Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Binocular Voyage through an Autumn Sky

Discover a comet in the October night Sky: Comet Hartley 2
Finally what may be a naked eye comet very favorably placed for ALL NIGHT VIEWING! Comet Hartley 103P will be high in northern skies all month and will shine at magnitude 5 or brighter in the constellation of PERSEUS. The comet will be highest in the sky about 2:30 a.m. local time, with a southwest-pointing long tail. This comet will be best seen in binoculars or a very low power, wide field telescope, but it should be able to be seen in dark skies with the naked eye. The comet will be less than 10 million miles from Earth at mid-month, a very small distance in astronomical terms!

Put the following on the observing list:
NGC 7789 and M52, clusters in Cassiopeia
ET or the Owl cluster, NGC 457
The Double Cluster, NGC
M2-four stars east of Alpha Aquarii (Sadalmelik) these form a western pointing arrow leading to the cluster, 8 degrees west of Sadalmelik.
M15- shines at magnitude +6.4 so may be easily seen in binoculars by following the line of the two stars that make up the head of the winged horse up towards the left of Delphinus.
NGC752- south of gamma andromeda(Almach), just 4.8 degrees is an irregular haze of some 60 stars in this cluster.
Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun. Saturn will re-emerge from behind the Sun next month. Start looking for Saturn low in the east around the 11th of October in the morning sky.

Monday night 9:30pm a few light clouds around, Seeing good, not the best! I scanned Andromeda with Binoculars and found the Galaxy. I moved the binoculars around the W, looking for the comet, no luck tonight. Clouds did interfere and need to start looking for the green rock after midnight. Jupiter in the binoculars at 10pm: Moons of Jupiter


Moon climbed up over tree-line at midnight. Still very bright! I Observed the Pleiades in Binoculars, anchored near the Moon, Great Site! A few clouds still hanging around.

Tuesday night, Mars was 6.5 degrees to the upper right of Venus. The pair was in the early twilight, low in the WSW. Mars is much dimmer than Venus. Binoculars were needed to find Mars in the twilight glow. With my western horizon, I am unable to view these low events. I will catch these from other observers on the Net. No Stargazing Tuesday evening, Moon still bright!

Tonight, Fifteen minutes after sunset, Jupiter and Venus will both be about 6 degrees above the horizon. Venus in the WSW, Jupiter in the east. Use binoculars to find the planets in the early evening twilight.

Friday, October 1, Mercury and Jupiter are at opposition in celestial longitude. Can you spot both simultaneously? Jupiter will be on the western horizon when Mercury is on the eastern horizon. Make your observing attempt an hour before sunrise.

News from the Net:
Does a “Rock Comet” Generate the Geminids?
A Conversation with Jim Lovell, part 2: Looking Back
Milky Way Sidelined in Galactic Tug of War
Two Russian Companies Plan to Build First Commercial Space Station

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wandering Stars in Clear Skies

Sunday Night was forecast Clear! Moonrise was 9:08pm, with a bright moon, the sky is still lit-up too much to catch dimmer stars. Clear nights and dark skies ahead this week! It’s time to Explore, Discover and Observe! Break out the binoculars, the charts and the scope. There are four wandering stars that will stand out this week:

Jupiter (magnitude –2.9, at the Pisces-Aquarius border) is just past opposition. As twilight fades, Jupiter grows very obvious low in the east. It shines high in the east-southeast by mid-to late evening — by far the brightest starlike point in the sky. It's highest in the south around midnight or 1. Uranus (magnitude 5.7) is only 1° to 1½ from Jupiter this week. Mercury (bright at magnitude –1) is having a fine morning apparition. Look for it low in the east about 45 minutes before your time of sunrise. It sinks lower as the week advances. Look also for little Regulus increasingly far to its upper right. Neptune (magnitude 7.8, at the Aquarius-Capricornus border) is well placed earlier in the evening. See S&T's finder charts for Uranus and Neptune online. Can you see any color in Uranus and/or Neptune?

Tonight, Moonrise: 9:52pm. After the waning gibbous Moon rises in late evening, look for the Pleiades just to its left, by about 2° (depending on where you live). Look for the star cluster with binoculars. The Pleiades are north of the bright Moon. Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 1:28 a.m. Tuesday morning EDT; 10:28 p.m. Monday evening PDT.

Tuesday, Moonrise: 10:41pm. This is the time of year when, after nightfall, the dim Little Dipper (you'll need a dark sky!) dumps water into the bowl of the Big Dipper far below it in the north-northwest. Now that the Moon is gone from the evening sky, start keeping an eye on Comet Hartley 2. It's about 7th magnitude and excellently placed in western Cassiopeia. Hartley 2 should brighten to 5th magnitude in the next three weeks. See the article and finder chart in the October Sky & Telescope, page 56, or online. Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 9:19 p.m. EDT.

Wednesday, Moonrise: 11:36pm. As evening grows late and Jupiter rises high in the southeast, Look for the Star Fomalhaut , the Autumn Star, sparkling far to its lower right in the south-southeast.

Thursday, Moonrise: 12:37am, Last-quarter Moon (exact at 11:52 p.m. EDT).
Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 10:57 p.m. EDT. 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 1:39 a.m. Friday morning EDT; 10:39 p.m. Thursday evening PDT. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten. Use S&T's comparison-star chart.

Friday, Shortly after dark at this time of year, five constellations form a line descending from the zenith down to the west-northwest horizon. Near the zenith is the star Deneb: the head of the Northern Cross and the tail of Cygnus, the Swan. Next down is Lyra with bright Vega, then dim Hercules, then little Corona Borealis, and then big Bootes with bright Arcturus low in the west-northwest.

Saturday, Moonrise: 1:41am. Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 12:35 a.m. Sunday morning EDT.

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Dark Denial
Possibility for White Dwarf Pulsars?
Conjoined Moons
Cassini Flies Through Saturn’s Aurora
“Space Factory of the Future” Preparing for Orion Spacecraft for Flight
Undocking Problems Delays Soyuz, Station Crew Return to Earth
New Phenomenon: “Coreshine” Provides Insight into Stellar Births
A Conversation with Apollo’s Jim Lovell, part 1: NASA’s Future
Kennedy’s Workforce Reflects on Discovery’s Final Flight

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Full Moon in an Autumn Sky

Clouds continue to dominate the night skies this week. No Stargazing with clouds and a bright moon. We might get some cooler temps with some clearer skies forecast for next week. The First weekend of Autumn! I did see the bright Moon and Jupiter last night, after a break in the clouds. Tonight the moon turns full, followed by the Autumnal Equinox early Thursday morning. Becky's Skywatching article covered this week's Full Harvest Moon.

Mid Week News from the Net: had this article and video on a bright meteroid that streaked across the sky last night. A random meteoroid--and maybe two--disintegrating in Earth's atmosphere. Last night (Sept. 21st) around 09:01 pm MDT, a dazzling fireball glided across the skies of New Mexico and west Texas. Reports say, "It took 23 seconds to cross the sky and was nearly as bright as the full Moon," After passing over New Mexico, the fireball apparently continued on to Texas. "At 10:05 pm CDT (9:05 pm MDT) on Sept. 21st.

The folks at Kitt Peak have been working with area population to tone down Light Pollution. Maybe Larry could pass this article on to those Developers to consider?
Unveiling SpaceX: Dragon and Falcon aim for October 23 Blast off
Fleet of Solar Sail Spacecraft Envisioned for Future Data Gathering Missions
LRO Finds Bridges on the Moon
Satellite Images Show Hurricane Igor Likely to Make Direct Hit on Bermuda
New Discovery at the Large Hadron Collider?
Watch the Aurora Borealis Live via Webcam
Astrophysics From the Moon
Discovery, Bathed In Light, Conducts Final Rollout (Gallery)
Water on the Moon Could be Bad News for Future Lunar Astronomy
Hot Atmosphere of Venus Might Cool the Interior
The Moon in Stunning Wide Angle

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Event Horizon: Autumn Skies This Week !

Saturday night was cloudy so we missed the Moon Event. Also behind the clouds- Jupiter, Uranus and a lot of other stars. But it is finally Fall! “Harvest Moon” makes a glorious appearance just in time for the arrival of autumn. The Moon is exactly full at 5:17 a.m. Thursday morning EDT. As the Sun thus crosses the celestial equator to the south, fall begins in the northern hemisphere, Thursday the 22nd (at 10:09 PM CDT). Gone are the 14 hours of summer sunshine. Now, the Sun spends approximately 12 hours above the horizon and 12 hours below.

The bright Moon dims out the constellations, this week, though the first magnitude (and brighter) stars remain.

Monday, if the clouds break, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit tonight around 12:43 a.m. EDT. 11:43 Sunday night, CDT.

Tuesday, The dim little constellation Scutum, high in the south after dark, lies in one of the richest parts of the Milky Way. It sports not only the famous open star cluster M11, but the nice globular cluster NGC 6712, the big, dim planetary nebula IC.

Wednesday, This evening Jupiter (and Uranus) are below the full Harvest Moon. Autumn begins in the Northern Hemisphere at 11:09 p.m. EDT.

Thursday, Jupiter and Uranus are now left of the Moon during evening. Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 10:12 p.m. EDT. The Moon is exactly full at 5:17 a.m. Thursday morning EDT. Maybe we will get a break in the clouds?

Friday, Harvest Moon and Jupiter in the sky, dusk ‘til dawn.

Saturday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 11:50 p.m. EDT

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Not So Ordinary
The Case of the Missing Bulges
Jupiter Makes Close Pass At Earth…

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gibbous Moon, Cloudy Weekend?

The weekend is not looking good for clear skies! Chance of rain with Cloudy Skies are forecast. Saturday, September 18 marks the first International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN). If it is clear, we can set up a scope and focus on the Moon. Follow the Terminator and explore multiple surface features. Maybe the clouds will break?! I'm going to blame the current cloud movement on La Niña! "La Niña has strengthened for the past four months, is strong now and building"!

The moon is full of surface objects and images. Can you see the traditional image of “the Man in the Moon”? Have a look as the Moon approaches full. The eyes are made from Mare Imbrium and Mare Tranquilitatis, the nose from Sinus Aestuum, and the mouth from Mare Nubium.

I see the Man’s face using the sea of Fertility and the Sea of Crisis as the eyes. I use the sea of serenity as the mouth. The nose is the palus somnii. But, we all see different things and can image what we want!

The Group met last night and Larry discussed the Astronomy petition he will submit to the new proposed Development North of the Loop. Not sure this will carry much weight. Maybe our six signatures will help them be more aware of lighting and set aside a small area in the 3,000 + acre area for Astronomy Viewing. We discussed astrophotography equipment. New comet in the sky was discussed. Interesting discussion on Sage brush blooming and influence by Moon phases?

Tonight, if the clouds break, Focus on Perseus tonight! Uranus is passing 0.8° north of Jupiter tonight and tomorrow night. Although Uranus is easily visible in binoculars at magnitude 5.7, Jupiter outshines it by nearly 3,000 times at magnitude –2.9. In fact, Uranus appears roughly as bright as one of Jupiter's four Galilean moons. Finder Chart.

Saturday, You know summer is near its end: as the stars come out, Cassiopeia in the northeast is already as high as Big Dipper in the northwest! Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 11:05 p.m. EDT.

News from the Net:
September 18 is International Observe the Moon Night
Jupiter Makes Close Pass At Earth…
5 Reasons to Attend Your Nearest Star Party
5 Things About the Next Mars Rover
Hubble’s Amazing 3-D Look Inside the Dusty Carina Nebula

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Star Hop the Box

Monday night the western horizon was full of clouds. I went up and over to Pegasus, the Box and star hopped over to the Andromeda Galaxy. A visible bright core + dust lane were in the FOV. I jumped over to Cassiopeia and scanned the many clusters. The Stars and objects just not as sharp in tonight’s sky.

The sky looked disturbed and seeing was not the best Monday night. I scanned the sky a bit after ten Monday night. Bright Jupiter was over the tree line with 3 moons visible in the 15x70s. Io was to close in-missed that one in the FOV. The Moons of Jupiter
C----E-------I (J) ------------G

NASA Science News notes that Jupiter's view through a telescope is excellent. Because Jupiter is so close, the planet's disk can be seen in rare detail--and there is a lot to see. For instance, the Great Red Spot, a cyclone twice as wide as Earth, is bumping up against another storm called "Red Spot Jr." The apparition of two planet-sized tempests grinding against one another must be seen to be believed. Jupiter's trademark South Equatorial Belt (SEB) recently vanished, possibly submerging itself beneath high clouds. Researchers say it could reappear at any moment. The dramatic resurgence would be accompanied by a globe-straddling profusion of spots and cloudy swirls, clearly visible in backyard telescopes.

Coincidentally, the planet Uranus is also at opposition on Sept. 21st. On that night it will travel across the sky alongside Jupiter, although not nearly so bright. Being almost three times smaller and five times farther away than Jupiter, Uranus is barely visible to the naked eye. It looks great, however, through a small telescope. Just point your optics at Jupiter and you will find emerald Uranus less than 1o away.

Finally, we mustn't forget the moons of Jupiter because they are also having a close encounter with Earth. These are planet-sized worlds with active volcanoes (Io), possible underground oceans (Europa), vast fields of craters (Callisto), and mysterious global grooves (Ganymede). When Galileo discovered the moons 400 years ago, they were no more than pinpricks of light in his primitive spy glass. Big, modern amateur telescopes reveal actual planetary disks with colorful markings.

Tuesday Night was a wash out. A veil of clouds covered the sky, even the brightest stars and Jupiter appeared dimmer! I have added a new Telrad Finder to the ten inch scope. Next good, clear night, I will Star Hop the night sky with the DOB!

This morning it was clear and Orion was already high at 6 am. M42 was visible with just the eye and looked great in the 15x70s. I scanned over to the red star Betelgeuse, the belt and Rigel. The Seven Sisters were awesome in the binoculars! Note: Even though forecast a Cloudy Sky, I need to get up earlier, check the sky and set up to Observe when it is clear!

Tonight, The Moon shines above the handle of the Sagittarius Teapot this evening. Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 9:27 p.m. EDT.

Friday, Mercury is 7 degrees to the lower left of Regulus. Look for Mercury at dawn in the east.

News from the Net:
Scientists Predict Earth-Like Habitable Exoplanet Will Be Found in 2011
Hubble’s Amazing 3-D Look Inside the Dusty Carina Nebula
Disturbance in the Force – A Spatially Varying Fine Structure Constant
Boeing to Offer Commercial Flights to Space
LRO Takes Closer Look at Moon Caves
Planck, XMM Newton Find New Galaxy Supercluster
NASA Names Crew for Rescue Mission or Potential Added Shuttle Flight
NASA Considering Rail Gun Launch System to the Stars

Monday, September 13, 2010

September Comet Hartley 2

Another visible comet is gliding across our sky this month and into October.
Comet Hartley 2 has reached 9th magnitude and is brightening by 0.1 magnitude per day. Start exploring the Andromeda region in the eastern sky. Break out the Binoculars and look for a fuzzy green object near Omicron Andromeda. As shown in the S&T chart, by September 1st Hartley 2 had climbed north into a corner of Lacerta, where it spent a few days before crossing into northern Andromeda. On the night of September 8-9, at new Moon, the comet was less than 1° from 3.6-magnitude Omicron (ο) Andromedae. The waxing Moon will brighten the evening sky from about September 15th to 26th. On the 22nd Hartley 2 should be 7th or 8th magnitude and within a few degrees of Lambda (&lambda) Andromedae. Sky and Telescope article gives more detail on this current comet.

All we need is a clear night sky. The forecast for this week does not look good. So far, Cloudy to Partly Cloudy nights through the weekend.

News from the Net:
The Hercules Satellite – A Galactic Transitional Fossil

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Event Horizon: Jupiter- Bright, Wandering Star

There were a few “somewhat clear” nights over the weekend. I went out and scanned the sky with the 15x70s after dark. The Summer Triangle is there, but moving farther and higher in the NW. Jupiter is up after 10 pm along with Pegasus, Andromeda and Cassiopeia. I did scan the lid of the Tea Pot. The clusters were very dim in the polluted light of that area and seeing was not the best over the weekend. The Forecast is not good for the upcoming week: Partly Cloudy with a chance of Clouds! Jupiter (magnitude –2.9, in Pisces) is nearing its opposition on the night of the 20th. As twilight fades, Jupiter becomes visible low in the east. It's well up in the east-southeast by mid- to late evening — by far the brightest star-like point in the sky. It's highest in the south around 1 or 2 a.m. daylight saving time.

Jupiter is having an unusually close apparition; from now through mid-October it appears 49 arcseconds wide. In fact, at opposition on the night of September 20th, Jupiter will be closer than at any other time from 1963 to 2022. However, that's only 1% or 2% closer than in any year when opposition occurs from mid-August through October, including last year and next.

If it is Clear Tonight and if you have binoculars, zoom in on Zubenelgenubi. Look west and you’ll see this single point of light blooming into a double star. It might be a true binary – two stars revolving around a common center of mass. If so, its orbital period could be as long as 200,000 years. Jupiter's moon Europa slips into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow, barely off the planet's western limb, around 12:24 a.m. Monday morning EDT.

Monday, At dusk, look for Antares sparkling 3° or 4° left of the Moon.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 11:58 p.m. EDT. Mercury ends its retrograde motion. Look for Mercury in the morning sky. Mercury will be 5.6 degrees below the star Regulus

Tuesday, First-quarter Moon tonight (exact at 1:50 a.m. Wednesday morning EDT). Start exploring the Terminator and find the Straight Wall!

Wednesday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 1:36 a.m. Thursday morning EDT (10:36 p.m. Wednesday evening PDT).

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – One Crowded Nanosecond
Stunning Amateur Images Win in Astronomy Photographer of the Year Competition
Type II-P Supernovae as a New Standard Candle
The Thick Disk: Galactic Construction Project or Galactic Rejects?
Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Rollover to the VAB
Do Stars Really Form in Clusters?
Follow-up Studies on June 3rd Jupiter Impact

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Hermine is now near Oklahoma. She left us with 6+ inches of rain! Lots of trees down and the clouds are still hanging around! Multible Astrophotos in Cyberspace to look at and download plus the latest mid - week Astronomy news posted on the web.

Today: Two Asteroid flybys, close call
If it is Clear Tonight, The Moon is at perigee, 221,949 miles from the Earth. This is the second closest perigee for the year. It's also a New Moon. Because the perigee is happening at the same time as the New Moon, tides will be higher than normal.

Thursday, Mira, the prototype red long-period variable star in Cetus, is on its way to a maximum predicted for early October. It's probably not quite visible to the unaided eye yet but should be easy in binoculars. You'll need to look for it after about midnight, however. The young thin crescent Moon may be spotted low in the WSW. Binoculars and a clear horizon will be needed to see this young Moon. Observers in southern states will have a better view. The Moon will be about 20 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Look about 10 minutes after sunset.

Friday, Algol in Perseus is well up in the northeast by about 10 p.m. daylight saving time. Tonight it should be in one of its periodic dimmings, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 11:58 p.m. EDT; 8:58 p.m. PDT. It takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten. Use this comparison-star chart. For all times of Algol's minima this month, good worldwide. The moon waxes as Venus wanes in evening sky.

Saturday, Venus shines 6° or 7° to the right of the waxing crescent Moon low in the west-southwest during twilight, as shown above. Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 10:14 p.m. EDT.

News from the Net:
Extrasolar Volcanoes May Soon be Detectable
Aesthetics of Astronomy
Win 'Star Walk' and 'Solar Walk' Astronomy Apps
Two New Asteroids to Pass Earth This Week
Spiral Galaxies Could Eat Dwarfs All Across the Universe
Hubble Spies an Amazing Cosmic SpiralThe Other End of the Planetary Scale

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tracking stars in late Summer Nights

Labor Day Weekend

Friday Night, the skies cleared around 11pm and the air was cooler! I did a binocular tour of the summer triangle, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, and did find the double cluster. Still cannot find M15 in the FOV near the bright star Enif. [I might be on the wrong star?], but I’ll keep looking and trying. I did find: M31-bright core and lengthy, fuzzy, dust lane disk + the coat-hanger + the double cluster- superb in the 15x70s,+ the owl cluster-just the eyes and few other bright stars + ngc7789-OC with 1000 dim stars + m52- OC with 200 stars in the FOV. The Tea Pot was already too far west! Jupiter @ 23:50 was above the tree-line, and I observed two moons ( Io and Callisto) on the right side of the bright Planet. One was close in and the other more to the south. I think I spotted Uranus/faint dot, near by to the right.

E--- (J) ---G----I-----------------------C
I: Io 5 mag E: Europa 5.6 mag G: Ganymed 4.6 mag C: Callisto 5.7 mag

I went in to wait for Perseus to climb higher. When I came back out, after 1 AM, the sky was full of clouds. They blanketed the sky way past sunrise…..End of Session. Saturday night is forecast…Clear!?

Saturday night, Scopes were set up with the lounge chair and binoculars ready by dusk. Cloudy Skies at dark, Cloudy at 11pm, Cloudy at 1am and Cloudy at 3am! I did see a somewhat clear sky at 6am. Orion, Sirius and the Moon were up and in good view. The stars that make up Orion were dim (twilight)! What happened to our Clear Sky? Very Disappointing…. the air shifts from the gulf and SW. Soon another front will pass through Central Texas, forecast by the middle of next week. Clouds will again dominate the skies.

Sunday night, tried again! One scope set up late and binoculars used. Sky was somewhat clear with a few clouds left over at 11pm. Scanned Cassiopeia and found the double cluster and M31 in the 15x70 binoculars. I put the DOB on bright Jupiter: Moons of Jupiter
(J) ----I----C----G
I observed the single band/belt, it stood out and the absence of the S band was visible.

I scanned Andromeda and found M31, in the eyepiece, a bit dimmer tonight, but still observed a bright core and a dust lane. M31 is visible to the naked eye, although we can only see the bright inner bulge, and it has therefore been known since at least the year 964AD, when Persian astronomer Al-Sufi described it as a `little cloud'. We can see that the western (right) side of M31 is closer to us, by the fact that the dark dust lanes belonging to the inner spiral arms show up in silhouette against the nucleus on that side only. At the very center of the Andromeda Galaxy is a brilliant point of light, which is a very tightly packed star cluster.

The scope was not in a good position to properly scan for clusters around Cassiopeia! During the scan I did run across: ngc7789, M103, ngc1502, “Kembles Cascade” and ngc663. These clusters were awesome in the scope! I will revisit them again, soon, in a clear - dark - night, when I have more time. For some reason, I could not get a fix on the Double Cluster or the Owl with the DOB. My internal guidance system was way off tonight!? I have found them before, where the charts say they are supposed to be! Too Hot, Too Humid, Too Tired! I got a late start tonight so I went in to rest some and wait for Perseus to climb higher over my tree line. When I came back out after 1am, the blasted clouds were covering the sky again. I shut down for the evening. I shall return to Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Perseus and Pegasus these late summer/Autumn nights. There is a lot more to explore and discover… as soon as the skies clear! Clouds and rain are forecast for most of this week! The affects of TS Hermine are due in our area Tomorrow!

Tonight, Jupiter and Uranus are 1.3 degrees apart. Jupiter is visible all night long. Look for Jupiter in the east at dusk and in the WSW at dawn. Uranus looks like a faint star next to Jupiter as seen through binoculars. Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 11:07 p.m. EDT. Too cloudy for me to observe

Tuesday, if it’s clear! An old thin crescent Moon is to the lower right of the star Regulus in Leo. Look low in the east, 40 minutes before sunrise with binoculars for the thin crescent. The zodiacal light ("false dawn") should be showing well, for Northern Hemisphere skywatchers, before the first light of dawn for the next two weeks. But you'll need a dark, unpolluted sky. (Too cloudy here!?)

Wednesday, New Moon (exact at 6:30 a.m. EDT). Post Hermine affects will most likely bring rain for my area. If the clouds break, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 12:45 a.m. Thursday morning EDT.

News from the Net:
Herschel Finds Water Around a Carbon Star
Step On The Scales: Weighing Up Planet Earth…
The Origin of Exoplanets
The Black Hole/Globular Cluster Correlation
Viking Experiment May Have Found Life’s Building Blocks on Mars After All

Friday, September 3, 2010

Touring the Stars in September Nights

StarLog^ 100901-B

Wednesday night the sky was clear. Well OK, not too clear. Seeing was not the best. I started observing at sunset, 19:55, I spotted Vega then Antares. At 8pm I had the lounge chair out and began scanning the night sky at 8:30. I am using the new pair “SkyMaster” 15x70 Binoculars. I started with the star Altair then to Albireo, to Deneb, to Vega. The Coathanger was spectacular in the 15x70s! I went south and scanned the Tea Pot dome. In my FOV was a very clear and sharp M22 and then M8. Cassiopeia slowly rose above the tree line and I scanned the W! In my FOV, many clusters were laid out like diamonds in the sky. Pegasus was finally in view and I scanned for M15, but never found it, this night. I moved up and over to Andromeda and found M31. A Terrific sight of the Galaxy in the 15x70s! Jupiter broke the tree line and I focused on the bright wandering star. Jupiter's four brightest moons were discovered by Galileo, and they can usually be seen with binoculars. All four of these moons will be grouped to the east of Jupiter before the morning sky brightens on Sept. 24! With no bright stars nearby, the planet was easy to spot. I spotted the two farthest moons in my new pair of binoculars Wednesday night at 11:30pm:

G-------------(J) I E-----------------C
I: Io 5 mag E: Europa 5.6 mag G: Ganymed 4.6 mag C: Callisto 5.7 mag

Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet, will dominate the sky nearly all night during September, presenting its best appearance in almost 50 years. In Pisces, Glowing low in the east as evening twilight fades, Jupiter will climb high in the south before midnight and set in the west around the time morning twilight begins. Jupiter shines to the lower right of the Great Square of Pegasus. Star-hop from Great Square to the Andromeda galaxy
I was still waiting for Perseus to clear the trees, so I went in for a break to study the charts. I did not make it back out. I Will try again …. The next clear dark night and add a scope.

A "Cold Front" passed through last night. It left us with some rain and cloudy skies. Maybe this "Labor Day" weekend will be bring at least one "Clear" night?

Tonight, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross Jupiter's central meridian (the imaginary line down the center of the planet's disk from pole to pole) around 1:38 a.m. Saturday morning Eastern Daylight Time; 10:38 p.m. Friday evening Pacific Daylight Time. The "red" spot appears pale orange-tan. It should be visible for about an hour before and after in a good 4-inch telescope if the atmospheric seeing is sharp and steady. A light blue or green filter helps. The Red Spot transits about every 9 hours 56 minutes.

Sunday, Zenith star. This is the time of year when Vega passes closest to straight overhead at dusk (for skywatchers at north temperate latitudes). It goes exactly through the zenith if you're at north latitude 38.6°. Lie back and look straight up.

Monday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 11:07 p.m. EDT.

Wednesday, New Moon (exact at 6:30 a.m. EDT).

Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit around 12:45 a.m. Thursday morning EDT.

News from the Net:
Solar Probe+ to Observe the Sun in 2018
Off to Dragon*Con
The Race to Stellar Formation
Scientists Say They Can Now Test String Theory
Ultraluminous Gamma Ray Burst 080607 – A "Monster in the Dark"
Near Earth Asteroids Vary Widely in Composition, Origin
Supernova Spews Its Guts Across Space

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Night Skies

The weather forecast for the first week of September: Hot days and mostly cloudy nights! Bummer! Our first “cold” front is still drifting in the NW, somewhere. This weak cool front might get here by the weekend. Some of the past few nights have been clear, but a lot of the morning skies have been cloudy! In the meantime, I have reviewed the September charts and am hoping for a couple of clear dark nights…!? A dark sky in September is time to grab your binoculars to scan the night sky and I just purchased a new pair of Celestron SkyMaster 15x70s. In the early hours of dawn, during the past few days (the end of August), we spotted Jupiter, the Moon and Sirius a couple mornings. Orion is climbing higher in pre-dawn darkness. Last night, just after dark, I scanned the Tea Pot area again and quickly found M8. Jumped straight up and once more located the Summer Triangle. Moving the binoculars east from Altar, I discovered Sagitta in my FOV (nice group of bright stars). I saw the Flying Horse climbing above the treeline @10pm. It was hot and humid, so I did not stay out long. Next time I am out, I will look for M15 and want to find the Dolphin again before it disappears behind the NW tree line.

Look in the south to southwest at nigtfall and early evening to see the beautiful constellation Sagittarius just above the horizon. The famed Teapot asterism, part of Sagittarius, appears to be pouring tea from its spout towards the horizon. The nebulae M8 and M20 are in this part of the sky. The Lagoon and Trifid Nebulas are easy to spot in binoculars in a clear dark sky. With a cloudy sky, early Tuesday morning, I missed the Pleiades near the moon.

The Planet Jupiter (photo taken Aug. 30)shines bright from dark in the SE and moves west by twilight at dawn. Jupiter (magnitude –2.9, in Pisces) rises in twilight and is well up in the east-southeast by late evening — the brightest starlike point in the sky. It's highest in the south around 2 a.m. daylight saving time.

Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) is not quite 2° west of Jupiter. In a telescope Uranus is only 3.7 arcseconds wide, compared to Jupiter's unusually wide 49″.

Here is a Summary of September Events posted on the Planetary Society Blog.

Thursday, By the beginning of September the Great Square of Pegasus is looming well up in the east after dark, balanced on one corner: the sign of autumn to come. This year bright Jupiter is the landmark; the Great Square is upper left of it in early evening.

News from the Net:
Two Chinese Satellites Rendezvous in Orbit
NASA Satellite Captures Three Tropical Cyclones in One Image
Young Exoplanet is Cloudy With a Chance of Heat Waves
Bad Universe Review
NASA Funds Experimental “Near Space” Vehicles
New Moon Mission: Chandrayaan-2 Payloads Selected
GOES 15 Satellite operational, tracking our weather.