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!

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:
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

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

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Seeing Double without Hartley

Still Hunting for Hartley in the ENE

Friday night I set up the DOB with the chair and Binoculars. I planned another Hunt for Comet Hartley. By 9:30 the Cluster was well over the tree line. I did a tour around Cassiopeia first. The Double Cluster looked great in the Binoculars and the Scope. I used the new ultra wide eyepiece and alternated the 9-24mm zoom. The Zoom gave me a broader view. I scanned around the cluster in all directions looking for Hartely! Around 10pm I shot over to Jupter and found three moons Friday night. The Moon Io was beginning to transit.
Moons of Jupiter: c-------------------i(J)---------g---e

I went back to Perseus and scanned once more looking for Hartley. I left the scope to rest and came back out just after midnight. The Double cluster still glistened in the eyepiece and scanned for the cluster ngc957. One of the charts indicated Hartley was near it, after passing the double. Still no “green lantern”! Swung up to the Pleiades and called it quits for the night. Maybe Hartley will brighten for binocular viewing later in the month. I will continue to track this green lantern as it crosses my sky! Yeah OK, I could use the LX90 and "numbers" but I am waiting for this rock to brighten, if it brightens? The fun is in the Hunt!

Lots of folks on the net have followed, found and shot the green comet Hartley. writes that Comet 103P/Hartley 2 continues to put on a good show as it approaches Earth for an 11-million-mile close encounter on Oct. 20th. Last night it passed by the Double Cluster in Perseus. The contrast between the blue stars of the two clusters and the green atmosphere of the comet was remarkable: "What a nice photo-op!" says David A Harvey of Tucson, Arizona. "I made this portrait of the threesome using a Takahashi E160 astrograph telescope and a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera. The total exposure time was 20 minutes."

One Blogger finally found Hartley last night: close to the Double Cluster in Perseus – but boy, it was faint, so faint, waaay fainter than naked eye brightness. It didn’t look at all impressive, just a small, blurry, fuzzy, smeary ball of… mistiness… but it was elongated, not like a star at all, so I was delighted to find it!

Next up is eta Persei (η Per), a 4th-magnitude star that will shine through the comet's atmosphere on Oct 9th and 10th. Details and a sky map.

Late tonight (for North America) Comet Hartley 2 grazes Eta Persei, magnitude 3.8, the tip of Perseus's hat. Eta Per is a pale-yellow-orange K3 giant, which, in a telescope, should make a nice color contrast with the comet's pale green. 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 1:20 a.m. Sunday morning EDT. The "red" spot appears very 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.

Sunday, In twilight, look for twinkly little Antares upper left of the crescent Moon low in the southwest, as shown here. Binoculars help. Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 9:12 p.m. EDT.

Monday, Look for Antares lower right of the Moon after sunset this evening, as shown here. Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 2:58 a.m. Tuesday morning EDT.

News from the Net:
Melas Chasma: The Deepest Abyss on Mars
Poor in one, Rich in another
Water Ice Found on Another Asteroid
Optimus Prime Defends Kennedy Space Center! Transformers 3 Filming at Spaceport
Soyuz Launches; Discovery’s Final Payload Delivered to Launch Pad
JAXA: Hayabusa Capsule Contains Particles, Maybe of Asteroid
Titan’s Atmosphere Could Produce Building Blocks of Life

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stargazing near Cassiopeia, Hunting Hartely


Sunday evening was forecast to be a Mostly Clear Night, but turned out to a disappointing cloud covered evening. The night started out Clear! I was amped up to stargaze and ready with a long list of items to discover and observe. Set up the LX90 early. The chair and binoculars ready. At 9 pm the sky was Clear and seeing was good the first thirty minutes. I turned on the Scope at 8:35 pm, it wanted to align stars that were low and not in my eyepiece. After passing several in the program, we settled with Rasalgethi (Hercules) and Nunki (Sgr). Alignment complete we are good to go. With a standard 26mm eyepiece on I slewed to Shedar in Cas. I moved around looking for Hartley, with no luck.

Comet '103P' Magnitude= 6.9mag
Best seen from 20.4h - 6.4h (h=63° at 2.0h) (in constellation Cassiopeia)
RA= 1h17m15s Dec=+56°21.2' (J2000)
Distance to Sun= 1.11AU
Distance to Earth= 0.17AU
Elongation=127° hourly motion: dRA=263.4"/h dDec= 46.3"/h

I put M15 in the eyepiece, this G cluster in Pegasus was not too sharp tonight, then went back to Cassiopeia and located NGC 457, the Owl cluster. I sent the scope to the Andromeda Galaxy. This fuzzy patch was not as sharp and had something bad happening in the atmosphere….clouds! These started as broken patchy segments in several large areas in the eastern sky. The sky was still clear in SW. I sent the scope to Jupiter. The bright planet @ 21:25 had four moons showing, all on the Planet’s right side.
The Moons of Jupiter: c---- g-------------------------e---i----(J)

There was a break in the sky to the east. I voyaged over to the double cluster. Not as great looking in the 8 inch as in the 10 inch DOB the other night. And there were those clouds!
After a few minutes the clouds filled in the area again so I set the course for Uranus. It was a dull blue green dot in the eyepiece.

The sky totally closed in at 10:30 with clouds now. Left the scope on hoping the sky would break clear. I checked every so often until 3 am. Clouds still blanketed the sky, that’s when I shut down. I will try again……. when the clouds are gone and it stays Clear!

On the page Tuesday: The comet show continues. After visiting the Pacman nebula on Oct 1st and 2nd, green Comet 103P/Hartley 2 is now paying a call on the Owl cluster. Readers with wide-field telescopes are encouraged to monitor the comet's busy track across Cassiopeia in the nights ahead--especially Oct. 7th and 8th when the comet glides a mere 1° from the photogenic Double Cluster. Details and a sky map.

Another attempt to locate Hartley
Tuesday night, a clear sky , seeing good. Set up the DOB and the chair with binoculars
At 8:30 I finally located ET/ the Owl cluster in Cassiopeia. Charts indicated Hartley was near by. I did a grid search with binoculars and in the scope… still NO Comet! I did enjoy observing the owl cluster though, always a pleasant sight. Soon I changed course and located Almach, a double star at the end of Andromeda (a nice tight spaced golden double). From there, I hopped to the Andromeda Galaxy (clear and sharp tonight with bright core and extended disk). OK, I did another grid scan with the scope for Hartley, from the double cluster, up to NGC457 area…Nuttin! I do have the coordinates and could just have the LX90 go-to the green spot, but hunting is half the fun of discovery!

Jupiter was well up and I swung to the SW and caught the bright planet with just three moons at 9:41pm. The Moons of Jupiter:
Yeah, OK, I missed the GRS again. It transited around 9:30! I set up to aim ENE, this was another comet hunt night! I swung back to Cassiopeia and did another grid scan with the scope for Hartley, from the double cluster up to 457…still nothing. This was just another excuse to view the Double Cluster again. The eyepiece shines with a thousand stars on a sea of black. With a combined apparent magnitude of 4.2, the clusters are very bright in the eyepiece! The two clusters, h Persei and Chi Persei are truly a bejeweled pair to observe in scope or binoculars in a dark sky! Viewing in the 10” DOB with the ultra wide eyepiece is spectacular! I paused for a few hours and came back out around 3 am. Orion was not fully over the trees yet but I did view the seven sisters before completely shutting down for the night. Next time I will use the 4” refracting Celestron and compare views of the Double Cluster.

Tonight, In the eastern evening sky this month, look upper left of bright Jupiter for the Great Square of Pegasus. Look farther to Jupiter's lower right for 1st-magnitude Fomalhaut. Algol should be at minimum light for a couple hours centered on 7:17 p.m. EDT. If the sky remains clear Tonight, Comet Hartley 2 is a fine target for backyard telescopes--and it is about to become even finer. On Oct. 7th and 8th the comet's vast green atmosphere will pass barely 1 degree from the photogenic Double Cluster in Perseus. Details and a sky map. If I am up after mid-night I will look for Capella.

Thursday, New Moon (exact at 2:44 p.m. EDT). Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 11:42 p.m. EDT

News from the Net:
Eris and Pluto: Two Peas in a Pod
New VISTA Within the Unicorn
Neptune Acquitted on One Count of Harassment
Saturn’s Rings Formed from Large Moon’s Destruction
Trojans May Yet Rain Down
Dragon Ascendant: SpaceX Prepares for Second Falcon 9 Launch

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Double Cluster in the FOV


Friday night’s Sky was clear and the seeing good. I placed the DOB on the tarmac with the chair and binoculars handy. I scanned the W [binoculars and scope] for the comet with NO results again tonight. I just cannot locate Hartley. Maybe my old eyes just can't pick up the this comet?Moved around Cassiopeia and found the many clusters in the binoculars. Put the New “Wide” eyepiece on the scope and found the Double Cluster in the eyepiece….WOW! Surveyed and explored the Andromeda Galaxy in the FOV. Set up the new finder on the scope and targeted Jupiter. A great view in the new ultra wide eyepiece! Single belt stood out, with dimmer bands in rest of the planet. I did see Uranus, just above the bright globe. This “top view” finder is a big help in finding objects. Used my green laser a few times [aide in finding objects], but the button seems to be malfunctioning. I’ve had this one for sometime, since the late 90s. It may be time for new one? Found the Double Cluster again! What a site! Here is a video on this object. I looked for the comet several more times in the session. At 1A.M. I scanned the W the last time. After a final look at the Double Cluster [double wow]. Photos do not do justice to what is seen in the eyepiece! A final scan of the Pleiades in binoculars, I called it a night.

At 11:30 pm Jupiter was bright in the SW. two moons on the left were close[ one on top of the other], with the other two on the right, a bit farther away from the planet. Moons of Jupiter

c-i- (J)----g-----e

I think I spotted the GRS in transit across a lower white plane of this bright planet. Should have put in a filter, but this was comet night! I will concentrate on the GRS another night. This photo is of moon shadow transit and the GRS.

Early this morning (Sunday), another Clear, Cool night with seeing good. I discovered Orion and Gemini well up over the tree-line at 4 A.M. I could see the very bright crescent moon through the trees and put them in the binocular FOV. Used the binoculars and explored the sword. The Great Nebula looked great in the FOV. The seven sisters sat above my portal, very high, at zenith. I stood in the Tarmac and leaned against a post to scan the W, it was well over the house, in the NW, did not see the comet. Some observers are reporting that comet 103P/Hartley 2 has reached the threshold of naked eye visibility. "I was able to see the comet last night under very dark and transparent skies," says Kevin Koski of Cascade, Wisconsin. Veteran observer Mike Holloway of Van Buren, Arkansas, adds that "the comet was almost 'naked eye' with averted vision on Oct. 2nd." In the nights ahead, telescopic observers are encouraged to lift their eyes from the optics to attempt a sighting.

The first full week of October! So far, we have had Four consecutive Clear Nights and next week is forecast... Clear! The moon is moving to it's last phase, cooler, darker nights to come. One of my favorite months, October!

Monday Night, Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 2:13 a.m. Tuesday morning EDT. The periodic comet Hartley is visible near the constellation of Cassiopeia the Queen. You will need binoculars to see this comet. Recent reports say the comet "looks like a dim misty patch of light among the rich star fields." The comet is expected to be at its brightest near the beginning of October.

Tuesday, Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 10:04 p.m. EDT.

Wednesday, In the eastern evening sky this month, look upper left of bright Jupiter for the Great Square of Pegasus. Look farther to Jupiter's lower right for 1st-magnitude Fomalhaut.

News from the Net:
Simply Astonishing: Enceladus, the Jet-Powered Moon
No Glory: NASA Delays Climate Change Satellite Mission
Astronomy Without A Telescope – A Snowball’s Chance

Friday, October 1, 2010

Looking for the Comet

Wednesday night, 10:30 pm clear sky, seeing was good.
DOB in place on the porch, set up chair on the tarmac and binoculars standing by. Scanned Andromeda for the Galaxy and found it, sharp-bright core with dusty disk, stood out in the binoculars. Searching for the Comet but stopped at the bright planet.

Jupiter in the DOB: the single belt stood out with a moon (Io) close by on the right. Two more farther right and one moon a good distance on the left. The Moons of Jupiter :


The moon Io is due to transit and show a shadow after midnight. The GRS is due to transit the bright planet close to 2am. Uranus was just above the bright star in the eyepiece

Continued a binocular search around Cassiopeia for the comet. Checked the Heavens- Above chart, position near schedar, should be there? Larry’s info says better this weekend? Where the heck is that green rock? I will keep reviewing charts, searching and scanning. Maybe if it brighens more, I will catch it in my FOV!

Went in and came back out at 1am. Moon was coming up, moonbeams lit up the night. I found the Pleiades anchored in the east above the trees. I did another binocular search around Cassiopeia for the comet. Nothing! The DOB is on the porch, close to the house. Would have to move the tube to see anything in Cas! The W has moved farther NW. Shadow of Io on Jupiter and GRS transiting but the planet is higher and to the west. Frustrating, I could not get the bright planet in the DOB eyepiece. Tried a scan with the eyepiece to find the planet, the legs are not helping in working the finder (straight up) tonight. I closed down at 2 am. I will set up on the tarmac, away from the house next time and try to be better prepared for the next Jupiter event.

Thursday night, I did step out around 11pm and surveyed the W again. The Comet Hartley did not appear in my FOV. Green comet 103P/Hartley 2 is approaching Earth for a close encounter on Oct. 20th. At that time, the comet will be only 11 million miles from Earth and should be dimly visible to the naked eye from dark sky sites. It already looks great through backyard telescopes. Italian amateur astronomer Toni Scarmato took this picture on Sept. 29th using a 10-inch reflector. He caught the comet gliding by lambda Cassiopeia, a 6th magnitude double star. "In 7x50 binoculars, the comet is diffuse and very large," says Scarmato. "I estimate its size around 20-arcminutes and brightness at magnitude +7.5." Amateur astronomers can monitor the comet as it glides through the constellation Cassiopeia in the evening sky. A finder chart from Sky and Telescope shows the comet passing by a variety of stars and deep-sky objects, offering many photo-ops in the nights ahead. This year comet Hartley 2 is on course to make its closest pass by Earth at a mere 11 million miles (17.7 million kilometers) on October 20—and a dark, moonless sky in mid-October will help create ideal viewing conditions, astronomers say. Periodic Comet Hartley 2 should be about 7th magnitude this week, visible in binoculars in a dark sky. It's excellently placed very high these moonless evenings, passing just south of Cassiopeia as shown at right. Hartley 2 may brighten to 5th magnitude in the next couple weeks.

I did take a look at Jupiter Thursday night, Moons of Jupiter . Just 3 visible tonight.

Saturday night, 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 12:35 a.m. Sunday morning Eastern Daylight Time; 9:35 p.m. The "red" spot appears very 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.

Monday, Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 2:13 a.m. Tuesday morning EDT;

Tuesday, Jupiter's Red Spot should transit around 10:04 p.m. EDT. In dawn tomorrow morning, a very thin crescent Moon is visible quite low in the east. Look about a half hour before your local time of sunrise. Mercury may also be detectable well to the Moon's lower left, as shown above. Bring binoculars!

News from the Net: Largest Clouds Ever Seen on Titan
NASA’s Year of Finales Continues with Last ET and SRB Events
New Earth-sized Exoplanet is in Star’s Habitable Zone
House Passes Senate Version of NASA Budget Bill
Could Chance for Life on Gliese 581g Actually Be “100%”?
Additional Shuttle Mission Almost Guaranteed
Mysterious Ribbon at Edge of Solar System is Changing
China Launches Second Moon Mission