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

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Star Hop in Moon Light

The Second week of August brings more warm nights with a bright moon after dark. Moonshine will interfere with any deep sky exploration! But there are meteors to watch for as we find Planets, Asteroids and bright stars to put in our FOV. Start looking for Comet Garradd! C/2009 P1, is now coming into small telescope/binocular view. You can find it in the late evening sky in the constellation Pegasus. Predicted to be just below naked eye visibility near it's peak in February 2012!

The brightest asteroid, 4 Vesta, is just past opposition this week, shining at magnitude 5.7 in Capricornus. It's an easy find in binoculars in late evening and can be seen with the unaided eye from a dark site once the Moon sets. Use the finder chart in the August Sky & Telescope, page 53, or our Vesta and Ceres finder charts online. The Dawn spacecraft is orbiting Vesta and sending back high-res pictures. Dawn will spiral down to a much lower orbit for closeup imaging by early 2012. Meanwhile, 1 Ceres lurks two constellations farther east in Cetus. It's magnitude 8.3 and brightening. After Dawn departs Vesta in summer 2012, it will fly on to take up orbit around Ceres in February 2015.

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

Sunday, The Moon shines in the head of Scorpius this evening, near Antares. In the southeastern sky after dusk, about a third of the way from the horizon to overhead, are the dim but distinctive stars of the western end of Capricornus. Mars is moving east at a rate of 2/3 of a degree per day. Mars passes 1.3 north of Eta Geminorum. Look for Mars in the ENE an hour and a half before sunrise.

Monday, This evening the Moon shines between the head of Scorpius to its right and the top of the Sagittarius Teapot to its left.

Tuesday, Ganymede, Jupiter's biggest satellite, will disappear into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow around 3:24 a.m. Wednesday morning Eastern Daylight Time. Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross the planet's central meridian about 44 minutes later, around 4:08 a.m.

Wednesday morning EDT. The "red" spot appears very pale orange-tan. It should be visible for about an hour before and after in a good 4-inch telescope if the atmospheric seeing is sharp and steady. A light blue or green filter helps.

For complete Jupiter satellite phenomena and Red Spot predictions for August, good worldwide, see "Action at Jupiter" in the August Sky & Telescope, page 54.

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, August 13, The Full Moon is in the afternoon (exact at 2:57 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon is between dim Aquarius and Capricornus.

The Planets this week:
Mars
(magnitude +1.4, approaching the feet of Gemini) rises around 2 or 3 a.m. daylight-saving time. By dawn it's in good view in the east.

Jupiter (magnitude –2.5, in southern Aries) rises in the east-northeast around 11 or midnight daylight saving time.

Saturn (magnitude +0.9, in Virgo) is sinking ever lower in the west-southwest at dusk.

Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in western Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in western Aquarius) are well up in the east or southeast by midnight. Here's a printable finder chart for both.

News from the Net:
96 New Reasons To Love Star Clusters
Juno Blasts off on Science Trek to Discover Jupiter’s Genesis
Two More Kepler Planets Confirmed
Now in the Night Sky: Comet Garradd
The Russian Hubble?
New Evidence for Flowing Water on Mars

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brightest; Hottest Star this week…Our Sun

Our nearest Star, the Sun, is blazing hot these days. We just cannot seem to break this High Dome over us! Triple digit temps this week are making the night observing very uncomfortable. Our aging sun is active again with sunspots. As described in today’s Space-weather post: Double sunspot 1263 is a whopper. Its two dark cores are each wider than Earth, and the entire region stretches more than 65,000 km from end to end. Yesterday in the Netherlands, Emil Kraaikamp took advantage of a break in the clouds and "a few moments of steady air" to capture this magnificent photo. "To image this monster, I used a 10-inch Newtonian telescope capped by a white light solar filter," says Kraaikamp. He used the same setup to photograph nearby sunspot 1261. The clarity of both images is impressive. Note the granulation of the stellar surface surrounding the main dark cores. Those are Texas-sized bubbles of plasma rising and falling like water boiling on top of a hot stove. The magnetic field of sunspot 1263 harbors energy for powerful X-class solar flares. Because the sunspot is turning to face Earth, any such eruptions in the days ahead would likely be geo-effective.

The hot summer month of August should surrender some interesting events in the coming days and weeks. Tonight the moon is close to Saturn. Friday, Asteroid Vesta is at opposition. Observed as a white speck in my telescope, I am fascinated with all the current photos from “Dawn”! Saturday, brings the First-quarter Moon (exact at 7:08 a.m. EDT). The Moon is in the middle of Libra, to the right of upper Scorpius. Next week the night sky lights up with meteors. Bright moonlight will wash out the fainter meteors, and instead of 100 per hour, observers may see only about 20. Blocking the moon with a building or tree will reduce the glare.

News from the Net:
Activity Heating Up on the Sun!
Cassini Captures a Menagerie of Moons
Hat Creek Radio Observatory by Gary Crabbe
Juno set to launch Friday
Space Station up date: A Walk in space today, Wednesday
Do Planets Rob Their Stars of Metals?
NASA Unveils Thrilling First Full Frame Images of Vesta from DawnMeteorWatch is Coming! Look for Perseids With the Rest of the World