Friday, August 31, 2007

[FOTHP] Upcoming Scheduled Events

Friends of the Hudnall Planetarium,

Be sure to mark your calendars for these upcoming events at the Hudnall Planetarium!


September 22 Public Astronomy Lecture Justin Parrish Apache Rm 4, 7:00pm
"The Bright Side of Dark Matter"
October 20 Public Astronomy Lecture TBA Apache Rm 4, 7:00pm

November 17 Public Astronomy Lecture TBA Hudnall Planetarium, 7:00pm

*Star parties follow each lecture, weather permitting. Star parties are sponsored by the Astronomical Society of East Texas. If you want to learn more about ASET and amateur astronomy, then check out


Sept 8, 9 "Secret of the Cardboard Rocket" 2:00pm

Oct 10, 11 "Mars 4th World" 2:00pm

Nov 10, 11 "More Than Meets The Eye" 2:00pm

Nov 30 "Star of the Magi" 7:00pm

Dec 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16 "Star of the Magi" 2:00pm

Dec 15 "Star of the Magi" 7:00pm

For information about current events in the astronomy world be sure to tune in to see Hudnall Planetarium's Director, Tom Hooten, make an appearance on KETK 56 (Suddenlink Cable Channel 10) East Texas Live on September 7, October 12, November 9, and December 7 at 11:00am.

For more information contact Hudnall Planetarium at 903-510-2312 or visit the website at

Hope to see you there!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

[FOTHP] Lunar Eclipse Aug 28th

Friends of the Hudnall Planetarium,

Total Lunar Eclipse, August 28, 2007
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 28, 2007, the Moon will undergo a total lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs whenever the Sun, Earth, and Moon line up with the Earth in the middle. Under such an alignment, the Sun's light is blocked by the Earth, casting a shadow across the Moon's face, turning it a dramatic blood-red shade.
If the weather cooperates, you should be able to see the eclipse beginning at 3:51 am. The eclipse will last about three and one-half hours, ending at 7:24 am. Mid-eclipse, when the moon is the darkest, will occur at 5:37 am. The moon will be high in the southwestern sky at the beginning of the eclipse and will sink closer to the western horizon as the eclipse progresses. The moon will actually set at about 7:00 am, which is before the last part of the eclipse is over.
Lunar eclipses occur only during Full Moon and when the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth's shadow. The Earth's shadow is composed of two parts -- the umbra and the penumbra. The two parts of the Earth's shadow form long cones pointed away from the Earth, and are nested inside one another. The outer shadow is the penumbral cone, where the Earth blocks only part of the Sun's light. The inner shadow is the umbral cone, and is the darkest region where the Earth blocks all the Sun's light. When the Moon is completely inside the inner umbral cone, totality will occur. During this time, the Moon will not be completely black but may appear a deep red color. The reddish color comes from sunlight that is bent around the Earth by the refractive properties of the atmosphere. In a sense, the Earth's atmosphere behaves like a big lens, bending some of the Sun's light around the planet. Red light is refracted more than other colors of sunlight, so the red light strikes the Moon, creating the blood-red Moon.
The Moon is still in the penumbral shadow of the Earth about an hour before and an hour after totality. But the penumbral part of the Earth's shadow is faint and you will not notice the Moon being darkened unless you observe it with sensitive light measuring equipment.
If the weather does not cooperate or if you just can't force yourself to get up early on Tuesday morning, your next opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse will be February 21, 2008. Get out and enjoy your universe!

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

[FOTHP] The Perseid Meteor Shower

Friends of the Hudnall Planetarium,

The Perseid Meteor Shower: Of Comets and Meteors

This coming Sunday night and early Monday morning, August 12-13, 2007,
marks the peak of one of the most reliable meteor showers known * the
Perseids. The shower is named after the constellation Perseus from
which the meteors appear to radiate. Estimates are that the Perseids
should produce anywhere from 60 to 100 meteors per hour. Whether the
meteors are observable will depend upon your local weather and lighting
conditions. Meteors are best observed away from city lights under dark
skies. The moon is new and will not brighten the sky, making this an
excellent year to observe the shower. While the shower's peak is
early in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, observers should be able
to spot a few meteor streaks as early as late Saturday night. Look to
the northeast starting after 9:00 PM, and then be patient. You should
see one every few minutes. No special equipment is necessary, except
maybe a comfortable chair and mosquito spray. The next night, as Sunday
turns into Monday morning, the number of meteors observable should

So what makes a meteor shower? To understand this you first need to
know a bit about comets. Comets, which can be thought of as giant muddy
icebergs, orbit the Sun just like the planets, asteroids, and dwarf
planets. However, unlike most members of the solar system, comets tend
to obit the Sun in very elongated elliptical orbits. As these muddy
icebergs move close to the Sun they lose part of their dirty mass along
the way. Loosened grains of dust and gas escape the comet and spread
out along in the same general orbit as the comet. Technically speaking,
these freed dust particles are now called meteoroids.

One particular comet, Swift-Tuttle, passes very near the orbit of the
earth leaving behind tiny bits of itself all along the path. Then, once
per year, as the Earth passes through the dusty trail, the left-behind
meteoroids slam into the Earth. Relative to the Earth, these meteoroids
are moving at incredible speeds, on the order of 140,000 miles per hour.
Anything traveling at these speeds, even tiny dust particles, will
release a lot of energy when they hit something, even if the something
they hit is as soft as the Earth's atmosphere. From the point of view
of an Earth-bound observer, the impact of meteoroids on the atmosphere
leaves behind bright streaks as the surrounding air heats up and the
particles disintegrate. Again, technically speaker, the bright streaks
are called meteors. Because the stream of meteoroid particles all hit
the atmosphere in roughly the same spot each year, it can appear as if
the meteors are radiating from one point in the sky * in this case the
constellation Perseus.

Enjoy your universe. Get out and observe the Perseids this year.

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