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…