Friday, July 31, 2009

Another Hot - Summer Weekend

Triple digit Temperatures are returning after our very small shower last night. It did not last long, but it did rain. Last night the quarter moon was bright through the breaks in the clouds.

Endeavour - STS127 - touched down this morning, picture perfect landing at the Cape.

Tammy Plotner reviews Craters and Mountains on the moon, to stars in Ophiuchus, to the impact scar on Jupiter. All these are in her Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: July 31 – August 2, 2009. A review of Sky and Telescope's This Week at a Glance, gives us more events to view.

Tonight: Shaula and Lesath near moon on July 31. Mercury is 3.2° to the lower right of the star Regulus. Try looking for Mercury 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury will be very low in the WNW. Saturn is 23° to the upper left of Mercury. Binoculars will help you find Mercury in the glow of the early evening twilight.

Other news: The Perseids are Coming in August! Should peak August 11-12 even with moonlite.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Asteroid # 134340...Plutoid,Dwarf Planet, (Who Cares?)

Astroengine( Ian O'neill) posted "Pluto could be a Planet(Who Cares?)", another commentary (from New Scientist )on the subject of the ever continuing, controversy over the Plutoid, dwarf planet... Pluto. After reading the comments and views of the "Plutonites", it seems that all these Planet proponents seem to do is finger pointing and blame. The IAU was and is the Authority. After the IAU passed the definition of A Planet in 2006, it is time for all these naysayers to "Get over It" and move on. Let the IAU zero in on more important items happening in Planetary Science and the Universe. At this point I tend to agree with Ian, "Who Cares?" what the object is called. Hold off until "New Horizons" gets to the Kuiper Belt in 2015, then review discoveries and re-debate the Planet issue, if they want to bring this "Asteroid" and other KBOs to Planet status.

Speaking of Asteroids, the JPL has a new web page dedicted to an Asteroid Watch. I'm always interested in where Near Earth Objects ( "Rocks" ) are and what direction they are headed.

Was the Jupiter Impact Scar caused by an Asteroid? Don't know yet, but it still visible here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Heat goes on... ISS/Shuttle Pass Event

Yesterday evening was clear at dusk - 9pm. The Space Station chased Shuttle Endeavour across the sky last night. At 9:15pm the shuttle Endeavour appeared in the NW sky. Followed closely by a brighter ISS. Two bright stars moving across my backyard. Great Event!

It was Cloudy this morning and we missed Mars, Venus and Jupiter at Dawn.

Tonight if the clouds break:
The Delta Aquarid meteor shower continues. Comet 22P Kopff is at mag. -10 in the constellation Aquarius.

Shuttle Endeavour de-orbits Friday and landing is around 9:20am. NASA has 7 shuttle flights remaining.

Record -Triple Digit Daytime Temperatures continue.
The Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy, 77degrees, South winds 15 to 20, gusts at 30.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Meteors, Quarter Moon and the ISS

Last night I looked up at the sky ( 11pm ) and it was not clear. I did see a very dim Vega through a veil of clouds. I did see a bright Jupiter almost breaking the top of the treeline. Cygnus and Scorpius were not there. Just too many Clouds. This morning there were high clouds.

Tonight, if the sky is clear, The Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks after midnight. The Star Fomalhaut is the radiant point. Look South for a count of 20 per hour.
The Moon is at first quarter tonight. It will pass the star Spica tonight as it approaches the Celstial Gateway and will set just after midnight.
Endeavour will undock from the ISS today just after noon.

Forecast for Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. South southeast wind between 5 and 15 mph. Maybe it will be clear enough at 9:14 pm tonight to view the ISS and Endeavour:

ISS=28 Jul mag-3.2 @ 21:14:01--10NW-- @21:16-- 65NE-- @21:18:52--19SE
Shuttle=28 Jul mag-1.2 @21:14:00--10NW @21:16:54--65NE --@21:18:51-- 19SE

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hot days ahead; a chance of nighttime Clouds

The forecast for the month, going into August looks the same. Summers are usually Hot! In the past we have had breaks in the heat, warm, clear nights. This summer is exceptionally hot, dry and nights bring clouds. Daytime temps have reached 100+ degrees 33 times so far, this summer. Still No Sunspots!

Last night the clouds began to build again as the evening progressed. I saw the moon at 6pm, stationed in a blue sky, high in the SW. At 9:30pm I saw Vega and Deneb among the clouds. Antares was behind a dense veil of clouds in the SW.

Today there is a chance of rain (yeah right), a slim chance here. We can expect cloudy skies again. Moon is out Tonight: Lunar night vs. lunar day. Here is a video clip of Amanda Bauer’s trip to China, July 21, 2009 -Total Eclipse of the sun. Tonight, if the clouds break: The red long-period variable stars V Bootis, R Bootis, and S Hydrae should be about at maximum light (7th or 8th magnitude) this week. V Boo is easy to locate with binoculars less than 1° from 3rd-magnitude Gamma Boo. The southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower, which occurs over the period from July 14 to August 18, peaks overnight Tuesday. The meteors appear to radiate from a point above the star Fomalhaut. Look towards the south after midnight for shooting stars from this shower.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Discover Double Stars

There are many double star lists. I have been looking for several doubles on a list I compiled from current event /objects lists to observe this month. At my last Lx90 session, I could not find some on the list because they were not in the Lx90 program. After a little research, I started cross matching the SAO number. I could use that number on a Lx90 SAO program. My Portal to the sky is not large, so my search area is limited by horizon and my time at the Scope. Double stars are addictive... once I discover the binaries colors and details, observations leads to more data and more observations. They are a favorite target any night.

Last night's Sky was Clear! I set up the Lx90 on the drive and waited for darkness. The seeing was good with a slight breeze. It was warm and the bugs were out in force.

9:20pm I aligned with Vega and Antares
Sloohed to Spica in Virgo then over to Arcturus in Bootes.
The first double star is on tonight's list:

Mizar, in Ursa Major. From my site in the drive tonight, I can only see the handle of the Dipper. Mizar is always a treat to view: a tight, bright(2.06) binary- 78 light years away with a 14" separation.

Albireo in Cygnus: Beta Cygni, Colorful, yellow and blue, binary with a 34.3" separation. The star is bright(3) at 380 light years away, but in my sky is dimmed by Urban light pollution. Still a beautiful sight in the eyepiece.

Zeta Herculis(SAO 65485) in Hercules: a bright (2.8) binary with some yellow color. This one was hard to separate.

95 Her(SAO 85647) in Hercules: bright (4.96) tight binary with a 6.3" separation.

Kappa Her(SAO 101951) in Herculues: A separation of 28.4" at 5.6 brightness makes this an easy binary to view.

61 Cygni(SAO 70919) in Cygnus: very close binary(.05") and only 11.6 light years away

Omicron Cygni(SAO 49337) in Cygnus: very bright orange primary binary with wide separation(338") to a dimmer turquoise partner. There is a third star in the field (32 Cygni) and this makes a nice triple

I did observe several Globular Clusters tonight:
M13 in Hercules: One of the finest clusters on the list
M92 in Hercules: not as spectacular but a nice tight cluster
M22 in Sagittarius: very large cluster, core not as tight- another fine cluster to go to
M4 in Scorpius: Small not as dense cluster dimmer in the glow of the Urban lights
M5 in Ser: very dense and clean cluster

Two Open Cluster Observed:
M29 in Cygnus: 6 brightly grouped stars, almost a pattern?
M39 in Cygnus: this bright cluster was not fully focused as it was in the trees( go back-next su )
Went to three nebulas:
M8-Lagoon-in Sagittarius: two separate clouds visible with nebula filter
M17- Swan-in Sagittarius: tube shape cloud visible /sharper with nebula filter
M20-Trifid-in Sagittarius: nebula is not visible even with the Nebula filter.

11:30/Jupiter just above the treeline: 4 moons lined up:


July 25-0:40/ Jupiter was well over the trees with 2 moons:

(JE)--G----C , left the scope on Jupiter and went inside .....stopped viewing

5 am- the scope was still on target: the sky was not good / Jupiter was behind a soft veil of clouds high in the SW, the moons were hard to see, but in the scope they lined up:


Shut down and put the equipment away. Forecast for the next couple of nights is for Clouds and a slim chance of rain. We have not seen Rain in a while, would be nice, just to get rid of all the dust in the wind!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review of Events next week

This past week, the sky was not the best for viewing stars and planets. The clouds may give us a break for better viewing in the Nights ahead.

Dawn Sunday: Mars is 5 degrees North of Aldebaran-Aldebaran is to the lower right of Mars.
Venus is 13 degrees to the lower left of Mars. ENE two hours before sunrise.

Trying to observe the Impact Scar on Jupter: Viewing the Jupiter Impact With Your Telescope
Tammy's: Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: July 24-26, 2009
Sky and Telescope’s: This Weeks Sky at a Glance reviews the coming week

Today is Flight Day 11 for STS 127 Endeavour/ISS and the "13" who have been busy with the fourth space walk and preparing for number five. The shuttle will undock from the ISS on Tuesday with a fly-around. Friday is the de-orbit burn and landing.

Chasing Jupitier after dark

Chasing planets and stars into the hours of darkness for some time, turns you into a Night Stalker. This bright Gas Planet, 390,682, 810 miles away, with it's four bright moons is a prime target for me as I wait for darkness into the night. Old Jove and his bands of storms became King, as he wandered through the Night Sky, even before telescopes were used.

Last night the Stars were dim and patterned the night sky scatterd through the clouds.
At 10pm I did a visual tour of the Constellations: Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila, the Summer Triangle. Set the DOB on the slab and started a quick tour. First stop, the double Star Albireo, the head of the Swan. The sky was hazy and seeing not very good. As I scanned and observed Cygnus, I wondered how many stars the Kepler Telescope is observing tonight? I hopped to the Ring Nebula in Lyra. Seeing was terrible and not long after, the clouds were moving in. Antares was gone in the South, Arcturus was now behind clouds in the NW. The clouds moved in and took over Sagittarius too. I shot over to where Jupiter was behind the trees and waited a while for the bright planet to rise over the trees.

At 11:30 pm I scanned the sky and it was a hazy clear sky. Seeing not very good. I focused on Jupiter and 4 Moons:
C---G--------(J)---I---E. Hard to focus with the Hazy conditions. Scatterd clouds were drifting across the sky. Left the scope and stopped observing.

At 4:30 I came back out, Clouds covered most of the sky. Jupiter with 3 moons was high to the West SW: G---------(JI)-----E--------C. The Sky conditions did not allow me to view the shadow transit of Io on the suface. I just could not get a good clear view of the planet.

This was not a good dark night sky to observe.

Sci-Fi on TV Tonight: The Immortal
The 2004 French film was based upon the graphic novel La Foire aux immortels (The Carnival of Immortals). Filmed in Live and Animated Action, this SciFi is similar to the film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) in how it was made. This strange movie takes place in NY in the year 2095. Egyptian Gods and Humans that are not completely Human. The two main characters become entangled in a web of murder and intrigue.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Blanket of Clouds

31 Days of Triple Digit Heat! Not since 1998 have we had this many 100+ temperature days for the year. The drought continues! Not as bad as in the western states. Trees are beginning to show signs of Stress. The nearby river is very low and the springs have not stopped but is running very slow. I cannot help but think that the long Sun Spot minimum has something to do with our continued drought and lack of rain.

When will the next Sun Spot Cycle #24 begin? Long time since any activity. New information from Astrophysicists paper on the Maunder Minimum .

Last night the clouds hung around again with more Dust hanging in the Air. At 10PM the Clouds did have a few clear spots. I observed one dim star positioned in one clear spot before it closed in again. Jupiter, in the Constellation Capricornus, is already up and over the trees by 11PM. The Moons of Jupiter numbered 3 and were placed on the left side of the planet...if only I could view them in the eyepiece:

Checked the Sky again at 4:30AM. A thick layer of Clouds covered the Sky with no visible stars or Planets. Charts indicated Jupiter was high in the West and the positions of the moons:
G-------C------I--(J). Someone had clear skies and was able to Observe.

More information on the Jupiter Impact Scar: The NASA office fired up Hubble and received a good photo of the impact area. The spot is rotating in and out of view with Jupiter's 10 hour day. Viewing times through next week can be found at this web site.
Sunday at 1:54 Am is the next good opportunity.

Tonight, if the clouds break: Low in the west a Crescent Moon with Earth Shine 45 minutes after sunset. The Planet Saturn is positioned above the moon. Jupiter rises at 21:43 tonight.
Tomorrow early: Venus rises at 3:53 and Mars rises at 2:57.

Tonight's Forecast is for Partly Cloudy skies and Hot...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A single Star through the Clouds

Last night at 10pm, I observed one single star through a break in the Clouds. Thick haze dimmed the bright star Vega. Jupiter rises in the ESE about an hour after sunset and there was no sign of the bright planet. The four moons would have appeared as:

I checked the Sky early this morning and still a thick covering of Clouds. Missed the Jupiter GRS transit plus a moon(C) shadow transit early this morning. Someone did have a clear sky and was able to observe this event. A description and sketch of Callisto, the moon shadow and the Impact mark is posted on The Belt of Venus Blog. There is more evidence of an impact on Jupiter shown on today's APOD. This morning's moons of Jupiter would have looked like:

Tonight, if the clouds break ,we get a chance to view a hairline crescent moon near the Star Regulus. The Event is very low in the west. The Planet Mercury is to the right of the moon. The planet Saturn glows higher to the moon's upper left. Find a good, Clear Horizon.

This is Flight Day Nine for the Shuttle Endeavour. NASA is replanning the next EVA after the third spacewalk was cut short because of CO2 problems in a suit.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dust in the Wind, Cloudy Nights

Last Night I stepped out at 10:30pm and saw clouds and a few dim stars behind a Haze. The report on the news was African Dust. I checked again at 1:30 AM this morning and the sky was Hazy with Clouds. I was hoping to see Jupiter. If we were able to glimpse the bright Planet the four moons were showing and would have appeared as:
I----(J)G-----E-----C in my scope.
There was a Blog post this morning on the Four Galilean Moons, with a photo of the line up in last night's Sky.

From the chatter and posts this morning, the Asian Total Eclipse of the Sun was spectacular. Here is the YouTube post in Chinese. There are many still photos of the event at's Solar Eclipse Gallery.

I am always a bit curious when NOAA observes a clear sky during the same period I observed a Cloudy Sky. The NWS posts a 3 day history on the Forecast Web Page. Do they have a real person go out each hour and look up at the sky, like I do? Curious, I know from past experience, the sky can be different at the lake and my backyard. I may need to look into this procedure. Is there that much change in the sky from my backyard to the NOAA Dome?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Clouds, No Evening Stars

Last night there were Two Ouflow Bounderies moving towards our location. One from the South, coming from the Gulf. The other was moving in from the North West, with a lot of stormy weather running behind it. The storms broke up when it hit the Metro area, no rain...Clouds.
Another triple digit day! Twenty eight days of 100 plus temperature so far.

Early this morning I stepped outside at 5AM to see lots of clouds but Jupiter was positioned in a clear area high to the WSW. This morning you would have seen the moons all on the right side:
(J)----I E----G-----C. There is evidence of a recent impact on the planet Jupiter.

A Solar Event Today: The longest Solar eclipse in the 21st Century. The Eclipse will happen this morning in Asia.

Today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: Moonstruck, discussed Apollo 11

I discovered another Podcast, covering events of the sky for the month: Astronomy A GO GO

Monday, July 20, 2009

40 Years Ago Today...Apollo 11

On this day in 1969, at 3:18pm CDT, the first men landed on the Moon. I was attending a near by Texas State University that year. That Summer, on that Sunday, I was in front of a Black and White Television set, watching a not to clear picture, with great anticipation for the event to unfold. NASA has a Mission Control replay from the Apollo 11 mission.
Historical Information on Apollo 11
NASA 40th Anniversary website
Other websites covering the Apollo 11 Event:
Dramatic panoramas of the Apollo landing sites.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Apollo 11 site
The Boston Globe covered the Anniversary Event in Pictures

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Crescent Moon behind the Clouds

We did get some rain yesterday afternoon and more clouds drifted in as the night fell. Early this morning, it was still cloudy at 6AM. Missed the crescent moon and Venus/mars in the East and bright Jupiter in the SW. Might get a chance tomorrow morning if the clouds break.

Focus on the Moon: LROC snapped some great close up photos of the Apollo landing sites. You can see the LEM/shadow and trail left by the astronauts at one of the sites. The space craft was able to capture five of the six sites on this Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. Future fly-by LROC images will have 2x and 3x times greater resolution....can't wait.

Over at Ryan Anderson's Blog: he gives a review of the just out Movie-"Moon". I agree with his description/examples of what a good Science Fiction Movie should be.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Weekend Review of Events to come

The past week gave us several good observing nights. The clouds are beginning to cover the evening sky again. This weekend we have a chance of rain each night. I was up early this morning recording Flight Day 3 Highlights of the STS127 Endeavour's rendezvous to the ISS. I stepped outside at 3am this morning and saw a clear sky. Jupiter was bright in the SW, with four moons aligned: G---(J)I----E-------C With binoculars, I observed M31 high in the East.

Time to review next week with a look at Tammy's Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast.

Sky and Telescope's Week at a Glance for next week.

Upcoming Events listed with Abrams Night Sky Notes

The Moon and Planets are reviewed in Jim Kaler's Weekly Skylights

Friday, July 17, 2009

Group Astronomy Discussion

Our Group of eight met last night and discussed all things Astronomy. The Scobee Planetarium was reviewed. The sun: it's origins, the nearest group of stars our star could have come from in Ursa Major or the Hyades. We also discussed the rotation of the sun (25 days), sun spots on the back side of the star and types of viewing filters used. Meteor showers and when will there be good viewing the rest of the year? Meteor/meteoroid/meteorites/ were discussed. Galaxies M81 and M82 were observed recently and their differences discussed, Spiral vs Irregular. And yes they can be seen in the same eyepiece. Reviewed the number of Constellations, 88, and types of Asterisms. The moon and filtering the brightness or Albedo. Reviewed upcoming star gazing events. Discussed the Endeavour launch and Mike even brought up several topics involving questionable items about the ISS /weather we are actually seeing all that is up there. It was a an interesting session.

The group's web page went down today. Not a good sign when Microsoft will not recognize Front Page any more. A new Server is handling our web page now. If it cost to redevelope, we may drop the page. Will know more next week after review of options.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Endeavour in Orbit

Last night at 5:03 pm, after five NO GOs, the Shuttle is up and on the way to the Space Station. The launch did have several pieces of foam that came off, well into the launch, that will be investigated. The crew will now prepare for docking with the Space Station on Friday.
Keep up with this the flight: Here
Start downloading pictures of this, the seventh to the Last Shuttle Flight, before the Shuttles... Fly No More!
It should be a busy week for the Crew.
The Flight Day Highlights started last night at midnight.
Tonight the Highlights roll at 11 pm. Keep up with the times on the NASA TV Schedule
Catching sight of the ISS/Endeavour over the backyard is Zip. Next week on July 24, the ISS makes a low pass around 9pm.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Second Wave of Observations

Another Clear night to Observe the Night Sky.

Last night I set up the LX90 again for another marathon of chasing stars. I also brought out an older Newtonian scope(6") to find out if it is still catching Photons. This Scope is from the Apollo era with some history. The fellow that donated it to our group used this scope with other NASA Engineers back in the 60s. The base stand is made of heavy metal with a clock motor(untested) and an antique swivel base. This turns out it be loose(will not hold the scope steady after positioning). This is a monster to lug around and most likely should be scrapped. Hell one of the those guys in that group most likely made this base. If we keep the scope.....must get a new tripod!? Found a few Stars to look at along with Jupiter and the moon, even though the cross hair is bent in the finder scope and not aligned with the tube. The good news is the mirror still catches light.


The Sky was Clear and Seeing=Good, with a breeze@ 9:15pm-/Aligned the LX90 with Vega and Antares. I was off some in the eyepiece. Did not use a compass....not Polar Aligned. [set up the Newtonion on the porch] @ 9:26 saw a flare about 45 degrees up/ S moving SE-this turn out to be weather satellite. @ 9:40 Dark enough now to see Polaris/ re-aligned: Vega and Antares

First Target: Hercules Cluster-M13, sharp and crisp in the eyepiece.

Followed by M92, the other globular cluster in Hercules

Went North to Urs Major and started a list of Double Stars to view:

The double star Mizar. Bright star with Alcor, always a great double to view

Marfik (Lambda Ophiuchi). a nice double in Ophiuchus

Cor Caroli- straight up tonight, nice tight double

Albireo- one of my favorites to find and observe any night

The following list from an on line Star list: some would not separate and others were below the tree line. The ones I did see were: Eps Sco, Alphekka, Nusakkaw, Theta Crb, Alshain,

Moved on to Antares in Scorpius, then tried to view M22 but it was still in the trees.

Nebulas on tonight's list: Used two Nebula filters/ LPR and Narrow Band filter. Both these filters made the nebula brighter and the background stars. not as overpowering.

M57- the Ring in Lyra, the translucent ring was clear and doughnut shape was clear

M17- the Swan, good defined shape and nebula was bright in the scope

M20- the Trifid, the shape was there but not as dense as the other nebulas

M8- the Lagoon, sharp large split nebula/

M27-the dumbbell, sharp distinct shape, filter really helps bring out a bright nebulosity.

Went up to M57 the Ring Nebula- slipped on the Nebula Filters (Narrow Band/LPR), these really make the nebulosity stand out and sets the surrounding stars back from the target. The Ring was sharp and translucent, sky was better tonight.
Navigated to Hershel's Garnet Star, a Varible Star: Red/Orange- Mu Cep in Cephius
@ midnight Jupiter was still climbing limbs in the treeline, I set up to run the multiple star file in the telescope: most did not separate but were interesting Stars to Observe.
Epsilon Cep, Eta Cep, Eta Cyg, Eta Dra, Eta Her, Gienah in Cygnus, IOT Aquili, Phi Oph, Sadar in Cygnus was very bright, Most of these were yellow stars and did not separate the companion star. Went to Gamma Del: this double is a favorite, two pinhole yellow/gold stars in the constellation Delphinus.

Took some time to locate the Coathanger, Cr399. Found it still floating on the line between Altair and Vega. Used Binoculars, had to brace myself on a wall of the house. It was straight up.

It was 12:48, The 6" Newtonian was set up on the porch and could now see Jupiter above the treeline. It was difficult holding the scope because it would slip down on the axis of the frame. This will need to be tightened or just get a newer tri-pod. However the optics were working, I had Jupiter and two moons in the eyepiece. Also observed the Moon in the trees.

@12:58 AM, I had Jupiter and two moons in the LX90, E----(GJ)----I
there was a black dot/ shadow(moon) between the center bands and was very near the left edge of the planet.
@1:12 AM, I found the Globular Clusters M15 and M2, both very good clusters in the scope.Went back to Jupiter, the moon was coming up in the East, in the trees. I located Neptune, the tiniest dot among a group of stars in the sky near Jupiter.
I sent the scope to NGC457: ET/Owl cluster in Cassiopeia
Found the Andromeda Galaxy where I left it last week. The oval shaped cotton ball was clear even in the moonlight. The core was visible.
Jupiter still had only two moons visible @2AM, shadow event was over and I was waiting for Callisto to show up.

@2:30 AM broken clouds were moving in that covered Jupiter and the moon. I put the LX90 to track Jupiter and then went in to rest. At 6:15AM I awoke to a partly cloudy sky and found 3 moons showing with Jupiter. E (J) G--I

What did I miss this cloudy morning?: GRS transit and the moon Ganymede transit on Jupiter, the Moon's Terminator had moved to more great craters and mountains. Venus and mars were visible /close together.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Go-To- Night, Jupiter and the Moon at Dawn

Broke out the LX90 last night and set up before Sunset. The Sky was Clear with a slight breeze and the seeing was Good. I brought out the digital Cameras and did some trial and error photos in the 8" Scope. I took several frames at different settings of Stars /Moon/ Jupiter. The Photo above was taken by the wife/ assistant, using her Nikon Coolpix-S550 digital, holding the camera steady near the eyepiece. (See description below)


Observed the sky at 9pm: Spotted Vega then Antares at 9:20
Aligned with these two and set the Go-To for the bright star Spica
9:30 targeted Mizar/ Dbl in Ursa Major then swung over to Albireo in Cygnus, bright Blue and gold. Up to the great cluster M13/sharp and clear in the eyepiece.
Back up to Vega. Sloohed to the Star Sabik in Ophiuchus/could not separate.
Went to Lyra and centered M57, the ring in the eyepiece.
I tried for M22 in Sagittarius but the cluster was still below the trees.
Jumped to Cygnus and the stars: Sadar, Eta Cyg and The Cyg.
Looked for Globular Cluster NGC6388 in Scorpius. It was in the trees.
@10:44 I stopped at Altair, then observed the Clusters M10 and M12.

Moved over to Antares still in the trees.
Went up to the Nebula M17, the Swan. The mis-shapened gas was long and tubular.
The double star, Gamma Del, in Delphinus was next in the scope: two tight golden/yellow stars.
Antares was clear of the branches @ 11:24/ then found the M4 cluster in Scorpius
Swung over to M22 in Sagittarius/ bright and clear
Sloohed to the Hershel Garnet Star in Cephus/ bright red-orange: tried some frames here.
@11:59 I looked at Cr399, the Coathanger-braced myself on the wall- used the binoculars
Jupiter was still below the trees
Went back to Albireo and tried some photos
@12:39 Jupiter was still in the trees
I put the Scope on Altair to track and went to Bed

@5:20AM- I moved the Scope to Jupiter, four moons were visible:
took some photos, made some notes

The Waning Gibbous Moon was bright as I focused the Scope on the Terminator with Craters and mountains near the dark line. South moving up are Craters Walter near darkened Crater Werner, Crater Regiomontanus, Crater Purbach leads to Brit, Thebit and "The Straight Wall" and off the the right is Crater Bullialdus. Moving North above the "Wall" are Craters Arzachel, Alphonsus and Ptolemaeus. The Crater Hershel leads to Copernicus, Crater Eratosethenes and the Apennine Mountains. Mountains Lead the way to Craters Autolycus, Aristillus, and Archimedes. The Caucasus and Alps Mountains cup the singular mountains Pico and Piton, ending with the Carter Plato.
Took several photos of the Moon and made some notes.

Sloohed back to Jupiter for a few more photos.
Venus was breaking the tree line but did not move the Scope toward that bright star:
Dawn was breaking...I shut down... end of session.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Endeavour Launch

Endeavour's launch was scrubbed again last night due to Thunder Storm activity in the area.

The Launch was re-scheduled for 6:51 tonight at the cape. STS 127 hopefully will get on it's way after all this weather delay.

More bad Weather in the area called for another Scrub. Next opening... Wednesday evening

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Star Gazing Event was " A Go"

The Group's Star Gazing Event at the Lake was "A GO" last night. And according to Larry, there were four scopes working, with a good bunch of folks at the site asking a lot of questions about the night sky. Clouds did hang on until dark but finally broke to a Clear Sky. Goes down as one of the better/succesful nights at the site.
This is a round up of what we can see this week. The Video is in Mountain Time.

Tonight Endeavour is to Launch and head to the Space Station: @6:13 PM

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Observing Two Planets in Moonlight

After returning home from the Scobee Observatory Trip, late last night I set up to Observe the sky and sight in Jupiter and Neptune. At 10:30PM, I set up the DOB and targeted Scorpius. zeroed in on M4 near Antares. The Moon was not up yet, so I had a Clear Sky with good seeing. Jumped over to Sagittarius and put M22 in the eye piece. Hopped to the double star Albireo then up to M57, the Ring nebula in Lyra. Rested a bit then came out at 12:30AM. Moon was up and to the Left of Jupiter. Sighted in Jupiter and saw 3 Moons:


Io was in transit across the large Planet showing a shadow moving between the Southern and Middle Band. I have observed this type of transit on Jupiter several times in the past. The Shadow transit ended at 1:54 AM. The moon transit ended at 2:43 AM. Always a Cool Event to watch.

Jupiter was passing 0.6 degrees South of Neptune. This is the second pass of a triple conjunction between Jupiter and Neptune. Both Planets could be seen through the eyepiece. Neptune was dimmer, 8th magnitude, and the star Mu Capricorni ( 5th magnitude) was set between the two planets. Neptune was smaller, had a slight blueish hue to it.

To finish off the early morning Observation, the Great Red Spot (GRS), moved across the South band of the Planet at 2:25 AM. That makes Two sightings of this event in one week! In spite of the glare from a fat waning gibbous Moon, I was able to Observe multiple objects and events. Made some notes and sketches. Took some digital frames. By far one of my most memorable nights and a good night with the Telescope!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Trip to the Scobee Planetarium

The past Week saw a triple digit heat wave. The heat lingered into the night but we did see some clear skies. It is Week's End and Time to review Events for next week:

Tammy's Skywatchers Weekend Forecast/
Sky and Telescopes Week at a Glance/
Abrams Night Sky Notes
Next Saturday, July 18: photo op Venus, Mars, moon and cluster

CalSky noted Io would transit Jupiter early Saturday Morning, a chance to follow the shadow of this moon on the face of the Giant Planet.

Took time this evening to go the Scobee Planetarium located in the Big City. I have been to the Planetarium several times but never had the chance to sit through a show. Took in one show, the IBEX Mission "To the Edge of the Solar System". Among the large group viewing the show was a Mission Engineer from Southwest Research Institute. They helped put the craft together. The twenty minute show had cool graphics of the launch and release to orbit. Also Great graphics that showed the workings of our Solar Sytem related to the Heliosphere. The benches were not too comfortable and triple digit heat outside made the packed domed room... "warm". Finally got a chance to see the new 10" Refractor in the Obsevatory. Brian Tobias (SAAS) was part of the Scobee Staff and when the 9 pm show started, he opened the building where the Scope was housed. He tried to answer queries from the group taking the tour. They were the folks that could not get into the last show. The 11 foot long Scope was resting Horizontal under a closed roll off roof. We left after Brian mentioned that due to the wind tonight, they most likely would not set up for viewing. The Scobee Closes in August then reopens in September. The Show for the fall will be "Exoplanets".

We stopped for Coffee and a roll at Jim's up the street from the Planetarium. Times have changed. I used to live blocks from here and work downtown in the early 7os. The Coffee is still good but the service and the roll were "not so good".

Moon, Jupiter and ISS in the clouds

Early this morning(4am) I trekked outside and the clouds covered most of the sky. I could see the Moon shining through a moving blanket.

At 5 AM I set up the camera. The Clouds were breaking some but still in command of the Sky. When the area cleared a bit around the Moon, I took a few frames.

I set up the DOB and aimed at Jupiter: C-------G------(J)I E

Io on the rim of the Planet, had just reappeared from occultation.

I missed the ISS pass. At the 5:21 AM run, I was looking at Clouds covering the area, with some breaks that cleared, but clouds quickly covered Jupiter and the area again. My observing partner who was consentrating on the area and briefly saw the dim moving star. Just too many Clouds!

Tonight: Jupiter shines to the right of the bright Moon this evening. A telescope or large, steadily supported binoculars will show the 5th-magnitude star Mu Capricorni ¼° north-northwest of Jupiter, and 7.8-magnitude Neptune ¼° north of that. The three form a little curving arc — a good chance to identify Neptune with not much effort — if, that is, you can see it through the moonlight!.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

International Space Station gliding by

Last night the Space Station (the ISS) made a visible pass over the backyard @ 20:54 high in the SSE. The orbiting ship glided high over in a still day lit sky. The wife took a video with her small camera as I watched it arc across our backyard. More chances to view this bright star as it is listed on the Heavens Above web site. Just might get a chance to see Endeavour chase the station as it catches up after liftoff this Saturday.

This time of year the Moon is still below the trees in SE at 10PM from my backyard. Last night I saw Antares and the stars in the head of the Scorpion. I saw Vega but not the stars in the Harp and I can see Deneb with the three wing stars of Cygnus. Altair is above the trees in the East. The Summer Triangle proclaiming our daily triple digit temperatures.

SciFi on TV Tonight: Contact
1997 Science Fiction drama adopted from Carl Sagan novel. Young SETI Scientist moves from Arecibo (Puerteo Rico) to Very Large Array (New Mexico) searching for signal. Finds a Signal from Vega at the VLA. Turns into Government control problems but ends up with a ride in a Space traveling machine from plans sent by signal. No evidence of journey after the ride and 18 hours of static left on file leaves SETI searching for more signals.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thank you Thunder Moon

Last night Thick Clouds covered the Sky. Just before dawn, when the Thunder Moon was full, we did get Thunder and some Rain. Thank you Thunder Moon! Today I discovered this Radio Show: "Star Talk". The Show is based in New York... Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses all things Astronomy. The hour long Show is Live Sunday afternoons with guests and call - in guests. This past Sunday he discussed the "Science of Star Trek". Capture those Radio Waves, Connect on line and Listen for a while. When I am not watching the Sky, I'll go back, reconnect again next week. They also have a few Archived Shows I missed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bright Moon...almost Full

Last night the large gibbous moon was still in the trees at 10pm. There were some clouds drifting around and I could see Antares. The Harp and the Swan were glidding higher in the East. I wonder what new planets will be found in this part of Galaxy tonight? Sagittarius was washed in Moonlight. You will see no Stars pointing to the Center of the Galaxy tonight! Tuesday's Full moon is the Thunder Moon. The forecast for tonight and tomorrow is a chance for rain...maybe we will get some of the wet stuff, along with the thunder

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Holiday Weekend

I ended the week with Observing the Sky and the bright moon as the clouds rolled in last night.
It is time to review the events ahead for the next week. Start with Tammy's Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast and a look at Sky and Telescopes Week at a Glance. A new month, so it is time to download the July Charts and check all the Constellations that will be in view.

Today the LRO Blog posted a Video of the June 29 fly over, taken with the LROC
Forecast is for Clouds to roll back in Sunday night.
Full Thunder Moon, Tuesday July 7, 09:21 UT, 04:21 CDT
Moon near Jupiter around midnight July 9-10
Jupiter has all four moons on the right side morning of July 10
The Great Bear is higher at dark and in view in backyard.
The Swan and the Harp are higher this week.
Cr399 is still hanging on that line from Vega to Altair
Planets and events at Jim Kaler's highlights:
Astrocast.TV July Episode

Friday, July 3, 2009

Jupiter's Moons and the Great Red Spot


The Sky was clear and seeing was good. 10"DOB - Backyard

I woke up early Friday morning to observe and the moons of Jupiter. The bright Planet was above the trees at 2:30 AM and I sighted three moons in my first observation. The bands were visible and the moons were positioned - horizontal with the planet: C----- E (J)----- G.

I looked around for Neptune, but could find the planet. While I waited for Io to reappear, I swung East to the Andromeda Galaxy. I first found the Box of the constellation Pegasus, followed the trail of stars to the floating Mass in Andromeda. This view was not too clear as the Galaxy was still low in the sky, above the trees.

Came back out and Jupiter had four moons at 4 am: C -----E I(J) -----G.

I went back to the Andromeda Galaxy. This time the shape was sharper/clearer and the area around the galaxy was darker. The core was bright, centered in my eyepiece.

At 5:45 AM Jupiter still had four moons: C ------E I(J) ------G
It was time for the GRS event: Zooming in to a stronger 8mm setting, I observed that large eye, the Great Red Spot, as it began to move across the South Equatorial Belt (band)of the planet. Dawn was breaking. Made some notes, reviewed shots taken with the digital camera at the eyepiece.

End Session 5:55 AM... Breakfast!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Clouds broke, found the Wall

Thought I would have to store the scopes and break out the charts and books. For the next couple of days the forecast read "Clouds" will dominate the sky. That High Omega dome has moved west and we have a chance, a slim chance, for some showers.

The first Quarter Moon is moving higher in the night sky and last night, when I stepped outside after the 10 o'clock news, there was a break in the clouds and I saw the Moon. I pulled out the DOB to catch a glimpse of the craters and mountains along the Terminator. In the eye piece the Terminator ran close to the plain where the crater Brit was resting. There, in sharp contrast was the Black Line they call Huygens Sword. This unique feature stands out for a couple of days just after First Quarter Moon. I used the Zoom on the lens for a closer look and stayed a while looking up, down, East and West along the fault. We took a few snap shots the digital camera through the eyepiece.

Left the Moon and Spica and went east to Cygnus , sighted in the head of the Swan- Albireo, Beta Cygni A and B. A is the primary member of the system, a golden yellow- 3rd magnitude star. The companion star B, is a fainter 5th magnitude blueish star. B orbits around A -every 600 years with a separation of 34 arcseconds. Easily separated in small scopes.