Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shooting Stars, No Moon

August is here, the first week starts with a new moon. Tropical Storm Don is fading fast. Forecast now indicating less rain for our area this weekend…just clouds. We may have a chance for a clear sky to count some meteors this week, once that High settles over us again. Nights are warm, and two major showers – the Delta Aquarid meteor shower and the Perseid meteor shower – converge to put on a show. Watch in the first week of August to have moonless skies from midnight to dawn, the best time of night for watching meteors. Summertime meteors, occasionally flitting across your line of sight are especially noticeable between mid-July and the third week of August. And between Aug. 3 and 15, there are no fewer than six different minor displays that are active. [2011 Meteor Shower Guide]. The only equipment you'll need is your eyes and a modest amount of patience. The actual number of meteors a single observer can see in an hour depends strongly on sky conditions. The moon will be new, or between the Earth and sun on July 30. Afterwards, the moon will begin to wax again, but you’ll have an entirely moon-free sky after midnight during the first week of August.

The New Moon is this afternoon (exact at 2:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). Tonight, Now that summer is far advanced, the glowing band of the Milky Way forms a vast arch high across the sky after darkness is complete — if you're one of the few lucky people not living under light pollution. The Milky Way runs from Perseus and Cassiopeia low in the north-northeast, up and across the big Summer Triangle very high in the east, and down to Sagittarius and Scorpius low in the south.

Sunday,The brightest asteroid, 4 Vesta, is at opposition this week, shining at magnitude 5.6 in Capricornus. It's an easy find in binoculars in late evening and can be seen with the unaided eye from a dark site. Use the finder chart in the August Sky & Telescope, page 53, or our Vesta and Ceres finder charts online. The Dawn spacecraft is now orbiting Vesta, taking pictures and gradually working its way down to a much lower orbit, which it will reach in early 2012.

Monday, As August begins, bright Vega crosses nearest the zenith around 11:00 p.m., depending on where you're located east-west in your time zone. How accurately can you time when this event happens for you? Vega goes exactly through the zenith if you're at latitude 30° north.

Wednesday, The waxing crescent Moon is below Saturn at dusk.

Thursday, This evening the Moon is below Spica at nightfall.

Friday, The Moon lines up left of Spica and Saturn at dusk. Mars, low in the east-northeast just before the first light of dawn, is passing less than 1° south (lower right) of the star cluster M35 in Gemini on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Use binoculars or a telescope.

Saturday, First-quarter Moon is this morning (exact at 7:08 a.m. EDT). The Moon is in the middle of Libra, to the right of upper Scorpius.

News from the Net:
August is full of Discovery Missions in our Solar System.
Chandra Captures Enticing Evidence Of Black Hole’s Bondi Radius
New Webb Telescope Technologies Already Helping Human Eyes
Last Towback of a Flight Worthy Space Shuttle – Atlantis Post Touchdown Photo Album
Peace In The Light… An Orion Sunset
Applying the Titius-Bode Rule to Exoplanet Systems

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Early Mornings with Jupiter and Mars

So far, the mornings have been cloudy…we might catch a clear sky soon. During the next mornings Mars, Aldebaran, Jupiter and the Moon will be making a parade for early day observers. Tuesday, July 26th before dawn you can observe Mars, Aldebaran, Jupiter and the Moon in the same region of the sky looking East. This is a nice opportunity to see the red planet with a red star near a small waning crescent Moon. The Moon on this will be very close to Alpha Tauri and will make for a spectacular contrast. The ruddy glimmer of Mars may be seen just before dawn wending its way between the stars that form the "horns" of Taurus, the Bull. If you have trouble spotting the red planet, go out at around 5:00 am on the morning of the 27th. The waning crescent Moon will be just a few degrees west of Mars, offering you a convenient landmark to recognize him by as he drifts eastward toward the stars of Gemini. Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in southern Aries) rises in the east around midnight daylight saving time. Once it's well up, look below it for the head of Cetus, rather dim. By dawn Jupiter shines high in the southeast. Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and by far the largest. Jupiter is more than twice as massive as all the other planets combined (the mass of Jupiter is 318 times that of Earth).

Mars (Greek: Ares) is the god of War. The planet probably got this name due to its red color; Mars is sometimes referred to as the Red Planet. (An interesting side note: the Roman god Mars was a god of agriculture before becoming associated with the Greek Ares; those in favor of colonizing and terraforming Mars may prefer this symbolism.) The name of the month March derives from Mars.

It was clear Friday night at 10:30 pm. The summer triangle was well up in the eastern sky. Scorpius had moved farther to the SW and was higher. I could see the lid of the teapot just above the tree line. In the Binocular FOV were M22, M8, and M20 near the teapot dome. I found the coathanger again, anchored between Altair and Vega.

News from the Net:
Juno is our next mission to Jupiter, scheduled to launch Aug. 5. The orbiting spacecraft will improve our understanding of our solar system's beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Juno will get closer to Jupiter than any other spacecraft and will provide images and the first detailed glimpse of its poles. After a five year cruise, Juno will obtain an orbit sometime in July 2016.
Awesome Astrophotos: A Negative Sun
Now Playing At The Sky Cinema… The Moon, Mars and Aldebaran
Ghostly Landing of Atlantis Closes Americas Space Shuttle Era Forever
Shedding New Starlight On The Andromeda Galaxy
Dawn Spirals Down Closer to Vesta’s South Pole Impact Basin
Mars Science Lab Rover Will Land in Gale CraterCosmic Bullseye: Auriga’s Wheel

Friday, July 22, 2011

Last Week of this Hot, Cloudy July

Several Historical Events were witnessed and placed in the books this past week. Hubble has discovered a fourth satellite for the icy, dwarf planet, Pluto. Remembering Apollo 11, NASA TV played videos of the landing. The final shuttle Atlantis landing early Thursday morning, Dawn in orbit around Vesta and Neptune’s completed orbit around the sun after 165 years. Our Group had our monthly meeting last night. Not an historical event, but six of us enjoyed drink, food and discussions in matters of Astronomy, Spaceflight and Telescopes. I did see several bright stars between the clouds on the way home after the meeting. Looking forward to the 'dark of the moon' next week, if the clouds break, to allow some observing.

There is a Last-quarter Moon tonight, (exact at 1:02 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Saturday morning). The Moon rises around the middle of the night with Jupiter below it. By dawn they're very high in the southeast.

Saturday, Look low in the south-southeast (depending on your latitude) for the Teapot pattern of Sagittarius. It's starting to tilt to the right — as if to pour out the rest of the summer from its spout. This week, keep an eye out for occasional Southern Delta Aquarid meteors shooting away from the southeast late at night.

Monday, The Moon is near the Pleiades and Aldebaran before dawn this morning and Tuesday morning, as shown below.

Tuesday, Use binoculars in bright twilight to look for Mercury and twinklier Regulus just 3° apart very low above the western horizon. The waning crescent Moon hangs near Mars before dawn Wednesday morning. They're between the horns of Taurus. We won’t see this: The Moon occults, (covers) Mars as seen from parts of South America and the Pacific Ocean, mostly during daylight.

Thursday, The brightest asteroid, 4 Vesta, is now magnitude 5.8 as it nears its August 6th opposition. It's in Capricornus, easily visible in binoculars in late evening; use our finder chart. The Dawn spacecraft has taken up orbit around Vesta and should be starting its science observations around now!

By the end of the week, now that summer is far advanced, the glowing band of the Milky Way forms a vast arch high across the sky after darkness is complete — if you're one of the few lucky people not living under serious light pollution. The Milky Way runs from Perseus and Cassiopeia low in the north-northeast, up and across the big Summer Triangle very high in the east, and down to Sagittarius and Scorpius low in the south.

Next Saturday afternoon the moon is New (exact at 2:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).

News from the Net:
Hoping Forward At The End Of The Shuttle Era
Caught In The Web… Space Spider!
Elliptical Galaxies Don’t Act Their Age…
Forever Blowing Bubbles…
Pan-STARRS Discovers two Super Supernovae
Amazing Image: ISS Crew Captures Shuttle Atlantis’ Last Brilliant Trip Through the Atmosphere
Space Shuttle Era Comes to a Close with Atlantis’ Successful Landing
Cosmic Crime Alert… LMC Is Swiping Stars!
Remembering Apollo 11: July 20, 1969
Hubble Telescope Spots Another Moon Around Pluto
First Ever Vesta Vistas from Orbit – in 2D and 3D

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Globular Clusters... Summer Nights

With only a third of the way into the summer of 2011, the best of Sagittarius and Scorpius is coming into view after dark. With 158 clusters listed, plenty to find and put in the FOV. These massive balls of stars appear fuzzy in binoculars, but the stars become clear in a Telescope. No matter how you find them, this is the time of year to discover and observe. Sagittarius, Scorpius and Ophiuchus are home to 91, all of which are in prime viewing spots this summer. M22, found in the Tea Pot, was the first G. Cluster discovered in 1665! M13, in Hercules, was discovered in 1714 by Edmond Halley.

This week keep and eye on the evening sky! We welcome the rain(1.2") that comes with the cloud cover but, I hope for a few clear nights with no moon! If it’s clear in the early morning hours this weekend, we can put Jupiter and a last quarter moon in the FOV. Lots of news this week with the final shuttle landing early Thursday morning, Dawn in orbit around Vesta and Neptune’s completed orbit around the sun after 165 years.

More News from the Net:
Herschel Telescope Sees a Twisted Ring at Our Galaxy’s Center
Hubble Telescope Spots Another Moon Around Pluto
Video: Atlantis Undocks from ISS; Farewell for Shuttle
First Ever Vesta Vistas from Orbit – in 2D and 3D
ULA Inks Deal With NASA To Study Man-Rating Atlas V

Friday, July 15, 2011

Full Moon at School Event

StarLog @ 071411
Last night a few of us from the group set up scopes at Klein Road School. A small group of kids from the summer Astronomy Camp were seeing first light in their home made scopes. The breeze and Moon light did not help viewing in a partly cloudy sky. The wind did make a hot summer night... bearable. But five young astronomers did see Saturn for the first time from their own scopes. Bright Vega in the summer triangle did make it past the moonlight. I took my Celestron 4” refractor and focused on the moon then Saturn. The Full Moon was low in Sagittarius, behind broken clouds. The crater Tycho was easily found. The ringed Planet was bright, yellow and moving in the wind. The moon Dion was close in, Moons of Saturn:
No clusters, nebula or G clusters in the FOV, too much light! We did follow the HST as it moved across our window, dim and slow.

Next week we move into darker night skies. The Last-quarter Moon is Friday night (exact at 1:02 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon rises around the middle of the night with Jupiter below it. By dawn they're very high in the southeast. I’m still looking for a better view of Albireo, in Cygnus when the double star moves above my tree line before midnight.

Tonight, look east for a colorful Moon rise. It’ll actually be past full moon and a waning gibbous moon.

Saturday, With summer almost a third of the way through, the Big Dipper is descending in the northwest after dark and starting to scoop to the right, dipper-wise, as if picking up water to dump over the world in the evening next spring. Watch the Moon rise in twilight. Look for the Moon to rise in the ESE about an hour after sunset.

Sunday, Titan, the brightest satellite of Saturn, can be found in a telescope about four ring-lengths east of Saturn this evening and tomorrow evening. With a 6-inch scope you can make out the orange tint of Titan's hydrocarbon-smogged atmosphere.

Tuesday, Mercury is at greatest elongation this evening, 27° east of the Sun, low in the west-northwestern twilight.

Wednesday, Now's the time of year to work through the rich but low tail of Scorpius with a telescope right after dark. Explore a whole nest of little-known star clusters near M6, the Butterfly Cluster, with Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders article and chart in the July Sky & Telescope, page 66.

Thursday, The brightest asteroid, 4 Vesta, has brightened to magnitude 6.0 as it approaches opposition in Capricornus. It's easily visible in binoculars in late evening; use the finder chart in the August Sky & Telescope, page 53. The Dawn spacecraft has taken up orbit around Vesta and should be starting its science imaging around now!

News from the Net:
Stripped Down Discovery rolls towards Retirement at Kennedy Space Center
Measuring Mercury’s Craters
Catch A Pulsar By The Tail
Another Kepler Planet Confirmed
Are The Galaxies In Our Universe More Right-Handed… Or Left-Handed?
Looming Larger: Dawn Approaches Vesta, Enters Orbit July 15-16
Return of the Capsule
Historic Images of Final Spacewalk of Shuttle Era

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Triangle, Star Cluster in my FOV

A late Binocular sweep last night and Thursday Night, I found the Brocchi’s cluster. It does not get dark until 10pm, so at 11, I stepped out and scanned the sky for the coathanger. The summer triangle was to the ENE and I followed a line left from Altair toward Vega. Found the hanger easily about a third the way in. Stationed upright, this hanger was dimmer, Friday night…more Haze! I moved to Sagittarius both nights and found M22, M8 and M20 in my Binocular FOV. Quarter moon this weekend, moonlight and objects along the Terminator!

The Night Sky next week…in my Binoculars and Telescope.
Tonight, Titan, the brightest satellite of Saturn, can be found in a telescope about four ring-lengths west of Saturn this evening and tomorrow evening. With an aperture of 6 inches or more, you may be able to make out Titan's orange tint due to its hydrocarbon-smogged atmosphere. When looking at the Moon tonight, the moon is farther from Spica tonight than it was last night?

Sunday, Arcturus is the brightest star very high in the west-southwest after dark. Vega is the brightest even higher in the east. A third of the way from Arcturus to Vega look for the mostly dim semicircle of Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. Two-thirds of the way, look for the dim Keystone of Hercules.

Monday, Look 2° or 3° below the Moon for Antares early this evening

Tuesday, Happy birthday Neptune! Today it's exactly one Neptune year since the planet's discovery in 1846. Never again will a major planet of the solar system have failed to complete a full orbit since it was found. See the July Sky & Telescope, page 28. To locate Neptune with your binoculars or telescope (at magnitude 7.9), you can use our printable finder chart.

Wednesday, Look below the bright Moon for the Teapot pattern of Sagittarius,

Thursday, Full Moon tonight (exact at 2:40 a.m. Friday morning Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon is left of the Sagittarius Teapot after dark. The Group will be at Klein Road School and set up to scope out the sky tonight. A Summer Astronomy Class is getting first light in there hand made scopes. Nothing but Moon Light in our FOV….

News from the Net:
Famous “Last” Words for the Shuttle Program
Shuttle Atlantis Soars to Space One Last time: Photo Album
3552 Don Quixote… Leaving Our Solar System?
Atlantis Launches on Final Space Shuttle Mission
Atlantis Unveiled for Historic Final Flight amidst Stormy Weather
Where Did Early Cosmic Dust Come From? New Research Says Supernovae
Latest Image from Dawn: View of Vesta Getting Sharper
The Sights And Sounds of Saturn’s Super Storm
Proposed NASA Budget Bill Would Cancel James Webb Space Telescope

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hazy Sky, First week of July

Lots of River traffic over the busy Hot, Holiday weekend! A few Clouds moving in and out during the evening skies. The sky has been cloudy in the AM. Last night I went out at 10 and watched the ISS glide across my portal. The Sky was hazy(African Dust?) with high broken clouds. The orbiting craft was very bright as it arced across the sky, then while still very high in the SW, it went dim and lost light like a dying ember...very cool! I spotted Saturn in the wsw just above my treeline. I found Antares and the head of Scorpius above the trees, to the S. The next couple of nights the Moon will become brighter, but I hope to set up a scope this week and put a few objects in the eyepiece, if the clouds break.

In the night sky this week, Arcturus still bright just a little W of South. Arc back to the handle of Big Dipper in the N. Hercules is high and Scorpius is seen above my treeline (No Tail). I need a better horizon to view the clusters (M6) around the tail of Scorpius. Lyra and Cygnus coming up in the East.

Tonight, this earth, we call home, now in the Hot Summer Season, is farthest from the sun.

Early Tuesday morning, Mars is 5.4 degrees North of Aldebaran

Thursday night brings on a bright First Quarter Moon. Look for a nice triangle with Spica and Saturn. And start looking for the Straight Wall!

News from the Net:
The Orion Capsule on Display
Martian Rust may lead to past water
Ancient Galaxies feed on gas, not collisions
Distant Quasar opens window to early Universe
Final countdown, fueling the anticipation
Neptune, Rocking the Dreidel
Summertime Backyard Astronomy-Video
Dawn closing in on Asteroid Vesta
Tycho Mountains, View from LRO