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Wednesday, September 6th 7:00 pm.
Madelyn Helling Library
Community Room


Cassini Discoveries
Mission to Saturn
by Al Stahler

Kitchen chemistry - mixing & sorting, freezing & thawing, steaming, roasting, microwaving - great fun, but there's a limit to how large you can run your experiments.

In the planets - especially the gas giants - nature runs experiments for us.  We can watch the results with telescopes, or send spacecraft to observe close-up.

After a decade of observing Saturn from orbit, the Cassini spacecraft will dive into the ringed planet's atmosphere this fall.  Al Stahler will talk about the mission, and the upcoming dive.

Bring a friend ... bring the kids!

President’s Rant

Hi Astronomers,

Where did summer go? It seems as if I spent all my time getting ready for the eclipse, and now that it’s over Labor Day is upon us and the fall equinox is within a month. There must be some quantum explanation for the fact that every year time goes faster.

Pam and I are just returned from the wilds of Wyoming where we experienced the eclipse with the Buchlas, Ouligians, and Keefers. I will only say that it was glorious! I now completely understand Dave’s fascination (fixation?) with solar eclipses and heartily support his assertion that seeing a total eclipse in person is the only way to truly experience the phenomenon.

Bill Thomas is preparing an area on the website for members’ eclipse photos to be posted. He will put out an email with the particulars when he is ready, so stay tuned.

It will be good to see all of you again to compare notes and to get back into our routine.

See you all at the meeting September 6th.


Outreach - David Buchla

We have had several outreach activities since Astronomy Day. The main focus was the August solar eclipse. We provided local schools with hundreds of pairs of eclipse glasses as well as hundreds of cards with pinhole projection to schools and the public (your dues money at work!). We also distributed other materials to schools including posters and met with several teachers/administrators to show ideas for sharing the eclipse. Robin Hart and I did a presentation for a group that bid on a star party/picnic as a charity event and John Griffin and I did a presentation for the library on August 1st and handed out more eclipse glasses to participants. On August 12, we did solar viewing at the Nevada County Fair. Fairgoers had lots of questions about the upcoming eclipse and we handed out lots of our pinhole projection cards with info about the eclipse printed in them. There were also calls from two TV stations and the local newspaper seeking eclipse information. Although a lot of people stayed in CA and saw a partial eclipse, those that went for totality saw a glorious eclipse. We’ll have more in it later.

The eclipse wasn’t our only outreach effort. We had public events in July for Starry, Starry, Nights at the Empire Mine (benefiting the hospital Aux) and at Plumas Eureka State Park on July 28. The Empire Mine event had some scattered clouds but we were able to provide nice views of Jupiter and Saturn as well as some double stars but not much else. The public event at Plumas Eureka had well over 100 visitors but we were hampered with some pesky clouds in the early evening (after two nights of perfect skies!). By taking advantage of some clear areas, we were able to see some very nice deep sky views and added the 5-day old moon, which was very popular in my big binoculars. After most visitors had left, the skies cleared and we were able to have a third excellent late night, so some of us were pretty tired but felt it was worth it!

I expect to announce other outreach event later, but for now I am still trying to put stuff away from the eclipse.

Secretary/Treasurer - Dan St. Joh

I just finished reading a book that you might find very interesting:  The Glass Universe:  The Ladies of the Harvard Observatory (Dava Sobel).  While the title highlights the 'Ladies' it is far more than that.  It tells the story of Edward Pickering and the role of the Harvard Observatory during the first half of the 20th Century.  Great detail is provided on the making and financing of the Henry Draper Star Catalogue and the creation of the Bruce Medal for Distinguished Astronomers. You will learn a lot of very technical detail about photography and spectroscopy along the way.  


Our Mission is:

'Bringing' Astronomy to the Public'

a BIG Thank You

to all our members who join and make our programs possible!

If you can't make our meeting, send your check to:                                           NC Astronomers, %Dan StJohn,                    
12296 Valley View Rd, Nevada City, CA 95959


This article is provided by NASA Space Place. Visit to explore space and Earth science!

Twenty Years Ago on Mars
By Linda Hermans-Killiam

On July 4, 1997, NASA's Mars Pathfinder landed on the surface of Mars. It landed in an ancient flood plain that is now dry and covered with rocks. Pathfinder’s mission was to study the Martian climate, atmosphere and geology. At the same time, the mission was also testing lots of new technologies.

For example, the Pathfinder mission tried a brand-new way of landing on Mars. After speeding into the Martian atmosphere, Pathfinder used a parachute to slow down and drift toward the surface of the Red Planet. Before landing, Pathfinder inflated huge airbags around itself. The spacecraft released its parachute and dropped to the ground, bouncing on its airbags about 15 times. After Pathfinder came to a stop, the airbags deflated.

Before Pathfinder, spacecraft had to use lots of fuel to slow down for a safe landing on another planet. Pathfinder’s airbags allowed engineers to use and store less fuel for the landing. This made the mission less expensive. After seeing the successful Pathfinder landing, future missions used this airbag technique, too!

Pathfinder had two parts: a lander that stayed in one place, and a wheeled rover that could move around. The Pathfinder lander had special instruments to study Martian weather. These instruments measured air temperature, pressure and winds. The measurements helped us better understand the climate of Mars.

The lander also had a camera for taking images of the Martian landscape. The lander sent back more than 16,000 pictures of Mars. Its last signal was sent to Earth on Sept. 27, 1997. The Pathfinder lander was renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station. Carl Sagan was a well-known astronomer and science educator.

Pathfinder also carried the very first rover to Mars. This remotely-controlled rover was about the size of a microwave oven and was called Sojourner. It was named to honor Sojourner Truth, who fought for African-American and women's rights. Two days after Pathfinder landed, Sojourner rolled onto the surface of Mars. Sojourner gathered data on Martian rocks and soil. The rover also carried cameras. In the three months that Sojourner operated on Mars, the rover took more than 550 photos!

Pathfinder helped us learn how to better design missions to Mars. It gave us valuable new information on the Martian climate and surface. Together, these things helped lay the groundwork for future missions to Mars.

Learn more about the Sojourner rover at the NASA Space Place:

Caption: The Mars Pathfinder lander took this photo of its small rover, called Sojourner. Here, Sojourner is investigating a rock on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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President John Griffin
Vice President Rick Bernard
Secretary/Treasurer Dan St. John
Outreach Chairmen David Buchla

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First Wednesday Of The Month
Madelyn Helling Library
Community Room
980 Helling Way
Nevada City 95959

12296 Valley View Rd
Nevada City CA 95959

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