Roper Mountain Astronomers


  • October 01, 2020 4:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Over the next week, we will have many great opportunities to observe (or photograph) the International Space Station. Highest altitude passes are in bold. The cooler weather also seems to be bringing in some clear skies, which means our chances of seeing the ISS are greatly improved from over the summer. We also have the Spot The Station widget on the main page for the daily passes. If you have any questions about observing or photographing the ISS, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. - Josh

    Date Visible Max Height* Appears Disappears
    Thu Oct 1, 9:20 PM < 1 min 10° 10° above NNW 10° above NNW
    Fri Oct 2, 8:33 PM 1 min 13° 10° above N 13° above NNE
    Sat Oct 3, 9:22 PM < 1 min 15° 10° above NW 15° above NW
    Sun Oct 4, 8:35 PM 3 min 30° 10° above NNW 30° above NNE
    Mon Oct 5, 7:48 PM 4 min 20° 10° above NNW 13° above ENE
    Mon Oct 5, 9:25 PM < 1 min 17° 17° above WNW 17° above WNW
    Tue Oct 6, 8:37 PM 3 min 74° 13° above NW 73° above SSW
    Wed Oct 7, 7:49 PM 6 min 57° 10° above NW 16° above ESE
    Wed Oct 7, 9:28 PM < 1 min 10° 10° above WSW 10° above WSW
    Thu Oct 8, 8:40 PM 2 min 20° 18° above WSW 15° above SSW
    Fri Oct 9, 7:53 PM 3 min 37° 35° above WSW 11° above SSE
    Sun Oct 11, 7:55 PM < 1 min 11° 11° above SW 10° above SW

  • September 27, 2020 6:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In response to the fantastic presentation given by Dr. Ludovic Ferrière, we have added a new site page featuring Dr. Ferrière, the Natural History Museum of Vienna, and the opportunities for Citizen Science. In the coming weeks, Dr. Ferrière has graciously offered to provide additional information about South Carolina meteorites in his collection. Stay tuned! Until then, enjoy the new page, the video recording of his tour, and consider helping with the hunt for meteorites through citizen science or direct financial support. 

  • September 25, 2020 1:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator),great%20phase%20for%20evening%20observing.

    International Observe the Moon Night is a time to come together with fellow Moon enthusiasts and curious people worldwide. Everyone on Earth is invited to learn about lunar science and exploration, take part in celestial observations, and honor cultural and personal connections to the Moon. Note that we encourage you to interpret “observe” broadly.

    International Observe the Moon Night occurs annually in September or October, when the Moon is around first quarter ― a great phase for evening observing. Furthermore, a first-quarter Moon offers excellent viewing opportunities along the terminator (the line between night and day), where shadows enhance the Moon’s cratered landscape.

    You can join International Observe the Moon Night from wherever you are. Attend or host a virtual or in-person event, or observe the Moon from home. Connect with fellow lunar enthusiasts around the world through our Facebook page, #ObserveTheMoon on your preferred social media platform, and join the International Observe the Moon Night Flickr group. Outdoors, at home, online, or wherever you may be, we’re glad to have you with us. However you choose to observe, please follow local guidelines on health and safety.

  • September 21, 2020 9:38 PM | Anonymous member
    Club Members

    Fall is finally upon us.  As the leaves change and the weather cools there is hope for clearer skies for stargazing in the near future.  The Club Board has been diligent conducting club business.  Here is a brief summary:  Monthly club meetings have continued in a virtual sense.  We even added an August meeting, which is typically not a month we hold a meeting.  We have had some very good presentations recently. 

    There has been some extensive effort to find an additional location for star parties.  Musgrove Mill State Historic Site near Clinton was scheduled for July, but cancelled due to weather.  Lake Rabon Park in Laurens County is the location of our September Star Party.  We have also found an additional site in Piedmont.  These three locations, are all in addition to our typical site off Hwy 11.  I'd like to thank all the board members for their efforts during this crazy time.  

    Club elections will be held in October.  James Carr, Member-At-Large will be stepping down when his term expires in October.  This vacancy must be filled.  Below are the current nominees.

    Bill Michaud-President

    Allen Hill Vice President

    Bob Brauer-Treasurer

    Bill Linton-Secretary

    Josh Palmer-Member-at-large (webmaster)

    Susanna McDonnell-Member-at-large

    Member-At-Large  open

    Anyone interested in serving in anyone of these positions can nominate themselves or have someone else nominate them.  If you are interested in any way shape or form, please email me and we can discuss duties and responsibilities.  

    Future of the Spectrum.  The board has decided to reduce the frequency of the Spectrum, to quarterly.  We discussed this matter extensively.  We also surveyed the membership to get their input.  With a functioning web site the board felt several of the Spectrum items were redundant, or immediately available on the internet.  There is currently a significant amount of work done in the background to create and maintain this monthly publication.  Members should expect a streamlined Spectrum, published quarterly.  The Board is open to hear your comments concerning this change.  I'd like to thank Dennis Wild for his time, energy, and effort as the editor of the Spectrum.  He has done a phenomenal job doing this for the past 5 years and has agreed to continue for the time being.  Thank you Dennis!!!

    I hope to see everyone soon at either a star party or a club meeting.

    Bill Michaud


    Roper Mountain Astronomers 

  • August 25, 2020 4:15 PM | Anonymous member

    Professor Chris Impey at the University of Arizona is conducting two questions and answer sessions on astronomy during these live Youtube sessions. These sessions are free. I have been attending these from time to time and thought some of our members might find them interesting.

    If interested you can signup to receive announcements of future sessions which are conducted every week. - Randy Cockrill


    Here are the days and times for the next TWO live question and answer sessions:

    CLICK HERE for LIVE Session #1: TOMORROW on Wednesday, August 26th at 17:00 UTC, 10:00AM PDT and MST, 12:00PM CDT, and 1:00PM EDT.

    CLICK HERE for Live Session #2: Next week on Friday, September 4th at 20:00 UTC, 1:00PM PDT and MST, 3:00PM CDT, and 4:00PM EDT.

    These will be opportunities to ask any and all of your astronomy-related questions to Professor Impey online using YouTube Live.

    For both of these sessions there is a countdown timer, in case you want to check on the exact start time in your time zone. You can also set a YouTube/Google reminder on this page. Please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel, and click the BELL icon to make sure you hear about upcoming live sessions.

    If you are unable to attend, or prefer not to ask questions in the live chat, you can email them to We do our best to answer as many questions as possible, but we often have more than we can cover in an hour. We try to select a balance of topics and keep the level of questions and answers appropriate for our audience. If your question is not chosen this time, please join us and ask again at the next live session.

    If you are unable to attend, you can always catch up afterwards and watch the archived video by clicking on the links above. We look forward to having you join us!

    Finally, we now have a Discord server! Come hang out with fellow Astronomy, Astrobiology, and Astrophysics enthusiasts!

  • August 15, 2020 8:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Do you like viewing the winter constellations, but hate standing out in the cold of January? If so, then wake up a little before sunrise and you can see your favorite constellations of the winter hexagon in the cool August mornings.   This article on gives a detailed description of how it is possible to view winter constellations in the summer:

    The photo below was taken from my drive in Simpsonville around 5:30 am on 8/12/2020. Venus is the overexposed bright object on the left side and Orion constellation is on the cenetr-right I used a standard canon dslr and 50 mm lens. This was facing east to southeast.

  • August 14, 2020 11:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hot 'blob' points to a neutron star lurking in Supernova 1987A

    Astronomers have long suspected a city-sized neutron star hides within the dusty shroud of SN 1987A. And now, they’re closer than ever to proving their case.

    By Yvette Cendes  |  Published: Thursday, August 6, 2020



    Astronomers have found new, compelling evidence that Supernova 1987A harbors a neutron star (blue-white) within a newly imaged 'blob' of extremely hot dust (red), as seen in this artist’s concept.

    NRAO/AUI/NSF, B. Saxton

    On February 24, 1987, an unexpected cosmic explosion rocked the astronomical community. Dubbed Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), the fiery event — triggered by the implosion of a massive star — was the closest observed supernova to Earth since the invention of the telescope. It didn’t occur in our galaxy, though. SN 1987A self-destructed within the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way that resides some 170,000 light-years from Earth. Nonetheless, SN 1987A was still so bright that naked-eye observers could see it for several weeks.

    But the extraordinary sight of a nearby supernova lingering in Earth’s night sky isn’t the only thing SN 1987A bestowed upon us. It also gave astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to investigate what triggers supernovae, as well as how such powerful blasts ripple through their surroundings. In fact, we can see the shockwave from SN 1987A still speeding outward today, interacting with clouds of dust that encircle the original site of the cosmic explosion.

    This time-lapse shows how Supernova 1987A's shock wave explodes outward over the course of 25 years.

    Credit: Yvette Cendes/University of Toronto/Leiden Observatory

    However, an enduring mystery remains: What did SN 1987A leave behind? According to new research, the answer is likely a neutron star.

    The corpse of SN 1987A 

    For quite some time, astronomers have assumed SN 1987A initially left behind a neutron star. That’s because a few hours before the supernova’s light reached us, they detected an influx of neutrino particles washing over Earth, as would be expected if a supernova erupted nearby. These nearly unstoppable particles zip straight through the dense material present during a budding supernova — unlike light, which gets held up for a bit. In fact, SN 1987A was the very first time scientists ever detected neutrinos from beyond our solar system.

    But even though these neutrinos almost certainly came from the birth of a neutron star in SN 1987A, astronomers aren’t sure whether that neutron star lives on, or rather quickly collapsed into a black hole. And despite decades of monitoring the site, observers have yet to find convincing signs of a compact object lurking near the center of SN 1987A. At least, until now.

    In a new paper published July 30 in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomers report they’ve found compelling evidence that SN 1987a is still harboring a neutron star, which would make it the youngest such stellar corpse yet known. (The previous record holder, called Cassiopeia A, is estimated to be about 330 years old.) The astronomers carried out the study using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) — a radio telescope in Chile that’s able to peer through obscuring dust. These new, extremely high-resolution images revealed a hot “blob” lurking in the core of SN 1987A.


    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) captured high-resolution images to reveal a hot, slightly off-center “blob” (inset to left) within the core of Supernova 1987A. The material seen by ALMA in radio wavelengths is colored red and yellow. Hubble’s visible view is displayed in green, and Chandra’s X-ray view is shown in blue.

    ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), P. Cigan and R. Indebetouw; NRAO/AUI/NSF, B. Saxton; NASA/ESA

    However, the blob itself is not the neutron star. Because neutron stars compress about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun into a sphere roughly 15 miles (25 kilometers) wide, they are impossible to see directly. Instead, the newly discovered blob seems to be a giant gas cloud that dramatically outshines its surroundings, and it’s located right where astronomers think SN 1987A’s neutron star should be.

    “There has to be something in the cloud that has heated up the dust and which makes it shine,” explained coauthor Mikako Matsuura of Cardiff University in a press release. At its longest, the blob spans about 4,000 astronomical units — where one astronomical unit is the average Earth-Sun distance — and it’s estimated to have a temperature of some 9 million degrees Fahrenheit (5 million degrees Celsius). “That’s why we suggest that there is a neutron star hiding inside the dust cloud,” Matsuura added.

    This blob is not exactly at the center of SN 1987A, though; it’s slightly offset. But that’s not a bug in the theory, that’s a feature. Astronomers have long suspected that SN 1987A exploded asymmetrically, flinging more material in one direction than the other. Per Newton’s third law of motion, such an asymmetric blast would have “kicked away” the neutron star in the opposite direction at hundreds of miles per second. So, by simply calculating how far the neutron star traveled through space during the past 30-some years, the astronomers can predict its offset from the center of SN 1987A. As it turns out, it’s precisely where they found the blob in the ALMA images.

    Want to learn more about pulsars and other extreme objects in our universe? Check out our free downloadable eBook: Exotic objects: Black holes, pulsars, and more.

    Now that astronomers have likely found the location of the neutron star within SN 1987A — and nicknamed it “NS 1987A” — the real quest for understanding can begin.

    For starters, researchers really want to know whether NS 1987A is a pulsar, which is a neutron star that emits a powerful beam of radio radiation as it rotates. (Remember, all pulsars are neutron stars. But not all neutron stars are pulsars). While astronomers aren’t exactly sure what mechanism produces a pulsar’s radio jet, they think it’s related to factors like the star’s spin and magnetic field. But so far, astronomers haven’t detected any such radio pulses from the direction of SN 1987A. Plus, the blob’s current amount of energy doesn’t seem to allow for extra energy coming from pulses within.

    To definitively determine whether NS 1987A is a pulsar or just a run-of-the-mill neutron star, astronomers must continue to refine the estimated mass and temperature of the blob. Then, by closely seeking out periodic variations in the blob’s brightness, they might be able to tie any flickers to the consistent rhythm of a pulsar within.

    Until then, however, researchers are simply happy that a decades-old mystery about what lurks in the core of SN 1987A is likely laid to rest. But even so, you can bet astronomers won’t stop tracking the aftermath of the cosmic explosion anytime soon.

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