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.