Friday, May 27, 2011

Observing Saturn, MD Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend! The rivers are packed with tourists, even though the water is very low during this drought. The clouds come in at night and leave mid-day with NO RAIN. I had a chance to put Saturn’s rings in the FOV Thursday night.

The Sky was not the best for viewing. Smoke? Set up the DOB before dark and waited until 9pm before looking for stars. Arcturus was high and bright. At 10 pm, put the ringed planet in the FOV. Ring’s shadow was dark across the center. The Star Porrima (Virgo) was close by and I easily spotted two moons in the scope, Titan and Rhea.
I went N to the Dipper and observed Mizar. At midnight, I was hoping to view the keystone. I tried to view Scorpius, but I only caught Antares just above the tree line in the S. It was still hazey in that area. Missed Hercules....I did not make it back out again.

Sky events for the first week of June:
Saturn is still in view this coming week!
Saturday, Before sunrise tomorrow morning, The crescent Moon is to the upper right of Jupiter. Look to the east 40 minutes before sunrise. look for the waning crescent Moon hanging above Jupiter. Use binoculars to check out the changing planetary array to their lower left.

Sunday, We're still almost a month from summer, but summery Scorpius is already rearing up in the southeast these evenings. Its brightest star is fiery Antares. Look for the other, whiter stars of upper Scorpius on either side of Antares and farther to its upper right.
Libra, the next constellation west of Scorpius, reaches the meridian in the south not long after dark. Libra's lower portion contains the big dark asteroid Hygiea, magnitude 9.3, just waiting for you to hunt it out.

Monday, Saturn's biggest and brightest satellite, Titan, is about four ring-lengths east of the planet tonight.

Tuesday, The brightest star in the east these nights is Vega. You can't miss it. Look for the little triangle-and-parallelogram pattern of the constellation Lyra dangling to its lower right.
The galaxies of the great Virgo Cluster are numerous but not that bright as Messier objects go. Nevertheless, if you have a dark sky, even binoculars are enough for you to hunt for ten of them as very faint smudges west of Epsilon Virginis.

Wednesday, Saturn (with Porrima next to it) and Spica draw the eye in the south after dusk. But don't forget Corvus, the Crow, below them. Corvus's uppermost bright star, Delta Corvi, is a wide telescopic double: magnitudes 3.0 and 9.2, separation 25 arcseconds. New Moon this afternoon/evening (exact at 5:03 p.m. EDT)

Thursday, Saturn and Porrima have now closed to 17 arcminutes of each other, practically as close as they will get. Although they look like neighbors, Saturn is only 76 light-minutes from Earth, while Porrima is 39 light-years in the background. That's more than a quarter million times farther away!

News from the Net:
The quiet sun is waking up. New sunspot 1226 emerging over the sun's southeastern limb is crackling with strong C-class solar flares. So far none of the blasts has been geoeffective, but this could change in the days ahead as the active region turns toward Earth. Stay tuned.

Amazing Photos and Milestone Tributes Mark Last Space Shuttle Spacewalk
Infographic: How the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission Will Work
Crystal Rain Cradles Infant Star
Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy – Refractor Telescopes
NASA Selects OSIRIS-REx as first US Asteroid Sampling Mission
Infographic: How the New Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Stacks Up
Awesome Hi Def Launch Videos from Endeavour
Water, Water Everywhere… Lunar Samples Show More Water Than Previously Thought
Black Holes Spin Outta’ Control
Rapid Formation May Have Stunted Mars’ Growth
Best Images from STS-134, Endeavour’s Final Mission, Part 1
Gamma Ray Burst 090429B… Far Out!
In Memoriam: Spirit Rover, 2004-2010
Hubble Finds “Oddball” Stars in Milky Way Hub
New Arm Embraces Milky Way

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stars Hidden in the last week of May

This past week has been CLOUDY! Hidden behind a vail of clouds were the Planets and the current visible constellations. I did manage to download some great shots of Saturn from the web and I have been keeping up with Endeavour's last flight to the ISS. The Forecast for this weekend is still CLOUDY and next week may still be difficult to observer the stars and planets. But here is what we can see if the clouds break:

This last week of May is becoming Moonless as the the Moon moves to last quarter Tuesday afternoon at 1:52 CDT. The Moon will rise long after midnight after Tuesday evening. The Keystone to Hercules is slowly coming into view each night. As May ends we see the constellation Hercules rise higher in the night sky. Always searching for M13! By the end of the next week, we can find the Venus, Mars and Jupiter still floating in a pre-dawn sky. 30 minutes before dawn a Crescent moons hangs high with Venus a bit below Jupiter. Look for a faint Mars to the upper right of Venus. Mercury is four degrees below to the left of Venus.

Sunday, Faint Mars is passing about 1° above bright Venus this morning through Tuesday morning.

Monday, Face northwest this evening and look high; there's the Big Dipper, now hanging down by its handle. Just a few weeks ago it was horizontal! Star patterns appear to change orientation fast when they pass near the zenith. The reason for this? When you're looking near the zenith, the directions toward "up" and "down" (toward and away from the zenith) differ a lot over short distances.

Tuesday, Last-quarter Moon (exact at 2:52 p.m. EDT). The Moon rises long after midnight tonight daylight-saving time, beneath the head of Aquarius (the Water Jar asterism).

Wednesday, The western twilight Arch of Spring is sinking lower, but you can still catch this big landmark when the stars come out. Pollux and Castor are lined up roughly horizontal in the west-northwest; they're about three finger-widths apart. Look far to their lower left for Procyon, and farther to their lower right for Capella.

Thursday, Friday dawn lineup: Set the alarm so you can be looking toward the eastern horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise Friday morning. The waning crescent Moon hangs high; far lower left of it is Jupiter. Lower left of Jupiter (by 15°) is Venus, not high at all. With binoculars or a low-power scope, look for tiny, faint Mars 2° upper right of Venus and Mercury 4° lower left of Venus.

Friday, With summer less than a month away, the big Summer Triangle is making its appearance in the east. Its topmost and brightest star is Vega, plain to see. Look lower left of Vega, by two or three fist-width at arm's length, for Deneb, the brightest star in that area. Farther to the lower right of Vega is Altair, the last of the three Summer Triangle stars to rise (around 10 or 11 p.m. daylight saving time, depending on your location).

News from the Net:
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Small Bangs
New Movie Revives Old Voyager Data of Jupiter’s Clouds
Best-Ever Radio Image of Black Hole Jets
Atlantis Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building with Final Space Shuttle Crew for July 8 Blastoff
Studying Saturn’s Super Storm
GALEX Confirms Nature of Dark Energy
AMS Now Attached to the Space Station, Ready to Observe the Invisible Universe
Video: More Dancing Plasma on the Sun

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Final Space Endeavour in Orbit

Endeavour blasted off into the clouds, blocking view of its full path to spectators on the ground, but creating an eerie circular glow in the sky. The main engines fired for eight and a half minutes, putting the orbiter on a suborbital flight. Upon docking with the International Space Station on Wednesday, Endeavour's crew will install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, bolt on a pallet of spare equipment, and transfer Endeavour's robot arm to the station, thereby completing the U.S. sector of the space station. (The Russians still have to take up the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, a major component of the station.) Onboard the orbiter itself, they will conduct miscellany of experiments involving, among other creatures, spiders and water bears. The plan is to undock on May 30 and land at the Kennedy Space Center on June 1 at about 2:30 A.M.

Space shuttle Endeavour roared into orbit from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A as the vehicle embarks on its 25th and final spaceflight, the STS-134 mission. Commander Mark Kelly leads the six-person astronaut crew.

NASA has scheduled the daily Flight Highlights for 5pm today, our time, set your DVRs.

Tonight may be clear with lots of moonlight

Tuesday Morning, Jupiter is 6 degrees to the upper right of Venus. Mars is 3 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Mercury is 1.4 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Look for the four planets low in the east, 40 minutes before sunrise.

News from the Net:
Video: Watch Endeavour’s Final Launch
Endeavour Unveiled for Historic Final Blastoff
Looking to the Heavens with Endeavour; Launch Pad Photo Special
Weekend Observing Challenges – May 13-15, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Planets and Full Moon in the FOV next week

After a welcomed rain (1”) plus an uncommon cold front moving in, the Forecast calls for a few clear nights in the coming week! We are four days past first quarter moon this weekend. Phil had a great picture of the Moon taken last night! The Ringed Planet is high in the evening and the other four Planets are grouped together in pre-dawn darkness.

The Moon this weekend in a scope: From
One of the Moon’s prettier sights shows up a couple of nights after First Quarter phase. Sinus Iridum (the Bay of Rainbows) then appears prominent in the northwestern quadrant of the lunar face. The dark lava plains stand in stark contrast to the bright Jura Mountains, a semicircular mountain range that forms the bay’s northern and western shores. The region comes into view May 12 when the Sun rises over this impressive landscape.That evening, Promontorium Laplace (which forms the northeastern tip of the Jura Mountains) casts a long shadow across the bay’s undulating lavas. The shadow shortens noticeably in just a few hours as the Sun climbs higher in the lunar sky and illuminates more peaks along the mountainous rim.The highest peaks on the dark side of the terminator flicker in and out of view, changing color in the same way Sirius twinkles due to turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere. Perhaps this is why early Moon-watchers called this the Bay of Rainbows.Several long wrinkle ridges stretch south from the bay. They show up well on the 12th because their shadows define them, but they gradually disappear day by day as the Sun climbs higher. The full arc of the Jura Mountains, out to Promontorium Heraclides at the southwestern end, comes into view on the 13th. Although the bay recedes in prominence by Full Moon (May 17), the surrounding mountains remain a landmark because they separate highland material to the north from the dark lavas of Mare Imbrium to the south.

Tonight, Look for Saturn glowing with a steady light well to the upper left of the Moon this evening with Porrima next to it, as shown here. As dawn brightens this week, look very low in the east for Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, and faint Mars. Bring binoculars; you'll probably need them for Mercury, and Mars is impossible without them (and sometimes even with them).

Saturday, Now it's Spica's turn to shine upper left of the Moon in the evening. Mercury has brightened in the last week to form a fine triangle with Venus and Jupiter in the dawn, but Mars remains (probably) a binocular object at best.

Sunday, As night descends, look west-northwest for Pollux and Castor lined up almost horizontally. They're separated by about three finger-widths at arm's length. Far to their lower left is Procyon. Farther to their lower right is brighter Capella. The asteroid 10 Hygiea is at opposition this week, at magnitude 9.2 in southern Libra. Hygiea is the fourth-largest asteroid; it appears as dim as it does because its surface is quite black. See the finder chart and article in the May Sky & Telescope, page 56.

Monday, Jupiter is 5 degrees to the upper right of Venus. Mars is 3 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Mercury is 1.4 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Look for the four planets low in the east, 40 minutes before sunrise. Face northwest this evening and look high for the Big Dipper, now hanging down by its handle. Just a few weeks ago it was horizontal! That sort of thing happens to star patterns passing near the zenith. Tuesday, Full Moon (exact at 7:09 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time). Look for Antares below the Moon this evening.

Thursday Night, the moon is near the “Teapot”. At present, the Teapot clears the horizon by around midnight. One month from now – in late June – the Teapot should be visible around 10 p.m.

News from the Net:
Endeavour is set to launch, 8:56 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 16.
Magma Ocean Flows Beneath Io’s Surface
Video: Plasma Dancing Off the Sun
Hubble Hunts Down Star Formation in Canes Venatici
Crab Nebula Erupts in a Superflare
Photopic Sky Survey
Dawn Begins Approach to Asteroid Vesta and Snaps First Images
Dawn Planetary Delights
Examining the Great Wall

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Planets & Stars in the Second week of May

Happy Astronomy Day! Saturday, May 07, 2011

Saturn, which is well up in the east at sunset (still to the northwest of Spica), crosses the meridian to the south around 10:30 PM, and then sets just before the planetary quartet rises. Among the more obvious stars is Porrima, Gamma Virginis (and second brightest in the constellation), which lies about 15 degrees to the northwest of Spica and currently just about a degree to the northwest of Saturn.

For the next week or so, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury (the gang rising about 5 AM Daylight Time) will make a constantly- shifting tightly-packed quartet with Venus the brightest, followed by Jupiter, Mercury, then Mars. Our area may be in a shroud of clouds this week? Forecast is not good!

Monday, On spring evenings the Big Dipper turns over as if to dump spring rains on the world, or so it appears to Northern Hemisphere skywatchers. Look for the Dipper very high in the northeast as the stars come out.

Tuesday, First-quarter Moon (exact at 4:33 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). Look above the Moon this evening for Regulus and the Sickle of Leo. Time to start looking for “Rupes Recta” this week, if the clouds break! This Straight Wall is not hard to see when it is a dark line near the crater”Birt”. Looks awesome in the eyepiece!

Wednesday, Early before dawn, Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the Solar System, will converge to form a pair less than 1/2 degree apart. Set your alarm for Wednesday morning and begin the day with an eye-opener. Our sky is forecast to be mostly cloudy!

Thursday, The three brightest stars in the spring evening sky are Arcturus, now high in the southeast, Vega lower in the northeast, and Capella in the northwest. All are zero magnitude. Vega and Capella are at exactly the same height sometime around 10 p.m. daylight saving time tonight.

Friday, The Moon is far to the lower right of Saturn this evening.

News from the Net:
More Evidence of Liquid Erosion on Mars?
NASA moves Endeavour launch date to May 16

Friday, May 6, 2011

Locating Stars Last Night

StarLog ۩ 110505

I traveled to a different site last night, below Canyon Dam, at the TPL on a hill above the CRRC. Went out there to scope out bad lights and to find what direction the Light Dome from the city was. It has been a while since traveling to a different site. West was easy find since the sun was going down and still shining at 8 pm. I found the 3 day moon just after sunset. That Crescent Wonder was stationed just above the tree line facing the Dam, observed with the binoculars. I had to wait for darker skies to find my way among the stars. This location allows more horizon than I’m used to, Arcturus turned into Spica which was Sirius, not to be confused with Procyon below Gemini. What I thought was Aldebaran was really Betelgeuse. The belt of Orion finally became visible. When the Big Dipper finally came into clear focus, we arced to arcturus and then slid to Spica. Finally, confrimed N-S-E-W positions from this portal. Set up the Dob in the parking lot after the lights went out, just after 9pm. Saturn was in the FOV. It was sharp and clear in the eyepiece, with moon Titan was bright and to its left in the scope, I did not see the other moons. The rings visible at a slight angle and a dark line shadow across the planet.
*S* R-m-e-d--t---------------------T

Pointed the scope at the moon and got a closer look at Mare Crisium and Earth Shine before it went below the treeline. Started to locate Hercules and M13 but the group was leaving for the night, just after 10pm. Next time I go to a new site: begin finding stars after its’ darker and start with the big dipper! The TPL site is a open , with controlled lighting and has possibilities for future outreach events.

If the sky clears Saturday morning, look for Mercury near Venus ,Low in the Eastern Sky.

News from the Net:
Update on Gliese 581d’s Habitability
A Newly Discovered Planetary Nebula Teaches Us About Galactic Composition
Stunning, Colorful New Look at the Lagoon Nebula

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stars and Planets Celebrate May Day

Saturn, Mercury, Venus with lots of bright stars with added constellations are in view this week and the forecast calls for two clear nights, this first week in May, with no moonlight. At the end of the week we should see some falling stars, early Friday morning, if the clouds break. There will be many chances to see four planets gathered together this month. The grouping of planets is visible very low in the east before sunrise. Binoculars may be necessary to find the fainter planets in the morning twilight glow.

Sunday, Arcturus is the brightest star in the east after dark. Saturn shines above Spica in the southeast. Look lower right of Saturn and Spica for the four-star springtime pattern of Corvus, the Crow. Early Monday morning, Mercury is to the lower right of Venus. Mars and Jupiter are to the lower right of Mercury.

Monday, Now that May is here, at nightfall Vega has already risen low in the northeast (depending on your latitude). Above Vega is the four-star head of Draco, with its bright nose eternally pointed Vega-ward. Look for Draco's head about 1½ fists at arm's length above Vega and perhaps a bit left.

Tuesday, Sirius in May?? You should still be able to spot the twinkling Dog Star low in the southwest as twilight fades. How much later into the warm season can you follow it down? Catch a New Moon early this morning (exact at 2:51 a.m. EDT on this date).

Wednesday, Look low in the west-northwest at dusk for the thin crescent Moon with the Pleiades to its lower right (at the times of twilight for North America). Orange Aldebaran is to the Moon's left.

Thursday, The Moon at dusk poses (for North America) midway between Aldebaran below it and Beta Tauri above it. The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower should peak before dawn Friday morning. This is often the best shower of the year for Southern Hemisphere skywatchers, but in northern latitudes it's much weaker.

Friday, The crescent Moon shines in the west after dark. The brightest star far to the Moon's upper right is Capella. Less far to the Moon's lower left, look for Betelgeuse sinking away. From Saturday morning until May 15th, binoculars show Mercury less than 1½° lower right of Venus with Jupiter fitting into the same 5° field of view. Track their changes each clear morning!

News from the Net:
Endeavours Final Launch further delayed another Week or more
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Cosmic Magnetic Fields
The Early Morning Show – Eta Aquarid Meteor Showers While The Planets Align