Observatory ‘making progress’ on system to ‘capture bright meteors’
We are now in year 20 of serving the communities of Western Connecticut, supporting science education, student projects, adult education, and offering the great pleasure of witnessing the wonders of the night sky.
We are also entering in the 15th year of our monthly public event, Second Saturday Stars.
More than 160 presentations have been done by the team covering a wide array of topics regarding astronomy, health assessments of our home planet, historic discoveries, future plans to explore the universe, and much more.
We now feed them live in HD to our YouTube channel, so your friends and extended families can watch these talks at their convenience. Check them out.
In December, we mentioned the upcoming test flight to the International Space Station of an unmanned Boeing Starliner spaceship.
As you likely have heard, it was not “mission accomplished.”
The spacecraft’s internal clock appears to have become unsynced with the mission plan, and so the Starliner failed to autonomously fire its engines at the correct time to drive it accurately to the space station.
The ISS linkup was thus canceled, and the vehicle returned to earth and landed safely, and has been checked out as being intact.
What was accomplished was the vast number of things that went very well. This is the nature of space vehicle testing.
These are incredibly complex machines. Planning for a next attempt is underway, pending completion of investigations of the cause of the clock issues.
On the home front, observatory volunteers are making fine progress on developing a system to capture bright meteors and do detailed analysis of the trajectories of their path through earth's atmosphere, and then calculating their landing area.
This is being done in a number of networks in multiple countries, but mostly by government teams. We are setting out on our own.
We have a wide-field camera on the roof and a camera controller in place, designed and built by a JJMO volunteer.
It has been installed and tested well for over a year.
We installed a dedicate computer to capture, analyze and archive data from the camera, and have just acquired the software that is claimed to manage the whole process well.
When that is all in place and fully tested, we plan to install a second site about 25 miles away so we can combine data when they both capture trails of the same meteor.
When that occurs, we will be able to calculate the whole trajectory so we can predict landing sites.
The holy grail in this endeavor is to be first to the fall zone and harvest lots of meteorites. They can be very valuable.
Oh, and by the way, finding these will add to meteoritic science and create enthusiasm from other locations to join in our network. There is no such network in or near New England.
We would love to be the first to initiate such a network in our region — an exciting venture for us.
Lots of fun work ahead, and we hope to have students involved.
We don't have a set timetable, but we have a track record of getting things done.
Several years have been invested in the technologies to date, so we are not starting at the beginning.
We are one step ahead of Starliner - our clocks that timestamp meteor events are supremely accurate.
Meanwhile, Blue Origin and Virgin Atlantic are working hard to take people into space this year.
Good news on the technology front at your observatory: with a new computer to control the HD camera used for the meteorite specimens mounted in our professional microscope, and a new very high resolution projector, we will be able to display the many meteorites on out giant screen in very high definition, and much brighter.
Our Second Saturday Stars presentations will also be in full HD.
Lots of wonderful things to observe in the winter sky, with Orion being the most amazing, and Venus very high in the west for many weeks ahead.