Thursday, February 21, 2013

Optical Society of America Industry Snapshot Night

The AA OSA Optics & Photonics Industry Snapshot Night is next Tuesday, 26 Feb 2013.  Please plan on joining us, first for networking and food and then for the presentations and exhibits.  Also, mark your calendars for the particularly interesting talk next month by Dr. H. Philip Stahl of NASA Marshall SFC on "The James Webb Space Telescope: First Light Machine."

For more details see the Meeting Flyer

Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers

Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers is the monthly newsletter of the University Lowbrow Astronomers. Each issue contains eight pages full of late breaking astronomical news, information, reports, and club business. Most issues include several articles written by club members.

Many articles published in Reflections are available on-line, though many are not. The most recent issues are not available. The following is a list of Reflections articles that are on-line. (New articles are scheduled to be added in the near future).

If you are interested in reading all of the articles (included the most recent articles), you must join the club.

We are a diverse group of around 90 amateur astronomers, ranging from amateur telescope makers to professional rocket scientists (really!). Some of us just like to read, while others like to get out and observe or photograph the heavens. The bottom line is that we all have a more than casual interest in astronomy, and you do not have to be a student or alumnus of the University of Michigan to join! Whether you are a novice or a seasoned veteran, we hope that you will find us to be friendly, knowledgeable, and fun to be with.

To join the club, go to

Friday, February 8, 2013

Optical Society of America Meeting

On Wednesday February 13, the Optical Society of America (Ann Arbor Local Section) will hold a meeting. Dr. Yang Li of Rigaku Innovative Technologies will speak on “Thin-Film Silicon Solar Cells.” (Hosted by the Optical Society of America, 8:00-9:45 PM).

Meeting Flier.

Asteroid 2012 DA14

Next week the asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass close to the earth. As you can tell by the name, this asteroid was discovered last year. The orbit is about one year. At least for the time being, it will be passing close to the earth once a year.

The closest approach is on February 15th. It will not collide with the earth, but there is a very small possibility it could collide with one of our communication satellites (this is highly unlikely, but possible).

Observing the asteroid will be tricky, but possible.

For people living in Michigan, it will still be daylight at the closest approach. On the one hand the asteroid is brightest at closest approach (making it easy to see in a telescope), but it will also appear to be moving very fast (making it difficult to track). Once it gets dark in Michigan, the asteroid will be dimmer (but still very bright), and moving slower (but still quite fast and hard to track).

It is too dim to see with the unaided eye, but it will very bright in a telescope.

Since the asteroid will be close to the earth, there is a large parallax. In other words, the exact location of the asteroid will depend on your observing location.  If you use the NASA Horizons interface at you can get an ephemeris for your location. This will show the position of the asteroid in right ascension and declination (RA and DEC) at different. When using this interface make sure you set your observing location correctly, I would suggest generating an ephemeris with time steps of 15 minutes.

The Best Conjunction of 2013

Tonight we have the best conjunction of the year!

A conjunction is where two astronomical objects are close together. In this case Mercury and Mars will be only 20 arc minutes apart - 2/3rd the diameter of the moon!

The east coast of the US is under a winter storm warning, but if you live in a location where it is clear, observing the conjunction is relatively easy, provided you have a good horizon to the west (that is there are no buildings or other obstructions in that direction). Wait until after sunset and use binoculars to look in the same direction of the setting sun. Immediately after sunset it will be too bright to see anything, but if it is clear at your location, Mercury and Mars should gradually become visible. Binoculars are not really necessary as both Mercury and Mars are visible without visual aids. It probably will take a few minutes, be patient. Mercury will set about one hour after the sun sets, after that the show is over.