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January 2008 HAD Meeting Abstracts

HAD I Special: The International Geophysical Year and the Dawn of Space-Based Astronomy

Tuesday, 8 Jan 2008, 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Session Chair: Jay B. Holberg, Univ. of Arizona.

Description: The morning session will look back over fifty years at several aspects of the beginning of the Space Age, including Project Moonwatch, the early days of Soviet Space astronomy and auroral and magnetospheric studies associated with the International Geophysical Year.

1. Fifty Years Later: My New York City Moonwatch Observations
Jay M. Pasachoff, Williams College.
When Sputnik was launched on October 4, 1957, I was a member of the New York City Moonwatch team through the Amateur Astronomers Association. As 14-year-old sophomore at the Bronx High School of Science, I took the subway, the D train, from the Bronx to the RCA building in Rockefeller Center, where we observed from the roof. I remember our line or lines of elbow telescopes and our eventual success in detecting Sputnik overhead. My talk will include my recent reminiscences as a letter to the editor of The New York Times; the certificate that the Amateur Astronomers Association gave to the Pulkovo Observatory in what is now St. Petersburg, Russia; and a survey of Moonwatch history. I will also share reminiscences reported from some colleagues.

2. The Albuquerque High School Moonwatch Team
Joel M. Weisberg, Carleton College.
In the mid-1950s, a remarkable pair of high school teachers, Mrs. Vi Hefferan and (later) Mr. John Bartholdi, organized an astronomy club and Moonwatch satellite tracking team open to students from all Albuquerque high schools. The Albuquerque team distinguished itself as one of the best in the worldwide network. Among other tasks, they found some satellites that had been “lost” by professional trackers. The team provided a variety of interesting and exciting activities for science-interested students from the whole city. Among the most meaningful was the ability to make observations that were scientifically useful. By 1966 when I joined as a 10th grader, the excitement of the early days was gone but the sense of participation in a large and fascinating enterprise was still keen. I will discuss the techniques and technologies used to track satellites from the high school and from my front yard, including slide rules, rulers, telegrams, special delivery mail, short-wave radio time signals, tape recorders, stop watches, star maps, computers, and a five-inch rich-field “apogee” refractor. After a year of intense effort at satellite tracking for Moonwatch, I had the opportunity to visit a then-secret 48-inch Air Force satellite tracking telescope in southern NM in 1968. This event demonstrated the obsolescence of the amateur (though not amateurish!) techniques that we had been using and provided a fitting end to my participation as I left for college.

3. The First 25 Years of Space Astronomy in the USSR
William C. Keel, Univ. of Alabama.
Early Soviet developments in spaceborne astronomy broadly mirrored avenues pursued in the better-known US program, with differences of internal logic fitting the engineering and programmatic choices of the overall program in the USSR. I briefly review orbital missions and results, from Kosmos 51 in 1964 to Mir starting in 1987. Trials of instruments from radio to X-ray energies were long built around the ongoing program of “civilian” Salyut stations. A retrospective examination of the scientific impact of these instruments points up the importance of such apparently secondary factors as the time needed to process some kinds of data (for example, slitless photographic spectra), the sporadic film return from long-duration crew occupation, and the accompanying opportunity to replace equipment with improved versions. As time went on, deeper levels of international cooperation involved Soviet missions, perhaps most clearly in GRB studies, but also in NASA-provided emulsions, the integral role of French investigators in the dedicated Astron and Granat robotic missions, and the involvement of multiple European institutions with the X-ray instruments on Mir.

4. The Aurora, Magnetosphere, and the IGY
J. McKim Malville, Univ. of Colorado.
This retrospective of auroral research during the IGY will be from the perspective of the auroral observers in the Antarctic from 1956-58. The IGY served as a watershed divide in our understanding of auroral physics. Prior to the IGY the role of “solar corpuscular radiation” in exciting auroral radiation was the pre-eminent research question. The mechanisms for the acceleration of solar protons and electrons had not been resolved, nor had the role of plasma instabilities been envisioned. The spectroscopic research program during the IGY was dominated by the work of Aden Meinel and Joseph W. Chamberlain at Yerkes Observatory. The dynamics of precipitating solar protons into a dilute gas was a major research focus. The changes brought about by the discoveries of the radiation belts, the solar wind, and the magnetosphere resulted in a remarkable transformation and a paradigm shift in our understanding of the physics of the aurora. Antarctic observations during the IGY revealed the auroral oval, which is a signature of radiation belts distorted by the solar wind. High auroral rays could be explained by pitch angle distributions of trapped electrons. Sudden accelerations of electrons, resulting in red lower borders of aurora deep in the atmosphere, revealed the serious deficiencies of available theory. Whistlers, first detected in the Antarctic at Ellsworth Station in 1957, proved to be valuable probes of the magnetosphere.

HAD II Special: Astronomy at the Time of Jamestown and Its Role in the Exploration of America

Tuesday, 8 Jan 2008, 2:00–4:00 p.m.
Session Chair: Thomas A. Hockey, Univ. of Northern Iowa.

Description: This session will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown and examine the astronomy of the day. It will explore the critical role of astronomy in developing new methods of navigation, surveying, cartography, and time finding, which were essential in exploring and establishing permanent European settlements in America.

1. Publish or Perish: The Case of Thomas Harriot
Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian, CfA.
In 1585 the 25-year old Thomas Harriot set foot on Roanoke Island, just inside the barrier island of what is now North Carolina but what was then called Virginia. Harriot, under the patronage of Sir Walter Raleigh, was the cartographer and navigational expert on a colonizing expedition, and he was perhaps the first scientist to take up temporary residence in North America. On his return to Britain he published, at the insistence of Raleigh, a now quite rare promotional pamphlet, A briefe and true report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1588). This was the only thing he published in his lifetime, so his reputation virtually perished. Centuries later his 10,000 pages of manuscripts began to be investigated, so we now know that he anticipated Galileo in the discovery of sunspots, though his telescopic drawings of the moon were strongly influenced by what he saw in Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius. Harriot corresponded briefly with Kepler, and had he shared his optical observations, the law of refraction might have become available much earlier. Harriot died in 1621 of cancer of the nose, possibly exacerbated by a habit he helped to import from America, “drinking” tobacco fumes.

2. Finding the Fortunate Islands and Other Astrolabe Tricks of Early Astronomical Navigation
James Lattis, Space Astronomy Laboratory.
Explorers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries had at their disposal a very limited set of tools and techniques useful for astronomical navigation. At least one author, Christoph Clavius, saw the traditional planispheric astrolabe as an important adjunct for mapping, navigation, and other tasks useful in an age of exploration. This paper will explain some of the applications Clavius recommends and evaluate some of their important limitations.

3. The Adventures of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas and a Sundial: Cosmology, Mathematics, and Power at the Time of Jamestown
Sara J. Schechner, Harvard University.
While exploring the Chickahominy River in Virginia by canoe in December 1607, Captain John Smith was ambushed by 200 Powhatan Indians and chased into the swamp. Wounded by arrows and mired in the cold mud, Smith surrendered and was led to their chieftain, Opechancanough. Smith played for time. He pulled out his pocket sundial and proceeded to deliver a lecture on astronomy. The Indians marveled at the dancing needle of the magnetic compass, which they could plainly see but not touch because of the glass cover. They apparently thought less of his discourse in a foreign language on the sun, moon, and planets, as within the hour, Smith’s captors had him tied to a tree and were ready to shoot him. But then, Opechancanough held the sundial aloft and spared Smith’s life. For the next month, Smith was paraded around various Indian villages before being condemned to have his head bashed in. Pocahontas, however, threw herself across Smith’s body in order to save his life. This legendary episode reveals more than Smith’s ingenuity. His compass sundial, shaped and marked like a celestial globe, was a microcosm of his universe. It embodied the belief that the smallest things mirrored the large, that number was the key to God’s creation, and that by means of mathematical instruments, men could dominate that world (or at least extricate themselves from tight spots!). This paper will examine the astronomical ideas and instruments on which these beliefs were based, and show how ultimately, Smith’s sundial also represented the clash of two cosmologies—that of the Indians and European settlers.

4. An Elizabethan Survey and Possible Astronomical Observations on the Oregon Coast: Preliminary Results
Katherine Haramundanis, Westford, MA, E. Gaposchkin, Lexington, MA.
We present preliminary results of our investigations of inscribed rocks found along the Oregon Coast. The roughly 30 rocks contain Latin letters, numbers, and other signs. Bawlf (2000), after Costaggini and Schultz (1977), suggested that the artifacts represent a survey and longitude observation made by Francis Drake in 1579 during his circumnavigation. We have analyzed old records and photographs, and made preliminary site visits to evaluate if these suggestions have merit. The artifacts were first seen in the late 19th century by settlers along the Nehalem River and inspired early searches for treasure on the mountainside, which is rugged, rocky, and steep. The nearby wreck of a Spanish galleon confounded the interpretations. The director of the local Tillamook County Pioneer Museum, Wayne Jensen, with an enthusiastic colleague, Don Viles, spent two decades looking for artifacts and commissioned the existing site survey from the Civil Engineering Department of Oregon State University. Both Viles (1982, 1990) and Jensen (1990) published descriptions of the finds and their search methods. We present photographs of several of the larger artifacts, our conclusions about what the site represents and who may have created it, and suggestions about the meaning of some of the markings and artifacts, including calculations for possible astronomical observations. We solicit comments from the audience regarding any similar sites.

5. Sixteenth Century Lunar and Solar Ephemeris Accuracy and the Lunar-distance Method for Longitude Determination
Edward Gaposchkin, Lexington, MA., K. Haramundanis, Westford, MA.
Following Haramundanis and Gaposchkin (this meeting) we investigate the 16th century calculation of longitude using the lunar-distance method. Aside from the limitations of pre-telescope astronomical observations, the accuracy of the lunar and solar ephemeris and the star catalogue control the accuracy of such calculations. A comprehensive but selective comparison of several 16th century lunar and solar ephemerides (seven authors, 15 years) with modern models reveals the accuracy of these ephemerides to be about 0.55 degrees rms for the moon and 0.10 to 0.19 degrees rms for the sun. The comparison was made for ephemerides based on both the Ptolemaic (Alfonsine Tables) and Copernican (Prutenic Tables) models. The comparison also revealed the reference meridian for each ephemeris. The errors within each model are correlated, and the error signatures for all models are similar. These results hold for all the models considered.

6. Colonial American Astronomy
Donald K. Yeomans, JPL.
While a foundation of German scientific methods enabled the rapid growth of North American Astronomy in the nineteenth century, during the seventeenth and most of the eighteenth centuries, the colonial men of science looked only to the English mother country for scientific patronage and guidance. An essay on fundamental astronomy appeared in one of the annual colonial almanacs as early as 1656, telescopic observations were made about 1660 and the first original colonial astronomical work was published by Thomas Danforth on the comet of 1664. By 1671 the Copernican ideas were so espoused at Harvard College that a physics class refused to read a Ptolemaic textbook when it was assigned to them by a senior instructor. At least in the Cambridge-Boston area, contemporary colonialists had access to the most recent scientific publications from the mother country. Observations of the great comet of 1680 by the Almanac maker, John Foster, reached Isaac Newton and were used and gratefully acknowledged in his Principia. During the seventeenth century the colonial interest in astronomy was more intense than it was for other sciences but colonists still occupied a position in the scientific bakwater when compared with contemporary European scientists. Nevertheless, the science of astronomy was successfully transplanted from England to North America in the seventeenth century.

Invited Plenary Session: Doggett Prize Lecture

Tuesday, 8 Jan 2008, 5:45–6:45 p.m.
Session Chair: Donald K. Yeomans, JPL

Astronomy and its History on the Nation’s Mall
David H. DeVorkin, Smithsonian Inst.
Astronomy had a visible presence on the Nation's Mall from the 1890s through 1955, when the Smithsonian's Astrophysical Observatory, nestled in a series of low buildings between the Castle and Independence Avenue, was closed, and its programs moved to Harvard. Since that time, save for a singular but failed effort to create a separate national planetarium on the Mall, astronomy has maintained a solid presence through exhibits and displays within the Smithsonian’s museums and the National Academy of Sciences, and off the Mall, at the Carnegie Institution, the AAAS, and at both the old and the new U.S. Naval Observatory. Here we will relate how history has played an important role in keeping astronomy visible on the Nation’s Mall, and why the interest of the astronomical community is critical to maintaining this visibility.

HAD III Mostly 20th Century

Wednesday, 9 Jan 2008, 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Session Chair: Donald K. Yeomans, JPL

1. Preserving America’s Astronomical Photographic Observations
Wayne Osborn, Central Michigan Univ., E. Griffin, DAO, Canada, M. Castelaz, PARI, D. Cline, PARI.
Astronomy's 100-year heritage of photographic observations is in danger of being lost. The problem of preserving these data is complex, and a workshop devoted to this issue was held at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) in November, 2007. Participants were from over 20 institutions and included astronomers actively using photographic data in their research, representatives of observatories holding major plate collections, archivists specializing in photographic materials, and science historians. The decisions and recommendations reached at the workshop along with a summary of the discussions will be reported.

2. The Bruce Medalists at 100
Joseph S. Tenn, Sonoma State Univ.
In 2007 the Astronomical Society of the Pacific awarded the 100th Catherine Wolfe Bruce gold medal for lifetime contributions to astronomy. The first medalist, Simon Newcomb in 1898, was a celestial mechanician who supervised the computations of orbits and compilation of almanacs, while the second, Arthur Auwers in 1899, observed visually and compiled catalogs of stellar positions and motions. In contrast the last two medalists, Martin Harwit in 2007 and Frank Low in 2006, are pioneers of infrared astronomy from airplanes and satellites. In between have come theoretical and experimental physicists, mathematicians, and radio astronomers, but the majority of medalists have been optical observers, celestial mechanicians (in the early years) and theoretical astrophysicists. Although astronomers are usually honored with the medal twenty to sixty years after their best work is done, we are starting to see more practitioners of the new astronomies, but to date there have been few representatives of the large teams that now dominate astronomical research. I will present an overview of the medalists and how their fields, styles and demographic characteristics have changed.

3. Early Radio Astronomy in the USSR
Kenneth I. Kellermann, NRAO.
As in many other countries, radio astronomy in the Soviet Union began as an outgrowth of wartime radar research. The early leaders of Soviet radio astronomy, including Simon Braude, Vladimir Kotelnikov, Vladimir Troitskii, and Viktor Vitkevitch, all began their careers during WWII. Although the theoretical contributions of people like Iosef Shklovsky and Vitaly Ginzburg were well known in the West, the early experimental and observational programs received much less attention, partially the result of cold war military secrecy. When they were noticed, the Soviet observations were largely ignored or declared wrong. We will discuss the controversial Soviet contributions to the detection of polarized cosmic radio emission, the development of very long baseline interferometry, the prediction and verification of radio recombination lines, and the first detection of variability in an extragalactic radio source.

4. Genesis of the 1000-foot Dish at Arecibo
Marshall H. Cohen, Caltech.
The Arecibo dish was conceived early in 1958 by William E. Gordon, a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Cornell University. The objective was to design and build a radar sensitive enough to measure the backscattered signal from free electrons in the high ionosphere, the so-called incoherent scatter (IS) signal. Gordon calculated the required size of the antenna by assuming that the thermal velocity of the electrons controlled the width of the spectrum of the echo. Six months later Kenneth L. Bowles, a Cornell graduate now working at NBS in Boulder, Colorado, did a radar experiment that confirmed part of Gordon’s ideas. Bowles showed that the strength of the IS signal is roughly as calculated by Gordon, but the spectral width of the echo is much narrower than that calculated by Gordon. This meant that a substantially smaller, cheaper, dish could be used. A year later, however, ARPA gave the money to start the project, still at the original size, 1000 feet. By this time the goals of the project had widened considerably, to include radio and radar astronomy, and most of the new goals did require the 1000 foot diameter. Note that this project went from conception to funding in a year and a half, far quicker than it would at present. The IGY in 1957-1958, and the launch of the Sputnik and Explorer satellites during this period, fueled a great deal of interest in the high ionosphere in both military and civilian circles. I speculate on how this affected the Arecibo project.

5. The Future of Single-authored Papers
Helmut A. Abt, Kitt Peak National Obs.
For four sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics) I counted the fractions of single-authored papers in four journals for each science and during 1975-2005. The occurrences are best fit with exponential decays that never reach zero, implying that single-authored papers will continue to be published in the foreseeable future. This is contradictory to the predictions of their demise.

6. Astronomy, Culture, and Representation: The 2006 Total Solar Eclipse
Jarita Holbrook, University of Arizona.
The 2006 Total Solar Eclipse: Astronomy, Africa, Science, Culture, and Representation
Over the last decade three total solar eclipses have occurred in Africa in 2001, 2002, and 2006. San Francisco’s Exploratorium has created the standard format for international total solar eclipse coverage focusing on the physics of eclipses. However, an international group of scientists decided to reframe the 2006 eclipse into an opportunity to showcase the astronomy taking place in Africa alongside the cultural astronomy of Africans. The result was an award winning broadcast done by Morehouse College in conjunction with CNN. Filmed in Cape Coast, Ghana, the broadcast shows the University of Cape Coast campus alive with people and includes interviews with researchers and students. Unlike other eclipse coverage, the crowd and the location were central to the content of the broadcast. Two of the three hosts were African American scientists thus this demographic is also represented. New for cultural astronomy research, interviews are included with local fishermen about their sky knowledge. Thus, there are multiple levels of African representation: African astronomers, African cultural astronomers, and Africans with living sky knowledge. This presentation includes clips from previous eclipse coverage in Africa and the 2006 broadcast.

HAD IV History Potpourri

Wednesday, 9 Jan 2008, 2:00–3:30 p.m.
Session Chair: Sara J. Schechner, Harvard University.

1. The Utter Failure of the Lunar Standstill Myth in Archaeoastronomy
Bradley E. Schaefer, Louisiana State Univ.
Lunar standstills (“lunastices”) are the extreme northernmost and southernmost rising and setting points on the horizon for the Moon once every 18.6 years. Lunar standstills have long been a primary target on the horizon for archaeoastronomers seeking alignments. In all cases, the sole evidence for the intentional alignment is the existence of the alignment itself. (1) In a broad study of worldwide historical/archaeological/ethnographic evidence, the very strong conclusion is that no culture anywhere and anytime (before archaeoastronomers Thom and Somerville in the 1900’s) had any awareness or any concept of the lunar standstills. This universal conclusion is so strong that we must realize that there is no significant chance that any old culture was ever aware of the phenomenon, much less made an intentional alignment to a lunar standstill. (2) A lunar standstill is not an observable phenomenon of useful accuracy. In particular, the typical cloudiness low on the horizon, the quantization of risetimes to once each day, the invisibility of the moonrise during the daytime, the variability of refraction, and even lunar nutation all join to make the observed extremes vary by typically 1.5 degrees (6 moon radii) in azimuth and two years in period for each nodal cycle. (3) The concept of lunar standstills has zero utility to any culture. Subtle changes in the north/south swing of the Moon have no noticeable effects on nightly illumination. The 18.6 year periodicity has no relevance for any other phenomenon, much less one that has any utility or survival value to a culture. In summary, the lunar standstill concept has zero precedence, useless accuracy, and zero utility. As such, we know that any claimed lunar standstill alignment is simple a random orientation with no intention or knowledge by the builders.

2. 1608-2008: Clarifying the Anniversary of the Telescope
Peter Abrahams, Historical Astronomy Division, AAS.
2008 will mark the quadricentennial of the telescope, a simple instrument with an ambiguous origin. It is possible that objects similar to telescopes existed many years before 1608, and very likely that telescopes were in use shortly before 1608. The question of the utility of these optical devices is unknown, but they were not likely to be reasonably functional. As an instrument is incrementally improved to the point of practicality, the date of “invention” is difficult to define. 1608 is the year of the first telescope with associated unambiguous documentation surviving into the modern era. When Hans Lipperhey applied for a patent covering his telescope in October 1608, the proceedings became the earliest account of a telescope that can be dated with certainty and leave no question that it was a functional instrument. However, the patent application was denied, the rejection stating that the reason was prior art. More important is the circumstance that Lipperhey's telescope is the example that began the very rapid dissemination of telescopes. The instrument had been reported in diplomatic channels even before the patent application was filed, telescopes were fabricated elsewhere within weeks and in many locations within the year, and were exported around the globe to Japan within 5 years. In contrast, any previous telescopes were kept secret, or were inoperable prototypes, or were a proposal or design that was not fabricated. These predecessors had little or no effect on the course of history, as compared to Lipperhey's invention, which initiated the course of events that led to today's telescopes.

3. Maria Mitchell: A New Scholarly Biography
Barbara L. Welther, Harvard-Smithsonian, CfA.
Margaret Moore Booker has researched, written, and just published a proper biography of "America's First Woman Astronomer." To the diaries, notes, and lectures that Maria Mitchell wrote, Booker has added details from other historical sources and pulled together a very stylish, well-written, and illuminating volume. This paper will review some of the well-known details of Mitchell’s life and show how Booker’s work sheds new light on her subject’s persona.

4. John Ellard Gore: “Giant Suns and Miniature Stars”
Jay B. Holberg, Univ. of Arizona.
The Irish amateur astronomer John Ellard Gore (1845-1910) was a founding member of the British Astronomical Association and a prolific author of popular astronomy between 1880 and 1910. He is perhaps best remembered for his books, The Visible Universe (1893), an English language translation of Camille Flammarion's Popular Astronomy (1894) and his contributions to Agnes Clerke's Astronomy (1898). I consider a little known investigation that Gore undertook into the question of stellar "sizes" using binary stars. This led him to the realization of the existence of "Giant Suns" as well as "Miniature Stars"; the latter included the sun. Gore also considered the existence of hyper-dense compact objects, now known as white dwarfs. Unfortunately Gore rejected the reality of the latter stellar types. Gore based his conclusions on a formula developed by fellow Irish astronomer W.H.S. Monck, who was reaching similar conclusions about Giant stars through the study of stellar motions.

5. How Astronomers Die
Thomas A. Hockey, University of Northern Iowa.
Most astronomers throughout history died of natural causes. Atypical deaths, gleaned prosopographically from the author's Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (Springer, 2007), are discussed.

HAD V History Poster Session

Wednesday, 9 Jan 2008

1. Gendered Obstacles Faced by Historical Women in Physics and Astronomy
Kristen M. Jones, University of Wisconsin.
A gender gap still exists in modern science; this is especially evident in the fields of physics and astronomy. The cause of such a gap is the center of debate. Is this discrepancy the result of inherent ability or socialization? Most studies have focused on modern issues and how women are socialized today. The role of historical gender perspectives and social opinions in creating the field of modern science and any discrepancies within it has not yet been explored in depth. This project investigates the obstacles faced by historical women in physics and astronomy that stem from the officialized gender biases that accompanied the establishment of modern science. Such obstacles are both formal and informal. Four women were chosen to span the three hundred year period between the standardization of the field and the modern day: Laura Bassi, Mary Somerville, Lise Meitner, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell. The investigation reveals that formal obstacles significantly decreased over the time period, while informal obstacles eroded more gradually. Obstacles also reflected historical events such as the World Wars and the Enlightenment. Trends in obstacles faced by four prominent women physicists indicate that education, finances, support networks, and social opinion played a large role in determining success in the field. The applicability to modern day physics issues and the gender gap is discussed. Many thanks to the Pathways Scholars Program and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program for funding for this project.