Amateur Space News May 1, 2014

Today’s news includes interviews with amateur astronomers in Canada and India, a British amateur’s deep-sea exploration project, a 30% drop in Mars One candidates, a call for amateur help with Hubble observations and more.

Canadian amateur astronomer Delwin Shand spoke with the weekly newspaper the Thompson Citizen about life in the golden age of amateur astronomy. Shand talks about his community and education outreach activities as president of the Northern Lights Astronomy Club. "When you're looking at the night sky, it's essentially a time machine," said Shand. "You're looking back into the past, and the object you see determines how far into the past you can see."

Indian amateur astronomer Amar Sharma spoke with The Hindu about his passion for astronomy. One of the few Indians who have asteroids named after them, Sharma promotes astronomy as the resident astronomer at a public observatory and the co-founder of the Bangalore Astronomy Society. The Nakaya Observatory conducts introductory astronomy classes and public star parties to get more people interested in the hobby.

British amateur explorer Josh Taylor spoke with The Telegraph about his plans to collect images from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2011 Taylor developed his own Near Space mission to record panoramic video from the edge of space (read The Telegraph’s article). Shortly afterwards entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson set him a new challenge. Branson’s Virgin Oceanic project was going to build a one-person submarine to explore the deepest areas of the oceans. Virgin Oceanic hasn’t made its first dive, but Taylor’s project is only weeks away from becoming real. Bartering and online fundraising paid for the £3000-£4000 project. As soon as the sub is ready Taylor will send it into the Puerto Rico Trench - an 8,600 meter undersea rift valley that is the deepest in the Atlantic Ocean.

Irish news site The Journal reported that over 30% of the Mars One candidates have dropped out of the running to be the first settlers on the fourth planet. According to an email Mars One sent to the candidates, the drop outs either failed the medical test, withdrew for personal reasons, or chose not to make their profiles public - a requirement for moving forward. The Journal reports that all three Irish candidates remain in the running.

Amateur astronomers will help with a Hubble Space Telescope project. AAVSO, the international organization of variable star observers, received a monitoring request from professional astronomers. Dr. Peter Garnavich of the University of Notre Dame and Dr. Paula Szkody of the University of Washington will use the Hubble Space Telescope to observe a cataclysmic variable star (SBS 1108+574). They need help from amateurs because Hubble’s sensors are too sensitive to observe a cataclysmic variable in the middle of an outburst. Hubble’s scheduling team will use the amateur observations to make a go/no-go decision.

The Issaquah Press wrote about Skyline High School’s rocket team, one of two Washington state teams going to the Team America Rocketry Challenge. This is the third time in four years that Skyline has sent a student team to the annual contest.

Ohio radio station WXVU spoke with Mars One candidate Scott Stoll.

Citizen-astronuats just became admirals. A press release from Citizens in Space reports that the state of Texas granted honorary commissions to two of the organization’s citizen-astronauts. Citizens in Space co-founder Ed Wright and science teacher Maureen Adams were named admirals in the Texas Navy. (Via Digital Journal)

Uwingu is offering a Mother’s Day gift pack. A press release from the science and outreach funding company says that, between now and May 11, people can name a crater on Mars after their mother and get a “special Mother’s Day certificate”. (Via PR Newswire)