Click to visit our Membership Page for details on our exciting member benefits!
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As 2018 draws to a close, I want to take this opportunity to thank our members and supporters for a great year and look forward toward 2019. Our club has grown to more than 50 members this year and we enjoyed many successful events together, including public observing nights, sidewalk astronomy, a meteorite hunt, and a chili cookoff. Feedback from our survey in September was very positive, so I think we heading in the right direction, but if you have any suggestions or feedback please email me and help us make GMAC the best it can be!
2019 Memberships Available Now!
If you are not a member of the General Motors Astronomy Club, we would like to remind you that most of our events are FREE and open too the public and you do not need to be a GM employee to attend our events (or join the club)! However, if you enjoy astronomy and live in southeast Michigan, we would encourage you to click here to learn more:
Click here to learn about: Membership Benefits
It only costs $20 to join and the membership benefits extend to your entire household. The General Motors Astronomy Club (GMAC) is a non-profit organization of people dedicated to sharing the night sky with others and furthering public interest in astronomy and STEM education.
Exciting news, we have one final event planned this year!
Night At Longway Planetarium
Sunday, December 16th
Planetarium Show: 5-6pm
$6 for adults, $4 for seniors and children ages 2-11
Public Observing: 6pm to 11pm, weather depending
Let Longway Planetarium’s astronomy experts take you on a tour of the night sky over Michigan in this live planetarium lecture. Learn about the rotation of the Earth, how to find the North Star, which constellations and planets are visible in your backyard tonight. Stargazers can come back to this show again and again to find out about recent astronomical events and for seasonal updates on what’s visible in the night sky over Michigan. Recommended for ages 8 and older.
Buy tickets for the planetarium show now at http://sloanlongway.org/skies-over-michigan/
Stay tuned for details on a lunar eclipse party on the night of January 20th… You can always check our Club Calendar for the latest information on upcoming events.
Chili Cookoff Results
In closing, we would also to congratulate Tony Licata as the winner of our 2018 Chili Cookoff, he was very excited to accept the trophy, as you can see in the pictures below.
We still have plenty of T-shirts, hoodies and hats available. Take a moment to visit our Online Store and show your support or maybe find a Christmas present for the astronomy enthusiast in your life. Even club memberships can make great Christmas gifts, feel free to contact me for details.
Note for online purchases: We just transferred our website to a new server, so “gmastronomy.com” email addresses are temporarily unavailable. Don’t worry if you don’t receive a confirmation message right away, we have a record of your transactions and we will contact you or you are welcome to email me at any time through my email address below.
Don’t Miss Anything!
You can always find the latest club information here on our website, but we are also active on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter:
Thank you and we hope to see you at our next event!
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Thanks to everyone who came to this year’s Astronomy At The Beach event on Friday and Saturday, there were more than 4000 people in attendance! We had a great time sharing the night sky and met a ton of new people interested in our club. Even if you didn’t attend, please take a moment to fill out this survey.
Your feedback is critical to the success of future events:
We will announce the winner of the Floating Constellation Globe in a live Facebook broadcast on Thursday Evening at 8:00 PM (September 20). There were multiple people who picked the correct number, so we decided to have a drawing and give away some extra prizes! But even if you didn’t pick the right answer, you still have an opportunity to win a prize, because we are going to host a member drawing as well on Thursday night! So, get your GMAC membership TODAY to be entered in the drawing. All club members will be eligible, and you are not required to join the live broadcast to win.
Follow these steps to win club merchandise, night sky guides, and more!
1) Visit our Facebook Page and click Like so you will be notified of the Facebook Live TOMORROW at 8 PM.
2) Purchase a Club Membership before NOON Tomorrow and your name will be entered into the member drawing tomorrow night!
Note that you do NOT need to be a member to attend our monthly observing night and it is FREE and open to the public.
Thank you for your support and we hope to see you in the live Facebook broadcast on TOMORROW at 8:00 PM!
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Brief History of the Solar Observatory
The McMath-Hulbert Observatory (MHO), was founded in 1930 by three amateur astronomers, Francis McMath, his son Robert McMath, and Henry Hulbert, with the goal of enhancing their clever development of time lapse astrophotography, for outreach purposes. It soon garnered the interests of the University of Michigan and evolved into a world-class solar observatory, operated by the U of M through 1979. It is now in private ownership, nonfunctional, but largely intact.
General Motors Astronomy Club Visits MHO
On Saturday, July 28th, 2018, nine members of our club toured all three towers of the historic observatory, and learned a great deal about the history and technical capability of the facility. We would like to extend a special thanks to Jim Shedlowsky for donating his time and sharing his knowledge.
Since solar observatories are such complex systems, I had a few gaps in understanding after the tour, so I did a some follow-up research and found many published papers referencing the McMath-Hulbert Observatory, and was able to answer some of the questions that stumped us on the tour. The information below is a mixture of what I learned on the tour and what I gleaned from the published papers.
The Oldest Telescope
The tour began in Tower 1, the smallest of the observatory buildings and the first one built, more than 85 years ago, in 1930. It was in this building, in 1934, where the very first “movies” of a solar prominence was filmed, using a 10.5-inch equatorial refractor, married to a custom-made motion picture camera, called a spectroheliokinematograph. Much of the original equipment here is still intact, although somewhat deteriorated by the passage of time.
Our group was also led to the basement of Tower 1, where we saw the electrical control room, which included a number of devices to convert the DC power available at the time, into the AC power used to supply the observatory.
Inside a Tower Observatory
Upon entering Tower 2 of the observatory, our group was amazed at the sheer size and complexity of the equipment we found, complete with 1940’s era wiring and gauges and a steel staircase,
winding 50 feet up to the observatory dome, reminiscent of both an underwater submarine and Frankenstein’s laboratory, at the same time. After puzzling at what all the dials, switches, and gauges were for, I jokingly asked, “Where is the instruction manual?”
Tower 3, also known as the McGregor Building, was the last one built and also the largest at the observatory. It came complete with 2-story offices, laboratory, and machine shop. In this last part of the tour, our group enjoyed inspecting the darkroom facilities, old photographic glass plates, mirror plating vacuum chamber, and peering up into the 70-foot steel tower. Throughout the 1940’s and 50’s, light from the sun was collected from this tower and redirected into an giant vacuum spectrograph, used by scientists to further our understanding of our closest star.
A bit puzzling, was a sign on a hallway door stating “DANGER 50,000 ANGSTROMS”, which left us wondering what was so dangerous about angstroms. Honestly, I didn’t know what an angstrom was, until I looked it up later and found that it is a unit of distance, equal to one-tenth of a nanometer. Although not obvious to the casual 21st-century observer, it seems this sign is warning of the dangers of infrared light, which has a wavelength of 50,000 angstroms, but it is still not clear what the danger is, exactly.
Coelestat vs. Heliostat
One of the unanswered questions that came up on the tour, was regarding the operation of the mirror systems at the observatory and how they are able to track the sun. It turns out, this system of moving mirrors is called a “coelostat,” which is distinctly different from a “heliostat.”
A heliostat is a moving mirror that reflects the suns light toward a fixed target, such as an imaging device or an energy absorbing device, in the case a of solar-thermal farm. The problem with using a heliostat in a solar observatory, is that the image of the sun produced by the device rotates at a rate of one revolution per day, due to the rotation of the earth. The solution to this problem, is the coelostat, which is a system of two mirrors (like the ones we inspected in the top of Tower 2) that move in unison to produce a stationary image. I imagine this would be very useful when attempting to precisely measure the velocity of a solar prominence, for example.
Both Tower 2 and Tower 3 of the McMath-Hulbert observatory are fitted with a coelostat system of mirrors.
Further Reading and Published Works
As a result of my follow-up research, I have compiled 11 published works (which I found online) into a “book” attached here: McMath-Hulbert Technical Papers_GoodallCompilation2018
This document has very detailed information on the operation of most parts of the facility, and some of the scientific discoveries resulting from the work of Robert McMath and his associates.
A printed copy of this book will be provided to the McMath-Hulbert Astronomical Society to be used for reference in future work, and as a token of gratitude for reaching out to our club. Anyone wishing to find out more about the observatory and future tours, can visit the McMath-Hulbert Observatory website at http://www.mcmathhulbert.org/.
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The General Motors Astronomy Club hosts monthly events that are FREE and open to the public, including:
Open Observing Night – monthly meeting at the Milford Proving Ground Softball Fields
Sidewalk Astronomy – in the summer, GMAC sets up their telescopes on the sidewalk in downtownMilford, where passersby can see Jupiter Saturn, or the Moon, or their way to and from the concert in the park.
Don’t miss out on these and future events… Sign up for our mailing list today!
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The General Motors Astronomy Club will be joining the Warren Peregrine Falcon Group next Thursday, June 14th, for some birdwatching and stargazing. Feel free to bring a chair, binoculars, and a telescope, if you have one. We will be sharing our telescopes to view the birds and then enjoying the night sky afterward, if the weather is nice. Light pollution might be an issue in Warren, but Jupiter should be easily visible after sunset. Hope to see you there!
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