During the last two weeks of August, look for little Mercury very low in the east-northeast predawn sky. It will appear far to the lower left of dazzling Venus.
Brilliant Venus shines as the "Morning Star" in the eastern predawn sky and remains visible throughout morning twilight.
Mars appears low in the west-southwest evening twilight.
Jupiter rises in the east-northeast after midnight and is high in the southeast at dawn. Look for it above much brighter Venus.
Saturn is visible in the west-southwest shortly after sunset. Early in the month, Mars and Saturn form a triangle with the blue-white star Spica. This triangle becomes a straight line in the middle of the month and then turns back into a new triangle.
The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks before dawn on Aug. 13. A thin waning crescent moon that will rise in the east around 2 a.m. will drown out some of the fainter meteors. However, if you observe between midnight on Aug. 12 and dawn on Aug. 13, from a very dark site, keeping the moon out of your field of vision, you're likely to see many meteors. This should be a much better show than last year, when a full moon drenched the sky with light and only the brightest meteors could be seen.
OUR SOUTHERN TIER'S CHALLENGER MEMORIAL
"I touch the future, I teach"- Christa McAuliffe, Challenger astronaut
On Jan. 28, 1986, seven astronauts thundered from the Cape Canaveral launch pad onboard the Challenger Space Shuttle on a mission of discovery and education. The seven-member crew included Christa McAuliffe, a young elementary school teacher, who was to become the first civilian in space. Exactly 73 seconds after liftoff, the right solid-fuel rocket booster, leaking flame from one of its joints, broke loose and slammed into the huge external-fuel tank. The explosion ripped the shuttle into pieces, killing the seven heroes. That evening, President Ronald Reagan told a shocked nation: "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them."
The families of the Challenger astronauts wanted to carry on the spirit of their loved ones and realized that they did not want a stone, brick and mortar type of monument. Instead they resolved to create a living memorial to the Challenger crew, all of whom had a love for science and education. The families came together, and in April 1986, they opened the Challenger Center for Space Science. Instead of a static memorial, the families were determined to use the excitement of space to inspire and motivate our nation's schoolchildren to think critically and to increase their interest in mathematics, science and technology.
The Challenger Center concept really took off. Today, there are more than 50 Challenger Learning Centers in 31 states, Canada and the U.K., with more planned in the future.
The reason for this success is that a visit to one of these facilities is not just another field trip for students or entertainment for adults. At each center, students and teachers can take part in realistic mock-ups of Mission Control and an orbiting space station. Students break up into teams but work together at various computer consoles in the mission control room or onboard a simulated orbiting space lab, doing hands-on science. During these simulated space missions, students learn teamwork as they solve real-life challenges. Regardless of a student's cultural background, gender, economic level or academic prowess, they leave the session with a renewed sense of camaraderie and boosted self-esteem. At the present time, more than 500,000 students, none of whom were even born at the time of the Challenger accident, take part in Challenger Center programs across the nation each year.
Students and teachers in New York State's Southern Tier region are fortunate to have one of the Challenger Learning Centers practically in their own backyard. It is located in Allegany, adjacent to St. Bonaventure University. Following six years of planning and preparation, a dedicated group of organizers in the Olean area received a $500,000 NASA grant to begin development of a Challenger Learning Center. Major funds were also received from the Dresser-Rand Corporation and the Cutco Corporation. The Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center at St. Bonaventure opened in 2009 with a vision for the future - a global community where today's students are scientifically literate citizens capable of critical thinking.
Hopefully, parents, teachers and students in our area will take advantage of this nearby gem of a learning center. Space Shuttle Commanders Eileen Collins and Pam Melroy are both astronauts from Western New York, and there may be future astronauts in the Southern Tier just waiting to be inspired.
The center is located at 182 E. Union St., Allegany.
Email info@ DRCLC.org
The center is designed for participants 11 years old (fifth-grade level) or older. Tours are offered by appointment only, and there is a minimum group size to join in a simulated space mission.
Editor's note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association, the Southern Tier Astronomy Recreation Society and The Post-Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at www.martzobservatory.org or S.T.A.R.S. at www.UpStateAstro.org/stars/stars.html