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Skywatch for the week of September 26, 2022

Skywatch Monday 9-26-2022.mp3


There is a bright star in the northwest after sunset tonight: it’s called Arcturus, which means, “bear guard” or “bear chaser,” because the Earth’s rotation causes this star to follow or chase the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear in the Sky. You’ll recognize part of the Great Bear as the Big Dipper. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the night sky; it’s about 36 light years away – that’s roughly two hundred and sixteen trillion miles from earth - in the constellation Boötes, the Shepherd. This is an agricultural constellation that ancient farmers used to keep track of when to plant and harvest the crops. In the springtime, Boötes can be found in the eastern sky after sunset; now, half a year later, the shepherd has gone over to the other side of the sky, a celestial reminder of harvest time.

Skywatch Tuesday 9-27-2022.mp3

Tue Sep 27, 2022 TCAS MEETING

There will be a meeting of the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society this Tuesday evening, at 7:30 p.m. It will be at the Science Center on the main Fort Pierce campus of Indian River State College, right next to the Planetarium. Many of the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society members own at least one telescope, but if all you have is a pair of binoculars, or even just an interest in the sky and astronomy, then this is the club for you. Each meeting features astronomy lessons and highlights different constellations. The Society also helps out at planetarium shows by letting visitors look through their telescopes to see such cosmic wonders as the moon, the planets and the stars. So once again, the meeting is in the N117 classroom, just down the hall from the Planetarium, at 7:30 this evening at the IRSC Science Center here in Fort Pierce.

Skywatch Wednesday 9-28-2022.mp3


People bring me rocks from time to time, wanting to know if they might have found a meteorite. Before you decide to bring it in for me to look at, here are a few simple observations you can make to figure out if what you’ve got is a meteorite – or a meteorwrong. First, is the rock unusually heavy for its size? If not, then it’s probably not a meteorite. Now if it is heavy, get a magnet and see if it sticks to the rock. If not, then again, not a meteorite. Are there little holes in it, called vesicles? If yes, then it’s not a meteorite – those vesicles are usually caused by gas escaping from molten rock as it rapidly cools, and meteorites cool too slowly for that to happen. If it passes those tests, bring it in and I’ll try to help you find out if it truly is a rock from space. E-mail me at

Skywatch Thursday 9-29-2022.mp3


Even if you’ve never had a science class, you still probably know this one little formula: E equals m c squared. On September 30,1905, that amazing equation was introduced to the world when Albert Einstein published it in his theory of special relativity. And in so doing, Einstein showed us how the sun has been able to shine steadily for all these years. There once was a lot of disagreement about how the sun produced so much energy. One theory was that meteor bombardment heated it and made it glow. Another theory was that it was burning like an immense lump of coal. The best theory suggested that the sun had once been as large as the whole solar system; as it shrank, it produced heat. None of these theories worked. But by invoking nuclear fusion, where hydrogen is fused to make helium and a lot of energy, Einstein solved the problem.

Skywatch Friday 9-30-2022.mp3


On Saturday, October 1st – that’s tomorrow – there will be a free open house at the Hallstrom Planetarium on the Fort Pierce campus of Indian River State College. At 6 pm I will be giving a talk about the current night sky in the planetarium theater, and I’ll also play a few trailers from our upcoming shows, including Red Planet Rising, which is all about the planet Mars. And after the program, we’ll provide telescopic views of the moon and the planets Jupiter and Saturn - weather permitting of course - courtesy of the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society and our student club, Hallstrom Astronomy Society. Oh, and now we have a gift shop too! I’ll see you at the Planetarium at 6 pm tomorrow. No tickets are needed, the talk and the telescope viewing are free.