Saturday, February 27, 2010

Event Horizon: Full Snow Moon Sunday

This past week we did see a few "flakes of Snow" fall from the sky Tuesday. We did have a few cold, clear nights that allowed us some obseving time. I observed the Mars/Moon conjunction and tried to get a few photos that night. In case you missed it, another Moon-Mars conjunction is less than a month away. On March 24th, the two worlds will gather together only 5 degrees apart. Mars, Procyon and Sirius were in ragged line across the sky all week. Orion climbed higher in the SW Sky. This month is ending with a Full Moon and three wandering stars can be seen in the night sky:
Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in western Virgo) rises in the east around the end of twilight and stands highest in the south around 1 a.m. In a telescope, Saturn's rings are tilted only 4° from edge-on to us, and they'll narrow further (to 1.7°) in the coming months.
Venus (magnitude –3.9) is slowly emerging into view very low in the sunset. Look for it just above the western horizon about 30 minutes after sundown. Binoculars help.
Mars, still bright at magnitude –0.6, shines high in the east at dusk and highest in the south around 9 or 10 p.m. It's in Cancer, below Pollux and Castor after dusk.
In a telescope Mars is shrinking: from 12.4 to 11.6 arcseconds wide this week. Its north polar cap remains the most visible marking.

We discussed the bright red star, The Hind’s Crimson Star, in the Constellation Lepus at our monthly meeting. I hope to observe this star again before it settles in the west the next couple of months. It is one of the brightest red stars in the night sky! Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – February 26-28, 2010 discusses a bright moon, Saturn and the dog star, Procyon.

Saturday, The Moon is at perigee, 222,345 miles from the Earth. This is the 3rd closest perigee of the year. Tonight and tomorrow, look for a big Full Moon in the east around sunset. Tonight the star Regulus is near the Moon.

Sunday, The Full Moon will rise in the east about 25 minutes after sunset. When the Full Moon is close to the horizon, people often perceive is to be larger than it is when it's high in the sky. The big moon is just an illusion. Look for the big moon illusion around moonrise tonight. Jupiter is at conjunction with the Sun. It re-emerges from behind the Sun in the dawn sky late next month. Some names for the February full moon, Full Moon ( at 11:38 a.m. today EST).

Monday, This evening Saturn shines left of the great big rising Moon, which is just past full and just past perigee. By dawn Tuesday morning they've shifted way over to the west-southwest, and Saturn has turned to the Moon's upper right.

News from the Net:
New Horizons…Half way to the KBOs
Discovery will blast off on April 5th at 6:27 am EDT. The pre-dawn launch should be spectacular--and the view from the runway when Discovery returns 13 days later won't be bad either. A New NASA Web Page Sheds Light on Science of Warming World.
Cassini Finds "Heat" and More Geysers on Enceladus
Alien Star Clusters Are Invading the Milky Way
Better Late Than Never: Dwarf Galaxies Finally Come Together
With a Name Like GOES-P, This Satellite Has to be Good
More Jaw-Droppers from Cassini

Monday, February 22, 2010

Last Week in February

I observed the moon near the Pleiades last night. The cluster was sharp and the dipper shape stood out against the moonlight. I did not stay out long, it was cold and the moon was bright. This was a "stiff neck" view because the position was straight up! Bright Mars led the way to Procyon, then Sirius, to Orion high in the south. Above Mars was Gemini.
The forecast Tuesday is- frosty and a dusting of "snow" all day ?!
Cloudy Skies for next few nights.

Shuttle Endeavour came home with a night landing at the Florida Space Center Sunday.
If your sky is clear this week:
There is a "minor' Meteor Shower this week.
Look forward to the
Major Meteor Showers in 2010.
Monday,
The waxing gibbous Moon is near the horns of Taurus the Bull. The Moon is at its most north for the month. The crater Copernicus is near the lunar terminator and easily visible in a small telescope or binoculars. A small telescope will always show Titan, Saturn's largest satellite. Tonight Titan is four ring-lengths to Saturn's east. A 6-inch telescope will begin to show the orange color of its smoggy atmosphere.
Tuesday, At this time of year, Orion stands at his highest in the south after dusk. His top-left star is bright, orange-red Betelgeuse. It forms the Winter Triangle (almost equilateral) with Procyon to its left and bright white Sirius below them both.
Wednesday, Feb 24, dawn 5:59 sunrise 7:20 These could be Delta Leonids
Castor and Pollux are left of the Moon during the evening.
Thursday, February 25, The bright, fiery "star" near the gibbous Moon tonight is Mars. A telescope reveals that Mars too is becoming gibbous; it's now nearly a month past opposition.
Friday, February 26, The Moon, Mars, Pollux, and Castor form a long, ragged line this evening.

News from the Net:
Endeavour Comes Home to Kennedy Space Center
Newsletters from Astronomical Observatories
All-Sky Radio Image in 60 Seconds, No Moving Parts
Multiple Computer Failures on the ISS
Dark Matter in Distant Galaxy Groups Mapped for the First Time

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quarter Moon and the Pleiades

We may not see stars this weekend. More Clouds on the way but there may be a break in the sky Monday night with another blast of cold air on the way!

There were eight at the meeting Thursday night. We discussed event opportunities, Asteroid Vesta, NASA's space program, items in the sky and future events from Larry's newsletter. Reviewed Telescope eyepieces.

The Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: February 19-21, 2010 previews features on the moon, the Pleiades and an open cluster. If the sky is clear where you are Tonight:
Orion shows you the ecliptic and summer solstice point
Saturday, the crescent Moon is to the west of the Pleiades star cluster. Look to the upper left of the Moon for the star cluster.
Sunday, The First Quarter Moon(exact at 7:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) is closely to the east of the Pleiades star cluster. Look to the lower right of the Moon for the star cluster.
Monday, The waxing gibbous Moon is near the horns of Taurus the Bull. The Moon is at its most north for the month. The crater Copernicus is near the lunar terminator and easily visible in a small telescope or binoculars. A small telescope will always show Titan, Saturn's largest satellite. Titan is four ring-lengths to Saturn's east. A 6-inch telescope will begin to show the orange color of its smoggy atmosphere.

News from the Net:
Double Spaceship Sighting Alert!
Astronomers Find Youngest Exoplanet Yet
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Don’t Make a Meal of It
This Week in Space #7, with Miles O'Brien
ESA's Tough Choice: Dark Matter, Sun Close Flyby, Exoplanets (Pick Two)
Ozone on Mars: Two Windows Better Than One
Endeavour Crew Preps for Sunday Landing as Showers Threaten Delay

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Event Horizon: Blanket of Clouds Forecast

For the past week, clear, cold nights have given us bright stars to view and appreciate after sunset. Mars, Procyon and Sirius were prominent just above my tree line, in the SE Sky, each night. I believe I spotted the Asteroid Vesta twice this past week. Today’s APOD has a photo of the area in Leo. I observed the "Rock" Sunday, Monday then Tuesday night’s position in binoculars.
The clouds are forecast to cover my sky starting tonight.
If you have a Clear Sky Tonight:
You should see Epsilon, Auriga's distant and mysterious star

Thursday, Jupiter is now 2° to the lower right of Venus. Look for the pair low in the WSW. Use binoculars. This may be the last chance to see Jupiter in the evening twilight. Look about 15 minutes after sunset.
Friday, Jupiter is now 3° to the lower right of Venus. Look for the pair low in the WSW. Use binoculars. Look about 15 minutes after sunset. Jupiter may be too low to see as it gets lost in the bright evening twilight. The waxing crescent Moon is near the stars of the constellation Aries the Ram.

News from the Net:
Astronauts Open New Window on the Universe
Missing Early Stars Found, With No Place Left to Hide
Astronomical Eye Candy from WISE First Images
Merging White Dwarfs Set Off Supernovae
Spitzer, the Wallpaper Factory, Does it Again

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Was that Vesta?

Finding the area the astereoid is traveling, last night, was easy but was the point of light I saw Vesta? Following the Charts , I found Gamma Leonis. Still not sure the point of light I viewed was Vesta. I will check others notes and confirm what I saw.

Tonight, the two brightest planets are having a spectacular conjunction. Venus and Jupiter are only 1/2-degree apart. The only problem is, the event is happening deep inside the glow of the setting sun. Are you ready for the conjunction challenge? Go outside 15 to 30 minutes after sunset and look directly below the crescent Moon. Venus and Jupiter are down there. Find them if you can: sky map.

Earthshine is the light of our own planet shining down on the Moon's dark terrain. It makes a ghostly image of the full Moon inside the horns of the crescent. Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci was first to explain this phenomenon, and so it is sometimes called the "da Vinci glow."

Moon, Venus, Jupiter at dusk on February 16

Wednesday, Vesta is at opposition tonight, a little after midnight. Look for the minor planet 4-Vesta in the constellation of Leo the Lion. Vesta is about 6th magnitude. It's forming a compact triangle with the stars Gamma Leonis and 40 Leonis in "the sickle". Gamma Leonis is also known as Algieba. The next opposition of Vesta will be in August of 2011.

Thursday, Jupiter is now 2° to the lower right of Venus. Look for the pair low in the WSW. Use binoculars. This may be the last chance to see Jupiter in the evening twilight. Look about 15 minutes after sunset.

News from the Net:
Scenes from Space: Best Images from STS-130 (so far…)
Dark Matter Detector Heading to the ISS This Summer
Meteorite Holds Millions of Unidentified Organic Compounds
Cassini Survives Close Encounter of the Death Star Kind!
Astronomy For Kids: Bull Ridin' Taurus
Supermassive Black Holes Spinning Backwards Create Death Ray Jets?
Cupola Bay Window bolted to face Earth; Stunning 38 Second Video
Martian Settlers May Need Chickens To Conquer The Red Planet

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another try at Vesta Tonight

I missed observing Vesta in Leo last night. A front blew in and the clouds covered the sky... again. There was the two hour Guide to the Planets Series on NatGeo that covered Saturn and Jupiter. Tonight the series covers Mars , Venus and Mercury. Tuesday night the series covers Neptune and Uranus, then Pluto and beyond.

Young moon hunting after sunset on February 15

Tonight, about 15 minutes after sunset, go outside and look west. You'll find an exquisitely-slender crescent Moon hovering just above the horizon. Point your finger at the Moon and trace a line down, down, down--voila! It's Jupiter and Venus. The two brightest planets are converging for a conjunction deep in the glow of the setting sun. Find them if you can: sky map.
Venus is 1.2° below Jupiter. Use the thin crescent Moon to help find the pair of planets in the bright early twilight. Jupiter and Venus are about 12° below the Moon. Look about 20 minutes after sunset, low in the WSW sky. Venus and Jupiter reach conjunction, with the Moon now much more easily visible high above them. Bring binoculars.

This evening Vesta passes (or has just passed) between Gamma Leonis and 40 Leonis, a wide binocular double star. See the finder chart in the February Sky & Telescope, page 54, or online.

Tuesday, Venus passes within 0.6° south of Jupiter. Look for the pair of bright planets in the early evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter will be low in the WSW. Look about 23° below the waxing crescent Moon. In the coming days and weeks, Venus will be easier to see. Jupiter is dropping lower each day, moving behind the Sun by the end of the month.

News from the Net:
Space Plumbers hook up crucial Tranquility cooling and power to Space Station
Gemini's New Filters Reveal the Beauty of Star Birth
Spectacular SRB Videos from STS-130 Provide Night-time Shuttle Love
This Week in Space with Miles O'Brien, Edition #6

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vesta, a second look

Last night, I once more scanned the area near gamma Leonis for Vesta. It was easy to find the Sickle of Leo and "Regulus". In Binoculars, there was a white "star" near by gamma Leonis and could be the asteroid. I hope to observe again the next few nights, if the sky stays clear, and see that white dot move closer.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Looking for Vesta in Leo

At 7:22pm last night the stars arced across the cold sky above my tree line. Just above the trees were Mars, Procyon and Sirius in a line from left to right. Orion lay just above Sirius. I looked left and saw the Gemini Twins. As the eye moved up to Zenith I saw the Pleiades. I noticed a moving object that turned out to be The Hubble Space Telescope, moving from West to East. I used the Binoculars to find the Asteroid Vesta in Leo around 10pm. While viewing the area, a meteor streaked across the sky and broke apart before getting to Leo. In the cold frosty night, I did see a white dot, that could be the “Rock” that was supposed to be near Gamma Leonis (magnitude 2.5). I will try again the next couple of nights.

If the Clouds break Tonight:

Sunday, The very young thin crescent Moon is to the left of Venus (the goddess of love) and Jupiter (the king of the gods). Look low in the WSW 20 minutes after sunset. Binoculars will help you find the Moon, Venus and Jupiter in the bright evening twilight. The Moon will be about 20 to 21 hours old for observers on the east coast, 23 hours old for west coast observers. Tomorrow's Moon will be easier to spot. Monday, Venus and Jupiter are creeping closer together after sunset. The thin crescent Moon now stands over them. Use binoculars. Venus is 1.2° below Jupiter. Use the thin crescent Moon to help find the pair of planets in the bright early twilight. Jupiter and Venus are about 12° below the Moon. Look about 20 minutes after sunset, low in the WSW sky.

News from the Net: Spaceweather. com notes that Sunspot 1046 continues to put on a good show. Yesterday it unleashed the brightest solar flare in more than two years (an M8-class eruption) and today it is seething with magnetic activity. NOAA forecasters estimate a 70% chance of another M-flare from this region during the next 24 hours. The chief effect of impulsive M-flares is to ionize the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere. Waves of ionization can affect the propagation of terrestrial radio signals, suppressing some frequencies (shortwave) while boosting others (VLF). Is the Sun Active Again?

Tranquility attached to Space Station
Armazones Chile to be the Site for the 42 meter European Extremely Large Telescope?
Best. Shuttle Image. Ever
On New Year's Eve, Cassini Will Stare at the Death Star's Superlaser
Incredible! Watch Time-Lapse of EVA-1/Tranquility Node Berthing

Friday, February 12, 2010

Event Horizon: Asteroid, Planets and a New Moon

After several days and nights with cloud cover, we may be able to see stars this weekend. The Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast sets the eyepiece on the Eskimo and Crab Nebula, several Star Clusters and mentions a few notable Astronomers.

Tonight if the Clouds Break:

The asteroid 4 Vesta, in Leo, is an easy binocular target all month. This week it's at opposition and at its brightest, magnitude 6.1. Use the finder chart in the February Sky & Telescope, page 54, or online. Before dawn Saturday morning (for the Americas), Vesta forms a "double star" with the 7th-magnitude star HD 89930. The pair changes orientation dramatically each hour as Vesta moves. They're within about 1 arcminute of each other when seen before dawn from North America.

Saturday, Venus and Jupiter are 3.2° apart. Look for the pair in the bright evening twilight, 20 minutes after sunset. Jupiter and Venus are low in the WSW. Jupiter is dropping lower in the sky each day. Venus is climbing higher. The two will be at their closest to each other on the 16th. New Moon (exact at 9:51 p.m. EST).

Sunday: The very young thin crescent Moon is to the left of Venus and Jupiter. Look low in the WSW 20 minutes after sunset. Binoculars will help you find the Moon, Venus and Jupiter in the bright evening twilight. The Moon will be about 20 to 21 hours old for observers on the east coast, 23 hours old for west coast observers. Tomorrow's Moon will be easier to spot. If you spot the Moon, does this set a young-crescent record for you? Seen from the East Coast of the U.S., the Moon is only about 20 hours after new. By the time it can be seen after sunset from the West Coast, the Moon is about 23 hours old. Compare the time you spot it (if you do!) with the time when the Moon was new (under "Saturday" above).

News from the Net:

This Travelers Guide to the Planets was posted on Tom’s Astronomy Blog. National Geographic is premiering a new series starting Sunday night at 9 pm (Feb. 14th).

Space Station gains a new room: Node-3 installed

Multi-Layer Mars Parfait Provides Environmental Record

WISE Spies Its First Comet
Possible Meteorite Impact Near Puebla and Hidalgo, Mexico
The Solar Dynamics Observatory Soars to Study the Sun

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Photos of Orion, SDO Launched into Orbit

New photos on the web today: The Orion Nebula reveals many of its hidden secrets in a dramatic image taken by ESO’s new VISTA survey telescope.
We still have cloudy, cold rain filled night skies; may last into the weekend.
If the clouds break Tonight:
You need a dark sky to see Eridanus
For those at southerly latitudes, Canopus!
Thursday, an old thin crescent Moon is to the upper right of Mercury. Look for Mercury and the Moon very low in the ESE, 40 minutes before sunrise. Around 9 or 10 p.m., depending on how far east or west you live in your time zone, the Big Dipper will have risen to the same height in the northeast as Cassiopeia has sunk in the northwest. Midway between them, and a little higher, is Polaris, the North Star.
Friday, the asteroid 4 Vesta, in Leo, is an easy binocular target all month. It's currently magnitude 6.2, and it will reach magnitude 6.1 at opposition on the night of February 17th. See the finder chart in the February Sky & Telescope, page 54, or online. Before dawn Saturday morning (for the Americas), Vesta forms a "double star" with the 7th-magnitude star HD 89930 that changes orientation dramatically every hour. They're within about 1 arcminute of each other when seen before dawn from North America.
Saturday, New Moon (exact at 9:51 p.m. EST).

News from the Net:
SDO Launch Scrub; Try Again Tomorrow
Seven-Year WMAP Results: No, They’re NOT Anomalies
Saturn’s Rings Have Gone Plaid
NASA Sun Probe rolled to Pad; 10 hours to Blast off
An XO For Valentine’s Day…
Hubble Captures Double Aurorae Light Show on Saturn
Pirouettes and Twitpics from Space
Russia May Raise Price of Soyuz Seats
New VISTA of Orion
SDO launched Thursday Morning

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shuttle in orbit, Cloudy Cold nights continue

After a launch delay, Endeavour is now in orbit and chasing the ISS. The Shuttle is scheduled to dock with the station tonight at 11:06 pm CST. That Canadian Cold front came through last night and the Pacific moisture(Clouds) might bring us a dusting of snow and sleet the next couple of days.
News from the Net:
Sky on Fire as Endeavour Blasts to Space
If the Earth is Rare, We May Not Hear from ET
Awesome Shot! STA Over the Launchpad
Satellite View of "Snowmageddon"
Astronomy For Kids: Orion – The Star Hunter

Tonight, if the clouds break: The Hare and the Dove are below the Hunter. Jupiter and Mars are 150° apart. Look for Jupiter 45 minutes after sunset, low in the WSW. Mars will be a quarter of the way up in the east. The mid part of this month will be the last chance to see both Jupiter and Mars simultaneously until August. Jupiter is dropping fast into the glare of the evening twilight.

Thursday, Around 9 or 10 p.m., depending on how far east or west you live in your time zone, the Big Dipper will have risen to the same height in the northeast as Cassiopeia has sunk in the northwest. Midway between them, and a little higher, is Polaris, the North Star.
Friday, The asteroid 4 Vesta, in Leo, is an easy binocular target all month. It's currently magnitude 6.2, and it will reach magnitude 6.1 at opposition on the night of February 17th. See the finder chart in the February Sky & Telescope, page 54, or online.

Before dawn Saturday morning (for the Americas), Vesta forms a "double star" with the 7th-magnitude star HD 89930 that changes orientation dramatically every hour. They're within about 1 arcminute of each other when seen before dawn from North America.
Saturday, New Moon (exact at 9:51 p.m. EST).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Blanket of Clouds, Launch Scrubbed

Artic air is on the way and already the over riding blanket of clouds hides the sun and stars.
The forecast has the clouds covering the sky the coming week .

The Space shuttle Endeavour was grounded this morning by low hanging clouds. NASA will make another launch attempt on Feb. 8th at 4:14 am EST. [more]
On Monday morning, February 8th, at 4:14 am EST, space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled lift off from Kennedy Space Center on a 13-day mission to the ISS. There are only five missions left before NASA ends the shuttle program, and this will be the last one to launch at night.

With the clouds hanging around, this is what I will miss:
Scorpius the Scorpion's stinger stars an early harbinger of spring

Monday, Mars is still about 3° north of the Beehive star cluster in Cancer the Crab. Look at Mars and the cluster in the late evening sky. Binoculars show many stars in this cluster. The Beehive, also known as the Praesepe or Manger, is about 500 light-years away. Galileo looked at the Beehive with his telescope 400 years ago and saw at least 40 stars.
Maybe you think of globular star clusters as telescopic attractions of summer. But Orion now stands highest in the south in the evening, and under Orion's feet is Lepus the Hare, and in southern Lepus is M79, the lone globular cluster of winter (for mid-northern latitudes). See the "Binocular Highlight" article and finder chart in the February Sky & Telescope, page 45.
As dawn brightens Wednesday morning, spot the waning crescent Moon low in the southeast, as shown below. If the Moon were a bow, it would be shooting an arrow toward Mercury far to its lower left. Binoculars help.

News from the Net:
Mars, Messier 44 and the Ecliptic Plane…
Orion can Launch Safely in 2013 says Lockheed
RSS Rollback: Watch Endeavour Appear Before Your Eyes
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Let’s Go Around The Room

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bright Planet in a Night Sky

It was clear at dusk, so I set up the DOB and got a closer look at Mars and a few other targets in the sky last night. This Ancient Wandering Star lit up the night sky near the Beehive Cluster last night. I had to wait for the fourth planet to climb from behind the trees. But after I spent some time observing Orion and its Great Nebula, the yellow/orange disk was moving and visible into a moonless night. I was unable to make out The Beehive Cluster, it was hidden by the glow of the bright planet. The Ares torch lit the way as Cancer sailed across my sky from East to West. I also observed Sirius, Procyon, followed by Gemini. I was hoping to catch Saturn and the last quarter moon in the early morning hours, but I shut down after several hours, when a large amount of “Dew” settled in before midnight.

Tonight they are forecasting Clouds to return. I will check the sky at 3AM, I hope to be up watching the STS 130 Endeavour launch.
If it is clear, look for Moon and star Antares pair up before dawn on February 7

Monday, Mars is still about 3° north of the Beehive star cluster in Cancer the Crab. Look at Mars and the cluster in the late evening sky. Binoculars show many stars in this cluster. The Beehive, also known as the Praesepe or Manger, is about 500 light-years away. Galileo looked at the Beehive with his telescope 400 years ago and saw at least 40 stars.

News from the Net:
Will NASA Send Robots to the Moon with "Project M?"
Russian Cargo Freighter Docks at ISS; 1 Day to Endeavour launch
Movies of Spirit's Last Moves Before Winter
Endeavour’s Mission: "A room with a view"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Event Horizon: Latest HST images of that Rock called Pluto

Astronomers are comparing past photos from the images taken in 1994 with the newer images taken in 2002-2003. Photos released on February 4 reveal some changes in the surface. When “New Horizons” arrives in 2015, Astronomers hope to get an even closer look at the surface. Cameras should reveal surface images at 300 feet per pixel resolution...WOW! The news release states: Hubble’s latest photos indicate, Pluto is not simply a ball of ice and rock but a dynamic world that undergoes dramatic atmospheric changes.
More information and discussion from Marc Buie’s (Southwest Research Institute) response to what had appeared in his datasets is at the Centauri Dreams Blog and other news released today on the Web: Universe Today, Nasa, Planetary Society and Space Fellowship. Five more years until New Horizons will wake up and show us more.

Forecast indicates the clouds may break up for a little while to allow a view of the night sky but more are gathering near by. These will mix with another blast of cold winter air that will settle in Monday night.
Tonight, if it is a Clear Sky:
Last-quarter Moon (exact at 6:48 p.m. EST).

Bright Mars and Beehive star cluster in same binocular field
This Weekend Skywatcher's Forecast targets Orion and near by constellations, M79 and a Comet.

This week and next week are good times to look for the Zodiacal Light. Look in the late evening sky about two to three hours after sunset. The Zodiacal Light will appear as a faint glow rising from the western horizon. A very clear and dark sky is needed to observe this faint glow. It's caused by interplanetary dust in the plane of the solar system reflecting sunlight.

If the sky is clear Saturday, Venus is 10° to the lower right of Jupiter. Try to find Venus in the early bright twilight. Venus sets less than 30 minutes after the Sun. Look for Venus with binoculars 15 minutes after sunset. Venus will be in the WSW, very close to the horizon. Once Saturn rises into good view late tonight, a small scope will show its largest satellite, Titan, about four ring-lengths to the planet's east.
If you're up in early dawn Sunday morning, look for Antares 3° or 4° lower left of the waning crescent Moon (as seen from North America), as shown below.

Notes from the Net:
Countdown is on for Last Night Launch of Space Shuttle
GRB Central Engines Observed in Nearby Supernovae?
Double Hubble Sequence Shows Galaxies Go Spiral
Journey Around A Black Hole – Epsilon Aurigae

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Observing the Sun: The SDO Mission

We have not seen the Sun or Stars in our area for a while with Clouds blanketing the Sky. Current Forecast is for More Clouds! The most advanced solar observatory ever built is set to launch from Cape Canaveral on Feb. 9th. The liftoff of SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) is such a big event, the staff of spaceweather.com is traveling to Florida to report on it. Until then, watch this movie about SDO courtesy of NASA.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sirius Stargazing



You Tube was not my kind of video stop because of the quality in content. Currently there are good, informative, Science and Astronomy videos posted on this web site .
When the Clouds blanket the night sky, I continue to explore the planets and stars posted within Cyber Space. I browse the Portal to the Universe daily and recently came across this Post, Sirius Stargazing: Globular Cluster M15. I found this video informative and hope this group continues to produce more in the future. There are several more posted that include M45, The Double Cluster and the Alpha Persei Cluster. You can find Sirius Stargazing on youtube.com.

Not to be seen from my backyard tonight:
Asteroid Vesta, and Somber red Betelgeuse shines in the shoulder of Orion

If the clouds break Thursday night: Mars is 3° north of the Beehive star cluster. The red planet and the star cluster make a great view in binoculars. Look for Mars and the Beehive around midnight when they are high overhead. Mars is moving retrograde past the Beehive. It will pass the Beehive again in mid April when mars moves prograde.

Today's News from the Net:

More Stunning Images and Discoveries Ahead: Cassini Mission Extended to 2017
New Technique to Find Earth-like Exoplanets
Endeavour astronauts arrive at Cape for launch of TranquilityMars Rover? Nah… Southern Spirit!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Phil sees Shadow........We get "A Blanket of Clouds"

Happy Ground Hog Day! Yes, it's an astronomical holiday, the Sun halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. Time to party as we slowly leave winter behind. Others are May Day Eve and Halloween. A blanket of Clouds will cover my Sky this week!
No Stars or Planets in my back yard this week. The weather system that is in place here has brought Clouds and Rain that will last through the week.
I am disappointed Bright Mars will not be seen this week from my back yard. MARS, dimming and shrinking ever so slightly following its January 29th closest point to the Earth, the orange red planet puts on a fine show above the eastern horizon. Situated amidst the stars of Cancer the Crab, Mars shines above the “Beehive” star cluster on the night of February 4th. Mars outshines every star in the sky (except, by a narrow margin, Sirius) and the rusty-orange color of the "red" planet is apparent to the naked eye: sky map. The Moon pays a visit to Mars on the evening of February 25th.
I will miss observing the Red Planet for the next couple of nights. Hopefully the weekend will bring a Clear Night Sky.

If it is clear in your backyard Tonight:
The Best time of year to see Saturn is approaching

The waning gibbous Moon is to the lower right of the planet Saturn. At dawn look for Saturn and the Moon in the southwest. Look for the pair again in the late evening in the east. The Moon will rise about 5 hours after sunset.
The asteroid 4 Vesta, in Leo, is an easy binocular target all month. It's currently magnitude 6.4, and it will reach magnitude 6.1 at opposition on the night of February 17th. See the finder chart in the February Sky & Telescope, page 54, or online.

If the Clouds Break Wednesday, February 3: The Moon in the morning sky is to the lower left of Saturn. Look for Saturn and the Moon one hour before sunrise in the southwest. At the same time, Mercury will be very low in the sky, near the ESE horizon. The waning gibbous Moon is up in the east-northeast by midnight tonight. Look for Spica a few degrees upper left of it, and Saturn higher above them.

News from the Net:
Hubble Sees Suspected Asteroid Collision
Liftoff of Endeavour to the International Space Station is set for 4:39 a.m. Feb. 7. The countdown to launch begins 2 a.m. Thursday
NASA Announces News Telecon To Discuss Hubble Images Of Pluto
No Moon Missions, That's a Relief
NASA Budget Details: Constellation Cancelled, But Where To Next?
ISS Crew Twitpics from Orbit; Live Streaming Video Soon !