Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Holiday with Cloudy Skies!

This past Holiday week has been busy with friends, relatives and shopping trips. Not much time to view the Planets or the Moon because of the Cloudy skies. I did manage to see Venus shining like the bright Christmas Star for a short time in the evening sky just after Church service the evening of Christmas Eve. We had an unseasonably warm Christmas down here in South Central Texas and still no rain!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Annual Ursid meteor shower...Too Cloudy

The cold front that came in last night dropped temperatures and brought us Cloudy Skies. We will miss another event due to clouds this year... The Ursid meteor shower.

Spaceweather.com carried this article on December 21:
URSID METEORS: Earth is entering a stream of debris from comet 8P/Tuttle and this is causing the annual Ursid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the Ursids to peak on Dec. 22nd with 8 to 10 meteors per hour flying out of the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper). The display is usually mild, but outbursts of Ursids occasionally surprise observers with rates many times normal.
Watching these northern meteors can be a chilling experience, so why not stay inside and listen to them instead? Spaceweather.com is broadcasting live audio from the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas. When a meteor passes over the radar--"
ping"--there is an echo. Give it a try; feedback is welcomed.

Speaking of Meteors...on December 21, 2008 there were 1011 PHAs

Winter Solstice, Saturn's Rings

At 6:04 AM this morning we officially entered the winter of 2008-2009! Time to "hug a tree"...Mother nature reminded us that Winter is here with a strong cold front and added an artic blast of air to go along with it... nice and cold. Of course down here in South CentralTexas this cold snap may only last a couple of days... the forecast for Christmas Day is 66 degrees with more clouds!
In the past man has watched and worshiped the seasons and this time of year the Sun became very important in warming the earth to continue the cycles of life. Special places like Stonehenge and Newgrange are ancient sites used to celebrate the passing of the Seasons.

More on Saturn and the rings From an article in Spaceweather. com on December 20:

The rings will completely disappear on Sept. 4, 2009, when Earth crosses through the ring plane. Unfortunately, no one will be able to see it because Saturn will be so close to the Sun. The next ring plane crossing in plain view of Earth won't come until the year 2038.
Until then, the skinniest you're likely to see Saturn's rings is now. Saturn is easy to find in the constellation Leo just before dawn. Point your backyard telescope and behold the edge
: sky map.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cloudy skies...countdown to Christmas

Those clouds that came in last weekend and hid the Geminid meteor shower has blanketed the sky for five days now. No Stars in the evening and No Sun to warm our days as we countdown to Christmas... one week away. Most of us are in the midst of wrapping up Christmas shopping as we prepare for this year's Winter Solstice. We move into the Winter Season this Saturday.

The Star of Bethleham at Christmas time is one of the great stories passed down through the ages. Each year there is an article about this star. More Scientific research and Astronomical facts bring truth to the stories of the star that led the way to Bethleham. Most facts lead to a conjunction of Planets causing a Celestial Event that formed a single bright beacon in the sky...
A Christmas Star

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Geminid Meteor Shower...Cloudy

Forecast for clouds to roll in this past weekend plus the moon in the constellation Gemini makes for bad viewing of this years meteor event. Spaceweather.com posted this info:

The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13th and Dec. 14th when Earth passes through a stream of debris from extinct comet 3200 Phaethon. Bright moonlight will reduce the number of visible meteors from the usual 100/hr to only 20/hr or so. That's still a nice show. For best results, watch the sky starting 10 pm local time on Saturday night (Dec 13th) until dawn on Sunday morning (Dec. 14th).

The clouds did roll in on Saturday Dec. 13 and Sunday Dec. 14. The Meteors were there but unseen from my backyard.

Spaceweather.com had photos from where it was clear in the Geminid Meteor Gallery.

Speaking of Meteors...as of Sunday December 14, 2008 there were 1010 PHAs listed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Saturn[Rings edge-on] and a Full Moon

StarLog ^ 081212 4:30 am

Sky Clear, seeing good with moon light

The Full bright moon lit up the early morning sky in the west and made it easy to find my way around in the dark landscape in my backyard. I set up the 10" Dob after locating the yellow planet not too far from the constellation Leo. It was cold, just above freezing with no wind. In my hast to set up, I had mistakenly put a 7mm eye piece in and could not focus the surrounding stars as I targeted the planet. After using the correct eyepiece, I finally caught site of the Edge-On ringed planet with two moons floating nearby. One moon close to the ring edge on the right and the other was down and to the left of the globe.

I finally saw Saturn with edge-on rings! The cycle repeats every 29.5 years, after the rings are twice edge on, with intervals of 15.75 and 13.75 years. The rings will be fully open again in the year 2016. What I observed this morning was the movement of the rings position since 1998. Draw a circle and then draw a line through the center. The line will go past the circle a little on both sides. The line past the circle on both sides is the same color as the globe(yellow) with a black line through the center of the circle. It looked similar to in shape of the Saturn nebula, only a lot sharper. The rings are gone except for a line!

The Moon was big this early morning. Tonight's Full Moon[Long nights Moon] is the biggest of the year! 14% bigger and 30% brighter. If you are observing near a shore line tonight be aware of tides with this Perigee Moon. More information on this phenomenon can be read in this article.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fire in the sky, Hubble and Endeavour news

A Meteor labeled as a superbolide burned bright in the night sky over Colorado . The event happened December 6 at 1:20 AM near Colorado Springs.
Spaceweather.com had the story

Good news...
NASA has announced that the Hubble repair mission is scheduled for launch-May 12, 2009.
Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to head home on the back of a 747 Tuesday, December 9.
More Good News: the forecast for the 2009 Leonids is predicted to be a "half-storm"level Event, similar to what was observed in1998 ! Wow...mark your calendar!

The current count on PHAs that have been logged is now at 1008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Celestial Planetary Event


The Planet conjunction is here! The planets Venus and Jupiter have put on a great show this past month at sunset. The crescent moon added a unique photo op the past two nights.
The month long journey brought these two planets and the moon to this time and space.
It will be a very long time before we see this conjunction again.
I captured the moment from my backyard and added tonight's position to my file of planetary movement photos I took during this event.
Spaceweather.com posted a Gallery of photos from around the world of this Celestial Event.
You can veiw them here: Great Conjunction Photo Gallery
I have added the December 3 APOD as a follow up to this entry

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Planets are closer with a crescent moon


Tonight and Monday night we got another chance to view Jupiter and Venus closer together and near the moon. A must see Celestial Event that we will not be seen like this for a very long time. The photo above was taken from my backyard just after sunset with a Cannon Rebel.

Another great photo op for all those viewers out there with a clear sky. Monday night the wandering planets will be even closer to each other and a bit nearer to the crescent moon.

STS 126 Endeavour made it back home tonight after a long mission to the ISS. Bad weather at the Cape forced the shuttle to land at Edwards AFB. It was a great glide from 23 miles up.
The station is now ready to add three more crew members.

The Meteor hunters and Asteroid trackers have now classified over a thousand PHAs. The number of Asteroids being tracked as of Sunday November 30, 2008 is 1002.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Venus~Jupiter... getting closer


Another front blew the clouds out and gave us a clear sky at sunset Monday night. Another chance to look at bright Venus and Jupiter as they move closer together. Photo was taken from my backyard after sunset.

In one week on December 1, these two planets will be very close and near a crescent moon.

A clear night at sunset will give us a great view and a great photo op!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Venus, Jupiter and the ISS

Each evening this past week I observed the two planets as they moved closer together. Even with a trip to the SW near the Rio Grande, I was still able to view the two wandering stars after sunset in the evening sky.

NASA has dubbed the STS 126 flight as the big "Extreme Make over" for the Space Station. Adding more room for the Crew and doing repairs. The station was spotted flying over my backyard twice this week....brighter than Venus, while Endeavour is docked and the crew working each day!

There was a great ball of fire falling from the sky in western Canada Thursday, November 20. Spaceweather.com has a great video of the burning meteor's decent.

Speaking of Meteors...As of today there were 999 PHAs on the tracking grid!

The clouds are back....they came back with this last front that blew in today. The forecast calls for clouds and more clouds to stay into next week.... through Thanksgiving.
Will have to rely on Cyberspace to see any stars!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The 2008 Leonid meteor shower... a no show

This year's event was just not ment to be observed and recorded from my backyard. Monday and Tuesday we were involved in funeral details with a death in the family. Wednesday we took a trip to the SW, near the border for the grave side service and came back that night.

The forecast for these meteors was not good this year, EarthSky’s 2008 meteor guide noted:
"The peak, however, on November 17, also features a large bright waning gibbous moon in the sky after midnight. Forget the Leonids this year, unless you are a serious meteor observer – or unless you happen to spot a few whizzing past in bright moonlight!"

Some activity was recorded in Cyberspace from the IMO
We missed any Leonids in 2008... maybe next year we will record an event like we had in 1998!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tonight...Endeavour Launch!

Tonight the STS 126 launches and goes for Orbit to catch the ISS. Endeavour is full of supplies to set up the station with room for a crew of six. The moon will be bright to guide the way. Set up your DVRs, DVD recorders or your old VCR and watch the Lift Off!

A strong front is supposed to blow in tonight and should clear out the clouds giving us a clear sky and colder nights. Weekend skywatching will be good...except for the moonshine!

We missed the rain that we still needed as the draught goes on. We need to try something like...Spin those rain rocks longer and call out for Thor's help!

News of Hubble finding planets near the star Fomalhaut and the Chandrayaan-1 probe impact photos are sweeping Cyberspace today.

The Leonid Meteor shower should be putting on a good show this weekend...maybe. Moonlight will hide the dim flashes, but we should see a few this year, anyway!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Clouds...no Stars

The clouds have covered the night sky for several days/nights now. With a full moon Wednesday night, even if the clouds break, the sky will be a wash with moon shine! When the clouds break, I will get a chance to view Venus and Jupiter moving closer together just after sunset again.

In the meantime, here is some news from Cyberspace:

Phoenix lander has finally succumed to Martian temperature and dust and sent it's last picture. Unable to move like the Mars Rovers to catch the sun, it was trapped where it landed.

Chandrayaan-1 has almost aquired orbit around the moon and is sending information back.

Endeavour is ready to go into orbit this Friday and race to the ISS. STS 126 is hauling a reusable logistics module that will hold supplies and equipment, including additional crew quarters, additional exercise equipment, equipment for the regenerative life support system and spare hardware.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another look at the Planets ~ No meteors


A clear evening and another look at Venus and Jupiter just after sunset last night. Venus was above my treeline again; starting out a little higher this Saturday night. I took a look at the sky at 8:30 and found the Pleiades dimmed by moonshine. I observed the Seven Sisters in binoculars. I could see the bright star Capella in Auriga shining just at the treeline in NE. So far the Taurid meteors are not active tonight but then Taurus is still low in my night sky.

At 11pm the sky seemed a bit darker and I easily spotted the red eye of the bull... Aldebaran.
Capella was higher and the stars ζ Aurigae and η Aurigae are called Haedi "the Kids" were visible nearby. Below Taurus, Orion lay on his side with the star Rigel visible just over the treeline. I scanned Orion with the binoclars. I watched for meteors for a while with no luck; no flashes seen in the cold night air.

After Midnight I went out for another look. Orion was well up and I could see Sirius glaring at me through the treeline. Taurus was way up overhead and I could see the Gemini twins up and over the treeline in the NE. Moonlight made it easy to see my way to the drive where I placed a deck chair. I saw no signs of meteors after looking up for close to an hour. I put my binoculars away and went to bed.

Tonight the clouds are forecast to return and we just might get some rain from this system...
let's hope so, we need a couple of inches.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Venus and Jupiter


Each evening just after sunset bright Venus is a little higher and Jupiter seems a little lower. Venus was just above the tree line at dusk last night; slowly gaining height over my backyard. These two planets are moving closer together toward a grand finale the evening of December 1st with a rendezvous with the crescent moon.

We have one more clear night forecast before the clouds start moving in and I have not seen any Taurid meteors yet, but then I have not been up late. I will try to make an effort tonight.
The moon is filling the night sky with lots of moonlight as it moves toward full, November 13...

As of today the folks from the NEO program are tracking 997 PHAs !

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Taurid Meteor Shower ~Saturn without rings

The 2008 Taurid Meteor shower peaks November 5th-November 12th!

The constellation Taurus rises in the east after sunset and by Midnight is well up over my backyard. It is possible this shower will be a Swarm and Fireballs can be seen after the midnight hour. We have a week to view as long as the sky stays clear

While looking for the flashes in the sky...If your out in the early morning hours, take some time to look at Saturn in the constellation Leo. The following is information from Dr. Clay of the The Arkansas Sky Observatories on the Ringed Planet for this month:

Saturn - The ringed planet rises about 3 a.m. early in November but is bolting upwards to rise around midnight by the end of the month. This remarkable planet is now virtually "plane-on-plane" with the equator of the EARTH and thus the rings are tilted in such a way that we are looking across the EDGE of them, much as peering at the edge of a DVD disk rather that facing downward on it.....hence the rings are becoming incredibly thin and difficult to see. When Saturn is highest in the sky, about pre-dawn during the last weeks of this month, telescopes will reveal a tiny and remarkably THIN streak across the yellowish disk of the planet, these being the rings as viewed from their thinnest presentation. If you can locate Saturn with a telescope BE SURE to view it now and into early December for a sight that you will likely never forget: Saturn without its famous rings! (or at least you will not be able to SEE them!) - in the tail of LEO.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nice view at sunset...

I have been viewing and tracking Venus rising and Jupiter in my sky; the Crescent moon as it moves through the night this first week of November.

Here is a news note and photo that ran November 4th from Spaceweather.com :

Less than a month from now, on Dec. 1st, something extraordinary will happen in the night sky. Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon are going to converge on a single, tiny patch of the heavens only a few degrees wide. Such an eye-catching, traffic-stopping triple conjunction can only be described as the backyard astronomy event of the year.
Last night in Weatherford, Texas, photographer Shannon L. Story got a 66% sneak preview when two-thirds of the trio got together, upper left: Jupiter and the Moon were in conjunction while Venus looked on from below. "It was a pretty show," says Story, but not as pretty as it's going to be. Mark your calendar for Dec. 1st and try to imagine the gathering to come.

Mark your Calendar for December 1...

Follow the PHAs on the Spaceweather.com page daily.
At the end of today the folks in the NEO program were tracking 996 Asteroids.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Venus Rising



The evening finds Venus shining in the southwest after sunset. I spotted this bright planet just above the tree line at sunset...it was below the trees quickly! I caught a glimpse of the crescent moon through the trees too. Viewing Venus now in a scope will show a full globe but soon our sister Planet will be in Crescent stage. Use Binoculars to look for the dim red star Antares near the moon. Higher up and to the left is the bright wandering star Jupiter.

No wolves howling at a full moon this Halloween, just a nice view of a Crescent Moon on this Cross - Quarter day. Our mid-point of the astronomical season of autumn which, along with the seasonal markers, were traditional dates in feudal times. Halloween is traditionally a night to respect long-dead ancestors and other spirits.
This year the crescent moon was not be high enough to view, so I focused on Jupiter and found four moons: two[Europa and eclipsing Io] on the left very close the globe and two on the right farther out[Callisto and Ganymede]. No goblins rambling down the drive but there was a trailer full being pulled by a tractor at the top of the road. They went across the street. There are more targets to view this weekend under clear skies. Link to Universe Today's Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast.
As we close the month of October there are 995 PHAs on the list of NEO rocks being tracked.
Photo of Venus is crescent stage from a SLOOH Telescope session back in 2004.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Asteroid Vesta

The word is out that the Asteroid Vesta has moved into our sky, straight from the Asteroid Belt past Mars. This rock is the brightest Asteroid on the list @ 355 miles in diameter. A white dot in binoculars or telescope can be found in the Constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster).
RA-2h34.2m/Dec-3.42"and is 6.6 in magnitude.

While observing this rock the next couple of nights, remember DAWN is on the way to Vesta. The spacecraft left Earth in September 2007 and should catch up to Vesta in August 2011. I am sure the pictures will be great and we will learn more about this rock. I am looking forward to viewing these snapshots as my Odyssey continues...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Planets and a Crescent Moon

Last night was a moonless clear dark night. The planet Venus was near the red star Antares. It was a night for an event with Andromeda and the double cluster in prime viewing position. Jupiter still outshines the brightest stars in the Summer Triangle. Early in the morning Saturn was close to the moon with Mercury near the horizon. You can find a thin crescent moon near Mercury Monday morning ; use binoculars and look low in the east.

As of Saturday there were 992 PHAs out there roaming near our earth, some closer; some bigger than others. This weekend Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft crossed the 150,000 km distance mark from Earth, officially entering deep space, on course for the moon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How dark is the sky? Counting Stars...

The World Wide Star Count is underway this week until November 3.

I have been out twice to view and count. This group [Windows to the Universe] uses the constellation Cygnus as a guide. Using the number of stars you can visually see in Cygnus as the formula to determine how many stars are visible from my backyard. My backyard is on the rim of the City. My sky has some light pollution from the city and not surprising the sky above my backyard is not the best.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Last Quarter Moon...in a blue sky


When the Moon is in third quarter~you can see it high in a blue sky.
Man has been tracking moon Phases across the sky and following the seasons since Cro-Magnon viewed the sky from the sheltered plains of early history. This month the third quarter moon is no different. This phase rises early in the morning and sets in the afternoon, moving toward the new phase. Tonight's Third Quarter Moon rises at 12:24 AM and sets at 2:40 PM. The Third Quarter moon in October is special. It means cold Canadian air will soon move down from the North to Central Texas. Time to start chopping that firewood that has been stacked for the fireplace and get ready for the first Winter's Chill.

If you were watching for the Orinid meteors in moonlight early this morning, that bright Moon went to Third Quarter at 5:55 AM! Look for that slice of moon in a blue sky for the next couple of days.\Photo is with a digital camera through my 4" refractor.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cloudy Sky and Orionid Meteor Shower

Entry~081020 /Orionids

The biggest problem during a meteor watch is whether to sleep in or stay up late. I opted to sleep in then went out at 4AM Monday morning to look at Orion. It was a dark, clear; cold predawn morning. The Orion Constellation was high and in the SE. The waning gibbous Moon was hanging to the left of Orion in the Gemini Constellation like a bright torch filling the sky with moonlight. I counted 5 meteors within the first fifteen minutes. I'm sure I missed more dim ones with all the moonlight. They originated from just left of Betelgeuse moving downward and across the Orion Constellation. 2 were very bright and they all were very fast!
Clouds are forecast to roll in overnight tonight but if it is clear, I may try another look at Orion early Tuesday morning.

Friday, October 17, 2008

8 Planets...Seven Wandering Stars


Most of us learned to follow the Planets we can see with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The two planets Uranus and Neptune are harder to see in the night sky. Our Solar System is one Planet short this year after the IAU demoted Pluto to a Dwarf Planet/Plutoid. Ancient Greeks tagged the Planets “Wandering Stars”. Currently there are four Planets that can be seen wandering in our night sky.

Jupiter shines bright in Sagittarius, Venus rises with Scorpius in the evening, getting brighter as this month’s moon wanes toward new; bringing frost on the pumpkin. Saturn is in Leo and can be seen before dawn. Mercury in the constellation Virgo, will soon be a bright morning star at the end of the month. After sunset or before sunrise we can follow a planet floating among a sea of stars, moving through the night sky.

Plasma from our Sun reaches out past our planets in the Solar System into the heliosphere. The heliosphere is the area that our first probes Voyager and Pioneer are sailing in [Outer Space]. Voyager 1 failed early in the mission, so it is impossible to get a direct measurement of the decrease in plasma velocity. Voyager 2 is, however, approaching the termination shock and it continues to provide accurate plasma velocity measurements. It is hoped, and highly likely, that Voyager 2 will soon make the first direct measurements of the flows in the heliosheath.
Sunday NASA is launching IBEX, a new probe set to sail past our planets into that dark sea of the cosmos to study more of the heliosphere.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pluto... in seven more years

Today the spaceship New Horizons went past 1,000 days since it was aimed and launched toward what Mr. Thombaugh discovered back in 1930.

I have never been a big fan of Pluto one way or the other.
I have viewed Pluto many times through a telscope over the past decade, while it swung close to our orbit. Like most distant objects and Asteroids in the telescope, it is just a white dot that moves slowly through the night sky. The only way to tell you have it in the eyepc is to compare pictures or placement from consecutive nights and watch that dot move around the other white dots in view.

Now only a 14 magnitude speck near the Planet Jupiter in Sagittarius, this rock is far, far away in a very cold and dark corner of the Solar System. If I wanted to visualize it again, I would have to use a 10" or larger scope and let the computer find it and goto that white dot.

The Minor Planet Center (MPC) assigned Asteroid # 134340 to Pluto back in September 2006. Then in 2008 the IAU classified this rock as a "Plutoid". The Planet debate continues after it was dropped as a Planet.

We should not forget the Mission to this Plutoid and the Kuiper Belt is on it's way, launched January 2006 and should arrive in 2015. Hopefully the camera and instruments on the ship will wake up and function to send us some great photos and information from that dark and cold corner of our Solar System.

Maybe it will be re-classified a Planet by then... then again, maybe not!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October Hunter's Moon

The past few nights have been filled with moonlight and clouds, so it has been difficult exploring the night sky. Tonight is the Full Moon, the Hunter's Moon and if the clouds do not gather tonight we will be able to view Selene. There are lots of features that can be viewed even in all that moonlight. Bright features like: Craters Tycho, Thales, and Anaxagoras. Twin craters Menelaus and Manilius. The smaller crater Dionysius and the larger crater Proclus. All these and more can be seen in a bright night observing the Moon.

The Chandrayaan-1 Mission is almost ready to visit the moon. Scheduled to launch next week, October 22, the satellite will target our moon to Map the lunar surface features from space and observe the presence of radioactive isotopes to help researchers determine the origins of the Moon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Orion…Midnight to Dawn



Entry~081009

Orion, the great hunter is one of the best known patterns in the night sky. This asterism is prominent in our evening sky in late November. But in October we can catch it early in the morning after midnight. The constellations are constantly moving across our sky. By midnight tonight Orion will be starting his climb higher with the bright star Sirius that leads you to the belt and the sword. There M42, the Great Orion Nebula, glows like a beacon in the night sky. I always check the red super- giant star Betelgeuse has not gone super- nova yet. In addition you can see the Pleaides and the red star Aldebaran near by in Taurus.

The Orion meteor shower will peek on October 21. This year the moon will be in the third quarter and give a favorable night sky to view these falling stars. Normal rate = 30-40 per hour. Will try to view and do a count during this event. The cooler months of October and November are great for exploring the night sky.

M42 wide field photo / taken during a SLOOH Telescope session in 2004

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hercules is moving West


Entry~ 081008

The Constellation Hercules is finally behind the trees from my location. The strong man continues his nightly voyage farther West on one of his twelve Herculean Adventures. I took my last look at the Key Stone and found the Great Hercules Cluster, M13. Globular Clusters are billions of years old. This ball of stars is 25,000 light years away and is packed with around 500 thousand suns. It can be seen on a clear night in binoculars as a fuzzy patch near the star Eta Her on the wider side of the Key Stone. Always a prime target for the Telescope and always a great site in the eyepiece. M13 bw/photo is from SLOOH Telescope session I took in 2005.
Tracking Near Earth Asteroids: There are now 990 PHAs as of October 9, 2008.

Sun activity is still low

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More Moonlight


Entry~081007
The photo is from a SLOOH Telescope session back in August 2004 /First Quarter Moon.
Lots of moonlight in the night sky this evening and the stars are getting dimmer. The moon phase is just past first quarter and hangs near Jupiter in the tonight’s sky. Looking down the Terminator you will find unique features to view in a scope, starting with the Sea of Nectaris and the Sea of Vaporum. Along that dark divide are the craters and mountains that really stand out in the eyepiece. The Craters: Plato, Archimedes, Copernicus, Aristillus, Autolycus, Hipparchus, Ptolemeaus, and Tyco. The mountain ranges of Montes Alpes and Montes Apenninus top off the tour. The moon continues to get brighter as our satellite moves through the night and will reach maximum Albedo value at next Tuesday’s full Hunter’s Moon.

Asteroid 2008 TC3 hit the Earth Tuesday morning above Africa and put on a good sky display.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The International Space Station

Photo from the NASA STS 122 mission in February 2008

Entry~081006. Last night the first quarter moon was bright and Jupiter shined bright near by. The stars in the Constellations were dimmer tonight. Clouds were moving in and out. Time to research the ISS upcoming fly- bys. The Space Station will start moving across my sky tonight for the next five days. The new ISS crew will launch from Russia this Sunday, October 12. Expedition 18 includes the American from Texas, Richard Garriott, another millionaire Space Tourist. The Soyuz will Dock with the ISS next Tuesday, October 14. Crew members Volkov and Kononenko will be joined by Garriott when they return home in their Soyuz TMA-12 on Oct. 23.

I have tracked the ISS from the first launch in 1998. Still under construction, I have watched a dim point of light grow into a larger brighter "shining star"moving across the sky and have logged countless sightings in the last decade. Look forward to the next decade as it glides across my backyard. You can find the pass information for your location @ the Heavens Above website.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Early morning discoveries


Entry~081005 Last night was breezy with stars going in and out the clouds. October is a month of transition. Cooler weather and a different set of Constellations are moving into the Night Sky. The Constellation Orion is well up in the early morning sky and Saturn can be viewed this month a couple of hours before sunrise in the constellation Leo. Photo: October 2005 during a viewing session through the SLOOH telescope.
October is also the month to start looking for the Zodiacal Light. That mysterious glow we can see early in the morning before sunrise made from Space Dust. I have yet to view this phenomenon but many Star Gazers have.

Asteroids have made several close passes by Earth and more folks are following these orbiting rocks. There are several PHAs that will swing past our Planet this month. A Small Asteroid was Predicted to Cause a Brilliant Fireball over Northern Sudan tonight at 9:30 CDT. There is a daily list of PHAs posted at Spaceweather.com.

Get up early, have a cup of coffee and scan a clear morning sky this month with a telescope. Observe Saturn while you search for the Zodiacal Light then watch the sun rise.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Clouds are Back!

After several clear nights this past week the clouds are beginning to cover the stars in the evening. Forecasters are predicting some rain Monday and Tuesday... maybe. I worked in a building with NO windows. Before I left my desk job, I used to ask people coming into the office "How high are the clouds?" As a Skywatcher, I watch the weather...daily. Our clear skies have changed over the past ten years. With an increase in population and Urban sprawl, Light Pollution has increased in the area. Most of the clubs and organizations just seem to go farther away from the city lights for the events. Those of us that no longer Trek to distant sites....make due with Urban Astronomy.

Entry~081004 Viewed the Crescent Moon just after sunset- Clouds rolling in....
Cloudy skies are a good time to catch up on reading, transcribing all those notes; penciled symbols you wrote from past observations and add them to your journal.

Today the folks with eyes on Minor Planets are tracking 988 PHAs
Keep Skywatching...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Galileo's View in the Telescope

In a Universe Today article they wrote: "400 years ago, officials in the Netherlands were pondering over a patent application by a spectacle maker named Hans Lipperhey. The patent was for a "device by means of which all things at a very great distance can be seen as if they were nearby." This is the earliest known record of a telescope. A few months later, scientist Galileo Galilei would get his hands on one."

I am sure Galileo focused on the moon along with Jupiter and its moons that first night after his telescope was delivered. I felt as if I was as old as Galileo while I broke out the 4'' Celestron and pointed it toward the moon to look at the Terminator then Jupiter with its four moons trapped in orbit. The Celestron has a German mount on a heavy tripod. That makes viewing difficult but I managed to complete the viewing without tripping over myself.

Last night's waxing crescent moon was up at sunset, high above the tree line but sinking fast. I placed the camera on the back of the scope but I got nothing but blurred images. I forgot to attach the auto shutter release... Next Time!!

I did enjoy the Terminator and the Craters along the darkened rim before the jagged moon glided down below the trees.

Jupiter is easy to spot and there were three moons showing. In my eyepiece there was one on the left and two on the right. But my Celestial Calendar tells me the spacing on the left was off because Europa was tight on the rim of the Planet. Europa should be visible at 10 pm.
Went back out at 10 pm and Europa was close to edge of the Planet... there were four moons visible.

As of Friday October 3, 2008 there are 987 known PHAs.

That's lot of Rocks* moving past my Planet!

*Amors, Apollos, and Atens are the three categories of Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). Amor asteroids approach the Earth's orbit from the outside, Apollo asteroids cross the Earth's orbit, and Aten asteroids approach the Earth's orbit from the inside. Potentially Hazardous asteroids (PHAs) are larger than ~0.2 km (0.1 mile) and approach close enough to present a potential hazard but not a current hazard.

Never stop watching the sky and keep Tracking.....

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thin moon at sunset


The Moon was two days old last night.
Thursday evening in the twilight, I had to trek a little to get a good horizon but I did not have to go too far. Just 10 minutes after the sun set the moon was hanging in the SW sky. Another 10 minutes the planet Venus was shining to the west of the moon. Too few clouds at sunset left the canvas of the sky fairly plain. There was one group of distant clouds low to the NE near the horizon. Took this photo then drove home. Look close to the far right for Venus.
Sorry, I don't have a telephoto lens.



The Moon is in it's waxing stage and in a week our natural satellite will be at First Quarter.

Watch the moon as it climbs higher and moves East each night.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Waiting for...

Last night you could easily see Jupiter, and the bright stars Vega, Capella, Fomalhaut, Arcturus, Deneb and Altair. Andromeda is getting higher. Plus a Crescent Moon hung low in the West. Now the Seven Sisters [“Pleiades”]are low in the NE after night fall. Taurus and Orion will soon follow this group of stars, that tells me that frost will soon visit the pasture. I missed the thin Crescent Moon and Venus last night because they were behind the trees from my backyard.

A waxing crescent moon–sometimes called a “young moon”–is always seen in the west after sunset. At this moon phase, the Earth, moon and sun are located nearly on a line in space. If they were more precisely on a line, as they are at new moon, we wouldn’t see the moon. The moon would travel across the sky during the day, lost in the sun’s glare. Instead, a waxing crescent moon is seen one day to several days after new moon. It rises one hour to several hours behind the sun and follows the sun across the sky during the day. When the sun sets, and the sky darkens, the moon pops into view in the western sky.

Every night sky is different from the night before. Last night was clearer than the night before. Tonight the moon will be higher and I will be waiting to view that evening crescent moon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Hubble Space Telescope… Service Call



We can still see the HST moving across our night sky. The first nine days of October it will pass over my backyard in the early morning darkness before sunrise. Like the NASA photo to the left, it is still in orbit, waiting for upgrades. The latest Hubble Service Mission has been postponed…again. A mystery malfunction on Saturday crippled the observatory's ability to transmit data to Earth. The planned fourth service mission has been put on hold. Hopefully the mission team will correct the problem and have a new component ready to go by the end of January 2009. The NASA Mission team will stand down then go through the paces for an addition service routine to correct the added problem.

I have downloaded hundreds of NASA photos and marvel at all of them. Take some time and look at those Photos again while you wait for the next Service Mission to keep the HST capturing new Discoveries.

I have followed each Launch plus each Spacewalk and viewed the Telescope sailing across my back yard multiple times. We have Five months to review those past three missions.

STS 109 the third service mission March 2002

STS 103 the second service mission December 1999

STS 82 the first service mission February 1997


Edwin Hubble said: "The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Andromeda...Far Away

Wow! 2.5 million light years away and we can still see it in our night sky!

Last night was another clear night and pretty good sky conditions. Jupiter was over my right shoulder and no moon tonight. The Andromeda Galaxy is located near Pegasus the Great Square. Start with the bright star Alpheratz. Follow that star down to the left by two stars. Move up 2 stars by the star Nu Andromedae, the fuzzy glob is just down and to the left of it. In my backyard M31 comes up over the trees in the NE about an hour afterAstronomical twilight, when it is dark-dark.


Scanning the NE sky with binoculars, I found the fuzzy spot near the Big Box without too much trouble. I swung the "Dob" to that area and found the target in the finder scope. In the past, the Galaxy has been a lot sharper as seen through a scope. Our sky is not as dark as in past years and getting more polluted! The W shaped Cassiopeia was well up when I started after 9 pm. After viewing the Galaxy I swung the scope to view the Dragon Fly cluster. I found and viewed several open clusters while searching. Also along the way I spotted a few doubles. There are lots of things to see in Casseopeia but tonight NGC 457 eluded me, my legs gave out so I went in. I will catch that Dragon Fly another night.

The nights are getting longer....more time to explore and discover
Skywatchers Alert: As of Tonight there are 986 PHAs identified and being tracked.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mars will be back

Mars started out this year as an orange point of light in the east and moved through the constellation Gemini in the spring of this year. The planet that orbits between Earth and the Asteroid belt has left our night sky moving farther out of our view. Mars was easily seen at night under a clear sky, grouped with other stars in May of this year. Mars then turned direction in a retrograde motion and apperared to move backwards away from our planet.

Even though Mars is no longer in our night sky we have not lost site of the Red Planet in our mission to get there. Buzz Aldrin said, "Mars is there, waiting to be reached".


This year we downloaded many pictures and much data from Phoenix and the Rovers as NASA prepares for the next mission to the Red Planet in the fall of next year. In September 2009 the JPL will launch another rover, the Mars Science Labratory . Seven landing sites on Mars have been selected to choose from. One will be selected soon by the mission team.

The next opposition is January 2010. That's the next time Earth comes between the Sun and Mars and the fourth planet from our sun will be in closer to our planet for better viewing. In the meantime, I will be downloading pictures and data from the Rovers, Phoenix, Mars Odyssey and the MRO.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Movement in the night sky

Tonight Jupiter is moving east. Those wandering stars[the planets] move through the night sky based on their orbits around the sun as seen from our planet. Each evening brings a different look to the night sky. Andromeda is in the east at sunset and in the west at sunrise. The sky seems to move east to west and the stars are fixed. That constellation you looked at tonight will be in the area of the sky four minutes earlier tomorrow night. Rotation of the earth and is why constellations are seasonal. Orion will be well up in the evening sky in late November but not in July. A star chart will help with the search and tell you which stars will be up a given night.

Looking at the sky tonight the bright stars you can see with the naked eye are Altair, Arcturus, Deneb, Vega, Fomalhaut, Antares and that wandering star Jupiter.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Space Odyssey

The Chinese have three Taikonauts orbiting our world today. They will not stay long in Orbit after one spacewalk. News is the Shenzhou 7 is scheduled to go back to China Sunday the 28th. The ATV "Jules Verne"is due to deorbit and crash into the Pacific Monday. The Hubble Service mission is still on for October 14. On Mars the Rovers are still active and collecting data and Phoenix is still kicking up dust. I have been watching the ISS fly over my backyard since 1998 and waiting for it to be completed. Soon we will be shuttling crews to a Multi Nation Moon Station. From there I can only imagine colonies on Mars and Stations orbiting the Moons of Jupiter. The stuff of Science Fiction is morphing into reality. Space truly is the Final Frontier.

The Hubble is making some early morning flybys over my backyard this next week. Jupiter and those four prominent moons are still in good position for viewing. I will be tracking the constellations Andromeda, Cygnus, Lyra and Hercules in the evening. Discover the star Capella in the east after the sunsets. A waxing crescent moon will appear again October 1 in the west. Today we are tracking 983 known PHAs .

The Odyssey continues...

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Starry, Starry Night

Some time has past since my last viewing of the night sky but last night I set up the 10 inch Dobsonian scope in the drive not too far from the porch. The Sun set at 7:25 pm. The sky darkened at 8:43pm. I started viewing through the scope at 8:30 pm.

There was an event going on in town. As I scanned the sky there were two spot lights beaming across the sky during my viewing time. The Sky was clear, seeing was not the best.

The Summer Triangle stars were visible while setting up… Altair, Deneb and Vega.

Antares quickly fell behind the trees not too long after I spotted the red star low in the SW.

Several satellites were spotted moving through the sky.

My main targets for tonight would be Jupiter then the Great Hercules Cluster M13. Jupiter was still buoyed far above the trees and appeared to have 6 moons, but two were stars in the constellation Sagittarius. In the scope there were 3 moons on the left. They were Callisto, Ganymede and Io. The one on the right was Europa.

The constellation Hercules was resting above the roof of the house and M13 was still where I left it the last time I put it in my eyepiece . The cluster is positioned between the not so bright stars Eta and Zeta Herculis. Tonight this cluster was a dull ball of stars. I have viewed this great cluster many times and this night was not as sharp and crisp as times past. The trick to finding these objects is to turn the chart to where the feature drawn matches what you see of the constellation, then find the stars to follow in the line that the objects lies.

Cassiopeia was still climbing out of from behind the trees

Cygnus was straight up, too much of a strain on my neck and wobbly legs to view comfortably. Lyra’s bright star Vega was higher than the strong man, I thought of grabbing the ring but my legs were giving out and I needed to rest. End of session 9:30 pm.

I left the scope in the drive in hopes of an early morning look at Saturn and the moon. But I checked the Celestial Calendar at CalSky and the ringed wanderer will rise in the east at 5:58 am. The time and position of the planet will not make it high enough to view from my position.

Early Friday morning I was back out moving the scope at 5:45 AM. Twilight started at 6:03. The Sky was clear with good seeing. Those troublesome beams of light were not present this morning.

The Moon was still below the tree line with no sign of the ringed planet. Saturn is positioned below Regulus in Leo. The crescent moon can be seen through the limbs. Those limbs make the moon a harder target to focus on.

Orion and Gemini spotted easily. Sirius led the way to the Belt and the Sword. Rigel and Betelgeuse were bright in the early morning sky. I moved the scope to M42. The Orion Nebula was there along with the bright stars of the Trapezium. The morning light was getting brighter. I took a quick look at the Pleiades before ending the session.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Forecast: a clear sky and a bit cooler

Daily temperatures are finally getting a little cooler after the arrival of Fall three days ago. Today's news included a delay for the Hubble launch, now set for October 14.

It should be clear tonight and cooler with our moon near Saturn. Will try to get a peek at the ringed planet early in the AM, before sunrise. The rings of Saturn are soon to be edge-on... by late December. It will be my first glance at Saturn through a scope while edge-on, after a fifteen year tilt.

Clear Skies