Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gazing to the eastern sky

Guest blog, Michael D. Edmiston Ph.D. '72,
Professor of chemistry and physics

Perhaps you have heard this is a good time to view Jupiter in the eastern sky. It is a good time for Jupiter, and maybe also Uranus.

I have been waiting for a good night to set up some telescopes for viewing Jupiter. We want clear sky, no moon, and Jupiter high enough in the sky at a reasonable time of night. Tonight and the next week-or-so should be pretty good.

Tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 29) Jupiter rises at 7 p.m., but will not be high enough for good viewing until about 8:30. The last-quarter moon does not rise until 11 p.m. Therefore we have a window from about 8:30 until 11 to view Jupiter without much interfering light from the moon.

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For those of you near campus, I am going to set up several telescopes on top of Shoker this evening. I will have them ready to observe by about 8:30, and will probably stay out until 10:30.
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With a small telescope having 40 or 50 magnification, you can easily see the same four moons that Galileo saw almost exactly 400 years ago. You can also barely see them with binoculars, except it is very difficult to hold the binoculars steady. The four moons are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Jupiter's moons are fun to watch because they orbit so fast that they look different each night.

Tonight Io, Ganymede and Callisto will be on the true-left side of Jupiter, and Europa will be on the true-right. Using a telescope it is likely that right/left will appear reversed, and that's why I said true-left and true right. In the telescope, the three moons will appear on the right with one on the left. Binoculars give a true view. The moons and Jupiter all appear approximately on a straight line from Earth's vantage point.

Tomorrow night (Thursday, Sept 30) is especially interesting because at 8:30 p.m. Ganymede and Callisto will be on the left, Io on the right, and Europa not visible because it will be behind Jupiter. However, around 9:50 p.m. Io will begin to disappear behind Jupiter (on the true-right side), and Ganymede will begin to reappear on the true-left side. By 10:30 Io will be gone, and Callisto, Ganymede and Europa will all be on the true-left side. For those who want to stay out late on Thursday night, by about 12:36 a.m. Friday morning, Io will reappear on the true-left, and therefore all four moons will be visible on the true-left side

As an added bonus... the planet Uranus is very close to Jupiter, and should be visible as well. On a dark night you can see both Jupiter and Uranus with your eyes alone, but probably not from Shoker because of the lights. If you do see Uranus with your eyes (without a telescope) you probably will not distinguish Uranus from a star. With a telescope Uranus will appear small, but will have an observable cyan (blue-green) color. If you can hold them steady, you might be able to distinguish Uranus with binoculars.

For the next few nights, Uranus is only 1.30 degrees away from Jupiter. If Jupiter is at the center of a clock face, Uranus will be in the 10:00 position at 8:30 p.m., and in the 11:00 position by about 10:30 p.m.. The field-of-view (FOV) for typical binoculars is about 7 degrees, so Uranus and Jupiter are well within the same FOV with binoculars, that is, you can see them at the same time. The FOV for most small telescopes is about one degree, so Uranus will be just outside the FOV if Jupiter is inside the FOV. You only have to move the scope a tiny bit left and up to get to Uranus once you have found Jupiter. Remember, you are looking for something star-like, but through binoculars or a telescope it will not be as small of a point as a star, and it will have a pale cyan color.

For reference the width of your little finger, held arm's length, is about one-degree. Therefore, once you have found Jupiter, hold your left little finger at arm's length, and tilted toward 1:00 on a clock-face, and put Jupiter just visible on the right side of your finger, and Uranus should be roughly just on the left side of your finger.

For those of you too far away to come to Shoker... At 8:30 p.m. tonight, Jupiter will be in the low slightly-south-of-east sky, about 16-degrees above the horizon. By 10 p.m. it will be in the east-south-east, about 30-degrees above the horizon. By 11 p.m. it will be in the south-east about 40-degrees above the horizon. The moon will rise in the east at 11: p.m. but will not be high enough to see over trees until about 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Real men wear pink

2008 Dig for the Cure volleyball match
A few years back a new shirt showed up in the wash during my son’s Thanksgiving break. For a time, it was his absolute favorite shirt. Bright pink it was - inscribed with the words “Honk for Healthy Hooters.”

Wearing pink to raise awareness of breast cancer issues is not a new thing. Little pink ribbons are all the rage, on handbags, lapels, car magnets, etc. For that matter ribbons have come to symbolize many different awareness campaigns, Alzheimer’s (purple), Aids/HIV (red), missing children (yellow) and many, many more.

Beginning Friday night, the five Bluffton fall sports teams - football, volleyball, cross country, men’s and women’s soccer - will do their part to raise awareness of breast cancer issues during “Pink Week.” Each team will wear pink as part of the uniform, such as pink socks, jerseys or helmet stickers.

The volleyball team will raise money for Side-Out Foundation during a "Dig Pink" match with Manchester on Wednesday, Sept. 29. To make a donation toward breast cancer research, medical services and support services, visit Bluffton’s Side-Out page.

The soccer teams will wear pink during a Saturday, Oct. 2, doubleheader versus Transylvania. At halftime of the women’s match, pink roses will be presented to breast cancer survivors in players’ families.

Out of all the various types of cancer – lung, prostrate, colon, skin, ovarian – and other health and societal concerns, isn’t it curious that breast cancer continues to attract this much attention.

Could it be that so many of us have been touched with this disease though our aunts, uncles, mothers, grandmothers and other loved ones, that it is personal? It is something we can relate to, a disease that we can share personal stories about.

Hence we proudly don pink shirts, socks and ribbons in honor and in memory and pray for the day that breast cancer is eradicated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


There was a touch of color in the trees, a bright blue sky, warm sun, cool breezes; a beautiful fall day on Bluffton’s campus - the perfect day for a picnic, for throwing a Frisbee, for looking forward in anticipation to the Health and Fitness Education Center building project.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and others gathered Tuesday noon for a picnic near the site of what will be the new Health and Fitness Education Center. Frisbees were used to support plates of standard picnic fare.

The changing colors of the Frisbee caught many (including me) by surprise. While not analyzing it, I thought it was purple out at the picnic, but it was an odd purplish-white in the office. Having many other things to occupy my mind yesterday afternoon, I didn’t think much more about it until reading a comment on J. Denny Beaver’s Facebook page this morning about the changing colors.

Now it makes perfect sense – a transforming Frisbee to promote a project which will further transform the university. Very nice.

In just the years since I came back to Bluffton as a staff member, many new buildings have changed, enhanced and invigorated campus... Guess I have been here for a while: Salzman Stadium was built the year I joined staff. It was also the year my student assistant was born . Oy.

Just like Yoder Recital Hall (1993) and Centennial Hall (2000) provided new and expanded opportunities for students, the Health and Fitness Education Center will do the same.

President Harder spoke about the center in his annual President’s Forum. After showing artist’s renderings of the building exterior, the performance arena, weights and fitness center and described the sports medicine center, he drew a chuckle from the packed house when the next slide featured just one word “When ???” From the audience reaction, many were obviously asking the same thing. When??? How soon??? Will I get to use this facility as a student???

The answer to that question is up to us, to you, to me, to all who love Bluffton. To find out how to help with the answer, visit

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New look, same spirit

Walking into College Hall just feels different these days. At first it’s very normal. Open the doors on the library side, steps down to the business office, steps to the right to Ramseyer Auditorium, steps up to the president’s and academic affairs offices.

But then something is different, the hallway goes on and on; and where is the stairway up to the classrooms and Learning Resource Center?

While renovations of the Burcky locker room and The Commons were taking center stage this summer, two other construction projects were quietly happening on campus that have changed the feel of two of Bluffton’s original academic buildings, College Hall and Musselman Library.

The College Hall addition includes restrooms on each floor, an elevator, stairs and storage areas. Work continues on landscaping and vestibules for a new elevator in Musselman Library which will make the 1930 building completely handicapped accessible.

As a student I spent a lot of time in College Hall. My first-ever college class was in College Hall 306- Cartooning with Ray “Sugar Ray” Hamman during the September mod. (Remember the mods? One class for one month - loved it!) What a great introduction to Bluffton – the class, the professor and the mod, but I digress.

In that same room I had my one and only class with the “Third Bren-Dell guys”- Stats with Ron Friesen. Ron would flip through a stack of index cards, picking a “random sample” of people to work problems on the blackboard. I’ll never forget the terror when my name came up in the random sample, of course for a homework problem that I hadn’t been able to solve. Luckily Gary Basinger was also in the class - “Gary, Help!”

Ah the memories of classes with Dale Dickey and Gene Caskey in the top floor; learning how to fold a fitted sheet in Speech class, being pulled out of my shell in Acting. Then there was building set and working stage crew in Ramseyer…

College Hall was the first building built on Bluffton’s campus in 1899. It was in front of College Hall that President Noah C. Hirschy said something like “The foundation has been laid; now let us expect great things.”

It is good to see improvements be made to College Hall, to know that like Bluffton this first building will continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of all students now and in the future.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet you at The Dam

The Dam will be out in full force as the volleyball team plays its home opener against Adrian tonight at 7 p.m. There’s already a buzz growing on campus.

I just love the energy The Dam brings to athletic contests when students line up-sometimes three or four deep-on the stage to cheer their classmates. On occasion friends will come dressed for the game, other times the word will spread to wear a certain color – such as a white-out or a black-out or, my personal favorite, the Purple Polooza.

To add to the excitement, J Denny Beaver, Bluffton's new mascot, is expected to attend his first volleyball game tonight.

While hints have been dropped in the past month via posters and YouTube videos, J Denny was officially introduced to the campus community at Opening Convocation. It would be an understatement to say that he was well received. A comment to a photo posted on Facebook summed it up well – the faculty looked like “kids at Christmas” when J Denny Beaver appeared.

J Denny Beaver is named in honor of Dr. J. Denny Weaver, professor of religion emeritus, who served as Bluffton’s NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative for more than 20 years. Dr. Weaver retired in 2006. He plans to be on campus for Homecoming (Oct. 9) to meet his namesake.

It’s going to be fun watching the mascot create its own mystic under the tutelage of Dan Stanowick, Marbeck Center assistant director and former BGSU Freddie the Falcon. Dan has been invaluable in guiding the creation of the J Denny Beaver persona and training the person(s) who don the beaver.

When the beaver first arrived on campus in July, Dan was the first to put it on. He went into another room, closed the doors, drew the blinds, and in a few minutes emerged as J Denny Beaver.

Our first reaction? J Denny Beaver is buff. But yet he is approachable, non-scary for little kids. It’s amazing how easy it was for him to communicate, to show emotions just by changing his posture and body language. And if the introduction is any indication, Dan has done a great job in passing this knowledge on to Bluffton’s new mascot.

So welcome to Bluffton J Denny Beaver! We’re all looking forward to seeing you at The Dam tonight and for many events to come.

Want to keep up with J Denny’s activities? Friend him on Facebook.