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Log, Jan 13, 2003

Jim O'Brien (President of the Frosty Drew Memorial Fund [FDMF], FDO's parent corporation), Dick Horstmann (FDMF treasurer), Eric Northup (FDMF builder/contractor and board member) and myself (Les Coleman FDO Director and FDMF board member) attended a regularly scheduled Charlestown RI Town Council meeting in the Town Hall where the Sky Theater was one of the many topics before the Council. As luck would have it, we were new business and thus we were one of the final topics covered after an event filled evening. A rezoning issue, the reappointment of many town advisory boards filled and a meritorious citation to a police officer who risked his life and health to stop an escaped convict driving a stolen car at high speeds (100 MPH+) past a school filled with children just leaving to go home occupied much of the earlier hours. We got on near midnight.

Jim presented the Sky Theater plans to the Town, explaining the positive benefits and the fact that it would cost the Town nothing beyond the normal approval procedures. Jim explained that John Drew Sr. (Frosty's brother) was confident that his (John Drew's) contacts in the business world would soon provide the necessary funds for the Theater. The Council on behalf of the Town was enthusiastic about the Sky Theater and feels that the entire Frosty Drew facility adds a great deal to Charlestown. Their single great concern was that when the Navy vacated the Air Field on which Ninigret Park is located, the Navy buried various dangerous and toxic materials in barrels. The United States government recognizes its responsibility to clean up this toxic dump. However the US government will not honor this agreement when an area has been subsequently developed.

While there is scant probability that the 3.6 acres deeded by the Town to FDMF is located on a waste site (since we have already excavated much of the area to build the Nature Center and the Observatory, finding nothing), the Town wants assurances that anything we do will not imperil the US government's responsibility throughout the park. This problem has materialized previously with other sites. FDMF may need to hire an ecological expert to sink bore holes to determine if anything dangerous or toxic lies beneath our facility. For now, the Town has tabled the approval, rescheduling us for next month allowing us time to make whatever determinations are required.

Jim O'Brien concurred on our behalf, saying he hoped we'd be scheduled early in the evening next month as we are now "old business".

---- Rho Cassiopeia Update ----

Rho Cassiopeia is a yellow hyper giant star [20-40 solar masses] that seems to be entering its terminal phase. Late in the life of a star after it has left the main sequence and moved into the realm of the red giants, it reverses course and begins to radiate in ever shorter wavelengths. Shortly thereafter it detonates as a supernova. Rho Cas has shifted from the red to a yellow white, but with a volume that would engulf the orbit of Mars, it is radiating at over half a million times the rate of our sun. Since the 1940s Rho Cas has been discarding mass at a rate that if assembled would form a another star, albeit a small red dwarf.

In the four centuries since Kepler's star blazed, we have not seen a supernova in our galaxy although we see supernova in other galaxies occurring at a rate which indicates that our galaxy must have had several. The gas and dust in the plane of the galaxy obscures all those explosions except those that happen outbound from the center. It appears that Rho Cas may very well be the next visible supernova in the Milky Way.

If the Kamiokande Neutrino Observatory had not suffered a catastrophic implosion of most of its neutrino detecting tubes, it would almost certainly be the first instrument to detect a nearby supernova as it detected SN1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It is being repaired and may detect the flood of neutrinos hours before the next supernova becomes visible but it is also possible that it will be offline for repairs as is it so often currently when the next star dies.

In the last few weeks, Rho Cas has been behaving very strangely. Since it has already left the familiar red giant stage and begun to swing back towards the main sequence, it may very well only have a very short time left. Then again it may have several thousand years. We simply don't know. In any case, it costs almost nothing to look up at circumpolar Cassiopeia to see if the W has another side. Unlikely as it may seem you could be the first to see it begin to brighten. Even if you are only among the first to catch it exploding, it would be the most exciting find that any amateur could hope for.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jan 13, 2003
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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