Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tracking the Spiral Storm

Not the GRS on Jupiter, this storm is in the Gulf of Mexico. From the NASA Aqua satellite, high above earth, the spiral bands of force are similar in shape to a Spiral Galaxy. Alex is pushing more floating crude toward the beaches along the coast. And this is day 72! BP is still slow to fix the broken pipe in the Gulf of Mexico! Our sky is filled with Clouds this week. Hurricane Alex is expected to hit below Texas late tonight or early Thursday. The Weather Radar is lit up agan. The storm is near the coast, sending bands of rain our way. The rest of this week, I'll pass the time with a few Astronomy books, review observing notes and wait for the storm system to move into Mexico. Maybe we will see a clear sky next week? Note: I updated the links in this paragraph- the NOAA links changed.

On the other side of the clouds tonight: The asteroid 1 Ceres is now in Ophiuchus and is still as bright as magnitude 7.3. Spot it with binoculars or a small scope using our article and finder chart: Ceres in 2010.

Thursday: If the clouds break, Take a Binocular tour of the sights in Scorpius.
Some of my favorites are clusters M4 [near Antares], M6 [the butterfly] and M7 [bright cluster near Lambda Scorpii, the "stinger"]. There are dozens more targets to discover from stinger to claw. This constellation is a great area in the night sky to explore. Any small scope will bring them closer and in better focus.

Friday, behind the clouds? The waning Moon rises around midnight tonight (depending on where you live in your time zone). About 45 minutes later, up comes Jupiter beneath it.

News from the Net:
Mysterious Giant Gas Ring Explained
R Coronae Australis: A Cosmic Watercolor
Finding the Origin of Milky Way's Ancient Stars
Zapping Titan-Like Atmosphere with UV Creates Life Precursors
Opportunity Rover Able to See More Detail of Endeavour Crater
Earth's Gravity Seen in HD

Monday, June 28, 2010

Constellations in Summer Nghts

July is Scorpius season! This loveliest of summer constellations is now well up in the south-southeast as early as nightfall. Sagittarius and Ophiuchus are in view. The big Summer Triangle is rising up the eastern sky. Vega, the brightest star in the east, is its topmost corner. Lower left of Vega is Deneb, and farther lower right of Vega is Altair. Look for little Delphinus, the Dolphin, already appearing to Altair's lower left. A nice double star can be found at kappa Del, put it in the eyepiece. One of my favorite binocular targets is Cr399. This Asterism called the Coat Hanger, is now in view and can be spotted in the constellation of the Fox (Vulpecula).

With the Moon moving out of the way, the evening presents a fine time to be looking to the deep south. Around 11 PM, Scorpius is crossing the meridian, the sky's north-south line. With a good horizon, you can see the bright stars of Lupus the Wolf tucked to the west under the Scorpion's three-star head. Farther down and out of sight for most of the U.S. (and for sure Canada) are the stars of southern Centaurus, which includes the closet star system to Earth, Alpha Centauri, "just" four light years away. Just need a Clear/Dark Sky to explore the many clusters and nebula in the above constellations. But I think this week's News is TS Alex. I will most likely be Tracking the path to the Coast this week.

Follow these Wandering Stars in this Week’s Sky:
Venus (magnitude –4.0, moving from Cancer into Leo) is the bright Evening Star sinking low in the west as twilight fades. In a telescope Venus is still a small (15-arcsecond) gibbous disk. You'll have the cleanest telescopic views of it when it's higher in the blue sky of afternoon — if you can find it then. Not until late summer will Venus assume its larger and more dramatic crescent phase.

Mars (magnitude +1.3, in Leo) shines in the west after dusk to the upper left of Venus. Between Mars and Venus is Regulus, equal to Mars in brightness. In a telescope Mars is just a very tiny blob, 5.3 arcseconds in diameter.

Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Pisces) rises around midnight or 1 a.m. daylight saving time and shines high in the southeast before dawn. It's the brightest starlike point in the morning sky. Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) is about 2° from Jupiter. In a telescope Uranus is only 3.6 arcseconds wide compared to Jupiter's 41″.

Saturn (magnitude +1.1, in the head of Virgo) is in the west-southwest during evening, to the upper left of Mars. The diagonal line of Saturn, Mars, Regulus, and Venus is shrinking; the three planets will bunch up low in the sunset in early August. A telescope shows Saturn's rings a mere 2° from edge-on.

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, at the Aquarius-Capricornus border) is in good view during early morning hours well to Jupiter's west. See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune in 2010.

A couple of Dwarf Planets can be found in the sky this week:
The asteroid 1 Ceres is now in Ophiuchus and is still as bright as magnitude 7.3. Spot it with binoculars or a small scope using this finder chart: Ceres in 2010. Pluto (magnitude 14, in northwestern Sagittarius) is high in the south-southeast by 11 or midnight. See S&T’s Pluto finder charts for 2010

A daytime moon can be seen each morning this week.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Change in Climate

Adios El Nino, Hello La Nina?
The latest image of Pacific Ocean sea surface heights from the NASA/European Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 oceanography satellite, captured on June 11, 2010, shows that the tropical Pacific has switched from warm (red) to cold (blue) during the last few months, perhaps foreshadowing a transition from El Niño, to La Niña conditions.

Even our local NWS prognosticators say we are in for a change this summer.
NWS predicts above-normal temps this summer; no rain likely in July
Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 11:10 pm
By Eric J. Weilbacher The Herald-Zeitung
The rain’s gone, and it’s going to be hot for a long, long time.
The first official week of the summer will see temperatures in the upper 90s with heat index values as high as 100, with lows in the mid-70s at night, the National Weather Service predicts.“It looks like for August, September, October, we will have above-normal temperatures,” said Mark Brundrett, a NWS forecaster in the San Antonio-Austin regional office.“For July, temperatures will be above normal with no chance for rain — July is our driest month,” Brundrett said, adding that throughout July temperatures will be in the upper 90s and triple-digit figures are more than likely. The forecast may be dry, the dominate coastal winds keep us in cloudy skies.


A Personal Comment: TS Alex is now looming in the Gulf. One can only speculate, what this storm will do to the already catastrophic, man made current event, happening in our coastal waters? As of this afternoon, Alex is expected to gain some strength and turn into our first Gulf Coast Hurricane. The National Hurricane Center has forecasted the Center of Alex hitting Mexico, below Texas, Thursday afternoon.

The 2010 Hurricane Season is under way......

BP needs to get that pipe turned off!!



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ancient Mars and the Canyon Lake Gorge

There is a Martian connection to the Canyon Lake Gorge. This Geological feature is just minutes away from my backyard. Ancient Mars that looked a lot more like Earth came into sharper focus this week. There has been a wave of recent news items [see below] covering water on Mars. This article fell close to home:
Geologist Investigates Canyon Carved in Just 3 Days in Texas Flood. In this article Michael Lamb, assistant professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Mark Fonstad of Texas State University studied and researched the canyon that formed in just three days. In the summer of 2002, a week of heavy rains in Central Texas caused Canyon Lake—the reservoir of the Canyon Dam—to flood over its spillway and down the Guadalupe River Valley in a planned diversion to save the dam from catastrophic failure. The flood, which continued for six weeks, stripped the valley of mesquite, oak trees, and soil; destroyed a bridge; and plucked meter-wide boulders from the ground. And, in a remarkable demonstration of the power of raging waters, the flood excavated a 2.2-kilometer-long, 7-meter-deep canyon in the bedrock. Features we see on Earth and on Mars in areas where we think large flow events have occurred. Useful insight into ancient mega-floods, both on Earth and on Mars, and the deep canyons they left behind.

I missed that partial lunar eclipse early this morning due to some clouds and an event behind a tree line. There were many photos of the event posted on Spaceweather.coms Lunar Eclipse Photo Gallery. Clouds remain in my forecast.

Tonight’s line-up: the moon, the stars Antares, Zubenelgenubi and Spica – arcs rather low across the southern sky. The farther north you live, the lower this arc of lights. The farther south you live, the higher. As evening grows late, the low Moon shines left of the Sagittarius Teapot.

Sunday, The big Summer Triangle is rising up the eastern sky. Vega, the brightest star in the east, is its topmost corner. Lower left of Vega is Deneb, and farther lower right of Vega is Altair. Look for little Delphinus, the Dolphin, already appearing to Altair's lower left.

Water on Mars Articles:

Evidence for Past Water on Mars Keeps Flowing, This Time from Glaciers
Water Was Widespread Across Early Mars, But No Oceans
Wet era on Mars was Global
Mineral deposits found in Northern regions on Mars
The detections by Europe’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiters are the first time the minerals have been found in the north, which has younger surface rocks due to more recent volcanic activity.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Full Strawberry Moon, Partial Eclipse

Tonight and Saturday morning the weather forecast is not the best for viewing events. Cloud cover remains a dominant feature in my night/day sky. A Partial Lunar Eclipse will happen in my sky at 6:38 AM, Saturday morning. The eclipse will occur as the Moon is setting, causing the "Moon Illusion" to magnify the event to truly beautiful proportions. If the clouds break, we may get a photo Op!


As evening twilight begins to deepen, the bright glow of Venus is first to appear. As the sky darkens, see if you can spot the binocular “Beehive” star cluster just below the dazzling planet on the first few evenings of the new week. Venus quickly speeds away from the cluster and sets her sights on the bright star Regulus. She’ll cover half the distance to the star as the week progresses. There will be a grand gathering of Venus, Saturn and Mars in another few weeks, which should be a real treat for naked-eye skywatchers. By the end of the week giant Jupiter rises just before 1:00 am EDT.

This Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: June 25-27, 2010 recommends you take out your binoculars and look for a circlet of seven stars called the Northern Crown. Tammy also mentions to place in the eyepiece, A group of galaxies named Abell 4065. She also Lists several Lunar features to explore.



Tonight, if the clouds break: Saturn, Mars and Venus span 45 degrees. Look for the three planets in the southwest sky at dusk. Pluto is at opposition. Look for 14th magnitude Pluto in the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer.


Saturday, A partial lunar eclipse will be visible for observers in the states west of the Mississippi and some parts of the south. For observers in the northeast US, the Moon will set before the eclipse begins. Look for the Moon in the early morning hours Saturday to see the eclipse.

Net News:
The bringer of fire, hiding in the rings
'L2' Will be the James Webb Space Telescope's Home in Space
Comet McNaught glows over Astronomy’s observatory
Best Class Project Ever: 7th Graders Find a Cave on Mars
Climate Change Contributes to Space Junk Problem
Was Venus Once a Waterworld?
Partial Lunar Eclipse Visible June 26, 2010
Earth Moved Substantially in April 2010 Earthquake
Cosmologists Provide Closest Measure of Elusive Neutrino
Astronomers Watch Superstorm Raging on Distant Exoplanet
One Year of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter: Top Ten Finds
Best Class Project Ever: 7th Graders Find a Cave on Mars

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mid-Week, Behind the Clouds

Last night I scanned the moonlit sky around 9:30. Spica, Saturn, Vega were bright and I spotted Mars high over the west side of the tree line. Mars (magnitude +1.3, in Leo) shines in the west after dusk, with Regulus increasingly far to its lower right. Mars is fading; it now matches Regulus in brightness. The star to their upper right is Gamma Leonis, only a little dimmer. Farther to their lower right shines Venus. In a telescope Mars is just a very tiny blob, 5.5 arcseconds in diameter. Early this morning [3AM], Jupiter was dimmed by a layer of clouds. Not too many visible stars in either direction. Another cloudy morning. Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Pisces) rises around 1 a.m. daylight saving time and shines high in the southeast before dawn. Nothing else there is nearly so bright.

Tonight if the clouds break: A gibbous moon passes the head of the Scorpion.


Thursday, Saturn's rings are tilted 2.0 degrees from edgewise. Saturn is easy to spot in the evening sky. Look in the WSW between Virgo and Leo. Saturn (magnitude +1.1, in the head of Virgo) glows in the west during evening, upper left of Mars. The diagonal line of Saturn, Mars, Regulus, and Venus is shrinking; the three planets will bunch up low in the sunset in early August.


A couple of Events at the end of this week:

Saturday, As evening grows late, the low Moon shines left of the Sagittarius Teapot. Moonlight may make it difficult to view those falling stars from the Bootid meteor shower. The best time to look with the greatest chance of seeing meteors from the Bootids meteor shower is during the peak, which occurs on Sunday morning June 27th.


A full moon and one of my favorites, the Strawberry moon 7:30 am. Plus we are in for a Partial eclipse of moon before dawn June 26 as it sets in the west early Saturday Morning. The Moon, in Sagittarius, will be sinking low in the southwest as dawn approaches. See Saturday's Predawn Lunar Eclipse.

Some Net News:
Kepler Discovers Hundreds of New Planets- just a month and half into the search, the spacecraft has detected 850 possible signature stars. Some were determined "false positive". That leaves 706 with a transiting planet!
Hubble Captures Beautiful Baby Stars
Saving the Night Sky from Light Pollution

Monday, June 21, 2010

Binocular Tour Sunday Night

T.U.B.A. ^ 10-20-06

For a change of pace, Sunday night, I scanned the sky with just the Binoculars. Ten pm, on this hot, noisy evening it was just dark enough to pick out dimmer stars. I started the tour with Spica, in Virgo, nearby a bright gibbous moon. Spica was very bright with all nearby stars, dimmed by moonlight. The moon was high in the SW and there were several craters and seas that stood out along the terminator I saw through the looking glass. I scanned a little farther and caught up with Saturn, higher and to the west. I went in and looked at the TUBA charts I had up on the screen. Pulled off some printed charts and went back out to catch Vega (Lyra) in the looking glass. Within the field of view were three stars:
A double (Epsilon1+2) and a single (Zeta) dimmer star below, that made a nice triangle.

I moved down the harp and looked for the ring, just too much moonlight and a bit of glow [light pollution] from the City. Next on the list was the Big Dipper. The ladle hung way over the roof of the house. I scanned the handle and put Mizar in the FOV-field of view. From there, I jumped to the keystone and scanned the asterism looking for Messier 13. I could not get the cluster in focus when I looked where it should be. Antares was now above the tree line. The Scorpion Tail/Stinger still below the tree line.

Point your binoculars at Antares and then move the red giant to the upper left of your field-of-view. Look for a small ball of light; this is the globular cluster M4, a collection of tens of thousands of stars 7000 light-years away. Through a telescope M4 is astonishing, more stars than you could possibly count in one night. Next, follow the tail stars until you come to Mu Scorpii, a lovely double star. Move slightly south of Mu and you're sure to stumble across NGC 6231, a collection of 30 stars. This entire region is packed with stars from lesser clusters. Just below NGC 6231 is another double star, Zeta Scorpii.

With Antares in the FOV, I looked for M4, could just make it out or thought I saw where it should be. I went up to the head of the Scorpion past Al Niyat and found Nu, Graffias, Daschubba, Pi and Psi. These four make up what I visualize as the claws of the creature.

I jumped to Sagittarius (wished it was darker) and looked for Pluto. Charts show this Dwarf between M23 and M25, below M17. At 14 mag. I will need the bigger Go-To scope to see that rock.

This was an interesting couple of hours Observing with TUBA charts.
I will try this again and compare notes. This morning was cloudy…again.

Wednesday, The waxing gibbous Moon is to the upper right of Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Look for the Moon in the SSE at dusk.

Thursday night, Antares and upper Scorpius pose to the right of the Moon after dusk.

News from the Net:
Gulf Oil Leak: Day 62 Update
Maybe ET's Calling, But We Have the Wrong Phone
Titan + Dione = New Desktop
Stunning Sunrise and Aurora, As Seen from the Space Station
Astronomy Without A Telescope – SETI 2.0

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Solstice - Monday Morning

On Monday, June 21, 2010, Summer Solstice takes place at 7:28 a.m. EDT.
This marks the start of summer for the northern hemisphere. The Sun is now at its most northern point. From this day until the southern solstice in December, the Sun will move a little farther south each day. At 6:28 CDT the morning of Monday the 21st, the Sun crosses the Summer Solstice in Gemini, marking the beginning of astronomical summer, at which time the rotation axis of the Earth will be tipped as much as possible (23.4 degrees) toward the Sun. Northern hemisphere daylight will thus be longest, night shortest, the Sun rising at its extreme northeastern position, setting in its extreme northwesterly spot. It can also be seen as circumpolar -- not setting -- as far south as the Arctic Circle, and invisible -- not rising -- from the south pole to the Antarctic Circle.

It is Summer in south central Texas. Time for Hot, humid days then warm, humid nights. The season when all the hot weather trees and bushes flower. Lantanas, Turks caps, Crape Myrtles and Mesquite are in flower. Seems like the summer season started early this month. Hot and Humid with cloudy skies, lots of clouds. Cloudy skies have kept the scopes inside for some time. I am still optimistic, the Sky will clear to set up and capture distant photons from the Night Sky. If we get a chance to set up, keep the repellent near and look for the events listed below:

Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Pisces) rises around 1 a.m. daylight saving time and shines high in the southeast before dawn. Nothing else there is nearly so bright.
Mars (magnitude +1.3, in Leo) shines in the west after dusk, with Regulus increasingly far to its lower right. Mars is fading; it now matches Regulus in brightness. The star to their upper right is Gamma Leonis, only a little dimmer. Farther to their lower right shines Venus. In a telescope Mars is just a very tiny blob, 5.5 arcseconds in diameter.
Saturn (magnitude +1.1, in the head of Virgo) glows in the west during evening, upper left of Mars. The diagonal line of Saturn, Mars, Regulus, and Venus is shrinking; the three planets will bunch up low in the sunset in early August. In a telescope Saturn's rings are 2° from edge-on, their minimum tilt for the next 15 years. Note the thin black shadow-line that the rings cast on Saturn's globe.
Uranus (magnitude 5.9, in Pisces) is less than 2° from Jupiter. In a telescope Uranus is only 3.6 arcseconds wide, compared to Jupiter's 40″.
Look for Dwarf Planets Pluto and Ceres in the Tea Pot. Good information on these icy rocks, as they move through the constellation Sagittarius. An article from the MSN Cosmic Blog, with nice chart showing their positions. Pluto goes through opposition with the Sun on Friday the 25th among the crowds of stars in northern Sagittarius, which rises near sunset

Comet McNaught is approaching the sun, which makes the comet bright, but also difficult to see. The comet will continue to brighten as it swings by the sun. Unfortunately, though, after perihelion (closest approach to the sun) on July 2nd, the comet will not only recede from the sun but also from Earth. The final mornings of June could offer our last good look at this blue-green apparition from the outer solar system. More information and a sky map are available from Sky and Telescope. See also: ephemeris, 3D orbit.

Sunspots continue to be inactive . The magnetic activity of stars like sun, which is the root cause of the sunspot cycle, is still poorly understood even after decades of intense study. Interesting article from an NPR blog.

Tonight, Spica is over the Moon, The waxing gibbous Moon is near the star Spica in Virgo the Maiden. The crater Copernicus is on the lunar terminator. Look for this 60 mile diameter crater with binoculars or a telescope. Most craters on the Moon are named after scientists.

Monday, This is June equinox day, the longest day of the year (for the Northern Hemisphere). At 7:28 a.m. EDT the Sun reaches its farthest north point for the year, then begins its six-month return southward. This moment marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere (winter in the Southern Hemisphere) — even though, confusingly, this is traditionally called "Midsummer's Day."

Tuesday, As spring turns to summer each year, the Big Dipper hangs straight down by its handle high in the northwest after dark.

Wednesday, The Moon shines in the head of Scorpius after dusk. Look for fiery Antares to the Moon's lower left.

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – SETI 2.0
Occultation Reveals Distant Kuiper Belt Object is Surprisingly Icy Bright

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hazy Daze Weekend

This day started with a Haze and ended in a Daze. Going back in time, for some time our older computer was not running up to speed. Time to find another Tower with more Power. I began pricing and searching last year, and today, replaced the ten year old box of silicon circuits with a new HP. Most of the day, was spent setting up the tower, configuring the settings and checking the files that were copied onto the faster hard drive that will take us into cyberspace at light speed. A few small glitches have risen as the transfer of files passed through the looking glass. It's always a tiring and daunting task, but we are up and running.
Thursday night the Group met. This small band of [7] Stargazers discussed many topics regarding items in and under the sky. Weather and clouds was the topic before discussing “what’s in the Sky”. We reviewed telescopes, small and large, as well as robotic and those guided by hand. Three of us passed around some photos taken from our scopes and copies from other observatories taken off the web. Tachyon particles came up in a discussion on SETI and communicating with ET….faster. I observed Venus and the Moon on my way home, just after dusk.

Thursday and Friday morning we had light clouds dancing around bright Jupiter at 4am. Cassiopeia was hanging straight up, to the North, in broken clouds. Did not observe that morning or this morning.
If the clouds break, I still plan to follow all those Wandering Stars streaming across my morning and evening sky. Binoculars and Telescope are ready!

Ruddy Mars spends the week moving eastward from the star Regulus on his way toward an encounter with Saturn. If you have binoculars you can watch him pass within a degree of the 4th magnitude star Rho Leonis on the evenings of the 18th and 19th. Saturn is near the moon Friday night.

Giant Jupiter is gradually making progress toward the evening sky. By the end of the week Old Jove rises at around 1:30 am, and he is well up in the southeastern sky as the first rays of twilight begin to brighten the eastern horizon. Jupiter is very hard to miss with the naked eye as he sits in one of the most barren star fields in the heavens. He is also a treat for owners of almost any sized telescope. The four large moons discovered by Galileo 400 years ago constantly dance around the planet’s striped disc, which is still missing the prominent South Equatorial Belt.

In the Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast – June 18-20, 2010, Tammy reviews the Ophiuchid meteor shower, a double star and a few features to observe on the moon.

Saturday, Early Saturday morning scan the NE sky with binoculars for the Comet. Dazzling Venus is less than 1° from the dim Beehive Star Cluster, M44, this evening and tomorrow evening. Look with binoculars or a good finderscope right at the end of dusk. Find a Waxing moon between Saturn and Spica.

Sunday, the waxing gibbous Moon is near the star Spica in Virgo the Maiden. The crater Copernicus is on the lunar terminator. Look for this 60 mile diameter crater with binoculars or a telescope. Most craters on the Moon are named after scientists.

News from the Net:
Fully Functional Pan-STARRS is now Panning for Stars, Asteroids and Comets
Zoom into a New VISTA of the Sculptor Galaxy
Occultation Reveals Distant Kuiper Belt Object is Surprisingly Icy Bright
It's Noctilucent Cloud Season!
Astronomers Witness Star Birth
Very Clever! LRO Views Huge Lava Tube Skylight in Mare Ingenii

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shorter Summer Nights

This from the USNO website: The earliest sunrise of the year occurs a week before summer solstice, on the 14th. On this day, and for a few days on either side, the sun rises in my horizon at 6:42 am CDT. For determined skywatchers, this, of course, means that we experience the shortest nights. The time between the end of evening astronomical twilight and the beginning of morning twilight is just five hours eight minutes, so if you happen to get a good clear moonless night in the next week, make the most of it, since you won’t have much time!

Jim Kaler writes, from his weekly Skylights: It's now prime season for Arcturus and Spica, the luminaries of Bootes, the Herdsman, and Virgo, the Maiden. Just follow the curve of the Big Dipper's handle to the south for one, then the other. But directions are hardly needed to find orange Arcturus, the brightest star of the northern hemisphere, which flies high around 10 PM. To the south and a bit west lies blue Spica. Farther down find the tail of Hydra, the Water Serpent, and farther down yet, near the horizon the stars of northern Centaurus, the fabled Centaur.


Video of The Sky this week, June 13-19. I missed the Moon and Venus still close after sunset last night. I missed viewing Jupiter, due to clouds this morning.
Still hoping for a clear night sky....sometime!


Tonight, The Moon is below Regulus and to the lower right of Mars. Mars and the star Regulus are 5 degrees apart. Look in the WSW sky at dusk. Break out the Binoculars. Possible Photo-op.


Thursday, The waxing crescent Moon is to the left of Mars and Regulus. Look in the WSW sky at dusk. Should be high enough for me to view over the trees.

Friday, The First Quarter Moon is to the south of Saturn. The ringed planet and the Moon are in the southwest sky an hour after sunset. Telescope ready for another look at the moon along the terminator.

News from the Net:
Vast Oceans Likely Covered One Third of Mars
Latest Satellite Views of Oil Leak, Plus Dramatic Video of Where the Oil May End Up
Weird Collection of Worlds in the Latest Cache of CoRoT Expoplanets
Water Could Be Widespread in Moon's Interior
Hayabusa Sample Return Capsule Retrieved
Hubble Delves into Two Recent Jupiter Mysteries
Separation Camera Takes Full Images and 'Movie' of IKAROS Solar Sail
Unusual Views of the Soyuz Rocket
New Worlds to Explore? Kepler Spacecraft Finds 750 Exoplanet Candidates

Monday, June 14, 2010

Event Horizon: Moon + Planets + Asteroids + Comet

At 4 am this morning, I did see Jupiter shining through a hole in the sky, surrounded by clouds. Clouds every where, so I did not move the DOB out! Uranus (magnitude 5.9) is within about 1° of Jupiter. In a telescope Uranus is only 3.5 arc-seconds wide, compared to Jupiter's 40″. Jupiter's Great Red Spot is near System II longitude 150°. Assuming it stays there, here's a list to print out of all the Great Red Spot's predicted transit times for the rest of 2010. Clouds remain in this week’s forecast! Where are the clear night skies? Stargazing was recorded at least once a week in summers past!

If we get a chance for a clear night this week, watch the crescent Moon pass the three converging planets, Venus, Mars and Saturn. The comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is now having its period of best visibility, as it crosses Perseus low in the northeast just before the start of dawn. It's 5th magnitude and brightening. Binoculars are showing it nicely, but a telescope does better. See the article and finder chart

Tonight, if the clouds break: The thin crescent Moon hangs 4° or 5° below Venus in the west-northwest at dusk, as shown here. Comet McNaught is near Delta Persei and the Alpha Persei Association just before dawn Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, With the official start of summer just six days away, bright Scorpius is already sticking up in the south-southeast after dark. Those with scopes and still interested in Where’s Pluto: Pluto (magnitude 14, in northwestern Sagittarius) is highest in the south after midnight. See the Pluto finder charts for 2010. Tonight the crescent Moon is near Venus. Look to the left of Venus for the Moon.

Wednesday, Mars and Regulus form a flattened, tilted triangle with the waxing Moon, The Moon is below Regulus and to the lower right of Mars. Mars and the star Regulus are 5 degrees apart. Look in the WSW sky at dusk.

Friday, The First Quarter Moon is to the south of Saturn. The ringed planet and the Moon are in the southwest sky an hour after sunset. The "star" about 9° above the Moon this evening is the planet Saturn.


Saturday, Venus is passing the Beehive star cluster. Aim your binoculars at Venus after dark and look for the star cluster next to Venus. Compare the view tonight with the view tomorrow night.

News from the Net:
COROT:CoRoT unveils a rich assortment of new exoplanets
Hayabusa Returns to Earth with a Flash
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Is Time Real?
Hayabusa Returns!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Comet and Asteroid during New Moon

It was a New Moon this morning (exact at 7:15 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time) and early this morning, the sky was still covered with clouds. These lousy clouds are giving me NO CHANCE TO SEE that Comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught). Guess what….The comet is now having its period of best visibility, as it crosses Perseus low in the northeast just before the start of dawn. It is at 5th magnitude and brightening. Binoculars are showing it nicely, but a telescope does better. See the article and finder chart.

Tonight, the Asteroid Explorer "HAYABUSA"(MUSES-C) Capsule reentry
Spacecraft is on target to hit the atmosphere of Earth above Australia shortly before midnight (1400 GMT). The BBC posted this article that explains the last challenge it faces, as the capsule falls to earth.

Monday morning Comet McNaught is near Delta Persei and the Alpha Persei Association just before dawn Tuesday morning. The waxing gibbous Moon is near the star Spica in Virgo the Maiden early Monday. The crater Copernicus is on the lunar terminator. Look for this 60 mile diameter crater with binoculars or a telescope. Most craters on the Moon are named after scientists.

Another early morning event I am missing is the asteroid 1 Ceres. This "dwarf planet" rock comes to opposition this week, shining at magnitude 7.2. It's in Sagittarius, having passed by the Lagoon Nebula two weeks ago. In late evening, once Sagittarius gets high, spot Ceres (and the Lagoon!) with binoculars using finder chart: Ceres in 2010. In February 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will rendezvous with Ceres and take up orbit around it, revealing a whole new world (a "dwarf planet" by current nomenclature) in detail.

Are you Looking for the constellations of the Zodiac? Follow the Sun’s path

News from the Net:
Astronomers Zoom in on Solar Systems in the Making
Exoplanet Confirms Gas Giants Can Form Quickly
Many Famous Comets May be Visitors from Other Solar Systems
Latest Wall Art from Cassini

On June 12, 2010 there were 1133 potentially hazardous asteroids

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Close Encounter with Comet McNaught (C/2009 R1)

My night sky is still covered with clouds. Yesterday morning, 4 AM, a Thunder Buster of a Rain Storm dumped 12 inches of rain that filled our creeks and rivers in just 3 hours! Somewhat similar to the 98 flood. Extra work in the backyard cleaning up the debris in the creek for the next couple of days. I am waiting for my close encounter with Comet McNaught (C/2009 R1). Thanks to the Internet Highway, folks are posting what they have observed, as the comet swings through the inner solar system, approaching the Sun. Spaceweather.com page, Photo. We Earthlings are having the true close encounter. Comet McNaught (C/2009 R1) will approach our planet only 100 million miles away on June 15th and 16th. The approaching comet looks great in small telescopes, and may yet become a naked eye object before the end of the month. Because this is Comet McNaught's first visit to the inner solar system, predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain; amateur astronomers should be alert for the unexpected.Comet McNaught can be found low in the northeastern sky before dawn gliding through the constellation Perseus. It is brightening as it approaches Earth for a 1.13 AU close encounter on June 15th and 16th. Currently, the comet is at the threshold of naked eye visibility (6th magnitude) and could become as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper (2nd magnitude) before the end of the month. Because this is the comet's first visit to the inner solar system, predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain; amateur astronomers should be alert for the unexpected. [ephemeris] [3D orbit] [Sky & Telescope: sky map, full story]

Tonight, if the clouds break: A thin crescent Moon is about 8 degrees above Mercury. The Pleiades star cluster is to the lower left of the Moon. Look for Mercury and the Moon 45 minutes before sunrise. Binoculars will help you find Mercury in the bright morning twilight. The asteroid 1 Ceres is now magnitude 7.3 as it nears opposition, crossing Sagittarius not far from the Lagoon Nebula, M8. See Ceres in 2010 for chart.

Friday, A very thin old crescent is to the left of Mercury. Look low in the ENE, 45 minutes before sunrise. Use binoculars. As dusk falls this evening, bright Venus forms a straight line with Pollux and Castor to its right.

Saturday, Venus and Saturn are less than 60 degrees apart. Watch Venus, Mars and Saturn converge through June and July. Venus is in line with the stars Castor and Pollux. Look for Venus shining very bright in the WNW evening sky.

News from the Net:
Latest Wall Art from Cassini
Needed: Plutonium-238
Get Your Mars (and HiRISE) Fix With Over 600 New Images
A New Comet McNaught Could Be Seen with Naked Eye
Ice Caves Possible on Mars
Delays Likely for Final Two Shuttle Missions
Exoplanet Hunting Robotic Telescope Sees First Light
The Earth and Moon May Have Formed Later Than Previously ThoughtNASA Releases First Ever Video of Inside of Space Shuttle After Landing

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Catching Photons Through Cloudy Skies

Last night, the Clouds covered my night sky again. I did manage to see Mars and Regulus high in the WSW in a momentary break in those thick clouds. I also viewed the bright star Vega in the East. Once again I will sail into Cyberspace to catch the Photons and Data of objects from other Observatories. My Forecast this week, Mostly Cloudy Nights, with a chance of rain through Thursday. There are a lot of Events going on behind the clouds, in The Sky this Week. There are photos on the net of the comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught). On June 21 it’s pretty close to the bright star Capella. I am ready for the next clear night, so I can capture this and other wandering vagabonds in my binoculars and eyepiece. I trained the drive on the LX90 this morning. My target, in the training session, was the insulator at the top of the electrical tower, above the tree line about a mile a way from the house. I ran the program twice! READY FOR THE NEXT SETUP.

Tonight, I would like to sight in Ophiuchus and the Serpent, if it is Clear? Early Wednesday, Jupiter passes 0.4 degrees south of Uranus. This is the first conjunction of a triple conjunction between Jupiter and Uranus. Uranus and Jupiter should fit together in the field of view of many telescopes. Uranus appears as bright as Jupiter's four big moons. The sky does not look promising, but I'll set the alarm and if it is Clear, I will try to get my first look at the pair in the ESE sky at dawn Wednesday.

Wednesday, I have yet to see the new impact site on Jupiter. It transits the planet's central meridian around 3:00 a.m. Thursday morning Pacific Daylight Time, when Jupiter is up just before or during early dawn for America's Pacific time zone. If the Clouds break! If the sky is covered again tonight, I’ll turn to my Satellite TV: Viewing Alert: New Series "Through the Wormhole" "Through the Wormhole" with Morgan Freeman premieres Wednesday, June 9 at 10pm ET on the Science Channel. Check your local listings.

Thursday, Early morning observing, if the clouds break, I’m still hoping to get a glimpse of the asteroid 1 Ceres, now magnitude 7.3 as it nears opposition, crossing Sagittarius not far from the Lagoon Nebula, M8. See Ceres in 2010 for chart. A thin crescent Moon is about 8 degrees above Mercury. The Pleiades star cluster is to the lower left of the Moon. Look for Mercury and the Moon 45 minutes before sunrise. Binoculars will help you find Mercury in the bright morning twilight.


Friday, A very thin old crescent is to the left of Mercury. Look low in the ENE, 45 minutes before sunrise. Use binoculars.


Saturday, New Moon! That new impact site on Jupiter transits the planet's central meridian around 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning Eastern Daylight Time, when Jupiter is up just before or during early dawn for America's Eastern time zone. Forecast remains cloudy, but maybe with a break in the sky, who knows what sights I will see?


News from the Net:
Who thought asteroids were dull, dumb rocks?
NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Fires Past Record for Speed Change
New Mars Maps Show Evidence of Ancient Lakes
Alien Life on Titan? Hang on Just a Minute…
New telescope is an exoplanet TRAPPIST

Monday, June 7, 2010

Early Morning Comet Alert

Comet McNaught Becoming Visible to the Unaided Eye
Sky and Telescope notes: The faint comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is entering its mid-June period of best visibility, as it crosses Andromeda and Perseus low in the northeast just before the start of dawn. You'll need a telescope or (perhaps) binoculars. See our article and finder chart. APOD posted today: C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is already showing an impressive tail and is currently visible through binoculars.

Comet McNaught can be found low in the northeastern sky before dawn gliding through the constellation Perseus. It is brightening as it approaches Earth for a 1.13 AU close encounter on June 15th and 16th. Currently, the comet is at the threshold of naked eye visibility (5th to 6th magnitude) and could become as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper (2nd magnitude) before the end of the month. Estimates are uncertain, however, because this comet is a newcomer to the inner solar system, and thus somewhat unpredictable. Readers are encouraged to wake up before dawn and monitor developments. [sky map] [ephemeris] [3D orbit] [full story]

Up-to-date co-ordinates can be found at this link.
This morning it was here:
Right Ascension (J2000)
2h 16.8m
Declination (J2000)
41° 37'
Constellation Andromeda, Magnitude 7.1
Distance from Earth
1.174 AU

Tonight, if the clouds break: Mars and Regulus are still less than a degree from each other. Look for Mars and Regulus in the evening sky in the WSW. Planets Jupiter and Uranus close early Tuesday morning.

News from the Net:
Dramatic Moonset — Amazing Sight on Cerro Paranal
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Exoplanet Weather Report

Saturday, June 5, 2010

StarLog^^100604-05

LX90 and Binoculars using the T.U.B.A charts on the computer screen.
Friday night at 21:30- sky was clear, seeing – fair, hot and sticky, mosquitoes buzzing in my ear, and the cicadas were very loud. In fact, so loud, you could not hear the Go-To/sync beeps or the hum of the gears turning when the scope was in route at each slew.
The Area I set up the scope in has a limited horizon. Limitations require a lot of patients to capture the stars moving over my portal. Time, lots of Time!
The scope was off target tonight: alignment was poor and off center, plus there was a slow drift. I will need to “train the drive” at first chance I get! First Alignment took longer, the LX90 program wanted to align stars that were still below or behind my tree line. I asked the program to settle for Spica and Dubhe, confirmed alignment.

I started with Saturn. The sixth planet was bright in the eyepiece, Magnitude 0.1202.There was a dark shadow across the equator, in line with the rings, still edge on. Titan was way off to the left, far out in line with the rings. A smaller, dimmer moon, Rhea, was about a third way out, from the globe, toward Titan. The yellow/gold planet was bright at Magnitude 0.1202, even from a distance of 9.23 AUs. Saturn[2 moons visible] looked great in the eyepiece tonight.
Moons of Saturn et--------*S*m------d--------R---------------------------T

Next to target: I revisited the Hercules Keystone and M13. Hovering over the tree line, still low in the atmosphere, the four stars of the Keystone were visible to the naked eye. Once centered in the eyepiece, the great cluster was somewhat dimmer from past observations. Used the zoom eyepiece and went to 16mm to separated the stars some. The core center was not as bright. This is always a wonderful sight to see in any telescope eyepiece.

While moving the scope from planet to star, we saw three meteoroids shoot across the sky within the area of Spica. The weakest minor meteor showers are active during the period of April through June. These may have been from the Tau Herculid Meteors - Beginning in late May and extending through June, this is a month-long minor meteor shower, overhead for mid-northern latitudes at about 10 a.m.; this will be a fair month for observing these meteors, since the moon is at last quarter the next day and the radiant will be in the sky all night; quarter the next day and the radiant will be in the sky all night; the meteor shower is overhead at midnight when most of the 15 meteors per hours might be seen. Glimpsing these falling stars is always a great side trip, while exploring the constellations with the telescope.

Found Mars and nearby star Regulus, they were bright in the binoculars. Rusty Mars and the blue star were behind a tree line from where I set up with the scope. But just a short walk down the road and they were in good binocular view. An interesting conjunction in the western sky. Mars Magnitude 1.1536, passes narrowly (less than 1/2 degree) north of Regulus over the next couple of days. Regulus is the brightest star of Leo - and distinctly blue in color, 79 light yrs away, while planet Mars is reddish. Mars at this time is 146-147 million miles away. Good use of the Binoculars!

I moved the scope back to the NE and the constellation Lyra. Vega was finally above the tree line and I focused on the Ring Nebula, NGC 6720.One of 1,500 Planetary Nebula listed in our Milky Way. In the scope it was a dull circular object but the ring was visible, with distinct contrasting areas. Like a small inner tube floating in the rift between the stars Sulafat and Sheliak.

As the sky grew darker, Scorpio clawed its way above the trees. I caught site of the red star Antares from the porch and was visible just at treetop level, with the head of this creature leading the way South. Scanned the area with binoculars, The Star Anatares was still low in my horizon and M4 was not seen in the glass tonight.

A short voyage this evening, I shut down just after 11pm. Left the scope out, ready to explore Jupiter and the moon early Saturday morning. Tired from a warm evening's set up and alignment problems, I did get to explore a clear sky! I reviewed my notes and charts and started this Observing entry.

Note: TUBA runs at current time each time it is accessed. The Binocular Chart is always up-to-date in coverage of what is in the sky that hour!

At 3:30 AM,[ cooler/damp!] the moon was out and above the tree line, shrouded with moving clouds. Cassiopeia was above the tree line to the North. The Planet Jupiter was below the moon, seen from the porch, not high enough to view from the scope position. If I had the DOB on the porch and no clouds, I could have gotten a closer look at the four moons, Jupiter and the last quarter moon. By 4am the clouds covered the sky once again. I will catch Jupiter at a later date and time! Clear Skies.....

Forecast calls for more clouds to cover the sky in the week to come. I did get a note from Larry and he will try to gather at the farm for a few hours of Skywatching Saturday night. This Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: June 4-6, 2010, reviews some awesome Spiral Galaxies in several constellations.

Tonight, if the clouds break: Planet Mars and star Regulus close together June 6 after sunset. The faint comet C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is entering its mid-June period of best visibility, as it crosses Andromeda and Perseus low in the northeast just before the start of dawn. You'll need a telescope or (perhaps) binoculars. See article and finder chart.
Monday, Mars now stands straight above Regulus in the west at dusk (as seen from mid-northern latitudes). The new impact site on Jupiter transits the planet's central meridian around 3:21 a.m. Tuesday morning Central Daylight Time, when Jupiter is up just before or during early dawn for America's Central time zone. Meanwhile, Uranus (magnitude 5.9) appears just 0.4° above and slightly left of Jupiter on Tuesday morning. The planets are within 1° of each other throughout the first half of June, but this is their closest approach.

Tuesday, With summer almost here, the big Summer Triangle is making its way up the eastern sky. Vega is the highest and brightest of the Triangle's three stars, outshining anything else in the east during evening. Deneb is the brightest star to Vega's lower left, by two or three fist-widths at arm's length. Look for Altair rising three or four fists to Vega's lower right.

News from the Net:
New Impact on Jupiter
Early Faint Sun Paradox Explained?
Spirit Rover Still Providing New Evidence for Past Water on Mars
New Hubble Images Zoom In on Asteroid Impact on Jupiter
Large Meteor Tracked over Northeast Alabama
Spirialing 'UFO' Over Australia Was Likely Falcon 9 Rocket
A Trilogy of Tremendous Volcanoes
New Discovery Supports Possibility of Microbial Life on Mars
Humboldtianum two for one from LRO

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Forensic Astronomy

Since that latest weather pattern has not pushed the clouds away, I still cannot see the stars! We did get some showers last night, when the MCS moved across South Central Texas Wednesday evening. This morning, the rain is hanging on. But I am still hoping for a clear night, forecast for Saturday.

Surfing the net, downloading photos and filing data, I ran across this article : 150-year-old meteor mystery solved. Interesting discoveries when researching a past celestial event and combining history with science! Together, it makes for a unique brand of Forensic Astronomy. In a university news release, Texas State astronomers solve Walt Whitman meteor mystery. Posted by Jayme Blaschke, University News Service, May 28, 2010. Texas State physics professors Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, English professor Marilynn S. Olson and Honors Program student Ava G. Pope publish their findings in the July 2010 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine, on newsstands now. The "strange huge meteor procession" that Whitman saw occurred on July 20, 1860. The event inspired not only Whitman, but the famed landscape painter Frederic Church as well - and it was Church's painting that helped solve the mystery. This type of research is fascinting! Going back in time, seeing how the Moon, tides and Stars shaped events in History! Jayme is in the area Astronomy Group. I have met the two Physics Professers(both Astronomy enthusists) at a couple of area Stargazing Events, over the past years. When I was walking the Quad at Texas State, the University did not have any Astronomy program. I did take Physics back then, ‘twice’. Got my copy of S&T and reading the articles. File it.

Tonight, if the clouds break: Mars is less than 2 degrees from Regulus in Leo the Lion. Watch Mars pass Regulus over the next several nights. Mars will be closest to Regulus on the 6th of June.

Friday, Jupiter is 0.6 degrees from Uranus. On June 8th, Uranus and Jupiter pass just 0.4 degrees apart. This is the first of a triple conjunction. The next conjunctions will be September 18th and January 3rd, 2011. Uranus is visible through a telescope or good binoculars. Look for Jupiter and Uranus in the early morning hours in the ESE sky.

Last-quarter Moon Friday(exact at 6:13 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).

Saturday, Having a late Saturday night? The waning Moon rises in the east around 1 or 2 a.m. Sunday morning, with bright Jupiter to its lower right. They're higher by Sunday dawn, I printed off my charts for June…. all we need is a Clear Sky!

News from the Net:
Everything you need to know: June solstice 2010
Hubble Images Suggest Rogue Asteroid Smacked Jupiter
Hubble Captures Surprisingly Restless Stars on the Move
Scientist Explains New LOFAR Image of Quasar 3C196
Voyager 2 Update from Dr. Ed Stone
Menagerie of Celestial Objects in New Image of the Large Magellanic Cloud

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Early Morning Events, Behind the Clouds

Scanning the late night sky the past few nights, has only brought disappointment. My plans to observe have been put on hold until Saturday. I was up several times, early this morning, hoping the sky would clear. No Moon and No Stars! Another High ridge is on the way from the West and Mexico, it will soon trigger showers in the area? Most of the time this type of forecast just brings clouds, a lot of clouds, but we can use the rain!

I still have not seen the Planets- Jupiter and Uranus:

The mightiest of planets, JUPITER rises about 2:30 local time at the beginning of the month and will be rising about midnight by month's end. Jupiter is on its way to a splendid opposition this fall, with the giant planet very high in southern skies compared to quite low for northern observers during the past three oppositions, something has has badly hampered observations by northern observers. This bright yellow planet will dominate the morning eastern skies throughout June. - In PISCES.

Uranus the distant, blue world is visible easily in a good 5-6 inch telescope; look for this bluish world very, very close to JUPITER all month, rising just ahead of Jupiter at month's end. However, they appear close from Earth, but in reality are vast distances apart! In fact, Uranus is a whopping 1.5 billion miles FARTHER than Jupiter from Earth. 6th magnitude - in PISCES.

Tonight, if the clouds break, Mars and Saturn are 30 degrees apart and closing. The two planets will be less than 2 degrees from each other on the 30th of July. Today, Mars is about 2 degrees from the star Regulus.

Thursday, See Draco the Dragon, and a former pole star Mars is less than 2 degrees from Regulus in Leo the Lion. Watch Mars pass Regulus over the next several nights. Mars will be closest to Regulus on the 6th of June.

Friday is the Last-quarter Moon (exact at 6:13 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).

Saturday, The waning Moon rises in the east around 1 or 2 a.m. Sunday morning, with bright Jupiter to its lower right. They're higher by Sunday dawn, as shown here.

News from the Net:
First High-Res, Low Frequency Radio Image from LOFAR Array
Retro Black Holes Are More Powerful
Computer Program automatically classify galaxy shapes
International Space Station Expedition 23 Crew Lands Safely
Rumor or Fact: Is Betelgeuse about to blow?
Exploring Gamma-ray Bursts