Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lynn's High Rock Tower to be Used on Friday for NASA Research


April 14, 2010, 6:15 PM
For immediate release

"Lynn's High Rock Observatory in Special Alignment for Asteroid Shadow"

John W. Briggs, an instructor at Dexter & Southfield Schools in Brookline, and Paul D. Maley, an aerospace scientist associated with NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, will attempt to measure the diameter of an asteroid named Sappho in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 17th, using the High Rock Park Observatory in Lynn. The asteroid, also known as a minor planet, was discovered by an English astronomer in 1864 and orbits in space between the planets Mars and Jupiter. 

Sappho's diameter is currently estimated to be about 50 miles, making it too small to be seen as a measureable disk by Earth-based telescopes. However, for a few brief seconds Saturday morning, the asteroid will line-up with a much more distant star.  The result is that a shadow of the asteroid, as measured in starlight, is predicted to pass right over Lynn, Nahant, and some surrounding communities.  Among astronomers, the event is called an occultation. 

Maley and Briggs will use a video timing technique to measure the disappearance of the star, which will appear much brighter in the sky than the asteroid itself.  "The occultation is thus like a mini-eclipse," said Briggs, "and we are very grateful that there happens to be an excellent telescope and observatory right in Lynn that we can use to make the recording."  Because the speed of the asteroid is already well known, its diameter can be measured from timing how long the star is covered.  Other nearby observatories, like the Clay Center facility in Brookline where Briggs teaches, are not predicted to be in the shadow path.

"If enough observers collaborate on this event, we get a clear picture of Sappho's silhouette," explained Briggs.  "Each observatory in the shadow path that's able to make a timing will contribute a part of the overall picture."  Mr. Maley has traveled to 235 different countries around the world, generally in pursuit of similar astronomical events. Mr. Briggs traveled to Australia late last year as part of an MIT team to observe a similar event.  "I'm grateful this one is closer to home!" said Briggs.


High Rock Tower is a gem and you should go check it out. During the nice weather it is open to the public on Tuesday evenings.

2010 High Rock Observation schedule...

Tuesday Night, April 20, 8:30 Saturn & The Moon
Tuesday Night, May 18, 8:45 Saturn & The Moon
Tuesday Night, June 22, 8:45 Saturn & The Moon
Tuesday Night, July 29, 8:50 Saturn & The Moon
Tuesday Night, August 24, 8:45 The Moon
Tuesday Night, September 21, 7:45 Jupiter & The Moon
Tuesday Night, October 19, 7:30 Jupiter & The Moon



  1. Great event to be recorded in history.

    Did you know the Ford School is one of the few schools across the country to have a satellite classroom to Nasa


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