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2015 Michiana Star Party is May 15-17

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

posted by: bueter

Camping at Star Party

The field at a star party

The 2015 Michiana Star Party is May 15-17 at Dr. TK Lawless Park in Vandalia, MI. Astronomy enthusiasts start arriving after 3 PM and set up their campsites and gear, then settle into a night of observing. Saturday features a lineup of four speakers by day: Nick Schuck speaks about Astro Gadgets; Dr. Grant Mathews addresses Future Sky; David Fuller talks about The Power of Light, and Therese Dorau concludes with Balancing Equity, Environment, and Economy in South Bend.

On Saturday the park is hosting its Earth Day celebrations with additional activities for the family.  That segues into a Saturday night of telescopic viewing until morning twilight on Sunday.

If you’ve never been to a star party, a description of the event is at Time for a Star Party. I encourage you to pre-register at the Michiana Astronomical Society Inc. website.

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Two Photons Walk Into a Bar…

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

posted by: bueter

Logos for 2015 Celebrations

Got a punchline?  Share your wit at the South Bend Science Cafe on January 12, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. at Chicory Cafe in South Bend, IN.  I will be the guest speaker addressing astronomy highlights that dovetail with two celebrations: South Bend’s 150th Anniversary and the 2015 International Year of Light.  The only rules are that the speaker has a 15-minute presentation followed by Q&A, no PowerPoint or slides are allowed, and the speaker must have a beverage in one hand and a microphone in the other.  Among the topics I intend to introduce will be:

  • First Midnight, an elongated star chart of the May 22, 1865, midnight sky that is painted on the crosswalk at Washington and Jefferson Streets.  The stars will appear the same during the sesquicentennial, with a different arrangement of visible planets.
  • Eltanin (labeled in the crosswalk), the brightest star in Draco, which is approximately 150 light years away, and whose light left the star approximately when South Bend was formed and is just now reaching us.
  • SB150 Young Astronomers, a yearlong initiative in which South Bend youths will control research-grade telescopes remotely while learning the night sky locally.  The program is an affiliate of Skynet Junior Scholars, with support from The Summers Group, Project Impact South Bend, NAACP South Bend Branch, and others.  Youths may register in person at the Century Center in South Bend on Monday, January 19, 2015, during the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
  • Dark Sky Advocacy.  As the city expands its Light Up South Bend campaign and as LED lights come into vogue, the shortcomings of blue-rich lighting needs to be part of the dialogue.  Are you using the f.lux app or its equivalent?
  • South Bend River Lights, a piece of installation art that purports to be dark-sky friendly as it lights up the St. Joseph River, the dam, and architectural features.
  •, my rebuilt website (dang hackers), at which I try to promote local astronomy happenings.  Please send me your announcements for items that should be included on the Michiana Astronomy Calendar.

Back to the punchline…send me your best, and I’ll have a frosty beverage for creators of the top three punchlines I receive beforehand.  Hope to see you at Science Cafe.

First Midnight

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The Albireo Game

Monday, September 1st, 2014

posted by: bueter

The Albireo GameThe 2014 football clash between Notre Dame and Michigan is dubbed The Albireo Game–well, at least among a few sciency folks.  On the preceding Friday night, Sept. 9, telescopes set up in downtown South Bend, IN, will be targeting the visual binary star Albireo (actually, a triple) in the constellation Cygnus the Swan.

Members of Michiana Astronomical Society Inc. (MAS) and of the University of Notre Dame Department of Physics will ask passers-by to observe the star, judge its prominent colors, and then cast a vote.  Is the star pair Blue & Gold, or Maize & Blue?

Albireo in crosswalk

Albireo in chalk on crosswalk

We invite you to join us at the intersection of Washington and Michigan Streets to support your team colors.  Proceeds from the campaign will benefit AstroCamp (in Michigan) and Art 2 Science camp (in Notre Dame, IN).   More info is at

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Life Around the Smallest Stars

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

posted by: bueter

Planets around red dwarf.

On Monday, April 21, 2014, astronomer Justin Crepp of University of Notre Dame will be the guest speaker at the Michiana Astronomical Society regular meeting, held at 7 PM in the Lion’s Room of the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Library at 209 Lincolway East in Mishawaka, IN. Dr. Crepp studies exoplanets, with particular interest in the nearby M-class variety of stars that may harbor earth-like planets. His talk is titled, “The M-dwarf Opportunity: Life Around the Smallest Stars.”

A write-up and details are at There’s also a link to an admittedly-not-printer-friendly poster if you wish to download, print, and post it publicly.

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Lunar Eclipse Shadows

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

posted by: bueter

Penumbra and umbra

Earth casts two shadows

Doing any public outreach for the total lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014?  Yes, the hours are a bit harsh for Michiana observers, with the moon entering the umbral shadow at 1:58 a.m. EDT.  Eclipse maps always depict two circular shadows behind earth, though most people can only discern the darker umbral shadow.

To simulate the pair of shadows cast by the earth you need a source of light that has some dimension, or two separated sources of light.  The Lunar Eclipse Shadows activity illustrates the resultant penumbra and umbra.  If you’re outside with a crowd observing the lunar eclipse, this activity works especially well if you use car headlights.

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Seeing Green From Space

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

posted by: bueter

A big green star

Is the sun really green?  (The answer will likely surprise you.)  Then why don’t we see green stars?  And how is alcohol relevant to the center of our galaxy?

Seeing Little Green Things from Space on St. Patrick’s Day —
Without Even Drinking Anything!

Monday, March 17, 2014, at 7 PM
In the downtown Mishawaka Public Library, 209 Lincoln Way East

The Michiana Astronomical Society is going green astronomy, opening its regular meeting on St. Patrick’s Day with astronomer and STEM educator Jim Sweitzer via Skype.  Details at  It’s a good day for a mind-bender.

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Astronomy Events Challenge Spring Fever

Monday, February 24th, 2014

posted by: bueter

Calendar of astronomy events for March 2014

The March 2014 calendar of Michiana astronomy events will jolt you out of hibernation and stir your soul as spring approaches. Observe Jupiter and its moons through telescopes at several locations; watch the premiere of Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey at Fiddler’s Hearth; and See Little Green Things from Space on St. Patrick’s Day — Without Even Drinking Anything! at the regular meeting of the Michiana Astronomical Society.  Details linked from

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2014 AstroCamp is Looking Up

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

posted by: bueter

2014 AstroCamp flyer

AstroCamp is an astronomy adventure for kids ages 9-13 at YMCA Camp Eberhart in Three Rivers, MI. Registration is now open for the 2014 session on July 20-26. It’s a weeklong summer camp with emphasis on learning constellations, getting hands on telescopes, and targeting deep sky objects. Kids also enjoy the regular camp activities on the shore of beautiful Corey Lake. Space (at AstroCamp) is limited.

I invite you to download, post, and distribute the 2014 AstroCamp flyer.

If you are an astronomy buff and want to spend some time–whether a few hours or few days–sharing your passion for the night sky, I encourage you to consider being part of the staff for either day or night portions of AstroCamp.  More information is at

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Telescope Viewing at “Sun Rings”

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

posted by: bueter

Jupiter's Moons

Plasma waves detected by the Voyager spacecraft have inspired a pairing of the sounds of space and the live music of the Kronos Quartet.  Michiana Astronomical Society Inc. (MAS) is partnering with the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at Notre Dame for the Kronos Quartet production of Sun Rings on Saturday, March 1, 2014.  Before and after the 7:30 p.m. concert, MAS members will set up telescopes outside DeBartolo to target celestial highlights like Jupiter and its Galilean moons. Come see for yourself the visible wavelengths from a grand denizen of the solar system before heading into the theater to hear the sound extracted from plasma waves detected by the Voyager.  More info and links at

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Our 2013 Comet Experience

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

posted by: bueter

Buggy Comet Model

Michiana embraces astronomy education and public outreach, and the approach and demise of Comet ISON was an example of such community support. At is a summary of the comet experience, including dry ice comets, all-school assemblies, Google+ Hangouts with astronomers, food and beverage specials, a community treasure hunt, music, and several art exhibits. A linked video, also at, blasts through images from the 2013 Comet Festival.  Choose your own music and crank it during the video.

Thanks to all who supported the celebration of science. Even though we knew and announced up front that the comet may not survive its close encounter with sun, as it did not, adult and student participants alike recognized that’s the nature of the beast and embraced the uncertainty anyway.  Regardless of Comet ISON’s outcome, we learned much about comets and ourselves alike.

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