Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Abandoned Observatory In Westford – By Guest Host: William Duane

April 30, 2019

Sputnik Observatory Figure 2

Sputnik Observatory Figure 1

By William Duane:

I left a message for the owner, Russell LeDuke who was nice enough to call me back with the details which he knew.

The observatory was originally built in 1957 or 1958 at Loral Corporation in Lexington, Massachusetts, where Russell worked.  The observatory was built as part of the program to monitor Sputnik!

Russell said that originally the dome was much closer to the ground, and the entrance door was only 4-foot tall or so.  He stated that the observatory was originally on a square pad, with a large concrete pier in the center.  I asked if the observatory was originally used as a optical or radar observatory to monitor Sputnik, but Russell didn’t know.

Over the years the observatory fell into disrepair, and was used for storage.  Around 20 years or more ago, Loral was looking to get rid of the observatory, and Russell was interested. He reached an agreement with Loral to acquire it.

After helping to clean up the site, Russell dismantled the observatory and dome into segments and transported them to his property in Westford.  He said that he dismantled the observatory and transported it over a weekend.  When he returned to Loral after the weekend, he was told that he had ruined the pool at work.  It took a while for him to realize that they were running a betting pool on how long it would take him to dismantle the observatory and remove it.  The pool was running at around a week, when he was able able to do it over the weekend.

Russell originally owned part of the land where the Avalon Acton now stands.  He re-assembled the observatory further up the hill from where it now stands, and had to move it when he sold that land to the Avalon project.

Russell stated that the wood at the bottom where the structure sat on the pad had started to rot, so he cut off the bad wood with a chain saw, and built a the new bottom portion raising it from the original 4-foot to the current 8-foot height.  After re-assembling the observatory he has used it as a garden shed.

Russell said that if someone is interested in the observatory or dome they should contact him.  He stated that the dome still rotates, and that he has the motor and possibly other parts.  He also said that he was fine with people stopping to look at it, and recommended parking at Avalon Acton just above the dome and hiking down the hill to take a look.  He was fine with me passing on his contact information:

Russell LeDuke  (978) 263-7518

Sputnik Observatory in Westford

 

NGC 6482 – Galaxy in Hercules – July 2019 Observer’s Challenge Object

April 30, 2019

In an attempt to observe the July Observer’s Challenge object, galaxy NGC 6482, a bit early to avoid the heat and high humidity of June and most of the summer months, here in the foothills of North Carolina:  

Telescope: 10-inch f/4.5 reflector.  I went out last night at about 2:00 AM (May 30th) only to find a not so transparent sky, with a NELM of about 4.6, temperature 55º and with 99% humidity.  The high moisture mixed with high-pollen created a bright sky for sure!

However, while outside, I thought I’d make the best of it and give the galaxy a try.  At 2:00 AM the object was still too low in the east, but I wanted to find the “spot” and work on the object.  At about 3:30 it was high enough to get serious.  At 5:00 AM, I called it quits, as the sky was beginning to brighten.  This might be a difficult object from my backyard with a 10-inch reflector.   

Observing NGC 6482 with a 6-inch reflector?  Luginbuhl  & Skiff 

From the “Observing Handbook and Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects” by Luginbuhl and Skiff:  “A mag. 13 star is closely involved with this galaxy, making observation difficult in 15 cm.  With 25 cm the galaxy is small and pretty faint, the mag. 13 star lying just W of center.  It seems slightly elongated E-W……” 

The following Notes and image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts, 32-inch telescope:

NGC6482, is a small lenticular galaxy.
I can see why the visual observer would have difficulty….due to having a star just off center of the galaxy center, and just as bright!   So…the slightly fainter outer galaxy would be hard to see by the contrast, a bit of sort or similar to the blinking planetary. 
I had to do some special processing to enhance the star, and slightly de-enhance the galaxy so both can be seen.  Mario Motta 

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NGC 6482:  Observation Notes and Sketch by Sue French:

I  took a look at NGC 6482 on Friday, May 24 at 12am EDT with my 254/1494mm (10-inch f/5.8) Newtonian.  The seeing was below average, and the transparency was fair.

At 43× NGC 6482 is just a little fuzzball.  It dangles beneath (south of) the base of a slender, 6.3′-tall trapezoid made by four 11th-magnitude stars.  At 115× the galaxy presents an oval glow tipped northeast by east and sports a superimposed star near the galaxy’s center.  The sketch was made at 187×, at which this petite galaxy wears a fainter fringe and appears roughly 0.7′ long.  The galaxy showed no core, and I’ll be interested in finding out whether anybody else spotted one.  Perhaps the proximity of the superimposed star hid the core, or maybe one would show if viewed higher in the sky.  It was about 52° above the horizon when I observed it.   Sue French 

 

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NGC 6482:  Information/notes provided by Tom Reiland 
 
 I found my observation of NGC 6482 late last night/early this morning. It’s almost 40 years old.  I thought that it would be more recent than that. The date was June 22/23, 1979 at 12:48 AM EDLT (Eastern Daylight Later Time).  I was using my 6-inch f/6.6 Newtonian at 50X, 80X and 120X.  
 
My notes show that it appeared to me as being. dim, compact, starlike, roundish/oval, very small and white.  I was using the Meade 20 mm (1.25″) eyepiece, a 12.5 mm eyepiece and a 2.4X Barlow with the 20 mm.  Seeing was poor at a rating of 2 on a scale of 0 to 5.  Transparency was variable with a rating of 4 at its best until clouds moved in after 2:12 AM.
 
I plan on checking it out with the 21-inch the next opportunity I have to observe at Wagman Observatory.
 
Tom Reiland 

Memories From The Past: It’s Important For Everyone To Make Notes, To Preserve Our Past And History Through Our Writings – Roger Ivester

April 21, 2019

April 21st 2019:  Easter Sunday 

After church, Debbie and I had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Boiling Springs.  We had a wonderful lunch and then decided to take a drive out into the country on this beautiful afternoon…mostly upper Cleveland County, where I spent my time as a kid, and adolescent.

Lunch at the Italian Garden:

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First Stop:  A hidden pond not far from Polkville.  I found out about this pond in the spring of 1968.  I was sick one morning and my cousin, Steve Ivester, must have been sick also.  

However, we both must have started feeling better, as Steve came by to pick me up for some fishing at several local ponds.  

It was absolutely amazing, but my headache was miraculously now gone, and I was suddenly feeling great!  I was too young to drive, but Steve had his drivers license and a car!     

The first was the hidden woodland pond, pictured below, which I never knew existed and have not been back since…until today!!!    

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Second Stop:  The creek where my brothers and I spent many hot summer afternoons, when I was “really” young.  Note the pillars on each side.  This was where the original bridge crossed the creek on Tan Yard Road.  When I was a little kid, this tiny creek seemed like a raging river.  

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Third Stop:  The Tan Yard Cemetery, which has many old graves, some of them being my ancestors. 

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On May 5th 1989:  

Upper Cleveland County and many other adjoining counties encountered an F4 tornado (an F5 tornado is the most powerful category)  that destroyed many homes and causing much damage.  There was also many injuries and a few deaths.  

The following is a hole in a mortar joint at Kistler’s United Methodist Church, just off the Lawndale-Casar Highway.  

The tornado came very close to the church, but for most part, damaged only the steeple.  

Amazing!  but the tornado seems to have split into two separate funnels, and spared the church from its complete fury.  A splinter from a piece of wood, propelled by the tornado, penetrated the mortar joint by 3/4-inch, as my car key illustrates.   

The splinter remained in place for the longest time, until someone pulled it out.  

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In what I called the weedy field (pictured at the bottom) was just to the west of my childhood home, and is the place I made my first astronomical observation in the fall of 1966, at the age of 13.  I used  my brother Jim’s, small equatorially mounted 60 mm refractor telescope.      

This spawned my interest in astronomy.  I’ve been a serious student ever since and have quite a few published astronomy articles.  

And purchasing many telescopes over the years, however, at this time, I’m down to only five.  

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In 2009, I became the co-founder of an international observing report, which celebrated 122 consecutive reports as of March, 2019.  At that time it was called the Las Vegas Astronomical Society Observer’s Challenge report.

My co-founder in this development and endeavor was/is Fred Rayworth of Las Vegas.  

In about 2012, I was fortunate to have been able to facilitate a $50,000 telescope and robotic mount to the Las Vegas Astronomical Society.  The donor was a North Carolina doctor, Dr. James Hermann, MD of Lincolnton.  

This telescope is now operational on top of Mount Potosi in Southern Nevada,   only thirty miles SW, but quite a few mountain peaks from the lights of Las Vegas.  

Both Debbie and I were given honorary lifetime memberships to the Las Vegas Astronomical Society for this facilitation.  An article concerning was featured in Astronomy Magazine, several newspapers, including the Las Vegas Review Journal and other publications.   

https://rogerivester.com/2016/12/04/mount-potosi-observing-complex-las-vegas-astronomical-society-an-aerial-photo-by-james-yeager-pilot-american-airlines/

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Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated?   For me, I was at the ball field at Polkville School.  

At that time it was 1st thru 5th and then 9th thru the 12th grade.   On that fateful day, Friday, November 22nd 1963 @ 12:30 PM EST, or 1:30 PM EST.  

I was in the 5th grade, and with my classmates, playing near the ball field backstop.  When we when inside, the story of the assignation was playing on a walnut colored “wooden” speaker in the corner of Mrs. Elliott’s classroom.  We were all looking up at the speaker, as if it were a video.  

The following is a “current photo” of the backstop where my 5th grade class had been playing at recess, before coming inside to hear the news of the events in Dallas, Texas. 

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It was November 1965, and my oldest brother Richard, took me, my brother Phillip, and Charles Hicks (Richards brother-in-law…and a person I’ve always admired) to the drive-in to see a Nascar movie, titled “Red line 7000.”  

It became really foggy on our trip back home.   

When we turned up the hill heading toward Lawndale on Shelby Road, we saw spotlights and emergency vehicles on the left, just beyond the crest of the hill.  

There was a yellow Piper Club that had crashed, within 50 yards of the highway.  We stopped and found out the pilot was killed.  

If you look at the photo below, the plane crashed just beside the tree line, on the edge of the field.  Maybe just to the right of the largest tree and behind the two outermost fence posts.     

Charles (Charlie) Hicks would later have a distinguished career in the Air Force, flying A-10’s, Stealths and other fighter planes.  

If you will note in the photo of Debbie and myself having lunch:  I have a custom made A-10 label pin, made in England out of an English coin.  Charlie gave it to me when he was stationed in England, almost forty years ago.  

 

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My second witnessing of another Piper Cub crash:  I was about six or seven years old?  My daddy took me for a BBQ sandwich in Shelby.  The location was in the curve going north on highway 18, just beyond the hospital.  The BBQ restaurant had a circle “gravel drive” with curb service.  It was a favorite hangout for teenagers at that time.  Actually somewhat like the movie “American Graffiti” when cruising was the most popular thing to do.  

When we pulled into the restaurant drive…just on the other side of the road, there was a Piper Cub, standing right on its nose in a completely vertical position.  The pilot was killed.  It was said that he ran out of fuel, after departing the Shelby Airport.  

A photo of the crash location:  When looking across the road from “now” Bernhardt Furniture, the plane was vertical in the yard, between the two houses.  The year was about 1960-1961?  So I would have been in the first or second grade.  

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Airplane crashes, got me thinking…..

This got me thinking about the man who feel out of a DC-3, and falling into the cemetery at Zion Baptist Church.  Something I’d heard about for so many years while attending Polkville Elementary School.  (1959-1964)  

The date of the tragic event can be seen below:  June 13, 1956.  There are lots of stories that have been told about this, but the man “allegedly” opened the door and fell out.  No one will ever know the full story.   

Debbie and I had searched the cemetery this afternoon for the longest time, looking for the marker, indicating the exact location of where Mr. Pruett landed.  

Without any luck, we were leaving, but as luck would have it, we met Dennis Wright, and his granddaughter riding in a golf cart in the church drive.  Dennis has been a member of Zion Church for many years, and he and his granddaughter took us to the spot.

Dennis said that the church custodian “on that fateful day in June 1956” and heard the sound of Mr. Pruitt descending from the sky, and also the sound of his impact.  

I told Dennis what I was planning to do, and he commended me.  He was happy to hear what I was doing, which is recording local history.  

Dennis said:  “I’ve taught a men’s Sunday School class at this church for thirty years, and twenty of my class members are now in that cemetery.  And I’ve often told them how many untold stories lie in the cemetery.  I’ve encouraged them to write down their stories to pass-on to the next generation.”  Dennis Wright 

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Not necessarily a fond memory, but I remember being sick in the late 50’s and very early 60’s, visiting Dr. Edwards, who was my Great-uncle.  His office or practice was in Toluca, only a few miles from Belwood, just off highway 18.  

The rock building is still there, but as the photos indicate, it’s in really bad condition with the roof collapsing in many places.  The once waiting room has an open sky.

Note the front door in the second photo, which was the original door from at least the 50’s

I remember that alcohol and sanitary smell, and dreading that “most of the time” penicillin shot in my hip.  Ouch!  

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Next to come:  The “Delight Alligator” (Delight is a small community, mostly just a crossroads) between Polkville and Casar.  Yes, there was an alligator, about 7-8 feet in length in Paul Whisnant’s pond.  How did an alligator get in that fish pond?  A pond that my school bus traveled by so many times going to Polkville Elementary School, and back home in the evenings.  

And who would ever have thought that an alligator could live and apparently thrive in the upper foothills of North Carolina?  

I’ll write more about this, if I can find out more specific information.  

 

Beaver Dam Baptist Church and a falling tree: 

About twenty years ago while getting out of my car at Beaver Dam Baptist Church, near the cemetery, I noticed a granite marker under some oak trees.  It was a marker to locate the exact spot where a man named “David B. Green” was killed by a falling tree on January 20th 1925.  

I was told by a source today (May 12th 2019) that he had heard the following “alleged story” years ago:  

When the man cut the tree, it twisted on the stump and a large limb “apparently” hit him in the head causing his death.  

I’ve always found this marker very interesting, and on many occasions while coming and going over the years, would find myself stopping at the site and thinking about this event that happened 94 years ago this year (2019). 

The marker is located only fifteen-feet or so feet from Beaver Dam Highway, as shown in the second photo.  

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Please check back, much more local history to come.  I’m hopeful to add at least one new and interesting entry at least every couple weeks or so.   Roger Ivester

Historic Astronomical Landmark Sold For Scrape: But Now Great News! Supplemental Information Has Been Received. By Guest Host: James Mullaney

April 20, 2019
Guest Host Post Follow-Up: DOME MYSTERY SOLVED!

Good news!  This is concerning the historic observatory dome being scrapped I wrote about – sent from Phil Harrington below.  (CSC is the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.)  Now the remaining mystery is what dome did my friend from Pittsburgh see and sent a picture of when he went to Leo’s site last week?
My thanks to Phil Harrington for resolving this situation – and to my dear friend Roger Ivester for making his site available for this and all matters important to true amateur astronomy.   Jim Mullaney 

Hello Jim, 
Well, I posted a mea culpa to the group, licking my wounds as I went.  In hindsight, I should have looked at that photo more closely!  For one, Scanlon’s dome was aluminum and that other one is clearly rusty.  Also, I discovered an article in the Pittsburgh club newsletter from 2013 that says the Scanlon dome was saved.  
Phil Harrington 
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So now, what dome is this (as pictured below) which was originally identified as the Leo Scanlon dome?   Jim Mullaney 
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International Dark-Sky Association: https://www.darksky.org/

April 19, 2019

https://www.darksky.org/

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AMA Light Pollution Study Concerning Highway Safety and The Heath Hazards: By Guest Host, Mario Motta, MD, FACC

April 16, 2019

     I have been a light pollution advocate for many years. Certainly 30 years ago I was most interested in the skyglow that affects our view of the starry sky, and though that remains a major concern, I have since learned of the many medical, safety, and environmental concerns that are paramount. On an energy committee on my town, I was able to show that poorly lit intersections with severe glare by unshielded lighting had the highest accident rate.  

      Further review of published studies has shown that as the eye ages, it becomes much more sensitive to disability glare, impairing safe driving. That led to my 2009 AMA resolution that suggested that all streetlights be properly shielded to prevent such glare to make streets safer, allowing elderly to drive in the evening safer. This resolution is still cited by lighting companies.

     In 2012 knowing the research activities of many scientists in the world on the effects of night time lighting on human physiology, I invited 4 prominent researchers to help me write a CSAPH report “Light Pollution: Adverse health effects of Nighttime lighting”.

     This 27 page report with 134 peer reviewed references highlighted the adverse health effects of circadian rhythm disturbance. Suppressing melatonin production by excessive night lighting, especially blue light, leads to myriad health deleterious health effects. 

      The most stunning is an increase in certain endocrine related carcinomas. It is now well known that circadian disturbance causes a 15-20% increase in breast cancer rates, and a similar increase in prostrate cancers. Indeed, this past year (2017) the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Young, Rosbach, and Hall, the groundbreaking research that elucidated the biochemical pathways that lead to increased illnesses by melatonin suppression. Cancer rates, obesity, diabetes, metabolism issues, and immune system are all affected by melatonin suppression. The World health organization has even listed shift workers, who have repeated melatonin suppression as a “known Carcinogen, level 2”. 

      After the 2012 report came out there was some pushback from the lighting industry, however, in 2014 General Electric wrote its own “white paper” on this subject, and not only agreed with the AMA report, by liberally quoted from my report, stating that corporate policy would change to take note of melatonin production in its lighting policies and products. Shortly after that Apple developed a blue reduction in its phones and computers for late night. Many other companies have since adopted this practice. Again, with the Nobel Prize, and over 1000 peer reviewed papers, this now settled science! The last section of the 2012 report also raised the alarm that excessive outdoor blue light was also causing environmental harm, as all living creatures have a circadian rhythm, even one celled organisms!

      In the ensuing years the lighting industry has developed LED lighting with plans to replace all outdoor lighting with LED’s over the next 10 years, but were poised to use excessive blue producing 4000K LEDs. Given my 2012 paper, and many reports of environmental damage by excessive blue, I was able to move the CSAPH to let me lead on one more report “Human and Environmental  Effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting” adopted at the AMA annual 2016 meeting by the HOD. This particular report hit a nerve with the lighting industry. The report actually says however that we should indeed replace outdoor lighting with LED lights to save energy, but still shield all streetlights to prevent glare, that was widely accepted. The last resolve stating that blue light should be limited in outdoor lighting and streetlights should use low blue emitting 3000K or lower color temperature led to severe consternation in the lighting industry. 

     The issue was many companies were trying to sell 4000K lighting, as those were the first type of LED’s that were manufactured. They had inventory already made. LED lights use a blue LED and coat it to absorb the blue and re-emit at lower “warmer” color temperature, eg 3000K. 4000K lighting is 30-34% blue light. The 2012 paper and thousands of studies have already shown this is bad for humans and the environment in general.  The AMA report suggested no higher than 3000K. Nowadays, there is good 2700K lighting, and even 2400K lighting as well, and the trend is lower. There is evidence that high blue leads to severe insect, bird, and mammalian effects in nature. It has even been shown to affect salmon runs, and even plankton!

     When this AMA report came out it was hailed by researchers, and many cities paused to study it closely. They came to the same conclusion, and demanded warmer 3000k or even 2700K lighting. Many companies changed their products and are now thriving, others are still fighting.  

     To date most large cities now have adopted the AMA recommendation, and in fact some (like Toronto) state in their lighting that they are “AMA Compliant Lighting” !! To date, New York, Chicago, Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Georgia, Toronto, Montreal, and many others have changed their lighting plans and demand 3000K or lower. This is helped by the fact that wherever 4000K lighting was installed, citizens immediately complained about the harsh glare bluish light.

     Some cities such as Monterey and Davis in California even sued their cities, and demanded a switch to 3000K or lower. Just a few weeks ago (March 2019), the city of Seattle, an early user of 4000K lighting, announced that all 4000K lighting which was recently installed, will be removed and replaced by 3000K lighting due to multiple citizen complaints. 

     Any town contemplating installing LED lighting should take note of the fact that essentially everywhere 4000K and excessive lighting has been installed, they are universally detested and abhorred. Don’t make an expensive mistake and install this type of lighting.

      The 2016 report has in the words of many lighting engineers “revolutionized” the lighting industry. This would not have occurred without the AMA putting this report out there forcing lighting companies to address the human health and environmental effects of the lighting they produce. This would not have happened without our AMA report.

Mario Motta, MD, FACC  

https://www.mariomottamd.com/

 

 

Improving My Backyard Deck Into a Better Observatory, a Nice Comfortable Nook For Debbie and I. The New Privacy Fence and Storage Shed Shields Ambient Lighting When Using My Telescope.

April 12, 2019

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Back side close up: 

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New Shed for deck storage:

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Deck before renovation, modifications, and additions.  

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Now back to my privacy fence:   

The majority of my astronomical telescopic observing, for the past 35 years has been from my backyard deck.  It received a major renovation and enlargement about 15 years ago.  My NELM from this deck is normally about 5.0-5.2 on an excellent night.  On a cold and crisp winter night on occasion, the NELM can reach 5.5 at the zenith.  

For at least the past five or more years, I’d thought about adding a bit of privacy for both my observing and when my wife and I choose to just sit, relax, and talk.  

During the day, I can use my computer to write astronomy articles, emails to my many astronomy friends across the country and beyond. I can work on the Observer’s Challenge report, which just celebrated 123 consecutive months, as of April 2019.  

The Observer’s Challenge report is an international amateur astronomers report, which allows any and all serious amateurs the opportunity to share their observations…being notes, pencil sketches or images, of a predetermined  deep-sky object each and every month.  I co-founded this with the Las Vegas resident, Fred Rayworth of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society.  

Back to the privacy fence:   

The fence blocks the sun until late morning, and with Debbie’s new outdoor umbrella, we can enjoy it….should we choose.  The other day, it became a bit too warm, so we now have a fan that works extremely well.  So much breeze, that paper weights are necessary for books and related.  

On selected nights, when it’s clear and without a moon, I can use one of my many telescopes to observe deep-sky objects, galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters from this suburban deck.    

I also like to make eyepiece/telescope pencil sketches.  An example as following:  A few sketches of faint and distant galaxies.   

Rogers NGC-2300 Inverted

Rogers NGC-2964 Invereted

Rogers NGC-4236 Inverted b

Roger Ivester