Saturday, July 31, 2010

Clear, Dark Sky

After a long period of Cloudy Night skies... A Clear -Dark - Night!? Ten thirty, I stepped out last night and for the first time in a long time, I actually saw the Milky Way stream across my Portal to the Universe. The Moon was still below the trees at 11:30 pm. Many Moons have past since the sky was this dark!

I scanned the sky from SW to NE. Scorpius was already above the trees, moving West. Below the tree line, I could make out the tail. Sagittarius was above the trees and tipped downward a degree. The Keystone was straight up, Hercules was climbing to the NW. Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila with the three bright stars that make up the Summer Triangle, was moving to Zenith. 'Clear' is forecast again tonight....might get a chance to move the scope out and focus on a few targets. August is here! Starting to plan an early morning stint watching for the Perseids,


When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Venus, Saturn, and Mars have converged to form a skinny triangle in the sunset sky. Saturn and Mars are especially close together, only 2o apart for the next few nights. Sky maps: July 31, August 1, 2.
Last Quarter occurs on August 3rd at 12:59 am Eastern Daylight Time. By the week’s end the crescent Moon is closing in on the famous Pleiades star cluster. With the Moon getting out of the way, the southern sky grabs the week's attention. The great curve of Scorpius south of bright Antares hits the meridian to the south around 9 PM, with the Little Milk Dipper of Sagittarius right behind it to the east.

News from the Net:
Get Ready for the Perseids: Join the World in Watching
NASA Braces Rover Fans for the Worst About Spirit
Bulls-Eye on Mars and, Apparently, an Industrial Complex
Water Cycle on the Moon Remains a Mystery
James Webb Telescope update

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Clear Sky Forecast, Friday Night

Those storms and thunder clouds from the past few days are gone. Not much rain[.50"], and the Clouds seem to linger today. Tonght's forecast is still cloudy. But Friday and Saturday are forecast "Clear"....so far! Dust off the scope and equipment, we might have a dark night sky!?

Tonight, Saturn, Mars and Venus fit within a 10 degree field of view. In about a week, they will fit in a 5 degree field. Watch the three planets in the west at dusk as they move closer to each other.

Friday, Mars is still less than 2° below Saturn at dusk. Jupiter rises roughly 6° lower right of the waning crescent Moon around 11 p.m. daylight-saving time (for skywatchers in North America).

Saturday, Venus, Mars and Saturn form an isosceles triangle. Both Mars and Saturn are 7.5 degrees to the upper left of Venus. Look for the planets in the west an hour after sunset. Saturn and Mars remain close together upper left of Venus at dusk. Use binoculars to try for Mercury and especially Regulus much farther to Venus's lower right.

News from the Net:
Opportunity is stirring on Mars. Caught "dust devil"
Cydonia Mensa, the Face on Mars- 'Close Up'
Stunning New Image of Wolf-Rayet Star
ISS Spacewalk - Tools are gone
Was Kepler Data leaked by Scientist?
Chances of Asteroid hitting us in the year 2182
Weird Pattern in Cosmic Rays seen by Antarctic Observatory
No Rings Around Rhea
Vote near in House on NASA Budget

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thunder Clouds ...Clear Weekend Ahead

The power of the Full Moon Monday delivered 'Thunder' yesterday. The lightning came up very fast and moved into our area before I could shut down the network. Lots of Storm Clouds in the area brought us Thunder and Lightning and killed the power for about thirty minutes. Not long after, we reconnected the networks into cyberspace and the TV satellite link! The Thunder Clouds did squeeze out a small amount of rain too. With the Clouds still covering the sky, I took some time to get ready for the upcoming Dark Nights for the Persieds. I found and reviewed the EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2010.

Thursday's forecast looks Clear and may last into the weekend. With the moon going into third quarter, the night sky should be darker. Thursday night I hope to scan this area again: the Summer Triangle and the three small constellations within.

Thursday, if it is clear, Time to break out the binoculars for a Scan of the Scorpions Heart and look for M4.

Friday at dawn look east, catch the belt of Orion. The Hunter is resting on his side at dawn. The three stars [Mintaka, Alnitak and Alnilam ] will be verticle, standing on end, pointing the way to Taurus.


News from the Net:

Bad Astronomy on TV, this Fall?
Phil Plait is moving his "Bad Astronomy" to the Discovery TV Channel and the first episode is about asteroid impacts! Looking forward to watching the Series.

Saturn's Rings: 400 Years of Engagement
Universe Today…A New Look
Gravitational Lensing Caught By Amateur Telescope
Is the Moon Really a ‘Been There Done That’ World
Curiosity Rover Takes First Test Drive
Prometheus: the Michelangelo of Saturn
Michael Laine Will Answer Your Questions on Space Elevators


Note: Moon:Day posts within POU, (Observing the Sky) Web site! I still get a message that I cannot connect. Is the Server really Down or is this a bad connection? If it is a bad connection, why is the POU listing the posts?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Three Planets and a Full Moon

Clouds may blanket my sky, but the western horizon is the focus of merging planets. A Full Thunder Moon will light up the sky tonight. A bright moon with high humidity and atmospheric haze; add in the glare from the urban area. This will make it harder to view the dimmer stars in the constellations. Look West Tonight and This Week!

Spaceweather.com posted: Mars and Saturn are converging with Venus to form a skinny triangle in the sunset sky. When the sun sets tonight, go outside and look west. Venus pops out of the twilight first, followed by Saturn, then Mars. Dates of note include July 30th and 31st when Saturn and Mars are only 2o apart. Sky maps: July 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

If the clouds break this week, there is still time to scan The ‘forgotten’ zodiacal constellation

Wednesday, Big Hercules remains high in the evening sky. Maybe you're familiar with its globular star clusters M13 and M92. But what about the bright Turtle Nebula, NGC 6210, or the faint galaxy NGC 6269 amid a cluster of even fainter companions?

Thursday, Mars is less than 2° below slightly brighter Saturn at dusk, as shown at right.


Friday, Mars is still less than 2° below Saturn at dusk. Jupiter rises roughly 6° lower right of the waning crescent Moon around 11 p.m. daylight-saving time (for skywatchers in North America).


News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Our Ageing Universe
New Trove of Iron Meteorites Discovered
Close up- Asteroid 21 Lutetia

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cloudy Outlook

All these clouds and no clear sky makes skywatchers grumpy. Reporting nothing but cloudy skies is not the best way to start a week. More activity in the gulf can only bring more clouds over my sky! Bonnie moved over Florida's boot into the gulf last night. Just a TS and will not a Hurricane is a good thing. Even our local Astronomy News posts are about our cloudy skies. With a poor outlook, below is what we might see in the sky this week.

This week we move toward the hottest part of summer

Tonight: A line drawn from Deneb, high in the east, through Altair, not quite as high in the southeast, points down nearly to the Moon this evening. Jupiter begins moving retrograde. Jupiter will move west against the background stars for the next 4 months. Look for Jupiter in the constellation of Pisces the Fishes. Jupiter rises in the east about 2 1/2 hours after sunset. Jupiter rises due east, around 10:30 PM Daylight time. At dawn, look for Jupiter half way up in the south.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot transits Jupiter's central meridian around 2:48 a.m Sunday morning Eastern Daylight Time; 11:48 p.m. Saturday evening Pacific Daylight Time. See S&T’s link of all the Great Red Spot's predicted transit times, good worldwide, for the rest of 2010.

Sunday, Full Moon (exact at 9:37 p.m. EDT). Mercury is 2.5 degrees to the lower right of the star Regulus. Look for Mercury to pass less than 0.3 degrees from Regulus in two days. Mercury can be found very low in the WNW, 50 minutes after sunset.

Monday, As the stars begin coming out in the evening this week, Arcturus shines high in the west, far to the upper left of bright Venus. Watch the Big Dipper glimmer into view equally high in the northwest, far to Venus's upper right. Mars is 10 degrees to the upper left of Venus. Saturn is 2.8 degrees to the upper left of Mars. Look for the planets in the west at dusk.

News from the Net:
Stars Just Got Bigger
Europa Analog Deep-Sea Vents Discovered in the Caribbean
New Technique Could Track Down Dark Energy
Comet Whacked Neptune 200 Years Ago
WISE Mission Completes All-sky Infrared Survey
Most Massive Star Discovered: Over 300 Suns at Birth!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Astronomy Camp Event

I heard from Larry on the Event and I did see an article in the morning paper about last night's Star Party. The Astronomy Camp Event did happen. The Group was only able to see some of the moon and Venus through a cloudy sky last night. A disappointment to the group members who set up the scopes. It was not disappointing to the campers who brought their new hand made scopes to the event. For me, yesterday was a pasture work day, drenching Sheep and cut grass. It might be clear, but it is harder to move in the evening after spending time at the pasture. My joints are older, stiffer and the legs don't work as well. No chance to scope the sky for me last night.


Speaking of Old....41 years ago yesterday, I was at college working a summer semester job and was fixed to a TV screen like a lot of folks. Watching the news cast(Walter) as that first step (in broken bw pictures) hit the moon dust. Here is a link to the launch and an audio of that landing. It was a great moment in Space Exploration History to witness.

Tonight, after dark, a waxing gibbous Moon is to the left of the star Antares in Scorpius. Antares is a red supergiant star. It's one of the largest first magnitude stars. If placed at the center of our solar system, it's surface would be out beyond Mars' orbit.

Thursday, Mercury is 21 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Mars is 12 degrees to the upper left of Venus. Look for the planets in the west at dusk. Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross the planet's central meridian (the line down the center of Jupiter's disk from pole to pole) around 1:10 a.m. Friday morning Eastern Daylight Time, when Jupiter will be well up in the sky for observers the U.S. eastern time zone. See a full list, from S&T, of all Red Spot transit times for the rest of 2010.

News from the Net:
WISE Mission Completes All-sky Infrared Survey
First Quasar Gravitational Lens Discovered (w/video)
Lunar Forums and Anniversaries
Best Reality TV Ever: Camera Will Take Video of Next Mars Rover Landing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Event Horizon: Astronomy Camp Stargazing

Larry said the Event is a Go for Tonight. The Forecast might hold with partly cloudy skies as the evening turns dark. The Astronomy Camp Group will gather at a nearby school to set up and find a few planets, the moon and other targets. This Group (Last Year) was large and all the kids had made their own Telescopes at the camp. The Star Party gives them a chance to try out the new Scopes! Two other working scopes from the NBAC will be there to show them the Night Sky. Curious as to the turn out and what they will see. Wait to hear the outcome from them.

Note to any followers: If you submitted your site as a follower and do not see your symbol listed, Sorry, I had to take off the "Gadget" that listed symbols due to a problem with my security software. Soooo, be patient if you do not see your link as a follower. You are listed as a follower within the Blog and I am looking into correcting the problem?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Charting the Planets this Week

This week the clouds continue to make it harder to locate any Stars and Planets. The Sky clears for a while just after dark but the haze and "the floaters" start rolling in. We still do not have "Clear" in the forecast. With a chance to scan the sky, even with a brighter moon, those wandering stars are still out there in the dark.

Those Wandering Stars this Week:
Mercury (about magnitude –0.2) is low in the glow of sunset. Look far to the lower right of Venus.

Venus (magnitude –4.2, in Leo) is the bright Evening Star sinking in the west as twilight fades. Between Venus and Mercury, can you see fainter Regulus?

Mars (magnitude +1.4, at the Leo-Virgo border) is upper left of Venus. Watch Mars closing in on
Saturn to its upper left day by day. In a telescope Mars is just a tiny blob 5 arcseconds in diameter. A note on the rambling rovers: Hibernation may be over for Sleeping Rovers

Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, in Pisces) rises around 11 p.m. daylight saving time. It shines high in the southeast in the early morning hours and reaches its highest point in the south during early dawn. It's the brightest starlike point in the morning sky. Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) is 3° west of Jupiter. In a telescope Uranus is only 3.6 arcseconds wide, compared to Jupiter's 44″.

Saturn (magnitude +1.1, in the head of Virgo) is in the west during evening, just upper left of slightly dimmer Mars. The diagonal line of Saturn, Mars, Venus, Regulus and Mercury continues to shrink. The first three of these planets will bunch up low in the sunset in early August.

Neptune (magnitude 7.8, at the Aquarius-Capricornus border) is up in good view by midnight, well to Jupiter's west. See S&T’s finder charts for Uranus and Neptune in 2010.

The Dwarf Planet Pluto (magnitude 14, in northwestern Sagittarius) is high in the south-southeast after dark. See S&T’s Pluto finder charts for 2010 — though the moonlight interferes with such a faint object this week. This asteroid is much harder to see as it moves farther away!Speaking of Asteroids, Check out this article: "How does Lutetia compare to the other asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft?" From a current Planetary Blog . On July 19, 2010 there were 1139 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.

Tonight, I am still looking at the Summer Triangle. May get a chance this week to scan the tail on the Scorpion. And later, after midnight, if the clouds are agreeable, would like to move the scope around the Teapot for a while.

News from the Net:
Best Reality TV Ever: Camera Will Take Video of Next Mars Rover Landing
2010 Had Warmest Global June on Record
Developers Say Lunar Elevator Could be Built Within a Decade

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Late Nights with the Serpent Bearer

The Mythical son of Apollo and a magical snake were placed in the Sky by Zeus. This Medicine Man was accused of saving a life and keeping a soul from Pluto[Hades]. The Constellation Ophiuchus is a dim area of stars found in the summer sky, near Scorpius and Sagittarius. It is mentioned as the 13th Sign of the Zodiac. The past few nights, I have scanned and swept this area while looking for binocular targets. This Constellation was brought up recently at our Group Meeting last Thursday night, when seven of us sat around and discussed what was in the night sky. Star Hop tonight’s Sky with Tammy’s Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: July 16-19, 2010. Start a search for the asteroid Ceres in Ophiuchus, 61 Cygni, Globular Cluster in Lupus, Thuban, Eta Lupi in binoculars, and finally star hops to open cluster NGC 6124 in scorpius.

Tonight, after another look at the Planets in the west, face east as the stars come out, and look very high; the brightest star there is Vega. Deneb is the brightest star to Vega's lower left, by 2 or 3 fist-widths at arm's length. Farther to Vega's lower right is Altair (with little Tarazed just above it). Vega, Deneb, and Altair form the big Summer Triangle. If it is clear, another chance to see the Coathanger then put the Ring and Albireo in the eyepiece.

Sunday, First-quarter Moon (exact at 6:11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time). If it is clear Sunday night, target and explore the " straight wall".

Monday, Mercury is 22 degrees to the lower right of Venus. The star Regulus is halfway between Venus and Mercury. Try looking for Mercury low in the WNW, 50 minutes after sunset. Binoculars will help.

Tuesday, The brightest star in the west after dark is Arcturus, slowly moving lower now as summer advances. To its right in the northwest, the Big Dipper is swinging down into proper dipping position.

Wednesday, After dark, look to the right of the waxing gibbous Moon for Antares and other stars of upper Scorpius.

News from the Net:
Gallery of July 11 Solar Eclipse Images
Latest Look at Mercury Reveals Surprises
Wind Gust Gives Opportunity Rover a Power Boost
Hubble Confirms Comet-like Tail on Vaporizing Planet
Swift Briefly Blinded by Mega X-ray Blast
Big or Small, All Stars Form the Same Way

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Planets and the Moon

Find a good horizon and look to the West in the evening Sky. Not a Great Forecast for my area: "increasing clouds and winds from the south". Break out the binoculars and the camera then check the sky and the horizon at dusk.

From today's Spaceweather.com: The planets are aligning for a beautiful sunset sky show. Tonight the crescent Moon joins the show. It will appear beside Venus at the end of the line. For the rest of the week, the Moon will planet-hop from Venus to Mars to Saturn on successive nights. Go outside at sunset and take a look! Sky maps: July 14, 15, 16.

Tonight, the crescent Moon and Venus make a nice pair in the evening sky. Look for Venus and the Moon in the west at dusk. The Moon is about 7 degrees to the lower left of Venus.

Thursday, the crescent Moon is south of Mars. The planets Saturn, Mars, Venus and Mercury span 48 degrees across the evening sky.

News from the Net:
Inside Lunar pits
Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Star Formation
Conduct Virtual Explorations of Mars with New WorldWide Telescope Feature
Dying Star or Beautiful Bird?
Searching for the Elusive Type Ia Supernovae Progenitors
Pluto Goes into the Dark

Monday, July 12, 2010

Those Wonderful Wandering Stars

Four planets are coming together this week and the conjunction will last for the entire summer. The spectacle begins just as the Sun sets, during twilight, find the planet Venus, high in the western sky. There are Four Planets and the Moon in the early evening sky this week.

Observe these Planets as they come into view during the late evening sky this week:
Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, in Pisces) rises around 11 or midnight 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 just under 3° west of Jupiter. In a telescope Uranus is only 3.6 arcseconds wide, compared to Jupiter's 43″.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, at the Aquarius-Capricornus border) is up in good view after midnight, well to Jupiter's west. See these finder charts for Uranus and Neptune in 2010.

Tonight, take note that this time of year, bright Scorpius is highest in the south shortly after nightfall. Now is the narrow time-and-date window to explore the rich area around the Scorpion's tail, quite far south. I am hoping to revisit the area when we get a clear sky! Look eastward this evening, and it’s hard to miss the season’s signature star formation, called the Summer Triangle. Try looking first for the most prominent star in the eastern sky, which is Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp.

Tuesday, Soon after sunset, use binoculars to sweep up Mercury and the thin crescent Moon far to the lower right of Venus. Mercury and the Moon are about 10° apart (at the times of dusk for North America).

Wednesday, As the glow of sunset fades, look for the thin crescent Moon about 7° lower left of Venus.

Thursday, Now the Moon is farther left of Venus. They appear the same altitude above your horizon if you're near latitude 40° north

Friday, Mars, Saturn and Venus are in the evening sky

News from the Net:
Rosetta Meets Asteroid Lutetia
Bright Outburst of QZ Virginis In Progress…
Solar Eclipse from Cook Island

Sunday, July 11, 2010

East of Antares

StarLog ^^100710
When exploring the Summer Horizon, one discovers hundreds, if not thousands of charted stars within two unique asterisms. The eyepiece is set due south and the a red star marks the course for this evening’s binocular tour. The weather forecast called for partly cloudy skies. OK, the Sky looked Clear! No Moon and it looked dark enough, but there were clouds and seeing was not the best. I set up the DOB…. at ten. Air was hot and sultry as I scanned the horizon just after 10 PM with my binoculars. I had the T.U.B.A. running on the laptop, with charts, notes.

My Sky holds a dense area of stars within Sagittarius, Ophiuchus, Scorpius, and Virgo. This month’s Sky & Tel mentioned two globular clusters anchored in Ophiuchus waiting to be discovered with a pair of Binoculars: “Just 12 degrees east of red Antares locate a 3.2 magnitude star. This is Theta θ Ophiuchi. If you place this star in the left edge (eastern) of the FOV, M19 will come into view on the opposite FOV edge. The target will give you a chance to explore several wide double stars in the North and NE quadrant of the FOV. Move M19 to top of the FOV and M62 will appear at the bottom edge. The core of M62 is denser and will appear fuzzy in the glasses. “ Began my search for M19 and M62 to the east of Antares. I found the clusters on the T.U.B.A. chart, then explored the area with binoculars and the scope. Clouds gathered then drifted by. I waited for the scorpion to climb a bit more above the tree line. At midnight I scanned the area again with no luck visually in binoculars. Was not sure if I was on the star Theta θ Ophiuchi? Moved the scope and swept the area slowly. Still no clusters centered in the eye piece.
In this week’s “Skylights”, Jim Kaler writes that the Summer Triangle is rising now in full glory in the northeastern sky. In mid-evening, look for its three bright stars, Vega in Lyra at the northwestern apex, followed by Cygnus's Deneb, with Altair in Aquila to the south.
I scanned these areas with the DOB and Binoculars focusing on Vega, Altair and Cygnus. The Swan led me to Albireo. The double star was sharp and colorful in my eyepiece. I located the Coathanger with my binoculars, still hanging between Altair and Vega. The hanger was verticle with the hook to the right, as if it had fallen in the closet.
More clouds moving in and out, covering the area. I closed down at 1:30 a.m., with no new discoveries noted. I will come back to this area and try again. The Scorpion crawls along the tree line late into the night over my backyard. I need a clearer night, with no clouds....


News from the Net:
Asteroid Lutetia up close
On its way to a 2014 rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft, with NASA instruments aboard, will fly past asteroid Lutetia Saturday, July 10.

Astronomy Without A Telescope – Coloring In The Oort Cloud

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dust in the Wind

The last bits of TD#2 are finally past and headed up the Rio Grande. The rain and clouds are beginning to break up, but we just can’t catch a Clear Sky! And now the Atlantic winds have brought in African dust that lingers in our sky. I will continue a chance glimpse at the stars in the night sky through the broken clouds and the haze.

The Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: July 9-11, 2010 reviews observing a few of the planets, how to spot a couple of globular clusters, easily seen as two hazy round spots in binoculars in Ophiuchus. Tammy also helps you discover and explore clusters in Scorpius and Sagittarius.

Tonight, if the clouds break: High in the east is the summer triangle, Vega, Deneb, and Altair. Phil Harrington's "Binocular Universe" describes how to find the “Coathanger” with Binoculars! Begin at Altair, the Triangle's southernmost star. Draw an imaginary line between Altair and the two fainter stars set to either side. Extend the line toward the northwest for about twice its length into the neighboring constellation Vulpecula. There, you should spot a tiny flock of about 10 stars. Once you find it, take a careful look through your binoculars. Does its shape remind you of anything? If not, go back inside, look in your bedroom closet, and then try again. That's right, you have found the sky's Coathanger. The Coathanger is drawn from six stars aligned in a straight line that form the coathanger's cross bar, and another four that curve away to create the hook.

Look south and you’ll see red Antares above the trees, the Scorpion is clawing his way higher each night. East of the scorpion is the teapot (Sagittarius), and the center of the Galaxy. Scan this part of the sky with binoculars for stars, clusters, and nebulae. Focus on the stinger of the scorpion, low in the sky and locate the Northern Jewel Box among the stars.
Target m (Mu) Scorpii, a double blue star, a true pair almost a light-year apart. South of m is z (Zeta) Scorpii, a visual double, not a true double (very close to the horizon, difficult to see even with binoculars). The eastern, brighter star is an orange giant about 150 light years away. The western star is a blue super-giant estimated to be 5700 light-years away, one million times as bright as the sun - a candidate as possibly the most massive super-giant known. Just above z Scorpii is a beautiful open cluster, NGC6231. The bright star at the tip of the scorpion's tail is Shaula, a brilliant blue star about 310 light years away. NGC 6231 is an open cluster located near Zeta Scorpii. Zeta1 and Zeta2 Scorpii are members of this star cluster. This cluster is estimated about 3.2 million years old, and is approaching the Solar System at 22 km/s. Very young stars including it, belong to the Scorpius OB association. Zeta1 Scorpii (spectral type O8 and magnitude 4.71

Look west at sunset. Venus is passing by 1st magnitude star Regulus; they're only a little more than a degree apart. Bright Venus catches the eye first. As the glow of sunset fades, Regulus pops out of the twilight a little below Venus. look for Regulus 1.2° straight below Venus. The view through binoculars is superb. This evening, The old thin crescent Moon is low in the ENE at dawn. Look for this very thin Moon an hour before sunrise.

Sunday, New Moon (exact at 3:40 p.m. EDT). A total eclipse of the Sun crosses the South Pacific, Easter Island, and (at sunset) part of southern Chile and Argentina. Details. There's a total eclipse of the Sun visible today from parts of the South Pacific. If you live on Easter Island you will see it. If you live in Tahiti you'll have to sail a few miles south to be in the path of totality. If you are in parts of southern Chile or Argentina you will see the eclipse at sunset.

Monday, At this time of year, bright Scorpius is highest in the south shortly after nightfall. Now is the narrow time-and-date window to explore the rich area around the Scorpion's tail, quite far south. A very thin young Moon may be spotted to the lower left of Mercury. Look to the WNW just 30 minutes after sunset. You'll need a clear view to the horizon. Binoculars will help too. Mercury is 26.5 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Saturn is 26.5 degrees to the upper left of Venus.

Tuesday, Soon after sunset, use binoculars to sweep up Mercury and the thin crescent Moon far to the lower right of Venus. Mercury and the Moon are about 10° apart (at the times of dusk for North America).

News from the Net:
Watch Live Webcast of Rosetta Flyby of Asteroid Lutetia July 10
Mini Moons Are Buzzing Through Saturn's Rings
Are You Keeping an Eye on SDO Keeping an Eye on the Sun?
Tanks for the Memories
July 11 Total Eclipse Among the Mysterious Moai
Powerhouse Black Hole Blows a Huge Bubble

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mercury Rising

As the temperature rises in my backyard during July, the Planet nearest the Sun starts a climb in the evening sky. The swift moving planet Mercury is emerging from behind the Sun. Mercury is 30 degrees to the lower right of Venus and sets during bright twilight. Mercury will be easier to see in coming days. Mercury (about magnitude –1.5) is very deep in the glow of sunset. Late in the week, scan for it with binoculars shortly after sundown just above the horizon far to the lower right of Venus.

Last night the neighbor’s rockets continued to whistle and pop, going off down the street. Still Not Dark at 10 p. m., I spotted red Antares above the trees then Vega. I scanned the top of the teapot in the binoculars, just above the tree line [just not dark enough]. I stepped farther out to the drive and found Saturn and Mars high in the west. I missed the rest of Sagittarius and Scorpius last night. It took to long to rise above the tree line. Another couple of weeks, they will be higher at 10pm. And hopefully, the sky will be Darker too. I also missed this morning’s Moon rise. I used the detail observations in Moon: Day 25 - “Splicing Gassendi”. I look forward to the descriptive Moon Day articles. I break out the moon map and follow along. Thanks for sharing Jay!

Tonight the clouds are forecast to cover our sky as well as tomorrow. There is a possible Photo Op, if the clouds break: The moon will pass the Pleiades before dawn July 8

News from the Net:
Curiosity Gets Her Wheels
Small Moon Makes Big Waves
Hayabusa Sample Return Canister Opened, Contains Material
A Hubble photo of Star birth and death in same field

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pluto is in Sagittarius

This week Spaceweather.com posted this Event: Pluto is transiting Barnard 92, an inky black cloud of dust in the constellation Sagittarius. "Pluto was faint but very obvious against the dark background: image." I might get a chance to set up and observe while the dwarf planet is in Sagittarius. If I'm lucky, some time this week between the clouds.

Astronomy Magazine describes observing this area of the sky:
On warm summer nights, it's irresistible to gaze toward the center of our galaxy within the great constellation Sagittarius the Archer. Loaded with star clouds, clusters, and bright and dark nebulae, the constellation could easily keep a telescopic observer busy for an entire observing season. Before diving in with the telescope, though, it's worth spending some time discussing what Sagittarius offers unaided eyes. The most prominent pattern in the constellation is the Teapot, an asterism of eight 2nd- and 3rd-magnitude stars that resembles its namesake. The Teapot's stars range in distance from 80 to 300 light-years. At the top of the Teapot is Lambda (λ) Sagittarii, the asterism's closest star, while Delta (δ) Sagittarii is its most distant and nearly 20 times as luminous as Lambda. It's easy to think of the Teapot as occupying most of the constellation's area, but in fact, Sagittarius is several times larger.

The Tea pot (asterisim) is a sign post to the center of the galaxy.
A spectacular view in binoculars is the Sagittarius Star Clouds - The part of the Milky Way near the constellation Sagittarius ("the Teapot") reveals the richest detail in the night sky. It teems with interesting objects, including the Lagoon, Swan, and Eagle Nebulas, the M24 Star Cloud, and a wealth of open clusters. Use a star chart to help identify them.

Sagittarius is the Center for Summer Observing
If you are in a dark sky location, you can also identify it easily in binoculars by starting at the M24 "Star Cloud" north of Lambda Sagittari (the teapot lid star) and simply scan north. This nebula is bright enough to even cut through moderately light polluted skies with ease, but don't expect to see it when the Moon is nearby. You'll enjoy the rich star fields combined with an interesting nebula in binoculars, while telescopes will easily begin resolution of interior stars.

There is lots to see, I can make it a longer night [if the clouds break] and observe all the following in the telescope: NGC 6445, M23 (NGC 6494), M20 (NGC 6514), Barnard 86, NGC 6520, NGC 6522, M8 (NGC 6523), M21 (NGC 6531), NGC 6563, M24 (IC 4715), M18 (NGC 6613), M17 (NGC 6618), M28 (NGC 6626), M69 (NGC 6637), M25 (IC 4725), NGC 6645, M22 (NGC 6656), M70 (NGC 6681), M54 (NGC 6715), NGC 6723, M55 (NGC 6809), NGC 6818, NGC 6822, M75 (NGC 6864)

Tonight, The Earth is at aphelion. Aphelion is the point in the Earth's orbit when it's farthest from the Sun. Today Earth is 1.017 A.U. or 94.5 million miles from the Sun. The Tilt of the home planet brings our Northern Hemisphere these hot summer days.

Thursday night, Draw a line from bright Arcturus high in the southwest to bright Vega high in the east. A third of the way along this line is dim Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, with its one moderately bright star, Alphecca, sometimes also called Gemma. Two thirds of the way along the line is the dim Keystone of Hercules.

Friday, Regulus is about 1° lower left of brilliant Venus in the west as twilight fades. Look carefully; Venus is 150 times brighter!

News from the Net:
All-Sky Stunner from Planck
New Satellite for Monitoring Space Debris To Launch

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Star Spangled Sky

This weekend has lots to view in Dawn’s Early Light and Stars gleaming in the Twilight.
After the Fireworks, if the clouds break Sunday evening and you are up after midnight, look for the craters and mountains along the Terminator. The Last-quarter Moon is Sunday morning (exact at 8:35 a.m. CDT). The Weekend SkyWatcher's Forecast: July 2-4, 2010 explains a binocular view of Alpha Librae in Libra, the star Rasalgethi in Hercules and the M80 cluster in Scorpius. This week's Skylights notes that "It's a perfect time to find and admire Scorpius, one of the few constellations that actually looks like what it is named for. Look for bright Antares to the south around 11 PM, the reddish supergiant lying at the heart of the graceful curve of bright stars that makes the celestial Scorpion, Orion's nemesis."

The constellation Scorpius is a place full of stars. The July Binocular Universe includes charts and info to find clusters M6 and M7. To spot them for yourself, place the stinger on the southern edge of your binoculars' field of view, and then look to the north. Both should fit into the same field of view. In fact, you might not even need the binoculars to spot the clusters, since both are bright enough see with the naked eye if the sky in that direction is dark and clear. The stinger is above the trees, later in the evening, in my Portal. The Scorpion is on my Binocular/Telescope list, when I get a clear night sky.

The clouds are breaking up during the day over my Portal, so I am keeping my finder scopes crossed. With luck the "bombs bursting in air" will clear the skies Sunday Night! The current forecast does not look good through next week.

Tonight if the clouds break, Moon and Jupiter again between midnight and dawn July 4. The darkness between midnight and dawn belongs to the last-quarter moon and Jupiter. The waning crescent will spend two days making a nice pairing with bright Jupiter. The morning of Saturday the 3rd, look for the planet to the southeast of the Moon, the following night to the southwest of it (the actual conjunction taking place the evening of the 3rd and out of sight). Just five hours before, the Moon passes north of Uranus, the two planets still very much hanging out together. Here is more information on Uranus in July, 2010. At mid-month, it is 1 1/2 thumb widths west of much brighter Jupiter, making a binocular double “star” with the +6.3 magnitude star HD 6. So, it is the brighter less than 1/2 degree west of this star (and 2 1/2 degrees north of 29 Piscium).


In the eyepiece, the Moons of Jupiter at 1 AM Sunday morning:

C---------------------J------I----G


In the eyepiece, the Moons of Jupiter at 5 AM Sunday morning:

C---------------------E--J------I----G

Friday, July 2, 2010

Event Horizon: Jupiter Events Next Week

This month, Jupiter rises near midnight. Hope to target the bright planet, first chance I get a clear sky. Jupiter (magnitude –2.5, in Pisces) rises around midnight daylight saving time and shines high in the southeast before dawn. It's the brightest starlike point in the morning sky. Jupiter's Great Red Spot is near System II longitude 150°. Assuming it stays there, here's a list of all the Great Red Spot's predicted transit times for the rest of 2010. Some helpful charts, from the web, on the events that occur next week: July 7 and 8. During the weekend: July 9 -10. Sunday Night past midnight: July 12-13.

A Reminder: Uranus is still just a few degrees to the right of Jupiter this month. Slowly moving apart, as the month progresses. The blue/green planet, at magnitude 5.8, lies close to a 6th magnitude star which lies between it and Jupiter.

Alex left our sky full of clouds. The sun and stars are hidden behind a blanket. Forecast has clouds to continue covering my Portal for several more days.

Tonight, if the clouds break: 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. Mars is midway between Saturn and Regulus. Look for Saturn and Mars in the WSW sky at dusk. Jupiter and the waning gibbous Moon rise in the east about 4 hours after sunset.

Saturday, Jupiter and the Moon are gathering in Pisces for a beautiful weekend sky show. Look south at sunrise to see the two heavenly beacons less than 10 degrees apart. At dawn, look for the waning gibbous Moon and Jupiter in the southeast sky. The two are about 8 degrees apart. Sky Map for Saturday and Sunday. At nightfall, this time of year, Arcturus high in the southwest shines straight above Spica (depending on your latitude). And the kite shape of Bootes extends straight up from Arcturus.

Sunday, the Last-quarter Moon (exact at 10:35 a.m. EDT).
Are you watching the fireworks this weekend? While you're waiting for them to start, point out some sky sights to family and friends. Venus is the bright thing sinking low in the west (if you have a low enough view). Look to its upper left for much fainter Regulus. Extending farther upper left from there, in a long line, are Mars, Saturn, and Spica. Venus, Mars and Saturn span 35 degrees. Venus is 6 degrees west of Regulus. Watch as the three planets converge this month. Venus is the brightest of the planets and can easily be found in the west at dusk. Meanwhile, Vega is the bright star very high in the east. Arcturus is the bright star very high in the southwest.

News from the Net:
New Dates for Final Shuttle Launches
NASA has moved the target date for Discovery to November 1, 2010.
STS 133 Lift-off @ 3:33 pm CDT.
Last Flight for Endeavour: Target date, February 26, 2011.
STS 134 Lift-off @ 3:19 CDT.
With a possible bonus mission, STS 135 in August of 2011.