Monday, December 26, 2011

A Feast of Stars and Planets this week

Merry Sol Invictus! The Feast of Christmas started in the Fourth Century by Christians to celebrate the Sun's movement past that season of darkness with a promise of New Life and Light to come. Lot's of gifts exchanged and food consumed over the past weekend. We can work off the celebrations with fair skies and clear nights this last week of 2011! A clear, cold night will start us off with Venus and a Crescent Moon Monday evening. At seven degrees apart use the binoculars to scan the scene. Alpha Capriconi is near the moons right or upper right and is a double star. Tuesday evening we get a second shot at this scene. If you are using a scope, be sure and check out Jupiter this week for the GRS and Moon crossings! The bright wandering star is high in the South at 9pm. Near by, you can spot the planet Uranus, not far from Jupiter and is worth a look in a telescope because of its intense teal color. It will not be very bright, but you will be able to see it is round and not just a blue-green speck of light.

News from the Net:
Happy New Year from the Crew of the International Space Station
NASA’s Dawn Orbiter snaps Best Ever Images of Vesta
Astrophotos: The Great Orion Nebula
Astrophoto: Comet Lovejoy from Canberra by Barry Armstead
Absolutely Spectacular Photos of Comet Lovejoy from the Space Station
Soyuz Rocket’s Comet-like Re-Entry Captured on Video
Why Do We Live in Three Dimensions?
Two More Earth-Sized Planets Discovered by Kepler, Orbiting Former Red Giant Star
Astrophotos: Christmas Crescent Moon from Around the World
Phobos-Grunt Predicted to Fall in Afghanistan on January 14
An Enlightening Mosaic: Sunsets in 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Longest Night Before Christmas

It’s another wet and cloudy week! We may get one or two clear, cool nights to observe this week, before Christmas.…maybe not!

Wintry Orion is up in the southeast after dinnertime and higher later in the evening. Introduce it to someone! The bright, fire-colored star marking Orion's left corner is Betelgeuse, a prototype red supergiant. The bright star forming Orion's right corner is white Rigel. Midway between them is Orion's three-star Belt, nearly vertical. In the evening at this time of year, the Great Square of Pegasus balances on one corner high in the west. The vast Andromeda-Pegasus constellation complex runs all the way from near the zenith (Andromeda's foot) down through the Great Square (Pegasus's body) and almost to the western horizon (Pegasus's nose).

Before dawn Tuesday morning, look above the waning moon for Saturn and Spica.

Wednesday, Dec. 21 : Longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere). Winter begins at the solstice: at 12:30 a.m. on the 22nd EST, 9:30 p.m. on the 21st PST. This is when the Sun reaches its farthest south of the year and begins its six-month return northward. Happy Yule.


Saturday, Dec. 24, Christmas star: On this date every year, you can go out around 8 p.m., spot Orion well up in the southeast, and look down below it for bright Sirius on the rise. When Sirius is low it often twinkles vigorously with vivid, flashing colors, an effect that's especially visible in binoculars. All stars do this, but Sirius is so bright that the effect is especially pronounced. Our New Moon is Saturday afternoon, (exact at 1:06 p.m. EST).

News from the Net:
DARPA’s New Spy Satellite Could Provide Real-Time Video From Anywhere on Earth
First Earth-Sized Exoplanets Found by Kepler
Underwater Neutrino Detector Will Be Second-Largest Structure Ever Built
Curiosity Starts First Science on Mars Sojurn – How Lethal is Space Radiation to Life’s Survival
Missions that Weren’t: NASA’s Manned Mission to Venus
Astrophoto: The Flaming Star Nebula by Robert Collins
NASA Considers Sending a Telescope to Outer Solar System
NASA Terminates Power, Locks Cargo Doors on Retiring Shuttle Discovery

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dodging Meteors and Asteroids

Mostly Cloudy with Damp Skies are forecast for the upcoming week.
We may not see stars, so we will miss a bunch of events that are due to happen this second week of December. Kick the Tires and light the fires, make a Journey to the outer regions and keep dodging those shopping asteroids at the malls this week.

What we will miss this week:
Tuesday,
The annual Geminid meteor shower should be strongest late tonight and tomorrow night. But the light of the waning gibbous Moon will hide all but the brightest meteors. The shower's radiant, or perspective point of origin, is near Castor and Pollux above the Moon. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but their paths, if traced backward far enough across the sky, would cross the radiant.

Wednesday, Wintry Orion is up in the east-southeast after dinnertime, and higher in the southeast later in the evening. Introduce it to someone! The bright, fire-colored star marking Orion's left corner is Betelgeuse, a prototype red supergiant. The bright star forming Orion's right corner is white Rigel. Midway between them is Orion's three-star Belt, nearly vertical. GEMINID METEOR UPDATE: Today, Earth is passing through a stream of debris from near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Often the encounter produces more than 100 Geminids per hour, but this year many of the meteors are obscured by bright moonlight. Visual rates are currently in the dozens, not hundreds.

Thursday, The waning Moon rises in the east late this evening with Regulus to its left or upper left. Mars follows them up an hour later.

Friday, The waning Moon rises around 11 or midnight tonight with Mars to its left and Regulus higher above it.

Saturday, will give us a Last-quarter Moon (exact at 7:48 p.m. EST). The Moon rises in the east around the middle of the night tonight. Above it are Mars and, higher, Regulus and the Sickle of Leo.

News from the Net:
Opportunity Discovers Most Powerful Evidence Yet for Martian Liquid Water
In The Dragonfish’s Mouth – The Next Generation Of “SuperStars”
Astronomy Without A Telescope – How Big Is Big?
Skywatchers Share Lunar Eclipse Photos, Videos
Massive Stars Start Life Big… Really BIG!
International Measure The Moon Night – December 10, 2011
Mars Orbiters Will Attempt to Take Pictures of the Curiosity Rover as It Lands
Twisting and Eclipsing on the Sun

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bright Moon, Cold Nights

This week the moon will dominate the night sky. We may have a few clear, cold nights to enjoy the moon light this first week of December. Our first hard freeze the first part of the week will give us a couple of clear very cold nights, then the the clouds come back Friday. The week ends with a lunar eclipse. A total eclipse of the Moon happens for western North America before dawn Saturday morning. Look for the dim, ruddy eclipsed Moon sinking low in the west-northwest before or during dawn.

Between the clouds with a few clear nights, we can see these events from my backyard:
Monday Jupiter shines lower left of the Moon this evening. Although they look close together, Jupiter is 1,550 times farther away — and 40 times larger in diameter.
Tuesday, Jupiter shines to the right of the Moon in twilight. Later in the evening it swings to the Moon’s lower right.
Thursday, The Moon shines in Taurus near the Pleiades this evening, as shown above. You may need binoculars to pick them out of the lunar glare.
Friday, if the clouds break, Look lower right of the full Moon for Aldebaran this evening, and higher above Aldebaran for the Pleiades. Way off to their left shines Capella.
Saturday evening among the clouds, the Moon shines amid Capella to its upper left, Aldebaran to its upper right, Betelgeuse to its lower right, and Pollux and Castor farther to the Moon’s lower left.

News from the Net:
Pinning The Tails On Galaxy Clusters
Astrophoto: Tracking Curiosity by Glen James Nagle
Astronomers Find the Most Supermassive Black Holes Yet
Coming Attraction: Geminid Meteor Shower 2011
Rainbow of Colors Reveal Asteroid Vesta as More Like a Planet
Armadillo Aerospace Successfully Lauches a Sounding Rocket from Spaceport America
Voyager 1 Spacecraft Enters New Region of Solar System
Kepler Confirms First Planet in Habitable Zone of Sun-Like Star
Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy – A Beast With Four Tails?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Orion in my FOV

Orion is up! With winter approaching, bright Orion rises into good view in the east-southeast by 8 or 9 p.m. now. Lots of highlights to view in this constellation. I am still waiting for the red star Betelguese to super nova! In its middle, Orion's three-star Belt is nearly vertical — as is always the case when Orion displays itself in this week’s sky. Dress warm and take breaks on the cold nights of Stargazing ahead. Do it early this week, more clouds and rain due in by Friday!

Watching College football over the weekend, the camera left the field and zoomed to an early crescent moon with Venus close by. WOW! This was a great scene in an early evening sky. Look for Venus shining well to the Moon's lower right in twilight. Use binoculars to try a last look for rapidly-fading Mercury, farther down in nearly the same direction. Hope you have a better horizon than I have from backyard.

Set up the scope early and dress warm when Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses Jupiter's central meridian Monday evening, around 11:31 p.m. EST (8:31 p.m. PST).

Wednesday, Far to the lower left of the Moon sparkles 1st-magnitude Fomalhaut. It's due south at its highest soon after dark now.

Look for a First-quarter Moon Friday, (exact at 4:52 a.m. on this date). The Moon, high in the south at dusk, shines below the western side of the Great Square of Pegasus. It's between the Water Jar of Aquarius to its right, and the dimmer Circlet of Pisces to its left.

News from the Net:
Telescope Review: Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Reflector
Incredible ‘Sideways’ Look at Mercury’s Limb
Astrophotos: Who Wants to Play Some Halo?
Astrophotos: Moon-Venus Conjunction Photos
Comet Curiosity? MSL Looks Like a Comet as it Heads Toward Mars
Video: Curiosity Rover Launches to Mars
Beginner’s Guide To Binoculars
Astrophotos: Jupiter Sightings

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Time to Feast on bright points of Light

Week four brings us a new moon, Thanksgiving and at least one clear night to explore and observe the Constellations. The Astronomy Group met last Thursday and will try to Stargaze at the TLP site again this week on Wednesday evening. Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving is forecast clear, so far. A couple of fronts will bring us more clouds to deal with this week.

During dawn Monday morning the waning crescent Moon points down to Saturn and Spica. On Tuesday morning, the three form a roughly horizontal line.
Comet Garradd continues glowing this week at about magnitude 6.5 as predicted, but it's getting low. Find it in the west with binoculars or a telescope right at the end of twilight. To locate the exact spot to examine, start from the head-star of Hercules (Rasalgethi). Keep the binoculars out and put the Andromeda Galaxy in the FOV. Moonless evenings this week are a fine time to get out the telescope and explore before the big feast with family!

It’s a New Moon Friday morning, (exact at 1:10 a.m. on this date EST).By the end of this Thanksgiving week, Saturday evening, as twilight fades, look low in the southwest for the very thin crescent Moon hanging to the right of Venus — a beautiful sight! They're 3° to 5° apart.

News from the Net:
Curiosity Powered Up for Martian Voyage on Nov. 26 – Exclusive Message from Chief Engineer Rob Manning
Deep Blue Astrophotography – Imaging Galactic Shells
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Mass Is Energy
NASA’s Curiosity Set to Search for Signs of Martian Life
Do-It-Yourself Guide to Measuring the Moon’s Distance
Neutrinos Still Breaking Speed LimitsVideo: Walking on the Moon is Hard

Monday, November 14, 2011

Too Cloudy for the Leonids?

With another Pacific front moving east toward the Hill Country, the clouds will be closing in the night sky. This will leave us with a few nights of NO OBSERVING!
There are a couple of Clear nights forecast….! But clouds are due back into the picture Thursday and Friday, this might give us another missed year for catching the Leonids!

The Leonid meteor shower this week, Thursday. November 17, late night until dawn the following morning. The Leonid meteor shower is famous. Historically, this shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history – at least one in living memory, 1966 – with rates as high as many thousands of meteors per hour. These storms sometimes recur in cycles of 33 to 34 years. Most years, the Lion whimpers rather than roars, producing a maximum of perhaps 10-15 meteors per hour. Like the October Orionids, the Leonids ordinarily pick up steam after midnight and display the greatest meteor numbers just before dawn. This year, however, the last quarter moon will be shining near the radiant point of the shower in the constellation Leo. The unwelcome presence of the moon is sure to dampen the 2011 Leonid display. If you’re game, you can try watching from late night November 17 till dawn November 18, though the moonlit glare will subdue the 2011 Leonid meteor shower.

The Great Andromeda Galaxy, M31, crosses near your zenith in mid-evening if you're in the mid-northern latitudes. The exact time (sometime around 9 p.m. this week) depends on how far east or west you are in your time zone. Lie on the ground with binoculars, look straight up, and examine the sky just off Andromeda's upraised knee for a dim little elongated glow among the pinpoint stars. The two brightest points on the eastern side of the sky are Jupiter, high in the southeast, and Capella, in the northeast. The Last-quarter Moon is Friday this week, (exact at 10:09 a.m. EST). The Moon shines near Mars and Regulus Friday morning and Saturday morning.

News from the Net:
Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks – November 17-19, 2011
Saturn’s Moon Plays Hide-and-Seek With Cassini
Soyuz Launches to Station amid Swirling Snowy Spectacular
The Holidays Are Coming! A Beginner’s Guide to Telescopes
Seeing the Phases of Exoplanets
Another AMAZING Space Station Timelapse — with Aurora
Mars in a Minute: Is Mars Really Red?
Orion Spacecraft to Launch in 2014

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Voyage into week II, November

We are still trying to adjust to the time change over the weekend. After a weekend of cloudy skies, we may have a few clear, cooler nights ahead. Another front will move through Tuesday night, giving us a clear sky tonight!

Star Notes this week:
Three Planets appear in the November evening sky and the other two in the morning sky. Jupiter was the bright "star" to the lower left of the Moon Monday evening. The bright "star" near the Moon tonight is Jupiter again. Jupiter rises in the east around 5:30 p.m. NEA Alert… The near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55 is passing closer to us than the Moon; closest approach is at 6:28 p.m. EST. This rock presents an exceptionally strong radar target. Watch for Venus in the early evening sky. Next to Venus is tiny Mercury! Mercury sits just left of Venus and can be spied with binoculars. As a bonus sighting, the bright star Antares, which marks the heart of Scorpius, is near Venus and Mercury. Mars is in the early morning sky, look near Regulus in Leo. Try and catch Saturn, near Spica. The Full Moon is Thursday night; the Moon shines between bright Jupiter on its right and the Pleiades on its left.

News from the Net:
Just In: NASA’s Latest Image of Asteroid 2005 YU55
Hoping to See Asteroid 2005 YU55? There’s an App for That!
Andromeda Dwarf Galaxies Help Unravel The Mysteries Of Dark Matter
Awesome Action Animation Depicts Russia’s Bold Robot Retriever to Mars moon Phobos

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jupiter, King of Planets

Last night I moved the DOB (with a little help) out to the South Porch and waited for this bright star to move above the Tree Line. Around 10 pm, I was able to center it in my FOV, an unusually good view of the planet's belts, storms, and moons.

The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, reaches maximum brightness the night of October 28. On this date, the planet lies opposite the Sun from Earth in our sky — this is called opposition. Jupiter will rise at sunset, appear highest around local midnight, and set as the Sun rises. The king of planets will glow at magnitude −2.9, far brighter than any other point of light in the sky. The gas giant currently lies in Aries the Ram and is about 100 times more brilliant than the brightest star in that constellation. You’ll be able to spot its dark equatorial cloud belts and even its four major moons, which align with Jupiter’s equator. The planet’s South Equatorial Belt returned in November 2010 after it mysteriously faded away for about six months.At opposition, the planet’s disk will span 49.7" across its equator but 46.5" through the poles. This difference is because the planet is gaseous and spins rapidly, thus squashing its shape.

Fast facts about Jupiter
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. More than 1,300 Earths could fit inside it, and all the other planets together make up only about 70 percent of Jupiter’s volume.
It takes Jupiter about 12 years to orbit the Sun once, but only about 10 hours to rotate completely, making it the fastest-spinning of all the solar system’s planets.
Jupiter rotates so rapidly that its polar diameter, 83,082 miles (133,708 kilometers), is only 93 percent of its equatorial diameter, 88,846 miles (142,984 km).
Jupiter reflects 52 percent of the sunlight falling on it, more than any other planet except Venus (65 percent).

Jupiter’s four large moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto — are easily visible through small telescopes. Io takes less than two days to orbit its plamet, so its relative position visibly changes in an hour or so — less when it appears close to Jupiter.
Our line of sight lies in the plane of the jovian moons’ orbits, so we see occultations (when a moon moves behind Jupiter), eclipses (when Jupiter’s shadow falls on a moon), and transits (when a moon passes in front of Jupiter) at various times. Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the solar system’s largest satellite, with a diameter of nearly 3,300 miles (5,300 km), which is greater than that of Mercury


StarLog ^1028Y2K+11

Jupiter is at opposition tonight, opposite the Sun as seen from Earth. This an unusually close opposition of Jupiter, one of the closest in its 12-year cycle.

I counted 3 moons visible and the bands were bright and clear on the surface. There was a black shadow, mid way on the second band. This was from the Io, just completing transit.
G------------(J)---E-------C

After 11pm I put the bright planet and 4 moons in the FOV.
G-----------I-(J)----E------C

I swung the scope over to Andromeda and spotted the Galaxy, floating where I left it the last time I captured it in my FOV. Left the scope idle, did not make it back out, this crisp, cold night.

November, week one highlights:
Look for Saturn and Spica low in the dawn sky
Saturday night the crescent Moon is higher and easier to spot now after sunset. Its round side points to the lower right, toward very low Venus and Mercury.
Sunday the waxing crescent Moon is 4 days old. It's a great time to explore the Moon with binoculars or a small telescope
Monday night, Halloween evening finds the crescent Moon lowering in the southwest and bright Jupiter rising higher in the east. Perfect for setting up your telescope in the driveway and giving looks to visiting trick-or-treaters!
The First-quarter Moon is Wednesday, (exact at 12:38 p.m.). The half-lit Moon stands high in the south at sunset. As the stars come out, the Moon reveals itself to be above the dim star-pattern of Capricornus.
Look lower left of the Moon Thursday evening, by two or three fist-widths at arm's length, for Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star.
Next week end, Daylight-saving time ends (for most of North America) at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Clocks "fall back" an hour.

News from the Net:
Asteroid Lutetia May Have A Molten Core
Astrophoto: Comet Garradd by Bob Christmas
Russia Fuels Phobos-Grunt and sets Mars Launch for November 9
NASA Issues Report On Commercial Crew as SpaceX’s CEO Testifies About SpaceX’s Progress
Science Fiction No More: Humans and Robots to Explore Space Together
Observing Alert: Bright Spot On Uranus Reported
Astrophoto: Mu Cephei by Jan Inge Berentsen Anvik
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Dark Matter Science

Monday, October 24, 2011

Earthshine and a Meteor

Early morning visual astronomy in a crisp, clear sky just before sunrise. Heading out for an early breakfast , we saw the last quarter crescent moon high in the night sky with the glow of the earth shining visible on the surface. Always an awsome sight to behold. Yesterday morning a report from the wife on her early morning walk : a meteor hit the atmosphere with an obvious explosion (bright color, light) about 40 degrees in the North. After the bright colorful light, it streaked downward to the west, then disappeared. Space junk? Most likely a meteor! These are great events and seen often, but I suspect they happen a lot more than reported. Always feel special when we can catch them streaking across the sky.

It should be clear and crisp again, after this cold front blows in Thursday...
Jupiter and Mars still provide the planetary show. At opposition to the Sun next Friday the 28th, Jupiter rises just after sunset, is nicely up in the east by the time the sky is dark, and is with us all night, crossing the meridian to the south around local midnight (1 AM Daylight Time). The planet is so bright (minus-third magnitude) that it is drawing considerable public attention. About half an hour after Jupiter moves into the sky's western half, Mars, now scurrying toward the Sickle of Leo, rises, the orangy-red color of the planet making a nice contrast with blue-white Regulus.

News from the Net:
Stunning New Cassini Image: A Quartet of Moons
Astrophoto: Moon And Saturn by Jeff Swick
ROSAT’s Crash Site Determined

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Sky in October's Last Week

Last Thursday at the Group meeting, seven of us discussed the cloudy forecast for the Saturday Night Stargazing event at the TPL. By noon Friday the forecast had changed some and the Event went to GO! The clouds did move in and out all day Saturday. A note from Larry Sunday, indicated that the Event was a Big Success!

Five Planets in the Night Sky this week:

In their outward order from the sun, the visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets are easy to see without an optical aid, so they were known to our distant forebears since time immemorial.
Tonight, Mercury is 2.6 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Look for Venus and Mercury with binoculars very low in the WSW 30 minutes after sunset.
Saturn is emerging from behind the Sun. Look very Low in the east 35 minutes before sunrise. The red planet Mars lights up the wee morning hours, not far from Regulus, the constellation Leo’s brightest star. Jupiter (magnitude –2.9, in southern Aries) shines low in the east-northeast in twilight, then blazes higher in the east to southeast all evening. Look above it for the stars of Aries and below it for the head of Cetus, rather dim. Jupiter is nearly at its highest in the south by midnight. It's a big 49 arcseconds wide, as big as it will appear at its October 28th opposition.

We are expecting cloudy skies Wednesday and Thursday nights with a real Cold front due here. There is a New Moon in the sky Wednesday (exact at 3:56 p.m. EDT). This is a period for a high tide alert!

By Friday, with a clear cold night, after the front moves through, look in bright twilight for the thin waxing crescent Moon very low in the southwest. Venus is to its lower right.

By 9 or 10 p.m. this week, the Autumn Star, Fomalhaut, shines at its highest in the south (not all that high). Fomalhaut is 25 light-years away — exactly the same distance as Vega, shining brighter high in the west. So, the difference in brightness that you see is the two stars' actual difference in true luminosity. Vega looks 1 magnitude brighter than Fomalhaut (in other words, 2.5 times brighter), and so it really is.

News from the Net:
Bringing Satellites Out Of Retirement – The DARPA Phoenix Program
Astrophoto: Cassiopeia by Matt W. Childs
What Happened On the International Space Station this Week?
Astrophoto: The Prawn Nebula
Curiosity Buttoned Up for Martian Voyage in Search of Life’s Ingredients
ROSAT Satellite has Re-Entered; No Reports of Debris
Stunning Loops and Filaments on the Sun Today
Astrophoto: Close-up Image of the Moon by Andrei Juravle
Astrophoto: The Pleiades by Eduardo Marino

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mid October Skies

Now that it's mid-October, Deneb has replaced Vega as the zenith star after nightfall (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes). Accordingly, Capricornus has replaced Sagittarius as the most notable constellation low in the south. Jupiter shines brightly in the east during evening. Capella shines a little less brightly in the northeast, somewhat lower (depending on your latitude). These are the two brightest lights in the whole eastern side of the sky. Now find the midpoint between them. A little below that point are the Pleiades.

Our Last-quarter Moon is Wednesday evening (exact at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon rises around midnight local time, below Gemini and left of Procyon. Later this week, before and during dawn Friday morning, look for Mars to the left of the Moon.

Friday Evening This year’s Orionids will peak on the evening of October 21/22. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour under dark skies. The moonlit glare of the waning crescent Moon, however will probably reduce the numbers somewhat this year. The best time to view these meteors is usually in the wee hours before dawn. That time holds true no matter what time zone you’re in.

Next Saturday, the first Stargazing Event will be held up at the TPL. The Group will have several folks at the event with Scopes set up with great items in the FOV. Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, shines low in the south-southeast after dusk next Saturday. It's due south later in the evening. The western (right-hand) side of the Great Square of Pegasus, very high in the sky, points down nearly to Fomalhaut.

The ROSAT X-ray observatory, launched in 1990 by NASA and managed for years by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), will return to Earth within soon. The massive ROSAT X-ray space telescope continues to descend toward Earth. Latest estimates place the re-entry around noon Universal Time on Oct. 23rd. Uncertainties exceed 10 hours, which makes it impossible to say exactly where ROSAT will re-enter. Many sky watchers are seeing ROSAT in the night sky shining about as brightly as a 1st magnitude star. Check Spaceweather's Satellite Tracker for local flyby times. (There's an app for that, too.)According to a DLR study, as many as 30 individual pieces could survive the fires of re-entry. The largest single fragment would likely be the telescope's mirror, which is very heat resistant and may weigh as much as 1.7 tons.

More News from the Net:
A Tale of Three Moons: Is There Life in the Outer Solar System?
Astrophoto: Flame Nebula and Horsehead Nebula by Fabricio Siqueira
Dawn Discovers Surprise 2nd Giant South Pole Impact Basin at Strikingly Dichotomous Vesta
Coming in 2012: Our Last Transit of Venus
Wake Up! The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks On October 20…
Digging Deeper For Dark Matter
NASA to Test New Atomic Clock
All-Sky Camera Captures Mysterious Flashes

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sky-Watching in the Second week of October

The forecast is not the best until mid week when we get a partly cloudy sky in the evening. We did have some “good rain” here over the past few days! The Night Sky is expected to clear by the weekend for the Alignment and first light at the TPL Dome Telescope.

Our Full Moon is Tuesday evening, (exact at 10:06 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon is in dim Pisces, below the Great Square of Pegasus. There's a full Moon tonight and according to folklore it has a special name--the Hunter's Moon. It gets its name from Native American hunters who tracked and killed their prey by autumn moonlight, stockpiling food for the winter ahead. This year's Hunter's Moon is beautifully close to the planet Jupiter. [sky maps: Oct. 11, 12, 13]

Try and catch bright Jupiter in my FOV Wednesday night and Thursday night, which is nearing its opposition, shines close to the Moon, which is just past its own opposition (full Moon).

At the end of the week, Friday, Binoculars show the Pleiades left of the waning Moon this evening. Saturday night, the moon will be above the Seven Sisters. Next Saturday, a few folks from the Group plan to place the 11” scope in the Dome at the TPL and align the Telescope for first light there.

News from the Net:
Amazing New View of the Mt. Everest of Vesta
Video: A Rover’s 3-Year Drive Across Mars
A Meteorite Visits the Comettes
Suitable For Framing: Latest Eye Candy from Cassini
Welcome To The Heart Of The Milky Way…
Did The Draconids Perform?
Astrophoto: The Distant Worlds of Uranus and Neptune by Rolf Wahl Olsen

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Night Skies

This October started with a Star Party at the TPL new site, last Saturday night. Larry and a few others from the Group set up their scopes in the parking lot ( I did not make it). The Dome has been moved, but not completely set up with a scope yet. The Pier for the scope has to set up a week first. Several folks from the Library were there and viewed the sights from the eyepiece at the scopes. Larry mentioned that there was some city lights that interfered a bit in East and there was moonlight from an early crescent moon!

The winds of change from the NE have brought us cooler nights...finally! By the end of the week, a Pacific front will bring back the clouds! Bad news for the IOMN Event set up at the NB Library at the end of the week, next Saturday! Also we wll miss the meteor shower set to pass over us next weekend. This week I hope to catch Jupiter, and try and view that Comet again in Hercules this week.

It is the time of year, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, try looking northeast this evening for two prominent constellations, Cassiopeia and Perseus. The easier to see will be Cassiopeia, which has a distinctive M or W shape, depending on what time of night you see it. This constellation represents a Queen in ancient mythology. Cassiopeia is easy to identify and so it is one of the most famous constellations in the sky. You’ll see it in the northeast this evening, and higher up in the evening sky in late fall and winter. Perseus (the Hero) follows Cassiopeia across the night sky. As night passes, you’ll see them both ascending in the northeast — then arcing high in the north — then descending in the northwest — with Perseus following Cassiopeia all the while.

Our First-quarter Moon is Monday(exact at 11:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon hangs above the Sagittarius Teapot after dark. I am already seeing moon beams across the drive!

Look a little above or upper right of the Moon Wednesday evening for Alpha and Beta Capricorni. Binoculars easily reveal Alpha as a wide, yellow double star. Beta (nearer to the Moon) is also a double, but its closer, unequal components are harder to resolve.

The weekend forecast has Rain! Too many clouds will hide the stars above my backyard. But here is what I will miss should the clouds remain over my portal:

Look high in the east Friday evening, if it is not cloudy, far left of the Moon, for the Great Square of Pegasus. It's balancing on one corner. Your fist at arm's length probably just fits inside it.

Forecasters say Earth is heading for a stream of dust from Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. A close encounter with the comet's fragile debris could spark a meteor outburst over parts of our planet on October 8th. [full story] [meteor radar] The Draconid (Giacobinid) meteor shower may put on an intense burst of activity during good observing hours for Europe or possibly elsewhere. Various predictions put one or more outbursts between about 17:00 and 20:30 Universal Time (GMT). The shower's radiant is near the head of Draco, but the meteors themselves can flash into view anywhere in the sky. Unfortunately, the light of the waxing gibbous Moon will obscure all but the brightest of them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Star Hop East to SW

Friday night I moved the scope out and pointed it east to put the Andromeda Galaxy in my FOV. As summer turns to fall, the Sagittarius Teapot moved west of due south right after dark and was tipping, as if pouring away the last nights of summer. Found a cup full of clusters. Pulled a T.U.B.A. chart and scanned the Sagittarius area with binoculars and then the scope before this constellation fell behind the trees in the SW. That tumbling satellite passed over our sky but did not burn into our part of the world. It seems that another High Pressure is once again bringing back some warmer temperatures (100+) into next week, with a chance of rain! Really?. So, where’s the cooler fall temperatures? Still in Canada?

A few events to observe in this first week of fall: Sunday night Uranus at opposition: opposite the Sun in the sky. It's in Pisces shining dimly at magnitude 5.7. Use S&T’s printable finder chart, or see the September Sky & Telescope, page 53. If you are up Monday night, in a small telescope, Jupiter's moon Io will disappear into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow around 12:04 a.m. Tuesday morning Eastern Daylight Time. Io will be barely off the planet's western limb. Our New Moon is Tuesday morning (exact at 7:09 a.m. EDT). At the end of the week, once Mars is up in the early-morning hours Saturday morning, Binoculars or a telescope will show that it's passing through the Beehive Star Cluster, M44 in Cancer. Larry wants to try to set up another Stargazing event for the Group at the TPL site this Saturday. So far the forecast is partly clear skies.

News from the Net:
Opportunity spotted Exploring vast Endeavour Crater from Mars Orbit
Massive Sunspot 1302
UARS Update: Satellite Fell in Pacific Ocean

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall Equinox this Week

This weekend will be full of clouds and a chance of rain. We haven’t seen that forecast in a while. This system should hang around through next week, when next Friday morning, The September equinox occurs at 5:05 a.m. EDT, that’s when the Sun crosses the equator heading south for the season… Fall begins. Looking forward to some cool, clear nights to observe. The Group gathered Thursday night for our monthly Astronomy discussion. Six of us reviewed the progress at the TPL dome site and when a Stargazing event might be set up. The event for Saturday has been cancelled due to CLOUDS. This was the first time friend Larry missed a meeting for many, many years. He will be happy to hear about the progress at the dome site. We heard about and discussed the fireball across the western sky the other night. Some of the group observed and followed the Supernova in M101 this past week. I have been putting Jupiter, Mars and the moon in my FOV before the clouds started rolling in the past week. We have been enjoying the moon and Jupiter in the early morning hours, when the clouds break. Jupiter was to the right of the waning gibbous Moon shortly after dark Friday. Also observing the Pleiades in binoculars. Finding the Seven Sisters from my backyard is easy. In September, this star cluster is up in the east at late evening, or high in the south before dawn. Late tonight, or tomorrow before dawn, the moon can guide your eye to the Pleiades.

Our Last-quarter Moon is Tuesday (exact at 9:39 a.m. EDT). The Moon rises around midnight daylight saving time, in the feet of Gemini left of Orion.

Before dawn next Friday, look east and you can spot Mars upper left of the waning Moon.

News from the Net:
Astrophoto: Dumbbell Nebula by Andrei Juravle
Cassini’s Majestic Saturn Moon Quintet
Dramatic Videos of Station Undocking, Gorgeous Earth Descent and Soyuz Touchdown by Russian American Trio
Expedition 28 Soyuz Crew Lands Safely in Kazakhstan
Astrophoto: Moon Rushed by David DeHetre
Astrophoto: Moon-Venus Conjunction by Preshanth Jagannathan
Construction Begins on the 1st Space-Bound Orion Crew Module
Kepler Mission Discovers “Tatooine-like” Planet
Reports of a Bright Meteor over Southwestern US
A current ISS video that captures the Earth as it travels in orbit

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Harvest Moon Lights up the Night Sky

There is lots of smoke and dust in the air from all those fires in surrounding counties. Another week of triple digit day time highs forecast! Our Full Harvest Moon is Sunday night (exact at 5:27 a.m. Monday morning EDT). Look for the Harvest Moon in the ESE at dusk. The Harvest Moon is the Full Moon closest to the first day of fall. Watch for the Harvest Moon effect. The nearly full Moon rises about a half hour later each evening rather than an hour later each night as is the case for other times of the year. Lots of moonlight to dim the dark areas of the sky! The Great Square of Pegasus is off to the Moon's left, early Sunday evening. The Galaxy M31 follows, in tow. Looks great even in moonlight! I’ve been scanning the night sky with the moon this past week. Getting ready for a Moon event October 8, if the local Library has the event? The Moon has always been a great target to fill my FOV!

Friday night lights have begun at area High Schools! This week, the season for Tail Gating your favorite NFL teams starts on Sunday. Sky-Watching Events for the week start after dark and continue to day break. A third of the way down from Vega to Arcturus is the Keystone of Hercules and M13. Orion points the way to the Planet Jupiter in the morning darkness and is below the waning gibbous Moon next Thursday evening! Jupiter and Mars are easy to find early. Before dawn Thursday morning, Mars lies on a straight line with Castor and Pollux, to their lower right. Before dawn the air is cooler and the sky seems a bit clearer. Mercury is still too low for me to view in the east before sunrise. Too many trees in my Horizion. Two Asteroids are in view now. Ceres, the largest asteroid, is at opposition this week: magnitude 7.6 and located at the Cetus-Aquarius border. Vesta, the brightest asteroid is well past opposition, magnitude 6.6 in Capricornus.

News from the Net:
Astrophoto: Great Globular Cluster in Hercules by Robert Collins
Astronomy Without A Telescope – New Physics?
NASA launches Twin Lunar Probes to Unravel Moons Core
Astrophoto: Moonrise by Owen Llewellyn

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Search for a Comet and a Super Nova

These first September nights are still warm, but I welcome this month! This long Diablo Summer continues with hot days in triple digit temps. Theory is La Niña is the culprit for our drought! The clouds are making a comeback with TS Lee rolling around the gulf near Louisiana. Soon, they say our night time temperatures will dip into the cool 60s! Fall is just around the corner of that barbed wire fence!

Here, it was clear so I used my Binoculars to scan the area near the coathanger for Garradd after dark Friday night. I pulled a chart off T.U.B.A. but I could not locate it based on the newsletter info. Or maybe it was there and my tired old eye just did not see it! In this photo you can hardly make it out! But it was there! The fuzzy blob could not be seen by the hanger with my binoculars. Next time I will use a Scope! For now Comet Garradd is a telescopic object. It is, however, approaching the sun and brightening. Recent projections place it at peak magnitude 6, on the threshold of naked-eye visibility, in February 2012. Because Comet Garradd is a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, it could behave in unexpected ways, perhaps exceeding those expectations. Stay tuned-

Ok Skywatchers, grab your binoculars and telescopes, and head for some clear dark skies. A new supernova has been discovered near the Big Dipper. At a mere 21 million light-years away from Earth, a relatively small distance by astronomical standards, the supernova is appearing so bright that Earthlings may be able to see it with a good pair of binoculars over the next few weeks. Watch this video! In this video, Berkeley Lab’s Peter Nugent explains how to find the event with a small telescope or pair of binoculars.

The best time will be in the first few hours after sunset. According to astronomers, this is the closest and brightest supernova of this type detected in the last 30 years and will be closely studied for years to come.

A normal Type Ia supernova at M101's distance, 23 million light-years, should reach magnitude 10.0 at its peak, assuming none of its light is lost to interstellar absorption in M101 itself. It's well within visual reach in a 4-inch scope. You'll be using the supernova to find the galaxy, not the other way around! Moonlight will increasingly return to the evening sky starting around September 3rd or 4th.

A quiet week to observe Events :
With Andromeda rising, M31 is on my list in the FOV. Jupiter and Orion before dawn. The Moon is by the Scorpions head Saturday night. Before dawn, Mars is gliding near Pollux and Castor. At the end of the week, Mercury can bee seen near Regulus in Leo, before dawn. The First-quarter Moon is Sunday afternoon (exact at 1:39 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). Look for the reddish star Antares located in Scorpius. I will need a better horizon to catch that Super Nova in M101! Too many trees to the North!

News from the Net:
How to See a Supernova From Your Backyard This Weekend
Astrophoto: Diamond Ring by Narayan Mukkavilli
NASA Robot arrives at ‘New’ Landing Site holding Clues to Ancient Water Flow on Mars
September is Moon Month!
Weekend Observing Alert: Moon Occults Delta Scorpii
Astrophoto: Milky Way by Barry Armstead
James Webb Space Telescope Nearing Completion
The Genesis of Galaxy Eris…

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August closes with Andromeda Rising

The Heat is still hard to handle in the evening @ ten pm (90°). August is ending with way too many 100+ days. Scanning the sky this past week has been warm, to say the least. It has been a long, HOT Summer! September should bring a change in our weather pattern!? Young astronomers are back in School and time review the eight Planets in our solar system. I say eight, because Pluto did not make the cut five years ago. A current Target TV commercial reminds us of that fact. ”The Sad little planet that was” (Great Back to School clip).

Planets in the Night Sky this Week:
Mercury is an easy target this week, look in Leo before dawn. Mars, in the constellation Gemini, glides near the Twins. Jupiter is still bright for those who are willing to start observing the Planet before midnight. In September find the giant planet in the constellation Aries/Cetus. Uranus, at magnitude 5.7, can be viewed with binoculars, anchored in the constellation Pisces.

The Great Square of Pegasus is in the east. Andromeda soon follows the flying horse to be in a good position to observe M31 and the double star Almach. Cassiopeia is in the northeast as the Big Dipper goes down in the northwest. This area is rich in stars, locate the star cluster NGC 457, called ET. A great find in a scope's FOV. Capella, one of the brightest stars in the sky, shines in the northeast. Friday night find the Coathanger and look for that Comet again. The Moon will brighten for the weekend and be in first quarter Sunday. We are looking forward to some cooler nights in September!

News from the Net:
Deadly and Destructive Path of Hurricane Irene seen in NASA Videos and Images
Astrophoto: The Moon by Denis Vida
International Space Station Could be De-Crewed by November
Comet Garradd C/2009 P1 Crossing M71 Globular Cluster in Sagitta Video
Astrophoto: Solar Prominence and Sunspot 1271 by John Chumack
Astrophoto: Jupiter with 3 Moons by Jamie Ball

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Hunter and Two Planets

StarLog110824-B
Early morning Stargazing @ 5:30 AM in a Clear sky, seeing was good, temperature 80°! No Scope, just my good eye and a good pair of binoculars. Mars rising in the East at 2 Am was observed at my tree top level, its Magnitude 1.4 moving at the feet of Gemini. The crescent moon was anchored just west of the Red Planet and Jupiter was high in the south. If you had the great gas planet in your FOV…the smaller objects floating near by were these Moons of Jupiter:
E------------- (J) --------I---G-------C

That great hunter, Orion, was well up over my tree-line and the bright nebula M42 was visible below the three stars in the belt. Orange Betelgeuse and blue Rigel were bright and clear.

DAY 45 WITH 100+ TEMPS! THE HEAT WAVE CONTINUES WITH NO RAIN.
THAT SUBTROPICAL RIDGE CURRENTLY CENTERED OVER NORTHWESTERN TEXAS WILL CONTINUE TO BE THE DOMINANT FEATURE FOR SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS.

News from the Net:
Breaking: “Emergency Situation” as Russian Progress Re-Supply Ship Fails
Managers Still Assessing How Progress Crash Will Affect ISS Operations
WISE Discovers Some Really “Cool” Stars!
Astrophoto: Noctilucent Clouds by James Adams
Looking Into a Pair of Cosmic Eyes
Opportunity Arrives at Huge Martian Crater with Superb Science and Scenic Outlook
How Did Jupiter Shape Our Solar System?
Stunning New Timelapse: Tempest Milky Way
Human Mission to an Asteroid: Why Should NASA Go?
Nifty Video: Clouds in Motion on Mars

Friday, August 19, 2011

Catch a Comet in the FOV

After 40 days of this 100+ heat this summer, our sun is leaving us with a "scorched earth" memory. Today was number 40, the HEAT just keeps coming! The days are getting oppressive and nights are uncomforable. But there may be some relief moving into the Caribbean, late next week, that may bring us some rain!

At our Group meeting last night, most folks said they have not stayed out long in the evening observing, just too warm! We heard from the IOMN folks about setting up an moon observing event through the Library. The NB Library has a kids program set up and they may pursue this event. If so, we might set up a few scopes at a location with the NB Library in October.

I starting looking for Comet Garradd this past week. There was photo on the APOD when it was near M15.This 'cotton ball' target will pass near M71 in a week as it moves across our sky. Larry mentioned that it will me near the "Coathanger" September 2. It is due to brighten while in the neighborhood. You can go to this Chart, and find where the comet is located(in August) on a given night. Search with binoculars and when you find the position, it should pop out as a fuzzy smudge in your FOV!

Folks up North got to see a streak of Fire in the sky. From Spaceweather.com: "The deep atmospheric penetration of this fireball combined with its deceleration and doppler radar echo strongly suggests a fall somewhere in the countryside east of Clevelend," continues Cooke. Pushpins in this Google map show some possible fall locations based on different assumptions about the meteorite's speed and mass. There could be debris anywhere in the countryside around the Ohio towns of Warren, Kinsman, and Hermitage. Readers who find a candidate meteorite are encouraged to contact the Meteoroid Environment Office for further instructions.

We should have some clear, dark nights in the coming week…

Saturday early, the Moon is between Jupiter and Pleiades midnight until dawn.

Sunday, Last-quarter Moon (exact at 5:54 p.m. EDT). Look for the Pleiades above the moon after midnight.

Monday, Neptune, in Capricornus, is at opposition tonight.

Tuesday, Here it is still only August, with summer only 2/3 of the way through — but already the Great Square of Pegasus is up in the east after dark, balancing low on one corner.

Wednesday, As dawn begins to brighten on Thursday morning the 25th, look for Mars to the left of the thin crescent Moon (for North America), as shown here.

Thursday, Did you know that two tiny planetary nebulae lurk right near the big, familiar Wild Duck star cluster, M11 in Scutum? One of them can be spotted in many amateur telescopes, especially with an O III filter. The other is a stiffer challenge. See Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders column, chart, and photo in the August Sky & Telescope, page 58.

Friday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot (currently pale orange) should be crossing the planet's central meridian around 3:09 a.m. Saturday morning EDT. For all Red Spot transits in August, as well as all Jupiter satellite events, see "Action at Jupiter" in the August Sky & Telescope, page 54.

Saturday night, Comet Garradd will be near M71 in Sagitta! The two brightest stars of summer are icy white Vega, now high overhead at dusk (if you live in the mid-northern latitudes), and Arcturus, pale yellow-orange, shining lower in the west. The shadow of Ganymede, Jupiter's biggest moon, crosses Jupiter's face from 1:36 to 3:41 a.m. Sunday morning Eastern Daylight Time.

News from the Net:
Astrophoto: The Milky Way and Venus over Andes
First JWST Instrument Passes Tests
GRAIL Lunar Twins Mated to Delta Rocket at Launch Pad
Rewriting Lunar History
Video: Watch a Solar Storm Slam into Earth
Enhanced Technique for Tracking Solar Storms All the Way From Sun to Earth

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Darker Skies, next week…

Not-so-transparent skies, clouds and moonlight have slowed my viewing a lot this past week. The almost full Moon brightens the night sky making it difficult to see the Perseid meteor shower. Last night I stepped out into the warm evening just after dark. The big moon was shrouded by clouds, still behind the tree line. Clouds covered the sky but there were breaks between to allow a few stars to shine. At 9pm the ISS passed over my sky like a a bright star gliding across my cloud covered sky. The spaceship moved right to left a fist above my tree line then went dim in the NE. Always a great sight to behold! With moon rising higher and brighter, I did not stay up for the meteor shower. Breaks in the clouds and hopefully a break in the triple digit heat will bring us a few Clear Skies in week three of this long HOT summer month! Planets and Asteroids will highlight the coming week’s FOV.

Whenever you see Vega passing the zenith, you know the Sagittarius Teapot and the rich Sagittarius Milky Way are at their highest in the south — full of deep-sky objects awaiting view in binoculars or a telescope.

Tuesday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross Jupiter's central meridian around 4:54 a.m.
Wednesday morning Eastern Daylight Time. For all the Red Spot transits in August, as well as all Jupiter satellite events, see "Action at Jupiter" in the August Sky & Telescope, page 54.

Wednesday, Before dawn Thursday and Friday mornings, Mars in the eastern sky appears 1½° south (lower right) of the star Epsilon Geminorum. Mars is magnitude 1.4; Epsilon Gem is magnitude 3.0. Binoculars help as dawn brightens.

Thursday, One of the richest patches of the Milky Way is the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud, also known as Messier 24. Charles Messier probably made M24 a Messier object because it stands out quite sharply. That's because, unbeknownst to him, it's bounded on all sides by opaque dark nebulae. "M24 is like a patch of blue sky seen through a hole in the clouds," writes Gary Seronik in the August Sky & Telescope; see page 45 for his Binocular Highlight article and chart for M24 and its surroundings.

Friday, Watch bright Jupiter rise below the waning gibbous Moon late tonight, as shown here. They're up in the east by about 11 or midnight daylight saving time, depending on where you live in your time zone.

Saturday, Vesta, the brightest asteroid — and now host to NASA's Dawn spacecraft — is up in fine view by mid- to late evening, shining in Capricornus at magnitude 5.9. It's an easy find in binoculars. Use the finder chart in the August Sky & Telescope, page 53, or our Vesta and Ceres finder charts online. Ceres, a future destination for Dawn (it'll get there in February 2015), lurks two constellations farther to the east in Cetus. It's currently magnitude 8.0.

Speaking of Darker Skies...they broke ground this month to build a new Buc-ees seveal miles to the east of my location. This massive 13 acre travel center may give off a glow that will surely have an effect on my night sky....Progress and not-so-dark skies, the city keeps growing with more light pollution!!

SciFi at the Movies this month: Cowboys and Aliens
One review from Astronaut Leroy Chiao:
What is really cool is the alien technology. The vehicles use their tentacle-like "legs" to form and quickly change the shape of the flying surfaces and shift the center of gravity, allowing amazing agility and maneuverability. The vehicles also use their "legs" to "curl up" in an extreme flare, in order to stop on a dime and do vertical landings and takeoffs.
The alien weaponry is also impressive.


News from the Net:
Enjoy the Perseid Meteor Shower Even if it’s Cloudy
Pardon Me, But Your Black Hole Is Leaking…
GRAIL Twins ready for NASA Science Expedition to the Moon: Photo Gallery
Test Flight of DARPA’s Hypersonic Plane Ends in Crash
Red-Burning Galaxies… Let’s Get The Party Started!
Just for You: A Necklace from Hubble
How To Enjoy The 2011 Perseid Meteor Shower
Astronomers Discover a Dark Alien World

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shooting Stars in Moonlight

The Perseid Meteor Shower will peak this weekend, even with lots of Moon light! A full Moon on August 13 will not help those who have a serious count in mind. However, we should be able to see a few of these bright meteors streak across the sky in the early morning hours after midnight this week. This shower is part of Comet Swift-Tuttle and is named for the radiant point they appear to come from in the Constellation Perseus.

Perseid Meteor Shower Facts:
They enter Earth's atmosphere at 133,200 MPH, visible at 60 miles up at 3,000 degress F
The Comet, Swift-Tuttle is the largest comet to make repeated passes, a nucleus of 6 miles across.

The forecast calls for Clear and Partly Clear Nights, so if the clouds break in the early hours Friday, The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks late tonight, but the light of the practically full Moon fills the sky all night and will hide all but the brightest meteors. (You can look forward to next year, when the Moon will be just a waning crescent.)

Saturday, the Full Moon (exact at 2:57 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon is between dim Aquarius and Capricornus.

News from the Net:
HARPS Tunes In On “Noisy” Planets
SpaceX: Mars Is Our Future
What Does the Moon Look Like from Space?
SDO’s Guide to Solar Flares
Sun Erupts with Largest Solar Flare of the Cycle
Ring System Around Pluto?
Opportunity Snaps Gorgeous Vistas nearing the Foothills of Giant Endeavour Crater