Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Week 2012

Last minute shopping, dashing about getting things done over the week end has kept everyone busy! Jack Frost is due Christmas Eve….We do have a few Clear nights forecast ahead to try out that new scope! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good clear night.......

Monday,  Christmas Eve, will not be clear, we may get showers? We will miss The Moon, nearly full, Jupiter and Aldebaran early in the evening, the Pleiades is there, but hidden by the clouds.
Tuesday,  will be clear; we can view a Christmas conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter, with Aldebaran right nearby! Jupiter and the Moon are only a degree or two apart, Binoculars show stars of the big, loose Hyades cluster in their background.
Wednesday, the day after Christmas will be clear the Moon is lower left of Jupiter in the evening. The Moon is in the area of Beta and especially Zeta Tauri, the horn tips of Taurus.
Thursday,  the clouds come back! Our Full Moon is tonight (exact at 4:21 a.m. Friday morning Central Standard Time). The Moon will be in the top of Orion's dim club, just under the feet of the Castor figure in Gemini, if your sky is clear!
Saturday, as the year 2012 closes, the two leading asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, are still in good binocular range at magnitudes 7.1 and 6.9, respectively. Vesta is near Jupiter and Aldebaran, and Ceres is right between the horns of Taurus not far away. Locate them using Sky and Tel’s finder chart online. The light of the waning Moon will be less and less of an issue in the coming night! 

News from the Net:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Missed the Perseids; Winter is here!

Our strange and wondrous Atmosphere brought us CLOUDS! The Geminid Meteor shower was there, behind the clouds! No chance for us to count the shootings Stars. Winter starts next Friday, but it looks like our first few days of winter will include a mild Christmas. No Snow flakes here! The forecast does say we get in a couple of clear nights this coming week.

A few Constellations, Asteroids, Stars and Planets we can observe this week:
Orion stands centered between two bright lights this year. High above it during evening shines dazzling Jupiter (with its orange sidekick Aldebaran). A similar distance below Jupiter, Sirius rises around 8 p.m. (the time depends on your location), with its own sidekick, Mirzam. Sirius, just 8.6 light-years away, is the brightest star in the night sky. It's also the closest star beyond the Sun that's ever visible to the unaided eye from mid-northern latitudes.

The first-discovered asteroid, 1 Ceres, is at opposition Monday night. It's not far from 4 Vesta, which is also in Taurus along with Jupiter. Ceres and Vesta are now magnitudes 6.7 and 6.5, respectively. Spot them in binoculars near the horns of Taurus

The first-quarter Moon shines at the dim Circlet of Pisces, below the much larger and brighter Great Square of Pegasus early Wednesday evening.

Friday, winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere at the solstice, 5:12 a.m. CST. This is the shortest day of the year. Get up early and observe Venus and Mercury on a cold winter morning; then go hug a tree as the Earth realigns with the sun!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Few Frosty Clear Nights Ahead

The cold North Wind is due in tonight! Three nights are forecast: Clear and Cold. Time to pull on the long-johns and pull out the Scope to observe a few nights this week: Since Jupiter is just past opposition. Look for it shining near Aldebaran and the Pleiades. The asteroids Ceres and Vesta in Jupiter's vicinity are near opposition too. Vesta is in opposition tonight and has brightened to magnitude 6.4, Ceres 6.9. Spot them in binoculars. See the chart online. They're near the horns of Taurus. By 8 or 9 p.m. this week, wintry Orion is well up in the east-southeast near Jupiter. The Andromeda Galaxy, M31, passes the zenith in early evening for skywatchers this week!

If it is clear Sunday night, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit the planet's central meridian around 8:15 p.m. CST.

Tuesday night, The small Earth-crossing asteroid 4179 Toutatis comes close to Earth tonight, as it does every four years. Locate it creeping across the stars of Cetus and Pisces using at least a 3- or 4-inch telescope tonight through Friday night. Measuring 5 km in length, Toutatis is one of the largest known potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) and its orbit is inclined less than half-a-degree from Earth's. No other kilometer-sized PHA moves around the Sun in an orbit so nearly coplanar with our own. This makes it an important target for asteroid studies. Fortunately, there is no danger of a collision with Toutatis for hundreds of years. Radar observations should improve researchers' ability to predict the asteroid's trajectory even farther into the future. Goldstone will be pinging Toutatis from now until Dec. 22nd. Stay tuned for daily updates.

Thursday, if the clouds break, The Geminid meteor shower,often the best in the annual meteor calendar, should be at its maximum late tonight. And there's no Moon.

Friday, Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross Jupiter's central meridian around 7:22 p.m. CST.

Star Gazing Note: Saturday’s TPML Event was cancelled due to cloud cover. It is too soon to have a any dates set for the New Year. They are in a discussion stage of having “Flash Astronomy Events” next year.

News from the Net:
Common Misconceptions in Physics
Curiosity at Rockfest
Seeing Earth from Space
Cosmic Bullseye
Uneven icy crust on Titan
New Star Trek Movie, May 2013
The Moon's inner crust

Monday, December 3, 2012

If the Sky Clears....

There is NO chill in the air, this first week of December to give us Clear Skies! Our forecast for observing this week is nothing but CLOUDS. We have no cold fronts coming down to push the SE cloud banks away! So, we take our chances this week as the moon goes to third quarter and the nights get darker.
I missed the Three Early Morning Planets Monday morning. Cloudy Skies! Looking Southeast, below Spica, before dawn you could find SaturnVenus is below the ringed planet and Mercury is still low in the morning sky.

Wednesday night Ganymede, the largest satellite of Jupiter, crosses Jupiter's face tonight from 8:25 to 10:17 p.m. CST, closely followed by its black shadow from 8:37 to 10:44 p.m. CST. In amateur telescopes, Ganymede's shadow will be much more obvious against Jupiter's bright surface than Ganymede itself is.

Thursday, Our Last-quarter Moon (exact at 10:31 a.m) it rises around the middle of the night tonight. In the small hours of Friday morning it climbs the eastern sky beneath Leo.
Find Jupiter and focus on the GRS. The spot is due to gross the large planet at 10:45 p.m. CST.

Star Gazing at the TPML: The event is set for Saturday, December 8, 2012 at the Observatory area starting at 7pm. We will keep our fingers crossed for a clear sky. But it does not look good! Today’s forecast calls for a Cloudy Sky Saturday night.

News from the Net:
Titan Shines, from Cassini latest photo
Vote for Curiosity: Time Person of the Year
Future Model Flies in Wind Tunnel
Plasma Jet in the Heart of Hercules
Brown Dwarfs may host Planets
No Organics found on Mars: Curiosity
Water Ice and Organics found at Mercury North Pole

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jupiter and the Pleiades

Moonlight will dim the stars this week! Monday we were cloudy again and missed this morning event but as dawn began on Tuesday morning, we spotted bright Venus and fainter Saturn less than 1° apart in the southeast. They were lined up above the driveway, above the treeline.

Finding Jupiter and the Pleiades in the dark evening sky is easy, look SE for a bright star. The Pleiades cluster is near by.  Great map of the sky with Jupiter in Taurus on the November 27, 2012 APOD.
Tuesday, there was is a bright full Moon. This evening, look lower left of the Moon for Jupiter and orange Aldebaran. Look upper left of the Moon for the fainter Pleiades cluster (binoculars help), and far left for Capella.

Full Moon Thursday night, if it is clear after the Moon rises, spot Jupiter and fainter Aldebaran to its upper right, and Capella farther to its upper left. There is a chance to catch the GRS tonight. The Jupiter's Great Red Spot should cross Jupiter's central meridian around 11:00 p.m. EST.

As we move into December Skies, We can follow Orion as he climbs into the night sky.

The first Frost on the Roof was this morning. It was clear last night, let’s hope for a few more clear nights!

A few News items:
This weekend the International Space Station will turn itself to position ESA’s SOLAR instrument for a better view of the Sun. It will be the first time the Station has changed attitude for scientific reasons alone.
Biggest Black Hole Blast Discovered
Saturn’s Stunning, Swirling Cyclone
One Year on Mars

Monday, November 19, 2012

Perseus and the Double Cluster

During this week of Thanksgiving, check out the NE section of your night sky after dark. You will find Perseus near the W- Queen Cassiopeia. Perseus is a long broken V with two bright stars: Mirfak and Algol. Between the two constellations is the Double Cluster. Scan with your binoculars first to find the clusters, then set and focus your scope for a close up view of the open clusters.

The three planets this week are: Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Taurus) rises in the east-northeast in twilight, with Aldebaran to its right or lower right. Above them are the Pleiades. They all climb into fine view as evening advances.

Venus (magnitude –3.9, in Virgo) rises in the east an hour before the first glimmer of dawn. By dawn it's shining brightly in the east-southeast,

Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Virgo) is lower left of bright Venus before and during dawn. They appear closer together every day. They're on their way to a conjunction less than 1° apart on the American mornings of November 26th and 27th.
Tuesday morning the Moon rolls into First-quarter (exact at 9:31 a.m.). The Moon shines high in the south in early evening, below the Water Jar of Aquarius.
After all the turkey and dressing you can handle Thursday evening, the Moon will be under the Great Square of Pegasus as the stars come out.  If it is clear Thursday night, Io disappears into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow, barely beyond the planet's western edge, at 10:20 p.m. CST. And Jupiter's Great Red Spot transits the planet's central meridian around 9:16 p.m. CST. Friday morning before dawn, if it is clear, look ESE spot Venus; below Venus is Saturn.

Meteor Shower Update: I was out in the cold, clear night last Friday and saw NO Meteors. The Leonid meteor shower peaked this past weekend as Earth passed through a stream of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Reports so far are consistent with a weak shower--no more than about 10 per hour. In the past, the Leonids have been known to produce fantastic storms of thousands of shooting stars. This year, however, Earth passed through the outskirts of the comet's debris stream, so the shower was relatively mild. [meteor gallery]

News from the Net:
Soyuz lands in the Dark
Can Humans live on Mars?
Change of Command: ISS
The Ultimate Mars Challenge
A New Panorama at Gale Crater from Curiosity
Spiders on Mars

Sunday, November 11, 2012

4 Planets and a Meteor Shower

This past weekend was a wash! The Event at the TPML was cancelled, again! There were too many clouds, too much wind and a chance of rain on Sunday. After the front blows through Sunday night, we should have a Clear Night Monday! Monday morning before sunrise, look below bright Venus in the east for the thin waning Moon with Saturn to its left. Binoculars are a good idea. Monday evening Orion is up in the east by about 9 p.m. now. Orion's three-star Belt is nearly vertical. Orange Betelgeuse is to the Belt's left and white Rigel is to its right. Just after dark, Jupiter is up in the east and Orion follows. Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Taurus) rises in the east-northeast in late twilight now, with Aldebaran to its right and dimmer El Nath (Beta Tauri) farther to its left. Above Aldebaran are the Pleiades. Mars is getting lower in the west, hope you have a good horizon.

This next week puts us in the new moon. Darker nights with North winds and chilly. We should have a few clear nights to observe this week. The forecast calls for more clouds Friday but I hope the clouds stay away next weekend…….The Leonid meteor shower, should be at its best in the hours before dawn Saturday morning. You may see about a dozen to 20 Leonids per hour. There is no Moon.

News from the Net:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Falling Back

This is “Fall” and the first full week in November. It is time to loose another hour of sleep! I loose that hour changing all the clocks back! Plus it takes several weeks to adjust to: Standard time… at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Clocks "fell back" an hour.

It got warm here this past weekend and the clouds have hung around in the evening, with the moon light. Another smaller front is due in Tuesday and maybe we will have a chance to observe a few clear nights this next week. This is the time of year when the W of Cassiopeia stands on end (its fainter end) high in the northeast in early evening. The Planet Jupiter is a prime target for telescopes around ten pm. By the end of this week another front is due in and will bring chances of rain and of course…..more clouds. The Stargazing event at the TPML, set for next Saturday, is in jeopardy again!

News from the Net:
Asteroids can promote complex life
Rare Supernova Pair
New ESA Tracking Station
Curiosity Self Portrait

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jupiter climbs higher this Week

As we near All Souls Day this last week of October, Jupiter is easily seen climbing higher as the night darkens for all the Halloween goblins. Jupiter (magnitude –2.7, in Taurus) rises in the east-northeast shortly after dark, with Aldebaran to its right. Above Aldebaran are the Pleiades, View the “Seven Sisters” in your binoculars this week.

Monday our Full Moon (exact at 3:49 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time), rises at dusk in the east and will light up the night sky. Moonlight part of this week will make it hard to see any deep sky objects in a scope!  In a telescope Jupiter's Great Red Spot (pale orange-tan) crosses Jupiter's central meridian around 11:32 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time tonight.

Wednesday, The Halloween Moon, waning gibbous, rises around the end of twilight. ThePleiades are above it. Once it rises higher, Aldebaran sparkles is below it and bright Jupiter shines to its lower left.

News from the Net:
Next Rover will be from Canada?
Halloween Orion, Astrophoto
Video of Hurricane Sandy's Progression
The Dragon departs from the ISS
Dragon has safe Splashdown
This Week's Skywatcher's Forecast
Hurricane Sandy heading for East Coast
Deflecting Asteroids with Paintballs
Hurricane Sandy turns to Frankenstorm

Monday, October 22, 2012

Missed the Falling Stars

We observed a dim Halley's Comet back in 1986. Every year in mid-to-late October, Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from Comet Halley, and the pre-dawn sky lights up with a pretty display of shooting stars. Our count this year was Zero. There were too many clouds this past weekend to observe. Most observers said that the 2012 Orionid meteor shower was underwhelming. Even during the peak on October 21, the meteor rates never climbed much above 20 per hour. Our forecast is cloudy for the coming week! We are still an a weather transition period with weak cold fronts that bring on the cloudy skies! With cooler weather on the way, we may have a few clear nights ahead this weekend. The Moon will be brighter as the first-quarter Moon was this past Sunday (exact time at 11:32 p.m. EDT). The Moon shines in the south to SW during the evening. If the sky is clear in your backyard, here is your Skywatcher's Forecast for the coming week:  Lots of features on the Moon!

News from the Net: 
New Crew to ISS Launched

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Moon, Maybe one Clear Night

The latest front has passed through and the Stargazing Event at the TPML was cancelled last Saturday night. We now have at least one clear night forecast for the end of the week ahead, maybe! With some partly cloudy skies ahead, step out in the backyard with Binoculars and a small scope to observe:

Jupiter rising in the east in Taurus. Look for that red star Aldebaran.  The W shape of Cassiopeia is in the northeast after dusk. It stands up by 9 or 10 p.m., depending on your location. This is another chance to view the E.T. cluster.  A scan of the area with Binoculars will catch many open clusters in the FOV. Here is another opportunity to put the Andromeda Galaxy in the cross hairs. Pegasus is up by 10pm, so find the galaxy and put it in your FOV.  Monday is the New Moon. (exact at 8:03 a.m. EDT).

At the end of the week, the annual Orionid meteor shower should be getting under way in the hours before dawn Saturday morning. You might see 10 or 20 Orionids per hour during that time of night for the next several days. There will be no moonlight. The shower's radiant point is at the top of Orion's Club, which doesn't rise high until the early-morning hours. Friday night is supposed to be clear but will Saturday?

News from the Net:

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Fifth Planet, Jupiter in Taurus

Sky Alert: Unwelcome Clouds this week! The current forecast for this next week does not look good for observing the night sky. Clouds will dominate our sky as this current front comes in from the North West. Those who have clear skies, here is a sample of what you can see:

This is a good time to record Jupiter’s 4 moons movements back and forth around the planet. Jupiter's four large moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (now known as the Galilean moons) can easily be seen.
That large, bright rambling star, with the four Galilean moons, will be up by 10 pm. You will get a chance to see the Great Red Spot a few times this week. The GRS will appear on the Planet Wednesday at 9:54 pm our time. One last chance this week, on Friday: the GRS moves across Jupiter 11:47pm our time.

Venus is in Leo and is still the brightest star in pre dawn hours. Catch the moon passing near by the first couple of mornings this week.

For you Asteroid hunters, next Saturday faint asteroid 371 Bohemia will occult a star in the Beehive in Cancer. Sky and Telescope has a helpful chart for locating the event.

A Night Sky Note:  There is a Stargazing Event at the TPML this Saturday. One of my favorite stars is Aldebaran in Taurus, only 65 LY away and waiting to SN….. Happy 127th Birthday Neils Bohr:  A reminder from the basic physics I took a long time ago in a place far, far away… a model of the Atom.

News from the Net:
Mercury is full of Sulfar
Venus has cold upper atomosphere
Cassini's latest Titan Fly-By
Curiosity at work on Mars
Cubsats launched from ISS
Curiosity set for the first Scoop
55 of Space Exploration-Video
Two Stars do short-orbit tango around Milky Way Black Hole
Helix Nebula turns Blue in new image
The Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder - Video

Monday, October 1, 2012

Welcome October Skies

We finally have cooler nights on the horizon. This week the Moon is slowly going into the last phase… by the end of the next weekend. I did see a few clear nights forecast in the coming week! Sunday night the moon was full and very bright. It was your chance to see the GRS on Jupiter. With a Telescope ready by 11:30 pm. the Great Red Spot crossed the central meridian at 11:39. Good luck if Jupiter is up high over your horizon. Sky and Telescope has a handy transit time calculator. Wednesday morning, just before dawn look east: Venus is close to Regulus, binoculars will separate the star from the glare. In a telescope’s FOV, Venus is a gibbous disk just 16 arc-seconds in diameter. Wednesday evening: Catch the Pleiades left of the waning gibbous Moon late this evening. Late Thursday evening, around midnight, look for Aldebaran below the Moon. If you are up late after midnight, Ganymede slowly disappears into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow! Follow the moons of Jupiter this week: the planet is in Taurus from late evening until dawn.

News from the Net:
Skywatcher's Forecast October 1-7
Curiosity at work on Mars
Finding water on Mars
Parallax effect of Venus Transit 2012
Vesta's deep grooves
Evidence of ancient stream bead found on Mars
Detail map of Ganymede made by Amateur Astronomer
Sharpest image of Pluto taken from earth
Debris in Space threatens ISS, may require maneuver 
Crescent moon in a martian sky

Monday, September 24, 2012

Moon Shadows Saturday Night

Autumn started here at equinox, 10:49 a.m. EDT Saturday. Today the Sun rises and sets nearly at the east and west points on your horizon.  The Moon Event at the TPL was held Saturday night….It was a clear, warm and the first-quarter Moon (exact at 3:41 p.m. EDT) was hanging over the dome of the observatory.   Several members of the Group set up scopes near the dome. I set up a table with binoculars and a list of satellites for the evening. The lines were long at all the stations to observe the craters and mountains with the dark shadows forming sharp features along the terminator.  Crater Arzachel was dark in the center with the top of the center peak lit up with light. The Apennine Valley was a conspicuous cut between the mountain gap centered in the eyepiece. Near by the mountains were craters: Autolycus, Aristillus and Archimedes. Several seas were observed near the line of darkness. The Moon was in Sagittarius, with the Teapot pattern somewhat dim in moonlight. Moon filters were in place.  Missed the HST pass, it was too early, in a dusk lit sky. There was one “wow” moment, when Iridium satellite number 57 made its pass at 8:47. We spotted the dim satellite nearing the zone of contact and then the “flare”. It was bright, on time and in the area of the sky predicted.  This moment was preceded by a shooting star coming out of the North. Wow! Most scopes were just on the moon, too bright to view any deep sky targets. The event did not last much more than a couple of hours but there was lots of interest in Astronomy and as always a unique night sky experience for first timers as well as seasoned Skywatchers.

This last week of September: Sixth-magnitude Uranus is only 1.4 arcminutes from the similarly bright, but differently colored, star 44 Piscium Saturday evening and tomorrow evening. Binoculars and a chart are all you need. Try and catch ET in Cassiopeia and the Andromeda Galaxy is still a good target in the FOV.

News from the Net:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clouds should break for Moon Event

This past weekend has been cloudy with rain. We needed the rain, but it seems we have to give up dark, clear night skies during a new moon to get the moisture. OK, on to the third week of September. This week, if you have clear skies at night, you can still find the Teapot pouring stars into the low SSW sky after the sun sets.  Venus and Jupiter are now rising before midnight in the eastern sky. The new moon was this past Saturday evening, the moon slowly moves east and will be in a prime area for observing by next Saturday’s First Quarter. The Group will be at the TPL Moon Event next Saturday evening to observe and focus on the craters and mountains along the Terminator. This event corresponds with the International Moon Event. Surely the sky will clear by then! Fall begins under our sky 9:49 a.m Saturday morning. The forecast calls for several clear nights this week, maybe it will be cooler and clear for the event. Get ready for the fall season and start following the Moon this week.

News from the Net:

Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast – September 17-23, 2012
Expedition 32 Lands Safely in Kazakhstan
Astrophoto: Stunning Starscape by Sean Parker
Curiosity Captures a Martian Eclipse
Farewell to a Hero: Armstrong's Burial at Sea
Asteroid Zooms by Earth 
The Moon from Earth As You’ve Never Seen it Before

Monday, September 10, 2012

Early Morning Observing

I started out last Saturday morning early observing the moon and Jupiter. Jupiter (in Taurus) was spot on very close to the moon. A few clouds hanging around, the moon was a bright, gibbous phase with the planet just off the NE corner. Venus (in Gemini) was much lower and to the east. These two planets will continue to be targets in the early morning sky.  Observe Venus near the moon on Wednesday morning. Start out with no scope, just visual astronomy. There is plenty to see in the sky after the sun sets. I had several nights of clear dark skies this past week to scan the sky with scope and binoculars in the NE and SE Sky.  The Forecast calls for several clear and “cooler” nights ahead in this second full week of September. Just thirteen more days before the official Autumnal Equinox. In my eyepiece after dark, Cassiopeia is in a good area of the NE sky to scan and find several good objects. Several open clusters and my favorite the Owl. Move East and find Pegasus, then that fuzzy glob, the Andromeda Galaxy. Look SW and find the Tea Pot tilting downward. It’s just above my tree line in my backyard. But I can still find near by nebula and clusters above the lid.
News from the Net:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dark Nights in Week One

Friday’s Full Moon (great photo from APOD) was at 9:58 a.m. EDT. It was bright and lit up the night, when I viewed it above my tree line after 10 pm. Always best to observe the full moon with a “moon filter”. This was a "blue Moon," when the term refers to the second full Moon in a calendar month. Blue Moons come once every 2.7 years on average. Mark your calendars for the next one on July 31, 2015. We had clouds Saturday night….bummer! This week will officially be time to focus on Cassiopeia. So look North and break out the scope and binoculars! There are lots and lots of items to see when the Queen holds court.

The Moon will rise in late twilight tonight, on its way to last quarter. Find it near the Great Square of Pegasus. Bright Arcturus is high in the west anchored in the constellation Bootes. You can catch Saturn and Mars in the west before they move below the horizon. They're about a fist-width at arm's length apart. Mars is the one on the left. Later in the week, look south and high soon after dark. The brightest star there is Altair, with dimmer Tarazed a finger-width at arm's length above it and a bit to the right. Look left of Altair for the little constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. By the end of the week Sagittarius will be at its highest and best in the south —The Teapot asterism of Sagittarius is one of the richest patches in the night sky. Find the Large Sagittarius Star Cloud just above the spout.

Note: there may be too many clouds forecast this week, as we move into dark skies with no moon. Here is hoping for a few, clear, dark nights….. Twenty days to the Fall Equinox!

News from the Net:

Spectacular Filament Eruption on the Sun Captured by SDO
Was Last Night’s Moon Blue for You?
On to Ceres: Dawn Spacecraft Ready to Say Farewell to Asteroid Vesta
Dramatic New Video Brings You to the Dazzling Lunar Surface
Opportunity Rover Tops 35 Kilometers of Driving
Curiosity’s Laser Leaves Its Mark
Changing Hues Signal Transition of Seasons at Saturn
What Has the Kuiper Belt Taught Us About The Solar System?
Curiosity Sends Back Incredible Hi-Res Views of Mt. Sharp
Today’s APOD: Curiosity on Mars
Walk on the Moon with Neil Armstrong in a Beautiful Interactive Panorama
Take a Trip to Explore Gale Crater

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Night Sky Note

I have been going to MSL site daily to check on new photos and activity from Mars.
I remember when just one and two pieces of the station were souring above me every 90 minutes. I can’t believe that the latest Crew on the ISS is #32. I went looking on the ISS site for a shot of Hurricane Isaac made from the crew on Tuesday.   

Tuesday night was filled with moonlight. I could see a few stars above and over my left shoulder. I found the bright crater Aristarchus along the Terminator on the gibbous Moon. I looked for the 2 mile deep and 26 mile wide crater Aristarchus with the big binoculars. Aristarchus is one of the brightest spots on the Moons surface. Hubble took a closer tour of this crater. To observe, I came down from the bay of rainbows, along the Terminator and it was there, very white…very bright…Tuesday night!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Storm Clouds and a Blue Moon

In this last week of August, TS Isaac is moving into the gulf to become a Hurricane?. We will miss the big rain event, but the winds may push the clouds away and give us a few clear nights later this week. The second full moon is growing brighter this week and will be full Friday morning @ 9:58 a.m. EDT. When you see the moon this week, think of Neil Armstrong and his achievements... look for the Apollo 11 landing site. With a bright moon in Aquarius, I will have to but the brighter stars in the FOV, these clear nights coming. Autumn is just a few weeks away and the “Autumn Star” Fomalhaut begins to climb the SE night sky.   Several planets still give a grand view in the early morning sky. Scan with a good pair of binoculars. The planet Neptune is closest to the Earth on the 24th of August, so it’s a very good time to look for it!  The two diagrams show you where it lies in the constellation Aquarius - not the easiest to find this year!   At magnitude 7.8, you should be able to spot it with binoculars and a telescope might even show a bluish disk just 2.4 arc seconds across.  May have to turn to the LX90 to see this far away planet.
A note as we move into September Skies: Football begins with another season of Friday night lights. With the Stadium down the road, the clear night sky will be a little dimmer in my backyard on weekends. 

News from the Net:

Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Dies at 82
Reactions to the Death of Neil Armstrong
Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast: August 27-September 2, 2012
Blue Moon This Week
Take a Trip to Explore Gale Crater
Hubble’s Hidden Treasures Unveiled
Multiple Dinosaur Tracks Confirmed at NASA Center
Telescope Review: Optics Planet Celestron Powerseeker 80EQ Refractor Telescope
JPL’s Adam Steltzner Narrates Curiosity’s Landing Choreography
First Drive for Curiosity Rover an “Historic” Moment
Lunar and Planetary Conjunction on August 21, 2012
Image: Curiosity’s First Wheel Tracks on Mars

Curiosity’s Descent Video in Amazing, Incredible HD Quality
Watch Curiosity’s First Movements
Take a Look Through Curiosity’s ChemCam
Curiosity Takes Aim at Martian Destination – Mount Sharp

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Second Visit to the Teapot

I know I covered this in July,  it's worth a another scan and a great area to view in the night sky!
A cloudy weekend and some rain during the dark of the moon…go figure? The forecast for the past weekend was not good, but, maybe the clouds will break up in the coming week. It’s binocular time around the Teapot, Sagittarius. I hope to put some clusters and nebulas in my FOV.  Monday evening is forecast, clear…so far. The First quarter moon is Friday, August 24, look for Antares the red star close by the bright half moon! Those other stars of upper Scorpius are scattered around them. 

Jupiter magnitude –2.2, is in Taurus>start counting the moons!
Venus magnitude –4.4, is in Gemini
Little Mercury is magnitude –0.4 while still trying to climb higher…look for it low in the NE below Venus

If the clouds break some time this next week after dark, 2 wandering stars can be seen:
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, at the Pisces-Cetus border)
Neptune, it’s a dim planet (magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius)

News from the Net:
More new photos are available from Mars: Curiosity @ the MSL gallery
My newsstand could not be accessed at posting…..

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Moon and Planets

After the meteor event, we can enjoy more Visual Astronomy this week. This Skywatcher’s event is worth getting up early for. The bright lights in our early morning sky are the Third Quarter Moon with Venus and Jupiter. Mercury appears low in the horizon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning. By the end of the week the Moon is New. If it is a clear evening Friday, look East NE for Andromeda and the Galaxy that carries this constellation’s name. Star hopping to the galaxy is easy. Find Cassiopeia, the W. In Binoculars, the star Shedar is on lower part of the W, from there move down to the fuzzy patch in your FOV. That fuzzy patch is the Andromeda Galaxy. The Weather Forecast for the end of the week is cloudy and a small chance of rain. The moon is new and sky should be dark to find a few clusters, nebulas and galaxies with a scope, if we get a break in the clouds!

Do not forget Mars and the new rover Curiosity. The informative Press Conferences are on NASA TV @ Noon daily, our time, during the week…And the photos are out of this world!

News from the Net:
Curiosity Getting Ready to Rove
“The Hobbit” Author Gets a Crater on Mercury
A Star’s Dying Scream May Be a Beacon for Physics
Astrophotos: The 2012 Perseid Meteor Shower from Around the World
Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast: August 13-19, 2012
Astrophoto: Ptolemy’s Cluster by Rolf Wahl Olsen
Curiosity sees Mount Sharp Up Close and gets ‘Brain Transplant’
Distance from Earth to Mars
Curiosity’s First 360-Degree Color Panorama
Curiosity and the Mojave Desert of Mars – Panorama from Gale Crater

Friday, August 10, 2012

Meteor Shower may light up the Sky

The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway. 
I have read that folks are seeing some 15 per hour. And some Networks have logged a bunch of fireballs already. We had some clouds build up late Friday. These may linger into the weekend. Soon the earth will pass through the heart of debris field of comet Swift-Tuttle. Debris left behind by this comet smashes into Earth’s upper atmosphere, lighting up the nighttime as fiery Perseid meteors. We might get some 100 meteors per hour, with the peak happening before sunrise Sunday. These streams of light should give us something to look at if the clouds stay away. Time to pull out the lawn chair and set the alarm….Clear Skies

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mars, Meteors and Ernesto

Sunday night late, I plan to be with the JPL team on TV as NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, is slated to land on the Red Planet on Aug. 6, 2012 (EDT). Gale crater at which Curiosity is targeted; considering all the uncertainties inherent in the landing, it will almost certainly land within an area 20 kilometers long and 7 kilometers wide. Gale crater is 154 kilometers wide. Curiosity's landing ellipse puts its center considerably closer to the mountain in the middle of Gale crater. The spacecraft is on course for delivering the mission's car-sized rover, Curiosity, to a landing target beside a martian mountain at about 1:31 a.m. EDT August 6. After landing, the rover will spend a two-year prime mission studying whether the area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for life. As of July 30, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft carrying the rover Curiosity had traveled about 343 million miles (555 million kilometers) of its 352-million-mile (567 million kilometers) flight to Mars. The last opportunity to send the spacecraft any commands will be two hours before it enters the atmosphere.

Thursday, August 9 By mid-evening this week, W-shaped Cassiopeia rises as high in the north-northeast as the bowl of the Big Dipper has sunk in the north-northwest. Our Last-quarter Moon is tonight (exact at 2:55 p.m. EDT). The lopsided-looking Moon rises around midnight with the Pleiades to its left.

TS Ernesto is heading for the Yucatan by mid week. It may come into the gulf and might bring us some rain. If that happens we will not see Falling Stars by Saturday. If Ernesto doesn’t bring in the clouds, August 11, The Perseid meteor shower should be at its best late tonight. After 11 or midnight you may see a meteor a minute on average; fewer earlier. The Moon rises by 1 or 2 a.m. (with Jupiter above it). Clear Skies….

News from the Net:

Curiosity Precisely on Course at T Minus 48 Hours till a ‘Priceless Asset’ Lands on Mars
Zoom into an Ancient and Fractured Martian Landscape
Incredible View of Curiosity Rover’s Landing Site
3 Days to Red Planet Touchdown – Watch the Harrowing Video of Car-Sized Curiosity Careening to Crater Floor
HiRISE Camera to Attempt Imaging Curiosity’s Descent to Mars
Data from Black Hole’s Edge Provides New Test of Relativity
Reminiscent of Apollo, Australian Facilities Will Receive First Signals of Curiosity Rover Landing
Progress Resupply Ship Takes Fast-Track to ISS, Arriving 6 Hours After Launch

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July’s Goodbye is in Aquarius

With a Clear Sky Forecast, we have a chance to catch a falling star this weekend. The Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet 96P/Machholz, source of the annual delta Aquarid meteor shower. We might see 15 an hour. If you are up late scan the constellation Aquarius after midnight. Red Antares shines lower right of the waxing gibbous Moon Saturday evening. Before and during dawn Monday morning, Jupiter is closest to Aldebaran. They're 4.7° apart, with Aldebaran to Jupiter's lower right. It is finally August! Looking forward to Fall and some cooler temperatures! Wednesday, August 1: The Full Moon is tonight (exact at 11:27 p.m. EDT). The Moon is in dim Capricornus. Shining high above it is Altair. With summer in full swing, the Summer Triangle approaches its greatest height in the evening. Face east and look almost straight up after nightfall. The brightest star there is Vega. Toward the northeast from Vega (by two or three fist-widths at arm's length) is Deneb. Toward the southeast from Vega by a greater distance is Altair.

News from the Net:
NASA Making Strides with the New Space Launch System
The Most Epic Curiosity Countdown Clock
T Minus 9 Days – Mars Orbiters Now in Place to Relay Critical Curiosity Landing Signals
Japanese HTV-3 Berthed to International Space Station
Flags Still Standing at Several Apollo Landing Sites on the Moon
Fish in Space: Space Station Gets an Aquarium
Europe’s Plans to Visit the Moon in 2018
Mercury’s Many Colors
How Long Does it Take to Get to Mars?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Four Planets, Clear Sky

Friday night we had a Clear Sky! Let me clarify. This does not mean it was dark! Our City light pollution is taking away far too many dimmer stars and the Milky Way from my Backyard Observing!  Still, the constellations and those wandering stars were captured with Visible Astronomy Observing. Mars and Saturn are a bit too far in the West for me to observe. If you have a good horizon, find both these planets in the west this week with the coming moon phase. Jupiter and Venus are in a grand place in the sky just before dawn with the red star Aldeberan, the eye of the Bull Taurus.  I did see the following Constellations:
The Swan, Cygnus, with Albireo leading the flight of bright stars seen. Sadr the chest, Gienah, the wing and ending with the tail of the bird, Deneb. Catch the Summer Triangle by following Deneb to Altair to Vega. With more time and Binoculars you can catch the Coat Hanger too. The Milky Way can be seen in darker skies, somewhere. That river of stars can be observed between [435] Altair and [5350] Vega. Farther South was Scorpius, up higher with Antares in the center of FOV.The three stars leading this creature of night are the head and middle star- Dschubba. Graffias ("claws") and Acrab ("scorpion"). 

First Quarter Moon occurs on the 26th at 4:56 am Eastern Daylight Time