R.I.P. John Dobson (Dobsonian Telescope Inventor)

I just heard the news that John Dobson, among many other things, the inventor of the Dobsonian telescope, passed away yesterday, January 15th 2014, at the age of 98.  I had the pleasure of two instances of significance with Mr. Dobson over the years.  The first, exposure to The Astronomer's book and video series from the early 90's which he had a clip in.  This clip was one of my very first exposures to astronomy (much thanks to Jim Lewis for sharing this back then) and certainly helped inspire my drive and desire to pursue astronomy and make it a part of my life in some manner (mainly toward a degree in the field).

JohnDobson_01The second, was an opportunity to actually meet him at an ASKC (Astronomical Society of Kansas City) event where he gave a presentation.  His presentation was good and I'm sure inspired and encouraged people in the room which he excelled at doing throughout his life.  It was a pleasure to know of and understand his contribution to the astronomical community and to have actually had the chance to meet him.

He leaves behind significant contributions to the community that are, pun and more intended,… astronomical in their impact.  The invention of the Dobsonian telescope is a monolithic contribution from the stand point that, for the first time, it placed small and especially large aperture telescopes into a price range that even casual hobbyists could afford.  Even today, a 16" dobsonian style telescope (this is huge) runs roughly $2,000 while other 16" aperture telescopes will typically run from $10,000 to $20,000 as a starting price.

The second and, in my opinion, even more important contribution was his personal one.  The amount of public outreach and interaction that John Dobson had over the years of his involvement, and founding, of the San Fransisco Sidewalk Astronomers is staggering to consider.  The shear number of people that he encouraged to look through his telescopes and share enjoyment of the universe around us is simply astounding.  As the AAL (Astronomy Associates of Lawrence) so aptly puts it "Astronomy IS the people's science" and John Dobson was a true master at bringing basic, awe inspiring, astronomy to the people.

John, after the run that you've had with life, and all the positive contributions you managed to make, I'd say you certainly deserve the break.  You'll definitely be missed for those contributions and your willingness to engage and share the spectacle with people, it's with great thanks and joy that I can say I had the opportunity to meet you.

RIP John Dobson (1915-2014)


Links to Additional Articles





Solar Flare AR1944 Follow Up

This is a follow up with an image and video released related to the AR1944 solar flare.  All images and video credit goes to: NASA/SDO/Goddard

Yesterday's eruption comes with a predicted 60% chance of elevated auroral activity on January 9th.  If there is activity, as nearly always, the best view will be at latitudes closer to the poles.  In addition to the auroral activity, this particular region of the Sun is still heavily active and is expected to produce additional flares.  Current estimates from NOAA put the chance of additional M-Class flares at around 80% and X-Class flares at around 50%.  Still very active!

The image below is of the explosion which is denoted by the wispy filament arcs around the central disk that obscures the Sun to provide better visibility of the atmosphere and phenomenon around it.

Below is a video of the flare erupting.



X1 Class Solar Flare Eruption From AR1944

In case anyone hasn't seen the reports on this yet, NASA has reported that a rather large X-class (X1.2) solar flare erupted from the Sun's active region designation 1944 (AR1944) at approximately 1:32 PM EST today (January 7th, 2014).

Based on information that the Space Weather Prediction Center of NOAA (http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/) provided, the burst (which did cause radio interference at a designation of R3) was a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) sending particles directly toward Earth.  While this burst is not expected to cause significant outages or interruptions, it is in the X-Class which is the strongest classification so it could provide some action, including aurora.

The CME is expected to impact the Earth's magnetic field beginning sometime on January 9th with possible radio and weak power grid interruptions at high latitudes.  Aurora will probably also be visible with this impact.  There is not currently detailed information about how far South any effects may be visible but, if you're interested, I suggest keeping an eye on any of the tools and resources in the links section of the site (http://www.collegeastronomy.com/useful-sites/).  Especially the last link on the page, for Space Weather Live, which will provide a good graphical representation of the visibility of auroras around the globe.

I'll try to post more updates where pertinent.