Starry Heavens Newsletter
Hauoli Makahiki Hou 2021
Thank you to everyone who continues to read the newsletter and check out our website.
What's new in January?
Hokulani At Home
features the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which has been visible with the naked eye for several months and will continue to be seen through early January. These two planets, which were closest together on December 21, are now slowly moving apart.
Our Star Stories
will premier the story of "Maui and Pimoe".
Did you see it? The grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the Winter Solstice!
December 21, Ala Moana Beach Park was the place to be and it seems everyone knew it. The cloudless sky gave stargazers their chance to see what some call the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and what others were calling “The Christmas Star”.
Jupiter and Saturn, our solar system's two largest planets, were visibly closer together on Monday night than they have been in 800 years — marking an extremely rare celestial event known as the "great conjunction
". The last time the two planets were this close was in 1623 but they were quite close to the horizon and the glare of the sun did not permit the viewing conditions that occurred December 21, 2020. The last time viewing conditions were this good was in the year 1226.
This time around, Jupiter and Saturn
were just 0.1 degrees apart — less than the diameter of a full moon.
The planets were so close, they appeared, from some perspectives, to overlap completely, creating a rare "double planet" effect. However, while the planets appeared from Earth to be very, very close, in reality, they are still hundreds of millions of miles apart.
The event happened to coincide with the winter solstice and the week of Christmas, but it can occur during any time of year. The conjunction occurs when the orbits of the two planets align every 20 years, but the event is not always visible, and the planets do not typically come as close together as they did on December 21. The next great conjunction will occur in 2080 but they will not come this close to each other again until 2416.
If you missed the spectacle, or if your sky appeared cloudy Monday night, don't worry — the planets will still appear extremely close together in the night sky for the next several weeks, and dedicated astrophotographers
like the one below are sharing their best shots of the night on social media. From Melbourne, Australia Sajal Chakravorty’s telescope image captured Jupiter and its four largest moons: Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede as well as the rings of Saturn.
A sad day for Radio Astronomy By Dan Collura
As we bid farewell to a very trying year for the world, we also bid farewell to the enduring and famous Arecibo Observatory’s 1000-foot radio transmitter and receiver dish.
The town of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was home to a famous 1,000-foot radio telescope dish. It was built in 1963 to do research on astronomy and Earth’s atmosphere, and to watch for ballistic missile launches. The telescope and scientific facility were an important center in Puerto Rico for science education and for tourism, bringing an average of 50,000 students and other visitors to the island each year.
(Satellite view of Arecibo Observatory after a cable broke August 2020)
The Arecibo telescope was placed in a natural depression in the mountains, with three concrete towers around it built to suspend the receiving sensors high above the dish. The reflecting dish itself is made up of perforated aluminum panels on top of a support structure – like an upside-down version of our planetarium dome. The telescope became a cultural icon especially through the James Bond movie Goldeneye
and Carl Sagan's novel and movie Contact
Arecibo has discovered pulsars, confirmed discoveries of exoplanets, and made the first radar maps of Venus. Perhaps its most famous scientific moment came in 1974, when it transmitted the Arecibo Message (an attempt at extraterrestrial communication) at the star cluster M13.
Barely a week after Hurricane Isaias struck the island in August 2020, a stabilizing cable broke free and fell from one of the support towers, creating a 130-foot-long gash in the dish. Research was put on hold to evaluate the damage and causes of the failure. However, on November 6th
, a main support cable unexpectedly also broke. Plans for repair were put aside, fearing that any work would be too dangerous. Instead, the NSF decided to decommission the telescope as soon as possible.
Shortly after an early-morning earthquake on December 1st
, a second main support cable on the same tower broke. The remaining 2 cables on that tower also quickly failed, unable to carry double their intended load. The uppermost parts of all three towers broke off, and the entire receiving platform fell through the dish to the ground.
(Pictures after the collapse of the telescope)
(Close-up picture of the receiving platform before its demise)
(Magazine illustration about “Mystery repeating radio signals discovered emanating from unknown cosmic source.”)
But when one door closes another always opens . . .
NASA’s Mission to Mars student project – a very teachable moment
On Feb. 18, NASA will attempt to land a new rover on the surface of
Mars. We invite students of all ages, educators, parents, campers,
museums and other institutions to participate in the adventure of this
historic landing. NASA has created a STEM Education Toolkit with links
to the “Mission to Mars Student Challenge” to lead students in
designing their own Mars mission, plus activities, lessons,
interactives, social media and more to allow classrooms, families, and
individuals to ride along. In addition, there will be a series of
programs broadcast for educators and students in the days and weeks
leading up to landing.
This illustration below depicts NASA’s MARS 2020 rover on the surface of Mars. The rover nicknamed Percy
is the size of a car. It is intended to look for past signs of microbial life on Mars. It was launched
July 30, 2020 and is scheduled to land on Mars February 18, 2021.
Here are some of the particulars:
* Named Perseverance and carrying a helicopter named Ingenuity,
this car-sized rover is designed to search for signs of ancient
microbial life and collect samples of Mars for return to Earth.
* Landing events will be broadcast live on February 18 starting at
about 11:00 AM PST/2:00 PM EST in English and Spanish with touchdown at
about 12:55 PM PST/3:55 PM EST. Watch live .
* Your one-stop shop for extensive Perseverance education and public
engagement materials and resources is the _#CountdownToMars_ Mars 2020
STEM Toolkit .
* Learn all about the “Mission to Mars Student Challenge ”
launching in January. The challenge culminates on Feb. 18, when students
can land their missions along with the Perseverance Mars rover!
Participants will also have the opportunity to join live stream Q&As
with NASA experts and submit student work and questions for the landing
* Find the schedule for televised educational events in advance of
landing day at the Challenge and Toolkit sites and at Mars Watch Online
* Would you like a preview? Perseverance will be following much the
same path as the Curiosity rover did in 2012. Watch Curiosity’s
“Seven Minutes of Terror! ” video.
This is a historic opportunity to engage all students and inspire them
to consider STEM careers. Please share this widely with your colleagues,
students, and families and via networks, social media (#CountdownToMars)
>  http://go.nasa.gov/2JqMVhh
>  http://go.nasa.gov/2Jnor8C
For information about Imaginarium shows and events contact:
Manager, Dineene O‘Connor, at 808-235-7350 or email@example.com
Our admission prices are:
Please pick up and pay for tickets at the Imaginarium Box Office at least 15 minutes prior to showtime.
- $8 General admission
- $7 WCC students, military, seniors (65 years or older), with ID
- $6 Children (ages 4-12 years)
- Free for children under 4 years of age (1 per paying adult), and WCC faculty or staff with university ID
- CASH & CHECK ONLY.
* * * * *
As always, we welcome your feedback or questions, feel free to phone (808) 235-7350 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like information regarding our Adopt-a-Show sponsorship program
please click here
Manager, Hōkūlani Imaginarium
Windward Community College
Hale Imiloa 135A
Office (808) 235-7350