Jul 062012

From the International Dark-Sky Association:

PBS Documentary ‘The City Dark’ Explores
Problems of Light Pollution

04 July 2012. TUCSON, AZ – Beginning 5 July 2012 the Public Broadcasting Service
will start airing The City Dark, a documentary that explores the problems of light
pollution and the disappearance of stars from the night sky.

For nearly two and a half decades the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has
been working to sound the alarm concerning many of the issues brought up in the
film while advocating for greater controls of nighttime lighting. IDA Executive
Director Bob Parks says, “We are delighted to see Ian Cheneyʼs film get a national
stage and hope that, before too much longer, many of the issues raised in the film
will be behind us. The good news is that with awareness, light pollution is an easy
problem to solve.”

Astronomy, ecology, human health, crime and economics are some of the topics
explored in the film which follows filmmaker Ian Cheneyʼs personal exploration of the
impact of light at night as he asks “Do we need the dark?” The film covers various
aspects of light at night and features noted experts in their respective fields including
astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, writer Timothy Ferris, cancer researcher David
Blask, and many more.

Director Ian Cheney says, “We are thrilled to present The City Dark on PBS’
amazing series POV, and what better week to air than the week of July 4th; perhaps
the fireworks can serve as a reminder of all that glitters in an unpolluted starry sky,
and encourage us all to do what we can to protect the night. We are indebted to our
partners like the International Dark Sky Association for taking the lead in combating
wasteful night pollution, and grateful for our viewers for tuning in and enjoying the

For more on the film, to check local TV listings and to explore background
information on the topic, visit the PBS website http://www.pbs.org/pov/citydark/. The
PBS POV website will be streaming (in the U.S. only) the film online.
The International Dark-Sky Association, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, was
founded in 1988 to promote environmentally responsible outdoor lighting and the
preservation of the night sky. IDA educates communities and individuals to use only
the amount of outdoor lighting necessary, only when necessary and to direct it to the
ground where it is needed. Among its efforts, the organization provides information
brochures, workshops, a model lighting ordinance, manages a night sky
conservation program, and awards the distinguished IDA Fixture Seal of Approval to
applicants with lighting fixtures that are dark-sky friendly.

Oct 282011

Sunspots viewed in white light from the Stuhlinger Solar Telescope

On October 15, the Von Braun Astronomical Society held its annual Astronomy Day events. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle was on hand to kick-off the rededication of our facilities with a ribbon cutting. This year’s event was considerably larger than previous events; several estimates put the attendance around 800. We had activities starting at 1:00 PM through 10:00 PM. There was plenty to see and do for all ages, including a “moonbounce” for the young ones (or the young at heart). In addition to all the activities we had during the day, we were lucky to have some sunspots to look at this year (the sun has been pretty quiet the last few years).

Also, on hand was Ted Paludan, one of the founding members of VBAS (at the time, the Rocket City Astronomical Association) who was interviewed by Steve Doyle of the Huntsville Times. Steve’s article can be found at this link: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/10/von_braun_astronomical_society.html as well as many of the photographs taken by Bob Gathany.

Steve Doyle of the Huntsville Times interviewing one of the VBAS founding members, Ted Paludan

Following all the daytime activities and planetarium shows there were throngs of people anxiously waiting to look through the 16 and 21 inch telescopes in our observatories, plus the several telescopes out on the observing field. Most of the attendees had a fantastic time looking at the universe through our telescopes. Those that hung around until Jupiter cleared the trees really had a treat to take home with them that night.

Megan Beattie led the charge on this year’s very successful Astronomy Day event. She held several meetings beginning this summer and had lots of help, including Melissa Snider, Richard Norman, Gena Crook, Al Reisz, Tom Burleson, Roy Young, Doug Horcek and many more. In addition to the planning and logistics associated with such an event, we had to have the facilities cleaned up, so a major effort was undertaken to get things spruced up. There were so many folks that helped with getting the facilities ready for our grand-reopening that it would be hard to list them for fear of missing someone. Needless to say, our facilities would not look as good as they do were it not for the effort of many dedicated members and several non-members. Mimmo Demartino, Director of Facilities choreographed much of the efforts of the volunteers and has kept up with all the projects and their progress which he has listed in the facilities news section of our website at: http://www.vbas.org/index.php/facilitiesnews

Thanks go out to all the VBAS members, family and friends of members and all the friends of VBAS who helped with this year’s Astronomy Day event. It could not have been the success it was without your help and dedication. It was an…astronomical effort.

Aug 282011

The night of August 27 proved to be one of the better Saturday nights of the summer for observing. The temperature was pretty warm during the day, but a strong northerly breeze helped keep the humidity and haze low. Earlier in the week I had made plans to set up my telescope and support the observing effort after the Saturday night planetarium show since it looked like the weather was going to be decent. I also hoped to get the chance to use the Society’s MallinCam with my scope. In order to facilitate connecting the MallinCam to my Meade 8 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, I asked Richard Norman to bring his focal reducer if he intended to be there on Saturday evening. (My Schmidt-Cassegrain is an f/10, so its focal length is pretty long and why a focal reducer was needed.) Luckliy for me, Richard was there on Saturday night with his case of adapters, extension tubes and a couple focal reducers.

After setting up and balancing my scope we waited for the end of “civil twilight”, which Doug Horacek announced was going to be at 7:46 pm. I made the comment that at that point “uncivil twilight” would begin, to which there was a mild response of laughter from those within earshot. Once darkness fell, I was able to polar align my Orion Atlas EQ-G mount and make a three-star alignment. It was time to hook up the MallinCam and set our sights on M101 in Ursa Major in hopes of spotting the Type Ia supernova PTF11kly that had only been discovered in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) a few days earlier. Continue reading »