though the moon's so-called dark side isn't visible from Earth . . .” – CNN
“A satellite caught this stunning view of the Earth and the dark side of the moon from a million miles out in
space . . .” – ABC Action News
“The ‘dark side’ of the moon looks even cooler when seen crossing the Earth from a million miles away . .
.” – NBC News
“NASA's EPIC video shows dark side of the moon passing over Earth . . .” – CNET
“The pictures show the ‘dark side’ of the moon that is never visible from Earth, fully illuminated by the sun
. . .” – CBS News
I could cite many more examples.
The last example is striking since the article refers to the “dark side” yet states the “dark side” is “fully
illuminated by the sun!” Confusing at best.
Geek Snack even goes further stating, “NASA recently managed to snap some very nice pictures of the
dark side of the Moon so that we need not wonder anymore about its appearance.”
Apparently Geek Snack does not know that we have been photographing the far (back) side of the Moon
from spacecraft since 1959 when the USSR’s Lunar Probe 3 first photographed the Moon’s “other side.”
Apollo astronauts then became the first humans to view the far side and continued to photograph it. More
recently, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (launched 2009) has returned high resolution images of the
far side.
Of course, one could argue that the term “dark side of the Moon” is just an original reference to just the
“unknown side of the Moon” rather than lack of light. However, I would respond that the continued use of
“dark side” helps propagates wrong information about the Moon to the public.
Mark Twain even wrote, “Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
(Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar in Following the Equator, 1897.) Did Twain understand that the
Moon does not have a dark side or was he just simply using the term to mean “unknown” in the sense
that everyone has a personality hidden from others?
Finally, some who have viewed the video have wondered why no solar eclipse happened during the
passage shown in the NASA video since the Moon was between Sun and Earth. The answer is that the
satellite, Moon, Earth alignment was not precise in this video. In fact, the leading edges of both Earth and
Moon show a slight terminator (darkening) that illustrates this.
Do not confuse the series of color fringes on the Moon’s edge with the terminator in the video. These
color fringes, as NASA explains, result from combining three monochromatic photos taken at different
wavelengths. Then it takes about 30 seconds to combine the three monochromatic images into a color
image. Both the Earth and the Moon move slightly during this time. So the color fringes are artifacts from
that process
Also, the Earth’s image shows a faint, almost central specular reflection of the Sun. However, the
reflection looks slightly off center showing the slight misalignment.
The view in the video also shows how much brighter the sunlit face of Earth is compared with the Moon's
sunlit (and gray) face illustrating the much greater reflectivity of Earth.
The DSCOVR video prompted needed attention on space and astronomy. Unfortunately, such events
also help propagate misinformation. Astronomy organizations as the AAC must be relentless in helping
communicate correct information to the public.
School Outreach
By Mike Toomey
Our first evening school school star party will be for a Gainesville-area elementary school on
Tuesday, October 20. We expect at least 100 students, along with parents and a few siblings.
Please register for this event on the website. Your confirmation email will include the location of
the event as well as other set-up instructions. (You can always un-register later).
In conjunction with the Community Sciences Coalition (CSC), club volunteers will be presenting
one-hour programs immediately after school. Each group will consist of about twenty 4th and 5th
graders. We will provide hands-on demonstrations both in- and outside the classroom.
Volunteers are welcome to choose their own topic(s), bring their own show-and-tell materials, or
use club materials when available. You are welcome to shadow other volunteers at these
activities before diving in. Keep in mind, you do not need to possess an encyclopedic knowledge
of astronomy for these activities. It's fine to say, “I don't know the answer to that.” It's even better
to ask students what they know, and then build upon that.
Our first after-school program was held at Caring & Sharing in September. We were cheerfully
received by twenty enthusiastic 4th graders. Ivo Rabell offered views of the sun through a
Coronado Personal Solar Telescope (PST) just before clouds rolled in. Pam Mydock and I used
the balance of the hour talking about the solar system and the motions of Earth's moon, including
a primer for the upcoming (now past) lunar eclipse. The students were well-informed and had lots
of great questions. We will return to Caring & Sharing in the spring.
Our next after-school program will be on the east-side of Gainesville on Thursday, October 22,
from 3:00pm – 4:00pm. As always, please register for this event on the website for complete
Mike Toomey has served the AAC in many capacities since 1998, including President, Secretary,
FirstLight Editor, Star Party Coordinator and School Outreach Coordinator. Mike resides in
Gainesville and is the author of “An Illustrated Guide to Macaroni Art, Part I. The Early Years:
The Latins Through the Goths”.
Newberry Star Park
By Andy Howell
Last month, Newberry Star Park was pressure-washed
and repainted a sky-blue "charismatic sky" color
using Behr Ultra Premium Plus paint. Thanks to Lisa
Eager for making arrangements to hire a good painter
for this work!
Also last month, Newberry Star Park received new
letters to replace the old plywood letters that were
delaminating and losing paint. The new Gemini letters are injection-molded plastic,
designed for long life in an outdoor setting. Thanks to the ever reliable JoAnn
Stevener who procured the letters for Alachua Astronomy Club!
Lisa Eager, Andy Howell, JoAnn
Stevener, and Allen (JoAnn's spouse) are
also to be thanked for mounting the new
letters to the NSP building. Andy Howell
is also to be thanked for all the blisters he
got on his hands while dismantling the old
The entire project (pressure washing,
painting, and letters) cost the Club approximately $750. When one considers that
the NSP building is AAC's single most valuable asset, it is worth keeping in top
shape for the years ahead.
If you haven't seen Newberry Star Park's new look, you should definitely plan to
attend the star party & outreach on October 10! Register HERE.
Meetings and Events
Newberry Star Park Star Party and Public Outreach
Saturday, Oct. 10, 7-11 p.m.
Newberry Star Park
24880 NW 16th Avenue, Newberry, FL 32660
AAC Public Meeting
Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, 7-9 p.m.
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
3000 NW 83rd Street, Building X-129
Gainesville, FL 32606
Speaker and host:
James Albury, planetarium director and co-host of the TV show Star Gazers.
Big Shoals State Park
Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, 5:30-11:30 p.m.
Star Party and Outreach
See event calendar for details and to register.
New Members since August 1!
Stacy Dreher
Sharon Gavin
Tabitha Spinuzza
Ann Welch
In Memoriam
JoAnn Stevener informed us of the sad news that James A. Quinlan passed away Sept. 10. James was
a longtime AAC member who enjoyed sharing his love of astronomy with all whom he met. James was a
scholarship member for 2015, and he will be greatly missed.
First Light Newsletter Editor
Andy Howell
Laura Wright
If you haven't voted yet in the NameExoWorlds
contest, vote for us!
The wonders of the Astronomical League
Observing programs never cease to amaze and
teach us about the wonderful night sky.
Please check out the Asterism Program
Scroll down the list until you come
to our entry that proposes the
names Verne, Heinlein, Asimov,
and Clarke for Upsilon
Andromedae and its four known
According to the International
Astronomical Union (IAU), astronomy clubs and
non-profits from 45 countries submitted 247
proposals. Members of the public have already
cast over 300,000 votes. Winners will receive
commemorative plaques and will be eligible to
propose a name for a minor planet.
The voting deadline is October 31, 23:59 UTC.
You can vote more than once, for each electronic
device you own (computer, phone, tablet, etc.)
Get out there and vote! VOTE HERE
- Andy
Certificate. In the introduction of the
observing program, Troy Stratton, the
Asterism Program Chair says
"asterisms are a group of stars that
appear to be associated with each
other, but are not. The most well
known asterism is the Big Dipper
which is only a small portion of the larger
constellation Ursa Major. Asterisms are often
named and may be composed of stars that are
members of one or more constellation. There is a
list of asterisms on the program page from which
to observe and sketch 100 asterisms to qualify for
the certificate and pin."
The Lunar II Program was developed by the Astro
League in response to the many avid lunar
observers and their desire for a more challenging
program to follow the popular Lunar Program.
Find these and more Observing programs at
Best regards,
The Night Sky this Month
October's Night Sky
October 1 - Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina. Newly discovered comet C/2013 US10 Catalina may
reach naked eye visibility on October 1. The comet will continue to brighten and could reach
magnitude 5 by November 6.
October 8 - Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing
only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P GiacobiniZinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best
viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs
annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 8th. The second quarter
moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. If you are patient, you may be able to
spot a few good ones. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from
city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 11 - Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to
Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the
year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it
will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
October 16 - Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest
western elongation of 18.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it
will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the
eastern sky just before sunrise.
October 13 - New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and
will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 00:06 UTC. This is the best time of the
month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight
to interfere.
October 21, 22 - Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to
20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which
has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to
November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The
first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what should be a good
show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the
constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 26 - Venus at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Venus reaches greatest
eastern elongation of 46.4 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will
be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the bright planet in the
eastern sky before sunrise.
October 26 - Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. A conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will take
place on October 26. The two bright planets will be visible within 1 degree of each other in the
early morning sky. Look to the east just before sunrise for this impressive planetary pair.
October 27 - Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the
Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 12:05 UTC.
This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at
this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also
been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon. This is also the last of three supermoons
for 2015. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and
brighter than usual.
October 28 - Conjunction of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. A rare, 3-planet conjunction will be
visible on the morning of October 28. The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will all form a tight 1degree triangle in the early morning sky. Look to the east just before sunrise for this spectacular
Copyright © 2015 Alachua Astronomy Club, Inc. All rights reserved.
Contact email: [email protected]
Alachua Astronomy Club, Inc.
2603 NW 13th St., #161
Gainesville, FL 32609-2835