Monday, May 31, 2010

Event Horizon: Hightlights, First Week of June

BarBQ smoke and dust from the picnic crowds put a haze in the atmosphere this Memorial Day Weekend. Early morning skies have been cloudy. I have not had a chance to set up this past weekend, but might get a chance to see a clear sky in the next couple of nights. There are a lot events ahead in the month of June . Saturn, Mars and Venus line up in June sky. The end of May finds the Big Dipper already pivoted around to hang straight down after the last trace of twilight fades out. Look for it high in the northwest. The dim Little Dipper, meanwhile, is now standing almost vertically on its handle-end, Polaris, lower due north.

If the clouds break Tonight, Uranus is 1 degree to the northeast of Jupiter. Look for Uranus with binoculars or a telescope. Jupiter and Uranus can be seen in the pre-dawn sky. Look to the east and hour and a half before sunrise. Saturn stationary in front of Virgo on May 31

Tuesday, Ceres, the largest and first-discovered asteroid, is just south of the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius late tonight (once Sagittarius rises into good view), though light from the waning Moon will be in the sky.

Wednesday, High overhead under the curve of the Big Dipper's handle is Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, with several Messier galaxies that you may be able to log with binoculars. M51 is famous though difficult.

Thursday, Mars has now closed to within just 3° of Regulus, and they're almost the same brightness too. Look for this striking color-contrast pair high in the west after dark. Follow them day by day through their June 6th conjunction. The star above them or to their upper right is Gamma Leonis.

Friday, Last-quarter Moon (exact at 6:13 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The faint comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is nearing its mid-June period of best visibility, low in the northeast just before the start of dawn. You'll need a telescope or (perhaps) binoculars. See article and finder chart.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Flower Moon Near Antares in a Summer Night

Thursday night, the clouds moved out as darkness fell across the sky. Night Hawks and Bats were collecting bugs as they soared at the top of my portal. Even though summer is a still a few weeks away, this night feels as if Summer is already here! The first star I spotted was Arcturus, then Spica and finally Saturn. Vega was soon shining brightly in the east.

The full moon was bright and off color, as it slowly moved above my tree line after 10 pm. In The Binoculars, there was a glow surrounding the moon. I am a bit blind in my left eye so, I moved the bright orb, in the right lens, until it was almost out of view and with the glare of moonlight gone, the red Antares became more visible. Made more notes of the surface features I observed the past few nights, up to this phase. When the moon is full, even the deepest craters appear as a bright- white on the surface. Features change with each phase. I am curious: What’s the total number of moon features named and cataloged? Identifying features and comparing photos with current and past observation notes, charts and an Atlas is time consuming. I use several web pages [ Phases, Explore, Discover and Details ] to help identify all the Craters, Riles, Valleys, Mountain peaks and the Seas I have observed. It is a daunting task but educational. I will soon be guided away from this stroll on the moon by other Celestial Events, but I always seem to return, to The Moon.


Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: May 28-30, 2010. Tammy discusses the Moon, stars in Leo and a few galaxies to observe. My Forecast for this Memorial Day Weekend: might see a clear night or two…maybe! If so, I may set up view Saturn and track that bright rock Ceres this weekend, plus another look at the Moon and if I’m up early, Jupiter! Clear Skies.....


News from the Net:
First Ever Video of NASA's 'Ice Team'
SOFIA Sees First Light
Japan Shoots for Robotic Moon Base by 2020
Andromeda's Unstable Black Hole
Black Hole in M87 Wanders using Jetpack
SWIFT survey finds 'smoking gun' of Black Hole activation
Small Near-Earth Object Probably a Rocket Part more Image of the Day: Ancient Dwarf Galaxies Orbiting the Milky Way -Clues to Dark Matter?

On May, 28 2010 there were 1127 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Full Moon Tonight, No Dark Sky

An Omega dome is forming over our area and the clouds are breaking up. The sky is not totally clear yet, but I did see a few stars when the moon began to rise after sunset last night. There's a full Moon tonight and according to folklore it has a special name: the Flower Moon. Lots of moonlight will dim the hunt for those favorite clusters in the eyepiece this weekend. A photo was posted on today’s APOD of M13: The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. The photo was submitted by MTM Observatory in Italy. Great shot guys!

Tonight the Full Moon rises shortly after sunset. Look to the southeast for a big Moon close to the horizon. The star Antares is close to the Full Moon. - Mars is 5 degrees from the star Regulus and closing. Mars will pass Regulus in early June. On June 6th Mars will be just 1 degree from the star.

Friday, The Moon is a day after Full. Look for the Moon to rise about 1.2 hours after sunset. The Moon is about 12 degrees to the lower left of Antares.

Saturday, Ceres, the largest and first-discovered asteroid, is passing close by the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius this week. Ceres is magnitude 7.5, well within binocular range. The Lagoon reaches a good observing altitude in the south-southeast by about 1 a.m. Ceres will be closest to it on the night of June 1st. See S & T article and finder chart.

Lots of News from the Net:
Atlantis Returns Home — For the Last Time?
First Orion Capsule forming rapidly
Amateur Astronomers Spy on Air Force's Secret Mini Space Plane
SDO Seeing 'Butterfly Effect' on the Sun
Phoenix Mission Tribute Video
The Story Behind SOFIA, NASA's Flying Observatory
Comet Takes Death-Dive Into the Sun
Wild and Crazy Multi-Planetary System Surprises Astronomers
Flying Telescope Takes to the Skies
Mars Polar Cap Mystery Solved
Galaxy Mergers Make Black Holes 'Light Up'
Newly-Discovered Stellar Nurseries in the Milky Way
Galaxies Like Grains of Sand in New Herschel Image
Time-Lapse Satellite View of Growing Oil Spill
Black Hole in M87 Wanders using Jetpack
Andromeda's Unstable Black Hole

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Asteroids and Dwarf planets

My night sky is still covered with clouds, no view of the moon or stars since my short observing time last Friday. So, I watched the Discovery Channel series “How the Universe Works”. Last night’s program was Alien Solar Systems. It was very educational and up-to-date. Showed how our system formed and it compared our 8 planet system to new systems( 280) recently discovered. They discussed the formation of the Kuiper Belt and the many rocks and dwarf planets that orbit there, including Pluto.

“The Sleeper has awakened!” Using a line from the Movie “Dune”, I bring attention to that long distant probe New Horizon as it comes out of hibernation, again. This past weekend, Alan Stern posted news describing the New Horizon long term mission checkout process in his latest report. There are more notes on those Rocks in the vast KB. In another article posted today, it notes the Mission should arrive in another five years to destination Pluto/Charon, Nix and Hydra. Enough time to get a fix on the orbits of the two newly discovered moons. Currently New Horizons is 2,506,760,000 kilometers from the Sun, making for a light-delay time of 2 hours, 12 minutes. Getting around light delays of months or even years will involve the kind of AI systems we’ve talked about in recent posts.

Sky and Telescope listed information on Ceres in 2010, an Asteroid we can follow from a backyard telescope. Ceres, the largest and first-discovered asteroid, is the only “dwarf planet” (by modern designation) easily visible to amateurs; the next brightest is 14th-magnitude Pluto. Right now Ceres may be familiar to only a tiny portion of humanity, but we can expect it to gain global star status in February 2015 when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes up orbit around Ceres and start imaging its unknown landscape in detail.
Ceres travels through Sagittarius and Ophiuchus in June through August 2010.
Ceres shines at magnitude 7.6 in late May 2010, bright enough to see easily in any telescope, or in solidly supported binoculars. It looks exactly like a star, so you will need a detailed chart to tell which point of light is the asteroid. If you note the surrounding star field, you can easily observe the asteroid's motion against the background stars from one night to the next, or even (with care) from one hour to the next. Ceres reaches opposition on June 18th at magnitude 7.2. Prior to that date, the asteroid is best observed after midnight. Ceres fades gradually during July, but it also rises earlier each night and becomes ever higher in the evening sky. It's still 8th magnitude in August, when it's high above the horizon by the time the sky grows dark. Click here for a printable chart of Ceres's path in PDF format. Make the acquaintance of Ceres, follow it along, and when it becomes famous, you can say that you knew it quite personally back in the day.

Tonight, if the clouds break: This is the time of year when Cassiopeia is at its lowest after dark — a wide W-shape just above the north horizon. If you're as far south as the U.S. Gulf Coast, Cassiopeia will be partly or wholly below your north horizon. Uranus is 1.7 degrees to the left of Jupiter. Look for both planets in the dawn sky. Jupiter can easily be seen as the bright "star" in the ESE. Uranus can be seen with binoculars or a telescope. Uranus is about as bright as Jupiter's Galilean moons.

Wednesday, Vega, the first star of the Summer Triangle to appear each night each spring, now shines brightly in the east-northeast after dark. Look for Deneb, the second, two or three fist-widths to Vega's lower left. The third and last Summer Triangle star is Altair. Look for it rising late in the evening significantly farther to Vega's lower right. Mercury is at greatest elongation. Mercury is 25 degrees west of the Sun, but rises just about an hour before sunrise. Look for Mercury very low in the ENE morning twilight.

The full Moon shines in Scorpius, this month.

Thursday, Full Moon (exact at 7:07 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). Look for ruddy Antares just 1° or 2° to the Moon's lower right (as seen from North America) as well as other surrounding stars of Scorpius, as shown here. The Moon's glare will be bright; binoculars will give the best view. During the course of the evening, watch the Moon move with respect to these stars. Venus is less than 3/4° from the 3rd-magnitude star Epsilon Geminorum this evening and Friday evening as seen from the Americas. Look carefully; Venus is 600 times brighter. (Their closest approach, 17 arcminutes, comes around 17h Universal Time May 28th when they're visible from eastern Asia.)

News from the Net:
Wild and Crazy Multi-Planetary System Surprises Astronomers
Copernicus Reburied With Honors
WISE Covers the Heart and Soul of Infrared Astronomy
Look at a Supernova from a different angle
Wise makes progress on Space Rock Catalog
The Story Behind SOFIA, NASA's Flying Observatory
New Image Shows Phoenix Lander's Solar Panel is Missing
It Takes Six Minutes to Fly From One End of ISS to the Other
Zombie-Sat, the orbital dance
Weird Orbits can make Planets Inhabitable.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Terminator….Shadow and Light

The clouds are still gathering and moving around in my sky.
I did get a chance to observe the Moon Friday night! The Moon was one day past the First Quarter. A break in the clouds and a clear sky allowed me an hour (just one) to observe the moon. At Twilight, 9pm, I set up the 10”DOB and focused on the gibbous waxing moon. My trip to the moon was over when a blanket of clouds began to move in just after 10pm. [We broke out the small digital Cool-Pix camera and took several photos, at the eyepiece] I studied the photos and referenced them with my moon atlas. It was a short trip but was able to capture a lot of surface features along the Terminator and on the face of this eight plus day moon.

The first stop, during my brief open window, was the Straight wall! Rupes Recta, [ Huygens Sword] was black, long and prominent, lying on the floor in the Nubium Sea. Moving away from crater brit was crater Thebit+A. And just beyond, were the three craters Arzachel, Alphonsus and Ptolemaeus. They were well lit with some shadow along the rims. Near Ptolemaeus is the deep crater Herschel, in shadow. Next I followed the terminator up and explored the crater Plato. The sun light was reaching across the eastern rim and shadowed the high peaks down the slope into the darkened pit. Pico and other mountains, strewn near by were lit up, bright white, by the sun. I edged along the Alps mountain range into Mare Imbrium and stopped at the craters Aristillus, Autolycus and Archimedes. From there, I picked up the Apennius Mountain range and followed it down to the crater Eratosthenes with the eastern rim lit up by sunlight. Moving up to the face of the moon I identified Mare Serenitatis edged by the shadowed crater Menelaus in front of crater Julius Ceasar. These throw a debris line into the funnel, on the plain to opposite end of Serenitatis. On the edge of that funnel is the large open crater Posidonius. Near by in Mare Vaporum is the larger crater Maniliuus, that was in quarter shadow on one of the rims. I moved up to the large crater Plinius guarding the Sea of Tranquility. In the center of the face is that marsh area, Palus Somnii. Above this feature are the two seas, Crisium and Fecunitatis.

The photos we took (still reviewing and referencing) did not do justice to the sharp, clear, black/white- grey, shadows and light I witnessed through the eyepiece at my telescope during my short visit! Every night is different and unique. Hoping for longer breaks in the clouds soon. In one day, the Terminator will reveal the “Bay of Rainbows” and Copernicus!


News from the Net:
Picture Gallery: STS-132, Atlantis' Last Mission
New Weekly Sun Fix: SDO's Pick of the Week
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Stellar Quakes and Glitches

Friday, May 21, 2010

Event Horizon: Quarter Moon among the Stars

Still no break from the cloud cover here! I would like to set up a scope soon, sometime, even if it means catching moon beams in the eyepiece. I do have a moon filter! Tammy is back on line (short absence) and reviews the bright star Spica, lots of features on the moon including the Straight wall. Here is this Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – May 21-23, 2010.
I caught sight of the Moon and Mars between drifting clouds, while waiting for the ISS to move across my portal to the sky Wednesday night. The Station was on time but the bright point of light was very hard to follow as it traveled in and out of groups of dark clouds while twilight was ending. No Stars early Thursday morning, another Cloudy Sky!
Thursday night we had broken clouds at first, then covered by 9pm. This morning was still covered with broken clouds! No break, No Stars, No Stargazing! Missed the Group meeting last night. Larry wanted it held at Bob's Observatory to see the set up for astrophotography. Busy here and I have seen it before. Could they follow stars In a cloudy sky?

At least this week's TV programs have filled the void, with features on Astronomy, Science and Nature. Plus keeping up with the ISS and Shuttle Atlantis Mission Highlights.

Tonight, if the clouds break: As darkness arrives, turn binoculars or a telescope on dazzling Venus in the west-northwest. Look less than 1° to Venus's lower left for the big open star cluster M35.

Saturday night, The "star" above the gibbous Moon this evening (by about 8° as seen from North America) is Saturn. There's a much fainter star about 2° to Saturn's lower right this week [Beta Virginis], magnitude 3.6, a rather Sun-like star 36 light-years away.

Sunday night, The Moon shines high in the south after dark. Look for Spica left of it, Saturn farther to the Moon's upper right, and Regulus and Mars (an increasingly close couple) farther right or lower right of Saturn. Arcturus shines far to the Moon's upper left. And below the Moon is Corvus, the Crow. Saturn and Jupiter are at opposition to each other, 180 degrees apart. This is the first of three oppositions in 2010-2011. Every 20 years, Saturn and Jupiter meet up in the sky. We are now 10 years from the last Jupiter-Saturn conjunction and 10 years away from the next one in 2020.

Monday night, Spot Spica about 6° upper right of the gibbous Moon this evening (for North America).

Lots of News from the Net:
Shuttle Atlantis STS 132 Mission, Crew thrilled with progress
Amazing Time-Lapse Video of Space Shuttle Discovery
Citizen Science Goes to the Moon
More Up-Close Images of Eyjafjallajokull Volcano and Its Effect on Life in Iceland
What is the Air Force's Secret X-37B Space Plane Doing in Orbit?
Hail to His Spiralness, M83
A New Kind of Supernova Explodes in Unusual Way
Jupiter and the missing SEB band
Spitzer looks at How Binary Stars form
Incredible Image: Atlantis and ISS Transit the Sun
Mars Rovers Set Surface Longevity Record
Japan's Venus Orbiter and Solar Sail Missions Launch SuccessfullySatellite Images Show Oil Slick on the Move Towards Florida, Possibly East Coast of US

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where is Jupiter?

Jupiter is 365 million miles from earth (at minimum).
I am eager to put the Planet Jupiter and 4 moons +Uranus in the scope.

Early this morning my sky was still covered in Clouds. It has been that way for quite sometime! The great sixth planet will climb higher and be seen earlier in a darker sky as we move into June.

The USNO describes the planet in The Sky This Week: Jupiter continues to loll in the pre-dawn sky, drifting slowly eastward against the dim stars of the rising constellation Pisces. Old Jove is biding his time right now, but once we’re well into summer he’ll move in to take Saturn’s place as the dominant planet of the season. Right now be content to see him in morning twilight.

The folks at the Arkansas Sky Observatory write: the mightiest of planets, JUPITER now rises about 4 a.m., local time and is high in bright dawn skies by month's end. The gas giant will be located VERY close to the faint planet URANUS, and visible together (about 3 degrees apart) in a very wide field telescope. Jupiter is rising earlier each morning on its way to a very favorable opposition to Earth this fall.- In PISCES

Sky and Tel says: Jupiter (magnitude –2.2, below the Circlet of Pisces) shines in the east-southeast at the first light of dawn. Nothing else there is nearly so bright.

Last night’s sky was some what clear. Sky conditions were not the best for scoping, so I used the binoculars and scanned the night sky. Hercules was there, but the main outline of the keystone was pale just above the trees. Saturn was sparkling high above, almost straight up now. I did spot the Virgo star, Spica and then the four stars of the Crow. Arcturus led me to the big dipper, now even higher and moving NW, still spilling star dust that was in the dipper. A bright crescent moon was hanging above the western tree line, when I spotted the bright moving point of light. The ISS was on time and moved high across the WSW sky at 9:49 before the station dimmed into the Southern quadrant. The orbiting laboratory made a short, fast run.

Another Space Walk today from STS 132 Atlantis and the ISS:
Spaceweather.com posted a photo of the ISS and Atlantis on the web today. Last Sunday, May 16th, in the blue skies of Spain, a pair of tiny shadows flitted across the sun. Image of the solar transit of the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Atlantis 50 minutes before docking, taken from the area of Madrid (Spain) on May 16th 2010 at 13h 28min 55s UT. Atlantis has just begun the "R-bar pitch maneuver": the shuttle performs a backflip that exposes its heat-shield to the crew of the ISS that makes photographs of it; since its approach trajectory is between the ISS and the Earth, this means that we are seeing Atlantis essentially from above, with the payload bay door opened. Transit duration: 0.54s. Transit band width on Earth: 4.8 km. ISS distance to observer: 391 km. Speed: 7.4km/s. Used a Takahashi TOA-150 refractor, Baader Herschel prism and Canon 5D Mark II. Exposure of 1/8000s at 100 ISO, extracted from a series of 16 images (4 images/s) started 2s before the predicted time. Wow, Great shot! Thanks for sharing.

Tonight, If the clouds break: The crescent Moon is below Mars . Look for Mars and the Moon in the evening sky. Mars is 9 degrees west of the star Regulus in Leo the Lion.

Thursday night, Regulus is about 5° upper right of the first-quarter Moon this evening (for North America. The Moon is exactly first quarter at 6:43 p.m. CDT.

News from the Net:
Space Station Gets a New Science Module
Japan to Launch Venus Orbiter and Solar Sail Missions
A beautiful view of M83
Unique Eclipsing Binary Star System Discovered
A new iconic image of the Space Age..?
Herschel images in a new BBC Online slideshow
Incredible Images of Enceladus From Cassini's Latest Flyby
A lunar illusion you’ll flip over
Possible new type of supernovae puts calcium in your bones

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eyes on the Universe

Last night we had another rain storm pass over, just after dark. That’s over 5 inches in three days! NO STARS under cloudy skies! And I missed another ISS pass! Cloudy nights are forecast again, so I might miss some of the events this week. The clouds sent me trippin in Cyberspace to catch up on Space/Sky events. Celestial and Astronomical photos are posted daily on the web from all the current orbiting probes and space telescopes. Include the Amateur Astro-photographers across the globe; a person can fill a lot of file space with great reference pictures and new data of “what’s out there”. Some of the orbiting Telescopes on my list: HST, Spitzer, Chandra, Herschel and Planck, Kepler and Wise. I have not listed the many Radio Telescopes. Two Big Telescopes working and taking pictures from ground based Observatories: The VLT and the LBT.
In development are the GMT and the EELT. Both Scheduled for completion around 2018. Back in April, Armazones Chile to be the Site for the 42 meter European Extremely Large Telescope? On May 11 the news was: EELT might go to Spain!
This was posted today on the Ground based Magellan Telescope

Some of the photos posted today:
Gorgeous Venus-Moon Conjunction Images
Hubble picture of the week
Io transit on Jupiter, Hubble picture of the day
Tentacles of the Tarantula Nebula
Highlights from Herschel
Cassini visiting Enceladus and Titan.
M63-The Sunflower Galaxy
Edge on Galaxy NGC 5866

Tonight, if the clouds break: The waxing crescent Moon is part of the evening sky. The Apollo 11 landing site is along the lunar terminator. Apollo 11 landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969. In 2009, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed the landing site, Tranquility Base. Moon near Mars, Castor, Pollux on May 18.
STS 132 Astronauts are getting ready for the next space walk scheduled to start 7:15 AM Wednesday morning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Astronomy in Cyber Space

While the clouds continue to cover the night sky (at least the rain is gone for a while) above my backyard this week, I am recording the shuttle highlights and keeping up with the news in Cyberspace.

STS132-Atlantis, Flight Day 4, space walk is in progress. Mission Specialists Garrett Reisman and Stephen Bowen began the planned 6.5-hour spacewalk at 7:54 a.m. EDT. Mission Specialist Michael Good and Pilot Tony Antonelli, the intravehicular officer, are assisting the spacewalkers from inside the orbiting complex. Support for robotic arm operations is being provided by Mission Specialist Piers Sellers and Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson.

LUNAR OCCULTATION: Yesterday, sky watchers in parts of Africa, the Middle East, India and southeast Asia witnessed a spectacular lunar occultation of Venus. Many excellent photos of this event were posted on Spaceweather.com. This photo from Hong Kong won hands down…wow! There is another Occultation this week. Best seen from India, Thursday May, 20. Moon will occult the 3.5 magnitude star omicron leonis, Subra. The Moon will be at half phase and Subra is occulted from dark side of the Moon. I hope the recent volcanic ash does not cover their sky! I am looking forward to viewing the captured photons of this event from that part of the world.

If the clouds break tonight: Moon near Venus, Castor and Pollux on May 17

Wednesday, Moon and Mars close together on May 19. Mars is about 6° above the Moon this evening (for North America)

Thursday, Regulus is about 5° upper right of the first-quarter Moon this evening (for North America). The Moon is exactly first quarter at 7:43 p.m. EDT. A telescope shows Titan at greatest elongation from Saturn tonight and tomorrow, about four ring-lengths to the planet's west. Titan swings around Saturn every 16 days. Thursday evening, 9pm on TV: NATGEO Known Universe series- Stellar Storms

Friday, As dusk fades into night, turn binoculars or a telescope on dazzling Venus in the west-northwest. Look less than 1° lower left of Venus for the big open star cluster M35.

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without a Telescope – Making Sense Of The Neutron Zoo
Galaxies 101: Types of Galaxies
Astronomy Quest: Starstuff Harvesting Starlight
Astronomy Quest: Size of Sun Puzzles Scientists

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Globular Clusters: The Stuff of Stars

After revisiting and exploring M13 last week, I went to the books and resourses to get more data on these small colonies of light in our galaxy. I have logged many of these spheres of light over the years, while exploring the night sky. Some have brighter cores than others. In his Celestial Handbook, R. Burnham describes the center of the Omega Centauri Cluster and explains the dense stars are separated by half a light year or so. The clusters show up as fuzzy globs in binoculars. The scope brings individual stars in focus and the unique shape of each highly populated sphere. My Astronomy encyclopedia states that a Globular Cluster is a spherically symmetric collection of old stars that share a common origin. Globular clusters contain from tens of thousands to millions of stars and measure from 100 to 300 light-years across. Some have been shown, in all likelihood, to contain middleweight black holes in their cores. The on-line Atlas of the Universe maintains a list of most of the globular clusters that surround our galaxy. The Atlas holds that Globular Clusters are spherical concentrations of stars typically 100 light years across and containing thousands of stars. Globular clusters are very old, at least 10 billion years old and were presumably formed when the galaxy was still forming. They are scattered in a spherical halo surrounding our galaxy and they require hundreds of millions of years to orbit it.

A recent blog posted this question: Why are these old star clusters a minor mystery?
Wiki notes that globular clusters are tight groups of hundreds of thousands of very old stars which are gravitationally bound. Until recently, globular clusters were the cause of a great mystery in astronomy, as theories of stellar evolution gave ages for the oldest members of globular clusters that were greater than the estimated age of the universe. However, greatly improved distance measurements to globular clusters using the Hipparcos satellite and increasingly accurate measurements of the Hubble constant resolved the paradox, giving an age for the universe of about 13 billion years and an age for the oldest stars of a few hundred million years less. The count in Our Galaxy is about 150 globular clusters give or take a few.

Globular Clusters make for great targets in the telescope. They have degrees of brightness and there are plenty on the list to discover and explore. As more Cosmologists study these spheres, they should conclude that Globular Clusters are important to the harmony of the Universe and hold answers to the "Stuff of Stars"!

Last night the sky was clear... for a while!? Seeing was not the best and the atmosphere was unsettled with moisture. I spotted the ISS as it moved in the NW sky and dimmed as it completed a short run, @9:09 pm, close to the North Star. I scanned the sky and found the planets Saturn and Mars. I located the Big Dipper, then the stars Arcturus and Spica. I spotted the four stars that make up the constellation Corvus. I saw the Gemini Twins off to the West. A cloudy forecast continues for my Night Sky into next week. All I can do is hope the sky clears for me to observe some of the following upcoming events:

The Weekend SkyWatcher Forecast: May 14-16, 2010 reviews the Black eye galaxy, a couple of Globular Clusters (M3-M53) and an Open Cluster- Mel 111. These are all good targets to sight in with your binoculars. This evening the thickening crescent Moon shines to Venus's upper left, I will need a better low horizon for this photo op. Look west at sunset! The faint orange stars near it, as twilight deepens into night, are in the feet of Gemini.

Monday, Venus and Saturn are 90 degrees apart and closing. Mars is between Venus and Saturn. Watch these three planets converge through the spring and summer.

It's May, so the Big Dipper floats upside down high overhead when you face north as the stars come out. Turn around to face southwest; there stands Leo, with yellow-gold Mars to its right and yellow-white Saturn to its left.

Wednesday, Mars is about 6° above the Moon this evening (for North America).

News from the Net:
Atlantis Launch Gallery
New Views of Meridiani Planum Show Deposits of Volcanic Ash
Atlantis Launches Successfully on Last Scheduled Flight (Video)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Last Flight... Atlantis to Launch Today

Space shuttle Atlantis is on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center poised to begin a 12-day mission to the ISS. Forecasters say there is a 70% chance of favorable weather for an on-time launch at 1:20 pm, CDT, on Friday, May 14th. NASA's shuttle program is coming to an end, and this will be the final flight of Atlantis

We have a chance to see the ISS/Atlantis move across the sky from my location, through Tuesday in the evening. May 15th (sky map), and a slightly fatter 10% crescent on Sunday, May 16th (sky map).

However, the forecast here, well into next week, calls for “lots of clouds with a chance of rain!” This week has been cloudy…. I have missed the stars in the Night Sky May 9 – May 15!

Tonight, if the clouds break: In early twilight, use binoculars to look for the very young crescent Moon just above the west-northwest horizon. It's far lower right of Venus, as shown below. Having found it with binoculars, can you then pick it up with the naked eye? If you see the Moon before 9:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (regardless of your own time zone), you've spotted it when it's less than 24 hours old.

Saturday, A thin crescent Moon is about 5 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Look for the pair about 45 minutes after sunset in the west.

Sunday, Moon moving away, but still near Venus

News from the Net:
The Grand Triumphs and Close Calls of Space Shuttle Atlantis
Jupiter, It Is A-Changing
Volcano Cam Now Available
WISE Pictures the Tadpole Nebula with a String of Pearls
Latest Satellite Images of Eyjafjallajokull, the Volcano that Keeps on Giving

Herschel’s first year in Space : 14 May 2009, an Ariane 5 rocket carrying two brand new space telescopes launched into space. The two telescopes were Herschel, the largest infrared space telescope ever launched, and Planck, which will make the most sensitive maps of early Universe over the whole sky.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strong Man’s Journey across the Night Sky

It is mid-week and May will be half gone this weekend. NO CLEAR-NIGHT SKY in the forecast! The clouds continue to cover my night sky! The moon will be New Friday, but still no chance to set up and observe this weekend! M13 is already in a steady climb over the tree line in my back yard. Unless you are an avid stargazer, you might not be sure just where to look for Hercules. While the fifth largest constellation, it isn't very obvious. Once you have located the shape a few times, The constellation Hercules and The Keystone are easy to find. Once you have located the Keystone, locating the position of M13 – the Great Cluster in Hercules is easy.

Heracles was named after the greatest of Greek goddesses, Hera. Heracles [Hercules] had to perform twelve Labors, feats so difficult that they seemed impossible. By the end of these Labors, Hercules [Heracles] was, without a doubt, Greece's greatest hero.
M13, or NGC6205, is a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules. M13 is sometimes called the Great Globular in Hercules, as it is one of the most noticeable globular clusters in the northern hemisphere. About 22000 light-years away and about 150 light-years across, M13 contains perhaps as many as a million stars. It is slightly closer and a little older than its near neighbor M92.

I am waiting for another chance to explore! Each night sky is different from the night before. The quest for a crisp, clear night sky is to bring the sharpest focus on the objects in my eyepiece. Once these clouds are gone and the sky is clear, in a moonless sky, I will set up the scope and explore the sky again. By the end of May, Lyra [the ring nebula, m57] should be in view, followed by Cygnus [Albireo] and a binocular view of the coathanger, [Collinder 399]. In late summer nights, I will be waiting to explore Scorpius and Sagittarius as they climb above the trees….can’t wait!

News from the net:
X-Ray Observations Find Evidence for "Missing Matter" in the Universe
Runaway Star Needs Its Own Reality Docu-Drama
Black Hole Gets Kicked Out of Galaxy
Young Stars Blast a Hole in SpaceTeam Finds Most-Distant Galaxy Cluster Ever Seen
One Moment, Two Worlds

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A New Moon and Atlantis, behind the clouds?

This Thursday a New Moon (exact at 9:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time) will make for Dark Skies. My Telescopes and Binoculars are at the ready. So far, there was nothing from Larry on a Group Event Saturday night. An event scheduled for one of the Saturday nights in May. Unfortunately, the current forecast calls for Cloud Cover to continue into the weekend!
Friday is the Scheduled launch of STS 132 to the ISS. It is the last flight of Shuttle Atlantis.

Tonight, if the clouds break:
Saturn
shines high in the south these evenings, awaiting your telescope — with its rings turned as nearly edge-on as they'll appear for another 15 years.
Brighter Arcturus shines high in the southeast. Below Saturn and Arcturus you'll find Spica. Look lower right of Spica for the four-star pattern of Corvus, the Crow.

Wednesday, if it is clear: A very thin old Moon can be spotted low in the ENE an hour before sunrise. Binoculars will help you find this hairline thin Moon.
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.

Friday, if the clouds break: In early dawn Friday morning, use a telescope or steadily braced binoculars to look for the star 20 Piscium about ¼° lower right of Jupiter (at the times of dawn for North America). The star is magnitude 5.5, about as bright as Jupiter's four Galilean satellites — only three of which are visible in a telescope until Io emerges from behind Jupiter's edge at 5:14 a.m. Central Daylight Time.
In early twilight, use binoculars to look for the very young crescent Moon just above the west-northwest horizon. It's far lower right of Venus, as shown below. Having found it with binoculars, can you then pick it up with the naked eye? If you see the Moon before 9:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (regardless of your own time zone), you've spotted it when it's less than 24 hours old.

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Bringing the Planetology Home
Incredible! Cassini as Houdini Cuts Titan in Half
Hubble Catches Heavyweight Runaway Star Speeding from 30 Doradus
Herschel finds hole in Space

A Video from the BBC, Empire of the Sun is part 1
Wonders of the Solar System

Science on TV this week:
Two Discovery Channel programs aired Monday evening:
Alien Galaxies and Extreme Stars
In Alien Galaxies they discussed how stars and matter pulled together, after the Big Bang, forming the spiral giants we see today. They reviewed the formation of local groups, super groups and super massive black holes. The program discussed the development of Strings of galaxies held together by Dark Matter and the formation of the Sloan Wall. The Universe is many Galactic Filaments forming The Cosmic Web. Dark Energy = fate of separating all galaxies. This was an intersting and up-to-date program. I hope to catch a rerun and tape it!

Thursday night is another NATGEO episode of: The Known Universe “Cosmic Fury” will discuss earthquakes and volcanoes, unpredictable and deadly threat here on Earth, but they also occur far out in the universe.

SciFi on TV this week: Pandorum
SciFi Horror films like Aliens to Event Horizon, keep Science Fiction writers banging out more stories, stretching the facts and written with a lot of dark energy! A lot has been said about what could happen in Long Duration Space Flight. This movie seems to go to one end, in that chest of possibilities. This was not a bad movie. I have seen better “Creature Feature” films that have taken place on some large ship, lost in space.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Event Horizon: Sunday, A Hallmark Day

We have been dealing with a lot of cloud cover lately. Early morning sky and late evening sky! I observed Zero Meteors from the Eta Aquarid shower this past week. While exploring cyberspace, there was a very good photo of the Hercules Cluster posted on the AAPOD. I always enjoy exploring this Great Cluster in my scope.... Next Clear Night!

My Mom gets tired early, in the evenings, after her active days. I have set up a scope at her house(lots of urban lights there) and found myself observing alone. I do point out the planets and events to her when I visit. For that Special Day, this Sunday, NASA posted special charts for Mom’s Day.

Early Sunday morning, if the clouds break: Jupiter and moon close together before dawn May 9 and 10. Jupiter is 5 degrees below the waning crescent Moon. Look to the ESE morning sky. The planet Uranus is 3.9 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter and will remain within 4 degrees of the giant planet until February of 2011. Uranus can be seen as a faint "star" in the view of binoculars.
Note: The forecast for clouds will surely take away any observations and "Photo Ops" of the early morning sky for the next few mornings!

Next Week: Atlantis' STS-132 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to lift off at 2:20 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 14. The mission is the last scheduled flight for Atlantis. Including STS-132, there are only three remaining shuttle missions scheduled before the fleet is retired.

News from the Net:
First Full Science Results in From Herschel

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Focus on Telescopes

No chance to see meteors streaking across the sky early this morning, we had cloud cover! Spaceweather.com says we have another chance to view the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower early Friday morning, if the clouds break. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower, usually the year's best for the Southern Hemisphere, is underway for several days. This year the waning Moon adds some light to the sky during the pre-dawn meteor-watching hours. The shower's radiant point is near the Water Jar of Aquarius. Few of the meteors are visible from north temperate latitudes. Tonight’s forecast: increasing Clouds.

If it is Clear: Milky Way encircles the horizon on May evenings

Telescopes Focusing on the Universe:

News from ESO’s LaSalle Observatory 2.2 meter Telescope: Abell 315 Cluster of Galaxies was been taken with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. To Infinity and Beyond! Phil Plait posted the new ESO picture of Abell 315 cluster of Galaxies on his Discovery Blog: When you look up at night, you might see a thousand stars. With binoculars, you might see tens of thousands. With a decent telescope, that number goes up to a seemingly amazing tens of millions. This one image shows tens of thousands of trillions of stars. A million stars for every man, woman, and child on Earth, with more to spare. And it’s only one small part of the sky.

News from SOFIA: I have been following the progress of NASA’s flying Telescope, “Sofia”. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy 747SP is finally at the completion stage and trials are under way. That’s good news!

News from The Herschel Telescope: Herschel’s observation of the star-forming cloud RCW 120 has revealed an embryonic star which looks set to turn into one of the biggest and brightest stars in our Galaxy within the next few hundred thousand years.

News from the Large Binocular Telescope: The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) partners in Germany, the U.S.A. and Italy are pleased to announce that the first of two new innovative near-infrared cameras/spectrographs for the LBT is now available to astronomers for scientific observations at the telescope on Mt. Graham in south-eastern Arizona.

News from the Net:
New Image Reveals Thousands of Galaxies in Abell 315
Shutdown of 'Zombie' Satellite Unsuccessful (maybe this was my "UFO", seen Tuesday ?)
Latest Satellite Images of Oil Spill
Will Aliens Be Hostile? Hayden Planetarium Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson answer to the Hawkings’ statement!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Night Sky, StarLog^100504

The days are getting longer, the night of May 4-Dark Sky at 9:00pm
10” DOB @10pm, sky clear, seeing was good
The first thing I spotted was a Satellite moving just under and to right of Arcturus. It was moving to the SW and disappeared quickly. I checked the SAT page and they had nothing moving at that time of night, over my location. Classify it as a UFO?! It may be a weather Sat or could be a DOD Sat… they are not listed.

Saturn, was sharp and clear in scope, bright Moon-Titan off to left,

d..............*S*e.............................................. T

Mars was high in the West, just above the tree line, behind the roof of the house. Visible enough to view in binoculars, but I could not swing the scope in that position. I said Adios to the red planet from my platform, until it is back over my portal to the universe!
Scanned the Dipper, higher tonight, with ladle upside down. Mizar/Alcor in binoculars, then in the scope. Sharp and clear, I am more curious about this double star, need more data! I will reference the Burhnam book for more information later
I Studied the Bright Star Arcturus a bit.
Moved East to Mighty Hercules….I started scanning for the Great M13. Once the keystone fully cleared the tree-line, 11pm, I spotted the fuzzy glob between Epsilon and Zeta (Ruticulus) along the eastern line of the keystone. I have viewed this cluster in darker skies and the center of mass has looked a lot brighter and sharper in the past. Tonight’s sky left it somewhat dimmer but when I zoomed in, the center was sharper and more prominent. The outside stars from the center were clear. I never tire exploring this great mass of stars. Much later, after a rest, I went back out and the Moon was just rising over the tree line. After 3am, Cygnus was flying high and the bright moon was in Sagittarius. I stayed out for an hour or so, scanning the sky for meteors. NO streaks of light seen! While searching the sky for meteors, I did not swing the scope at the moon, (should have?) still too much moonlight for scoping stars! The evening’s venture was getting to me, so I shut down for the night. Wednesday night will come soon enough to scan for meteors and explore! Clear Sky forecast.

News from the Net:
Opportunity's Long and Winding Road to Endeavour Crater

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quinto de Noches de Mayo, 5 Nights in May

CINCO de MAYO, May 5, is a reason to celebrate in my part of the country. I might just Star Party for the next two nights! As if I need a reason? The Forecast is for Clear Night Skies, next couple of nights, before the Clouds are due back in force, during the coming weekend. I plan to continue to explore and scan the night sky these first five nights in this first week in May.

Sunday night, the big dipper was high in the North at ten pm. The ladle was turned upside down and the handle straight out. The Big Dipper is easy to find this time of year. Look high in the sky. The Big Dipper helps you find the north star. Follow a line through the two end stars of the bowl of the Dipper to Polaris, the north star. Polaris is the one star that stays in the same place in the sky all year long. I did Follow the arc of handle of the Big Dipper to the star Arcturus, high above the tree line in the SE. From there, you can spike to the star Spica. Arcturus and Spica are both first magnitude stars and easy to see in the spring sky at dusk. After 10pm, the mighty Hercules “Keystone” was in the East above the tree line. Saturn was high in the South below the lion Leo. Way off high in the west was Mars, still above the tree line with Gemini twins still visible.

Monday morning after sunrise, it was clear with a brilliant blue sky. The waning gibbous moon was still high in that blue sky, in the SW, didn’t set until 11am.

Monday evening at 10pm, I found the big dipper again high in the N. The Planets Saturn and Mars were still in view.

Early Tuesday morning, 4am, the moon was bright and I saw no meteors...yet. I did see Cygnus flying high in a bright moonlit sky, filled with soft clouds. Seeing was not the best!

Wednesday Night, if it remains Clear: Last-quarter Moon late tonight (exact at 12:15 a.m. Thursday morning Eastern Daylight Time).

Rocks in Space! Asteroid Alert: Near Earth Asteroid 2010 GU21 Swoops By Earth On May 5. 2010 GU21 is photometrically surmised to be a X-type asteroid and very low-albedo… so dim, in fact, that it only manages about a magnitude 18. This one will be hard to see! Speaking of rocks in the sky, is Ceres, Dwarf Planet or Asteroid?

The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower Peaks Thursday Morning, start observing after midnight May 5, then early May 6 and May 7. Moon drowns Eta Aquarid meteors before dawn May 5 and 6. Larry noted on the bulletin board we may see 10 to 20 an hour!

News from the Net:
Indiana University posted news about the planets and the upcoming meteor shower in: May Star Traks

CSIRO telescope Spots Mega-star Cradle
News Across the Universe

SciFi on TV this Week: Dune
The desert planet Arrakis - we enter the year 10191 and the whole universe depends on the spice Melange which exists only on this dry and desolate planet. The natives of this planet await the arrival of their Messiah who will lead them into a holy war against the evil Harkonnen empire. This is the film adaptation based on Frank Herbert's cult novel. Still a Great SciFi Movie... for it’s time, in 1984.

Also this week, a marathon of: Star Trek Next Generation. Enjoy the action and plots of this later Star Trek series.

This first week of May is turning out to be “out of the world” for SciFi fans!

Other Notes of interest:
Reset the Scobee monthly Skyline Link! My link was broken for some time. But I finally searched out the planetarium in cyber space and there is a new link on the network! My link to the Scobee, under “ Astronomy Links” is now FXd

We had a power surge Monday evening to deal with! After which, the computers and modem had to be rebooted. Copy recovered and Satellite signals re-established. I had to re-align the navigation star into cyberspace. Back on Course...The Wonders of Modern Technology!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Night Sky in May

The Clouds still cover the sky, but the forecast calls for a few clear nights this week.
The Stars and Planets put on a good showing in May. Target a late and early morning Sky!

Happy May Day! This was traditionally celebrated as one of the four "cross-quarter days" midway between the solstices and equinoxes. However, the timing is a bit off; the actual midpoint of spring this year (Northern Hemisphere spring) comes on May 5th.
Lots of Bright Stars can be seen, in a clear sky, this month with the naked eye. As the stars come out these evenings, the bright "Spring Star" Arcturus appears halfway up the sky due east. The bright "Summer Star" Vega is just rising low in the northeast.

Tonight if the clouds break: Mars and Saturn are 45 degrees apart. Mars is in Cancer the Crab, between the stars Pollux and Regulus. Saturn is in Virgo the Maiden, between the stars Regulus and Spica.

Monday, The waning gibbous Moon is up in the morning sky. Aim a telescope at the Moon and look for the three craters, Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina are each about 60 miles in diameter and this morning are very near the lunar terminator.

At dusk Tuesday, use binoculars to look for the 4th-magnitude star Tau Tauri less than ½° left of Venus (at the times of dusk for North America). A telescope or even firmly mounted binoculars will show that this star is a wide double, with a 7th-magnitude companion 63 arcseconds southwest of (i.e. below) the primary.
A small telescope will always show Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Tonight and tomorrow, Titan is four ring-lengths to Saturn's west.

Wednesday, Last-quarter Moon late tonight (exact at 12:15 a.m. Thursday morning Eastern Daylight Time).

Thursday, May 6, the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

I’ll try and catch the Super giant star: Antares in Scorpius, before dawn in the month of may. This star is already a red super giant and ready to Supernova at any time. The Scorpion is easy to spot from my location in the Southern Sky, just above the trees in summer evenings.
Note from Astroprof blog 2007: Stars like Antares are at the end of their lives. After a star uses up the hydrogen in its core that it is fusing into helium as an energy source, the core collapses and heats up. The hydrogen near the core then gets hot enough to fuse hydrogen, and this release of energy farther out from the center of the star pushes outwards on the outer layers of the star. That causes the star to balloon outwards. As the star swells up, the outer layers of the star expand and cool. That is how you get a red giant or red supergiant. Less massive stars will eventually shed their outer layers into space, leaving a planetary nebula and a white dwarf behind. However, Antares is massive enough to explode in a supernova explosion, leaving a neutron star and an expanding cloud of gas. All of the final activity of a star about to go supernova, though, happens near the core and the surface doesn’t show and evidence of that. Antares could go supernova any time (in the next few days, the next few decades, or the next few thousands of years).
So, when you go out at night and look at Antares, you can think of some of these things.


Other Stars, not in my sky, those located in the Southern Hemisphere, I keep track of them in Cyberspace. One posted on the web today: O type Star, NAOS: an extreme blue supergiant with 59 solar masses and a surface temperature of over 42000 kelvins, Naos , Zeta Puppis- Spectral class O5Ia, is actually one of the brightest stars in the Milky Way.

Last Friday, I mentioned Jupiter and Asteroids. Here is more on Jupiter in May
and More stuff on NEOs

Jay Brausch reports from his backyard that Jupiter becomes the ruling planet of the morning sky this month, and on May 1, it rises close to 5:30am CDT at my location when at a distance of 521.8 million miles away. We continue to play “catch up” to it however, and by month’s end, it is rising almost 2 hrs earlier, when some 70 degrees ahead of the Sun and 485.3 million miles distant. As such, it brightens a little too in getting out of the long morning twilight. So, look for this giant world to the southeast when YOU get up go commute to work. A couple of notes of interest though: the crescent Moon passes shortly north of Jupiter on May 9, and at the end of May, Jupiter is barely within 1 degree (3/4th thumb width) of Uranus. However, the latter planet is 1.89 billion miles away and shining at a dim +5.9 magnitude, compared to Jupiter’s -2.3. Even all of Jupiter’s Galilean satellites are visible in any telescope.