Sunday, May 31, 2009

Astrocast.TV June Episode

The June Astrocast.TV episode, Greg talks about the NASA LRO/LCROSS mission and the final upgrade of Hubble by the STS-125 crew. Carolyn Collins Petersen explores the cosmic collisions. “This month in Our Night Sky, Tavi Greiner, discusses the complexities of Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. She also reveals how you can see some of the many satellites orbiting our planet. Great stuff on the Web!

Sci-Fi on DVD Tonight: Starship Troopers
A galactic government known as the United Citizen Federation, humans are at war with an alien race from the planet Klendathu named the Arachnids, or "Bugs" for short. With Social and Politcal themes, this 1997 film has great Space and Desert Planet action with CGs. The Bugs are well done. Did not care too much for Denise Richard's Character or that part of the plot. Two sequels followed as the Mobile Infantry Roughnecks continue their military campaign against the Arachnids.
Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation , and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Friday night Moon.... Clouds

Last night was a wash-out...Clouds and some rain.
I set up the DOB early evening and did catch site of the moon over head. Still in daylight and washed out with sunlight. I began to observe the moon between the roving clouds. I spotted the craters Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina next to Mare Nectaris. Theophilus had a mountain rising up in the middle of the crater. The scene included a long shadow of the mountain reaching out to the craters rim. Wanted to continue observing, but the Clouds covered the sky...again. I moved the scope in and the rains came. End of Session.

Friday, May 29, 2009

More Moon Light for the weekend

The Moon will be at First Quarter tomorrow night. If the clouds break, I will try another camera shot at the bright satellite. It is the weekend and time to review next week’s observations
Let’s start with Tammy’s Weekend Skywatcher’s Forecast. Then move to Sky and Telescope’s This Weeks Sky at a Glance.

I swung my telescope to Saturn last night and the edge-on rings went right through the center of the bright planet. Saw only one prominent moon (Titan).
June is here and Saturn is still high in the sky. I referred to our friends at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics for a planet line up in June; they note:
Saturn is now setting in the south-western sky after nightfall in the constellation of Leo. It lies well below the body of Leo some 8 degrees below the star Theta Leonis. One advantage of the rings lying at such a close angle (~3.5 degrees) to our line of sight is that there is less glare to hide Saturn's satellites. Late on the evening of June 10th, five of Saturn's brightest satellites nicely line up to the east of the planet and, given a transparent night, should make a very nice sight in a telescope of 6 or more inches in diameter. One should easily spot Titan at magnitude 8.4, and Rhea at magnitude 9.8, however, Dione(+10.5)and Tethys(+10.3) will be harder to observe and you may not find Enceladus at +11.8 magnitudes. Use as high a magnification as you can to just encompass Saturn and its satellites as this will make the sky background darker and so make the satellites show up more easily.

Will keep Saturn on my nightly target list to view.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Moon in Cancer tonight

Tonght at 9:07 pm, the waxing crescent moon was at 60 degrees in the constellation Cancer. Sky was clear, with some light clouds around. Seeing not the best, warm muggy night. Set up the 4"Celestron in the drive to get a better view of the Moon. Set the DOB up on the landing.

The four day moon: between Acubens and Asellus Australis, will be near M44 (betweem Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis) . The bright crescent ruled the area sky, never saw any stars close by. Set up and observed from 8:30 - 10pm. Took several moon photos with the DSLR. Some small clouds moved in and around the location, but these did not hinder viewing. The ISS made a pass in the NW at 10:20-10:22 pm, with a max altitude 38 degrees. I saw the last minute of the run. It moved into a cloud bank and swiftly disappeared. Put the photo equipment away and turned the 4" scope to Saturn, still following Leo. The edge on rings shot through the center of the globe, like a javaline. I saw one moon! In the Celestron scope that moon(Titan) was straight out from the left rings tip. Put the Celestron away and focused on Vega with the DOB. I looked for M57, the Ring nebula, but the sky was somewhat hazy in the that area. The four stars making up the corners of the harp were not as sharp and clear. The two stars Sulafat and Sheliak that shield the Ring were not clear at all in the scope. I will wait until this Constellation gets a little higher in the sky and chasing the moon tonight made me tired.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: Pitch Black
The first of two Riddick Space adventures films. After crash landing on a Desert Planet the survivors struggle with Riddick and unknown flesh eating creatures that have come to life after a long lasting eclipse of the planets two suns interrupts their stay. The film has Great CGs and Action. The three that survive go on to the next Riddick film, The Chronicles of Riddick.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Three Day Old Moon...behind the clouds

Wanted to try again tonight for a look at the Waxing Crescent Moon. The Clouds just keep coming! As of 10 pm we had a thick blanket covering the stars. In my refracting scope the target is only reversed not upside down. Still, when reviewing surface images of the moon, I have to remind myself that what I am seeing is opposite of what I'm seeing. So when I am identifing craters, seas and mountains, I have to keep in mind how I am viewing the image. Back to the books and charts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crescent Moon in Gemini

Last night I did get to view the one day old Crescent Moon in the west, just above the setting sun. The Clouds would not go away, so the photos I took were not very sharp. Tonight the two day oldMoon should be a little higher in the sky, above the tree line. My chart indicates the crescent is high enough to view with a scope tonight...

The clouds did break. I started observing at sunset using my 3" Celestron. Easily centered the moon in the eyepiece and then placed the adapter and DSLR camera on the end of the scope. I did get some fairly clear photos, but still not sharp. My guess is that the blue sky at twilight was washing out the contrast. It was not long and the Moon was hitting the tree line.

The craters Endymion, Cleomedes, Langrenus highlighted the view along the Terminator, centered around Mare Crisium. Two Day Moon photo link with labels and a Three day labeled photo link

Monday, May 25, 2009

Observing the Moon

Tonight, if the clouds break, we have a chance to see a slim crescent following the New Moon.
I hope to trek down the road and find a good horizon with camera in hand.
Remember the Prospector Mission? Lately, I have been researching the surface areas of the moon and getting ready to follow the LCROSS Mission when it launches next month. After orbit, the upper stage of the launch vehicle (about the weight of a large SUV) will impact into either the North or South Pole of the Moon at over 9,000 km/h (5,600 mph). The amount of material (dust and probably ice) ejected could fill ten school buses, or ten Space Shuttle cargo bays. The plume will reach nearly 50 km high (over 30 miles)! LRO will Orbit and map the moon for future landing sites and will be looking for water in deeper/darker Craters. These areas, called Permanently Shadowed Regions, may be able to trap water molecules as ice. The video shows how even as the sun hits from different angles, some parts never receive light. They will let us know when impact is scheduled.
In the meantime, I will be following the moon with telescope and moon maps.

The Shuttle landed At Edwards AFB Sunday Morning.
Smooth approach and touchdown. Welcome Home Atlantis!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Checking Star Charts, Books and Logs

May has been one of our wettest months. With the clouds hanging over head it is time to pull out the StarLogs, charts/books and review the sky for the next chance at stargazing/set up. We still have a week left in May, so I'm reviewing my past observing logs for this month for events, sightings/descriptions and positions of objects in the night sky.

I am also taking time to catch up on some reading in some of the Astronomy Books I have in the reference Library. A new book I just bought is Secrets of Stargazing. This type of reference book, among others, is great for recalling useful observing techniques from Amateur Astronomers/Professionals who have been at this longer than me. I read Becky's 'Skywatch' column in the paper every Monday. Plus I connect to her Blog page from time to time. I am always learning... As I continue to be a Student of Astronomy!

Shuttle Atlantis is due to land today...California!

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: Outland
I liked this film because the industrial colony on the active/Volcanic Jupiter Moon Io was realistic. The way the atmosphere and environment was handled, to the structure and layout of the Mining Factory. This film was made in 1981, before Io discoveries were cemented in the books. The Plot carried well with a lone marshal against a greedy/corrupt company boss several hundred years in the future. A cast that includes Sean Connery and Peter Boyle made for a good Science Fiction Western. Might be classified as a Space Western with elements of "High Noon".

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Atlantis in Orbit one more Day

After 180 Orbits the weather is still an issue at the Cape. So the Atlantis landing was postponed once again. The Crew gets another Day Off after the Marathon Repairs at the Hubble Telescope.

The next landing time is 9:11AM Sunday at the Cape. Edwards AFB has been called in to be ready, if needed.

I found more infomation on the LRO and LCROSS Mission. I picked up a Podcast Lecture on the mission off the Orbitalhub Blog. The speaker is Dr. Anthony Colaprete, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center and the principal investigator for the LCROSS mission, gave a lecture as part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture series. The lecture was posted on NASA’s website as Prospecting for Water on the Moon: The Upcoming LCROSS Mission.

I am looking forward to getting back to the Moon again. Plus, now I can follow along in real time with my telescope, unlike when I followed the Apollo landings on Black and White TV and had to get information and photos from magazine articles.

Sci-Fi on DVD Tonight: Rocket Ship XM
This 1950 film is my first memory of a Science Fiction Movie. I recall getting to stay up New Years Eve 1956. Siting in front of our small Black and White Television set, eyes glued to screen. From the Rocket blasting off heading for the moon, to running from the mutant cavemen, throwing large bolders and smashing crew members on the reddish terrain of Mars. Jackets and tools floating in space(on strings). Art drawn pictures of the earth and the moon when the ship is half way to the moon. And an artistic drawing of Mars, when the crew discovers they were off course. No Set/Graphics awards for this film! The film portrays Space exploration as a scarry place, now of course this B- movie, compared to more recent movies, is pretty ridiculous! I keep this DVD in my library anyway as the first Sci-Fi movie I remember viewing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weekend with Cloudy Skies... Again

Another weekend ( New Moon) with cloud cover and a chance of rain. The group's Star Gazing event was cancelled. And it is Memorial Day Weekend! The Shuttle Atlantis delayed landing at the Cape. They will try again tomorrow. Found a neat web site today: Amature.FM, they post an AAPOD and have some interesting things within the page.

Time to review the week ahead, let's start with Tammy's Weekend's Skywatcher's Forecast. Follow up with Sky and Telescope's This Week's Sky at a Glance.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonght: Armageddon
Was this just another "Disaster" Movie? It was one of Two "Killer Asteroid" Movies in 1998.
The far out way the "Crew" set out to blow up the Asteroid/Looking like aComet made it great Sci-Fi! This Film had some great Space CG, but a large number of scientific inaccuracies.
After several Meteors(smaller) destroyed one of our Shuttles in Space, NASA alerted the world of the pending DOOM! Two new type shuttles were miraculously developed, engineered and built for the Mission to destroy the Asteroid/Looking like aComet. No way the team could hook up with the Mir and release THAT FAST in Space. This was an Action packed Sci-Fi Movie.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Early Morning... 3 Planets and the Moon

Backyard, sky was clear, good seeing, 10" DOB, Binoculars
Early this morning at 5AM the crescent Moon and Venus were still below the trees. I set up the DOB and focused on Jupiter. There were three moons, all on the left side. In addition the star Delta Capricorni was still positioned under the planet, appearing like another moon.
The image is reverse in the eyepiece:
J- I-- G ---C


Venus and the moon slowly moved above the trees as the sky began to turn from black to blue. I did take some photos once the moon and Venus reached above the tree line. In the photo shown, I was able to see Mars (but look close). This planet was very dim and I never saw it visually with the eye. Mars was positioned some distance below the Moon and Venus. It made a triangle in the photo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Remember the Rock…Pluto?

Six more years before New Horizons reaches the Asteroid -"Plutoid" Rock

Found this Tuesday on the The Planetary Society Blog
Usually written by By Emily Lakdawalla, Guest Bloggers have been contributing for her until she is back July 31.

Alan Stern writes: May. 19, 2009 16:05 PDT 23:05 UTC
Ever Plan Ahead? How About Six Years Ahead?
As you may know, I am the Principal Investigator of New Horizons, NASA's mission to reconnoiter Pluto and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) for the first time. New Horizons—NASA's first New Frontiers mission -- launched in January 2006, and is now deep into its 9.5 year journey across the planetary system to reach Pluto in mid-2015 and KBOs in succeeding years. You can check out for more background about the mission, but my purpose in writing about it today is to tell you about the work our team has been doing of late -- some very important work indeed. You see, despite still being more than six years and just over 18 Astronomical Units from the Pluto system, the project team is conducting the second and final portion of our Pluto Encounter Preliminary Design Review (EPDR) tomorrow and the next day.

There is more detail mission information and Alan covers what occurs when the probe gets to the Rock in 2015, read the entire story on His Blog.

A reminder about Asteroids:
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On May 21, 2009 there were 1056 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: Star Trek Nemesis
The film brings together the entire Star Trek Next Generation crew from the series for a Grand Finale. With Bad Romulans and a sadistic, vilinous Reman, that are the focus of the plot. By the end of the movie, The USS Enterprise-E is torn apart and almost destroyed. Data gives up his live to save the ship and crew. I liked TNG and it will always be part of the Star Trek Saga.

G-Clusters, Planets and a crescent moon

StarLogs^090519 and ^090520
A clear night/seeing was good...Backyard/10" DOB

Last night I Charted a voyage to that small sea of stars above my backyard.
Port of Call: M3 and M13.

I set up the DOB at 9:15pm/ lined up the cross hairs of the viewfinder on the Ringed Planet first. Another stunning view of the yellow globe with the rings edge on. Two moons visible:
One dim moon close in, on the right and Titan on the left a bit farther from the ring edge.
At 9:30pm I moved the scope to the area M3 was anchored, between Arcturus and the handle of the big dipper. It was not long and I had the cluster in the eyepiece. a bit more sharper tonight.
The sky was a bit more foregiving tonight. At 10pm I turned the DOB to the Keystone and M13. informs us: Globular clusters are gravitationally bound concentrations of stars, which form a nearly spherical system around our galaxy. They orbit the galactic center along highly elliptical paths, and on average one revolution takes 300 million years.
These wondrous swarms of ancient suns are impressive sights in almost any telescope. The greatest of the globular star clusters, and one of the nearest to the Earth, is the magnificent Omega Centauri, some 17,000 light years distant and visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, it can only be observed from the Southern Hemisphere.

I left the scope set up all night to view the planets Wednesday Morning.

Early this morning there was some haze around the moon. The Moon looked great in the scope. The sky was clear and Mars and Venus were below the tree line. Dawn was beginning to break! I focused the DOB on Jupiter and saw his four moons aligned across. Close by and at the bottom of the alignment was what appeared to be a fifth moon! This was the star Delta Capricorni of the Constellation Capricornus.

The View was reverse in the eyepiece:
6 AM: I -J -E -G -C

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hubble Space Telescope

The Telescope was deployed by Atlantis at 7:55 am. Free to orbit on its own again. Ready for another decade(+) scanning the dark reaches of the Galaxy and beyond. had this today: Over the past five days, space-walking Astronauts have replaced a camera, reenergized a spectrograph, swapped batteries, installed new gyros and much more. Thanks to their efforts, the Hubble Space Telescope is in working order again. "Hubble isn't just a satellite--it's about humanity's quest for knowledge," said STS-125 mission specialist John Grunsfeld when he had finished the final spacewalk. "On this mission, we tried some things that people said were impossible. We achieved [those things], and we wish Hubble the very best." [more]

The Astronomers that use this telescope should be pleased with the Telescope's upgrades. Ready to discover new Galaxies, Clusters of Stars and answers to what makes the Universe move. They should have some new results by the fall of this year.

Hubble will pass over my backyard in the early morning hours starting this Thursday. I will be watching as this famous Telescope arcs across the sky and I'll be waiting for new discoveries as it continues to explore the Darkest Depths of the Universe.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Saturn and Two Clusters

10pm-midnight, sky condition: clear, seeing (5-7) not the best
10" Dobson Scope, backyard

At 10 PM, with a somewhat clear sky, I set up the DOB and put the viewfinder cross hairs on the Ringed Planet at the bottom of Leo. Saturn is still very edge-on; the yellow globe had three moons aligned with the rings. One was to the right, close by the edge of the ring. One was close to the left ring edge and very dim. Titan was far off on the left.

I swung the DOB to near Arcturus and placed it in my cross hairs. From the charts the position of M3 was a bit west and a third the way to end of the big dipper handle. It took about ten minutes of stop-n-go scanning and adjusting my position sight, but I centered the cluster in my eyepiece. I have seen this cluster a lot sharper/crisper in past observations. I zoomed and refocused on the center of the cluster several time and did get some individual star separation. It is a nice visual cluster in the scope, even under “not the best” skies.

I moved on to Hercules and easily found the Keystone. After reviewing the chart and remembering what side of the Keystone M13 is buoyed, I had it in my viewfinder.

Again, I have seen this cluster in better visual appearance, in past observations.

This not good seeing tonight may have been a combination of things contributing to the ever growing light pollution problem.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Considered one of the best Science Fiction Movies made, this 1968 film takes us on a profound Journey from the Dawn of Man to the Infinity of Space by way of the mysterious Monoliths. HAL, the criminal computer and what was Dr. Floyd really up to? Great Moon terrain around Clavius Base, orbiting Space Station and the Discovery One, bound for Jupiter, with not much CG back then. The film still holds its own after forty years and I can't believe it has been that long when I went to the theater to see it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Update: STS 125 Atlantis HSM4

Photo Credit: NASA
Daily repairs can bring a few problems... in Space. Hourly Updates from the HSM 4 Blog:
The Crew of Atlantis has now set out three times to repair or replace parts on the Hubble Space Telescope. Six to eight hour walks every day. Bolts that will not turn and replacement parts that are not working. There are No Hardware Stores 350 miles up. It is a Marathon of repairs, With Two EVAs down and three to go, this crew will not have an easy time completing the repairs and leave the Telescope in good working order.

In my backyard, we had a rain shower go through last night and clouds are coming together…thicker. Last night I went out at 10 pm and I did see a very dim Arcturus hidden amongst the clouds. More rain forecast today and tonight.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy
This extraterrestrial romp came out in 2005. Earthling (Arthur) meets an alien (Ford Prefect) from Betelgeuse . Arthur discovers Earth is about to be destroyed. The journey into space begins when they “hitch” a ride on a Vogon spaceship just as the Earth is destroyed. There is an Android (Marvin) and a girl (Tricia). Plus a Star Ship named Heart of Gold that moves through space using the Infinite Improbability Drive. This Space Farce ends returning to Earth and Arthur deciding to take another hitch and a ride to "the Restaurant at the End of the Universe". What is Ultimate Question to Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. What is Answer "42 " from the Super computer? Why is there a quest to find Magrathea? We should listen to the Dolphins and try to understand them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another Cloudy Sky Weekend

Chance of Rain Saturday night, The StarGazing Event has been Cancelled at the Site.

The weekend is here and it is time to review the week’s SKY.
Since the Clouds are still covering the Sky, time to set a course through Cyberspace.

Let’s start with Tammy Plotner’s Weekend Skywatcher’s forecast.
Navigate a sky with a good horizon this week and you should now start looking low for Omega Centauri. That Photo was taken from down under using the GRAS: The Global Rent a Scope. I wished the cluster looked that good in my eight inch LX90. Early Sunday morning Explore Capricorn for the Planet Jupiter. The shrinking moon will be three degrees from the bright planet. Saturn is still hanging under Leo. Don't forget to count the moons and note their positions. Another stop near Arcturus to capture M3 in the eyepiece making a stop at Mel 111 along the way. And once the sky clears a chance to Explore the Keystone and find M13.

Here is the "Sky this week May 10-16", video. Don't pay attention to the times since he is on Mountain time, but he has some information on Jupiter, Saturn and M13…take a look

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: Mission to Mars
Mars Landing Crew is attacked from a Mountain (Face). One Member survives. Rescue mission sent to survey the problem and take on survivors. The Crew looses the ship but lands on Mars using a REMO. Once on the planet they find the lone survivor and a Life form. The Movie has average CG with slow plot. DNA from Alien scenario is overdone. Interplay between characters was not well done. The whole movie could have been made without Tim Robbins and Terry Fisher’s Characters. It could have been just “Bad Acting” on their part. I liked the Gary Sinise and Jerry O’Connel Characters, the others not so good.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Observing the Moons of Saturn

I did get a quick observation of Saturn last night, before the clouds rolled in again. I set up the 10” DOB around 10:15 pm and easily found the yellow globe in my view finder. The Planet’s Rings were edge on and I counted 4 moons to the right of the Planet. Three dim moons lined up, unevenly, in a row and one brighter (Titan) was below the last moon on the right. According to the CalSky Calendar, the moons I saw, starting nearest to the planet, were: Thetys, Dione, Rhea and Titan. The scene was awesome in the eyepiece, even though the sky conditions were not the best. It is great being able to see the moons, since the Rings are edge on!

Yesterday I listened to the IYA 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. That episode covered Charles Messier’s Discovery of the Globular Cluster M3. I have been trying to observe M13 lately and since it was clear after the sun set last night, I put M3 cluster on my list to view. Before I could begin the search for M3, the clouds covered the sky and even Arcturus was no longer visible. These Clouds are a downer… really!

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: Serenity
A take off from the TV Series Firefly, this 2005 Space Western Movie is set 510 years into the future. The story picks up after the Unification War and the Crew is interrupted by a psychic passenger who harbors a dangerous secret. If you liked Firefly, you will like Serenity!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DSOs~ Globular Clusters

Last night the sky was a bit clearer. I found the Big Dipper and then Arced to Arcturus. I found Saturn floating below Leo higher up in the SW. Scanning the sky with binoculars I caught sight of Mel 111. I tried to find nearby M3...just could not spot this cluster.

Globular Clusters are one of my favorite Deep Sky Objects.
Today’s IYA 365 DAYS of ASTRONOMY PODCAST, discusses C. Messier Observing M3.
You can Find M3 near the star Arcturus in tonight’s sky. Other Clusters found in our sky this month: M13, M92, M10, M12, M4 and M5.

All we need now is a Dark, Clear Sky.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Smooth, Flawless Launch

Atlantis is chasing the HST and will catch up with the Telescope tomorrow afternoon.
View the photos of the Launch Here.

The STS 125 crew got a great view of the External Tank falling away after seperation.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Atlantis on the way to the HST

Atlantis was launched on today at 1:01 CDT on the STS 125 Mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The Seven member crew will spend eleven days in Space. They will endure five space walks outside on the repairs.

Here is an animated video on the HSM-4 training for the Mission.

This last mission to the Telescope should keep it in shape until 2014.


I caught this on the “CBS Sunday Morning” TV show yesterday.
The Porter Garden Telescope Reborn: This segment focuses on Amateur Astronomer Fred Schleipman’s Quest to resurrect this lost Telescope and fulfill his interest in Art and Engineering.
Originally created in the 1920s by Russell Porter, designer of the Palomer Mountain Observatory 200 inch Hale Telescope. The Porter Garden Telescope is a powerful Telescpe for stargazing or simply admiring the view. It is a beautiful and unusual bronze sculpture, a work of art for your garden, terrace or roof deck that also works as a sundial. It is in the Smithsonian, and now you can own one, too

It stands 35” high, fully extended it is 70” high.
Eyepiece and mirror can be removed and stored.

Sir Patrick Moore of the BBC’s “The Sky at Night” nicknamed the scope “Capella”.

Price: $37,000

I don’t think I will put one in my garden. Although this would be a great object of interest at any Planetarium/Observatory, maybe the Scobee.

Renaissance Age for Hubble Space Telescope

Finally the launch count down has started for liftoff of the Shuttle Atlantis to restore the Hubble Space Telescope. The Renaissance age of the Hubble starts with New Instruments: Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and The Wide Field Camera 3. Replacing the decommissioned camera: Wide Field Camera 2.

Catch up on the complete new workings in the Hubble Mission Overview

As always you can Watch Live Streaming Video on NASA TV

Launch is 1:01pm, Monday afternoon...GO ATLANTIS!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Planet found...Planet lost

We used to have Nine Planets. We lost one a couple years back.

Read this off the Portal to the Universe: a link to a Blog posted by The Sydney Observatory. Venetia Phair, the person who named Pluto, dies
Venetia Phair, who has died aged 90, had the distinction of being the only woman in the world to have named a planet; in 1930, as a girl of 11, she suggested the name Pluto for the enigmatic celestial body that had just been discovered, and which became (albeit only temporarily) the ninth planet in our solar system.
In 1987 the asteroid 6235 Burney was named in her honor. Read more on her obiturary.

Fate and Destiny comes to mind. It is interesting how things fell into place as she was involved in Astronomy and her connections to Harvard members, that they sent on her planet name to Clyde Tombaugh.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: Alien
This 1979 Science Fiction Horror film is a Classic. All in Outer-Space Thriller with Great Creatures in far off worlds and Super CG effects. The first of four films and the nasty creatures never make it back to the Good Earth, at least not yet!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Broken Sky... Bright Moon

More Clouds rolled in and put a shroud over the moon at ten pm. A few broken spots of clear appeared and was able to see one star then another. They tried to stay in a clear part of the night sky. Not enough clear to tell where the constellations were. I closed the door and stopped observing. I did look out at Midnight and saw a bright moon hanging over the tree line.

View the moon by visiting the LPOD. Observe the sky from Cyberspace tonight.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Sky at Week's End

The Full Flower Moon will be big and bright in tonight's Sky.

Today NOAA predicts when Solar Cycle 24 will reach peak Sunspots.

Here is Tammy's Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast.
Review Sky and Telescope's This Week's Sky at a Glance.
If the Moon is too much for you, then go to the Movies Tonight!

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: The Chronicles of Riddick
Riddick continues his journey from the desert planet in Pitch Black to the worlds of Helion Prime and Crematoria. Fighting Bounty Hunters and the Necromonger Legion to his last battle with the Lord Marshall end the necromongers rule. This all happens past our Universe to the darker deadlier Underverse... now that's Science Fiction. Cool Stuff and Great CG.

Sci-Fi on the Big Screen Tonight : Star Trek
Every Trekkie from here to the belt of Orion has been waiting
"To Boldly Go..." Can't wait to see this prequel of the Star Trek Saga!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Full Moon...Friday

Moonlight has filled the night this past week, Not good for seeing stars and constellations.
Tomorrow is the Full Flower Moon. Rising at 8:10 PM...Full at 10:02 PM

One web site describes The Moon, as Shakespeare suggests in Romeo and Juliet, is fickle. Its complex orbit moves it swiftly across a wide tract of the night and day skies, changing its appearance continually in both bold and subtle ways. As it waxes and wanes its features alter dramatically - rugged heights can turn to pale ghosts, tiny blemishes can become brilliant beacons, and thin beams can briefly shine across the lunar twilight.

The Moon has given us some great views over the past Months this year: The Moon and Venus January 29, Moon and Saturn on February 10 and 11, Crescent Moon and Venus February 27 and the spectacular Crescent Moon and Venus Occultation April 22.

Here is a LPOD look back at some of the Moon's wonders in 2009:
January's Moon , February's Moon, the March Moon, and last month's Moon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Skywatching...the Weather

When not observing the Stars, we are watching the Weather.
Weather is an important issue to Skywatching.

Looking up at the sky before an observing event Cloudy, Hazy, Windy skies are not good for viewing the night sky. Before the Internet, I used to call the local NOAA office to confirm an update on the weather. All Skywatchers have at least one link to check and comfirm forecast data for the area. I ran across this recent Blog on the "Weather" and Star Party issue.

We can all go to Cyberspace and find a bundle of links to form a uniform weather forecast for any observation date. Here are a few on my list:
Nearest Airport weather information
Clear Sky Clock
The Weather Channel
The Weather Underground

We review charts, forecasts and discussions from a number of weather organizations.
For Backyard Stargazing, it comes down to just looking up...
if you see a clear sky, take some time and observer the stars.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cross Quarter Day: Bright Moon

The waxing gibbous moon was bright last night, as I scanned the night sky at 9:30pm, hoping to view Hercules. I did see Spica and managed to view the Big Dipper above the trees. Saturn was tied below Regulus and above the Moon. Most the rest of the stars were bleached out in Moonlight.

A cross-quarter day is a day falling approximately halfway between a solstice and an equinox. The Ancient celebration of Beltane.

The Celtic year was based on both lunar and solar cycles, it is possible that the holiday was celebrated on the full moon nearest the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. The astronomical date for this midpoint is closer to May 5 or May 7, but this can vary from year to year.

Any way you look at it, these cloudy nights are getting warmer and the season is moving closer to summer.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: The Sphere
Alien Spacecraft kept secret by the Navy, deep under the ocean. Alien Spacecraft has ability to control thoughts. What do a Psychologist, Mathematician and a Biochemist have in common?Alien Spaceship controls and gets rid of most of the Crew dispatched to try and solve the mystery. This 1998 Sci-Fi Thriller kept you guessing, while Jerry, the computer kept typing demands. What's with this Spaceship anyway? Did it come through time in a Black Hole?
Cool underwater CG.

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Cloud Cover

The Days seem to clear up some, but when the sun sets, the clouds seem to roll in. We might get a patch of clear soon. In the mean time the moon is getting brighter this week and we can start looking for some Eta Aquarid meteors in the early hours before dawn.

Sky and Telescope reports:
Irene and Flora, two springtime asteroids, are a little past opposition this week. At 9th and 10th magnitude they await your telescope, and your chart-using skills, as they drift only about 4° apart between the legs of Virgo. See the article and the 10th-magnitude chart in the May Sky & Telescope, page 46.

Keep in mind those Potentially Hazardous Asteroids…
(PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.
On May 4, 2009 there were 1054 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Here is a short Asteroid Hunting Video I found at Tom's Astroblog on Sunday.

Sci-Fi on DVD Tonight: Deep Impact
One of the few movies I have seen that has a star party included in the movie plot. The plot doesn't carry well and is not the best when it tries to get deeper as it is discovered the Government knows of the "extinction-level event". Time to save the Planet. The movie has great CG impact destruction scenes and the destruction of the Comet is a bit over dramatic. There are a ton of Factual Errors! But this is a Science Fiction Movie about a Big Asteroid hitting Earth!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

This Meteor Shower should peak this coming week with or without the clouds. Under a Clear Sky, the Moon will interfere this week!

This from the post from Arkansas Sky Observatories:
Normally one of the finest meteor showers of each year, the Eta Aquarid meteors were recorded as early as 401 A.D. by the ancient Chinese we know them to be part of TWO debris clouds left in the wake of famous HALLEY's COMET through which the earth passes each year. Meteors can be seen from this shower all the time from April 21 through May 12, but the peak is fairly steep and occurs each year on May 4.....look for brilliant and spectacularly exciting fireballs from May 9 through 11, all of which will be seen dramatically in spite of this year's waxing gibbous moon on this date. The radiant for this meteor shower is located very near the star asterism known as "The Water Jar" in Aquarius, but moves a bit northeast each day through the long period the meteoric cloud persists around the earth. Note that this meteor shower for northern latitudes is very low in southern skies...most meteors should be seen coming from the EAST horizon (not overhead like most showers!) about 2 a.m......but by 7 a.m., note that the most frequent meteors appear to originate about halfway from that point to overhead. On most dates with dark skies such as we will have this year, up to 25 Eta Aquarids might be expected, most bright and leaving glowing "fireball" trails behind them. This year, the moon will be a strong waxing gibbous phase the sky and thus will hamper observations; this is a poor year in hopes of seeing these fine meteors!

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: X-Men The Last Stand
The heroic Band of Mutants come together to fight the evil Magneto for a third time. Some new adversaries like Jean Grey / Phoenix bring a twist in the continued plot to get rid of the Mutants. Another good transition movie from the comics with a 3 star rating back in 2006.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Weekend Viewing ?

It’s the first weekend in May and we have clouds with a chance of some rain tonight. The forecast calls for more clouds through Tuesday! It is bound to be Clear somewhere!

The waxing gibbous moon is big and bright in a clear sky. There are always Moon features to Observe and identify. Tammy highlights a few in her weekend-Skywatchers-Forecast.

This is Saturday and time to review the week ahead: Sky and Telescope’s Week at a Glance is a good place to start.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: X Men United.
A 2003 release, X2 brought back all the Mutant Characters in an ensemble cast of good and evil including Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Storm, Mystique and a host of other heroes and villains. Xavier vs Magneto. One of the better transition movies from comic books.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Navigating CyberSpace

Clouds still Rule the night sky! I did manage to see the almost quarter moon last night through the clouds. The crescent moon was surrounded and covered by clouds. Went to Cyberspace.

Found this on the Portal to the Universe site: Astrocast TV Blog
Astrocast.TV is a Web based video News program and Blog covering events in the science of Astronomy with Hosts Greg Redfern and Dr. Lori Feaga.

A segment of the Blog Broadcast is “Our Night Sky”.
This monthly overview shows and explains what you can observe in our morning and evening sky for the month.