Parker Solar Probe

Back in mid-March, we posted an article about sending your name to the Sun on the Parker Solar Probe. The probe successfully completed a round of tests mimicking the conditions the spacecraft will face in space throughout its seven-year mission, including checking the spacecraft’s functions under hot and cold extremes, cycling the temperatures in a thermal vacuum chamber back and forth between hot and cold, making sure Parker Solar Probe’s systems and components operate properly.

Parker, shown here inside half of its fairing in Titusville, FL,  went through its final  encapsulation at Astrotech Space Operations before its move to the Cape Canaveral complex. Parker’s launch vehicle will be a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.,  the second largest payload delivery system in the world. Only the new SpaceX Falcon Heavy is larger.

The Delta IV uses two liquid fuel boosters and a second stage to achieve orbit. The first stage and two boosters produce 710,000 pounds of thrust each. That’s a lot of horsepower.

The probe is designed to travel through the Sun’s corona, the outer layer of its atmosphere, at a temperature of 2,500 degrees F, 4 million miles from the Sun’s surface. The shield protecting the four groups of instruments is like nothing designed before. The probe will travel at a speed of about 430,000 mph.

The Parker Solar Probe’s launch date is now set for August 11, 2018.

Stay tuned as we get closer to launch date and thereafter. We’re sure you’ll want to know more about the Sun as the data comes in.

Leonardo Da Vinci: Man of Extraordinary Talents

I’m sure everyone has heard the name Leonardo Da Vinci, an extraordinary man in anyone’s book. As one can easily see by his drawings (below) of the late 1400’s into the early 1500’s, he was a visionary. Many “modern” inventions sprang from his concepts. Consider his concepts of flight, warfare (a tank and a submarine), his knowledge of the human anatomy, botany and the list goes on.



One that you may not know, or suspect, was astronomy. He even has an astronomical effect named after him. Have you ever noticed the crescent Moon within a few days after a new Moon and you can actually see the entire face of the Moon in subdued light?

Leonardo was the first one to offer a theory on the phenomena. He believed the “glow” of the unlighted portion of the Moon was due to a reflection of Sunlight off the Earth. And he was right. Hence, this is now called “The Da Vinci Glow”.  As with his other many ideas, this one is recorded in his “notebook”.

So, if you didn’t know, you can add this to your list of astronomy trivia. For more information and a nice picture from Iowa, visit

And the next night or two will be the time to watch, otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the next new moon.

What We Do

Anyone who has paroused our website, probably has an idea of what we are about. But you may not know as much as we would like you to know. So, I thought I would let you in on the real workings of the Imperial Polk Astronomical Society.

Here’s what we do (and have done):

You can see by our schedule that we do public presentations and observing sessions at Circle B Bar Reserve, Colt Creek State Park and Mackay Garden and Lakeside Preserve in Polk County, FL. We “rotate” between these parks on a regular basis.  Our presentations are on basic astronomy, basic enough that ages 5 to 95 can understand. We want all to be able to understand the basics of astronomy and enjoy the beauty and wonders of the universe.

Beside the three local parks, we also do presentations and observing sessions at private communities, groups such as the Civil Air Patrol, Homeschooling groups and the Seminole Nation State-wide Pow Wow. We work with Scouts and Royal Rangers to get their Astronomy Awards.

Our events at Circle B have included their Summer Camp for kids, during which we do presentations and solar observing. We participate in their “Water, Wings and Wild Things” for kids, with a booth displaying information on light pollution and its effect on animals, plants and people. We do solar observing there also.

At Bok Tower, we participate in their Harmony Dark Sky Celebration, along with other astronomy groups, to treat hundreds of people to the wonders of the universe through telescopes. Bok also puts on special observing events, such as meteor watches during meteor showers and family camp-outs and we are there with our scopes. Bok hosts an Earth Day event for school children and we are there to talk about how the Sun affects our climate and, of course, do solar observing.

We have done Astronomy Night at Florida Southern College in Lakeland and presently are working with them to help get their Frank Lloyd Wright designed planetarium back into peak operating condition for public use.

At the Sun-n-Fun Fly-in and Expo in Lakeland, the second largest air show in the U.S., we do daily solar observing, showing everyone how to track Sunspots as they cross the face of the Sun, using this as a teaching tool relating to solar activity. We teach about the Sun and what it means to us. Then at night, we again use our scopes to introduce people to the wonders of the universe.

Wherever we go, our mission is to introduce people to the wonders and beauty of the universe through teaching and observing. Our scopes are open to the public and our knowledge is there for the taking. So if you want to learn about the universe and see it up close, come out to our events and join in the fun. If you’re looking for a group with a common purpose (astronomy), we would gladly have you join us. So, if you were wondering about us, now you know.

Until later, clear skies and keep looking up.