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OUTREACH July 2008

Note to Soonercon Signees: In addition to our regular subscribers and courtesy recipients, I’m sending this newsletter to those who came to our party at Soonercon in Oklahoma City. If you’re receiving this by regular mail, you should receive one in September as well, and an announcement of our Christmas Party. If you’re receiving this by e-mail, we can continue to send it to you as long as you wish; if you don’t wish to receive it let us know. If you received a hard copy and wish it by e-mail, let us know. E-mail subscriptions are free, and include Update, which comes out in even-numbered months.
          Contact e-mail for Outreach is [email protected].

July Meeting (Note change in meeting time)

          Oklahoma Space Alliance will meet at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 26 at the Koszoru house in Norman. Prospective members are also welcome. Their house is at 514 Fenwick Court in Norman. [Directions below agenda.]
          We will be going to the Cheddar Range Observatory dedication [See below] after the meeting. Since that begins at 7:00 p.m. and it’s about a two hour drive, we should adjourn the meeting sometime between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. Items we don’t get to will have to be postponed to next month.


1) Introductions (if necessary)
2) Read and approve agenda
3) Read and approve minutes and reports of activities
4) Read and discuss mail
5) Old Business
          a) Dedication at Cheddar Ranch Observatory (see below)
          b) Space Week 2008 (the one in October)
          c) Yuri’s Night 2009
          d) Second Life
          e) Upcoming Conventions
6) New Business
          a) Video Contest: $2000 prize for YouTube Video on “Why We Should Go Into Space”
          b) 40th Anniversary of Moon Landing (July 2009)
7) Create New Agenda
8) Adjournment to go to Cheddar Ranch Observatory dedication.

          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.

Dedication of Cheddar Ranch Observatory

          The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club will be dedicating their Cheddar Ranch Observatory at 7:00 p.m. on July 26. Oklahoma Space Alliance earlier allocated money for a platform and plaque. Tom, Claire and Syd at least are planning to go to the dedication and have materials to promote Oklahoma Space Alliance and National Space Society. The exact schedule of events has not been determined so we don’t know yet what time to arrive. Hopefully, we’ll know by the time of the meeting on the 19th.
          There will be a Watonga Area Schools and Community Night Dark Sky Party on the night of the 26th, with telescopes set up so we can observe the sky. This may continue very late so we can take advantage of the last-quarter moon.
          The University of Oklahoma has put a 12-inch diameter telescope on permanent loan with the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club, and this is at the Cheddar Ranch Observatory. The Astronomy Club is now seeking to purchase a 32-inch telescope at a cost of $30,000, including the cost of housing it.
          Directions to the Cheddar Ranch Observatory are available at www.okcastroclub.com/Docs/CROmap.pdf.  It’s about 90 miles by road from where I live (central Norman), and 70 half from downtown Oklahoma City, and pretty far out in the countryside (it is an observatory, after all), so allow an extra half-hour to get there.
          In case you miss this dedication, the Astronomy Club will have a Dark Sky Party on August 2, also at the Cheddar Ranch. On August 9, they will have their 50th anniversary party at Lake Hefner in northwest Oklahoma City. For more information, visit their website, www.okcastroclub.com.

Notes on June Party

          Oklahoma Space Alliance threw a party in the con suite of SoonerCon on the evening of June 7. This took the place of our regular meeting for the month. We probably had 150 people drop by in the four hours we were in the con suite, a lot of whom dropped by simply because it was the con suite. However, we did get forty signatures, not including the members of Oklahoma Space Alliance.
          Claire and Kip McMurray, Tom Koszoru, Tim Scott and Syd Henderson helped throw the party, with Claire and Syd providing most of the food, and Kip and Tom providing entertainment. Some of the drinks were provided by the con suite, but it was understood that we would provide the food. Claire brought some displays which were placed along one wall.
--Submitted by OSA Secretary Syd Henderson

Notes on July 9 OSIDA Meeting

          The Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority met at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Building in Oklahoma City on the afternoon on July 9. Attending were Joe King, Lou Simms, Jack Bonny, Gen. Ken McHill, Darryl Murray and Cal Hobson. Former State Senator Gilmer Capps was not able to attend. Joe King is the new chair of the OSIDA board this month, replacing Don Rodolph. Darryl Murray, a farmer from Burns Flat, replaces Mr. Rodolph on the board. Last month former State Senator Cal Hobson replaced Todd Russ. There were about 15 in the audience/
          Facilities at the Oklahoma Spaceport were damaged by storms in early June, and Executive Director Khourie requested approval of expenses for damages to the roofs of the Control Tower Building and Building 304. Total expense is around $120,000. Most of this expense will be reimbursed eventually by insurance.
          Armadillo is developing an aircraft with rocket engines and want to come to the Spaceport for flight tests. This is an experimental aircraft, so does not fall under the authority of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The first public demonstration will be at the Oshkosh Air Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
          Khourie was proposing a flextime schedule at the Oklahoma Space Authority to cut expenses and minimize driving time. Workers would, if they wish, work four 10-hour days. One idea was to keep a full staff on hand with a skeleton crew on the fifth day, but this didn’t go over well with Board members.
          Rocketplane is now talking about a space wedding business. Actually, they’ve been talking about this for a couple of years, but it’s come up again. It won’t happen for several years if it does.

Viewing Opportunities for Satellites (July 22 – August 16)

          You can get sighting information at 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 can get up to 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 or Hubble Space Telescope may change its orbit. The next shuttle launch will be the repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, scheduled to be launched on October 8. This will be the final repair mission unless NASA decides that it will require a crew to de-orbit the Space Telescope. The next shuttle launch to the Space Station is November 10.

Station  August 6, 2008
Time               Position             Elevation
9:57 p.m.            302°                  19°
9:58                    288                    38
9:59                    202                    60
Vanishes into Earth’s Shadow

Station  August 8, 2008
Time               Position             Elevation
9:09 p.m.            302°                  18°
9:10                    290                    36
9:11                    214                    61
9:12                    155                    32*
9:13                    145                    16
* Passes 2° below Jupiter

HST  August 14, 2008
Time               Position             Elevation
Appears from Earth’s Shadow
5:17:01 a.m.        194°                  27°
5:18                    174                    29
5:19                    148                    26
5:20                    130                    20

HST  August 15, 2008
Time               Position             Elevation
Appears from Earth’s Shadow
5:15:32 a.m.        192°                  30°
5:16                    177                    31
5:17                    150                    28
5:18                    131                    21

HST  August 16, 2008
Time               Position             Elevation
Appears from Earth’s Shadow
5:14 a.m.            181°                   32°
5:15                    153                    28
5:16                    135                    21

          Pass times are from Heavens Above.
          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 at 5:20 a.m. on August 14, the Hubble Space Telescope will be four fist-widths south of due east and two fist-widths 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/.

Sky Viewing

          There is a mostly useless total solar eclipse on August 1. It begins in the Arctic islands in northern Canada, traverses northern Greenland, Novaya Zemlya, western Siberia, the western Mongolian border, and ends up in northeastern China. The only place it traverses that has a lot of people is the last few hundred miles in China. There is also a partial lunar eclipse on August 16-17 which is visible about everywhere except North America.
          Mercury is currently visible in the north-northeast about 45 minutes before sunrise, but will be very hard to see as it approaches superior conjunction on the 29th.  In late August Venus and Mercury will be within three degrees of each other, and on August 20, Mercury will be one degree below Venus. It will still be hard to see in the early evening twilight.
          Venus was in superior conjunction with the sun on June 9 and is still almost invisible in the early evening twilight. This will improve slightly in early August. On August 2, Venus, Saturn and Mars will be in an approximate straight line, with seven degrees between the first pair, and about the same distance between Saturn and Mars.
          Mars is fading and is only magnitude 1.7.  It is still in Leo, a few degrees above Regulus, which actually is a bit brighter. Mars will be in conjunction with the Sun on December 5, so will be getting less visible through the coming months.
          Jupiter is low in the southeast at sunset, and at magnitude -2.7, is currently the brightest of the planets. It is currently about as bright as it gets since it was at opposition on July 9. It will dominate the night sky during much of August as well.
          The Great Red Spot recently ate the Little Red Spot. See “Space News” below.
          Saturn is lower than Mars in the western sky at sunset, but, oddly, is about a magnitude brighter. This may be because both planets are near the far side of their orbits, and Saturn’s apparent size doesn’t shrink as much.
          Neptune is at opposition on August 15, and Uranus is at opposition on September 12, so both are in the sky most of the night. Uranus is about magnitude 5.8, which means it’s barely visible to the naked eye in a pitch black sky (like at Cheddar Ranch), and Neptune is magnitude 7.9, which means you at least need binoculars. There are finder charts for the two planets at www.skyandtelescope.com/UranusNeptune.
           Pluto was at opposition on June 20, and is in the sky at night, not that far from Jupiter. Since it is magnitude 14, you’d need a powerful telescope to see it.
Calendar of Events

          July 26: Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 2:30 p.m. at the Koszorus. See “July Meeting” above for directions and agenda..
          July 25 – 27: Conestoga Science Fiction Convention in Tulsa. See www.sftulsa.org/conestoga/ for details.
          July 26: Grand Opening and Dark Sky Party at the Cheddar Ranch Observatory, 7:00 p.m., hosted by Oklahoma City Astronomy Club. For more information or directions, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
          August 1: Total eclipse of the Sun in the Arctic, central Siberia, western Mongolia, and northern China.
          August 2: Dark Sky Party at the Cheddar Ranch Observatory, hosted by Oklahoma City Astronomy Club. For more information or directions, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
          August 8: Oklahoma City Astronomy Club meets at 7:30 p.m. at the Science Museum Oklahoma (formerly the Omniplex). A novice session precedes at 6:45 p.m.
          August 9: 50th Anniversary Party of the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club, 6:00 p.m., Windsurfer’s Point at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City. For more information or directions, visit www.okcastroclub.com.
          August 13: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority Meeting in the Commission Room at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Building, 200 NE. 21st. Street, Oklahoma City
          August 14-17: Mars Society Conference in Denver, Colorado. For more information, visit www.marssociety.org/portal.
          August 16: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          September 5: The ESA's Rosetta asteroid & comet probe passes by asteroid 2867 Steins. Web page is www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Rosetta or visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_%28spacecraft%29
          September 10: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority Meeting in the Commission Room at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Building, 200 NE. 21st. Street, Oklahoma City.
          September 11: Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, 27° east of the Sun (hence can be seen after sunset).
          September 20: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          October 6: MESSENGER's second flyby of Mercury.
          October 8: Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the fifth and final servicing mission to Hubble Space Telescope. [Updated May 12.]
          October 8: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority Meeting in the Commission Room at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Building, 200 NE. 21st. Street, Oklahoma City
          October 18: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          October 22: Mercury is at greatest western elongation, 18° west of the Sun (hence can be seen before sunrise).
          October 31: Launch of the Planck Surveyor and Herschel Space Observatory from Kourou, French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5. For more information, visit www.rssd.esa.int/index.php?project=Planck, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_%28satellite%29 , herschel.esac.esa.int/ and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herschel_Space_Observatory. [The spaces in the Wikipedia URLs are underlines.]
          October 31: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is launched. It will assume a polar orbit. The mission will last at least a year. For more information, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Reconnaissance_Orbiter or lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov/.
          November 10: Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour and the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the Space Station.
          November 12: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority Meeting in the Commission Room at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Building, 200 NE. 21st. Street, Oklahoma City
          November 15: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance meeting at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          December 20: [Tentative] Oklahoma Space Alliance Christmas Party at 3:00 p.m. Location to be announced.
          January 4, 2009: Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, 19° east of the Sun (hence can be seen after sunset).
          January 14, 2009: Venus is at maximum eastern elongation, 47.1° east of the Sun.
          February 12, 2009: Launch of Discovery to the Space Station.
          February 13, 2009: Mercury is at greatest western elongation, 26° west of the Sun (hence can be seen before sunrise).
          February 16, 2009: Launch of the Kepler Mission, which will look for Earth-sized and smaller planets around other stars. For more information, visit kepler.nasa.gov/.
          February 19 – 22, 2009: Spacefest 2009 in San Diego, California. For information, visit novaspace.com/spacefest/.
          March 2009: Dawn asteroid probe flies by Mars.
          March 8, 2009: Saturn is at opposition.
          April 26, 2009: Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, 20° east of the Sun (hence can be seen after sunset).
          May 15, 2009: Launch of Endeavour with third section of the Japanese Kibo Module to the Space Station
          August 10, 2009: Saturn’s rings are edge-on with respect to the Sun.
          August 14, 2009: Jupiter is at opposition.
          September 4, 2009: Saturn’s rings appear edge-on.
          September 30, 2009: MESSENGER's third flyby of Mercury.
          October 2009: Russia launches Phobos-Grunt, a sample return mission to Martian moon Phobos. For more information, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobos-Grunt.
          December 2009: The Mars Science Laboratory is launched. See marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ for details.
          January 29, 2010: Mars is at opposition with magnitude -1.3.
          February 11, 2010: Launch of Atlantis to the Space Station. This is last scheduled mission for Atlantis.
          April 8, 2010: Launch of Discovery to the Space Station. This is the last scheduled launch for Discovery.
          May 31, 2010: Launch of Endeavour to the Space Station. This is the last scheduled mission for any space shuttle.
          June 2010: Hayabusa returns to Earth with a sample of asteroid Itokawa.  This will be the first asteroid sample returned to Earth. Web site is www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/hayabusa/index.shtml.
          June 2010: Japan launches the Venus Climate Orbiter (aka Planet‑C) to Venus. Web page is www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/planet_c/index_e.html.
          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.
          October 2010: The Mars Science Laboratory rover lands on Mars. See marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ for details.
          December 2010: Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter arrives at Venus.
          October 2011: Dawn probe orbits Vesta. See dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/  or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_Mission for details.
          March 18, 2011: MESSENGER goes into orbit around Mercury.
          October 2011 – April 2012: Dawn probe orbits Vesta.
          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.
          April 2012: Dawn probe leaves orbit around Vesta for Ceres.
          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.
          Sometime in 2013: ESA launches the ExoMars Mars Rover. For more information, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exomars.
          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. Home page is sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=30.
          August 2014 - December 2015: The Rosetta space probe orbits comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In November, 2014, it will release the Philae lander. See September 5, 2008 for website information.
          Sometime in 2015 or 2016: Launch of SIM PlanetQuest (aka the Space Interferometry Mission). This mission was originally supposed to have been launched in 2005 and has been delayed at least five times. It was recently moved from 2012. For more information, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Interferometry_Mission.
          February 2015: Dawn space probe arrives at Ceres. Operations are scheduled to continue through July. Dawn may continue on to other asteroids if it is still operational.
          July 14, 2015: The New Horizons probe passes through the Pluto-Charon system. The New Horizons web site is pluto.jhuapl.edu/.
          July 2016-2020:  The New Horizons 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.

Rocket Racing League Press Release

NEW YORK - April 14, 2008-The Rocket Racing League® the new entertainment sports league that combines the exhilaration of racing with the power of rocket engines, today announced that the First Exhibition Race of the Rocket Racing League® will take place on August 1st and August 2nd at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI. In addition to announcing the dates of the First Exhibition Races, the Rocket Racing League® also announced the remaining series of exhibition races for the rest of 2008, the acquisition of Velocity Aircraft by Rocket Racing Composites Corp., and announced that Armadillo Aerospace will manufacture liquid oxygen (LOX) engines for the Rocket Racing League®.
          First Exhibition Race: On August 1st and August 2nd, the first Exhibition Race of the Rocket Racing League® will be held at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI, the largest air show in the world. For the first time ever, two Rocket Racers will compete head-to-head in a demonstration race in the raceway in the sky. The Rocket Racer pilots will view the "raceway in the sky" via in-panel and 3D helmet displays and the 700,000 people in attendance at EAA AirVenture will witness the racing action live on multiple large projection screens.
          Exhibition Race Schedule: Following the first Exhibition Race at EAA AirVenture, the RRL will hold exhibition races at venues around the country, including:
          Reno National Championship Air Races (Reno, NV) - September 10-14
          X Prize Cup (Las Cruces, NM) - TBD 2008
          Aviation Nation, Nellis AFB, (Las Vegas, NV) - November 8-9
          Velocity Aircraft Acquisition: Rocket Racing Composite Corporation, a subsidiary of the RRL , announced the acquisition of Velocity Aircraft of Sebastian, FL, a leading manufacturer of four-seat canard pusher experimental aircraft. Under the terms of the agreement, Velocity Aircraft will become a wholly owned division of Rocket Racing Composite Corp. and will produce an airframe that will be consistent for all competing Rocket Racers . Through a rigorous research and development, all Velocity-constructed Rocket Racers will be equipped with the safest-possible airframe for any kind of aircraft. The cockpit seats for all Rocket Racers will be reinforced to withstand impacts up to 20G load and other safety measures will be added using a methodology similar to that of F-1 and Indy Car to better protect pilots and passengers alike.
          Armadillo Aerospace: Rocket Racing is also pleased to announce that Mesquite, Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace will be providing LOX engines for the Rocket Racing League®. A leading provider of reusable rocket-powered vehicles, Armadillo Aerospace is focused on vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) suborbital research and passenger flights, with an eye towards eventual paths to orbit.
          About The Rocket Racing League: Founded in 2005 by two-time Indianapolis 500 winning team partner Granger Whitelaw and X PRIZE Chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis, the Rocket Racing League (RRLTM ) is a new entertainment sports league that combines the exhilaration of racing with the power of rocket engines. To be held at venues across the country, the Rocket Racing League will feature multiple races pitting up to 10 Rocket Racers going head to head in a 4-lap, multiple elimination heat format on a 5-mile "Formula One"-like closed circuit raceway in the sky. For more information on the Rocket Racing League, please visit www.rocketracingleague.com.

Space News

          On July 11, the dwarf planet 2005 FY9 was christened Makemake after the Easter Islander god who created mankind. It thus joins Ceres, Pluto and Eris as named dwarf planets. Makemake is between 800 and 1200 miles in diameter, and orbits the Sun with a period of 310 years, which isn’t much longer than that of Pluto. Its distance from the Sun varies between 38.5 and 53.1 astronomical units, which means its closest distance to the Sun is about the average distance of Pluto.
          Several of the other larger objects in the Kuiper Belt may eventually be classified as dwarf planets, such as Sedna, Quaoar and 2003 EL61. The discovery of the last is disputed, so it may have to wait for a name. In addition, it is possible a couple of the large asteroids, such as Juno and Vesta, may eventually be christened dwarf planets.

          Jupiter is back down to two Red Spots, as the Great Red Spot has eaten the Little Red Spot. There has also been a Red Spot, Jr. (also sometimes confusingly called the Little Red Spot) since late 2005; this is officially known as Oval BA, and actually dates from 1998, when it was white instead of red. This spot has been growing ever since and is about half the size of the Great Red Spot.
          Addendum: I wrote that on July 14. It now appears that the Little Red Spot may have survived this encounter but is still so close to the Big Red Spot that it will be swallowed within weeks.

          Asteroid 2008 BT 18 passed within 1.4 million miles of Earth on July 14. Interestingly, it turns out to be a binary asteroid, with the larger 2000 feet in diameter and the smaller 650 feet in diameter.

Space Probes: Mars

          The Phoenix Mars Lander landed in the Martian arctic on May 25 in a search for evidence for past water and present ice. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter actually photographed Phoenix descending by parachute. A few days later, it was noticed that there were bright patches under Phoenix where the landing thrusters had blown away some soil. These looked suspiciously like ice, which was confirmed when some bright clumps sublimated at the rate expected for ice in the Martian atmosphere. (Carbon dioxide ice would also sublimate, but much more rapidly.)
          Phoenix is designed to test the composition of soil, and the first soil sample produced some spectacular results. It contained inorganic compounds such as sodium, potassium and magnesium chloride, which are evidence of liquid water in the past to deposit them. However, the salinity level of the sample was low enough not to pose a danger to life. The pH of the soil is 8 or 9, which is slightly alkaline and pretty benign. There was also evidence of bound carbon dioxide (carbonate?) and water.

          Meanwhile, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has discovered clay in the Southern Highlands of Mars. This is exciting because clays are sedimentary and indicate a long process of erosion by water.

Space-Related Articles: Mars in Collision

          The 26 June 2008 issue of Nature (which is dedicated to cosmic collisions), has several articles on an apparent collision which differentiated the northern plains of Mars from the southern highlands. The highlands cover about a third of the planet, and are on average about 2.5 miles higher than the plains. Moreover, the crust in the highlands is 15 miles thicker. (Crust is lighter than the rocks beneath, so the buoyancy of this extra crust is the reason the highlands stay high.) From the density of impact craters, this discrepancy is thought to date back more than four billion years.
          The shape of the northern plains is distorted by the Tharsis region, which is an enormous volcanic plateau containing huge volcanoes, the most famous of which, Olympus Mons, is the tallest mountain in the Solar System. The Tharsis region extends thousands of miles, and was formed after the northern plains. (In fact, some scientists suspect the Tharsis volcanism may have been a side-effect of a collision.) When the contribution of the Tharsis volcanism is subtracted, the northern plains are revealed as an ellipse 6400 miles by 5100 miles. Generally, an impact crater would be circular, but one this large would be affected by the curvature of the surface of Mars. An impact at an angle between 30 and 60 degrees would produce a crater of this shape. The impactor would be over a thousand miles across.

Other Space-Related Articles

                    “The Life and Death of Super Suns,” by Robert Zimmerman, Astronomy, July 2008, pp. 34-9. The extended mnemonic for classes of stars is “Wow! Oh, be a fine girl kiss me right now sweetheart!” R and N have now been combined into class C, and brown dwarfs come in classes L, T and Y. (T class has methane in their atmosphere, and Y are the newly discovered ultra-cool brown dwarfs with ammonia in their atmosphere.) The W in this stood for Wolf-Rayet stars, which are very rare, up to 20 times the mass of the sun, and the hottest stars in the universe, with surface temperatures up to 100,000°. They are often the only stars visible in distant galaxies (excluding novae and supernovae). The reason they are so hot and rare is that they are what is left of a supermassive O-type star (up to 100 solar masses) after it has burned up most of its hydrogen and expelled much of its mass in a huge stellar wind. What is left is the helium-burning remnant, which is much hotter. The halfway stage in this is represented by Eta Carinae, an extremely massive star that has produced a huge nebula and looks like it could blow at any minute. And eventually Wolf-Rayet stars do exactly that, producing a supernova.

          “Where Will Astronomy Be in 35 Years?” by Francis Reddy, Astronomy, August 2008, pp. 30-5.

          “Hidey Holes,” by Marcus Chown, New Scientist, 17 May, 2008, pp. 30-3. One of the great mysteries of cosmology is how the enormous black holes at the center of galaxies got started. Mitchell Begelman thinks they began as stars thousands of times as massive as the Sun. These were formed in dense gas clouds in the early universe as part of a runaway collapse, which meant the star was gorged with material faster than its stellar wind could blow it away. Eventually the interior of the star would get hot enough to produce electron-positron pairs that would promptly annihilate each other, producing, among other things, enormous numbers of neutrinos and antineutrinos which would zip through the star. The star itself would collapse into a black hole thousands of times as massive as the sun, which would continue to feed on the gas cloud becoming a behemoth at the core of a galaxy.

          “Hidden Agendas,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 30, 2008, pp. 46-49. Where do Obama and McCain stand on space? Obama is still pretty much a blank slate, although he does want more of an emphasis on science and engineering education. He also opposes the militarization of space. McCain is much into military applications of space, less into civilian space flight. Details are forthcoming and not making much of an issue in the campaign. This article and others in the magazine basically say that we don’t know that much about their positions.

          “The Day the Sky Exploded,” by David Cohen, New Scientist, 28 June 2008, pp. 38 – 41. “Tunguska at 100,” by Duncan Steel, Nature, 26 June 2008, pp. 1157-9. The Tunguska object impacted or exploded over Siberia on June 30, 1908 with an energy of 30 megatons, knocking down a thousand square miles of trees and incinerating animals and a few unfortunate people. The impact crater may be Lake Cheka in Siberia. A few scientists think the explosion was a giant release of methane, which doesn’t explain that a body was seen falling from the sky.

          The 4 July 2008 issue of Science has a thirty-four page section of scientific results from MESSENGER’s first fly-by of Mercury.

          Voyager 2 crossed the heliospheric termination shock last August. Actually it crossed it several times, because this boundary oscillates. This is the boundary at which the solar wind is slowed as it encounters the interstellar medium. The interior, the heliosphere, is a cavity carved out by the solar wind, and is somewhere round 28 billion miles across. The layer beyond, the heliosheath, is where the solar wind is slowed by the interstellar medium and vice versa (since the Sun is moving through the interstellar medium, the latter appears to be moving with respect to the Sun). This extends something like a billion and ten billion miles in the direction the Sun is moving, and several ten billion miles in the opposite direction. The outer boundary of the heliosheath is the heliopause, which is basically where the solar wind is stopped by the interstellar medium. Somewhere beyond this is the “bowshock”: the Sun (and thus the heliosphere, heliosheath and heliopause are moving supersonically through the interstellar medium, and produces a bow shock much like a supersonic airplane does in the Earth’s atmosphere. This may lie at about 22 billion miles in the direction the Sun is headed.
          Voyager 1 entered the heliosheath sometime in 2004. The entry of Voyager 2 has produced some twenty pages of articles in the July 3 issue of Nature.

Oklahoma Space Alliance Officers, 2008 (Area Code 405)

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

OSA E-mail Addresses and Web Site:

claire.mcmurray at sbcglobal.net(Claire McMurray, new address)
T_Koszoru at cox.net (Heidi and Tom Koszoru)
sydh at ou.edu (Syd Henderson)
ctscott at mac.com (Tim Scott)
lensman13 at aol.com  (Steve Galpin)
dmcraig at earthlink.net (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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OSA Memberships are for 1 year, and include a subscription to our monthly newsletters, Outreach and Update.  Send check & form to Oklahoma Space Alliance, 102 W. Linn, #1, Norman, OK 73071.

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