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OUTREACH September 2006

September Meeting

          Oklahoma Space Alliance will meet at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 23 at the Koszorus' house in Norman. Prospective members are also welcome. Their house is at 514 Fenwick Court in Norman.
         To get the meeting either: (1) Take the Robinson Street west exit off I-35. Proceed west to 36th Street where you will turn left, and go south until you turn left on Rambling Oaks (about half a mile north of Main Street). Fenwick Court is the third street on the left. Tom's house is the last on the left side, or (2) Take the Main Street west exit off I-35, proceed west past the Sooner Fashion Mall, and turn right at 36th Street, and go north until you turn right on Rambling Oaks (about half a mile north of Main Street). Fenwick Court is the third street on the left. Tom's house is the last on the left side.

Minutes of September Meeting

            Oklahoma Space Alliance met on August 19 at Tom and Heidi Koszoru's house in Norman. Attending were Tom and Heidi Koszoru, Claire McMurray, John Northcutt, Tim Scott and Syd Henderson. Claire read an e-mail from Jim Plaxco about the NSS Space Settlement Calendar, which is holding a Space Settlement Art Contest, the winners to be placed in the calendar. The prizes for this need to be large enough to be worth the while of the artists. Tom suggested NSS come up with a donation of its own and sell votes. We will send $200 as soon as the logistics of where to send it is worked out.
      ISDC 2007 (the International Space Development Conference in North Texas) is assigning staff positions for the conference.
      Tim will ask George Whitesides and Joe Redfiedl about closing out the ISDC 2004 account.
      Rocketplane got half of a NASA contract to do a feasibility study for a rocket to service the Space Station. [I think SpaceX got the other half.]
      Chuck Lauer wants to bring his model of his spacecraft to Yuri's Night next year. This "model" is about the size of a small jet. April 12 falls on a Thursday, so we may want to do this on the following Saturday.
      We will try to meet in September at the Moore Library. Syd will call to make arrangements. [The Library was doing some remodeling and asked me to call back. When I did so, they told me that the room was still unavailable, so we are having the September meeting at the Koszorus' house.
     David Craig sent us two discs that he had recorded to DVD off the NASA website. One of these was on the early space race, and was really impressive but too long to watch at the meeting. Tom will duplicate the DVDs and distribute the copies at the September meeting.

Between-Meeting Activities

         Claire and Cliff McMurray are going to FenCon in Dallas, Texas and will help with the space programming. This is being done by members of the North Texas chapter of NSS which is hosting the 2007 International Space Development Conference, which is also in Dallas. Presumably, they will be promoting their conference at the convention.
         Syd went to the August 23 meeting of the Oklahoma Space Development Authority, but there isn’t much to report on it. Bill Khourie showed the board a prototype Lease Agreement for Spaceport Property. OSIDA is trying to get hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote space education.
         The celebration of the licensing of the Spaceport will not be until after the November election.

Calendar of Events

            September 22: Annular eclipse of the Sun in the South Atlantic.  It will also be visible shortly after sunrise in Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.  From a look at the map, it should come close to being annular at Ascension Island and Saint Helena.
            October 9: The Moon passes through the Pleiades starting around 8:00 p.m. CDT.
            October 11: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Authority Meeting, 1:30 p.m., location to be announced. Check their website, www.state.ok.us/~okspaceport/ or call 580-562-3500.
            October 17.Mercury is at greatest elongation this evening and is 24.8° from the Sun.
            October 21: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 2:30 p.m. Location to be announced.
            October 24: Messenger Mercury Probe's first flyby of Venus
            October 27: Venus is at superior conjunction.
            November 8: Mercury transits the sun’s disk.  Part of this is visible from the United States, but the best view will be from the central and southern Pacific.
            November 18: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 2:30 p.m. Location to be announced.
            November 25: Mercury is at greatest elongation this evening and is 24.9° from the Sun.
            December 14 (Morning): Geminid meteor shower peaks at an anticipated rate of 75 meteors/hour.
            December 16: [tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance Christmas Party. Location and time to be announced.
            January – February 2007: Rocketplane Limited expects to begin passenger flights.
            January-March 2007:  Approximate time takeoffs to space begin from Oklahoma Space Port.  [Very tentative.]
            February 2007 (maybe): Hayabusa begins its return to Earth.
            February 10, 2007: Saturn is at opposition.
            February 25 – March 2, 2007: New Horizons passes Jupiter on its way to Pluto.
            February 26, 2007: Rosetta asteroid probe flies by Mars.
            April 17 – 19, 2007: Launch of Chinese Chang’e 1 lunar probe.
            May 24 – 28, 2007: the 26th International Space Development Conference in Dallas, Texas, hosted by the National Space Society of North Texas. For more information, visit http://isdc.nss.org/2007. Contact e‑mail addresses are Ken Murphy at [email protected] and Carol Johnson at
[email protected].
            May 31, 2007: The asteroid Vesta is at opposition, 102 million miles from Earth, and is magnitude 5.4, which means it’s visible to the naked eye. It’s also brighter than the Uranus, which never gets above magnitude 5.7.
            June 5, 2007: Jupiter is at opposition.
            June 6, 2007: Messenger's second flyby of Venus.
            June 9, 2007: Venus is at maximum eastern elongation, 45.4° east of the Sun.
            June 19, 2007: Pluto is at opposition at magnitude 13.8.
            August 13 2007 Neptune is at opposition.
            September 2007: India will launch its lunar probe Chandrayaan 1. This craft will orbit the moon at an altitude of 60 miles for two years.
            September 9 2007: Uranus is at opposition.
            October 28, 2007: Venus is at maximum western elongation, 46.5° west of the Sun.
            November 9, 2007: Ceres is at opposition.
            December 24, 2007: Mars is at opposition with magnitude -1.6.
            January 15, 2008: Messenger's first flyby of Mercury.
            February 24, 2008: Saturn is at opposition.
            May 23 – 26, 2008: 27th International Space Development Conference. Location to be announced.
            July 9, 2008: Jupiter is at opposition.
            September 5, 2008 The ESA's Rosetta asteroid & comet probe passes by asteroid 2867 Steins.
            October 6, 2008: Messenger's second flyby of Mercury.
            October 2008: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is launched.
            Sometime in 2009: Russia sends sample return flight to Phobos.
            January 14, 2009: Venus is at maximum eastern elongation, 47.1° east of the Sun.
            March 8, 2009: Saturn is at opposition.
            August 14, 2009: Jupiter is at opposition.
            September 30, 2009: Messenger's third flyby of Mercury.
            January 29, 2010: Mars is at opposition with magnitude -1.3.
            June 2010: Hayabusa returns to Earth with a sample of asteroid Itokawa.  This will be the first asteroid sample returned to Earth.
            June 2010: Japan launches the Venus Climate Orbiter to Venus.
            July 10, 2010: The Rosetta comet probe passes asteroid 21 Lutetia.
            September 21, 2010: Jupiter is at opposition. This is the closest Jupiter will come to Earth in the next 20 years, about 370 million miles.
            December 2010: Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter arrives at Venus.
            Sometime in 2011: ESA launches the ExoMars Mars Rover.
            March 18, 2011: Messenger goes into orbit around Mercury.
            Sometime in 2012: Launch of the Space Interferometry Mission.
            Sometime in 2012: Russia launches the “Luna-Glob” mission which will deploy 13 mini-probes upon the lunar surface.
            March 3, 2012: Mars is at opposition at magnitude -1.2. This is the worst opposition for the next twenty years.
            June 6, 2012: Venus transits the Sun's disk.  The early part of this will be visible from the United States, but the full transit will only be visible from the western Pacific Ocean, eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and eastern Indonesia including New Guinea.
            June 2013: Earliest date for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.
            August 2013 (approximate): The European Space Agency/JAXA BepiColombo Mercury Orbiter is launched.
            August 2014 - December 2015: The Rosetta space probe orbits comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Early in this mission, it will release the Philae lander. The Rosetta probe web site is The Rosetta probe web site is www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Rosetta
            July 14. 2015: Projected date for the arrival of the New Horizons probe at the Pluto-Charon system.
            July 2016-2020:  The New Horizon probe visits the Kuiper Belt.
            August 21, 2017: The next total solar eclipse visible in the United States, on a pretty straight path from Portland, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.  St. Louis is the biggest city in-between.
            August 2019 (approximate) BepiColombo arrives at Mercury orbit.
            April 8, 2024: A total solar eclipse crosses the US from the middle of the Mexico-Texas border, crosses Arkansas, southern Missouri, Louisville, Cleveland, Buffalo and northern New England.
            August 12, 2045: The next total solar eclipse visible in Oklahoma.  This one is also visible in Salt Lake City, Denver, Little Rock (again), Tampa Bay and New Orleans.

Viewing Opportunities for Satellites (September 21 – October 21)

         NASA has dropped the International Space Station from the list of satellites covered by J-Pass, although they are still covered on the Orbital Tracking page via spaceflight1.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/. This only seems to give you data for a couple of weeks. J-Pass still covers unmanned satellites at science.nasa.gov/Realtime/JPass/.
         You can get sighting information at http://www.heavens-above.com/. Heavens Above allows you to get Station data for 10 day periods, and gives you a constellation map showing the trajectory of the satellite. If you go to the bottom of the map page, it will give you a really detailed map with the location at 10 or 15-second intervals, depending on detail. In fact, the detailed charts will even show you the tracks against maps of the constellations, which should help you if you are familiar with the night sky.
         Sky Online (the Sky & Telescope web site) carries station observation times for the next few nights at skyandtelescope.com/observing/almanac. Note that with the addition of the solar panels, the magnitude of the Space Station is now -1.0, making it brighter than all the stars other than the Sun and Sirius, and the planet Saturn as well. The Hubble Space Telescope is roughly magnitude 1.5, which is brighter than the stars in the Big Dipper, although, since it is lower in the sky, it is a bit more difficult to see.  
         Missions to the Space Station may change its orbit.
         Pass times are from Heavens Above

Station 9/23/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
5:50 a.m.            158°            29°*
5:51                   112              30
5:52                     81              19**
* Appears from Earth’s shadow
** Passes 0.5° above Saturn.

HST 10/9/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:27 a.m.            210°            18°
6:28                   192              24
6:29                   169              26
6:30                   145              24
6:31                   128              18

HST 10/10/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:25 a.m.            217°            20°
6:26                   198              27
6:27                   173              30
6:28                   147              27
6:29                   128              20

Station 10/11/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:10 a.m.           349°            38°*
6:11                     44              51
6:12                   100              31**
6:13                   114              16
* Appears from Earth’s shadow.
**Passes midway between Saturn and Regulus.

HST 10/11/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:24 a.m.           223°            21°
6:25                   204              28
6:26                   176              32
6:27                   149              29
6:28                   130              21

Station 10/12/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:10 a.m.           260°            29°*
6:11                   209              33
6:12                   175              21
* Appears from Earth’s shadow.

HST 10/12/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:23 a.m.           227°            20°*
6:24                   208              29
6:25                   179              33
6:26                   151              29
6:27                   131              21
* Appears from Earth’s shadow.

HST 10/13/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:21 a.m.           229°            22°*
6:22                   210              29
6:23                   182              32
6:24                   154              28
6:25                   136              21
* Appears from Earth’s shadow.

HST 10/14/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
6:20 a.m.           229°            22°*
6:21                   211              28
6:22                   184              30
6:23                   158              26
6:24                   141              20
* Appears from Earth’s shadow.

Station 10/17/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
7:55 p.m.           204°            16°
7:56                   187              31
7:57                   129              46
7:58                     88              35
Enters Earth’s shadow.

Station 10/18/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
8:17 p.m.           263°            21°
8:18                   294              36
8:19                   352              35
Enters Earth’s shadow.

Station 10/20/2006
Time               Position     Elevation
7:24 p.m.           251°            16°
7:25                   267              29
7:26                   320              44
7:27                     13              30
7:28                     30              16

         Key: Position is measured in degrees clockwise from north. That is, 0° is due north, 90° is due east, 180° is due south, and 270° is due west.  Your fist held at arm's length is about ten degrees wide. "Elevation" is elevation above the horizon in degrees. Thus to find the Hubble Space Telescope at 8:19 p.m. on October 18, measure about four fingers west of due north, then three and one-half fists above the horizon.
         In addition to the J-Pass program which I use to provide this satellite viewing data, J-Pass provides a service called J-Pass Generator, which will e‑mail you sighting information for the next three days for up to ten satellites. For more information, go to science.nasa.gov/Realtime/JPass/PassGenerator/.

Discord in the Kuiper Belt as Pluto is Dwarfed

         This last month has been an eventful one for astronomical nomenclature. On August 16, the International Astronomical Union proposed the following definition of a planet:

A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.

                This had some interesting consequences. First of all, it meant that not only “Xena” would become a planet, but it would be joined by the (former) asteroid Ceres and Pluto’s (former) moon Charon. (The center of gravity of the Pluto-Charon system lies between the two, so Pluto and Charon would have been considered a double planet. Pluto and Charon are also tidally locked, with one face of each eternally facing the other.) This meant there would be at least twelve planets in the solar system. It’s likely that some other asteroids are also rounded, notably Vesta, and some of the larger Kuiper Belt objects such as Quaoar, Sedna and Orcus. 2003 EL61 is apparently shaped like a giant M&M, so it would also qualify. It’s flattened because of its very rapid rotation, but is in hydrostatic equilibrium when that’s taken into account.
         The proposal startled astronomers, who were faced with the possibility of having to add another dozen planets in the near future. In fact, I have to wonder if Charon was included in the proposal to make sure it would fail. “Xena” was the only one of the candidate objects known to be bigger than Pluto, but there are at least five more bigger than Charon, and possibly many more.
         Another interesting consequence is that “rogue planets”—that is, planet-sized bodies which do not orbit a star, would not be considered planets. Some of these might be planets which were expelled from planetary systems by gravitational interactions; others might have formed in a similar way to a star, just without enough mass to be considered a star or brown dwarf.
         Faced with the prospect of a population explosion in the planetary population, the IAU on August 24 decided to solve the problem by reclassification. They passed this resolution:

The IAU...resolves that planets and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:
                (1) A "planet" [1] is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
                (2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [2], (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
                (3) All other objects [3] except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".

[1] The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
[2] An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either "dwarf planet" and other categories.
[3] These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.

        Under this new definition, Charon and Ceres are not planets, but neither is Pluto. However, I’m not convinced that this more than temporarily demotes “Xena” because it lies well beyond the Kuiper Belt, and may well have cleared the area out there. However, for the moment Pluto, Ceres and “Xena” are the three dwarf planets. This definition does not apply to planets orbiting other stars, and I don’t see how it could short of sending a probe to verify the planetary candidate is round and has cleared its neighborhood.  I expect this definition will have to be altered to take exoplanets into account. It’s also not clear what “clearing the neighbourhood” means. Earth has several co-orbital asteroids which sometimes become temporary satellites (see June Update), Jupiter, Neptune, Mars and presumably other large planets have asteroids at their Lagrangian points L4 and L5, and Pluto itself crosses Neptune’s orbit. However, common sense will probably apply within the Solar System, but that sort of definition could possibly cause problems if extended outside the Solar System.
         There is also the oddity that at least one dwarf planet, Pluto, has an atmosphere, if temporarily, and one planet, Mercury does not. Pluto also has one of the largest satellites in the Solar System, since Charon wasn’t reclassified for some reason. That’s another reason I don’t think the original inclusion of Charon as a planet was intended seriously.
         There is another odd problem. According to this definition, dwarf planets in the Solar System are not planets. By this logic, dwarf stars should not be stars. Not only would this eliminate white dwarfs and red dwarfs, it would also eliminate the Sun, which is a yellow dwarf star. Since dwarf stars are considered stars, and dwarf galaxies are considered galaxies, dwarf planets should be considered planets. The distinction should really be between classical planets and dwarf planets.
         Still, the classification does have the potential to become useful. We would have the hierarchy:
         Stars (supergiants, giants, dwarf stars, white dwarfs): These are large enough to fuse protons to make helium, or have done so in the past. Neutron stars would be a special class. Black holes are not stars.
         Brown Dwarfs: Star-like objects which are too small to fuse protons. There’s a little ambiguity on the borders between stars and brown dwarfs at one end, and between brown dwarfs and planets at the other. Brown dwarfs of mass greater than 13 Jupiters can fuse deuterium when they are young. Deuterium burns so easily that brown dwarfs deplete their supply in about 30 million years. The very largest brown dwarfs are hot enough to fuse lithium and hydrogen to make helium, but the lithium is depleted quickly. Once the deuterium is gone in the small brown dwarfs and the lithium in the large ones, they gradually cool off.
         (Classical-type) Planets and Dwarf Planets. Exoplanets could be of either type. If “rogue planets” are included, the definition provides no way to determine whether they are dwarf planets. Both planets and dwarf planets should have differentiated layers, which might be a useful criterion.
         “Small Solar System Bodies” can be extended to stellar systems. In our solar system, these would be (non-rounded) asteroids, smaller Kuiper Belt Objects, comets, Neptunian “Trojans” and Centaurs (icy planetoid like objects which orbit between Jupiter and Neptune), and Oort Cloud objects. Similar objects outside of a stellar system would need their own name.
         Any Small Solar System Body which is determined to be rounded by its own gravity would automatically be upgraded to dwarf planet. Here are some good candidates for upgrade:

         The Moon presents an interesting case, since it is round, and its orbit is so far out that it experiences more gravitational effect from the Sun than from the Earth, and it orbits closer to the plane of the ecliptic than to that of the Earth’s equator. The Moon’s path never doubles back around the Earth, so its dominant characteristic is the orbit around the Sun, with the orbit around the Earth a wave on the bigger orbit. For these reasons, Isaac Asimov wrote a book titled The Double Planet about the Earth-Moon system. The Earth-Moon system doesn’t fit the IAU’s definition because the center of mass of the system lies within the Earth. This definition has the advantages that, (1), it is intrinsic to the system, while Asimov’s could lead to similar systems being considered a double planet if it is close to its star and a planet-moon system farther out, since the attraction of the star falls off, and (2) it ensures that the smaller object is large compared with the larger.
         Gravitational force follows the famous inverse square rule according to distance, but tidal force, being a differential of the gravitational, follows an inverse cube rule. Thus the Moon and Earth affect each other more strongly through tidal forces than the Sun does either.

         Since the IAU had come to a decision regarding the status of 2003 UB313, it was time to come to a decision on its name and that of its moon. 2003 UB313 had been nicknamed “Xena” and its moon “Gabrielle,” after the characters on the television show Xena: Warrior Princess, but it was always clear the names would be changed to those of Greek Goddesses. Xena was one to some viewers, but that wasn’t enough for the IAU.
         On September 13, the dwarf planet was finally and officially named Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord. This was a bit surprising to me since I was expecting some god or goddess of the underworld, such as Proserpina. Kuiper Belt Objects are named after gods of creation, so perhaps Eris qualifies as the creator of chaos, or this may be the beginning of a new naming convention for dwarf planets. Eris is the daughter of Nyx, the Greek goddess of the Night. (Nyx was already the name of an asteroid, and Pluto has a small moon named Nix. The Latin equivalent, Nox, is still available for a dwarf planet.)
         The goddess Eris is best known for her reaction to not being invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. She tossed into the wedding party a golden apple labeled Kallisti, “to the most beautiful.” This caused a dispute between Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, who you’d think would have more sense. Paris of Troy chose Aphrodite, who bribed him by promising him the hand of the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Troy, who was already married to Menelaus, the King of Sparta. Helen’s abduction sparked the Trojan War.
         The moon “Gabrielle” was renamed Dysnomia after one of Eris’s daughters. Dysnomia means “lawlessness,” and the name is partly a tribute to Lucy Lawless, who played Xena. If there’s another moon, hopefully some way will be found to honor Renee O’Connor, who played Gabrielle.
         The Latin equivalent of Eris is Discordia, so this name was welcome to members of the Discordian Society. Discordia was also a goddess who appeared on Xena.

         A side effect of the reclassification of Pluto is that it now has a number. Ceres is 1 since it was the first member of the asteroid belt to be discovered and it apparently is going to keep that, so you sometimes see it referred to as 1 Ceres. Then there are 2 Pallas, 3 Juno, and 4 Vesta, and 10 Hygeia. The numbering also continues into the outer solar system, so that there are 2060 Chiron, 50000 Quaoar, 136199 Eris, and now 134340 Pluto. Apparently Eris didn’t get its number until it got a name. Charon still doesn’t have a number.

Sky Viewing

         On September 22, an annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible in parts of South America and the South Atlantic.
         On the evening of October 9, the Moon will occult the Pleiades. This begins around 8:00 p.m., Central Daylight time, and, since the Moon doesn’t rise here until 8:30 p.m., the very first part of the show will not be visible here. However the occultation takes several hours, and part of the interest is watching the Pleiades reappear from the dark limb of the Moon, which will take place when the Moon is higher in the sky. From Oklahoma, this is pretty much a dead-on occultation, so the Moon will completely cover the Pleiades.
         Mercury is currently too close to the Sun to be visible to the naked eye. This will change in early October, as Mercury approaches greatest elongation on the evening of October 16 and 17. Unfortunately, Mercury is well below the ecliptic at this time of year, which means it’s hard to see even during greatest elongation. Fortunately, at the same time Jupiter will be in the western sky, and Mercury will be 4° directly below Jupiter.
         Venus is low in the morning sky before dawn, only about 10° above the Sun. Although it’s magnitude -3.8, it will still be hard to see. On September 21, the Moon will pass in front of Venus. The Moon will be new at the time. Venus will be getting progressively less visible as it approaches superior conjunction with the Sun on October 27.
         Mars is only 5° above the horizon at sunset, hence invisible. Mars reaches conjunction with the sun on the morning of October 23 and will not be visible until the end of the year.
         Jupiter is magnitude -1.7 and 24° above the western horizon at sunset and is easily visible a little later. Jupiter will be getting lower in the sky throughout October, and will be hard to see at all at the end of the month. Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun in late November.
         Saturn is magnitude 0.5. It’s about 24° above the eastern horizon an hour before sunset. The bright star 10° below Saturn is Regulus in the constellation Leo. Saturn, which doesn’t move very fast against the constellations, was in the constellation Cancer from July 2005 until September 1 this year, and will be in Leo until August 2009. At the beginning of October, Saturn will be rising around 3:45 a.m., and will be rising around midnight by the end of October (with help from the time change). Since all the other bright planets will be close to the Sun, Saturn will be the most easily visible of all the planets.
         Uranus is magnitude 5.7, which means that it is theoretically visible to the naked eye. At sunset, it is about 15° above the horizon about 30° south of due east. It peaks at 45° above the horizon at about midnight. Uranus is only about half a degree below the 3.7 magnitude star lambda Aquarii. A 3.25 magnitude star, Skat, is about 8° below Uranus. The nearest really bright star is Fomalhaut, about 20° below Uranus. Since Uranus doesn’t move much against the stars, it will be within a degree below lambda Aquarii for all of October.
         Neptune is magnitude 7.8 in the neighboring constellation Capricornus, about two degrees north of the 4.25 magnitude star iota Capriconi and about 7° east of 2.8 magnitude delta Capricorni. Neptune is 26° above the southeastern horizon at sunset and makes it up to around 40° by 11:00 p.m.
         Pluto is only magnitude 14, and is about a degree below 3.53 Xi Serpentis, which is not even in the Zodiac. Pluto is just about on the boundary between Serpens Cauda and Ophiuchus, which isn’t counted in the Zodiac and should be. Pluto is about 30 degrees above the southwestern horizon an hour after sunset. It will be getting even harder to see toward the end of October as it approaches conjunction near the end of the year.
         Eris, the dwarf-planet-formerly-known-as-“Xena,” is magnitude 19 and in the constellation Cetus, where it will remain until late next year. It will be about 45° above the horizon at midnight in mid-October.
         You can get finder charts for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto on the Sky and Telescope website http://skytonight.com.

Exoplanets Revisited

         The October 2006 issue of Astronomy is a special issue dedicated to exoplanets, so this seems like a good time to revisit the subject, especially with the reclassification of planets within the Solar System.
         An exoplanet (or extrasolar planet) is a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun. Starless objects of a size that would otherwise qualify them to be planets do not fit the IAU definition of a planet, although they are often referred to as “rogue planets” or “interstellar planets.” It is quite possible for an exoplanet to have moons bigger than other planets. In our own solar system, Ganymede is larger than Mercury, although Mercury twice as massive. There is currently no provision to divide exoplanets into planets and dwarf planet, and if a candidate object is about the mass of Vesta, there seems to be no easy way of determining whether it is a dwarf planet or a smaller object. I suspect that if an object were more massive than Ceres but much less that Mercury it would immediately be labeled unofficially as a dwarf planet, although that term is currently restricted to the Solar System.
         Strictly speaking, the definition of planet would prohibit brown dwarfs from having planets. At least one brown dwarf, 2M1207, has a planetary mass companion. In this case, the companion is three times the mass of Jupiter, and I’ve seen it referred to as an exoplanet despite the definition.
         There are currently over two hundred known exoplanets. Of these, five are in orbit around pulsars. PSR B1620-26 has one planet with a mass 2.5 times that of Jupiter. PSE 1257+12 has four possible planets, the three largest of which were the first exoplanets to be discovered. These have masses of 0.02 Earths, 4.3 Earths and 3.9 Earths, and all are within half an astronomical unit of the pulsars. Since pulsars are supernova remnants, it’s a mystery how these planets could be there to begin with. The fourth possible planet is at most .04% of the mass of Earth, or about the mass of the dwarf planet Ceres. In our solar system, it would be on the borderline between dwarf planet and asteroid.
         At the upper limit, exoplanets verge on brown dwarf territory. Generally speaking, a sub-stellar object is considered a brown dwarf if it is between 13 and 75 Jupiters in mass, which is the range in which it can fuse deuterium in its youth, but not protons at any time. The exact limits depend on details of theories, so whether a substellar object whose mass is 12 Jupiters is a brown dwarf is partly guesswork. If the spectrum can be analyzed, that might solve it, since brown dwarfs would be light in deuterium, and all but the largest should contain lithium.
         Most exoplanets are detected by the Doppler shift their light produces in their primary. When two objects revolve around their common center of gravity, the wavelengths of their light are blue-shifted as they approach us and red-shifted as they move away. A large planet orbiting close to a fairly small star can produce a detectable Doppler shift in the star’s light. The period of the shift tells us the size of the planet’s orbit and the amount of the shift gives us some idea of its mass. However, this Doppler shift in itself doesn’t tell us the orientation of the orbit with respect to Earth, and the apparent mass is Msin (i) where M is the actual mass and i is the inclination to a face-on orbit. If i is small, sin(i) is close to 0, so the actual mass must be much larger than the observed mass. Thus, unless there is some other way of detecting the mass, it’s quite possible that a particular “exoplanet” might be a slumming brown dwarf. However, it is very unlikely that, out of two hundred candidates, most of which show an apparent mass much less than 13 Jupiters, that more than a small fraction are brown dwarfs.
         One way we can confirm that a candidate is an exoplanet is if passes in front of its star. The amount the star’s light is dimmed tells us the diameter of the exoplanet, and the fact that the candidate passes in front of the star tells us that i is, in fact, 90° and Msin(i) and M are the same.
         Of particular interest are planets orbiting G-class stars, since the Sun is type G2. F-class and K-class are also similar enough to the Sun to be of interest. Most known exoplanets orbit F, G and K type stars simply because those are the classes astronomers tend to concentrate on. M-class main sequence stars (red dwarfs) may be more likely to have planets, and quite possible that a lot of brown dwarfs have planets.
         The first G-type star (other than the Sun) known to have a planet was 51 Pegasi, which has a half-Jupiter mass companion orbiting every 4.2 days five million miles away from the star. This planet is informally named Bellerophon.
         The most prominent star having an exoplanet is beta Geminorum, better known as the first magnitude star Pollux. This planet is 2.3 times the mass of Jupiter and has and orbital period of 590 days. It orbits at a distance of 150 million miles from Pollux which is about the maximum distance from Mars to the Sun. Pollux b orbits faster because Pollux is more massive than the Sun, and should be warmer than the Earth since Pollux emits thirty times as much light as the Sun.
         Tau Boötis is an F-Type star 51 light-years away with a planet 4.5 million miles away with an orbital period of 3.3 days a mass greater than 7 Jupiters. Indeed this exoplanet is so close and massive that Tau Boötis is tidally locked to it.
         16 Cygni is a triple star system, the two brighter members of which both type G and slightly brighter than the Sun. The smaller of the two has a companion, 16 Cygni Bb, whose orbit has a semimajor axis of 156 million miles but which is otherwise very eccentric. The mass is about 1.68 Jupiters.
         Iota Draconis is a red giant with a planet about 110 million miles away in an eccentric orbit and a mass of 9 Jupiters.
         Upsilon Andromedae has three planets, one of which has an orbital period of 4.6 days and another of 1290.1 days. Five other stars (including the pulsar mentioned above) have three planets and 55 Cancri has four. More than a dozen are less massive than Neptune.
         Wikipedia has a list of exoplanets at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stars_with_confirmed_extrasolar_planets (although all you really have to do is go to Wikipedia and look up exoplanet.)
         The October Astronomy has a great chart showing the location of exoplanets, including such nearby ones as Epsilon Eridani b.

Space-Related Articles

         “The Great Milky Way Andromeda Collision” by John Dubinski, Sky & Telescope, October 2006, pp 30-36. The Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies are in highly elliptical orbits around their common center of gravity, and either this orbit or the next, they will collide, and we are entirely unprepared. The next close pass, and possible collision, is in about three billion years. The next pass, if it happens, would be five or six billion years later, so we do have some time to wait.
         So what will happen? Most likely, the two galaxies and maybe some of their satellites will merge to form an elliptical galaxy, losing their spirals to tidal effects. The result would initially look like Centaurus A, which would be alarming since Centaurus A has jets of matter shooting out of it at near the speed of light. Stars won’t collide, but if the central black holes will eventually merge, which will produce a massive output of gravity waves. If there is a lot of matter to be dumped on the black holes, it may produce a quasar.

Space E-Mail

         Claire McMurray forwarded me the following news release from the X‑PRIZE Foundation. Anousheh Ansari was launched into space on September 18, and is there as I write.

X PRIZE Foundation to Host Anousheh Ansari, First Female Private  Space Explorer, as the First-Ever Blogger from Space  
Exclusive Interviews, Podcasts and Video Also Available During This Unique Web Experience
   The X PRIZE Foundation announced today that www.xprize.org will host the first-ever blog from space during Anousheh Ansari's historic flight to the International Space Station. The webpage was designed by the X PRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit prize institute in partnership with Prodea Systems, the revolutionary digital home technology company that is sponsoring her journey. Ansari is using her adventure as an opportunity to give everyone a unique web experience that will allow them to interact with the first female private space explorer throughout the flight.
    “My ultimate goal is to bring this experience and the ability to fly to space to more and more people and to inspire young woman and men to go into the fields related to space,” said Anousheh Ansari during a recent interview from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. “I hope that thousands of individuals from around the world will visit the X PRIZE site to learn what its like to fly into orbit.”
                 In addition to the first-ever blog from space, visitors will also read Ansari's life story as well as watch exclusive video and interviews from her training, preflight activities, launch and landing. Visitors will also have exclusive access to the first episodes of the X PRIZE Foundation Futurecast. This new podcast will feature visionaries and entrepreneurs from around the globe to talk about what the future holds for us. The first episodes, which can be found on the X PRIZE Foundation website and Apple's iTunes podcast directory, will be the first podcast from space.
   An active proponent of world-changing technologies, Anousheh Ansari has been immersed in the space industry for years. Anousheh along with Amir Ansari, her brother-in-law, and co-founder and chief technical officer of Prodea Systems, provided the title sponsorship for the Ansari X PRIZE, a $10 million cash prize awarded to Burt Rutan in 2004, for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. Anousheh Ansari is also a member of the X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees. Her philanthropic work through the X PRIZE Foundation has made her an integral figure in the development of the private spaceflight industry.
   “The X PRIZE Foundation is very proud to host Anousheh's blog. We are a 21st century organization pushing the boundaries of technology,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE. “We thought blogging from space was the proper use of technology to reach today's youth. We hope millions will visit our website and learn about Anousheh's mission as well as the X PRIZE Cup in New Mexico, and our future X PRIZES for genome sequencing and hyper fuel-efficient automobiles.”
   On Monday September 18, 2006 Ansari is scheduled to blast off in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, part of a crew-exchange flight to the International Space Station. Her journey will last for 10 days and will include a two day trip to the International Space Station on the Soyuz as well as numerous experiments and activities that she will film in order to create education programs upon landing.
 --  Mark Reiff <[email protected]

         NSS Executive Director George Whitesides sent out an e‑mail upon the launch, which informed us, in part:

    I wanted to let you know that the Ansaris have graciously featured a paragraph about NSS on Anousheh's mission website.  Just surf to www.anoushehansari.com, click on 'Links', then on 'Mission Partners'.  This is great exposure for the society, and the listing was due to the Ansari family and Peter Diamandis.  Sincere thanks to them both.
    (Sidenote:  It is probably the first and only time that NSS will receive equal billing with Deep Dish, the world-famous DJ duo with Persian ancestry, who've composed a new dance track in honor of Anousheh's mission called “Be the Change.”)
Ad Astra!

Commentary and Acknowledgments

         This issue of Outreach was written by Syd Henderson except where otherwise noted. Outreach is a publication of the Oklahoma Space Alliance and is published in odd months. Update is published in even months.  We would appreciate a greater variety of material for Outreach and Update. We can accept contributions on paper, by disk or on e-mail. To submit material, contact Syd Henderson at 102 W. Linn St. Apt. #1, Norman OK 73069, telephone (405)-32-4027, e-mail [email protected]. Please note that editorial comments reflect my views, and are not necessarily the same as those of other members of Oklahoma Space Alliance or the National Space Society. Material on disk or by e-mail can be in WordPerfect 8 (or earlier), ASCII, or any format which can be converted by WordPerfect 8 or Word 2003.

Oklahoma Space Alliance Officers, 2006 (Area Code 405)

Tom Koszoru, President                                     366-1797 (H)
John Northcutt, Vice-President                           390-3476 (H)
Syd Henderson, Secretary & Outreach Editor    321-4027 (H)
Tim Scott, Treasurer                                          740-7549 (H)
Claire McMurray, Update Editor                       329-4326 (H)  863-6173 (C)

OSA E-mail Addresses and Web Site:

[email protected] (Claire McMurray, new address)
[email protected] (Heidi and Tom Koszoru)
[email protected] (Syd Henderson)
[email protected] (Tim Scott)
[email protected] (John Northcutt)
[email protected]  (Steve Galpin)
[email protected] (Nancy and David Craig).
         E-mail for OSA should be sent to [email protected].  Members who wish  their e-mail addresses printed in Outreach, and people wishing space-related materials e-mailed to them should contact Syd.  Oklahoma Space Alliance website is osa.nss.org/index.html. Webmaster is Syd Henderson.

Other Information

         Air and Space Museum: Omniplex, Oklahoma City, 602‑6664 or 1-800-532-7652.
         Oklahoma Space Industrial Development Authority (OSIDA), 401 Sooner Drive/PO Box 689, Burns Flat, OK 73624, 580-562-3500.  Web site www.state.ok.us/~okspaceport.
         Tulsa Air and Space Museum, 7130 E. Apache, Tulsa, OK  74115.
Web Site is www.tulsaairandspacemuseum.com.  Phone (918)834-9900.
         The Mars Society address is Mars Society, Box 273, Indian Hills CO 80454. Their web address is www.marsociety.org.
         The National Space Society's Headquarters phone is 202-429-1600.  The Chapters Coordinator is Bennett Rutledge 720-529-8024.  The address is:  National Space Society, 1620 I (Eye) Street NW Ste. 615, Washington DC 20006.    Web page is space.nss.org.  
         NASA Spacelink BBS  205-895-0028.  Or try www.nasa.gov.  .
         Congressional Switchboard 202/224-3121.
          Write to any U. S. Senator or Representative at [name]/ Washington DC, 20510 (Senate) or 20515 [House].

 A Chapter of the National Space Society

Please enroll me as a member of Oklahoma Space Alliance.  Enclosed is:
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          National Space Society has a special $20 introductory rate for new members ($35 for new international members).  Regular membership rates are $45, international $60.  Student memberships are $20.  Part of the cost is for the magazine, Ad Astra.  Mail to: National Space Society, 1620 I (Eye) Street NW, Washington DC 20006, or join at space.nss.org/membership. (Brochures are at the bottom with the special rate.) Be sure to ask them to credit your membership to Oklahoma Space Alliance.
          To join the Mars Society, visit.  One-year memberships are $50.00; student and senior memberships are $25, and Family memberships are $100.00.    Their address is Mars Society, Box 273, Indian Hills CO 80454.

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