SUMMER 2012f r i e n d s o f t h e o b s e r v at o r y
According to some, the ancient Maya calendar predicts the catastrophic End of the World when the Maya tally of days in the passage of time completes another cycle on December 21, 2012the winter solstice. So, in May, 2012, with less than seven months of shopping days left before the alleged end of time as we know it, Griffith Observatory took on the 2012 Maya Calendar End Times Follies in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium with a new planetarium showTimes Up.
When Griffith Observatory reopened in November, 2006, after a $93-million reno-vation and expansion, the Observatorys Museum Guides reported that visitors most frequently asked about the Maya calendar and the calamities it claimed to predict for 2012. Although none of the predictions of Maya calendar doom are rooted in fact, over the next few years, it became obvious media attention and public interest in the 2012 claims would intensify as the Maya calendar countdown continued. The steady growth of false rumors affiliated with 2012 prompted Griffith Observatory to do something to help restore the years maligned reputation. Times Up was planned to take on misguided Maya-calendar anxiety and reveal whats really in store this December.
Times Up does not stop, however, with Maya calendar lore and false predictions of doom. In Times Up, 2012 is really just the gateway for a more profound understanding of time and the long-term future of the universe. After transporting the audience to Tikal (image shown on the header above), one of the largest centers of power in the Maya world 1200 years ago, for a look at ancient Maya calendar inscriptions and how they worked, the show hitches a ride on the arrow of time to reveal how the universe really works and what time really is.
Time is change, and modern physics tells us the arrow of time, from past to future, is really all about the kind of change the universe will entertain. Physics handles this with the second law of thermodynamics, and it just means energy spreads out. That is what puts direction into the arrow of time, and its an irreversible process.
Astronomical observations put the nature of time on display in the story of the universe. In Times Up, the mirror of the Hubble Space Telescope captures glimpses of the past in the light of every distant object it collects. That light travels at a known speed, but even at 186,000 miles per second, it takes time for the light to reach us. That means we see things as they were, not as they are.
Looking out in space, we are looking back in time, and looking back in time, we see the history of the cosmos. Looking out in space, we see a story. Times Up assembles those reports from the past into a narrative that begins with the beginning of time, at the Big Bang, condenses the sun from interstellar gas, creates the solar system and forms the earth, and then continues billions and billions of years into the future, long after the sun has faded and the earth has become a cinder.
Transit of Venus ..............................2
Transit Day with Kara Knack and Noemi Cruz Jerry .....................2
Times Up Reservation .....................4
Griffith Observatory Takes on the World (Wide Web) ....................4
New Mexico Annular Solar Eclipse Adventure ....................................5-6
Eclipsing Solar Apathy at Griffith Observatory .......................6
Mt. Wilson Inspires Again ..............7
INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
TRANSIT OF VENUS VISITORS at Griffith Observatory
by Dr. E.C. Krupp,Griffith Observatory Director
GRIFFITH OBSERVATORYS LATEST ORIGINAL, FULL DOME PRODUCTION
contd on page 3
RESERVE YOUR TIMES UP TICKETS NOW!
Find out how on page 4.
Transits of planets across the disk of the sun have been used to observe and study the solar system since the German astronomer and mathema-tician Johannes Kepler made the first detailed prediction for a transit of Mercury in 1631. Kepler also predicted a transit of Venus for 1631, but it was not visible in Europe and went unseen. Jeremiah Horrocks, an English clergyman, predicted and observed the 1639 transit of Venus and was the first person to do both. By the next transit of Venus, in 1761, astronomers were collaborating internationally to collect and analyze measurements of transit times from different places on the earth. The English astronomer Edmond Halley had recognized how these observations could be used to establish a more accurate estimate of the distance between the earth and the sun, and eighteenth-century astronomers cooperated in an attempt to make the most of that centurys two Venus transits. Expeditions were again mobilized for the 1769 transit of Venus. Captain James Cook, famous for his exploration of the Pacific, headed one of these missions on his first voyage and observed the transit on Tahiti.
Astronomers are still making use of transits of Venus. They may have caught a glimpse of sunlight refracted through the atmosphere of Venus during its most recent transit, on June 5, 2012. These observations may permit calculation of the temperature of the planets upper atmosphere. The result may then be compared to the temperatures measured by the Venus Express spacecraft cur-rently in orbit around Venus.
The Hubble Space Telescope also monitored the last transit of Venus, but not directly. The sun is much too bright to be observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. The spacecraft was instead pointed at the moon, which reflects sunlight back to the telescope. Spectroscopy with the Hubble Space Telescope is sensitive enough to determine the composition of the atmosphere of Venus with this indirect technique. In the near future, similar methods will be used to determine the atmospheric composition of planets in orbit around other stars. We just need to build a telescope big enough to do the job.
Transits are currently used to search for planets around other stars. The orbit-ing Kepler telescope is now measuring the light from 150,000 stars. It has enough precision to tell when a planet transits across the face of its star. The Kepler mission has identified 61 planets and more than 2,300 planet candi-dates in just the first 16 months of operation, with many more to come.
PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Krupp, Admiral of the Good Ship Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles Public Astronomy, interpreting the transit of Venus in the Camera Obscura.
T R A N S I T O F V E N U Sby Dr. David Reitzel
HERES MY TRANSIT DAY STORY, which I had anticipated to be a solitary adventure since I was not planning on leaving Malibu all day.
In mid-afternoon just after three, I put my Griffith Observatory Solarama around my neck and headed out to vote and do errands but as I stood in my driveway looking for Venus through the glass, my neighbors saw me and we spent the next 15 minutes looking, talking and being in awe.At the post office I took another look and several people came up to me over the next few minutes asking if they could look. One person had seen the image of Griffith Observatory on my Solarama and knew it was safe, he told me. My polling place was at our local elementary school and everyone inside took a turn coming out to look at Venus in front of the sun. The Solarama was getting a good workout. There were lots of kids still playing in the playground and two little girls (about 8 or 9 years old) came over asking about what we were looking at. I told them about the transit and that we could see it through the welders glass. They each looked several times, asking questions about what it meant and how big was Venus. The news that it wasnt going to happen again for 105 years really made them pensive. One of the little girls looked through the Solarama and said to me, My own kids will probably not see this. Ill never forget this day as long as I live. Wow.In the grocery store parking lot I got about seven people to look before I went in to shop but then the produce guy noticed the Solarama hang-ing around my neck and asked if it was possible to see Venus. We left my half-filled cart in the aisle and out to the parking lot we went. The meat department guy found me in the bread aisle and said he heard I had a viewer and wondered if he could take a look. My cart sat in the aisle again.When I got home my neighbors came out for one last look and after I got the groceries put away I watched the sun and Venus drop behind the Santa Monica Mountains feeling pretty happy Id taken my Solarama with me.In between I did tune in for the live feed and what a treat seeing all the people at Griffith and being a part of the huge excitement I heard in Griffith Observatory Curator Dr. Laura Danlys voice.
Great job on the part of everyone involved with getting people to
T R A N S I T d Ay w I T h
FOTO BOARD MEMBER KARA KNACK
FOTO BOARD MEMBER NOEMI CRUz jERRYCONGRATULATIONS FOR A TRULY SPECTACULAR EVENT, yesterday! I watched live feed of the Observatory lawn on a national television station through the internet. It looked awesome! Big, excited, happy looking crowd! Really sparked the imagination of the LA populace.
Yesterday, I handed out, at work, copies of the Media Alert on the transit of Venus that was provided at Mondays FOTO Board Meeting. My colleagues were very enthused, but without an outlet for their enthusi-asm. It turns out that a FOTO member is a security guard at my office building. He brought with him to work his binoculars and welders goggles. My colleagues and I were able to see the transit of Venus, live, using his apparatus. It was very cool!