Thursday, January 29, 2009

Clear skies...No Fireball event here

Artic air blew the clouds away giving us a chance to view stars again. Observed Orion then Saturn. It was Cold last night.

There are no Fireball events in our Sky but there have been several sightings posted on the Net. There are two noted here from Spaceweather:

Jan 26, STRANGE ASTEROID: Newly-discovered asteroid 2009 BD is slowly passing by Earth today only 400,000 miles away. The small 10m-wide space rock poses no threat, but it merits attention anyway. The orbit of 2009 BD appears to be almost identical to the orbit of Earth. 2009 BD may be a rare co-orbital asteroid, circling the sun in near-tandem with our planet. Extrapolating the motion of 2009 BD into the future, we see that it remains in the vicinity of Earth for many months to come, never receding farther than 0.1 AU (9.3 million miles) until Nov. 2010. Future observations may reveal the nature of this strange asteroid; stay tuned! [3D orbit] [ephemeris]

NAMIBIA FIREBALL: Last night, Jan. 27th, around 2105 local time in Namibia, sky watchers witnessed a slow, bright fireball that disintegrated into "thousands of lights, almost like fireworks," says Crone Bergh of Windhoek. Fragments of "various sizes [appeared to be on fire] and left white smoke trails in the air," adds J.C. Vorster, also of Windhoek. This was probably the expected reentry of a Russian Molniya-M rocket, which launched a military satellite in Dec. 2008. The ground track of the decaying rocket passed over Namibia in a direction that fits the description of the witnesses. Readers, if you saw or photographed this event, please submit a report.

There was a video of a Fireball in Scandinavia posted January 17

The Centaur Dreams Blog posted some interesting data in the "Crowed Inner System" Posted after the January Fireball.

Currently there are 1018 PHAs on the tracking list

Monday, January 26, 2009

More clouds, no sun for a while-comet update

Saturday night's event was not a GO. The clouds rolled in and did not leave, so no stars or planets could be seen from any backyard. The Forecast is for the Clouds to hang around for next couple of days along with some Colder temps. The Sun will give us less warmth in the days ahead...winter is back again!

There was another update on Comet Lulin posted by Spaceweather today:
Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is approaching Earth for a 38 million mile close encounter in late February. At that time, the comet could brighten to naked eye visibility (5th magnitude). Meanwhile, it's a nice target for backyard telescopes. There was a gallery included:
Comet Lulin Photo Gallery[Comet Hunter telescope] [sky map] [ephemeris]

Spaceweather also updated the Current Sunspot Cycle that just started. They have a Sunspot Plotter available. Check out what Cycle the sun was in years past.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Looking for Lulin

Another warm spell in our Texas winter season. I rose early to catch comet Lulin. At 4 am the sky was not the best. There were some thin clouds floating about. I found Saturn, Spica and saw the 2 main stars of Libra( Alpha Zubenelgenubi and Beta Zubenelgenubi). Scorpius was still low below my treeline.

Came out to search again at 5am...

The Head of Scorpius was just above the treeline. Went to the area the charts indicated and I scanned the sky with my binoculars where I thought the green glob should be, but could not find Lulin. Perhaps the vail of clouds or the low Atmoshpere hid the seven magnitude comet this early morning.

Will try again...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Comet in the Sky!

Comet Lulin is currently an early morning event found in the Constellation Libra. had an update today:

COMET LULIN UPDATE: "Right now, Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is an easy target for binoculars and small telescopes," reports Mariano Ribas of Buenos Aires, Argentina. "It is visible despite our strong urban light pollution. I have been observing the comet during the hours before dawn and estimate its visual magnitude as +7. Maybe this will not be a 'great' comet like McNaught was two years ago, but I look forward to a good show in the weeks ahead as Comet Lulin approaches Earth." [gallery] [sky map] [finder chart]

Monday, January 19, 2009

Saturn with rings edge on


Just after midnight I viewed the ringed planet from the backyard. Night was clear but not the best seeing. Set up the 10" Dob near the drive and found Saturn was nestled just under Leo and above my tree line. Almost a repeat from the December 12 sighting the rings were centered and hardly any tilt seen. I saw 2 moons: one to left and one to the right on the same plane as the rings. They were both a good distance from the Planet.

There is a photo of Saturn similar to what I saw Sunday night on the current Sky and Telescope web site " This Week's Sky at a Glance" That photo was taken the Christmas night and the photo does not show the two moons I observed close to the planet Sunday night or the evening of December 12. Photo was taken through an 11" Celestron in the Netherlands.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lots of cloud cover...Winter in Texas

Most of the country is in the grip of polar air! Chicago is at Zero today! NY in the teens! That cold air did not make it all the way to Central Texas but we do have lots of cloud cover that will keep us from seeing the night sky for the next couple of days. A few days in the forties and then fifties. The Astronomy group's first event for the year will most likely be cancelled. The moon is in the waining stage, at last Quarter this Saturday. Unfortunately this front will not bring us any rain either! Our drought continues...

A Note from on anASTEROID FLYBY: NASA's Goldstone Radar in the Mojave Desert is trained on asteroid 1998 CS1. The 1.3 km-wide space rock is flying past Earth today only 2.5 million miles away. Radar images should reveal much about the asteroid including its shape, spin, and precise location. This information will help astronomers better forecast future encounters with the asteroid, which is considered potentially hazardous. [ephemeris]
As of Today there are 1,017 PHAs on the watch list!

Clear Skies coming Sunday night...maybe!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Comet and Saturn in Moonlight

There is a new comet in our night sky. Look for it in the early morning hours in the constellation Libra. Spaceweather had lots of information and a Gallery of photos.

Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is swinging around the sun and approaching Earth for a 38-million-mile close encounter in late February. The comet is not yet visible to the naked eye, but it is putting on a nice show for backyard telescopes. Check the gallery for photos and observing tips.
Comet Lulin is gliding through the constellation Libra in the southeastern sky before dawn: sky map. It glows like an 8th magnitude star, so a mid-sized backyard telescope is required to see it. Visibility will improve in February as the Earth-comet distance shrinks. At closest approach (0.41 AU) on February 24th, the comet should brighten to about 5th magnitude--dimly visible to the unaided eye and an easy target for binoculars: ephemeris. Surprises are possible. The hyperbolic orbit of Comet Lulin suggests this could be the comet's first visit to the inner solar system. How it will react to increasing sunlight is anyone's guess. Stay tuned for updates in the weeks ahead.

The moon is currently gliding past Leo and Saturn is harder to see in the moonlight. Next weekend should bring a darker sky!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Clear sky...bright moon

The clouds finally thinned out and went away. It is warm again and will be for several days. Should have a couple of clear nights ahead to see some stars with lots of moon light. January's Full Wolf moon is this Saturday. It is the biggest moon of 2009. "Break out the camera"! I have glimpsed the moon getting fatter in the afternoon floating in a blue sky today. Even with all the moonlight, it is time to take out the scope and look around before the clouds cover the night sky again.

Current news headlines has:
the sun is getting active and we should be wary of the streaming plasma/ solar flares causing some outages in the NE area. Read this report!

Our milky way is bigger than first measured and may cause more problems when we run into Andromeda!

There is a new Comet visible in our night sky! Comet Lulin is gliding through the constellation Libra in the southeastern sky before dawn: sky map. It glows like an 8th magnitude star, so a mid-sized backyard telescope is required to see it. Visibility will improve in February as the Earth-comet distance shrinks. At closest approach (0.41 AU) on February 24th, the comet should brighten to about 5th magnitude--dimly visible to the unaided eye and an easy target for binoculars: ephemeris.

NASA put the new Webb telescope website on line so we can view the progress

As of today January 6, there are 1014 PHAs being tracked on the list.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Quadrantid meteors~ January 2009

This 2009 year is starting off with continued cloudy skies. Clouds are still covering the sky above my backyard. There are some breaks and I did see the Crescent moon and Venus just after sunset last night. This year the Quadrantid shower peaks on Jan. 3rd. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Saturday morning. Clouds are forecast to hang around!

The Quadrantid meteors take their name from an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis. They will be dashing through the current Bootes constellation.

Speaking of meteors...As of January 2, 2009 there were 1013 PHAs on the watch list.

Read in today's newspaper about a comet theory causing the destruction of animals, plants and people 12,900 years ago. The damage caused the end of the Clovis Man population. The theory is led by new evidence of "nanodiamonds" discovered in sediment dated from 12,900 years ago caused by heated pressure from a broken comet that impacted the earth. Interesting... another debate on the Ice Age and impact scenario.