Friday, April 30, 2010

Asteroid watch; Jupiter Rising

The month of May brings Jupiter a little higher/longer in the morning sky. There is a handy on-line posting of Jupiter's moons for May 1 - May 5. If the sky clears, start observing and counting moons!

Good news...That large Armeggdin Asteroid is off the list:
Asteroid 2005 YU55 was observed with the monster 300 meter (1000 foot) Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Arecibo can send little radar pings into space, aimed at an asteroid. The pings reflect off the rock, come back to Earth, and the timing of each one can be logged. This tells us how far away the asteroid is, how big it is, and even (by carefully measuring the different arrival times of the pings back on Earth) the shape of the asteroid.

The good news is that the orbit of the asteroid was nailed down better, and that 1 in 10,000,000 chance of an impact in the next century dropped to 0. Nada. Nil. And astronomers are so confident of that they removed YU55 from their Risk Page.
So we’re safe from YU55 ruining our day for quite some time at least.

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.
On April 30, 2010 there were 1116 potentially hazardous asteroids

The other day, there was an article on 24 Themis. This Asteroid may have water on the surface? Here is a follow up article on that Asteroid.

The Forecasters are not giving us a Clear Sky until the evening on Tuesday May 5:

TONIGHT AND SATURDAY MORNING ANOTHER S/W TROF WILL APPROACH FROM THE WEST. THE SFC COLD FRONT BRING A CHANCE OF RAIN TONIGHT AND SATURDAY MORNING. AN INCREASING CHANCE OF SHOWERS IS POSSIBLE ON SATURDAY NIGHT...
Last night, I watched the NATGEO TV series -The Known Universe. I enjoyed their first episode “Decoding the Skies”. Learn more from next week’s episode, Final Frontiers

If the Clouds Break Tonight: Jupiter and Saturn are 175 degrees apart, on opposite sides of the sky. Can you see them both at the same time? Try looking an hour and a half before sunrise. Jupiter will be very low in the east. Saturn will be very low in the west. These slow moving planets pass each other every 20 years. Their next conjunction is in the year 2020.
The Moon is up above the southeast horizon by 11 or midnight tonight. Look for Antares and other stars of Scorpius to its upper right.

Saturday May 1, In late twilight, use binoculars to spot the 4th-magnitude star Kappa1 Tauri about ¼° lower left of dazzling Venus (at the time of twilight for North America). And look even closer to the lower left of Kappa1 for 5th-magnitude Kappa2.

News from the Net:
Satellite Crashes From Helium Balloon
The Webb Telescope passes milestone

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Island Universe - The Great Debate

An Island Universe: a description of Galaxies, ours and all complex spirals near and far.

Originally thought to be ’spiral nebulae’ when first discovered by early Astronomers, these Islands are being explored and studied in more detail with current instruments in this Y2K+, Golden Age of Astronomy.

I continue to learn from books, material and on-line Astronomy 101. Time and Discoveries will always bring us new theories that need to be researched and new findings to exlplore.
Rediscover theories and Astronomy basics with this on-line reference 'Galaxies 101'.
This is the first in a new series of blog posts by Galaxy Zoo. These posts aim to explore the history and basics of the science of galaxies. They will be covering some of the people who helped us understand these ‘Island Universes’ as well as some of the basics that would be taught during a first year undergraduate galaxies course at university level.

I have observed a number of Galaxies while exploring the night sky. In my small scope many have appeared as fuzzy ’spiral nebulae’ in the eyepiece. The larger Scopes can bring in more detail, hidden within the spirals. The first post-"The Great Debate" was informative. I will use 'Galaxies 101' as a reference and look forward to future postings from the Galaxy Zoo.

Tonight, if the clouds break: A bright moon with Your choice of full moons. Observe the sky as the last stars of Orion descends in the west each evening

Thursday, The Moon rises about two hours after sunset. Moon and Scorpion rise as Orion sets on April 29 Look for the nearly full Moon low on the southeast horizon just after dark. When the Moon is close to the horizon, it often looks bigger than it really is. Look for the big Moon illusion tonight.

News from the Net:
Satellite Captures Wall of Dust Moving Across Sahara
Possible Destination? Researchers Find Water Ice and Organics on Asteroid

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Waves of Light

The ESA’s Planck space observatory recently posted the latest study of microwave light from the Orion Nebula. I always forget about this form of light wave in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Observing the Sky above and the Earth below... Spring is here and Summer is not to far away in my neck of the woods. The arrival of Summer Tanigers and the Rain Crows! The pasture grass is tall and gone to seed. Pulling weeds is now a daily yard event. Days are warmer, but the Nights still have an early morning chill in the air. Seasonal changes are filling the sky with clouds, lots of clouds. The first part of the this week, the night is still filled with moonlight. I will try and observe the next clear, moonless night!

Tuesday evening: April full moon, Saturn and Spica on April 27. Full Moon tonight (exact at 8:18 a.m. EDT Wednesday morning).

This week the Big Dipper floats upside down very high in the north after dark. Its Pointer stars, the two forming the end of the Dipper's bowl, point exactly straight down toward Polaris soon after nightfall.

Thursday, The Moon is up in the southeast after 11 or so, depending on where you live in your time zone. Look lower left of the Moon for orange Antares on the rise. By dawn on the 30th they've moved over to the southwest with Antares now to the Moon's left. Amateur observers usually assume that even the brightest galaxies of the Virgo Cluster are beyond the reach of binoculars. But are you sure? If you have a good dark sky and at least 50mm binos, pick a moonless night (like this evening) and give it a try.
Astronomy on TV Tonight: NATGEO: The Known Universe, New Series begins with, Decoding the Skies.

News from the Net:
"Data" Narrates Hubble Documentary, a 15 min. youtube video
Final Shuttle Flight Will Be Delayed at Least Until Novemeber for AMS Switchout
New Images from Planck Reveal Star Formation Processes
Astronomy Without A Telescope – The Nice Way To Build A Solar System

Interesting Low Cost...Binocular Astrophotography?...with a mobile phone?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Moonlight in an Urban Sky

StarLog^100424

Last night was the first clear night in a while! Our Urban night sky was clear/ seeing was not the best, under moonlit conditions! A bright Moon hung in the SE.
Deep Sky targets will be off the list tonight!
Set up at 8:30pm
I aligned at 9pm: The LX90 wanted to start alignment with Sirius, but it was below and behind the trees. The program asked for Arcturus then Capella, which led to get a successful alignment.
I set a course to the Big Dipper, high in the NE and focused on Mizar- took some photos. Charts showed three stars: the double star Mizar /Alcor- close by, Sidus Ludoviciana,
Saturn (photos- one frame had a airplane crossing the area!) the rings sliced the planet in half, dark line in center with rings extending on either side. Two visible moons -
T ..........e.......*S*...d..............R
Titan off to the right [reverse in my scope], Rhea to the left
The moon (took several and bracketed photos-) Lots of features filled this 10/11 day old moon.

I returned to Saturn (with the 7mm eyepiece) fuzzy image, not as clear, with the rings straight across. A visible black line was centered along the equator of the sixth planet. The large moon Titan was still visible, stationed to the right of the ring. The 7mm eyepiece brought the planet up closer, but a loss of focus due to movement of light [is a problem].

I anchored in Sextans to explore more features on the Moon:
Sinus Iridium- this Bay of Rainbows, in the eyepiece, stood out with shadows along the cliffs, with several small craters below in the sea (Mare Imbrium)
Herschel- the crater was sharp and dark along the terminator
Plato-this great crater was loosing depth and features in the sunlight
Archimedes -faint crater, but in view
Copernicus- large crater with its rays out reaching in white
Kepler - smaller and dark on the rim of the crater near the terminator
Gassendi - this crater stood out along the terminator, shadows along the walls and two mountains in the center. The smaller crater, Gassendi A, was distinctive at N end. South was Mare Humorium.
Tyco - was large and bleached out, with its rays extending out in all directions.

The other great Seas were visible with less features showing [too much light].
Serentatis, Tranquillitatis, Fecunditatis, and Crisium: looking very desert like, in the light of the Sun. At 11:30 pm Hercules was coming into view, however those four stars that make up the great keystone were very dim in the moon light and I was ready to end the night’s journey… I shut down and studied my cache of photos and compared them with charts and notes.

Several Amateur Astronomers I know would not have considered observing a sky with the moon this bright. But it was "Astronomy Day" and time to take advantage of a Clear Sky.
I enjoyed my short “Star Hop” into the night sky, even with a Bright Moon!

I’m looking forward to the coming constellations and a Clear Night Sky to Navigate and Explore.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Event Horizon: Astronomy Day

Attention Skywatchers!
A Clear Night Sky!
Astronomy Day/Astronomy Night!

The Group has no event planned this year( not enough scope participation for an event). Last year there were way too many folks and not enough scopes! With NO EVENT, you can plan on a SOLO trip to the stars this evening. The bright Moon is past first quarter. A 10 day gibbous moon will highlight lots of surface features. It has been a while since I had a Scope out. The Scobee Planetarium may have an event? I would not mind a view through their bigger scope! Here is a 76 page handbook, free from Sky and Telescope on Astronomy Day for future events, maybe next year?

Under a Clear Sky Tonight: I hope to set up at dark, around 8:35pm. Tonight's Star Trek will start with Saturn, the moon and a cruise around the Dipper. Depending on how long I stay afloat....a look at M13, Vega, Lyra and the Ring Nebula. The "Star" in the upper left of the Moon this evening is Saturn!

News from the Net:
Space shuttle Atlantis was moved to the launch pad Thursday morning in preparation for the STS-132 mission, targeted for launch May 14 at 2:19 p.m
Gallery: Atlantis Rolls Towards Last Launch
Hubble, Renewed, Reinvigorated, Raring to Go
Shock Waves, Volcanic Bombs From Eyjafjallajokull

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Observing the Sun





Over the past several years, our Sun has been in a Solar Minimum. Since 2004: 785 days - Typical Solar Min: 485 days, explanation- more info. When it was at active, I followed Sun Spots in countless clear days and a Mercury Transit through my 4" scope using a mylar solar filter. The SDO was sent up to get a closeup view of our Sun, just in time for more sunspot activity. First Light was captured this week and the photos did not disappoint.

Jupiter is beginning his journey across the early morning sky: Keeping track of the GRS, Sky and Telescope has posted a time schedule (2010) in Universal Time. I like using the CalSky web page. This web site gives all events, in my location, at my Local Time.

Missed the Lyrid Meteor Shower. I checked the sky past midnight but the clouds kept rolling in Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

If the clouds break Tonight: Venus, Mars and Saturn span 120 degrees across the sky. Watch these three planets converge through the spring and summer. By August, the three will form a small triangle less than 5 degrees apart. Now, Venus is in the WNW, Saturn is in the southeast and Mars is high in the SSW at dusk. Low in the western sky at nightfall, look for the Pleiades to the upper right of bright Venus. They fit together in a 5° binocular field of view this evening through Sunday evening.

News from the Net:

Hubble's Late Teen Years: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times
SDO Wows With 'First Light' Images, Videos

Hubble's Birthday Gift to Us: Mystic Mountian
Here come the Planet Hunters
Searching for Dark Energy
Stunning Look at ISS and Docked Disovery — From the Ground!
Discovery Landing Pics

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Break in the Clouds!?

We got a break in the weather, last night. The sky was somewhat clear at 10 pm.!? I did view (using Binoculars) the Big Dipper, it was far above the tree line and now with the handle, Mizor and Alcor, moving to a horizontal position. The Stars Arcturus, Mufrid and Izar were brightest in Bootes. Saturn was higher and more to the south. Most of the cool targets, in the west, are now too far below the tree-line and not visible from my location.

If the clouds break tonight: The Moon, Mars and Meteorites
First-quarter Moon (exact at 2:20 p.m. EDT). Mars shines over the Moon. The Lyrid meteor shower may be active in the early morning hours of Thursday and Friday. The best time to watch will be after the Moon sets, in the hour or so before the very first light of dawn. The Lyrid shower is usually weak but has occasionally shown surprise outbursts. If we get a break in the weather ( the cloud cover forecast tonight is 90%), I'll check the sky at midnight.

Thursday, The Moon this evening is below a line from Mars to Regulus. Look farther beneath the Moon for Alphard, the orange-red heart of Hydra.

In The Sky This Week, Video

News from the Net:
Hubble Enters its Teen Years, More Powerful, More Ambitious
Hubble Turns Sixteen, and Just Keeps on Working

SciFi on TV Last night: the movie "Moon"
Employee Sam Bell is finishing a three year contract on a lonely Lunar Base with an all-to-helpful computer GERTY (HAL’s brother?). The movie was thought provoking with OK lunar landscape scenes. This plot could have taken place anywhere…in a Clone Future. The Company, controlling the worker “clones”, when the clones realize…. whatz up! Other clone movies:
The 6th Day, Alien Resurrection

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

GRBs, Discovery and Telescopes

This time of year the weather is unsettled and we get rain. But these lousy clouds are still covering my sky! The sun is breaking through the a mostly cloudy sky in the daylight hours.

NO STARS! Try and use the time studying and researching Stars.

Every once and a while, the folks who keep track of Gamma Ray Bursts will announce a bright one they have discovered. This is the Five Year Anniversary of Swift. NASA posted a Video of GRB discoveries. Number 500 was recently posted on the Goddard Space Flight site

With the nights still overcast, my trips through cyberspace are longer. I recently discovered The ESO picture of the week. I went through the archive and downloaded some really outstanding photos of Galaxies, Nebulas and Stars from that array of European Southern Observatory Telescopes in Chile. Many other Telescopes are active today. Links to more Active Orbiting Telescopes:
Spitzer
Herschel
Hubble
Chandra
Wise
Planck
Ground based Observatories links can be found Here!

Discovery did de-orbit and land this morning! STS-131 was the 131st space shuttle mission, the 38th for Discovery and the 33rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station. It was the second flight of 2010. It is Discovery's penultimate mission; its last flight is STS-133, targeted for Sept. 16.

If the clouds break tonight: Mars is still near the Beehive star cluster. The red planet is about a degree and a half from the cluster in Cancer. Mars is moving east by about a third of a degree per day. View the planet and the star cluster with binoculars high in the SSW at dusk.

Wednesday, The First Quarter Moon is near the planet Mars. Look for the pair high up in the SSW at dusk. First-quarter Moon (exact at 2:20 p.m. EDT). Mars shines over the Moon.
The Lyrid meteor shower may be active in the early morning hours of Thursday and Friday. The best time to watch will be after the Moon sets, in the hour or so before the very first light of dawn. The Lyrid shower is usually weak but has occasionally shown surprise outbursts. Vega marks radiant point of April’s Lyrid meteor shower

News from the Net:
Hubble's 20th: At Least as Good as Any Human Photographer
Five Top Time Travel Movies

Monday, April 19, 2010

Waiting for Discovery, Hercules and Pandora

Spaceweather posted: Unfavorable weather in Florida has prevented space shuttle Discovery from landing in Florida. The orbiter will spend another day in space, landing on Tuesday, April 20th. Stay tuned for updated ground tracks and possible sighting opportunities.
NASA posted: The first Kennedy landing opportunity Tuesday is on orbit 237 with a deorbit burn at 6:28 a.m. and landing at 7:34 a.m. Edwards Air Force Base also is expected to be called up for Tuesday landing opportunities.

Doubt if the sky will break clear here tonight? If it does, around 11 pm, Hercules rises in the NE. I will be searching for the “keystone” asterism and a globular star cluster. Known to stargazers as M13 or the Great Cluster in Hercules, it’s barely visible the eye alone in the darkest of skies. Two stars lead to constellation Hercules. Viewing M13 in my Binoculars shows up as a nebulous patch. I never tire of viewing this cluster. This is one of my favorite clusters to find and observe, when the constellation moves into view.

Forecast Cloudy skies may hide the Lyrid meteor shower this week?
See EarthSky’s meteor guide for 2010

News from the Net:
WORF and Klingons occupy ISS
Hubble at 8: So Many Discoveries, So Quickly
Astronomy Without A Telescope – One Potato, Two Potato
Incredible Images of Iceland Volcano from Just a Few Kilometers Away
Hubble's 10th Birthday Gift: Measurement of the Hubble Constant
Neil deGrasse Tyson video on NASA's future. How much would you pay for the Universe?

SciFi on DVD Thursday! I will soon be exploring the Moon Pandora, when the Movie Avatar hits the stores on DVD, this Thursday. Reviews include excellent CGs and lots of action scenes!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stargazing Forecast...not good

More Clouds and lots of rain with this unstable tropical air mass, that is lingering across our region. My Stargazing Forecast...not good! Over the weekend and into next week!?

Activities are under way this weekend in celebration of these Events:
April is Global Astronomy Month
Earth Day, Thursday April 22, 2010.
Astronomy Day is Saturday April 24.

If it is Clear in your sky tonight: Look West for the Chariot in the Sky
Saturday the 17th, our Moon will form a nice triangle with the Pleiades down and to the right of it, the Hyades (the Pleiades sister cluster in Taurus) down and to the left.

News from the Net:
Meteorite Recovered from April 14 Fireball
Solar Activity this month
Discovery has undocked from the station. Weather permitting, the deorbit burn is planned for 7:43 a.m. Monday, leading to a landing at 8:51 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Event Horizon: Lyrid Meteor Shower

The sky continues to be filled with clouds. NO STARS LAST NIGHT!
We might see the sun, with a broken sky Sunday? We had seven at the Group table last night. Jeff M, mentioned his new 12'" Orion Truss Dob telescope! We viewed more prints from Larry's Astronomy magazine files. Bob K, showed us a M42 photo . His photo was sharp and clean, taken from his backyard observatory! We did discuss some astrophotography aspects and looking forward to another tour of Bob K's set up at the May gathering. Too many clouds to view the evening planets and Mars in M44, with Binoculars, after the meeting.

If the cloulds break tonight: A beautiful crescent Moon with earthshine is above the planet Venus. Look to the WNW an hour after sunset. The Pleiades star cluster is above the thin crescent Moon.
Saturday, Discovery is scheduled to undock from the station on Saturday at 8:52 a.m. EDT. Venus is 10 degrees below the Pleiades star cluster. Venus will pass the star cluster in one week. The waxing crescent Moon is above and to the left of the Pleiades. Look to the west an hour after sunset. One of the prettiest is the oft-overlooked open star cluster M48. This cluster, along with M44 and M67 in Cancer just 10 degrees north, make for a pleasant short observing session on an April weekend with binoculars or a small scope.
Sunday, Mercury is 10 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Mercury has faded to +2.3 magnitude and may be seen with binoculars in the early evening twilight. Look very low in the WNW sky. Mercury quickly fades from view early this week. Mercury will be at inferior conjunction on the 28th of April
Monday, The Apollo 11 landing spot is near the lunar terminator tonight. It can't be seen from earth based telescopes, but the Sea of Tranquility is easily visible. Tranquility Base is north of the three craters, Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina.

Catching falling stars:
The Lyrid Meteor Shower is in position to start the weekend of April 17!
Lyrids Comet of origin: C/1861 G1 Thatcher
Radiant: constellation Lyra -- which rises in the northeast at about 10 p.m. Active: April 16-25.
Peak Activity: Early Morning April 22
Peak Activity Meteor Count: Approximately 15 meteors per hour
Time of optimal viewing: On the night of expected peak activity (April 22) a moon between half and full will set between 1 and 2 a.m. for most of the northern hemisphere, leaving a dark sky until dawn. Viewers in the southern hemisphere will receive a smattering of Lyrid meteors compared to viewers north of the equator.
Meteor Velocity: Lyrid meteors hit the atmosphere at a moderate speed of 48 kilometers (30 miles) per second. They often produce luminous trains of dust that can be observed for several seconds. Link to More Meteors= 2010 Meteor Showers:

News from the Net:
Hubble's 20 Years: Time for 20/20 Vision
Obama Wants Mission to Asteroid by 2025, Mars by mid-2030's
Huge Fireball Seen Over 7 Midwest US States
Magnetic Fields in Inter-cluster Space: Measured at Last
Could An Amateur Astronomer Snap a Picture of an Exoplanet?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Meteor Sighting? Above The Clouds

The clouds did not break last night. We received only a smidgen of rain overnight. Some Mid- Westerners in the US got an eye full last night when a bright meteoroid moved above the clouds in their location. Spaceweather posted this:

WISCONSIN FIREBALL: Sky watchers in Wisconsin and northern Minnesota witnessed a brilliant green fireball streaking across the sky at approximately 10:05 pm CDT on April 14th. Images from a rooftop in Madison, Wisconsin, show a brilliant midair explosion. No satellite decays were expected at the time of the blast; this event was probably caused by a natural meteoroid. Wisconsin News media showed a video clip and interviewed a local Astronomer.

This was most likely a big rock, pulled into our atmosphere and disintegrated, past the horizon of entry. Cloudy skies to continue here through the coming weekend!

Tonight, if the clouds break: The young crescent Moon is to the lower right of Venus and very near dim Mercury. Look low in the WNW an hour after sunset. Binoculars will aid in spotting Mercury and the very thin Moon. The local Astronomy Group is scheduled to gather tonight. Larry wants to discuss "Astrophotography"!

Friday, a beautiful crescent Moon with earthshine is above the planet Venus. Look to the WNW an hour after sunset. The Pleiades star cluster is above the thin crescent Moon.

News from the Net:
Huge Fireball Seen Over 7 Midwest US States
Magnetic Fields in Inter-cluster Space: Measured at Last

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Beehive and Mars in Binoculars

Tuesday started off with clouds. Was mostly cloudy all day, up to dark, then they broke again last night.... The stars were visible in my night sky at 9pm. By 10 pm, no clouds and the sky was dark enough to scan. I pulled a chart off the TUBA file and reviewed the area. Mars was neck straining straight up but easy to locate and spot with the binoculars. Mars and M44 were both the field of view within a ten degree circle. Beehive-M44 was a great site near the bright red planet. Thirty minutes was about all I could take craning my neck to view the event. Thought about setting up a scope and maybe the camera for a try at a long exposure? The legs just could not take the angle and I'm still experimenting with the camera. Those clouds came back just after midnight! I will try another night...maybe Friday night, if the clouds break again.


The Nova Telescope special, part 2 , broadcast last night was very informative. Telescopes and what they are looking for today as well as earlier in the twentieth century. Interesting theories on Dark Matter and Dark Energy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Weather Patterns

As a Skywatcher, one of my first stops on the Net, after looking at the sky, is NOAA.
Earth is a water planet in the habital zone. The Jet Streams generate clouds and moisture in the Atmosphere above our geographic location. Pacific lows and Gulf Coast moisture dominate the region. This weather pattern will sometimes allow clouds to break and drift. Last night, by chance, we caught the end result the current weather pattern and the Sky cleared for short time. Years ago, I recall we had a similar weather pattern. During those days, the clouds were heavy durning the morning, broke up in the afternoon and then cleared after dark.
Great for stargazing! The forecast for the this week...
Cloudy and maybe, a chance for another clear night sky?!

Last night, at 10 pm, I stepped out and was surprised to see a clear sky. Seeing was not the best but in sight were Leo, Saturn, Virgo and Arcturus. High in the west was Mars above Sirus and Procyon. The Big dipper was high in the NE standing on the handle. I did not expect to see stars and did not ready any scopes. I did take some time to scan the night sky before the clouds returned. Tonight, if the clouds break: Find Mars and then M44 near by.

A note about my Blog list. Most of the sites listed are active with up to date information.
From time to time, I will drop a blog, when there is no current activity posted.
I dropped two; added two today.


News from the Net:
Dropping a Bomb About Exoplanets
President Obama Visits Kennedy Space Center on April 15
Spacewalk No. 3 ends
Study Says 11,800 Jobs to be Created Per Year by Commercial Space Flight
Our Sun Gets Active!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Events Behind the Clouds

This week's "Cloudy" forecast is not letting up! I'm missing Jupiter with the Crescent Moon, in the early morning sky. Saturn and Mars are still in good viewing position. My nights will not be filled with stars in the night sky, but in books, the computer screen and on TV.

The ISS is set to go on a Third Space walk early Tuesday morning.
Space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station has been extended by one day. Landing now is targeted for 7:54 a.m. CDT on Monday, April 19th.

If the clouds break Tuesday: You can Star-hop from Leo to the Coma star cluster
Mars, magnitude +0.4, is passing the Beehive star cluster this week. Watch with binoculars as Mars passes 1° north of the star cluster in Cancer the Crab. Mars is moving east by about a third of a degree per day. At the end of the week, Mars passes just to the cluster's north. In a telescope Mars is gibbous and shrinking: from 8.6 to 8.0 arcseconds in diameter this week.
Tuesday evening reminder, Viewing Alert: Hunting The Edge of Space

Wednesday: New Moon (exact at 7:29 a.m. CDT). Dark skies....somewhere!

Thursday, Bring binoculars to a spot with an open west-northwest horizon, and, starting a half hour after sunset, look for the very thin crescent Moon and much-faded Mercury about 7° lower right of Venus. Later, as Mercury and the Moon set and night comes on, the huge, tall, tilted pyramid of the zodiacal light will come into view — if you're far from light pollution.

News from the Net:
Mitch's Mystery Star, Curiouser and Curiouser
Life on Titan Could Be Smelly and Explosive
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Much Ado About Nothing
Herschel Spots Previously Unseen Stars in Rosette Nebula

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Event Horizon: New Moon Wednesday

Greetings Skywatchers... Dark Skies ahead?!

With a waning crescent moon, I was hoping to scan and explore the early morning sky this weekend. The Clouds are building over my backyard and the forecast is not good for observing a night sky. Larry's Stargazing event, set for this evening, will be in jeopardy unless the clouds break. Maybe the sky with have broken clouds at his site?

If the clouds do break, look for these events in the night sky:

Tonight: A small telescope will always show Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Tonight and tomorrow Titan is four ring-lengths to Saturn's east. A 6-inch telescope will begin to show the orange color of its smoggy atmosphere. Mercury is 4° to the lower right of Venus. Look for the pair in the WNW an hour after sunset. The Pleiades star cluster is 18° above Venus.


Sunday, Jupiter is about 5° below a thin waning crescent Moon. The pair can be seen low in the east at dawn. Look about 30 minutes before sunrise. Bright Sirius sparkles in the southwest during and after dusk. High above it is Procyon, and high above Procyon is orange-red Mars. The three of them formed a straight line at the start of April. Now the line is bending, as Mars moves eastward against the stars.


Monday, Jupiter is about 10° to the right of the old thin crescent Moon. The pair can be seen low in the east at dawn. Look about 30 minutes before sunrise.


Tuesday evening: Viewing Alert: Hunting The Edge of Space
A NOVA special on Telescopes. Part 2 will air on April 13, 2010. Check your TV listing for time. If you missed Part 1, you'll be happy to know it is now available to watch online.

Wednesday, April 14 - New Moon (exact at 8:29 a.m. EDT).

Thursday, April 15 Bring binoculars to a spot with an open west-northwest horizon, and, starting a half hour after sunset, look for the very thin crescent Moon and much-faded Mercury about 7° lower right of Venus, as shown here (for North America). Later, as Mercury and the Moon set and night comes on, the huge, tall, tilted pyramid of the zodiacal light will come into view — if you're far from light pollution.

Friday, April 9, 2010

StarLog ^100408

The Sky cleared Wednesday night. We measured NO RAIN, and the wind picked up after the Pacific front blew threw. No Scope Wednesday night but I did catch site of the Big Dipper, Leo and Saturn again.

Set up the scope [new batteries], Thursday night after nine pm. and Observed:

021:00 LX90, aligned with Sirius/Capella, Go-To was dead on
Big dipper area: Mizar

Saturn: sharp and clear, rings tight, two moons - in scope-visible off to the right:

T- R------ t -*S* e------ d

Titan and Rhea were easy to see, the rest( tethys, enceladus and dione) were dimmer

Mars: gibbous, bright, could not define any surface features with the zoom eyepiece
Leo area: lower part, tried a couple of galaxies in eyepiece, no resolution tonight/
M66 in Leo-fuzzy with lots of stars around it[deep sky observing will need to be later, after 11pm and into the morning hours]

Arcturus: bright and clear

shut down/ not to long after Arcturus passed above the tree line, just after 11pm.

I set up the DSLR camera on the LX90. I took several bracketed exposures of the Big Dipper area. then swung over to Saturn and did the same. Problem: Focus, Focus, Focus. The Auto focus does not work in "Bulb" for longer exposures. Viewing and focusing the scene from a very small eye window, at night, in bended position is VERY DIFFICULT!!! I did get a few good shots.
I will try again the next time it is clear and I set up the LX90.

Tonight, if the sky is clear: The waning crescent Moon is in the ESE at dawn. Jupiter is about 25° to the lower left of the Moon. Look for Jupiter very low in the east 45 minutes before sunrise.
Saturday night, A small telescope will always show Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Tonight and tomorrow Titan is four ring-lengths to Saturn's east. A 6-inch telescope will begin to show the orange color of its smoggy atmosphere. At dawn Sunday morning, the waning crescent Moon is about 5° above Jupiter

News from the Net:
HiRISE Captures Amazing Close-Up of Spirit Rover
Hubble Captures Distorted Beauty of M66
Solar-Powered Airplane Makes Maiden Voyage
Mother of Pearl Colored Clouds form above Kennedy after Discovery Blast Off
More Mars Avalanches from HiRISE, Oh My!
Astronomers Image Mysterious Dark Object That Eclipses Epsilon Aurigae
Awesome Image of ISS Transiting Moon
Volcanoes on Venus May Still Be Active

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Asteroid Alert...Discovery Docks with ISS

Asteroid 2010 GA6 will pass 223,000 miles away from Earth, 2 pm Thursday.
"Fly bys of near-Earth objects within the moon's orbit occur every few weeks," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The asteroid, approximately 22 meters (71 feet) wide, was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey, Tucson, Az. 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.
On April 7, 2010 there were 1110 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Last night's NOVA was great. Included history of the English Astronomer Sir William Herschel... more curious about the Herschel Telescope. A space based telescope that will study the Universe in far-infra red from an L2 orbit.

Missed Venus and Mercury last night due to cloud cover. Early this morning the sky was thick with clouds, I saw zero stars and missed the ISS/shuttle fly by. May start to clear tonight!?

Intersting video on "Dark Matter", posted on the Blog today.

News from the Net:
40 Years of Summer on Triton
Spectacular Radar Failed Belly Flip (Video) and Docking links Discovery to ISS
Double Spaceship Sighting Alert!
NASA Extends Contract With Russia For Rides on the Soyuz
Antenna Glitch hinders Data Flow from Inspection of DiscoveryAstronomers Begin Observing Hanny's Voorwerp with the Hubble Space Telescope

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Highlights

The Discovery Shuttle's KBU antenna is not working!!?? They can’t fix the Shuttle KBU? No pictures/video from the shuttle during orbit to the ISS. All they are showing is the desks/monitors in Mission control and some animation! The Highlights(NASA TV) are the pits…. until Discovery gets to the ISS Wednesday!

Cloudy morning...missed the ISS/Shuttle early fly by. Clouds are forecast to continue to cover the night sky. Maybe, Thursday night? Last-quarter Moon was this morning...(exact at 5:37 a.m. EDT).
Tonight: 8pm NOVA is airing "Hunting the Edge of Space", the big land based and Orbiting Telescopes, searching the Milky Way.

Wednesday, The asteroid Vesta ends its retrograde movement. Look for Vesta 1.2° SSE of the star Epsilon Leonis in Leo the Lion. Vesta is currently 7th magnitude and can be seen with binoculars.

Thursday, It's April, so this is the time of year when the bowl of the Little Dipper extends directly to the right from Polaris after dark. High above it is the Big Dipper, turned over to dump water into it.

News from the Net:
Mystery Object Found Orbiting Brown Dwarf
Stunning Science Using Nature's Telescope
Planet Dance…
Amazing Pic: ISS Flys Through Aurora
Discovery Dazzles with Two Dawns in One DayWatch Discovery's Launch Video for STS-131
Wise Telescope is sending great IR photos.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cloudy nights... again?

Saturday night the stars were shining for a short time, at nine pm. Light clouds were forming and by ten, the clouds were tighter and gathering. The night was not the best for viewing but I did see the Big Dipper, Leo, Saturn and Sirius. All, still above my tree line. I had a long morning in the sheep barn... time to shear. I did not set up the scope. The Forecast is for the clouds to cover the night sky most of this week. Hope to see some broken sky a night or two before Friday. Major planets are naked eye visible this month. NASA has given a GO for launch, Discovery is on count down to rumble into the sky early tomorrow !

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Event Horizon: Shuttle Launch Early Monday

The clouds did break Friday night and I did get a chance to glance at the night sky around 9pm: Ursa Major was above the tree line, Leo was climbing in the SE sky but covered with light clouds, Saturn was just above the trees in the east and Sirius was still high in the west. During the scan, a cold sharp wind started up from the North. I did not set up the scope this night.

The Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: April 2-4, 2010-discusses the Sun, a Telescope at the Lick Observatory, a nebula and an open cluster. Views of two planets at sunset.

Saturday night the clouds are forecast to come back!

Sunday, if it’s clear: Spike to Spica. Mercury and Venus are 3° apart. This is the closest the two will get to each other in this quasi-conjunction. Look for the pair in the west at dusk. It's April, so this is the time of year when Orion is sinking in the southwest at dusk with his three-star belt horizontal. The belt points left to bright Sirius, and right more or less to orange Aldebaran and, farther on, the Pleiades.

Monday: Liftoff of Discovery and the seven-member crew on the STS-131 mission to the International Space Station is set for 6:21 a.m. on April 5.

Next launch schedule of The Final Four:› STS-131› STS-132› STS-134› STS-133

Mercury and Venus are 3° apart. The distance is now increasing between Mercury and Venus. Mercury will remain part of the evening sky until the third week of April.

Tuesday: The last quarter Moon can be seen in the morning hours near the stars of the constellation Sagittarius. Last-quarter Moon (exact at 5:37 a.m. EDT).

Wednesday: The asteroid Vesta ends its retrograde movement. Look for Vesta 1.2° SSE of the star Epsilon Leonis in Leo the Lion. Vesta is currently 7th magnitude and can be seen with binoculars.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Clear Moonless Night.... Saturday

The past few nights, the Moon was full and bright. I've been busy in the pasture and I have missed any moon observations lately. Want to start exploring the Copernicus area for the impact crater mentioned in the S&T, March 28 blog"A blast from the Past". I posted details of the crater on the Group Message Board. There was a photo of Omega Centauri featured on the APOD yesterday. The SFDSO Group in Florida observed this great cluster on March 19.
No chance to observe NGC 5139 at our latitude, until the end of May!

Today Clouds are back and there is a chance of rain, but by Saturday we should have a Clear Sky and a waning gibbous Moon, gone from the early night sky.

Tonight, if it is Clear: Arc to Arcturus

Friday, Venus and Mercury continue to shine together low in the west after sunset this week. This unequal pair is a real eye-catcher, at least in the brief window of time after the sky grows fairly dark but before the planets sink too low. The Moon rises after Orion sets.
The waning gibbous Moon rises near Antares around midnight tonight daylight saving time.
By early dawn Saturday morning they're even closer together in the south.


News from the Net:
How Long Can the ISS Really Last?
Pacman Eats The Death Star!
SpaceX Activates Station Communications System for Future Dragon Dockings
LHC Sets Record for Particle Collisions, Marks "New Territory" in Physics
A New Look at the Moon: Stunning 3-D Lunar Landscapes
Spirit Freezing; We Will Move Her if We Can