Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Ends with a Full Moon

Cloudy, cold, wet nights this week kept us from seeing Stars. This 2009 New Year's Eve brings a bright "Blue Moon" that will light up the night sky. No Eclipse visible from our location. I observed the moon setting in the West early this AM. This morning there was a haze around the Orb with a chill in the night air.

The best of the past decade is closing with lots of high tech and Science advancements. We can Blog, Tweet,Text and Browse the Net from our mobile phones as well as from our laptops. High Def will be the visual norm soon. A definite move into the 21st Century. The worst of the past decade....In '06 Walking became a chore with mobility a bit more difficult. Maybe that's a good thing, I'm older and should be slower. Participated, with the group, in an "Astronomy Day" Event. The International Year of Astronomy was a catalyst to a lot of people this year. December closed with only "one" Star Gazing out reach event with the group and two outreach school class events.

As we move into 2010, I am hoping to view and observe a few Starry, Starry Nights. Look for advancements in Astronomy ; new discoveries in our Solar System , the Universe and Explore "Infinity and Beyond".

SciFi on DVD Tonight: District 9
Alien Bug(“Prongs”) Vessel is stuck and stranded for 20 years over South Africa.
This movie is Peter Jackson’s adaptation to the consequences dealing with issues of xenophobia and social segregation. V- G for violence and gore.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Past

Good Cheer to all and to all a Good Night....
A Trip to the big City Friday and a visit with family that included a great Xmas dinner. We had sunshine and compfortable chilly temps. Up near the Red River, they had a white Xmas! Blizzard conditions at Xmas. Sometimes it is great to live at our latitude and longitude.

I did manage to look up and observe bright stars and planets several times during the past week on very cold nights. Saturn, Mars and Venus in the AM/Jupiter and Mercury in the PM with a bright quarter moon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The week of Christmas

As the great yule tide cometh. there will be no time for postings or observations. The Tree is hung in red with blinking lights. We will be navigating the shopping malls for the next couple of days. A few very cold nights are forecasts in the week ahead. No Snow down here, but it will feel like Xmas. "Cold"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Clear Nights Ahead?

The last front pushed the Clouds away at least until Monday. I saw the new crescent moon Thursday night driving home from Bastrop. The Clouds were breaking just as the sun went down below the horizon. With a little luck we can see a few stars tonight and Sunday.

This weekend look for binary stars, a Galaxy and an Asteroid mentioned in the Skywatchers Forecast.
Tonight if it is Clear:
Look North at dusk for The Ursid meteor shower active the next few nights.
Sunday, Jupiter passes the planet Neptune by just a half a degree. Look for 8th magnitude Neptune to the upper right of Jupiter. Jupiter is easy to find in the evening sky. Look for -2nd magnitude Jupiter in the southwest sky after dark. Tonight the crescent Moon will be to the lower right of Jupiter. Use binoculars or a small telescope to see Neptune. Mars reaches its stationary point; it ceases its normal eastward motion against the stars and begins retrograding (moving westward), what with opposition hardly six weeks away.
The Winter Solstice arrives on Dec. 21st, Monday, at 1747 UT (12:47 EST). Thursday(Xmas Eve) is when it will be frosty here again.
Tuesday, The Ursid meteor shower peaks in the predawn hours. Watch the skies for shooting stars. At dusk, look for the waxing crescent Moon to the upper left of Jupiter. The Moon and Jupiter are in the SSW sky an hour after sunset.

News from Cyberspace:
Shapes Reveal Supernovae History
A "Polar Ring" For Christmas…
Earth's Upper Atmosphere is Cooling
Cassini Captures Sunshine Gleaming off Lake on Titan
Could there be Life on Jupiter and Saturn's Moons?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lots of Clouds!

We missed the Geminids last night! Just too much cloud cover, with a bit warmer temps. El Nino is in place and the predictions of a warmer and wetter winter seem to be far.

In early evening this month, Fomalhaut, Jupiter, Altair, and Vega form a huge line of four bright points marching from the south-southwest to the northwest. Continue onward, and you quickly reach the head of Draco and then the bowl of the Little Dipper.
If the Clouds break Tuesday: Focus on the stars Betelgeuse and Rigel in Orion
Mercury is visible very low in the southwest during the mid-evening twilight. Look for Mercury 50 minutes after sunset. Mercury is about 40° to the lower right of Jupiter.

Wednesday, New Moon (exact at 7:02 a.m. EST).The Andromeda galaxy is visible overhead after dark. The Andromeda galaxy, also known as M-31, is the most distant object visible with the unaided eye. This spiral galaxy is about 2.5 million light-years away. The Andromeda galaxy is within the constellation of Andromeda the Princess. Look for Andromeda between the constellations of Pegasus and Cassiopeia.

News from Cyberspace:
Incredible New Hubble Image is Full of Stars!
Phaeton Place… Inside the Geminid Meteor Shower
Hubble Captures Birth, Annihilation of Young Solar Systems in Orion Nebula
WISE Launches to Begin All-Sky Survey (Video)
First Super-Earths Discovered Around Sun-like Stars
Galaxy Zoo is Expanding to Include a Whole New "Zooniverse"First (of many) Gorgeous Pictures from the New VISTA

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Cloudy Nights Continue

Numerous Cold Fronts with over-riding Pacific moisture continue to roll down from the North, hiding the Sun and "The Stars". We may miss the Geminid Meteor Shower this Month!
If you have Clear Skies this Weekend: Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – December 11-13, 2009. The Geminid meteor shower peaks overnight Sunday. Watch for shooting stars this evening into the early morning hours of the 14th. The Geminids appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini the Twins. The Moon is a thin old crescent so its brightness won't interfere with meteor watching. Monday, Look for the old thin Moon low in the southeast at dawn. The Moon is near the stars that form the head of Scorpius. Look for the Moon 45 minutes before sunrise.

News from Cyberspace: STS 130 Endeavour: Liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is targeted for February 4, 2010 at 5:52 a.m. EST.
Join the World in Looking for Geminids This Weekend with #MeteorWatch
Phobos and Deimos Together At Last!
Spirals, Tides, and M51
Forming Planets Around Binary Stars
Earth's Atmosphere Came from Outer Space
Half a Million Galaxies, Yours to Explore
10 Years of XMM-Newton
Extra Star Found in the Big Dipper
Very First Image of a Very Hot Star
The Shrinking Doughnut Around a Black Hole

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Midweek News from the Net

Cloudy Skies have dominated night sky viewing this week. A Weak Cold Front brought Clouds that blanketed the Sky. Hoping for a few good nights this weekend to catch a few falling stars.
GEMINID METEOR WATCH: The Geminid meteor shower is getting underway. The peak won't arrive until Sunday night, Dec. 13th, but observers are already seeing meteors streak across the late-night sky. This is just the beginning. If forecasters are correct, meteor rates will climb to more than 100 per hour on Dec. 13th and 14th when Earth passes through the densest part of a debris stream from Geminid parent comet 3200 Phaethon. Get the full story from Science@NASA. Geminid sky map and observing tips.
Geminid meteor galleries: 2007, 2008

News from Cyberspace:
MRO Comes Out of Safe Mode
Exoplanet Not Really There?
New Findings Say Mars Methane Comes from Life or Water — or Both
Hubble Takes a New "Deep Field" Image with Wide Field Camera 3
Dating a Cluster – A New Trick
NASA to Launch WISE on FridayButterflynauts Emerge from Cocoons on ISS

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: A Few Good Viewing Nights

The Front passed and we had NO SNOW here. A few Clear Cold Nights ahead, then more Clouds until Wednesday. The Moon is up later, so a couple of Dark Nights before the sky is blanketed again.

The Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – December 5-7, 2009 reviews Star Clusters and a nebula. Tonight in a Clear Sky, Once the Moon is well up in the east late this evening, look lower left of it for bright Mars, as shown here. By dawn Sunday morning they're very high, with Mars now to the Moon's upper left. Jupiter's moon Io reappears out of eclipse from Jupiter's shadow at 8:57 p.m. EST. A small telescope will show it gradually swelling into view just east of the planet.

Cassiopeia high up on December evenings
So you think you know Cassiopeia with your telescope? Have you looked for Stein 1248, the multicolored pair of WZ Cas and its companion; van den Bergh 1, or King 13? They're all just off the bright end of the Cassiopeia W. See Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders article and maps in the December Sky & Telescope, page 63

Sunday, The waning gibbous Moon is west of Mars in the morning sky. Look for Mars high in the southwest at dawn. Saturn is 45° to the east of the red planet.

Monday, Earliest sunset of the year (at latitude 40° north).

This is the time of the year when the Little Dipper dumps into the Big Dipper right after dark. This is the view from latitude 40° north (for example New York and Denver). In the southern U.S., part of all of the Big Dipper is below the horizon. This is the time of year when the Big Dipper lies lowest in the north after dark. The faint Little Dipper curls high over it.

News from Cyberspace: Vatican Astronomer on the Colbert Report
Space station crew crew lands in frigid Kazakhstan

SciFi on TV Tonight: War of the Worlds
Classic HG Wells updated in this Century with a lot more CG action than earlier movies. Not impressed with TC as lead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mid-Week News from the Net

SOLAR MINIMUM: The sun is in the pits of a very deep solar minimum. Many researchers thought the sunspot cycle had hit bottom in 2008 when the sun was blank 73% of the time. Not so. 2009 is on the verge of going even lower. So far this year, the sun has been blank 75% of the time, and only a serious outbreak of sunspots over the next few weeks will prevent 2009 from becoming the quietest year in a century. Solar minimum continues.
Mars Odyssey Goes into Safe Mode
Hubble Sees Dazzling Dust in the Iris Nebula
Quasar Caught Building Future Home Galaxy
ISS Temporarily Down to Crew of 2
LHC Officially Becomes Most Powerful Accelerator
New Zealand Launches First Rocket
Slow-Motion Supernova
Amateur Spectroscopy
An Astronomical Perspective on Climate Change

After 3 Nights of Clouds and almost and inch of the wet stuff, we may have some clear skies, but the Moon is still bright. Forecast for the end of the week is more clouds and SNOW, Friday...maybe! Strong Blast of Artic Air will blow in Friday with overriding moisture = SNOW. Bringing in the wood for the next couple of frosty nights. If the sky is clear Tonight: The Moon is at the most northern part of its orbit. Notice how far north along the eastern part of the horizon the moon rises. Look for moonrise in the northeast, about 10 minutes after sunset. The bright Moon shines between the horntips of Taurus this evening. Thursday, Mars rises about a half hour before Jupiter sets. Can you see both at the same time? Look for both Mars and Jupiter 2° above the horizon, Jupiter setting in the WSW, Mars rising in the ENE. Try looking about 5 hours after sunset. The bright eclipsing variable star Algol should be in one of its periodic dimmings, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 10:51 p.m. EST. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Cloudy Moon Lit Nights

We will have Cloudy nights through the weekend. Another Cold Front will push down and bring us a chance of rain and much colder temps until Thursday! The Moon and a couple of double stars highlight this Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – November 27-29, 2009.
The Moon will be full this coming Tuesday, so even if it clears, the night sky will be bright with Moonlight.
News from Cyberspace:
Shuttle Atlantis Returns Home (Video)
Absolutely Amazing Shuttle Ascent Video
Comets Posing as Asteroids (or is the the other way around?)
Jupiter – Our Silent Guardian?
Astronomers Dig Up Relic of the Milky Way's Central Bulge
Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mid Week News from the Net

Lots of News from Cyberspace:
Ring of Stars in Centaurus A Uncovered
The Extremely Large Telescope
First Collisions for the LHC
Mystery of the Flyby Anomaly Endures
Cold as Hell with a Chance of Dust Storms: Weather Movies from Mars
Hot Jupiters Bully Super Earths
Tranquility Module Formally Handed over to NASA from ESA
Large Ocean, Extensive River Network, Rainfall on Ancient Mars
Baby Brown Dwarfs Provide Clues to Solve Mystery
First Black Holes May Have Formed in "Cocoons"
New Findings On Alan Hills Meteorite Point to Microbial Life
Atlantis and its seven-astronaut crew undocked from the International Space Station at 4:53 a.m. EST Wednesday Morning. Pilot Barry Wilmore piloted Atlantis during its flyaround.
Monday evening I observed a wide crescent Moon above Jupiter. Jupiter and the Moon were in the south at dusk. If you aimed a telescope at Jupiter you would see its 4 Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. When the sun set Monday evening, Jupiter and the Moon gathered together in the constellation Capricornus only a few degrees apart. I was able to observe them before the sky faded behind the Clouds. A Jupiter-Moon conjunction framed by twilight-blue is a very pretty sight. [sky map]

I observed the Quarter moon in a clear sky Tuesday evening.
In the Sky Tonight: Moon, Jupiter, Fomalhaut make triangle in sky
Jupiter's moon Io passes in front of the moon Europa at 6:49 p.m. EST. For observers in the eastern part of the U.S., the sky will be dark and Jupiter will be in the SSW sky. Use a telescope to see the moons of Jupiter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Clouds and a Bright Moon

Pacific Cold Fronts and Coastal air develops into Cloudy nights. Rain and clouds will keep the Stars covered. The Forecast for this next week ( rain Tuesday night)gives us a chance to view the stars but with lots of moonlight.

If the Clouds break Tonight: Moon and Jupiter spotlight the Sea-goat
Monday, Jupiter shines just below the Moon this evening. An hour later, watch Jupiter's moon Europa reappear from eclipse out of Jupiter's shadow, just east of the planet, at 8:41 p.m. EST.
Tuesday, First-quarter Moon (exact at 4:39 p.m. EST). Jupiter's moon Io occults Europa from 8:19 to 8:24 p.m. EST.
News from Cyberspace: Astronauts perform mission's second successful spacewalk
The "wow" factor from the Cassini mission never quits. Here's the latest image, released just today of Saturn, viewed in near-infrared. This image was taken with Cassini's wide-angle camera on Oct. 23, 2009.
The best video of the extremely bright event was just recently released, from the University of Utah's Eccles Observatory.Scientists say that although the fireball appeared during the Leonid meteor shower, it was not a Leonid. Experts liken the event to the Park Forest fireball of 2003, which scattered dozens of meteorites across a suburb of Chicago. Meteorites are likely from this fireball as well. Check out this page on for a picture gallery of the event, as well as a nocticulent cloud gallery. Plus, stay tuned for developing information about any meteorites found in the possible fall zone.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Moon and Jupiter

Last night the group gathered and discussed past and present Astronomical Events. Only seven of us were at the table at TJs. There will be no meeting or events in December as the busy Holdiay schedules are in place. The weekend sky should clear by Saturday night with a bright Moon in place moving closer to Planet Jupiter. Moonlight will fill the night sky!
Saturday Morning, Venus and Saturn are 45° apart. Look for Venus very low in the ESE, 45 minutes before sunrise. Saturn is to the upper right of Venus. Saturn's rings are tilted 4° from edgewise. In the western twilight, the crescent Moon shines about two fist-widths to the lower right of Jupiter.
Jupiter shines left of the Moon this Sunday evening. Look right of the Moon for Alpha and Beta Capricorni. Alpha is a naked-eye double star for the sharp-eyed. Beta is also a wide double, but here the secondary star is dim enough (magnitude 6.2) that you'll need binoculars. Jupiter's Red Spot transits around 7:53 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Tonight if the Clouds break: Comparing stars' colors reveals temperature

This Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – November 20 -22, 2009 Features the moon and star clusters

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fireball lit up the Sky in the West!

The Leonids were not that good this year above my backyard, but there was an event in the western sky last night that only happens once every five years:

Yesterday, Nov. 18th, something exploded in the atmosphere above the western United States. Witnesses in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho say the fireball "turned night into day" and issued shock waves that "shook the ground" when it exploded just after midnight Mountain Standard Time. The fireball was so bright it actually turned the sky noontime blue, as shown in this image from KSL TV in Utah:
Fireball images: from KSL TV in Utah; from KTVB News in Idaho; from Thomas Ashcraft near Santa Fe, New Mexico; from Marsha Adams of Sedona, Arizona;
Although the fireball appeared during the Leonid meteor shower, it was not a Leonid. Infrasound recordings of the blast suggest a small asteroid hitting Earth's atmosphere and exploding with an energy of 0.5 to 1 kiloton of TNT. Experts liken the event to the Park Forest fireball of 2003, which scattered dozens of meteorites across a suburb of Chicago. Meteorites are likely from this fireball as well. Stay tuned for developing information about the possible fall zone.

SciFi on DVD Tonight: Star Trek
The Prequil to the original Series has great CGs and lots of action. The film takes an interesting direction in the formation/background of the "Crew". I suspect additional movies will be filmed and released in the years to come with this cast.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mars, Orion and a few Shooting Stars

Last night the sky was cold and dark. The Stars were bright and the sky Clear. Mars was bright, up at midnight; Orion was bright and laying down just above the tree line. The nebula was visible below the belt. I saw Jupiter off to the South West. The Leonids were few and far between sightings. I went out several times for fifteen minutes each stay. I saw one good shooting star that went past Mars at the three am peak. My count was one every five minutes. My last time was four am. The cold quickly set in and I was uncomfortable this year. The Leonids were not as spectacular this year!

News from Cyberspace:
Atlantis Roars to Space for Trek to ISS
Astronomers Find Type Ia Supernova Just Waiting to Happen
35 Radio Observatories Link to Break Record
Second Exoplanet with Retrograde Orbit Discovered
Dawn Takes up Residence in Asteroid BeltLeonids Light Up The Night – 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower Information
STS 129 Atlantis is on the way to the ISS after a successful launch Monday.
Astronauts giving Atlantis full post-launch inspection
Designing a Better Astronaut Glove

In the Sky Tonight:
Still watching meteors? Use the Great Square to locate Andromeda galaxy
Wednesday night: You can't miss Jupiter shining brightly in the south or southwest these evenings. Look far to its lower left for Fomalhaut. Look even farther to its upper right for Altair.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Leonids, Early Tuesday

Cloudy skies will creep in Saturday and we may get some rain Sunday. The Groups star event will most likely be cancelled, Again! Next Tuesday morning should be cold and clear! Monday evening around midnight will be a fine night to dress warm, sip on a hot drink, and watch for falling stars. Have not decided if I want to stay up all night or get up early. Either way this year's Leonid meteor shower peaks on Tuesday, Nov. 17th. If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a mild but pretty sprinkling of meteors over North America followed by a more intense outburst over Asia. The phase of the Moon will be new, setting the stage for what could be one of the best Leonid showers in years."We're predicting 20 to 30 meteors per hour over the Americas, and as many as 200 to 300 per hour over Asia"

If it is Clear where you are Tonight: Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, casts its shadow onto Jupiter's face from 6:01 to 9:35 p.m. EST. Meanwhile, Jupiter's Great Red Spot transits the planet's central meridian around 8:25 p.m. EST. Here is the Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – November 13-15, 2009.

The News from Cyberspace: LCROSS Confirms "Buckets"of Water on the Moon, Crescent Earth as Seen by Comet Chasing Spacecraft, Stunning Cassini Image to Knock Your Socks Off, Video Preview of Next Shuttle Mission, Just Released! Video of Tranquility Base via LRO.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Week of Cloudy Skies

This week clouds continue to cover the night Sky. This week has seen the transition of color in the trees and the Cooler Fall Season. The Cypress trees are turning, the Red Oaks are begining to turn and Sumacs have turned yellow and red. Cooler days and nights are the norm now. El Nino continues to bring us moisture and the country side remains green! This week the report from Lost Maples Park is full of color and the trees are peaking in color. Fall has arrived!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Cloudy Nights

Again a weather system will bring us a chance of rain this weekend and clouds will cover the night sky. The Group will most likely not have an event or set up scopes at the site tonight.

In the Sky Tonight: Once the waning Moon rises in the east around 11 or midnight tonight, look for Mars shining fire-like at its upper left. Although they look close together, Mars is 450 times farther away — and about twice as large in diameter.

Last-quarter Moon, Monday (exact at 10:56 a.m. today EST). Before dawn Tuesday morning, look for Regulus about 4° to the Moon's upper left (as seen from North America).

News from Cyberspace: On Nov. 6th at 2132 UT, asteroid 2009 VA barely missed Earth when it flew just 14,000 km above the planet's surface. That's well inside the "Clarke Belt" of geosynchronous satellites. If it had hit, the ~6-meter wide space rock would have disintegrated in the atmosphere as a spectacular fireball, causing no significant damage to the ground. 2009 VA was discovered just 15 hours before closest approach by astronomers working at the Catalina Sky Survey.
Space Junk May Force Crew from ISS
One Strange Mars Rock

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Weekly Astronomy News from the Web

Lots of news from Cyberspace:
Hubble Unveils Stunning Star Birth in M83
The new camera installed during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.
LRO's Closer Look at the Apollo 12 Landing Site
Wow! Just look at the detail visible in this image of the Apollo 12 landing site taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from its lower mapping orbit of 50 km above the surface.
Multi-Planet System is Chaotic, Dusty
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured this infrared image of a giant halo of very fine dust around the young star HR 8799.
Rosetta to Make Final Earth Flyby Nov. 13th
Neutron Star at Core of Cas A Has Carbon Atmosphere
Space Junk Threatens Future Missions
Mercury Gives Up More Secrets to MESSENGER
Hints of More Extra-Galactic Planets
Now comes news of the potential discovery of dozens of extragalactic planetary systems. University of Toronto in Canada have analyzed 88 remote galaxies and found a broad continuum excess in the near-infrared.

In the Sky Tonight, under Clear Skies:
Bright Capella, shining in the northeast, and equally bright Vega, in the west-northwest, will be balanced at exactly the same height above your horizon sometime around 8 or 9 p.m., depending on where you live in your time zone. How accurately can you time this event for your point on Earth? Telescope users in the American West can watch Jupiter's moon Ganymede partially occult Io from 9:06 to 9:13 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
Tonight, The Moon passes close to galactic anticenter star

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Morning Planets, Meteor Shower, Bright Moon

Taurid meteor shower Thursday,November 5 at Midnight. Earth is entering a stream of debris from periodic Comet 2P/Encke, and this is causing the annual Taurid meteor shower. The shower has a broad maximum lasting from Nov. 5th through 12th. At most, only about 5 Taurids per hour streak across the sky, but what they lack in number they make up for in dazzle. Taurid meteors tend to be fireballs, very bright and slow. Look for them falling out of the constellation Taurus during the hours around midnight. [sky map]

Wake up before dawn, go outside, and look straight up. That eerie red "star" staring back down at you is Mars. The red planet is approaching Earth for a close encounter in January 2010 and it is already brighter than a first-magnitude star. Next, point a telescope at the red planet and you'll see a surprising splash of icy blue: On Mars, northern winter has just ended and clouds which normally hover over the martian arctic are breaking up, allowing the planet's great ice cap to be seen. Photo

News from Cyberspace: No Earth-Sized Planet Hunting for Kepler Until 2011, Two ESA Satellites Launch Successfully, Jupiter's Dueling Red Spots, Fabulous! Enceladus Raw Flyby Images, Chase Plane Footage of Ares I-X Flight.

In Tonight’s Sky: Jupiter's Red Spot transits around 10:06 p.m. EST. The Moon, barely past full, crosses the southeastern edge of the Pleiades tonight for parts of the southern U.S. and points south, from roughly 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. EST. Maps and timetables.
Moon aligns with the Pleiades on November 3-4

The Sky This Week:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

No Ghosts, just Jupiter and the Moon

Last night little Goblins were roaming the road but did not come down our drive. My Scope was pointed at Jupiter and the Moon with treats until 10pm. Jupiter had moved farther to the west by then and was out of scope range from my position. I saw the Four Moons of Jupiter this way:
The Moon was bright and there were three large Craters and other highlighted features visible on the rim. It was a cool evening and had shut the porch light off by 8PM. We have lots of "treats" left. A small stash of sweets for the colder winter nights ahead. Daylight-saving time ends at 2:00 a.m. for most of the U.S. and Canada; clocks "fall back" an hour. We started setting the clocks back begining by ten last night.

In the Sky Tonight: Looking out our galaxy's south window on this moonlit night find the four stars of the Great Square of Pegasus. The Great Square is your ticket to finding the galaxy’s south window.
Tonight Jupiter is 1/3° north of Iota Capricorni (magnitude 4.3.) this evening through Tuesday evening. Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross Jupiter's central meridian (the imaginary line down the center of the planet's disk from pole to pole) around 8:27 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The "red" spot appears very pale orange-tan. It should be visible for about an hour before and after in a good 4-inch telescope if the atmospheric seeing is sharp and steady. A light blue or green filter helps. The Red Spot transits about every 9 hours 56 minutes; for all of the Red Spot's central-meridian crossing times, good worldwide, use our Red Spot calculator or print out our list for the rest of 2009.
Venus and Mars are 75° apart. Venus and Saturn are 25° apart. All three are part of the morning sky. Look to the ESE for Venus. Saturn is to the upper right of Venus. Mars is near overhead in the constellation of Cancer the Crab. Next summer, these three planets will be part of the evening sky.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Clear Nights, Bright Moon; Halloween

Strong Cold Front has cleared the air for evening Moon gazing. The Moon will be almost full for Ghosts and Goblins Halloween night. The Full Moon is Monday, 1:14 PM CST.
Tonight: The star Spica is 6° to the lower right of Venus. Look low in the ESE 45 minutes before sunrise. Next week, Venus will pass Spica. The Moon can guide you to Great Square of Pegasus. Mars is closely west of the Beehive star cluster. Look for Mars in the high in the sky at dawn. Mars is now rising around midnight. The red planet is currently 110 million miles from Earth. Be on the lookout this evening for Martians, knocking on doors, looking for candy.

News from Cyberspace: There is a A Single Sunspot on the Sun-"2009 Total" is the total number of days and the percentage of days in 2009 that the sun has been blank. The 100-year record for a full year is 311 spotless days (85%) in 1913.
Arex I-X Launches Successfully
Supernova 2009js… Another One Bites The Dust! Far away in the constellation of Aries, in a 14th magnitude barred spiral galaxy designated as NGC 918… a star exploded with enough candlepower to briefly outshine its home.
Telescopes Open Up the Jewel Box-Nothing in my jewelry box compares to the Kappa Crucis Cluster, also known as NGC 4755 or simply the “Jewel Box.” This object is just bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Cloud Cover Tonight

Pacific air will cause the skies to be Covered as Clouds move in for the next couple of days. Another Cold Front is due in Friday night and should give our area a Clear Night for Halloween, Saturday evening.

News from Cyberspace: The Farthest Galaxy Cluster Yet Measured-JKCS041 is seen at redshift 1.9, corresponding to nearly one billion light years further than the previous record holder.
The Ares 1-X launch team has decided to focus in on the best period of predicted weather, and now target a liftoff at 11 a.m. EDT. Weather Officer Kathy Winters' evaluation of the trends, based on weather reconnaissance flights, indicate the troublesome upper-level clouds should clear enough to go "green" during that time, with only a 20 percent chance of violations. That would start the countdown clock at 10:56 a.m.
A 10-meter wide asteroid hits Earth and explodes in the atmosphere with the energy of a small atomic bomb."The explosion triggered infrasound sensors of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) more than 10,000 km away," report researchers Elizabeth Silber and Peter Brown of the Univ. of Western Ontario in an Oct. 19th press release.This happened on Oct. 8th around 11 am local time in the coastal town of Bone, Indonesia.
The asteroid that caused the blast was not known before it hit and took astronomers completely by surprise. According to statistical studies of the near-Earth asteroid population, such objects are expected to collide with Earth on average every 2 to 12 years. "Follow-on observations from other instruments or ground recovery efforts would be very valuable in further refining this unique event," say Silber and Brown.

If the Clouds break Tonight: As Halloween approaches, find the Ghoul Star. Mars is just west of the Beehive star cluster, M-44. Watch Mars move closer to the cluster over the next few days. Mars will pass through the cluster on November 1st. The Beehive is in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bad Weather Scrubbed Ares1-X Launch

Cold, North Winds have cleared the skies over my backyard for next few nights! Clouds and winds have forced a delay in the first experimental test flight of the hardware NASA is developing to replace the space shuttle. The next try for the Ares 1-X rocket blastoff would be 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center's modified pad 39B.

News from Cyberspace: MESSENGER Solves Solar Flare Mystery
The MESSENGER spacecraft was able to capture a average-sized solar flare, allowing astronomers to study high-energy solar neutrons at less than 1 astronomical unit (AU) from the sun for the first time. When the flare erupted on Dec. 31, 2007.

If the Clouds break Tonight: Moon and Jupiter still close on October 27. The crater Copernicus is easily visible near the lunar terminator. Copernicus stands out as a big deep crater in an otherwise smooth area of the Moon. Look for this 60 mile diameter crater with a small telescope. The waxing gibbous Moon is to the upper left of Jupiter in the SSE evening sky.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quarter Moon and A Cloudy Sky

Yesterday was the First Quarter Moon. Nights will become brighter this week. A Cold front moved through this morning and turned on the rain showers for next 24 hours. " We need the rain to bust the drought"!
Tonight, if the clouds break: The waxing gibbous moon is to the upper right of Jupiter. Look to the SSE sky at dusk. A telescope aimed at the Moon shows the Straight Wall. The Straight Wall appears as a dark line on the Moon. It's a 70 mile long fault line formed from a moonquake in the ancient past.

Get ready for " The Hunter", Orion: Stay up till about 10 p.m. Wednesday night(depending on where you live in your time zone) and you'll find the bright winter constellation Orion already making his appearance low in the east. Above Orion glares orange Aldebaran. Above Aldebaran are the fingertip-size Pleiades.

News from Cyberspace: Asteroid, Satellite, Meteor or HOAX ? A hole 66 feet wide and 30 feet deep was made after impact-Meteorite Impact in Latvia Creates 20-Meter Crater

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Ares Rocket Will Launch Early Tuesday Morning

The rocket Ares, that will carry the Constellation Program, will test launch Tuesday October 27 Launch Day - Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 7Am CDT.
1 a.m. - Launch countdown officially begins (not televised)
5 a.m. - Live launch commentary begins on NASA TV
8 a.m. – Launch

If the Clouds Break tonight: A look ahead at Events in the Sky

Saturday, October 24, 2009 Jupiter is shining bright in the SSE sky at dusk. Mars, Saturn and Venus are part of the morning sky. Venus is low in the ESE at dawn. Saturn is 12° to the upper right of Venus. Mars is high in the dawn sky in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.

Sunday, October 25, 2009 Mars is about 3° west of the Beehive star cluster. This week, watch Mars move closer to the cluster. By the end of the week Mars will be within the Beehive. Look for the cluster with binoculars in the faint constellation of Cancer the Crab.

Monday, October 26, 2009 The waxing gibbous moon is to the upper right of Jupiter. Look to the SSE sky at dusk. A telescope aimed at the Moon shows the Straight Wall. The Straight Wall appears as a dark line on the Moon. It's a 70 mile long fault line formed from a moonquake in the ancient past.

News from Cyberspace: Missions to Mars Poster
A Podcast about Stars… those hot balls of plasma across the distant Universe. The close ones, the bright ones, the massive ones, the giant ones. Let's get to know some famous stars.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home School Astronomy Class

Two of us discussed and reviewed Astronomy at a Home School Class Friday Morning. Home schooling is becoming popular and growing in our area. Larry and I met with a small Astronomy Class in Garden Ridge Friday morning. Took a bunch of Beginner handouts for the group of students. Ages 8 -11. Reviewed the Night Sky, Planets and what could be seen. Discussed Planetspheres and Meteorite Showers. Went over Constellations. Included in handout to the students: Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (downloaded (from Sky and Telesope).
Had a lively Q and A for thirty minutes. Great Class and a Great bunch of kids.

Monthly Group Gathering

This month we met at TJ's restaraunt last night, since the Church building will not be used after this Spring. Nine persons sat and discussed upcoming and past events in the sky and will meet again November 19 at TJ's. Also discussed next Shuttle Atlantis launch, delayed until November 16. Reviewed the upcoming Leonids peaking November 17. I saw the Crescent Moon and Jupiter on the drive home in a clear sky.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Orionids Lost Behind Cloudy Sky

Pacific Hurricane Rick , now downgraded TS Rick,moving east across Mexico will bring Cloudy skies and a good chance of Rain here Wednesday, then another cold front pushes through on the way to the coast. The current Meteor Shower will come in behind the Clouds. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday, Oct. 21st, with dozens of meteors per hour. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise. For best results, get away from city lights.The Orionid meteor shower, caused by debris from Halley's comet, peaks this week. Science@NASA has the full story. Orionid meteor galleries: 2006, 2008.

News from Cyberspace: Space Shuttle Loses Battle of Launch Dates
It's the old shuttle shuffle. The launch of Atlantis for the STS-129 mission has been pushed back by four days to November 16 (at 2:28 pm EDT) to accommodate two unmanned rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, as well as the inaugural launch of the Ares I-X, scheduled for October 27. Right now the shuttle launch window lasts one day – the 16th. A second launch attempt on November 17 is being negotiated with a Delta IV launch, but NASA will stand down the 18th for the Leonid Meteor Shower (NASA won't launch the shuttle into a shooting gallery), so if weather or technical issues don't allow liftoff then, the next window opens from December 6-14. But there are issues with that time frame, too.

HARPS Discovers 32 New Exoplanets

Opportunity Discovers Still Another Meteorite! Find It on Google Mars

Ares I-X at the Launchpad

Sci-Fi on DVD Tonight: Transformers 2- Revenge of the Fallen
Optimus Prime and the Autobots vs the Decepticons...
Action packed film with more information to where these "bots" come from and a reference to Astronomy 101.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Group Event

The North air has cleared the skies for evening star gazing. The Group will gather at friend Robin's drive way this evening. I will not attend the event, due to back problems SN and PN just do not mix). But Larry noted that several others from the group will set up at the event. They will have lots to observe, just look at the Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – October 16-18, 2009: The forecast lists a number of objects to observe starting with the Moon and Morning planets Friday and Saturday morning. The closest deep-sky study to Cas A is the dense and compact open cluster NGC 7510. A revisit to M39 and use it as our touchstone to seek out other deep-sky gems. The 12th magnitude ‘‘Cocoon Nebula. Sunday, October 18, 2009 – is a New Moon! It’s galaxy-hunting time, and a destination for tonight is the Hickson Compact Group 87.

Speaking of the Moon, LCROSS Impact did have a "plume" that was captured on film: Moon Crash Plume Visible to Spacecraft But Not Earth Telescopes-Nine science instruments on board the LCROSS spacecraft captured the entire crash sequence of the Centaur impactor before the spacecraft itself impacted the surface of the moon.

Other News from Cyberspace: On Friday, 13 November, 2009, at 07:46 UT, ESA's Rosetta satellite will make her third (and final) swing-by of Earth....There is a great photo of a Crescent Earth taken from Rosetta Satellite.

If you are up early and it is still clear: Sunday, October 18, 2009- Saturn is 6° above and to the right of Venus. Mercury is about 9° below Venus and to the left. Look 45 minutes before sunrise in the east.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn Nights

Last night around ten o'clock, the sky was clear,warm and muggy....I stepped out on the porch and observed the Autumn Sky. Jupiter was high to the SW. The moons of Jupiter:
Straight above the horizon was Pegasus sailing above Andromeda and off the the left I saw Cassiopeia above the tree line. Cygnus was already moving behind the roof of the house. The Sky was not dark and seeing was not the best. The stars were dim, not very bright! I left the scope covered. It is almost time for Taurus and Orion to show themselves in the evening sky; in another month they will. Early this morning a Crescent Moon looked down on Venus. posted this today: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has pinpointed the wreckage of a spacecraft that crashed into the Moon. No, it wasn't LCROSS, which hit the floor of crater Cabeus last week. This crash site is much older: Thirty-eight and a half years old, to be exact. The crater was formed on February 4, 1971, by the impact of Apollo 14's Saturn IVB booster rocket. NASA intentionally guided the rocket into the lunar surface to provide a signal for seismometers deployed by Apollo astronauts. The experiment yielded new information about the Moon's interior structure. Over the years, NASA and other international space agencies have peppered the Moon with dozens of spacecraft--usually on purpose, although not always--and by doing so gained considerable experience with the results of lunar impacts. Researchers tapped into that experience when they predicted bright flashes and debris plumes for the crash of LCROSS. Imagine their surprise when the flashes and plumes failed to materialize! To the human eye, LCROSS and its Centaur booster rocket simply disappeared into the inky depths of Cabeus with no obvious evidence of impact. The solution to this mystery probably lies in data beamed back to Earth by LCROSS in the last minutes before impact. Scientists are crunching the numbers, and it may be days or weeks before results are known. Stay tuned.

Other new from Cyberspace: STS 129 Atlantis is rolled to the launch pad for a November 12 countdown.

If the clouds break tonight: Moon, Venus will highlight October 16 and 17 morning skies. The old crescent Moon is to the right of Venus. Look to the east 45 minutes before sunrise for the thin crescent. Saturn is 3.4° above Venus. Mercury is 8° below Venus.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zero Sunspots, Clear Skies

October is a transition month. Weather patterns are mixed with Gulf and Pacific moisture and cold air from the North. Lots of Clouds with a few Clear nights thrown in. We may have a few Clear nights ahead? Tomorrow another front will bring cooler days with Clear and colder nights.

The Sun is still not active and missing sunspots. Today, the sun is entering its 13th consecutive day without sunspots. Just a few years ago, such a stretch of blank suns would have been unthinkable. Now it's routine. So far this year, the sun has been spotless 79% of the time, topping the 73% mark recorded in 2008. Long after many forecasters thought solar minimum would be finished, the quiet is not only continuing, but actually deepening. Are sunspots gone for good? Researchers discuss the question in an article from Science@NASA.

News from Cyberspace: Asteroid Pallas is Also a Protoplanet. New close-up images of Pallas from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the second largest asteroid in the solar system appears to be a protoplanet, as well. New Hubble Release: Dramatic Galaxy Collision, Amazing Zoomable Poster on 50Years of Space Exploration, LRO Spots Apollo 14 Booster Crash Site on Moon.

If the Clouds Break: I'll be pointing the scope at Jupiter tonight. Tomorrow morning Mercury, Venus and Saturn span 10°. A thin crescent Moon is to the upper right of the planets. Look an hour before sunrise in the east.

Monday, October 12, 2009

El Niño Returns

The U.S. Weather Service predicted that El Niño would be in place and it is. The warming of Pacific waters is active again and will most likely bring more clouds and a warmer winter for our area through the new year. A lot of weather forecasters keep bringing up the similarity of 1998 Event. Of course it is just a prediction, but the El Niño pattern seems to have started. A weak El Niño continued during September 2009. El Niño is expected to strengthen and last through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-2010.
Expected El Niño impacts during October-December 2009 include enhanced precipitation over the central tropical Pacific Ocean. For the contiguous United States, potential impacts include above-average precipitation along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida. For night time Skywatchers in Texas this means less time with a telescope.

If the Clouds Break: Use Summer Triangle to find plane of Milky Way.
From Abrams Planetarium: Monday, October 12, 2009- Jupiter ends its retrograde motion today. Planets usually move west to east against the background stars. At times, when the Earth is passing a planet in its orbit, planets seem to move backwards, or east to west. Jupiter has been moving east to west since June. It's now going back to its normal prograde motion. Look for Jupiter in the south-southeast sky at dusk. Tuesday, October 13, 2009 -Venus passes 0.5° south of Saturn. Mercury is 7° below Venus and Saturn. Look to the east and hour before sunrise for the planet grouping. Mars is 60° to the west of Venus and Saturn.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Lunar Impact

The First Major Cold Front blew in early Friday morning. More rain and lots of Clouds. This made me miss viewing, with scope, the LCROSS Impact on the Moon. I did watch it on NASA TV, live, as it happened at 6:32 AM just as the front blew in. On the web: NASA's water-seeking LCROSS spacecraft and its Centaur booster rocket hit the floor of crater Cabeus this morning, but they did not make the kind of bright flashes many observers had hoped for. Some observers went so far as to call the event "a dud." In Sacramento, California, amateur astronomer Ed Lomeli had his telescope trained on Cabeus and he recorded nothing but static lunar terrain: "I was a little disappointed not seeing a flash and a plume. Maybe LCROSS hit mud!" he laughs. "I hope the spacecraft's cameras saw something we missed."
Indeed they did. When the Centaur hit the crater floor, infrared cameras onboard the LCROSS mothership recorded a flash of heat and spectrometers detected sodium in the debris cloud. The appearance of sodium was a surprise--perhaps the first of many to come from this unprecedented experiment. Mission scientists have not yet had a chance to fully examine the LCROSS spectra for signs of water, but "we will be working on this feverishly today," said mission leader Tony Colaprete at a post-impact NASA press conference.
The low brightness of the flash did not dim the enthusiasm of thousands of people around the world who stayed up late for lunar impact parties. At the Sci-Quest science museum in Huntsville, Alabama, about a hundred kids and parents gathered to watch the show. "We donned our party hats, blew our noise makers and waited for the impact," says science writer Dauna Coulter. NASA photographer David Higginbotham documented the scene:
"The actual footage was a bit of an anti-climax," notes Coulter, "but that didn't dampen the spirit of the attendees!"amateur images: from Paul Schneider of Tucson, Arizona; from Ed Lomeli of Sacramento, California; from Mike Broussard of Maurice, Louisiana

Hubble pointed it's eye toward the Moon.

Another site from Cyberspace carried this: Moon Impact Data and Images from LCROSS: First Glance

If the clouds break: review the Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – October 9-11, 2009
Galaxies NGC 7479, Caldwell 43, an Asteroid: Asteroid 3753. Another Galaxy: NGC 6822-Barnard’s Galaxy. Plus a collection of stars, the age-old mystery of M73.
Saturday, October 10, 2009 Venus, Saturn and Mercury are visible in the east at dawn. Saturn is 3.4° to the lower left of Venus. Mercury is 2.5° to the lower left of Saturn. Venus is the brightest at -3.8 magnitude. Mercury is shining at -0.8 magnitude. Saturn is the faintest at 1.1 magnitude.
Sunday, October 11, 2009 Mars is visible high in the morning sky. Mars is in a line with the twin stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. The Last Quarter Moon is to the west of Mars.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Moon is PrimeTarget this Week

A lot of telescopes will be pointed at the Moon early Friday Morning, if the clouds break. Waiting for LCROSS to impact the Crater Cabeus on the Southern tip of the South Pole. Here, over my backyard there are lots of Clouds and the forecast is for more Clouds. I may have to rely on the Internet or NASA TV to cover the Impact Event. There is a Star Party and Event at the White House tomorrow night. About 20 telescopes will be set up on the White House lawn focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars, and supporters of the International Year of Astronomy are encouraged to follow this event, and host their own star parties to follow the example set. There will be NO EVENTS here. We missed the planets this morning: Saturn was 8° to the lower left of Venus and Mercury was 6° to the lower left of Venus. Missed all three planets an hour before sunrise in the east. Saturn and Mercury were 2° apart. In two days they will be just 0.4° apart. More Mercury photos from Messenger made the News this week. A reminder Why Pluto is No Longer a Planet! In August 2006, astronomers from all over the world gathered at the 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague. Among other things, they reorganized our planetary system and agreed on the scientific definition of a planet. A reorganization had become necessary as an increasing number of heavenly bodies were being discovered beyond Pluto’s orbit that were about the same size as Pluto.

More News from Cyberspace: The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found a rock that apparently is another meteorite.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nuttin But Clouds...and Rain

Saturday brought heavy rain and nothing but Clouds covered the night sky. Sunday evening around 10pm, I did see a bright Moon between moving cloud cover. The Creeks flowed with raging water over the weekend. Just at 5 inches of well needed rain. My Server was down Sunday...No Internet connection all day! I did catch a few NFL football games from the Arenas and Domed Stadiums around the Country via Satellite(the birds flew interupted, around the world). The forecast for the coming week...continued chance of rain and mostly cloudy skies.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Harvest Moon lights up the night Sky

HARVEST MOON: This weekend's full Moon has a special name--the Harvest Moon. It's the full moon closest to the northern autumnal equinox (Sept. 23). In years past, farmers depended on the light of the Harvest Moon to gather ripening crops late into the night. That is 1:10 a.m. tomorrow morning in the central U.S. This Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast covers: Albireo, the planets, the moon and even Pluto, if that tiny god of the underworld still holds a place in your Solar System . . .and the sky! You can find it during the early evening around 18:02 in right ascension. Four planets are visible in the morning sky. Mars, Venus, Mercury and Saturn. Mars is high overhead near the stars Castor and Pollux. Venus, Mercury and Saturn are in a group low in the east. Look 45 minutes before sunrise. Saturn is 12° to the lower right of Venus. Mercury is 8° from Venus.

News from Cyberspace: NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has made a stunning discovery. Bigfoot is an extraterrestrial! His tracks have been found on Mercury:
MESSENGER took the picture during a flyby of Mercury on Sept. 29th. The giant paw print was just one of many wonders MESSENGER's cameras saw imprinted on thousands of square kilometers of previously unseen terrain. In this case, a cluster of small craters--"toes"--were by chance arranged in an arc above a stack of larger, partially overlapping craters--the "heel." MESSENGER also photographed a happy crater, a double crater, and a crater splash.Although early results from the flyby are dominated by pictures of craters, the spacecraft also made new measurements of Mercury's magnetic tornadoes and its comet-like tail. Mission scientists are still analyzing those data, which are more complicated than crater-snapshots and potentially much more interesting. Stay tuned for updates. Several websites carried new pictures from MESSENGER: Universe Today and Science Blog

LRO has given us a picture from the Past: The Surveyor 1 landing site on the Moon in 1966

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grey Skies- Bright Moon Ahead

Last night I did observe a very bright moon and the planet Jupiter hanging in the sky after dark. Bad news for this week end Star Gazing Events. The forecast is for a full moon and more clouds with heavy rain on the way by week's end.

Bad News as the Cameras and Instruments went dark on the MESSENGER as the space craft skimmed 142 miles above the planet Mercury yesterday. The entire system went into safe mode as it received a gravity assist with this fly-by... NO DATA was collected. The Mission Team had to wait nearly an hour before contact was resumed.

Closer to Earth, the LRO zoomed past the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon again. This time in an orbit only 31 miles above the surface.

From Our Orbiting Telescope: Hubble has captured Two Galaxies Stripped by Ram Pressure

If it is Clear Tonight: Look south for Fomalhaut, the lone Autumn Star in the night sky.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finding the LCROSS Impact Crater

News in Cyberspace this morning was full of New Impact information! First, I am hoping the LCROSS Mission folks will make up their minds as to which Crater they will aim at. Second, I hope the rocket hits the Target! Cabeus A or Cabeus proper?
NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission (LCROSS) based on new analysis of available lunar data, has shifted the target crater from Cabeus A to Cabeus (proper), according to a NASA Ames press release.The impact target decision was prompted by the current best understanding of hydrogen concentrations in the Cabeus region, including cross-correlation between the latest LRO results and LP data sets and after consultation with scientific community, including impact experts, ground and space based observers, and observations from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Prospector (LP), Chandrayaan-1 and JAXA's Kaguya spacecraft.Simualtion models show a small valley in an otherwise tall Cabeus perimeter ridge, which will allow for sunlight to illuminate the ejecta cloud on Oct. 9, and much sooner than previously estimated for Cabeus. While the ejecta does have to fly to higher elevations to be observed by Earth assets, a shadow cast by a large hill along the Cabeus ridge, provides an excellent, high-contrast, back drop for ejecta and vapor measurements.
The models show a small valley in an otherwise tall Cabeus perimeter ridge, which will allow for sunlight to illuminate the ejecta cloud on Oct. 9, and much sooner than previously estimated for Cabeus. While the ejecta does have to fly to higher elevations to be observed by Earth assets, a shadow cast by a large hill along the Cabeus ridge, provides an excellent, high-contrast, back drop for ejecta and vapor measurements.

The Crater lies to the west of the crater Malapert, and to the south-southwest of Newton in the South Rim of the Moon and may not be easy to pick up in the scope. This photo shows the Impact Area.

Whether we actually will see ejecta after impact remains to be seen. I will have the scope trained on the South rim in the area of Cabeus. We will need clear skies the morning of October 9!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Forecast: Mostly Cloudy

The Moon is bright going to full; playing hide and seek through the clouds. Another front is due in tomorrow. Hopefully cooler temps will follow and if it is strong enough, it will blow the clouds south!

Looking forward to the more close up shots of Mercury as MESSENGER'S long journey nears another Fly-by to this planet, closest to the Sun. MESSENGER is approximately two days from its third encounter with Mercury. If you look at our "Where Is MESSENGER?" page, which displays the spacecraft's trajectory status, you'll see that it is practically on Mercury's doorstep. This will be the team’s last opportunity to practice at Mercury before orbit insertion, so many of the instrument command sequences have been assembled to be similar to how they will operate during the orbital phase of the mission, which begins in March 2011. [more]

If the Clouds break tonight:
Moon and Jupiter close on September 28, the moons of Jupiter will appear this way tonight:
G---------(J) ----I---E---C
Jupiter's Red Spot transits the planet's central meridian around 10:17 p.m. CDT.

Moon and Jupiter closer on September 29, the moons of Jupiter appear this way Tuesday night: G--------- I--E-- (J)-----------------------C

News from Cyberspace: Launch set for October 27- Officials expect next month's Ares test launch to proceed

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Fair, Bright Moon

Search lights aimed skyward will announce the County Fair every night this weekend. Along with a bright moon, beams of light will break the night sky this weekend. The Weekend Skywatchers Forecast highlights features on the Moon. Next week's events are lined up in Sky and Telescope's Week at a Glance.

If the Clouds break tonight: The Summer Triangle still hangs in the Autumn Sky. The Planet Mercury is just below Venus Sunday morning early.

News from Cyberspace: Smart 1 posts photo of the LCROSS impact crater.