Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Ends with a Full Moon

Cloudy, cold, wet nights this week kept us from seeing Stars. This 2009 New Year's Eve brings a bright "Blue Moon" that will light up the night sky. No Eclipse visible from our location. I observed the moon setting in the West early this AM. This morning there was a haze around the Orb with a chill in the night air.

The best of the past decade is closing with lots of high tech and Science advancements. We can Blog, Tweet,Text and Browse the Net from our mobile phones as well as from our laptops. High Def will be the visual norm soon. A definite move into the 21st Century. The worst of the past decade....In '06 Walking became a chore with mobility a bit more difficult. Maybe that's a good thing, I'm older and should be slower. Participated, with the group, in an "Astronomy Day" Event. The International Year of Astronomy was a catalyst to a lot of people this year. December closed with only "one" Star Gazing out reach event with the group and two outreach school class events.

As we move into 2010, I am hoping to view and observe a few Starry, Starry Nights. Look for advancements in Astronomy ; new discoveries in our Solar System , the Universe and Explore "Infinity and Beyond".

SciFi on DVD Tonight: District 9
Alien Bug(“Prongs”) Vessel is stuck and stranded for 20 years over South Africa.
This movie is Peter Jackson’s adaptation to the consequences dealing with issues of xenophobia and social segregation. V- G for violence and gore.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Past

Good Cheer to all and to all a Good Night....
A Trip to the big City Friday and a visit with family that included a great Xmas dinner. We had sunshine and compfortable chilly temps. Up near the Red River, they had a white Xmas! Blizzard conditions at Xmas. Sometimes it is great to live at our latitude and longitude.

I did manage to look up and observe bright stars and planets several times during the past week on very cold nights. Saturn, Mars and Venus in the AM/Jupiter and Mercury in the PM with a bright quarter moon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The week of Christmas

As the great yule tide cometh. there will be no time for postings or observations. The Tree is hung in red with blinking lights. We will be navigating the shopping malls for the next couple of days. A few very cold nights are forecasts in the week ahead. No Snow down here, but it will feel like Xmas. "Cold"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Clear Nights Ahead?

The last front pushed the Clouds away at least until Monday. I saw the new crescent moon Thursday night driving home from Bastrop. The Clouds were breaking just as the sun went down below the horizon. With a little luck we can see a few stars tonight and Sunday.

This weekend look for binary stars, a Galaxy and an Asteroid mentioned in the Skywatchers Forecast.
Tonight if it is Clear:
Look North at dusk for The Ursid meteor shower active the next few nights.
Sunday, Jupiter passes the planet Neptune by just a half a degree. Look for 8th magnitude Neptune to the upper right of Jupiter. Jupiter is easy to find in the evening sky. Look for -2nd magnitude Jupiter in the southwest sky after dark. Tonight the crescent Moon will be to the lower right of Jupiter. Use binoculars or a small telescope to see Neptune. Mars reaches its stationary point; it ceases its normal eastward motion against the stars and begins retrograding (moving westward), what with opposition hardly six weeks away.
The Winter Solstice arrives on Dec. 21st, Monday, at 1747 UT (12:47 EST). Thursday(Xmas Eve) is when it will be frosty here again.
Tuesday, The Ursid meteor shower peaks in the predawn hours. Watch the skies for shooting stars. At dusk, look for the waxing crescent Moon to the upper left of Jupiter. The Moon and Jupiter are in the SSW sky an hour after sunset.

News from Cyberspace:
Shapes Reveal Supernovae History
A "Polar Ring" For Christmas…
Earth's Upper Atmosphere is Cooling
Cassini Captures Sunshine Gleaming off Lake on Titan
Could there be Life on Jupiter and Saturn's Moons?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lots of Clouds!

We missed the Geminids last night! Just too much cloud cover, with a bit warmer temps. El Nino is in place and the predictions of a warmer and wetter winter seem to be true...so far.

In early evening this month, Fomalhaut, Jupiter, Altair, and Vega form a huge line of four bright points marching from the south-southwest to the northwest. Continue onward, and you quickly reach the head of Draco and then the bowl of the Little Dipper.
If the Clouds break Tuesday: Focus on the stars Betelgeuse and Rigel in Orion
Mercury is visible very low in the southwest during the mid-evening twilight. Look for Mercury 50 minutes after sunset. Mercury is about 40° to the lower right of Jupiter.

Wednesday, New Moon (exact at 7:02 a.m. EST).The Andromeda galaxy is visible overhead after dark. The Andromeda galaxy, also known as M-31, is the most distant object visible with the unaided eye. This spiral galaxy is about 2.5 million light-years away. The Andromeda galaxy is within the constellation of Andromeda the Princess. Look for Andromeda between the constellations of Pegasus and Cassiopeia.

News from Cyberspace:
Incredible New Hubble Image is Full of Stars!
Phaeton Place… Inside the Geminid Meteor Shower
Hubble Captures Birth, Annihilation of Young Solar Systems in Orion Nebula
WISE Launches to Begin All-Sky Survey (Video)
First Super-Earths Discovered Around Sun-like Stars
Galaxy Zoo is Expanding to Include a Whole New "Zooniverse"First (of many) Gorgeous Pictures from the New VISTA

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: Cloudy Nights Continue

Numerous Cold Fronts with over-riding Pacific moisture continue to roll down from the North, hiding the Sun and "The Stars". We may miss the Geminid Meteor Shower this Month!
If you have Clear Skies this Weekend: Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – December 11-13, 2009. The Geminid meteor shower peaks overnight Sunday. Watch for shooting stars this evening into the early morning hours of the 14th. The Geminids appear to radiate from the constellation of Gemini the Twins. The Moon is a thin old crescent so its brightness won't interfere with meteor watching. Monday, Look for the old thin Moon low in the southeast at dawn. The Moon is near the stars that form the head of Scorpius. Look for the Moon 45 minutes before sunrise.

News from Cyberspace: STS 130 Endeavour: Liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is targeted for February 4, 2010 at 5:52 a.m. EST.
Join the World in Looking for Geminids This Weekend with #MeteorWatch
Phobos and Deimos Together At Last!
Spirals, Tides, and M51
Forming Planets Around Binary Stars
Earth's Atmosphere Came from Outer Space
Half a Million Galaxies, Yours to Explore
10 Years of XMM-Newton
Extra Star Found in the Big Dipper
Very First Image of a Very Hot Star
The Shrinking Doughnut Around a Black Hole

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Midweek News from the Net

Cloudy Skies have dominated night sky viewing this week. A Weak Cold Front brought Clouds that blanketed the Sky. Hoping for a few good nights this weekend to catch a few falling stars.
GEMINID METEOR WATCH: The Geminid meteor shower is getting underway. The peak won't arrive until Sunday night, Dec. 13th, but observers are already seeing meteors streak across the late-night sky. This is just the beginning. If forecasters are correct, meteor rates will climb to more than 100 per hour on Dec. 13th and 14th when Earth passes through the densest part of a debris stream from Geminid parent comet 3200 Phaethon. Get the full story from Science@NASA. Geminid sky map and observing tips.
Geminid meteor galleries: 2007, 2008

News from Cyberspace:
MRO Comes Out of Safe Mode
Exoplanet Not Really There?
New Findings Say Mars Methane Comes from Life or Water — or Both
Hubble Takes a New "Deep Field" Image with Wide Field Camera 3
Dating a Cluster – A New Trick
NASA to Launch WISE on FridayButterflynauts Emerge from Cocoons on ISS

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekend Event Horizon: A Few Good Viewing Nights

The Front passed and we had NO SNOW here. A few Clear Cold Nights ahead, then more Clouds until Wednesday. The Moon is up later, so a couple of Dark Nights before the sky is blanketed again.

The Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – December 5-7, 2009 reviews Star Clusters and a nebula. Tonight in a Clear Sky, Once the Moon is well up in the east late this evening, look lower left of it for bright Mars, as shown here. By dawn Sunday morning they're very high, with Mars now to the Moon's upper left. Jupiter's moon Io reappears out of eclipse from Jupiter's shadow at 8:57 p.m. EST. A small telescope will show it gradually swelling into view just east of the planet.

Cassiopeia high up on December evenings
So you think you know Cassiopeia with your telescope? Have you looked for Stein 1248, the multicolored pair of WZ Cas and its companion; van den Bergh 1, or King 13? They're all just off the bright end of the Cassiopeia W. See Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders article and maps in the December Sky & Telescope, page 63

Sunday, The waning gibbous Moon is west of Mars in the morning sky. Look for Mars high in the southwest at dawn. Saturn is 45° to the east of the red planet.

Monday, Earliest sunset of the year (at latitude 40° north).

This is the time of the year when the Little Dipper dumps into the Big Dipper right after dark. This is the view from latitude 40° north (for example New York and Denver). In the southern U.S., part of all of the Big Dipper is below the horizon. This is the time of year when the Big Dipper lies lowest in the north after dark. The faint Little Dipper curls high over it.

News from Cyberspace: Vatican Astronomer on the Colbert Report
Space station crew crew lands in frigid Kazakhstan

SciFi on TV Tonight: War of the Worlds
Classic HG Wells updated in this Century with a lot more CG action than earlier movies. Not impressed with TC as lead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mid-Week News from the Net

SOLAR MINIMUM: The sun is in the pits of a very deep solar minimum. Many researchers thought the sunspot cycle had hit bottom in 2008 when the sun was blank 73% of the time. Not so. 2009 is on the verge of going even lower. So far this year, the sun has been blank 75% of the time, and only a serious outbreak of sunspots over the next few weeks will prevent 2009 from becoming the quietest year in a century. Solar minimum continues.
Mars Odyssey Goes into Safe Mode
Hubble Sees Dazzling Dust in the Iris Nebula
Quasar Caught Building Future Home Galaxy
ISS Temporarily Down to Crew of 2
LHC Officially Becomes Most Powerful Accelerator
New Zealand Launches First Rocket
Slow-Motion Supernova
Amateur Spectroscopy
An Astronomical Perspective on Climate Change

After 3 Nights of Clouds and almost and inch of the wet stuff, we may have some clear skies, but the Moon is still bright. Forecast for the end of the week is more clouds and SNOW, Friday...maybe! Strong Blast of Artic Air will blow in Friday with overriding moisture = SNOW. Bringing in the wood for the next couple of frosty nights. If the sky is clear Tonight: The Moon is at the most northern part of its orbit. Notice how far north along the eastern part of the horizon the moon rises. Look for moonrise in the northeast, about 10 minutes after sunset. The bright Moon shines between the horntips of Taurus this evening. Thursday, Mars rises about a half hour before Jupiter sets. Can you see both at the same time? Look for both Mars and Jupiter 2° above the horizon, Jupiter setting in the WSW, Mars rising in the ENE. Try looking about 5 hours after sunset. The bright eclipsing variable star Algol should be in one of its periodic dimmings, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 10:51 p.m. EST. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten.