Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Clear Nights, Bright Moon; Halloween

Strong Cold Front has cleared the air for evening Moon gazing. The Moon will be almost full for Ghosts and Goblins Halloween night. The Full Moon is Monday, 1:14 PM CST.
Tonight: The star Spica is 6° to the lower right of Venus. Look low in the ESE 45 minutes before sunrise. Next week, Venus will pass Spica. The Moon can guide you to Great Square of Pegasus. Mars is closely west of the Beehive star cluster. Look for Mars in the high in the sky at dawn. Mars is now rising around midnight. The red planet is currently 110 million miles from Earth. Be on the lookout this evening for Martians, knocking on doors, looking for candy.

News from Cyberspace: There is a A Single Sunspot on the Sun-"2009 Total" is the total number of days and the percentage of days in 2009 that the sun has been blank. The 100-year record for a full year is 311 spotless days (85%) in 1913.
Arex I-X Launches Successfully
Supernova 2009js… Another One Bites The Dust! Far away in the constellation of Aries, in a 14th magnitude barred spiral galaxy designated as NGC 918… a star exploded with enough candlepower to briefly outshine its home.
Telescopes Open Up the Jewel Box-Nothing in my jewelry box compares to the Kappa Crucis Cluster, also known as NGC 4755 or simply the “Jewel Box.” This object is just bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Cloud Cover Tonight

Pacific air will cause the skies to be Covered as Clouds move in for the next couple of days. Another Cold Front is due in Friday night and should give our area a Clear Night for Halloween, Saturday evening.

News from Cyberspace: The Farthest Galaxy Cluster Yet Measured-JKCS041 is seen at redshift 1.9, corresponding to nearly one billion light years further than the previous record holder.
The Ares 1-X launch team has decided to focus in on the best period of predicted weather, and now target a liftoff at 11 a.m. EDT. Weather Officer Kathy Winters' evaluation of the trends, based on weather reconnaissance flights, indicate the troublesome upper-level clouds should clear enough to go "green" during that time, with only a 20 percent chance of violations. That would start the countdown clock at 10:56 a.m.
A 10-meter wide asteroid hits Earth and explodes in the atmosphere with the energy of a small atomic bomb."The explosion triggered infrasound sensors of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) more than 10,000 km away," report researchers Elizabeth Silber and Peter Brown of the Univ. of Western Ontario in an Oct. 19th press release.This happened on Oct. 8th around 11 am local time in the coastal town of Bone, Indonesia.
The asteroid that caused the blast was not known before it hit and took astronomers completely by surprise. According to statistical studies of the near-Earth asteroid population, such objects are expected to collide with Earth on average every 2 to 12 years. "Follow-on observations from other instruments or ground recovery efforts would be very valuable in further refining this unique event," say Silber and Brown.

If the Clouds break Tonight: As Halloween approaches, find the Ghoul Star. Mars is just west of the Beehive star cluster, M-44. Watch Mars move closer to the cluster over the next few days. Mars will pass through the cluster on November 1st. The Beehive is in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bad Weather Scrubbed Ares1-X Launch

Cold, North Winds have cleared the skies over my backyard for next few nights! Clouds and winds have forced a delay in the first experimental test flight of the hardware NASA is developing to replace the space shuttle. The next try for the Ares 1-X rocket blastoff would be 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center's modified pad 39B.

News from Cyberspace: MESSENGER Solves Solar Flare Mystery
The MESSENGER spacecraft was able to capture a average-sized solar flare, allowing astronomers to study high-energy solar neutrons at less than 1 astronomical unit (AU) from the sun for the first time. When the flare erupted on Dec. 31, 2007.

If the Clouds break Tonight: Moon and Jupiter still close on October 27. The crater Copernicus is easily visible near the lunar terminator. Copernicus stands out as a big deep crater in an otherwise smooth area of the Moon. Look for this 60 mile diameter crater with a small telescope. The waxing gibbous Moon is to the upper left of Jupiter in the SSE evening sky.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quarter Moon and A Cloudy Sky

Yesterday was the First Quarter Moon. Nights will become brighter this week. A Cold front moved through this morning and turned on the rain showers for next 24 hours. " We need the rain to bust the drought"!
Tonight, if the clouds break: The waxing gibbous moon is to the upper right of Jupiter. Look to the SSE sky at dusk. A telescope aimed at the Moon shows the Straight Wall. The Straight Wall appears as a dark line on the Moon. It's a 70 mile long fault line formed from a moonquake in the ancient past.

Get ready for " The Hunter", Orion: Stay up till about 10 p.m. Wednesday night(depending on where you live in your time zone) and you'll find the bright winter constellation Orion already making his appearance low in the east. Above Orion glares orange Aldebaran. Above Aldebaran are the fingertip-size Pleiades.

News from Cyberspace: Asteroid, Satellite, Meteor or HOAX ? A hole 66 feet wide and 30 feet deep was made after impact-Meteorite Impact in Latvia Creates 20-Meter Crater

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Ares Rocket Will Launch Early Tuesday Morning

The rocket Ares, that will carry the Constellation Program, will test launch Tuesday October 27 Launch Day - Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 7Am CDT.
1 a.m. - Launch countdown officially begins (not televised)
5 a.m. - Live launch commentary begins on NASA TV
8 a.m. – Launch

If the Clouds Break tonight: A look ahead at Events in the Sky

Saturday, October 24, 2009 Jupiter is shining bright in the SSE sky at dusk. Mars, Saturn and Venus are part of the morning sky. Venus is low in the ESE at dawn. Saturn is 12° to the upper right of Venus. Mars is high in the dawn sky in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.

Sunday, October 25, 2009 Mars is about 3° west of the Beehive star cluster. This week, watch Mars move closer to the cluster. By the end of the week Mars will be within the Beehive. Look for the cluster with binoculars in the faint constellation of Cancer the Crab.

Monday, October 26, 2009 The waxing gibbous moon is to the upper right of Jupiter. Look to the SSE sky at dusk. A telescope aimed at the Moon shows the Straight Wall. The Straight Wall appears as a dark line on the Moon. It's a 70 mile long fault line formed from a moonquake in the ancient past.

News from Cyberspace: Missions to Mars Poster
A Podcast about Stars… those hot balls of plasma across the distant Universe. The close ones, the bright ones, the massive ones, the giant ones. Let's get to know some famous stars.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home School Astronomy Class

Two of us discussed and reviewed Astronomy at a Home School Class Friday Morning. Home schooling is becoming popular and growing in our area. Larry and I met with a small Astronomy Class in Garden Ridge Friday morning. Took a bunch of Beginner handouts for the group of students. Ages 8 -11. Reviewed the Night Sky, Planets and what could be seen. Discussed Planetspheres and Meteorite Showers. Went over Constellations. Included in handout to the students: Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (downloaded (from Sky and Telesope).
Had a lively Q and A for thirty minutes. Great Class and a Great bunch of kids.

Monthly Group Gathering

This month we met at TJ's restaraunt last night, since the Church building will not be used after this Spring. Nine persons sat and discussed upcoming and past events in the sky and will meet again November 19 at TJ's. Also discussed next Shuttle Atlantis launch, delayed until November 16. Reviewed the upcoming Leonids peaking November 17. I saw the Crescent Moon and Jupiter on the drive home in a clear sky.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Orionids Lost Behind Cloudy Sky

Pacific Hurricane Rick , now downgraded TS Rick,moving east across Mexico will bring Cloudy skies and a good chance of Rain here Wednesday, then another cold front pushes through on the way to the coast. The current Meteor Shower will come in behind the Clouds. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday, Oct. 21st, with dozens of meteors per hour. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise. For best results, get away from city lights.The Orionid meteor shower, caused by debris from Halley's comet, peaks this week. Science@NASA has the full story. Orionid meteor galleries: 2006, 2008.

News from Cyberspace: Space Shuttle Loses Battle of Launch Dates
It's the old shuttle shuffle. The launch of Atlantis for the STS-129 mission has been pushed back by four days to November 16 (at 2:28 pm EDT) to accommodate two unmanned rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, as well as the inaugural launch of the Ares I-X, scheduled for October 27. Right now the shuttle launch window lasts one day – the 16th. A second launch attempt on November 17 is being negotiated with a Delta IV launch, but NASA will stand down the 18th for the Leonid Meteor Shower (NASA won't launch the shuttle into a shooting gallery), so if weather or technical issues don't allow liftoff then, the next window opens from December 6-14. But there are issues with that time frame, too.

HARPS Discovers 32 New Exoplanets

Opportunity Discovers Still Another Meteorite! Find It on Google Mars

Ares I-X at the Launchpad

Sci-Fi on DVD Tonight: Transformers 2- Revenge of the Fallen
Optimus Prime and the Autobots vs the Decepticons...
Action packed film with more information to where these "bots" come from and a reference to Astronomy 101.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Group Event

The North air has cleared the skies for evening star gazing. The Group will gather at friend Robin's drive way this evening. I will not attend the event, due to back problems SN and PN just do not mix). But Larry noted that several others from the group will set up at the event. They will have lots to observe, just look at the Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – October 16-18, 2009: The forecast lists a number of objects to observe starting with the Moon and Morning planets Friday and Saturday morning. The closest deep-sky study to Cas A is the dense and compact open cluster NGC 7510. A revisit to M39 and use it as our touchstone to seek out other deep-sky gems. The 12th magnitude ‘‘Cocoon Nebula. Sunday, October 18, 2009 – is a New Moon! It’s galaxy-hunting time, and a destination for tonight is the Hickson Compact Group 87.

Speaking of the Moon, LCROSS Impact did have a "plume" that was captured on film: Moon Crash Plume Visible to Spacecraft But Not Earth Telescopes-Nine science instruments on board the LCROSS spacecraft captured the entire crash sequence of the Centaur impactor before the spacecraft itself impacted the surface of the moon.

Other News from Cyberspace: On Friday, 13 November, 2009, at 07:46 UT, ESA's Rosetta satellite will make her third (and final) swing-by of Earth....There is a great photo of a Crescent Earth taken from Rosetta Satellite.

If you are up early and it is still clear: Sunday, October 18, 2009- Saturn is 6° above and to the right of Venus. Mercury is about 9° below Venus and to the left. Look 45 minutes before sunrise in the east.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn Nights

Last night around ten o'clock, the sky was clear,warm and muggy....I stepped out on the porch and observed the Autumn Sky. Jupiter was high to the SW. The moons of Jupiter:
G--E-------(J)---CI
Straight above the horizon was Pegasus sailing above Andromeda and off the the left I saw Cassiopeia above the tree line. Cygnus was already moving behind the roof of the house. The Sky was not dark and seeing was not the best. The stars were dim, not very bright! I left the scope covered. It is almost time for Taurus and Orion to show themselves in the evening sky; in another month they will. Early this morning a Crescent Moon looked down on Venus.

Spaceweather.com posted this today: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has pinpointed the wreckage of a spacecraft that crashed into the Moon. No, it wasn't LCROSS, which hit the floor of crater Cabeus last week. This crash site is much older: Thirty-eight and a half years old, to be exact. The crater was formed on February 4, 1971, by the impact of Apollo 14's Saturn IVB booster rocket. NASA intentionally guided the rocket into the lunar surface to provide a signal for seismometers deployed by Apollo astronauts. The experiment yielded new information about the Moon's interior structure. Over the years, NASA and other international space agencies have peppered the Moon with dozens of spacecraft--usually on purpose, although not always--and by doing so gained considerable experience with the results of lunar impacts. Researchers tapped into that experience when they predicted bright flashes and debris plumes for the crash of LCROSS. Imagine their surprise when the flashes and plumes failed to materialize! To the human eye, LCROSS and its Centaur booster rocket simply disappeared into the inky depths of Cabeus with no obvious evidence of impact. The solution to this mystery probably lies in data beamed back to Earth by LCROSS in the last minutes before impact. Scientists are crunching the numbers, and it may be days or weeks before results are known. Stay tuned.

Other new from Cyberspace: STS 129 Atlantis is rolled to the launch pad for a November 12 countdown.

If the clouds break tonight: Moon, Venus will highlight October 16 and 17 morning skies. The old crescent Moon is to the right of Venus. Look to the east 45 minutes before sunrise for the thin crescent. Saturn is 3.4° above Venus. Mercury is 8° below Venus.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Zero Sunspots, Clear Skies

October is a transition month. Weather patterns are mixed with Gulf and Pacific moisture and cold air from the North. Lots of Clouds with a few Clear nights thrown in. We may have a few Clear nights ahead? Tomorrow another front will bring cooler days with Clear and colder nights.

The Sun is still not active and missing sunspots. Today, the sun is entering its 13th consecutive day without sunspots. Just a few years ago, such a stretch of blank suns would have been unthinkable. Now it's routine. So far this year, the sun has been spotless 79% of the time, topping the 73% mark recorded in 2008. Long after many forecasters thought solar minimum would be finished, the quiet is not only continuing, but actually deepening. Are sunspots gone for good? Researchers discuss the question in an article from Science@NASA.

News from Cyberspace: Asteroid Pallas is Also a Protoplanet. New close-up images of Pallas from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the second largest asteroid in the solar system appears to be a protoplanet, as well. New Hubble Release: Dramatic Galaxy Collision, Amazing Zoomable Poster on 50Years of Space Exploration, LRO Spots Apollo 14 Booster Crash Site on Moon.

If the Clouds Break: I'll be pointing the scope at Jupiter tonight. Tomorrow morning Mercury, Venus and Saturn span 10°. A thin crescent Moon is to the upper right of the planets. Look an hour before sunrise in the east.

Monday, October 12, 2009

El Niño Returns

The U.S. Weather Service predicted that El Niño would be in place and it is. The warming of Pacific waters is active again and will most likely bring more clouds and a warmer winter for our area through the new year. A lot of weather forecasters keep bringing up the similarity of 1998 Event. Of course it is just a prediction, but the El Niño pattern seems to have started. A weak El Niño continued during September 2009. El Niño is expected to strengthen and last through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-2010.
Expected El Niño impacts during October-December 2009 include enhanced precipitation over the central tropical Pacific Ocean. For the contiguous United States, potential impacts include above-average precipitation along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida. For night time Skywatchers in Texas this means less time with a telescope.

If the Clouds Break: Use Summer Triangle to find plane of Milky Way.
From Abrams Planetarium: Monday, October 12, 2009- Jupiter ends its retrograde motion today. Planets usually move west to east against the background stars. At times, when the Earth is passing a planet in its orbit, planets seem to move backwards, or east to west. Jupiter has been moving east to west since June. It's now going back to its normal prograde motion. Look for Jupiter in the south-southeast sky at dusk. Tuesday, October 13, 2009 -Venus passes 0.5° south of Saturn. Mercury is 7° below Venus and Saturn. Look to the east and hour before sunrise for the planet grouping. Mars is 60° to the west of Venus and Saturn.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Lunar Impact

The First Major Cold Front blew in early Friday morning. More rain and lots of Clouds. This made me miss viewing, with scope, the LCROSS Impact on the Moon. I did watch it on NASA TV, live, as it happened at 6:32 AM just as the front blew in. On the web: NASA's water-seeking LCROSS spacecraft and its Centaur booster rocket hit the floor of crater Cabeus this morning, but they did not make the kind of bright flashes many observers had hoped for. Some observers went so far as to call the event "a dud." In Sacramento, California, amateur astronomer Ed Lomeli had his telescope trained on Cabeus and he recorded nothing but static lunar terrain: "I was a little disappointed not seeing a flash and a plume. Maybe LCROSS hit mud!" he laughs. "I hope the spacecraft's cameras saw something we missed."
Indeed they did. When the Centaur hit the crater floor, infrared cameras onboard the LCROSS mothership recorded a flash of heat and spectrometers detected sodium in the debris cloud. The appearance of sodium was a surprise--perhaps the first of many to come from this unprecedented experiment. Mission scientists have not yet had a chance to fully examine the LCROSS spectra for signs of water, but "we will be working on this feverishly today," said mission leader Tony Colaprete at a post-impact NASA press conference.
The low brightness of the flash did not dim the enthusiasm of thousands of people around the world who stayed up late for lunar impact parties. At the Sci-Quest science museum in Huntsville, Alabama, about a hundred kids and parents gathered to watch the show. "We donned our party hats, blew our noise makers and waited for the impact," says science writer Dauna Coulter. NASA photographer David Higginbotham documented the scene:
"The actual footage was a bit of an anti-climax," notes Coulter, "but that didn't dampen the spirit of the attendees!"amateur images: from Paul Schneider of Tucson, Arizona; from Ed Lomeli of Sacramento, California; from Mike Broussard of Maurice, Louisiana

Hubble pointed it's eye toward the Moon.

Another site from Cyberspace carried this: Moon Impact Data and Images from LCROSS: First Glance

If the clouds break: review the Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – October 9-11, 2009
Galaxies NGC 7479, Caldwell 43, an Asteroid: Asteroid 3753. Another Galaxy: NGC 6822-Barnard’s Galaxy. Plus a collection of stars, the age-old mystery of M73.
Saturday, October 10, 2009 Venus, Saturn and Mercury are visible in the east at dawn. Saturn is 3.4° to the lower left of Venus. Mercury is 2.5° to the lower left of Saturn. Venus is the brightest at -3.8 magnitude. Mercury is shining at -0.8 magnitude. Saturn is the faintest at 1.1 magnitude.
Sunday, October 11, 2009 Mars is visible high in the morning sky. Mars is in a line with the twin stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. The Last Quarter Moon is to the west of Mars.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Moon is PrimeTarget this Week

A lot of telescopes will be pointed at the Moon early Friday Morning, if the clouds break. Waiting for LCROSS to impact the Crater Cabeus on the Southern tip of the South Pole. Here, over my backyard there are lots of Clouds and the forecast is for more Clouds. I may have to rely on the Internet or NASA TV to cover the Impact Event. There is a Star Party and Event at the White House tomorrow night. About 20 telescopes will be set up on the White House lawn focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars, and supporters of the International Year of Astronomy are encouraged to follow this event, and host their own star parties to follow the example set. There will be NO EVENTS here. We missed the planets this morning: Saturn was 8° to the lower left of Venus and Mercury was 6° to the lower left of Venus. Missed all three planets an hour before sunrise in the east. Saturn and Mercury were 2° apart. In two days they will be just 0.4° apart. More Mercury photos from Messenger made the News this week. A reminder Why Pluto is No Longer a Planet! In August 2006, astronomers from all over the world gathered at the 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague. Among other things, they reorganized our planetary system and agreed on the scientific definition of a planet. A reorganization had become necessary as an increasing number of heavenly bodies were being discovered beyond Pluto’s orbit that were about the same size as Pluto.

More News from Cyberspace: The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found a rock that apparently is another meteorite.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nuttin But Clouds...and Rain

Saturday brought heavy rain and nothing but Clouds covered the night sky. Sunday evening around 10pm, I did see a bright Moon between moving cloud cover. The Creeks flowed with raging water over the weekend. Just at 5 inches of well needed rain. My Server was down Sunday...No Internet connection all day! I did catch a few NFL football games from the Arenas and Domed Stadiums around the Country via Satellite(the birds flew interupted, around the world). The forecast for the coming week...continued chance of rain and mostly cloudy skies.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Harvest Moon lights up the night Sky

HARVEST MOON: This weekend's full Moon has a special name--the Harvest Moon. It's the full moon closest to the northern autumnal equinox (Sept. 23). In years past, farmers depended on the light of the Harvest Moon to gather ripening crops late into the night. That is 1:10 a.m. tomorrow morning in the central U.S. This Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast covers: Albireo, the planets, the moon and even Pluto, if that tiny god of the underworld still holds a place in your Solar System . . .and the sky! You can find it during the early evening around 18:02 in right ascension. Four planets are visible in the morning sky. Mars, Venus, Mercury and Saturn. Mars is high overhead near the stars Castor and Pollux. Venus, Mercury and Saturn are in a group low in the east. Look 45 minutes before sunrise. Saturn is 12° to the lower right of Venus. Mercury is 8° from Venus.

News from Cyberspace: NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has made a stunning discovery. Bigfoot is an extraterrestrial! His tracks have been found on Mercury:
MESSENGER took the picture during a flyby of Mercury on Sept. 29th. The giant paw print was just one of many wonders MESSENGER's cameras saw imprinted on thousands of square kilometers of previously unseen terrain. In this case, a cluster of small craters--"toes"--were by chance arranged in an arc above a stack of larger, partially overlapping craters--the "heel." MESSENGER also photographed a happy crater, a double crater, and a crater splash.Although early results from the flyby are dominated by pictures of craters, the spacecraft also made new measurements of Mercury's magnetic tornadoes and its comet-like tail. Mission scientists are still analyzing those data, which are more complicated than crater-snapshots and potentially much more interesting. Stay tuned for updates. Several websites carried new pictures from MESSENGER: Universe Today and Science Blog

LRO has given us a picture from the Past: The Surveyor 1 landing site on the Moon in 1966