Last April, my post was about doing Citizen Science from the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT). This is a follow-up article about our latest observing run in early December 2019. I would like to thank Mark Trueblood and Robert Crawford who make our observing the success that it is. I would also like to thank the staff of VATT who are on call all hours of the night to help us out when we need help with the telescope and equipment. As I said in my previous article about observing from the VATT, our goal is to observe Near-Earth Asteroids that might, some time in the future, collide with the Earth. “These asteroids might become ‘lost’ because of the uncertainty in their orbits.” By reducing the uncertainty in the orbits of these asteroids, we hope to remove them from the list of asteroid impactors. This five-night observing run was an experiment: Could we observe asteroids that had been discovered only … Continue reading →
About Dr. Larry Lebofsky
Dr. Larry Lebofsky is a Senior Education and Communication Specialist at the Planetary Science Institute and an Education Specialist at the University of Arizona. He has a B.S. in Astronomy from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph. D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to joining PSI in 2008, he was a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
He was the Secretary/Treasurer and Education Officer for the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Association and President of the Arizona Science Teachers Association. He is now Secretary for the International Meteorite Collectors Association and on the governing board for the Southern Arizona Research, Science, and Engineering Foundation. The Small Bodies Nomenclature Committee of the IAU named an asteroid, 3439 Lebofsky, in recognition of his contributions to planetary sciences. In 2000 he received the Carl Sagan Medal of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Association for excellence in public communication in planetary sciences.
We are all aware of the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing. However, we may not be aware of two other events that occurred that year: two significant meteorite falls, Allende and Murchison. Meteorites are our major source of material from other worlds, “rocks from space.” At 1:05 am on February 8, 1969, a fireball (a very bright meteor) was seen over the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The fireball broke up in the atmosphere and ultimately yielded over 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds) of meteoritic material. This was the Allende meteorite, the largest carbonaceous chondritic meteorite ever found. There were probably thousands of pieces spread out over about 150 square kilometers (60 square miles) near the village of Allende. At about 10:58 am on September 28, 1969, a fireball was seen over the state of Victoria in Australia. The fireball broke up into three pieces and over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of fragments were eventually found spread out over … Continue reading →
You can add to this list festivals in China and Korea! Some of this Blog is taken from an activity that Nancy and I developed many years ago for our teacher professional development workshop, Project ARTIST (Astronomy-Related Teacher In-Service Training), that Nancy mentioned in her last Blog, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” The activity is called Magpies and the Milky Way. The following information about the Tanabata Festival comes from a Japanese travel guide. Tanabata, also known as the “star festival,” takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year, when, according to a Chinese legend, the two stars Altair and Vega, which are usually[sic] separated from each other by the Milky Way, are able to meet…. One popular Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a piece of paper and hang that piece of paper on a specially erected bamboo tree, in the hope that the wishes come true. Colorful Tanabata festivals are … Continue reading →
We had five nights awarded us for this observing run and were able to observe for less than four hours. It was foggy/icy, snowy, and finally just cloudy. On our fourth night, we were told to “go home” in the morning as several feet of snow was expected and they were going to close the road to all traffic. Here are two pictures of our time up at the telescope. The left picture is a view similar to one below, except for the snow and the cloud that obscures the Large Binocular Telescope in the background. The right picture was taken on the roof showing Gary Gray (maintenance manager) sweeping snow off the dome. So much for adding our most recent observing experiences to the original blog! Note: Nancy Lebofsky recently posted a blog: Adventures in EPO—Tucson Festival of Books. Most of the people who visited the Vatican Observatory Foundation tables are from Tucson and southern Arizona. Unfortunately, many do … Continue reading →
In my previous post, I discussed tektites – a byproduct of asteroid impacts, and obsidian, which can sometimes look like tektites. Finally, to my trips to the location of the Saffordites. The area where I have hunted is east of Mt Graham and southeast of the city of Safford in southeast Arizona, several hours east of Tucson. It is a fairly flat area and the known area where Saffordites have been found covers many square miles, maybe tens or hundreds of square miles. Since these are many million-year-old weathered volcanic rocks, they may have been transported to their present location, so their source is unknown. As it turns out, this location is on my way to observing at the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope on 10,000-foot Mt. Graham, but that is another story. Above are three pictures taken just before we started looking for Saffordites. On the left is me with Twink Monrad, a closeup of snow on Mt. Graham, and a view of one … Continue reading →
As a planetary astronomer who has had a long career studying small bodies in the Solar System— from the dwarf planets to asteroids to moons to the rings of Saturn—I have always had an interest in meteorites, rocks from space. I have been fortunate enough to have hunted for meteorites about six times, but unfortunately have never found any. Maybe someday…. However, I have hunted more successfully for other unusual rocks. First, here is a little background. A rock in space that orbits the Sun and is smaller than a planet or dwarf planet is called an asteroid. If it is smaller than about a meter (a little over a yard) in diameter, it is called a meteoroid. If the object looks fuzzy when viewed through a telescope, it is called a comet. Once in a while, one of these runs into the Earth. As it passes through Earth’s atmosphere, the light that we see is called a meteor or, … Continue reading →