Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stargazing in the first week - February

So far this year, I’ve been observing between the clouds this month… Jupiter, the moon, Orion, Venus and Saturn. The first week of February is forecast to be Cloudy most nights, Very Cold and Frosty…. And a chance of Snow?!! If the clouds break, fly with Pegasus and Star-hop to Andromeda Galaxy. Becky Ramotowski: Stargazers get a glimpse of Andromeda Galaxy

With the coming of February, as early as 9 or 10 p.m. the Big Dipper climbs to the same height in the northeast as Cassiopeia has descended in the northwest. And look midway between them for Polaris, the North Star. Here is another chance to put the Double Cluster in the FOV.

Tonight, Orion stands high in the southeast after dinnertime this week, with his diagonal belt pointing down toward brilliant Sirius.

Monday, About 15 minutes before your local sunrise time Tuesday morning, use binoculars to scan just above the southeast horizon, far lower left of Venus, for the very thin crescent Moon with Mercury below it.

Wednesday, Bright Capella passes overhead between 7 and 9 p.m., depending on how far east or west you live in your time zone. How close Capella passes to your zenith depends on how far north or south you live. It goes exactly through your zenith if you're at latitude 46° north (Seattle; Montreal; central France).
New Moon (exact at 9:31 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).
Jupiter's Great Red Spot transits around 8:33 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

News from the Net:
First Ever Whole Sun View .. Coming Soon from STEREO
Challenger Astronauts Memorialized on the Moon
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Gravity Probe B
A Sense of Planetary Scale
Ken Kremer on Today’s APOD

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Starry nights in week Four, January

The recent cold front has brought us clear skies tonight and tomorrow night. Moon is up late, so a few hours of dark skies until after midnight. Saturn is in the FOV. Early morning viewing of Saturn and the Moon this week. Dress warm....

Tonight Uranus is 3 degrees to the west of Jupiter. Look for Uranus with binoculars. Jupiter and Uranus are in the southwest sky an hour after sunset.

Wednesday, Left of Jupiter after dinnertime is the Great Square of Pegasus. It's larger than your fist at arm's length and balanced on one corner. The Great Square lies midway along the long string of stars from Andromeda's foot to Pegasus's nose. This ragged line now runs nearly from the zenith down to the west horizon, respectively. Last-quarter Moon (exact at 7:57 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).

Thursday, The farthest-north part of the ecliptic crosses the midline of the Milky Way near the feet of Gemini, the top of Orion's Club, and the horns of Taurusa beautiful rich field for binocular cruising.

Friday, Is your sky dark enough for you to see the Great Andromeda Galaxy? It's just off the knee of the Andromeda stick figure. The brighter, sharper bottom-point of the Cassiopeia "W" points to it. During dawn Saturday morning, the waning crescent Moon has bright Venus to its left.

News from the Net:
Astrophoto: Deep, Deep Look at NGC 891
7 Years of Opportunity on Mars and a Science Bonanza
Voyager 2 at Uranus, 25 Years Ago Today
The Real News about Ophiuchus: There’s a Runaway Star Plowing Through It

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Moon and Frosty Nights

According to folklore, last Wednesday night’s full Moon is the "Wolf Moon," named long ago by Native Americans after the singing packs of wolves they heard during the winter month of January. Tuesday night I was in the pasture, still working on the Tractor, when the almost Full Moon lit up the night sky. We left around seven, about the time when Orion was visible over the southeastern sky. Will Betelgeuse super nova in 2012? I'll be watching!

The clouds keep moving in/out, now with a bright moon. I am able to pick out stars and constellations between the Clouds. Some Mornings are a loss with fog and a blanket of clouds. We observed the “Dragons Breath” early last Wednesday morning. Forecast calls for some Clear skies, a few nights, with colder temperatures. The weekend calls for a few cloudy nights and rain? Last Thursday night our Group met and six of us discussed the sky plus what we observed and missed the past couple of months, since we did not meet in December. Bob had photos of what he observed from his back yard Observatory. Several nebulas….great shots! Bob is not a “Visual Astronomer”, most of his observing is from a computer screen!

Tonight, if the clouds break, Saturn's rings are tilted 10.3 degrees from edgewise. This is a temporary maximum. The rings will close to 7.3 degrees by June before opening again. By the end of the year, the rings will be opened to almost 15 degrees. Look for Saturn in the morning sky. At dawn Saturn is high in the SSW. Should be clear Tuesday night and very cold! Moon light is still a problem, the first part of this week.

News from the Net:
Stardust NExT Targets Valentines Day Encounter with Comet Tempel 1
It’s Alive! NanoSail-D Suddenly and Spontaneously Comes Back to Life
Hidden Treasure Within the Orion Nebula
Sideways Glance for LRO Provides Spectacular View of Aitken Crater
More Asteroids Could Have Made Life’s Ingredients
NASA’s Top Movie Lists That Never Were

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Star Tracking the Third Week in January

It seems that slow moving weather system(left over an inch of rain) is hanging around. Clouds are still in the forecast. We might get a few nights with clear skies, next week! I hope to be tracking these Stars, if the clouds break!

Monday, Orion is right of the Moon in early evening, lower right of the Moon later. Look for a faint, fuzzy spot near Sirius…it’s open cluster M41. Saturn is 8 degrees northwest of the star Spica. Look for Saturn and Spica in the SSW an hour before sunrise. Saturn and Spica will remain 8 degrees apart for the rest of the month.

Tuesday, Look left of the bright Moon this evening for Pollux and Castor, and lower right of the Moon for Procyon. Uranus is 2 degrees away from Jupiter. Look for Uranus using binoculars. Uranus and Jupiter are in the southwest an hour after sunset.

Wednesday, Full Moon (exact at 4:21 p.m. EST). Above the Moon are Pollux and Castor. Right of the Moon shines Procyon. The full Moon of January always shines near these stars.

Friday, After the Moon rises in mid-evening, look upper left of it for Regulus and, extending farther upper left from there, the Sickle pattern in Leo.

News from the Net:
Deep Space Radar Unveils Rotating Asteroid 2010 JL33
The Little Cepheid that Stopped
NASA announces launch dates, backup commander
New Light On Galactic Pair – M81 and M82
Stunning New Images From Cassini’s Close Flyby of Rhea
Moon’s Water Came From Comets, Study Says
NASA – The Frontier Is Everywhere (Videos): Readings from Carl Sagan
Tiny Stars with a Big Flares

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Astronomy and The 13th Sign

There has been much written and posted on line this week about the Zodiac, Astronomy and astrology! The Minneapolis newspaper article on this topic went super nova! Most Astronomy groups have discussed this issue, like our group did, several times in past meetings. Folks who were born after 1900 should know where the Sun rose and set at birth. Some people are miffed and confused about their astrological "Sign" . This is 2011, the Twenty First Century! You'd think "astrologers" would have learned about 'Precession' !? But a lot believe and live by what is written in the daily horoscope column. Apparently the astrology soothsayers continue using the ancient Zodiac calculations. Astronomers have known about Ophiuchus for some time! Currently, the sun moves through this constellation for 18 days at the end of November to December 17.
So, it is a matter of choice, what sign you use!
If you read and believe in the daily horoscopes.... enough said!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I miss the Stars this week

This week the sky is cloudy and a chance for cold nights. That artic air finally arrived and the weekend was cold and damp. Then it got frosty Tuesday night with temperatures in the upper twenties and partly cloudy skies. The forecast is Cloudy all week, so observing the night sky will be difficult, unless the Clouds break! Sunday and Monday we missed the moon and Jupiter, a close pair in the SW evening sky. Tuesday evening, I did see the pair for an few minutes before the clouds engulfed them in the SW sky! The First-quarter Moon is today (exact at 6:31 a.m. EST on this date).

Tonight, The moon will be behind the clouds, near the little constellation Aries.

Friday, if the clouds break, Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:44 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The Moon is near the Pleiades tonight.

Saturday evening, if the clouds break, the gibbous Moon shines between Aldebaran and the Pleiades, high above Orion in early evening. Look below Orion for Sirius.

With all the cloudy skies above, Cyberspace is the place to go! Always lots of clear skies, photos and information on the Net! These photos are winners in the ESO Contest.

More News from the Net:
Rep. Giffords, Wife of NASA Astronaut, Shot
SA Redoubling Efforts to Contact Spirit
Kepler Discovers Its Smallest and First Rocky Planet
Fermi Telescope Catches Thunderstorms Hurling Antimatter into Space
Hubble Eyes Hanny’s Voorwerp
35 Days to STARDUST-NeXT Valentines Day Flyby of Comet Temple 1
Hide And Go Seek…. Supermassive Black Hole Peeks From Behind The Skirt Of A Dwarf Galaxy
Planck Unveils the Wonders of the Universe
SOFIA Opens New Window on Star Formation in Orion
Discovery gets new launch date and good bill of health
The Biggest Astrophoto… Ever!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Single Star

The Stars were dim and behind broken clouds Wednesday night. I saw one star off to the NE, Capella? Thursday was……partly cloudy, then Friday morning it cleared with high clouds but Venus was in view. There is Artic air on the way but the clouds may hang around through Monday? Some frosty days and nights ahead! In the coming week, Orion is still the center in my FOV and Jupiter is getting harder to chase as this wandering star moves along the western edge of my tree line. The Moon is growing to first quarter on Wednesday the 12th.

Missed this last Tuesday morning, Clouds! According to counts from around the world, the Quadrantid meteor shower peaked during the early hours of Jan. 4th with nearly 100 shooting stars per hour. The source of the Quadrantids is shattered comet 2003 EH1. Observers say most Quadrantids were faint, but the shower was spiced by occasional fireballs. 2011 Quadrantid Meteor Gallery

Tonight, if the clouds break, in the Binoculars FOV, find that far off Planet Neptune as it passes 5° North of the Moon.... Friday evening-7PM.

Sunday night, if the clouds break, put the crater Theophilus in a scope’s FOV. Find it near the equator on the moon. Look for the craters Hercules and Atlas [North]. The Crater Posidonious will dominate the view along the terminator on this 5 day moon. Jupiter and Moon are close. Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 8:34 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A little later, Jupiter's satellites Callisto and Europa are both in front of Jupiter's face (and thus hard to see, if not invisible) from 9:49 to 10:13 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Wednesday, First-quarter Moon (exact at 6:31 a.m. EST on this date). Look above the Moon this evening for the little constellation Aries.

Thursday, Aries is now to the right of the Moon.

News from the Net:
One more Delay in the Discovery Launch, problems with the External Tank. The next shuttle launch window opens Feb. 27, but NASA is assessing whether it might be possible to move that up a few days.
Crab Nebula Flares
Mars Express Set for Phobos Flyby
Shuttle Discovery Launch Date Pushed Back Again
Astrophoto: The Seagull Nebula
Previously Unseen Super-Hot Plasma Jets Heat the Sun’s Corona
“Aflockalypse” — Mass Animal Deaths Now Mapped on Google
Apollo Data Retooled to Provide Precise Readings on Moon’s Core
Map of Future Lunar Landing Sites

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stars in Week One

Midweek, week one, 1-11:

May see some Stars shine tonight. Forecast is clear...but high clouds. The stars were behind the clouds the past few days. The clouds finally parted today. Warmer with blue sky. It was damp for two days, but did not rain here. Hope to have Orion in my FOV again. More great photos on line from 2010. Mars is just a small red dot in the sky(into the sun) now, but I have followed those little rovers for the past seven years. Story line this week: Red Rover, and “Santa Maria”, Seven years on Mars.

Tonight should be clear, by 8 p.m. the Winter Triangle is well up in the east-southeast. It consists of Betelgeuse in Orion's leftmost corner, bright Sirius far below, and Procyon to the left of these two. It's altogether nicer than the more famous Summer Triangle — brighter, more colorful, and equilateral! A very thin young crescent Moon is low in the WSW after sunset.

Thursday, The two inner planets, Venus and Mercury, continue shining in the southeast at dawn almost unchanged since the beginning of the week, as shown at right for tomorrow morning. But notice that Antares and the rest of the starry background have slid a little higher toward Venus: the season marches on.

News from the Net:
The Mystery of John Glenn’s Fireflies Returns
Star Birth and Death in the Andromeda Galaxy
Dive Into the Infrared Lagoon (Nebula)!
Galactic Mergers Fail to Feed Black Holes
Spectacular Photos from the Jan. 4 Partial Solar Eclipse
Opportunity Photographed from Mars Orbit at Crater Precipice
SDO Provides Constant, Unprecedented Views of Sun’s Inner Corona
Hubble Takes a Spectacular Look Inside the Eagle Nebula
Seven years on Mars: downlaobable poster

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starry Nights, Dark Skies

Happy New Year! 1-1-11

The weekend starts out with clear skies. The rest of the first week inY2K+11 forecast = Cloudy! I plan to bring in the New Year observing Orion, with cold nights and frosty mornings under clear, dark skies. Last night was Clear with the Pleaides and Orion in the FOV. Another blast of North air is on its way down from Canada! Fire in the fireplace Saturday night! I found the last bits of the moon and Venus in a pre dawn sky. They say, "this coming week is the coldest of the year on average". [Not down here!] But look low in the east-northeast after 9 or 9:30 p.m. and there you'll see Regulus and the Sickle of Leo already on the rise — a distant foreshadowing of the coming of spring. I usually do not start thinking about spring until February. The Cloudy nights over the past weeks has allowed me to watch far too many Bowl Games... a boat load of bowl games. But I do enjoy those College Gridiron Battles.

A look back at 2010 proved a bit disappointing in observing (StarLogs) with many cloudy nights and missed events but here are some photos posted from The Planetary Society Blog.

Plan to start off the New Year observing, if the clouds break

Saturday, A thin old Moon is to the lower left of the planet Venus. Look for the star Antares below the Moon.

Sunday, Dawn Sunday morning, look for very thin waning crescent Moon lower right of Mercury low in the southeast, as shown above. Binoculars will become necessary as dawn brightens and may help you find this very thin crescent. The last easy old Moon is below and to the right of the planet Mercury. Look low in the southeast sky at dawn. Uranus (magnitude 5.9) is within ½° of Jupiter this evening through Wednesday evening. It's just above or upper right of Jupiter as seen with binoculars from mid-northern latitudes. Don't confuse it with the 5.5-magnitude star 20 Piscium to Jupiter's lower right. Can you see a hint of aquamarine-green color in Uranus?

Monday, Uranus is a half a degree away from Jupiter. Look for the pair in the evening sky. Bright Jupiter is very easy to spot. Uranus requires binoculars. Uranus is to the upper right of Jupiter. This is the third and last of a triple conjunction between Jupiter and Uranus. The next conjunction between these two planets won't happen until 2024. South of the feet of bright Orion, the Hunter, crouches dim Lepus, the Hare, quarry that Orion seems to be completely overlooking. Unlike many constellations, Lepus looks just like what it's supposed to represent. The Hare has a bunched-up body, long ears below Rigel, and a pointy nose aimed west. Under moderate to serious light pollution only his two neck stars are visible, but you can find the rest with binoculars. Just remember that Lepus is quite a bit larger than a binocular's field of view.
The Quadrantid meteor shower may be visible tonight, depending on your location. The Quadrantids take place the night of Monday January 3rd into the morning of Tuesday January 4th, and are made better by the fact that the Moon is new, meaning no interference from moonlight. Best chances are early Tuesday morning from Europe through Central Asia; also possible Monday evening for eastern North America.

Tuesday, New Moon (exact at 4:03 a.m. EST).

Thursday, The two inner planets, Venus and Mercury, continue shining in the southeast at dawn almost unchanged since the beginning of the week, as shown at right for tomorrow morning. But notice that Antares and the rest of the starry background have slid a little higher toward Venus: the season marches on.

News from the Net:
Shuttle Discovery Launch!? Four new cracks were spotted Wednesday on stringers six, seven and 11 on panel No. 6, facing the left side of the tank.
Green Laser Pointers – Just Mind Your Manners…
Rare Images From Inside a Soyuz During Flight
Ariane 5 Rocket Lifts Off for Final Launch of 2010
The Votes Are In: Top 10 Stories of 2010
Highlights of 2010 from the European Space Agency
International Space Station on the Moon?
Bad Science in Movies