Fremont Peak impending closure

In an effort to close California’s significant budget gap, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has significantly cut funding to the state park system. This is forcing the California State park system to propose closing several state parks, including Fremont Peak State Park, which is where the FPOA Challenger telescope lives.

This closure, if it stands, would be a significant blow to amateur astronomy and to astronomy education in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Fremont Peak Observatory is maintained by over a hundred amateur astronomers who serve the entire region, providing educational opportunities including viewing opportunities, classroom visits, participation in scientific research projects, internships for community college students, lectures, and educational projects and activities. Local schools from elementary classrooms up through community colleges use the resources provided by FPOA.

In a letter to members FPOA president Doug Brown asks for help to:

identify decision-makers,
draft appeal letter templates for distribution to our members and customers, draft media releases,
or make effective contact with representatives and media

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Constraints on Planet-X

As part of the smackdown of the great 2012 doomsday hoax Dr. Ian O’Neill over at AstroEngine.com has written an article asking the seminal question: Where is Planet X?  Where is Nemesis?

In it, he references a fascinating article by Lorenzo Iorio from the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Pisa, Italy who does the math in a paper titled Constraints on Planet X and Nemesis from Solar System’s inner dynamics, Lorenzo Iorio, 2009. arXiv:0904.1562v1 [gr-qc] and sets the minimum distances to objects of various masses based on the orbital dynamics of the inner solar system.   If these objects were closer then they would be causing detectable perturbations in the motions of the inner planets.

Iorio’s conclusions: A planet with the mass of Mars would be no closer than 62 AU.   A planet with the mass of Earth would be no closer than 430 AU.  A planet with the mass of Jupiter would be no closer than 886 AU.  An object with the mass of a brown dwarf (75-80 Jupiters) would be no closer than 3,736 to 3,817 AU (about 0.6 light years).   A red dwarf (0.075-0.5 solar masses) would be at least 3,793 to 7,139 AU  (or 0.6 to 0.11 light years).

This is yet another nail in the coffin of the 2012 hoaxers’ claims.  By this point the mass of iron nails exceeds the mass of the coffin by about 10:1.

UPDATE: Ian O’Neil has corrected some of the distances ( and I have reflected those corrections here).  Also, Ian cites another a paper by David Jewitt, at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, which indicates that anything as big as Jupiter would be detectible out to 2140 AU.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the Iridium 33 / Cosmos 2251 collision, we now find out that the debris may stay in orbit for thousands of years, poses a serious risk to other satellites and the ISS, and has the potential to set of a chain-reaction of collisions.   I wonder if it isn’t time to make some international policy changes about how we use space.

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