Choosing a first telescope for yourself or a loved one can be a daunting task. There is literally no limit to the amount of money that can be spent on telescopes and related equipment. Luckily, modern development of quality optics on simple, stable mounts and more recent advancements in low cost electronics and software means that the price of an entry level telescope can be quite affordable.
Each Fall, we update our Telescope Buyer’s Guide to help primarily first-time buyers seeking a telescope during the Holiday Season. Here’s our 2022 update:
Please join us at 7:30pm on November 18th for our monthly members meeting at VBAS!
Radio Astronomy from the Moon: A discussion on the science from upcoming CLPS missions to the lunar surface with low frequency radioastronomy instruments
We’re welcoming guest speaker Dr. Heidi Haviland, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
Heidi’s scientific research focuses on understanding planetary interiors using electromagnetic geophysical methods, neutron measurements, seismic normal modes, and the space plasma environment of airless bodies such as the Moon. She is the project scientist of the Neutron Measurements at the Lunar Surface (NMLS) instrument that will fly on Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission one, and a science team member on the InSight mission. Heidi also leads an interdisciplinary research group focused on understanding the chemistry of the Moon through thermoelastic and petrological modeling. Heidi is the Project Scientist for the CLPS PRISM1a (CP-11) delivery which will investigate the Reiner Gamma surface swirl.
We’ll be taking a look at radio telescopes of the past, present, and future. Radio telescopes have some very interesting designs and have made some extremely important discoveries. Radio Astronomy is even in VBAS’ near future. They’ll be opportunities for you to participate if you are interested.
Presented by Gena
Stars Fell on Alabama
November 19th at 7:30pm
The Leonid meteor shower occurs every year in mid-November. This year the peak will happen in the early morning of November 18th. Ms. Beth Bero will teach you how best to enjoy the meteors and where the meteors come from. This program is certain to be educational for the whole family.
Mercury must be retrograde. Mars is at opposition. There’s a conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon.
Phrases like these are often found in popular media and are used by astronomers to describe the relative positions of things in the sky. But what do those terms mean? We can use our star projector to help us see how the view from Earth is a little more complex than the view from space.
Presented by Alex Hall.
The Golden Record
Saturday, October 15, 7:30pm
We will be discussing the Voyager mission, and reviewing the contents and inscriptions on the Golden Record.
What was that light in the sky? Was it dangerous? A portent of evil? Come celebrate dark and spooky events in the sky with amateur astronomer Beth Bero at the planetarium. This program is NOT scary, so it is safe to bring the younger members of the family.
Autumn is a wonderful time to relax under the night sky. Ms. Delisa Collette will inspire you to do just that. Constellations and other beautiful objects are awaiting your discovery. As an added bonus, Saturn will be an awesome spectacle in our society telescopes after the show on clear nights.
All About Stars
Saturday, September 10, 7:30pm
Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are? In this presentation, we’ll take a look at stars – big ones, small ones, explosive ones, sputtering ones, brand new ones, ancient ones, and ones that are long dead.
Presented by Alexandra Hall
The Planetarium: A Magic Carpet
Saturday, September 24, 7:30pm
We can use the star projector in the planetarium to pretend to fly anywhere on Earth – like a magic carpet! Gena Crook will demonstrate the motion of the stars across the sky at the equator, the north pole, and the southern hemisphere. We will also watch how the sun changes positions at these locations. You may be surprised if you haven’t actually been to the equator or the north pole in person! This program will put the star projector to work and allow us to see its unique educational capabilities.
Instructor: Jeff Delmas, VBAS Observatory Director
Who Should Attend: The course is targeted to beginning observers, adults and teens, or those interested in a refresher course in basics observational astronomy.
Learn the wonders of the night sky in a practical setting that involves both lecture and observing using your own telescope or binoculars. Whether you’ve purchased a telescope and want help learning your way around the night sky, are thinking about getting a telescope and want to learn about available equipment and techniques, or just want to learn, this class will help you in your quest. At the end of each lecture, students are provided a list of skill and season-appropriate targets to observe in the field and over the following week.
Updated for 2022! This year’s course has been modified to have more time in the observing field and less in lecture. In addition, we’ll start directly with learning the night sky, and telescope designs before later covering history and theory.
Tuesdays, 9/27/22 through 11/15/22, 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Eight sessions in total:
Session 1: Navigating the Sky and Telescope Designs
Session 2: Observing Progression
Session 3: Charles Messier and His Catalog
Session 4: References, Programs, and Apps to Guide Observing
Session 5: Astronomy History & Basic Concepts
Session 6: Modern Astrophotography
Session 7: Radio Astronomy
Session 8: Cosmology
Price: $25 members, $30 nonmembers
Each student must provide an email address so the instructor can provide course materials.
Great Observatories of the World: Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)
Saturdays, August 6 and 20 7:30 pm
Truly great observatories are designed and built to see things never possible before. You probably have never heard of ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, but it is making amazing discoveries nearly every day. ALMA looks at light we can’t see with our eyes, light in between the infrared spectrum and radio waves. This millimeter and submillimeter light from space has never been explored at the level ALMA is delivering. As a great observatory, ALMA is challenging scientists to ask new and better questions about the origins of galaxies, stars, and planets, but is also showing the incredible power and beauty of the universe around us. This show will explain how ALMA works and take you on a whirlwind tour of stellar nurseries, protoplanetary disks, and other mind-blowing discoveries made by ALMA.
Presented by Eric Silkowski
NASA’s Artemis Program
Saturday, August 13 at 7:30pm
Through the Artemis Program NASA aims to send first woman and next man to the Moon and achieve sustainable human presence on the Moon and Beyond. A series of Space Launch System (SLS) missions will enable reaching this goal. NASA has set the launch date for the first SLS launch to be August 29th. Rocket City played a very important role in reaching this milestone. Join us to learn about the Artemis program and celebrate this important milestone.
Von Braun Astronomical Society will celebrate Astronomy Day on October 22nd in person at MonteSano State Park! Beginning at 1:00 p.m., events will include: solar viewing, mini-planetarium shows, rockets, vacuum-chamber demonstrations of what it’s like in space, and several other fun STEAM activities.
2 pm: James Webb Space Telescope by Dr. Naveen Vetcha
3 pm: Asteroids by Dr. Eric Silkowski
4 pm: Swanson Telescope Upgrade Project by Jeff Delmas
At 7:00 p.m. VBAS will host special guest Ms. Alice Bowman, the Operations Manager for the New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond.
VBAS Thanks AIAA Greater Huntsville Section for arranging the guest speaker for this year’s Astronomy Day.
Overview: Alice Bowman, the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (MOM) will talk about the voyage of NASA’s historic mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt– which culminated with the first flight past the distant dwarf planet on July 14, 2015 and the first encounter with a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) on January 1, 2019. She’ll speak about this continuing journey through the eyes of the APL mission operations team and describe some of the technical, scientific, and personal challenges of piloting the New Horizons spacecraft across the solar system on its voyage to the farthest reaches of the planetary frontier.
Alice Bowman is a member of the Principal Professional Staff at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. She is the Space Mission Operations Group supervisor and the NASA New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (MOM). She supervises approximately 50 staff members who operate deep space and Earth-orbiting spacecraft, including NASA’s TIMED, STEREO, New Horizons, and Parker Solar Probe. As the New Horizons MOM, Alice leads the team that controls the spacecraft that made a historic flyby of the Pluto system in July 2015. And on New Year’s 2019, just after midnight, New Horizons made history again with a flight past the Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth – the most distant flyby ever conducted, 4 billion miles from Earth. Prior to operating spacecraft, she worked in the fields of computer modeling, drug research and long-wave detector research.
Alice has a degree in chemistry and physics from the University of Virginia and has more than 30 years of experience in space operations. She is an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and has served on the International SpaceOps Committee since 2009.
What are black holes? How are they formed? Will our sun ever become one?
Please come to our July 2nd family centered show for answers to these questions and more.
Presented by Brenda Rogers
James Webb Space Telescope
Saturday July 9 & 23 at 7:30pm:
On Dec 25th 2021, NASA (in collaboration with European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency) created history by successfully launching the world’s largest and most complex space science observatory, The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). On its journey to the Sun-Earth L2 point (which is a million miles away from the Earth), JWST went through a series of complex deployments to fully unfurl as a telescope. Over the last few months, The Webb team carefully aligned the mirrors and took test images to make sure that the Telescope is ready for the first science images. NASA plans to release the first science image on July 12th. Join us to learn about this exciting journey of the telescope.
Presented by Dr. Naveen Vetcha
Saturday July 16 at 7:30pm:
What is a meteor? Where do they come from? Why do we see them? What popular meteor shower is coming in August?
Please come to our July 16th family centered show for answers to these questions and more.
Presented by Brenda Rogers
Vacation in the Stars
Saturday July 30th, 7:30pm
Summer is vacation time! Join VBAS presenter Beth Bero for a ‘Vacation in the Stars.’ We will explore all our space-related vacay destinations and learn the star lore of people from around the world who have looked up at the night sky and imagined adventures there.
Saturday June 11, 7:30: William Herschel made numerous discoveries that give cause for some to call him the father of modern astronomy. His most famous discovery doubled the size of the Solar System. Come learn about this musician/composer turned astronomer/telescope maker who left forever one of the biggest marks in the history of astronomy.
Presented by Jared Cassidy, VBAS Planetarium Director
Saturday June 18, 7:30: Come learn the brightest stars, constellations and star lore, just in time for your next camping trip! We’ll cover the basics: the brightest stars, most prominent constellations, meteor showers, what to do with binoculars or a small telescope, and where to learn more.
Presented by Don Martin
Standing Stones and Sungazers
Saturday June 25, 7:30: In recognition of the Summer Solstice a few days earlier, we will explore how ancient civilizations marked the passage of the year through monuments, monoliths and markers.