Monday, December 27, 2010

My Sky in last week of December

There were two nights with crystal clear skies and bright stars to observe the past weekend. Orion was in my FOV those evenings and Venus in before dawn. This week started with Christmas on Saturday. Artic air moved in and gave us cold nights and frosty mornings. But the clear skies did not last long. Clouds and warmer temperatures cover our sky. Rain is on the way this week and the stars will be behind the veil again. Next weekend and the start of the New Year, may bring another round of colder temps and clear skies, with a chance to observe.

Two famous "enclosure" asterisms lie upper right of Jupiter in the evenings: the small, dim Circlet of Pisces, and, farther on, the big, brighter Great Square of Pegasus. Also, far below Jupiter in early evening, look for Fomalhaut.

If the Clouds break:
Monday, Last-quarter Moon tonight (exact at 11:18 p.m. EST). The last-quarter Moon always rises around the middle of the night, in a constellation that won't appear high in the evening sky until one season ahead. In tonight's case the Moon is in Virgo, a constellation best known in spring. Look for Saturn to the Moon's left, as shown here (on the morning of the 28th).

Tuesday, Dawn and sunrise are now happening nearly as late by the clock as they're going to. Look southeast in early dawn Wednesday morning for the Moon, Saturn and Spica. For North America, Spica is just a few degrees from the Moon — upper left of the Moon at 3 a.m. and above the Moon by dawn. Saturn at dawn is off to their upper right. Venus, much brighter, shines far to the Moon's lower left.
Jupiter's Red Spot crosses Jupiter's central meridian around 8:35 p.m. EST this evening. The eclipsing variable star Algol is at its minimum light, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 9:58 p.m. EST this evening.

Wednesday, A small telescope, or steadily held binoculars, will show the 5.5-magnitude star 20 Piscium just 4 arcminutes (six Jupiter diameters) to Jupiter's south or southeast, looking like a very out-of-place Galilean moon. With a slightly larger telescope, here's a chance to compare Jupiter's moons at high magnification with a star. In good seeing, their non-stellar nature is fairly plain. And don't miss Uranus, magnitude 5.8, currently 50 arcminutes to Jupiter's north-northeast. It looks even more un-starlike at high power. During dawn Thursday morning, spot the waning crescent Moon with Venus to its left. Can you follow Venus with your unaided eyes right through sunrise?

Thursday, Venus is to the left of the crescent Moon and Spica is to the upper right of the Moon. Look to the SSE before sunrise.

News from the Net:
International Space Station on the Moon?
Zombie Satellite Now Under Control
Oldest Black Holes are Growing the Fastest
Faulty Valve Caused Akatsuki Failure at Venus
Video: Satellite Views of the “Christmas Blizzard”
Twas the Shuttles last Christmas
Cassini Takes Images of Growing Storm on Saturn
Red Moon, Red Planet
Upcoming Solar Eclipse on January 4, 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Eclipse…. behind the clouds

The Lunar Eclipse was behind the clouds over my sky last night. I went out several times and a blanket of clouds covered the sky last night and into this morning. Folks in other areas had clear skies and observed/recorded the event. As seen in Spaceweather.com’s Lunar Eclipse Photo Gallery. Photo Gallery #2. The clouds are due to continue until the end of this week, when a new front should clear the sky and bring colder temps for Christmas.

On Dec. 21, 2010, at 23:38 UT, the sun will shine straight down on the southern Tropic of Capricorn, marking the beginning of winter in the north and summer in the south. Astronomers call this event a "solstice." It's a quiet one; the Earth-facing side of the sun is blank (no sunspots) and solar activity is very low. This is the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere; winter begins at the solstice, 6:38 p.m. EST.

Tonight, if the clouds break, Jupiter and Uranus are less than 1.5 degrees apart. Look for Uranus to the northeast of Jupiter with binoculars.

Thursday, Saturn's rings are tilted 10 degrees from edgewise. Look for Saturn in the morning sky. Saturn rises in the east six hours before sunrise. At dawn Saturn will be high in the south.

Friday, December 24, 2010 Venus and Saturn are 30 degrees apart. Look for Venus and Saturn at dawn. Saturn will be in the south. Venus will be in the southeast.

Saturday, Merry Sol Invictus! In the late Roman Empire, December 25th was the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun, marking the Sun's survival past its seasonal dark decline with the promise of a new spring and summer to come. Along with other solstice-period celebrations (including the birthday parties of numerous pagan deities), the date and the symbolism were taken over by Christianity and officially set to be Christmas in the 4th century. Carefully note the sunset point on your horizon from day to day. Can you see that it's already beginning to creep a little north? Christmas is the time of year when iconic Orion finally clears the east-southeast horizon and sparkles in full view shortly after twilight ends (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes).

News from the Net:
Will the Milky Way’s Black Hole Become ‘Hyperactive’?
Shuttle Discovery Rolls Back to Vehicle Assembly Building
Do the #ISSWave All the Way Around the World
See the Changing Seasons on Earth from Space
New Images Indicate Tectonic Activity on Rhea
Lunar Eclipse Images From Around the World, Dec. 21, 2010
Big Moon, Little Moon
Total Lunar Eclipse Information – December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Total Eclipse and Winter Solstice

The forecast for Monday night is mixed....some say cloudy, others mention the sky will be clear until early morning. Local weather on TV is begining to "crawfish" and added some clouds. I suppose the best information will be go outside and view the sky, find the moon and observe. If it is cloudy, tuff luck to the observer! But it is always clear on the Net! It has been a busy pre-Xmas week! Not much time to “surf the web” and yesterday, the Portal to the Universe web site was closed for some reason?

The Lunar Eclipse starts after midnight tonight and totality is around 2:30 AM! So break out the coffee and and the camera gear. Good Luck! A Lunar Eclipse during winter solstice....
RARE LUNAR ECLIPSE: The lunar eclipse of Dec. 21st falls on the same date as the northern winter solstice. Is this rare? It is indeed, according to Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory, who inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. "Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is Dec. 21, 1638," says Chester. "Fortunately we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one...that will be on Dec. 21, 2094." WHEN TO LOOK: The total eclipse lasts more than an hour from 01:41 am to 02:53 am CST on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st. Any time within that interval is a good time to look. For other time zones, consult Shadow & Substance's animated eclipse.

Winter Solstice begins with warmer weather in my location! We have had the fire going the past three days to break the chill. A Pacific front has stopped the Northern "Colder" air from reaching us. On Christmas that front will weaken and we get close to freezing nights again. Until then some clouds and a lot warmer days this week.

This major event has the Sun passing the winter solstice in Sagittarius around sunset on the evening of Tuesday the 21st, the exact time 5:38 PM CST (see above for other time zones). At that time, the Sun will be as far south as possible, 23.4 degrees south of the celestial equator, will be overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn, and be as high as possible at the south pole (leaving the north pole in the heart of darkness). Though the days will remain cold, at least we know that the Sun is coming back to warm the northern hemisphere once again.
A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year when the Sun's apparent position in the sky reaches its northernmost or southernmost extremes. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the apparent movement of the Sun's path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction.
The term solstice can also be used in a broader sense, as the date (day) when this occurs. The solstices, together with the equinoxes, are connected with the seasons. In some cultures they are considered to start or separate the seasons, while in others they fall nearer the middle.

Tonight look for a Christmas star: Brilliant Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, rises around 7 or 8 p.m. (depending on where you live in your time zone). Orion's Belt points down nearly to Sirius's rising point, showing where to watch for its advent. When Sirius is low it often twinkles in vivid, flashing colors, an effect that binoculars reveal especially clearly.

Catching up on News from the Net:
Magnetic Fields on O-Class Stars
Numerous Companies Propose Possible ‘Space Taxis’
Astronomy Without A Telescope – The Edge of Greatness
M33′s “Object-X”
Tearing Apart Apollo 11 Inaccuracies
Powerful Mars Orbiter Directs Opportunity to Clays and Hydrated Minerals
Solving the Mystery of Dark Gamma Ray Bursts
Can Nearby Binary Star Systems Mimic Planets?
Herschel Looks Back in Time to See Stars Bursting to Life
Scientists from Arsenic Bacteria Paper Respond to Criticisms
Bright White Storm Raging on Saturn
An Unusual Look at the Moon’s South Pole
Landfall at Santa Maria for Opportunity on Mars

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Geminid Shower Report

This years Meteor Shower was reported to be in excess of the 20 per hour. Spaceweather's Gallery shows some nice ones, captured around the country. Phil, in Austin reported multiple flashes from his location and I heard that the show also started at 3 AM here. Timing is everything! I observed from mid night until 2:30 AM and missed the big show.

The Geminid Meteor Shower streaked across the Texas sky, seen by those who ventured out into that cold, dark, early morning hour, Tuesday Morning. Locally, those who were out at 3 AM saw the most meteors. Local Astrophotographer Phil reported “bright meteors” beginning at 3 AM from his location a bit North of Austin. One local Skywatcher reported seeing a lot of bright meteors above his sky just North of my location. I did enjoy the FOV with Pleiades, Aldebaran and the constellation Aries , but missed the 3 AM meteor show. “Timing is everything. The Xmas rush continues! There is too much traffic with too many busy shoppers and longer lines in the shops.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meteor Shower, Quarter Moon - December, Week Three

The sky is clearing and the air is frosty, with lots going on in the sky. A busy week with cutting trees near the creek, a rock wall at the homestead and Christmas shopping. Getting into the Christmas spirit, dragging out more stuff and will begin to explore the night sky for those Christmas Stars! The yard and front of the cottage are beginning to glow! Nights may be too windy for a scope but binoculars will do. It is time for the Geminids! Start looking skyward. Keep an eye out for early Geminid meteors! If you see a shooting star, trace its path backward far across the sky. If this line passes near Castor in Gemini, a Geminid is almost certainly what you've seen. Article. Jupiter shines far upper left of the Moon after dusk. A similar distance to the Moon's right is Altair. Look lower left of the Moon for Fomalhaut, sometimes called "the Autumn Star."! If the sky is clear where you live, this Tuesday morning will provide one of the few nights of the year when it’s almost guaranteed that you will be able to observe a meteor after about 10-20 minutes of observing.

Tonight, The Geminid meteor shower is active for the next two nights. The peak will occur in the early morning hours of the 14th. The Moon sets early enough to leave the sky dark for the shooting stars.

Monday Night, A twilight challenge! Mercury and Mars appear closest, 1° apart, very low in the southwest after sunset. You'll need optical aid; their visibility in the still-bright sky 20 or 30 minutes after sunset. The Geminid meteor shower should peak late tonight. Best viewing is after midnight. See our article. First-quarter Moon (exact at 8:59 a.m. EST). Jupiter is below it at dusk, and lower left of it later in the evening.

Towards week’s end, Orion will be in the FOV!

News from the Net:
Grand Tour of Closet-Sized Crew Quarters in Space
Incredible Engineering Camera Views of the Space Shuttle in Action
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Forbidden Planets
WISE Captures an Infrared Shock Wave
Breaking News: Watch A Gigantic Looping Solar Prominence
Akatsuki Encounters Problems at Venus
Akatsuki Update: Fuel Pressure Drop Likely Caused Insertion Failure

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Moon, Old Planets

The Sky is moving into the second week of December. The Holiday Rush is on! This morning was clear then cloudy!? Darker (new moon), colder nights ahead and one clear night is forecast for Wednesday night. Catch the stars when the clouds move out of the way. Bright Venus in the early AM, plus Saturn before dawn. The launch of the shuttle Discovery on a space station re-supply mission will be delayed until at least Feb. 3! A launch on Feb. 3 would be targeted for 1:34:28 a.m. EST. A list of December events to check out when you can.

Today, the New Moon or No Moon: (exact at 12:36 p.m. EST). Tonight, Uranus ends its retrograde motion. Uranus is 2.7 degrees northeast of Jupiter. Use binoculars to see Uranus next to Jupiter in the evening sky. Use the finder chart here to identify Uranus.

Monday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 10:18 p.m. EST.

Tuesday, Today's sunset is the earliest sunset of the year, if you live near 40° north latitude. This is true even though the longest night of the year doesn't come until December 21st (on the equinox). The difference is balanced out by the year's latest sunrise coming on January 4th, a similar distance on the other side of the equinox.

Wednesday, By 7 or 8 p.m. bright Capella is well up in the northeast. To its right in the east is the little Pleiades cluster, with baleful, orange Aldebaran looking on down below it.

Thursday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:48 p.m. EST. Have you made plans yet for North America's total eclipse of the Moon on the night of December 20–21? The Moon will be high in the late-night sky. See the December Sky & Telescope, page 61.

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Through A Lens Darkly
Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars
Gallery: X-37B Space Plane Returns to Earth
Mars Rover Tracks Erased From Existence
Will V445 Puppis Become a Ia Supernova?
Shuttle Launch Delayed to February of 2011
Q & A with Mike Brown, Pluto Killer, part 2
I Sing the Bacterium Arsenic: Post-NASA Press Conference Reflections
Back-in-Action Cassini Doesn’t Disappoint
A Peek Inside NGC 7538
SOFIA Telescope Makes First Science Flight

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Sky: First week of December

OK that Cold Front came earlier this week. We have a couple of clear cold nights before the clouds make a return visit. Becky Ramotowski’s Sky Watch article has a lot of favorites that I will try and put in my FOV. There is Jupiter and the GRS, Orion plus the Pleiades in the evening. Three brilliant belt stars of Orion rise in a vertical line and point toward Aldebaran. The fiery eye of the bull, Aldebaran, is an orange giant star about 65 light-years away from us. Taurus the bull follows the Pleiades and rises as a large V-shaped group of stars. Look for Saturn, Venus and the Moon before dawn this week.

Dress warm and point a scope at Jupiter. Observe the moons of Jupiter in December. I get my Jupiter satellite information from CalSky when I set up a scope and observe.

Wednesday and Thursday morning, The waning crescent Moon is to the lower right of Saturn. Spica to to the lower left of the Moon. Venus is below and to the left of Spica. Look for the celestial gathering in the southeast and hour before sunrise.

Will we see a launch this month? Discovery, STS-133, is currently scheduled to go into orbit Friday December 17, 7:51 p.m. my time.

News from the Net:
News on local Science Teacher Stef Paramoure
Russia Wants to Build “Sweeper” to Clean up Space Debris
An Apertif to the Next Radio Astronomy Entrée
Christie’s to Auction off 1st Edition Works by Newton, Galileo
Exoplanet Discovery Lists top 500

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A December Sky

After a week of Thanksgiving hustle and feasting, the Sky was clear for a little while this past weekend. Had a great visit and dinner with family. Black Friday started off very cold and brought a few nights of clear skies. So I was thankful for time with family and those nights when the stars moved across my sky! I’m still working on left over turkey and those great deserts that came with the feast. As the month of November closes, the sky will render a meteor shower (fingers crossed for a clear night) and a Total Lunar Eclipse (fingers crossed again for a clear night) in December. Jupiter and Orion are center stage in the evening sky! We have a few more cloudy nights forecast next week but another cold front will bring us a chance for clear skies later in the week. Looking forward to a New moon coming December 5!

Tonight if the clouds break, Last-quarter Moon (exact at 3:36 p.m. Eastern Standard Time). As is always the case when the Moon is last quarter, it rises around the middle of the night. The exact time depends on your location.

Monday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 9:30 p.m. EST. Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt Outbreak crosses the central meridian about 3 hours and 40 minutes later, 1:10 a.m. Tuesday morning EST. Uranus is 3 degrees to the east of Jupiter. Look for Uranus with binoculars in the evening sky. The gap between Jupiter and Uranus is closing. In the early part of 2011, the pair will be just a half a degree apart.

Tuesday, In early dawn tomorrow morning, North Americans can look southeast to find Saturn, Spica and Venus left of waning crescent Moon.

Thursday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:00 p.m. EST. Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt Outbreak crosses the central meridian about 3 hours and 40 minutes later, 10:40 p.m. EST. In dawn Friday, look for the thin Moon far below Venus in the southeast.

Friday, After dinnertime at this time of year, the M-shaped constellation Cassiopeia floats nearly overhead when you face north (for skywatchers in the world's mid-northern latitudes). Far below Cassiopeia, find Polaris, the North Star. And far below Polaris lies the Big Dipper. Jupiter's moon Europa reappears from eclipse out of Jupiter's shadow around 8:34 p.m. EST. A small telescope will show it gradually swelling into view just east of the planet.

News from the Net:
Moon’s Mini-Magnetosphere
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Black Hole Evolution
Gravitational Redshifts: Main Sequence vs. Giants
Tenuous Oxygen Atmosphere Found Around Saturn’s Moon Rhea
Soyuz and 3 ISS Crewmembers Return Home
J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!
How Jupiter is Getting Its Belt Back
Cassini Spacecraft Back in Operation
Shuttle Launch Could Be Delayed Into Next Year

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Event Horizon: Cloudy Forecast Covers my Sky

A Pacific front is passing through and has raised the temperatures (too warm for November!) and brought the clouds back. This will last until after Thanksgiving when another cold front will enter our area. No Stars for a while, so the Scopes are covered, put away and we are dealing with layers of clouds. We had our monthly Group meeting last Thursday night. Seven of us discussed a bunch of topics and had a lively debate on Time/longitude and the upcoming lunar eclipse. Larry reviewed a new automated scope that takes a photo of star that it is aligning with, like Canopus. So can we see Canopus? Yes according to this article, in March from NM. If you look just above the southern horizon around 7 p.m., you will see a bright star twinkling just five degrees above the horizon. Our Texas location is: 29.4200°N. Canopus never even rises above the horizon for locations north of about 37 degrees north latitude. Here is a link to a Texas observation of Canopus in February. More interesting questions discussed:
Does the shortest/longest day occur on Solstice/Equinox?
Does the sun rise and set equally if you are on an island, on the equator?
The real equality of day and night only happens in places far enough from the Equator to have a seasonal difference in day length of at least 7 minutes, actually occurring a few days towards the winter side of each equinox. The date at which sunset and sunrise becomes exactly 12 hours apart is known as the equilux. Because sunset and sunrise times vary with an observer's geographic location (longitude and latitude), the equilux likewise depends on location and does not exist for locations sufficiently close to the Equator. The equinox, however, is a precise moment in time which is common to all observers on Earth. So was that person in the book on the island during equinox?

It was decided not to have a meeting in December, just too close to St. Nicks day!? I did purchase the 2011 Sky Guides and started reviewing events that will be in my sky in the coming months.

Last Wednesday night I had a chance to view the ISS as it soared across my backyard. High, bright and a nice long run.

Tonight, if the clouds break, Full Moon (exact at 12:27 p.m. Eastern Standard Time). Tonight the Moon is not far from the Pleiades, too many clouds to see this!

Monday, The Moon this evening shines between Aldebaran to its right and Beta Tauri (El Nath) closer to its left. Venus is 14.4 degrees east of Saturn. Look for Saturn to the upper right of Venus. This is the minimum distance between these two planets. Venus is in the ESE an hour and a half before sunrise.

Wednesday, For telescope users, Jupiter's moon Europa casts its tiny black shadow onto Jupiter's face from 8:22 to 11:03 p.m. EST. Seven minutes after the shadow transit begins, Io emerges out of eclipse from Jupiter's shadow just off the planet's eastern limb.

Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving! Turkey, Pie and Football. More Turkey and More Football!

Friday, Bright Jupiter shines in the southern sky after dark. By about 8 or 8:30 p.m. this week, when Jupiter has moved a little to the right of due south, is stands directly above Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, far below it.

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – So Why Not Exo-Oceans?
Rock Bridge on Mars
Light Speed Animation
Twinkle Twinkle Little Missing Stars, How I Wonder Where you are?
Breathtaking Recent Aurora Images from Earth and Space
Rover Teams Keeping Spirits Up on Fate of Frozen Mars Rover
Red Sky In The Morning…
Exoplanet of Extragalactic Origin Could Foretell Our Solar System’s FutureWISE Captures a Glowing Cylinder in Space

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Meteors Last Night

This year's Leonids was a no show in my backyard. No meteors last night? Try between moonset and dawn November 18 The best viewing time is after midnight, in the hours just before dawn. At most, expect to see approximately 15 meteors per hour. I might try again early Tomorrow morning. The annual Leonid meteor shower is peaking today, Nov. 17th, as Earth passes through a thicket of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. So far the shower has been a modest one, with fewer than ~25 meteors per hour according to international counts. The reason: Earth is missing the densest swarms of comet dust. A better shower is coming. The Geminids of mid-December are expected to exceed today's Leonids four- or five-fold. Stay tuned for that! Major Meteor Showers (2010-2011) .

The moon – it is not the meteor watcher’s friend. Light reflecting off a bright moon can be just as detrimental to good meteor viewing as those bright lights of the big city. There is nothing you can do except howl at the moon, so you’ll have to put up with it or wait until the next favorable shower. However, even though the 2010 Perseids and Geminids share the night sky with the moon, they are still expected to produce more visible meteor activity than other major showers that don’t have an interfering moon.

The best thing you can do to maximize the number of meteors you’ll see is to get as far away from urban light pollution as possible and find a location with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky. If you enjoy camping, try planning a trip that coincides with dates of one of the meteor showers listed below. Once you get to your viewing location, search for the darkest patch of sky you can find, as meteors can appear anywhere overhead. The meteors will always travel in a path away from the constellation for which the shower is named. This apparent point of origin is called the “radiant.” For example, meteors during a Leonid meteor shower will appear to originate from the constellation Leo. (Note: the constellation only serves as a helpful guide in the night’s sky. The constellation is not the actual source of the meteors.

News from the Net:
A Cosmologist’s Wish List: Four Most-Wanted Discoveries
Dissolving Star Systems Create Mess in Orion
Mini-Asteroid Flying By Earth Tonight
Cosmologist Allan Sandage Dies
Cool Chang’E 2 Videos
The Lion Tamer – Leonid Meteor Shower 2010
Confirmed: Hayabusa Nabbed Asteroid Particles
Has a Recent, Nearby Supernova Become a Baby Black Hole?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This Tuesday Night, The Leonid Meteor Shower

We are still dealing with clouds this weekend! From evening into dawn our sky is covered. We had a shower last night, early evening, with not much left in the rain gauge. Another cold front has passed through and the outlook for Tuesday night is Clear!

The 2010 Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak before dawn on Wednesday, November 17, or Thursday, November 18. If you have a dark sky – far from city lights – you might see as many as 10 to 15 meteors per hour at the shower’s peak. The best time to watch will be after the moon sets in the wee hours before dawn. This year the bright waxing gibbous moon won’t set till 3 or 4 a.m. Hope to head out to the pasture where the horizon is lot better for viewing these flashes of light entering our atmosphere. Plan to take one scope and catch the morning comet Ikeya Murakami that was in the same field with Saturn and it’s headed toward Venus. How easy can it get? Simply aim your binoculars at Saturn and slowly follow the trajectory towards Venus. By November 30 Ikeya Murakami will be about 2 degrees north of the stunningly bright planet and also a same field object in most binoculars.

Tonight if the clouds break, First-quarter Moon (exact at 11:39 a.m. EST). This evening the Moon forms a nearly equilateral triangle with Jupiter to its left and fainter Fomalhaut below them both. Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 10:25 p.m. EST.

Monday the waxing gibbous Moon poses to the upper right of Jupiter this evening. Although they look close together, Jupiter is 1,630 times farther away — and 40 times larger in diameter.

Tuesday evening the Moon is to Jupiter's upper left. The Leonid meteor shower should be at its best in the early hours of Wednesday and/or Thursday — after the Moon sets around 3 a.m.

Wednesday morning, and 4 a.m. Thursday morning. But the Leonids have been far from spectacular in these off-years. You might see 20 Leonids per hour, and 4 Taurids, from a dark, rural site. In the Wednesday dawn, Venus is the closest it will get to fainter Spica: 3 3/4° below it.

Wednesday evening, It's a busy for telescope users focused on Jupiter! Io reappears from eclipse out of Jupiter's shadow, just off the planet's eastern limb, around 6:33 p.m. EST. A small telescope will show it gradually swelling back into view. Ganymede reappears from behind Jupiter's eastern limb itself around 7:15 p.m. EST. The tiny black shadow of Europa is on Jupiter's disk until 8:28 p.m. EST. Then, out in the clear, Ganymede goes into eclipse in Jupiter's shadow at 9:04 p.m. EST and re-emerges at 12:00 midnight EST.
(For a complete listing of all such Jupiter satellite events in November, good worldwide, see the November Sky & Telescope, page 58.) Oh, that's not all. Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 9:33 p.m. EST. And Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spot crosses the central meridian 3 hours 40 minutes after that, around 1:13 a.m. Thursday morning EST.

News from the Net:
Hubble Provides Most Detailed Dark Matter Map Yet
Video: Stellar Occultation by Eris
Aurora Alert! Solar Flare Heading Our Way
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Necropanspermia

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Comet, Launch Scrubbed Again

We have been busy and away from the screen since my last post. Started catching up with news and blogs today. Only had a chance to scan the night sky a few times this past week. No time for Scopes! I’ve been cutting trees and splitting wood, keeping the wood pile high for cold winter nights. That is, If we have a cold winter this year? Long term forecast, down here, is “not as wet and not as cold”! Anyway, we also took a “road trip” to Lost Maples. The trip was tiring, but the hill country colors are “Great” this time of year. The Gateway to the park was not a good as in 2005. There were too many folks in the park, we did not stay long.

Weather Forecast for the coming week is not good. Clouds are returning and rain is expected at the end of the week. We could use a little rain! Catch Venus and Saturn in the early pre-dawn sky. Now there is a comet close to Saturn. Comet Ikeya-Murakami, easy to find, too, little more than a degree from Saturn in the eastern sky before dawn. Set your alarm and happy hunting! [Sky maps: Nov. 9, 10, 11] [3D orbit] [ephemeris]. Clouds should keep me from seeing this, but I will be up early for the search!

More trouble with Shuttle Discovery! The flight is on hold until at least Nov. 30.

If the clouds break tonight, The crescent Moon is low in the southwest at dusk. Explore the Moon with binoculars or a telescope too, see the many craters and mountains near the lunar terminator. If you have a 10-inch or larger telescope, have you ever tried for the major moons of Uranus and Neptune? They're not easy. See the guide in the November Sky & Telescope, page 56.

Wednesday night, Using binoculars or a telescope, have you ever found the little star cluster M29 near the center of the Northern Cross? See Gary Seronik's Binocular highlight article in the November Sky & Telescope, page 45.

Thursday Night, Look for meteors if the clouds break.

Saturday, First-quarter Moon (exact at 11:39 a.m. EST). The Moon forms a nearly equilateral triangle with Jupiter to its left and fainter Fomalhaut below them both.

News from the Net:
PSA: Bars Kill Galaxies
Cassini Instruments Offline Until Nov. 24
Missing Milky Way Dark Matter
Solar Explosions Spark Controversy
Sagan Day Essays
New Supernova Lights Up Leo
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Indigenous Australian Astronomy
Hartley 2 in Motion: Stunning Morph Animation of Flyby Images
What was SN 1961V?
Stubborn Shuttle Discovery Refuses to Launch on Final Mission
Herschel Provides Gravitational Lens Bonanza
Eyes On The Solar System
Two New Kinds of Moon Rocks Found

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Launch Delayed, Clear Dark Skies ahead!

Discovery Launch Scrubbed! Wednesday's planned launch of space shuttle Discovery was postponed at least 24 hours to give technicians additional time for troubleshooting the electrical problem with the main engine controller circuitry. There will be another attempt to launch Discovery Thursday at 2:29 pm CDT. The low clouds, showers and winds were in violation of NASA flight safety rules and the Mission Management Team decided to call off Thursday's launch attempt. Launch delayed another 24 hours to Friday at 2:04 p.m. CDT. While conditions will improve in the wake of a cold front, forecasters are predicting a 40 percent chance of high winds that could cause another scrub.

A Cold Front moved through our area last night and skies are clearing. Winds may be too high tonight for a scope, but we are supposed to have a couple of Clear Dark Nights this weekend. Possible Meteor shower tonight! During dawn Friday morning, skywatchers in North America can use binoculars to try spotting an extremely thin waning crescent Moon. Look 2° to 5° below and perhaps a bit left of Venus, very low in the east-southeast, starting about 20 minutes before your sunrise time.
Friday, By 11 p.m. this week, Orion is sparkling in the east-southeast, with Aldebaran and the Pleiades high above it.

News from the Net:
First Close Images of Hartley 2: It’s a Peanut with Jets
Hartley 2 Spawns Meteor Shower
Watch Live Coverage of EPOXI’s Hartley 2 Encounter on Nov. 4
Calculate the Effect of an Asteroid Impact on Earth

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Event Horizon: Shuttle Launch, Three Planets and New Moon

After the thunder and rain past last night, another cold front will move through Wednesday, leaving us with a few clear, dark nights to observe. Several of this week's events will happen in the early morning hours.

Tonight if it's clear, by mid-evening, bright Capella is shining well up in the northeast. Look off to its right, in the east, for the little Pleiades star cluster — and, below the Pleiades by about a fist-width at arm's length, the orange giant star Aldebaran.

Wednesday, Shuttle Discovery is due to launch 2:52:13 p.m. CDT. VCRs on, set and ready……Docking at the ISS's forward port will be complete around 11:36 p.m. on Nov. 5. It will be Discovery's 13th and final docking. At the heart of the mission is the permanent multi-purpose module, or PMM, that will be carried aloft in Discovery's cargo bay. Mounted in Discovery's cargo bay, the PMM measures 21 feet long and 15 feet in diameter and tips the scales at 21,817 pounds, including 6,536 pounds of equipment and supplies. Another 1,568 pounds of station-bound gear was mounted in the shuttle's crew cabin. The station-bound hardware includes and an experimental robot known as Robonaut 2. Shaped like a human's upper torso, Robonaut 2 weighs about 300 pounds and measures nearly four feet from waist to head and nearly three feet across the shoulders. The robot will be operated remotely by engineers on the ground.

During dawn Thursday morning, spot Venus very low in the east-southeast starting about a half hour before your local sunrise time. The waning crescent Moon is about a fist-width at arm's length to Venus's upper right. Use binoculars to pick out Saturn and Spica.

Dawn Friday morning, skywatchers in North America can use binoculars to try spotting an extremely thin waning crescent Moon. Look 2° to 5° below and perhaps a bit left of Venus, very low in the east-southeast, starting about 20 minutes before your sunrise time.

Saturday, New Moon (exact at 12:52 a.m. on this date Eastern Daylight Time).
If you're on daylight-saving time in North America, clocks "fall back" an hour to standard time at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

News from the Net:
10 Years of the ISS: First Commander Reflects on Anniversary
Astrophotos: Halo Around the Sun in South Africa Today
Stunning Timelapse Video of Earth and Sky
Can’t Get to Kennedy Space Center? See Launchpad Up Close in Gigapan
Mystery of Saturn’s Wonky B Ring: Solved
The Dark Dunes of Mars
Planets and their Remnants around White Dwarfs
Ancient Hot Springs Spotted on Mars
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Warp Drive On Paper
Mitigating Asteroid Threats Will Take Global Action
A Comet that Gives Twice?
Carbon Dioxide — Not Water — Creating Gullies on Mars, New Study Says

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween: A Cross Quarter Day

With many past Spirits in the Sky, Halloween is a Crossquarter day in Astronomy. The Winter Solstice is just around the corner. Eliminating Pagan rites (Samhain) the Day of the Dead, has transformed into Halloween. Folks used to dress up, so Bad Spirits could not find you. Thanks to Pope Gregory, Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship. This year all those ridicules election ads blasted all over the airways will finally be ‘spirited’ away!
Speaking of the Winter Solstice, December 21, there is a Lunar Event to mark on the Calendar!

StarLog^^101030-B
I had a couple of clear nights and mornings to observe Orion and Jupiter. Last night I set up the scope and watched dark spots of two moons move across the bright Planet. Two of Jupiter's moons (Europa and Ganymede) simultaneously cast their shadows on the giant planet's cloudtops. The closely-spaced shadows will be visible in mid-sized backyard telescopes and live on the web. The time to look: between 11:09 p.m. and 11:16 p.m. Central Daylight Time. [sky map]

Moons of Jupiter @7:30: i-- (eg)-------------------------------c

Moons of Jupiter @ 11 PM: (eg) ------------------------c

Moon Transits ended @eight minutes past midnight. I took some time to scan Cassiopeia and Perseus before they moved too far NE. Orion came up over the tree – line just after midnight. The Belt and Sword were brilliant in the dark sky (No Moon). I capped the scope soon after scanning Orion. The Pleiades was just above the trees at 11pm. By 11 p.m. The end of this week, Orion is sparkling in the east-southeast, with Aldebaran and the Pleiades high above it. The clouds are coming back?! Rain Clouds are forecast Monday night into Tuesday.

Periodic Comet Hartley 2 is once again becoming visible in a more-or-less moonlight-free morning sky. This week the comet crosses from Gemini into Canis Minor, (larger chart). That means the time to observe is before the first light of dawn at your location. The comet is fading now as it starts moving away from both Earth and Sun.

The long-lasting Taurid meteor shower runs throughout the first half of November or longer. Taurids are few in number but sometimes unusually bright, traveling slowly away from the direction of Taurus. The shower is active in the evening as well as the early-morning hours.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Clear, Dark Skies this Weekend

Autumn has finally delivered colder temperatures that may stay a while. The moon is in Last Quarter and night skies are a little darker (moonlight). A chance to set up the Telescope this weekend? The Moon wanes in the morning sky this week, promising a dark and spooky evening for trick-or-treaters on Halloween. At dusk, Jupiter is easily visible in the ESE sky. A small telescope easily reveals the four moons; Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The moons were discovered by Galileo Galilei sometime between December 1609 and January 1610. Orion along with Taurus and the Pleiades are begining to be in open sky area at night, after midnight, before the moon's up. Binoculars will continue to show the Pleiades and Aldebaran for a while even after dawn grows too bright for them to be visible to the naked eye. The Red Star Antares is no longer visible so my focus is on the red star Aldebaran.

Still looking for Periodic Comet Hartley 2? Though still nearly it’s closest to Earth, is pretty much lost in the moonlight this week. Moon-free observing times return around the morning of November 1st. On the morning of November 4th, NASA's EPOXI mission will fly by the comet's nucleus. See our article Comet Hartley 2 At Its Closest, with finder charts.

Friday, Venus is at inferior conjunction, 6° south of the Sun and basically unobservable. The last-quarter Moon shines late tonight (it's exactly last-quarter at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Saturday morning).

Saturday, The tiny black shadows of both Europa and Ganymede fall on Jupiter's face from 7:16 to 9:59 p.m. Central Time.

Arcturus, a Halloween Ghost on All Saints Eve….. the brilliant star Arcturus sets at the same time and on the same spot on the horizon as the summer sun.

Asteroid 2003 UV11 is about to fly past Earth. At closest approach on Oct. 29th and 30th, it will be only 1.2 million miles away, about five times the distance to the Moon. Experienced amateur astronomers should have little trouble photographing the 600-meter wide space rock as it glides through the constellation Pegasus on Friday night glowing about as brightly as a 12th magnitude star. NASA's Goldstone and Arecibo radars are pinging the asteroid as it passes to study its shape and trajectory. Stay tuned for updates. [images: #1, #2] [ephemeris] [3D orbit]

News from the Net:
Shuttle Launch Delayed at Least One Day
Kepler Spacecraft Can “Hear” a Red Giant Concerto in Space
Earth Orbiting Satellites Maneuvered to Now Study the Moon
Podcast: More From Tony Colaprete on LCROSS
25% of Sun-Like Stars Could Host Earth-Sized Worlds
Researchers Discover 2nd Largest Impact Crater in Australia
Most Intense Storm in History Cuts Across the US — As Seen from Space
Super Star Smashes into the Record Books.
Where’s M31′s Thick Disc?
HAWK-I Hunts Down Spiral Galaxies in Stunning Detail
ISS Particle Detector Ready to Unveil Wonders of the Universe

Friday, October 22, 2010

Full Hunters Moon, Cloudy Sky

Our Gulf air is mixing with Pacific fronts rolling in, bringing Clouds!
Stepped out early Thursday morning at 2:30 and saw Orion well up over the trees. Sirius was just at the tree line. Clouds were in large streaks above and the left of Orion. There were more Clouds to the ENE almost a blanket effect. I did not see any meteors streaming across the sky. I did not see the comet in Auriga. Larry keeps saying Hartley will brighten?

We had the Group monthly meeting Thursday night. Five of us had a lively discussion on several topics that included the “Goldilocks” Planet, near miss Asteroid on October 12, and Star Trails. Larry mentioned the Discovery launch November 1. We also discussed the Geminids and Total Lunar Eclipse for December. After the meeting Sharon pointed out the Moon and Jupiter with her green laser. After I returned home I took the binoculars out and Observed Jupiter and Uranus. There were three moons in my Binocular FOV. The Moons of Jupiter:
c-----------------------i--e-(J)---------------------g
Europa was too close to the glare of the planet for me to pick out it's location.

Uranus was in a neat Triangle of Stars just left of the bright Planet. Uranus was the top left star forming the triangle. The Moon was very bright, above and left of Jupiter. There were clouds moving around and getting thicker. This put a halt to viewing the GRS that would transit just after midnight.

Tonight, the Full Moon (exact at 9:37 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). In the early morning hours of Saturday, the Full Moon is close to the brighter stars of Aries the Ram.

Saturday, if the clouds break, The tiny black shadows of both Ganymede and Europa fall on Jupiter's face from 9:40 to 11:04 p.m. EDT.

Sunday, Step outside (or open a west-facing window) before dawn Monday morning, and there will be the waning gibbous Moon with the Pleiades right nearby. Binoculars will continue to show the Pleiades and Aldebaran for a while even after dawn grows too bright for them to be visible to the naked eye.

News from the Net:
Breaking News: The Sun Worked 175 Years Ago!
Understanding the Unusual LCROSS Ejecta Plume
Water on the Moon and Much, Much More: Latest LCROSS Results
The Strange Warm Spot of upsilon Andromedae b
VLT, Hubble Smash Record for Eyeing Most Distant Galaxy

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meteor Shower,Comet, Moon and Clouds

With a bright moon and a forecast for clouds the next few nights, chances to view this meteor shower are low above my backyard. Maybe the clouds will break around 3am when I plan to get up and check the sky. Might get a chance to see a few shooting stars, Saturn and Hartley! I did see Jupiter docked near the moon last night around 10pm. I did not set up a scope, and yep I missed the GRS transit @ 10:30!
Moons of Jupiter: c-------------i----g---(J)------e

Tonight if the clouds break, Saturn is rising in the east about 30 minutes before sunrise. The 3rd magnitude star Gamma Virginis is just 0.6 degrees left of Saturn. Try and spot this star next to Saturn in the dawn sky. Look very low in the east with binoculars.

Tonight Earth is entering a broad stream of debris from Halley's Comet, and this is causing the annual Orionid meteor shower. "The best time to look is during the hours before dawn on Thursday, Oct. 21st, and again on Friday, Oct 22nd," advises Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Unfortunately, we have a bright Moon this year. Even so, I'd expect some bright Orionids to shine through the moonlight." Orionid meteors stream from the elbow of Orion the Hunter: sky map. Because the shower's radiant point is close to the celestial equator, sky watchers in both hemispheres can enjoy the show. Moonlit meteor rates will probably be around a dozen per hour.

For backyard stargazers, tonight is the best time to see green Comet 103P/Hartley 2 as it approaches Earth for an 11-million-mile close encounter on Oct. 20th. Set your alarm for the dark hours before dawn, go outside, and look straight up. You will find Hartley 2 not far from the bright star Capella: sky map. Although the comet is barely visible to the unaided eye, they say it is easy to find in binoculars and looks great through a backyard telescope. Comet '103P' Magnitude= 5.6magBest seen from 22.7h - 6.5h (hmax=79° at 5.1h) (in constellation Auriga)RA= 5h24m11s Dec=+40°39.8' (J2000) Distance to Sun= 1.06AU Distance to Earth= 0.12AU Elongation=122° hourly motion: dRA=337.0"/h dDec=-353.1"/h

Friday, Uranus and Jupiter are 2.8 degrees apart. Through most binoculars, Jupiter and Uranus are in the same field of view. When looking at Jupiter with binoculars, you'll see a triangle of stars to the left of the giant planet. The top left "star" in the triangle is Uranus.

Saturday, in the early morning hours of Saturday, the Full Moon is close to the brighter stars of Aries the Ram.

News from the Net:
The Habitability of Gliese 581d
Hubble Spins the Wheel on Star Birth
The Tug of Exoplanets on Exoplanets
NASA’s Ames Director Announces “100 Year Starship”
Stolen: Magellanic Clouds – Return to Andromeda
Underground Acquifers Fed Long-Lived Oceans, Lakes on Ancient Mars
365 Days of Astronomy Podcast to Continue in 2011

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bright Moon, Dim Comet

This week the Moon is getting bigger and making it harder to see any deep sky objects! The Features on the moon and along the Terminator looked great in the eyepiece over the weekend between the clouds. We might get a chance to see Hartley in the early morning hours Tuesday and Wednesday. I might catch a few falling stars too!

Still hunting Periodic Comet Hartley 2!? It remains about 6th magnitude, appearing big, round, and dim in binoculars. For backyard stargazers, the next few nights are the best time to see green Comet 103P/Hartley 2 as it approaches Earth for an 11-million-mile close encounter on Oct. 20th. Set your alarm for the dark hours before dawn, go outside, and look straight up. You will find Hartley 2 not far from the bright star Capella: sky map. Although the comet is barely visible to the unaided eye, it is easy to find in binoculars and looks great through a backyard telescope. 103P/Comet Hartley 2 on September 6th was brighter, since then the round coma has grown larger, but the central condensation remains weak. This week it's crossing Auriga and passing it’s closest to Earth (on October 20th). But moonlight is returning; the waxing Moon sets later each night. You can have a Moon-free view through about the morning of the 19th if you observe in the pre-dawn hours

StarLog^^101015
Friday night the sky was somewhat clear, clouds were intermittent. Cool, moonlit night. Set the DOB out just after dark Friday night. Targeted the eyepiece on the Quarter Waxing Moon. Located the Straight Wall, Craters and the mountain range near the Terminator. Used the 16mm ultra wide and tried a few [through the eyepiece] shots with the wife’s digital camera. Steadier when using the LX90…tracking is important to stop movement! Great sites in the scope though. Moved over to Jupiter. I observed three moons. All on one side. They were not straight across, they were uneven, with two close in and one farther out. Io was in Transit and a bit later I did spot the shadow through the glare of this bright wandering star! Moons of Jupiter:
(J)-------------e-g -----------------c

After midnight I focused the scope on the star, Capella. I scanned the area for Hartley with no luck. Io’s shadow transit across Jupiter ended at 0:40 Saturday morning. I left the scope and went in until 3 am. Orion was climbing over the tree-line. The Pleiades was anchored high, almost to xxxxxxx. I scanned the area around Capella again for anything “Green”. I did not come up with anything green or "fuzzy" in the area. I need a darker Sky?
I missed the early transit of the GRS on Jupiter at 5 am.

Tonight, Jupiter shines lower left of the waxing gibbous Moon early this evening, and directly left of it later in the night. Saturn is now about 3 degrees up in the east one hour before sunrise. Look for Saturn 40 degrees to the lower left of Regulus. Saturn will be easier to see in coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 11:35 p.m. EDT. Jupiter shines straight under the Moon this evening

Wednesday, The Moon is now to Jupiter's left.

Thursday, The Great Square of Pegasus is straight above the bright Moon this evening after dark (not shown above). It's tipped on one corner and somewhat larger than your fist held at arm's length.

Friday, Full Moon (exact at 9:37 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – No Metal, No Planet?
STS-133 Crew Conducts TCDT Training
Probing Exoplanets

NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI spacecraft is hurtling toward Comet Hartley 2 for a breathtaking 435-mile flyby on Nov. 4th. Mission scientists say all systems are go for a close encounter with one of the smallest yet most active comets they've seen. Get the full story from Science@NASA.
The Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft approaches the International Space Station, carrying Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri, Soyuz commander and Expedition 25 flight engineer; along with NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, both flight engineers. Docking of the two spacecraft occurred at 8:01 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 9, 2010.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekend View: Moon, GRS and Hartley

This weekend the sky is supposed to be clear!? Time to view the quarter moon and try finding Hartley again before the clouds roll back in with the coming front! The Straight Wall is visible on the Moon tonight. Look for this line on the Moon with a telescope. The Straight Wall, also known as Rupes Recta, is a 70 mile long fault line or rille. Tonight it's close to the terminator.

Saturday evening, Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 8:19 p.m. EDT.

Sunday, if the clouds break, The waxing gibbous Moon is in the southeast at dusk. The Bay of Rainbows is just being revealed by the terminator. One of my favorite features, The Bay of Rainbows is also known as Sinus Iridium. It's on the edge of the Sea of Rains. You would not suspect it from the names, but there's no liquid water in the bays or the seas on the Moon.

This week the Orionid meteor shower peaks early Thursday morning. A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 - 24, and some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 - 25. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight. The Orionids tend to be fast, occasionally leaving persistent trains and producing bright fireballs. On a dark, moonless night, this shower exhibits a maximum of about 15 meteors per hour. If you trace these meteors backward, they seem to originate from the north of Orion’s bright ruddy star Betelgeuse. The Orionids have a broad and irregular peak that is difficult to predict. More meteors tend to fly after midnight, and the Orionids are typically at their best in the wee hours before dawn. The best viewing time will probably be one to two hours before dawn on October 21. However, the light of the waxing gibbous moon will wash out all but the brightest Orionid meteors.

Comet Hartley is approaching Earth for an 11-million-mile close encounter on Oct. 20th. Although it is barely visible to the naked eye, the comet looks great through backyard telescopes. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise when the comet is almost straight overhead in the constellation Perseus. Check Sky & Telescope for a sky map and more. "Comet 103P/Hartley 2 is growing at an amazing rate," reports Nick Howes of Cherhill, Wiltshire, UK. "The comet's atmosphere (coma) is now more than 1o wide." He took this picture on Oct. 13th using the 2-meter robotic Faulkes North Telescope in Hawaii.

News from the Net:
How to Deflect an Asteroid with Today’s Technology
More Recent Landslides Spotted on Mars
Even ‘Weakling’ Magnetars are Strong and Powerful
The Milky Way Might Be Square
Is the World Ready for An Asteroid Threat? Apollo’s Schweickart Pushes for Action

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Asteroids and GRS in a Moonlit Sky

All sizes of rocks from “out there” keep whizzing past us, and we track them as they go by. Asteroid 2010 TD54 flew past Earth this morning (Oct. 12) at 6:50 am EDT only 46,000 km above the planet's surface. For comparison, geosynchronous satellites orbit at 36,000 km, so the asteroid was not far beyond Earth's satellite fleet. No damage was done--to spacecraft or to the planet below. The Next close encounter: #2010 TG19 on Friday October 22, a miss by 1.1LD, at magnitude 15 and only 70meters large!

On October 12, 2010 there were 1149 potentially hazardous asteroids. Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

The moon will brighten the night sky for the next two weeks, so expect to lose the dim stars in the night sky! We do have a few clear nights forecast this week! The GRS will transit several times this week, so plan to put Jupiter in the eyepiece. Saturn emerges from behind the Sun this week. Start looking for Saturn low in the east at dawn. As the weeks and months progress, the ringed planet will be easier to spot.

Want to Hunt for Comet Hartley this week? This from the Urban Astronomer:
It seems to see Comet Hartley 2 you need a location with very dark skies. I can attest to this, having twice tried and failed to discern the comet from the surrounding stars. However, all is not lost. Searching for Hartley 2 requires you to find Cassiopeia, Perseus and Auriga, three very nice constellations that grace the Fall and Winter skies. While searching the path of the comet, you encounter a range of deep space objects near and between Cassiopeia and Perseus, and tonight the view was quite good. So even though city lights may have drowned out the faint comet, I enjoyed my first good look at the Double Cluster in Perseus and other celestial gems in the spiral arm of the Milky Way that is beyond Cassiopeia.

Tonight if the clouds break, Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 10:50 p.m. EDT.

Wednesday, Right after dark, look for the Sagittarius Teapot tipping directly below the Moon.

Thursday, First-quarter Moon (exact at 5:27 p.m. EDT). As the stars come out, look high above the Moon for Altair. Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 12:28 a.m. Friday morning EDT.

Friday, Look just upper right of the Moon this evening (as seen from most of North America) for the 3rd-magnitude stars Beta and Alpha Capricorni, in that order counting up. Alpha is a double star that, with good or well-corrected vision, you can just resolve with the unaided eye. Binoculars resolve it easily into a golden-yellow pair.

News from the Net:
Video: Asteroid 2010 TD54 Whizzes Close to Earth
Flying to the Moon — From the Space Station?
The New Blue Marble
Breaking News: Small NEO Could Pass Within 60,000 km of Earth on Tuesday
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Makes First Glide Flight
Habitable Environments Could Exist Underground on Mars
President Signs NASA 2010 Authorization Act
‘Secret’ X-37B Space Plane Disappears Again
Astronomy: The Next Generation