Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grey Skies- Bright Moon Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finding the LCROSS Impact Crater

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

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

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

Forecast: Mostly Cloudy

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Fair, Bright Moon

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

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

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

There is Water on the Moon?

In several reports out today, a group of scientists have confirmed that there is water on the Moon! In ever so small amounts(one quart per ton of soil). Current evidence indicates that water content is higher at greater depths. Research from two orbiting Moon Missions have positive results. These combined with the Cassini pass report: Yes, there is Water on the Moon.

Other news from Cyberspace: MESSENGER will fly-by Mercury a final time and The new ALMA Telescope dish take a ride on the High Road. NASA has set the launch for the Ares I Rocket Test to October 27.

If the Clouds break tonight: Star Hop to the Andromeda Galaxy and look for bright Venus early in the morning, six degrees to the lower left of the star Regulus.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cloudy, Cooler Nights

The first day of Fall brought cloudy skies, cooler temperatures and some well needed rain. The two sun spots on our finally active sun, have been hiding behind heavy cloud cover. The day past our Autumnal Equinox started with a feeling that fall has arrived.

News from Cyberspace: Saturn's Equinox captured by Cassini, Chandra has observed the Center of Galaxy with a deep X-Ray image.

If the Clouds break tonight: The Waxing Moon is close to Antares

Monday, September 21, 2009


Finally the tilt of our Planet will be complete Tuesday, time to hug a tree! The Autumnal Equinox has arrived. Sep 22, 4:18 PM And coincidentally, the forecast is for cooler temperatures with a chance of Rain!

Discovery, riding atop a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 12:05 p.m. EDT, ending the two-day, 2,500-mile ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

News from Cyberspace: Why is Mars Red? New Study Offers Surprises

If the Clouds break tonight: Fastest sunsets around equinox time

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: More Grey Skies

The forecast is: a chance of rain and cloudy skies. Once again time to break out the books and review what is suppose to be in the sky. Tammy gives us a few targets in her Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast. Sky and Telescope points out events for the next couple of nights:

Juno will be near Uranus and Monday evening the GRS will go across Jupiter @ 9:30 CDT

News from Cyberspace: LRO Team Reviewing First Water Data, Shuttle Discovery flushes waste water in Space

Friday, September 18, 2009

Monthly Group Meeting

Last night eight persons interseted in Astronomy sat at a table and discussed earthly things but not so much events in the sky. Topics ranged from where/when we will continue to meet to Star Parties and will we have enough scopes for Public Events. Not a large turnout but important issues were covered. When we left the building the sky was broken with Clouds. Jupiter was visible before a cloud covered him. Arcturus with the handle of the dipper was visible in the NW, the Scorpian and the Tea Pot were visible in broken clouds.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Moon Grey Skies

Clouds are slowly moving in and continue to cover our sky. I missed the crescent moon and Venus this morning. I did catch a bright Jupiter in a hazy sky last night.

This afternoon the Japanese Cargo HTV-1 will be captured by the ISS arm. NASA will cover the capture on NASA TV around 2:30 pm CDT. Tonight if the Clouds break look for Asteroid Juno near the Planet Uranus. This is the brightest Juno will be until 2018! Friday brings a New Moon @ 1:44 pm.

News from Cyberspace:
With a list of new exoplanets, a New Drake Equation has been posted.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Cloud Cover

I missed the photo-op this morning with Venus and the Crescent Moon! Clouds covered my Portal to the Sky. The Forecast through the weekend is for more Clouds to form above us and maybe more rain. We can look forward to dark, cloudy skies! Soooo, back to the books and review whats up there.

There is News on a scheduled December launch of WISE: The Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer and The Hunt for Dark Asteroids.
Other News: Best Ever View of Andromeda in Ultraviolet
Smallest Expoplanet Yet Has Rocky Surface
Haumea and It's Dark Red Spot Video

If the Clouds do break Tonight: Hazy pyramid of light in east? False dawn.
Bright Vega shines just west of the zenith after dark. Arcturus, equally bright, shines moderately low in the west. A third of the way from Vega down to Arcturus is the dim Keystone of Hercules. Two-thirds of the way down, look for the mostly-dim semicircle of Corona Borealis.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 11:23 p.m. EDT.
Thursday, A very thin old crescent Moon is below Venus. Look to the east one hour before sunrise.
Friday, Saturn was in conjunction with the Sun yesterday. Therefore, Saturn is not visible. For the past many months, Saturn has been part of the evening sky. It's now transitioning to a morning object. Saturn will reappear near the end of the month. Start Looking for Saturn around the 27th, low in the east. There will be a nice gathering of Saturn, Mercury and Venus on the 10th of October.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coming Events...If the Clouds Break

Tuesday, September 15, 2009- Jupiter's moon Io will pass in front of Jupiter's moon Europa between 8:42 and 8:50 p.m. EDT. Jupiter's moons can easily be seen with most telescopes and good binoculars. A bit later, from 10:10 to 10:20 pm EDT, Io's shadow will pass over Europa. Look for Jupiter in the southeast. It's shining very bright at dusk.
If the clouds break Tonight:

Wednesday: Moon, Venus in east before sunrise September 16

The thin crescent Moon is very close to the planet Venus. Look for Venus and the Moon in the morning sky. The pair will be in the east. The star Regulus is 5° below Venus.

News on the Asteroid front: Craters on Vesta and Ceres Could Show Jupiter's Age
News on the James Webb Telescope

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Satellites bring Alternate Season

Each year when summer is ending and there is a hint of fall in the night air, Satellite signals are turned to earth and the air is filled with sporting events beamed from Football Arenas to our TVs. Professional and College Football Season starts today. Tonight the stadiums will fill the night sky with lights in certain metro areas, making it harder to view a dark sky. College and Pro Teams will face off in open or domed arenas to fight for the honor of the WIN. Years ago, we would get maybe one or two games on the black and white TV on the weekend. Now, with the use of Satellites, the games we watch on TV seem endless, on Jumbo flat screens and in High Definition. The advancements in technology I have witnessed in my lifetime are truly amazing. Satellites are just one of many in the past two decades!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Waning Moon, Cloudy Skies

The Good News is that Clouds and Rain are still covering Texas Skies in our area. The Bad News is that we still cannot view a clear night sky. Moonlight is no longer a problem but clouds rule!
Larry cancelled the Group SP at the YBJS Park Saturday night with no raincheck scheduled.

The cloudy weekend forecast will make it difficult to view stars over my sky, but Tammy covers several targets in the Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast: Mars, the waning Moon, Globular Cluster M56 and The Blinking Planetary Nebula.

Discovery Landed in California Friday evening. A You Tube Video places it on the ground at Edwards AFB. The Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle was launched and should arrive at the ISS Thursday.

Mark your calendar for October 9....More LCROSS Crater Impact information are covered in an Sky and Telescope article and noted in the news article from Universe Today.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Discovery Landing, LCROSS Crater Chosen

Finally, Rain showers here....and in Florida. The Rain at the Cape has delayed the landing of Discovery until this afternoon. First attempt is at the Cape is 2:47pm CDT. If showers hang around, the Shuttle will land at Edwards AFB in California Friday evening.

The LCROSS team announced Wednesday that Cabeus A will be the target crater for the LCROSS dual impacts scheduled for 7:30 a.m. EDT on Oct. 9, 2009.
They selected Crater Cabeus A based on a set of conditions that include proper debris plume illumination for visibility from Earth, a high concentration of hydrogen, and mature crater features such as a flat floor, gentle slopes and the absence of large boulders. "The selection of Cabeus A was a result of a vigorous debate within the lunar science community that included review of the latest data from Earth-based observatories and our fellow lunar missions Kaguya, Chandrayaan-1, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principle investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "The team is looking forward to the impacts and the wealth of information this unique mission will produce."

For more information about the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite Mission and images of Cabeus A, visit:

If the clouds break tonight: A Close up on Perseus

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Breaking News....Rain Showers, Hubble's New Photos

We missed the Shuttle/ISS double fly by last night, too many clouds. The area finally received some Rain this morning! High percent of Rain is forecast througout the coming weekend. This means the Larry's Event scheduled for Saturday will be a No-Go, for me!

No luck looking at stars but the Hubble finally started posting new pictures and they are Great!!! The orbiting Telescope released photos from all six science instruments. Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to land Thursday at 6:05 pm CDT.

Interesting article that covers types of Telescopes for Amatuer Astronomers was posted today from Universe Today.

If the clouds break: The Moon and Pleiades are out late at night Thursday and Friday

Monday, September 7, 2009

Clear Sky before Dawn...some Cloudy Nights

Expecting more clouds in the evenings, it has been clear and cool in the early morning hours. Clear enough to view the Constellation Orion that has greeted me the past couple of mornings, as he rests abover the Treeline around 4:30AM. The Bright Dog star Sirius and Venus shine at Tree level. Mars is running higher in the Sky this month, not very bright, but red enough to see with naked eye. Also visible, the Gemini Twins with nearby Taurus and red Aldebaran drifting below the Seven Sisters looking down from the Top of the Sky. A hint of fall early in the morning; is it possible we may get a real Cold Front early this year?

The Shuttle Discovery will lock up today and undock from the ISS Tuesday. Friday, after Discovery lands, JAXA will launch a H-II Transfer Vehicle to the Outpost on September 11.

If the clouds break tonight: Look for Orion's belt to point to Sirius

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cloudy Nights for the Holiday weekend

With the Clouds blanketing the Stars, a review of upcoming events and selecting charts to navigate the next trip to the universe in on the table. Andromeda is finally in view and the Double Cluster is position to put in the eyepiece.

News of the first pictures from Hubble: In just six days, NASA will release the first images from the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope. Countdown to Brand New Hubble Images

Early morning sights: Venus in the East, the bright Moon and Jupiter in the West.
If the clouds break, Look for a day time Moon!

Stadium Lights will begin to brighten the Night Sky... Football Season Started last Thursday.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon...Cloudy

Forecast for the Weekend....Clouds and maybe some rain? There is still NO SUNSPOT ACTIVITY on the Sun! What affect is the sunspot cycle having on Global Warming? There is also a Full Moon filling the night sky with moon beams of light. Good luck spoting DSOs.

If you missed the Jupiter Moon Event (no Moons), our friend in Austin got some shots the night it happened. This is the time period of Saturn's Ring Plane Crossing. My dark Sky Blog covers the Event. LRO comes through again with another photo of the Apollo 12 landing site.

Tammy discusses several targets in her Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast. She points out the Full Corn Moon, A pair of stars Omicron 1 Cygni, items in Vulpecula and what to look for in the next few nights with Jupiter's Moons.

STS 128 is in Flight Day 8. Will complete third EVA Saturday evening. NASA announced today an additional Module will be added on the last flight to the ISS using a modified MPLM, "Raffaello".

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Orion before dawn

Good chance of showers tonight/tomorrow and into the Labor Day weekend. Early this morning I viewed Orion laying over the tree line. Spica and Venus were bright and just at the tree line. I missed the ISS fly by at 6:33 AM. I will get more chances in the next couple of days. I was watching Shuttle Flight Day 5 Highlights, in HD, when I realized the Ship would be sailing over head! The 13 member crew will complete a Second EVA today.

News on the Net Today: Andromeda Galaxy is eating the neighborhood, What was the bright Star next to the Moon Last night?, Bouncing, rolling stones on the Moon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Star Fields, Darker Skies

Took a recon trip to Pedernales Falls State Park, near Johnson City yesterday. Several Amateur Astronomers have mentioned the area to set up and observe the sky from this dark sky site. The site itself is a flat grassy area, close to the Bird Blind and the Horse Corral. Will have to confirm an overnight Camp out, because the park closes at 10. Had lunch in Johnson City and toured the Hill Country, came back through Kyle.

Last night Jupiter was left of the Moon. It is a waxing moon near Jupiter.


Tonight Jupiter will appear alone, NO MOONS. Look between 11:30 and 1:25 AM Thursday. This will not happen again until November 2019.

As we move to a Full Moon on Friday, keep watch for the star U Scorpii to super nova! Predicted to blow sometime this year.