Midsummer night astronomy sessions available at FRC
Yes, Feather River College has telescopes and an observatory! The FRC observatory will be open Saturday, July 26, from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Charles Arrowsmith, who teaches astronomy at FRC and leads the local RECON project team, will be on hand to help guide visitors through the night sky and to provide information about astronomy activities and education in Plumas County.
The past year and a half has been a busy one for Plumas County astronomers. Three Plumas County communities — Greenville, Portola and Quincy — along with teams in eight other California and Nevada communities, have been participating in the pilot of a unique astronomy research project supported by the National Science Foundation.
The RECON project is designed to study objects that orbit the sun out beyond the planet Neptune. RECON stands for Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network. To study these distant faint objects, citizen-scientists in each community use project-supplied equipment to record the objects when they move in front of stars.
This is called an occultation — when the object briefly hides or “occults” the star and casts a faint shadow that moves across the Earth. This shadow is in the shape of the object. By measuring the location and duration of the occultation shadow very accurately and simultaneously from several locations on Earth, scientists can determine the characteristics of the object — not only the size and shape, but also the surface characteristics, composition and the precise orbit of the object.
This information, combined with data from other research, is then used to help gain a better understanding of how our solar system was formed and to discover more about the resources it contains.
In addition to the research, education is a key objective of the RECON project. Science teachers at Quincy High School, Portola High School, Plumas Charter School in Greenville and Feather River College are all part of RECON.
Again this fall, Professor Arrowsmith, along with the high school science teachers, plans to offer a RECON community education class so that their students and other community members can learn more about the science behind the project, how to use the equipment and how to analyze the results.
These citizen-scientists will be able to participate in the research project on an ongoing basis.
On July 26 the Quincy RECON team will participate in the observation of an occultation event. It is predicted that an asteroid named Lotis will occult a star in the constellation Scutum (the shield) at 10:30 p.m.
The FRC Observatory is the low green building nestled in the midst of the FRC sports complex at the entrance to the baseball field parking lot outside the end-zone fence of the football field and across from the soccer field and the end of the bike path.
Because the moon will be new Saturday, July 26, visitors are requested to park in the equine parking lot near the main road and then walk down to the observatory so as not to interfere with observers’ night vision.
Those with smartphones may want to install an app such as Google Sky (Android) or Sky Walk (iOS) before arriving to help identify the stars and constellations. Bring a small pocket flashlight. Visitors are also reminded to be prepared with insect repellent.
Those interested in learning more about astronomy in general should consider taking the introduction to astronomy course (PHSC 120) at FRC during the fall semester. Note that the course has been rescheduled to meet at a new time this year — Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8:50 p.m. beginning Aug. 27.
The new time will provide more live observation opportunities and is intended to make the class meeting time more convenient for both traditional and nontraditional students. Prospective students can get information and register for the upcoming semester at frc.edu/admissionsandrecords.
Astronomy is included in the physical science subject category.
Read more about the RECON project on the Web at tnorecon.net. For information about local activities visit google.com/+QuincyRECON or email RECON.Quincy@gmail.com.
For information or questions about astronomy at FRC, email Professor Arrowsmith at CArrowsmith@frc.edu.