• National Geographic Series – a Spring 2016 Kansas City Event

    ANNOUNCEMENT:  Heads up folks – I have just noticed that the National Geographic Series (NGS) will be returning to Kansas City in 2016. One of the speaker series programs is titled: The Search for Life Beyond Earth. The program is scheduled for the Kaufmann Center located in Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday April 26, 2016 at 730PM. National Geographic offered the following preliminary program description:

    DESCRIPTION:  Astrobiologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Kevin Hand is looking for real extraterrestrials. He is currently helping plan a NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to investigate evidence of a vast subsurface ocean – a body of water which could sustain primitive forms of life on this alien world nearly 600 million miles from our planet.

    Based at Pasadena’s world-famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hand is designing instruments for the probe that will travel to Europa. To gain perspective on the conditions these instruments will have to endure, and to see how microbes eke out a living in our world’s harshest climes, Hand has traveled to the most forbidding environments on Earth. He has conducted studies on the glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro, the valleys of Antarctica, and the depths of our oceans.

    FOR MORE INFO:  Search Google for the “National Geographic Series” to find links to websites describing this and other NGS events, and to purchase tickets for the various programs.

  • Talking comets with “The” Levy at UMKC

    What I did for part of Monday evening October 27, was to spend it talking about comets with David Levy at the UMKC Miller Nichols Learning Center. David was invited to the university as part of the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Warkoczewski Public Observatory. Wow – David Levy – an astronomy notable of our time: author of 34 books, discoverer of 22 comets and host of a radio program to talk about the stars and things astronomical with listeners.

    David’s talk at UMKC lasted an hour or so; it was over much too quickly. He reminisced about his life as a comet chaser: growing up in Quebec Canada, sent to summer camp as kid and not liking it a bit, but then one year ending up at a youth science camp where a counselor challenged him to pick a hard difficult camp project to put together – one he couldn’t possibly finish while being there. After much thought David said his project was to be: hunting for comets.

    The crowd roared with laughter at David’s announcement – telling him he wouldn’t find one in 20 years! 19½ years later David discovered his first comet, and then discovered 21 more using visual, digital and photographic techniques. After his talk David answered audience questions – including mine about the discovery of Shoemaker-Levy 9 and the special excitement it raised after learning the comet would be photographed colliding with Jupiter – which it did in 23 large pieces.

    The audience enthusiastically applauded when David announced he was finalizing contract arrangements with UMKC to donate thousands of his viewing session notes to the university library. And at the end of his presentation David concluded by reminding people to continue being passionate about their interests and their hobbies, and to always keep “looking up” to enjoy the night sky majesty.

    UMKC earlier made special mention of KC SLUG friend Joe Wright – presenting him with a plague in appreciation for the tons of hours Joe volunteered to the university astronomy program and to “The Warko”: UMKC’s Royal Hall roof-top observatory (which features a hand-made 16 3/8” diameter Newtonian that took Stanley Warkoczweski 9 years to build) and a new computerized 14” Schmidt Cassegrain. Many people still visit the WARKO for free viewing on clear May thru October Friday nights. Hats off to Joe AND to the UMKC astronomy program for helping us as David Levy says: “keep looking up”.


    NOTICE:  Here is an announcement I saw for a 1-hour program about Stephen Hawking that is scheduled to broadcast on KCPT CH 19 / 19.1 PBS Wednesday, January 29, at 09:00pm central.  PBS offered the following description of the program:

    DESCRIPTION: This is the intimate and revealing story of Stephen Hawking’s life. Told for the first time in Hawking’s own words and with unique access to his home and public life, this is a personal journey through Hawking’s world. The audience joins him at home, under the care of his nursing team; in San Jose as he “wows” a packed theatre audience; in Silicon Valley as he meets a team of technicians who hope to speed up his communication system; and as he throws a party for family and friends. HAWKING also carefully tells Hawking’s life journey, from boyhood under-achiever to PhD genius, and from a healthy cox on the Oxford rowing team to diagnosis of motor neuron disease, given just two years to live yet surviving several close brushes with death. The film also highlights his greatest scientific discoveries and plots his rise to fame and superstardom.   [HD][CC]


    01/30/14, 2:00 am KCPT CH 19 / 19.1 HD

    02/01/14, 3:00 am KCPT CH 19 / 19.1 HD

    The program will be broadcast in English.  More content is available at:


    The CD audio book Stephen Hawking: My Brief History will be available for KCSLUG club members to sign out at the next KCSLUG meeting.

  • 30-inch mirror is here!!!

    I have been to Canada and back. I left here on Tuesday and got back Saturday evening. Only 2600+ miles round trip. Quite a drive. Exciting amounts of gas consumed by my Hummer. Getting through Customs with an object that few people (and zero border officers) have ever heard of is a delightful process. I have lots of kewl pictures to show of the impressive shop where the mirror was made.

    Now that there is a freshly aluminized 30″ mirror in my possession, it’s time to start building a telescope around it. Perhaps we can have a New Year’s celebration by freezing our butts off while we drink hot chocolate and look through a 30″ scope…

    I know we said it would be fun if I kept everybody updated with a trail of bread crumbs as I traveled, but that obviously did not happen. Driving that many hours in that short of time is pretty stressful – especially when you are as easy-going as I am; non-resentful of overt threats to life and limb as I am; and as forgiving of profound acts of driver stupidity as I am. Getting into a motel and passing out was about as much as I could accomplish at the end of each day.

  • KCSLUGs on Mars….

    KCSLUG club members became Mars Explorers for an evening on Tuesday May 14, 2013 – by attending the presentation: EXPLORING MARS: THE NEXT GENERATION. The program was held downtown Kansas City at the Kauffman Center as part of the National Geographic Live series. The event was well-attended and extra seats were sparse, so we were happy to have our event tickets ahead of time. The Kauffman Center was beautiful and something to behold, but first – let’s talk about the Mars program.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer Kobie Boykins was our guide for the evening. Kobie worked at JPL for a number of years, and amongst his responsibilities were the design and testing of the solar panels that powered the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Kobie had lots of energy, display items and Mars program information. There was never a dull moment for any of us as he easily kept the program lively, informative and moving throughout the evening.

    As part of his presentation, Kobie shared sets of outstanding slides and videos related to aspects of the Mars program. We looked at component design and testing, launch operations, mission support, in-flight controls and maneuvers, views of Mars before entering its atmosphere and overviews of multiple techniques used to touch down safely on the planet’s surface. Kobie used maps to walk us through various routes and landscapes the rovers traveled on the Mars surface. He explained about the differences in terrain between the routes and a little bit about the activities and experiments conducted along the way.

    Kobie talked about the search for evidence of water once existing on the Mars surface, and how scientist hope that discovery may eventually lead us to finding traces of life having existed there at one time or another. Mention was made of future trips to land humans on the red planet, but Kobie explained that the science isn’t entirely in place for such a mission to safely occur within the current decade – but maybe the next?? Kobie concluded the program by fielding audience questions – doing well to respond to inquiries from children and adults alike.

    All in all, the program was a success. The topics were interesting, the presentation materials were outstanding and our informed presenter communicated easily with the audience. And as for the program venue, well – the Kauffman Center is a jewel. It was easy to find, lots of covered on-site parking was available and there were volunteers in blue vests everywhere to answer our questions and help guide us in the right direction. The National Geographic Live series will return to the Kauffman Center next year, so be sure to visit the Kauffman Center web site to learn more about those upcoming programs.

  • New Moon for Neptune

    I read this on MSN news about the discovery of a new moon orbiting Neptune. (No, I don’t set out to read news on MSN on purpose as a rule. I ran across it looking for something else.) An astronomer found it while studying existing Hubble data. See the full story here: http://news.msn.com/science-technology/astronomer-finds-new-moon-orbiting-neptune


  • PANSTARRS 3-20-2012

    A few shots of PANSTARRS from tonight. They are all shot on a fixed tripod using a D300, 200mm, F5.6, 6-sec, ISO 800. All settings and focus manual. The first shot is heavily processed. The other 2 are only resampled and compressed for fast download. You can see an airplane in the top of the first image.

    panstarrs_03202013_cropped_1bpanstarrs_03202013_3b  panstarrs_03202013_cropped_2b

  • KCSLUG Website is in the middle of a full makeover

    As you can see, the KCSLUG website is changing. I am in the process of adding:

    • A blog that I will update regularly with astronomy news and stuff that interests me
    • The ability for members to comment and even have their own blogs
    • a calendar, observing site weather, photo albums, and other important info
    • yourname@kcslug.com email accounts for members
    • more kewl stuff as time permits

    If you want more info or want to help with the website, email or call me.

    – Bob




    We had a small turnout last Saturday, as was to be expected since we moved the meeting by a week, everybody was watching the KU – KSTATE game, and a great deal of St. Pat’s drinking had already started. What you missed was a program on comets and on comet PANSTARRS in particular. Here is a photo I took on March 13th, 2013. You will be able to see the comet low in the West-North West soon after sunset for the next few weeks. Don’t be fooled by the “it’s a naked eye object” stuff they keep reporting on TV. You will need at least binoculars to really see it – especially from town. (click the image to view it full size)