May 2014 Newsletter
By Art Meyer

Welcome to the May 2014 STARS Newsletter

This is a picture of new member Coriann Willingham when she found Jupiter for the first time on her own on March 24th. See her comments in the Members’ Page on the Time and Space talk by David Wexler.

The purpose of the newsletter is to communicate information about the club and astronomical events and topics. It is also a place where members can contribute articles, comment on STARS activities and give suggestions for the club and for this newsletter. Email them to me at and a copy to the STARS president Alan Rifkin at If you don’t use email, then please talk with me at a future meeting. I’m the guy with a beard, probably sitting near the first row.

Looking for member contributions! What did you think of the last meeting? See anything special in the night sky recently? Get a new telescope? Do you have a photo to grace our Welcome page? Please share with your fellow members!

Here is one of Dr. Ethan Siegel’s recent blogs: Do you believe in cosmic inflation?

Index to this Newsletter:

1-2) Welcome

3-4) The Members’ Page

5-6) The President’s Rants and Non-rants

7) Some Upcoming Events

8) Future Speaker Lists for STARS and SOS (Stars Over Springfield)

9) Contact Info Supplied by Board Members and Officers

10-12) Astronomy Club Article from NASA: The Hottest Planet in the Solar System by Dr. Ethan Siegel

Members’ Page

Welcome to new members Tyler Willingham and his daughter Coriann and to Coriann’s younger siblings Elizabeth and James who have been attending meetings! We are always especially happy when young people join STARS.

The following are the thoughtful comments on and interpretations of the David Wexler Time and Space talk by 12 year old Coriann. Thanks for your
contribution to the newsletter!

“On March 25, David Wexler presented his presentation on Time and Space. For some people, it was too technical at such a late time of day. This is understandable, as there were some advanced equations with Greek letters. He tried his best to help make it understandable, and he did a lot, but it was very advanced. He explained many different concepts of space time, including what Time is (the thing between this thump and that thump), the theory of relativity (points of view), and more. He also explained that while Space ≠ Time, they are similar in a few respects.

I have experimented one of his points by throwing an object in a car going 60 miles per hour. Outside, the object would look like it was moving rather diagonally, but to me, it would just look like it was going straight up and down. This shows the thing he was trying to prove all evening: If you are moving through space fast enough, the time inside is different than the time outside. To the observers outside and inside, time would seem to flow at the same rate, but outside, time passes more slowly than inside. If you went at near light speed, time would be very close to standing still. It would be the observer outside that sees time as going very slowly for speed of light I thought that this was very interesting. A round trip of the universe at near light speed would make it so that the person in the spacecraft would not age much, while Earth would be much older.

It was very interesting, though it was not completely understandable there and then. He understood that most people would not completely understand the things he talks about. This presentation just scratched the surface. This sort of thing is, “Armchair Astronomy”, the kind of thing you need to sit down and think about these things themselves, and find your own understanding. He did not understand it at first either. You need to experiment a bit, live your life, research it a bit, and then you will understand it more. It takes some time to understand these things. Just take one step at a time.

If you want to learn more, a book was recommended, that covered the topics of the meeting: Einstein: his life and his universe, by Walter Issacson. This was recommended at the end of the meeting by a member of the audience, who had read it recently, and said that it covered Time and Space pretty well. “

Thank you again for your thoughts, Coriann!

President’s Rants and Non-rants
By Alan Rifkin

Historically, astronomy and all the physical sciences have been dominated by men. I am happy to see this changing, especially over the last decade. The STARS club is enriched by the active membership of several women. Some of our newest members are young women. It is important for science to value and make use of the talents of everyone.

I want to occasionally feature our women members. How and when did they get interested in astronomy and what brought them to STARS?

Here is a note from our long time board member and Springfield Republican astronomy feature writer, Amanda Jermyn.

“My son Adam and I both had an interest in astronomy from an early age, so when I heard about the STARS Club I thought it might be a fun activity for us to do together. After we began attending club meetings when he was five years old we were hooked, and we've been coming back for more ever since. Adam enjoyed the stimulation provided by the talks and by informally chatting with members, and we both really appreciate the encouragement they provided. While Adam began his life asking me questions about how the universe works, today he knows far more than I do, and I am the one asking him questions. In high school he was a member of the US Physics Team, and he is now a junior at Caltech majoring in physics, writing his senior thesis in the field of astrophysics. “

On a sad note, Edie Gerry, a long time member of the club passed away.
She was the wife of Dick Gerry and they hosted the club's annual picnic up at their home in Buckland for a lot longer than I have been a member of this club.
She was a great and kind woman who was like the mother hen to the club. She will be missed.

This is from her daughter Janet:
“My dear mom passed away last night. She had been in good health and great spirits as always, but a week ago she found she was anemic and went into the hospital for what we thought would be a straightforward transfusion. All the possible bad side effects took hold (or so it seems), and she just spiraled downwards. With her outsize spirit and zest for life, it's easy to overlook how fragile she was physically. She went gently into that good night, without pain, and now we are trying to figure out how to get along without her.”

Edie is holding Dick's award winning Scheifspiegler telescope

Here is link to her obit

Upcoming Events

After the May 27th meeting, STARS meetings are on hiatus until September – but there are many summer events that may pique your interest!

STARS trip to Wilder Observatory and pizza dinner Saturday, June 21
Rockland's Summer Star Party 25- Aug 3
Stellafane July 24-27
Arunah Hill Days Aug 29- Sep 1
Connecticut River Valley Conjunction Aug 22-23

Google any of these names and events to get more information, or ask about them at the next meeting.


Don’t forget Amanda’s monthly astronomy articles (AKA “Reach for the Stars”):

Here is a link to “Reach for the Stars” columns posted by Masslive. It's in chronological order starting with the most recent, and going back as far as July, 2011. The columns before that date would still have to be accessed through the Stars Club website. If you want to see the more recent ones as they appeared in the paper and on Masslive, with photos and all, you can view the more recent ones through this link.

Here is a link found by Amanda illustrating the relative sizes of planets and stars in the universe. Some have suggested turning off the sound – it’s up to you!


Speakers and Topics for Upcoming STARS Meetings

May 27: Dave Kelly will talk on how to maintain your telescope and Alan Rifkin will talk on telescope choices for amateur astronomers.

Updated Contact Info for Board Members and Officers
(Attention Board Members: it's important for board members and club members to be able to communicate with one another, and we can't do this if we don't have contact info, at least email. Thanks to those that have provided information!)

President: Alan Rifkin 413-519-9393

Vice-President: Mike Kozicki

Secretary/Treasurer: Richard Sanderson 413-263-6800 Ext 318

Website: Mike Kozicki


Dave Gallup

Amanda Jermyn 413-567-7425

Jack Megas

Crystal Mengele

Joan Presz

Dr. David Wexler

Alan added,” I have room for new board members and board advisors. A board advisor is someone, not necessarily a club member, who is invited to Board of Directors’ meetings to help out.”

Article from NASA:

The Hottest Planet in the Solar System

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

When you think about the four rocky planets in our Solar System—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars—you probably think about them in that exact order: sorted by their distance from the Sun. It wouldn't surprise you all that much to learn that the surface of Mercury reaches daytime temperatures of up to 800 °F (430 °C), while the surface of Mars never gets hotter than 70 °F (20 °C) during summer at the equator. On both of these worlds, however, temperatures plummet rapidly during the night; Mercury reaches lows of -280 °F (-173 °C) while Mars, despite having a day comparable to Earth's in length, will have a summer's night at the equator freeze to temperatures of -100 °F (-73 °C).

Those temperature extremes from day-to-night don't happen so severely here on Earth, thanks to our atmosphere that's some 140 times thicker than that of Mars. Our average surface temperature is 57 °F (14 °C), and day-to-night temperature swings are only tens of degrees. But if our world were completely airless, like Mercury, we'd have day-to-night temperature swings that were hundreds of degrees. Additionally, our average surface temperature would be significantly colder, at around 0 °F (-18 °C), as our atmosphere functions like a blanket: trapping a portion of the heat radiated by our planet and making the entire atmosphere more uniform in temperature.

But it's the second planet from the Sun -- Venus -- that puts the rest of the rocky planets' atmospheres to shame. With an atmosphere 93 times as thick as Earth's, made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide, Venus is the ultimate planetary greenhouse, letting sunlight in but hanging onto that heat with incredible effectiveness. Despite being nearly twice as far away from the Sun as Mercury, and hence only receiving 29% the sunlight-per-unit-area, the surface of Venus is a toasty 864 °F (462 °C), with no difference between day-and-night temperatures! Even though Venus takes hundreds of Earth days to rotate, its winds circumnavigate the entire planet every four days (with speeds of 220 mph / 360 kph), making day-and-night temperature differences irrelevant.

Catch the hottest planet in our Solar System all spring-and-summer long in the pre-dawn skies, as it waxes towards its full phase, moving away from the Earth and towards the opposite side of the Sun, which it will finally slip behind in November. A little atmospheric greenhouse effect seems to be exactly what we need here on Earth, but as much as Venus? No thanks!

Check out these “10 Need-to-Know Things About Venus”:

Kids can learn more about the crazy weather on Venus and other places in the Solar System at NASA’s Space Place:

See Photo on next page!

Image credit: NASA's Pioneer Venus Orbiter image of Venus's upper-atmosphere clouds as seen in the ultraviolet, 1979.

End of the May 2014 Newsletter