Skywatch for the week of November 4 , 2019
Wed Nov 6, 2019 PLANETARIUM SHOW: THE SUN, OUR LIVING STAR This weekend at Indian River State College, we’ll present a planetarium show called, “The Sun, Our Living Star.” This show provides audiences with an up-close, safe view of our sun, a beautiful example of sustained and controlled thermonuclear fusion which makes all life on earth possible, at least for the next few billion years! Performances will be held at 6 pm and 7:30 pm on Friday, November 8, and on Saturday the 9th at 1 pm and 2:30 pm. And on Friday night, the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society will be on hand to provide guided telescopic views of the moon and the planets Jupiter and Saturn, weather permitting. Tickets are on sale at the IRSC Box Office on our Fort Pierce campus. Call the Box Office today at 462-4750, or from Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties call toll free: 1-800-220-9915. The Box Office is open between 11 am and 3 pm Monday through Friday.
Thu Nov 7, 2019 BRAIN BOWL QUESTIONS Indian River State College recently held a “brain bowl” for its students, who compete to answer questions on music, art, literature, history, geography, philosophy, math and science. In honor of the brain bowl, here’s a quiz for you: Where is the Sea of Serenity? What is Newton’s Third Law of Motion? What’s the tallest volcano in the solar system? Which star is closest to earth? What is New Horizons? Here are the answers: The Sea of Serenity is a dry lava basin on the moon. Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The tallest volcano is fifteen-mile-high Mt. Olympus on Mars. The nearest star after the sun is Proxima, part of the Alpha Centauri system, 25 trillion miles away. And New Horizons is a spacecraft that was launched toward Pluto; it reached this distant world a few years ago and sent back incredible images of Pluto and its moons.
Fri Nov 8, 2019 EDMUND HALLEY’S BIRTHDAY Edmund Halley, the astronomer, mathematician and scientist was born on November 8th, 1656 near London. Now on the day of his birth, the calendar over his bed would have read October 29th, but when England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, eleven days were lost and his birth-date was changed over to November 8th. Halley himself had died ten years before this conversion, but then again he also missed seeing the comet (that was named for him) return in late December of 1758. Halley had seen it in 1682, and after pestering Isaac Newton to write the equations he needed to solve the comet’s orbit and predict its return, he said he hoped that posterity would record that an Englishman had made the prediction. Incidentally, if you missed seeing the last appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1986, then you’ll want to hang around for its next apparition in the year 2061. I
The American astronomer Fred Whipple was born on November 5th, 1906. As a young graduate student he helped to plot the orbit of the newly discovered planet Pluto, and in the 1930’s he showed that meteor showers are the result of particles shed from passing comets. But he is best known for his work in comet theory: in 1950, he came up with the basic model for comet composition that is still in use today. It’s called the “dirty snowball” theory, and it proposes that comets are basically big chunks of frozen ice, mostly water ice, with lots of rocky pebbles and dust grains mixed in. When a comet approaches the sun, these ices melt or sublimate and form an atmosphere or coma, around the comet nucleus; the solar wind and the pressure of sunlight blow this atmosphere out into a long comet tail. When the Giotto spacecraft flew by Halley’s Comet and imaged its 20-mile-wide nucleus during the comet’s last appearance in 1986, it confirmed his theory.