Blog

A Better Projection of the Sun

Thanks to Ken Miller, Ken Miller of the GOTO planetarium company, and formerly of Bishop Museum in Hawaii, here is a better way to project the sun and view it indirectly!

  1. Cover a hand mirror with paper.
  2. Cut out a dime-sized hole in the paper.
  3. Stick the mirror into a lump of clay or bucket of sand, or anything that will allow you to hold it steady and adjust the position.
  4. Bounce an image of the sun from the hole in the mirror to a light-colored wall or poster board located in a shady area about 30-50 feet away.

I literally took a vanity mirror off my bathroom wall and mounted it on a wood table we had lying around the yard. I propped it up on a chair and voila!  The sun projected! Thanks for the idea Ken!

 

get mirror

poke hole in middle of paper

wall mounted mirror mounted to table

 

 

 

 

another view, adjustable too!

 

 

 

the Sun!!

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Where will you be on August 21st?

The Great American Total Solar Eclipse is coming up! August 21st, the moon will block the sun for a little while and we will see a total eclipse from Oregon to South Carolina. If you live here in Austin you will see the moon take a substantial ‘bite’ out of the sun. Check out this interactive map to see where you can see the total eclipse. These are good sites to visit to learn more! https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov and   http://www.eclipse2017.org/eclipse2017_main.htm

If you are a teacher, equip your classroom with a set of solar eclipse glasses and start the year off right with one of the most amazing experiences you can share with your class!  Really show your students how the Sun-Earth-Moon system interacts by ordering eclipse glasses here.

 

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Speaking at the Austin Astronomical Society Meeting

 

http://austinastro.org

http://austinastro.org

I had the chance to speak at the Austin Astronomical Society Meeting in June at St. Stephen’s Episcopal. It was great to share the lessons and activities we do here at Starry Sky Austin with them. I asked everyone, “What inspired you to love space and astronomy?” What a great experience to hear everyone’s responses. From mentors and friends who shared their passion with members when they were young to teachers in school, everyone had their story to share. One member brought his father who has worked at NASA for years on various missions and had interesting stories to tell. The AAS is a passionate group of people, eager to share their knowledge with Austin and the surrounding communities! See what they have going on at  http://austinastro.org

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Speaking to Hill Country Astronomers

http://www.hillcountryastronomers.com

http://www.hillcountryastronomers.com

I spoke to the Hill Country Astronomers last night to share the work I have been doing with Starry Sky Austin and about the book. It was so nice meeting them. They do a lot of outreach in the Fredericksburg area, have helped Llano State Park with their Dark Sky certification as well as Enchanted Rock. I asked everyone, “What inspired you to love space and astronomy?” What a great experience to hear everyone’s responses. One member shared that he played hooky from class to go down to their school basement to hear the first sounds of Sputnik on their Ham radio. Another member grew up in Houston near NASA. They are a lovely bunch of astronomers! I hope to continue seeing them and helping them enhance their outreach offerings across the Texas hill country.

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Chile, Here I Come!

 

https://public.nrao.edu/aceap/

https://public.nrao.edu/aceap/

I will be traveling to Chile with the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program in June! Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a group of educator are chosen to travel to Chile, visit several major research observatories, learn about what they do and bring back what they learned to share with their communities. I am deeply honored to be chosen to go. Continuing to learn is such an integral part of being an educator. Seeing the Southern Hemisphere stars is a major one on my bucket list. I can’t wait to share what I learned with everyone! Seeing the Southern Hemisphere stars is a major one on my bucket list.

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What Stars Do I See Tonight? The Pleiades Cluster

https://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator/fitsimages/davidedemartin_5/

https://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator/fitsimages/davidedemartin_5/

The Pleiades Cluster is seen from fall to spring. Most people see 6 to 7 bright stars in a tight bunch. Some think they look like a little dipper, and so it gets mistaken for Ursa Minor, our little dipper, often. The Pleiades are a group of over 2,000 stars, all born from the same cloud of gas. They are called an open cluster.

Many cultures all over the world found them important. Some cultures watched the Pleiades to know when to plant and harvest.  When they were setting in the western sky in the spring, it was time to plant. When they started to rise in the easter sky in the fall, it was time to harvest.

The Japanese call them “Subaru”, just like the car. They see them as a group of doves. They are also known as “The 7 Sisters” according to Greek mythology or, “The Onion Women” from the Mono Tribe of central California. The Polynesians call them “Mata-Riki” or “Little Eyes”. According to the Polynesians, they used to be one star and made the brightest star in the sky. They were tricked by Sirius and Aldebaran who were jealous of the brightest star in the sky. Tane, a sky god, hurled Aldebaran at the bright star and broke it into six pieces.  Sirius now reigns over the winter sky as the brightest star with Aldebaran close behind.

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What Stars Do I See Tonight? Orion, the Hunter

https://cdn.spacetelescope.org/archives/images/screen/opo0205b.jpg

https://cdn.spacetelescope.org/archives/images/screen/opo0205b.jpg


Imagine yourself living many, many years ago in a time when there was no electricity. When night fell, you did not have 
electrical power to light up your home like we do today. Imagine yourself cooking on an open fire outside, and when the fire went out, you looked up to the sky, and saw bright shining stars. Cultures throughout history have looked up at the night sky and wondered about its origins. They made up stories to explain the shapes the stars make in the sky. We call these shapes, constellations. Each constellation is made up of a multitude of stars, each with their own unique story.

Orion begins to rise east in mid-evening from late November to early December. You can see it start to set in the west in mid-spring. Many cultures throughout the ages see this constellation as a hunter, but the Chinook tribe of the Pacific Northwest see it as two canoes chasing after a fish in the river. What some see as Orion’s belt is the big canoe, made up of the three brightest stars closest together. What some see as his sword is the small canoe, just below his belt. The brightest star in Orion is the fish they are chasing after.

The bright red star in the upper righthand corner of the picture is named Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse is a red giant star that is 700 times bigger than our Sun! It will end its life after burning all its fuel of Hydrogen and Helium and explode in a supernova. When it explodes, it will be so bright that we can see it during the day!

The bright blue star in the lower left of the picture is Rigel. It is the brightest star you can see in Orion. Rigel is blue-white in color and is about 75 times bigger than the Sun. The red glow you see in the lower middle of the picture is where you find the famous Orion Nebula. A nebula is a place where stars are born from giant clouds of gas and dust. You can see the nebula with binoculars or a small telescope.

Now that you know all about Orion, go outside on a clear night, look up at the sky and practice finding the constellation and its brightest stars. 

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Texas Night Sky Festival

Come to the Texas Night Sky Festival Saturday, March 18th. Entry is free! Come experience the educational booths with hands-on activities, two inflatable planetariums, speakers, music, food, a silent auction and displays of poetry contest and art contest winners from around the area. When night fall, observe the stars with the Austin Astronomical Society.

 

It is a great event for all ages. Support keeping our night sky dark!

 

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