Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Moon and Stars trail into February

What has happened to winter? January ends with warm and cloudy nights. Unseasonably warm! This next week will bring more clouds and a chance of rain! We may have a couple of clear nights to observe. Follow the moon, as it brightens the night sky and discover several familiar Constellations this week.

Sunday night, The Moon shines about 8° right or upper right of Jupiter this evening (for North America.

Monday, The first-quarter Moon shines about 8° upper left of Jupiter this evening (for North America).

Tuesday, Jupiter is lower right of the Moon this evening. Continue the line much farther lower right to hit Venus. OK Rock hounds, On Tuesday, January 31, asteroid 433 Eros will come closer to Earth than it has in 37 years, traveling across the night sky in the constellations Leo, Sextans and Hydra. At its closest pass of 16.6 million miles (26.7 million km) the relatively bright 21-mile (34-km) -wide asteroid will be visible with even modest backyard telescopes, approaching magnitude 8, possibly even 7.

Wednesday, The Moon shines between the Pleiades and Aldebaran

Thursday, Now that it's February, Orion strides high in early evening. It's below the Moon tonight. Orion's top left corner is fiery Betelgeuse. Far below Betelgeuse shines brighter Sirius. Betelgeuse and Sirius form the equilateral Winter Triangle with Procyon off to their left.

Friday, After dinnertime, the waxing gibbous Moon is shining high in the southeast. Look to its upper left for bright Capella, to its upper right for Aldebaran, lower right for Orion, and lower left for Gemini including Castor and Pollux.

Saturday, The Moon shines in the feet of Gemini this evening, with Castor and Pollux to its left and Orion farther to its right. Well below the Moon shines Procyon

News from the Net:
‘Oceanus Borealis’ – Mars Express Finds New Evidence for Ancient Ocean on Mars
Asteroid To Make Closest Approach Since 1975
Astrophoto: Transit of Europa by David Billington
Progress Resupply Ship Docks at the International Space Station
“Bad Boy” Sunspot Unleashes Powerful X-Class Flare
Emerging Supermassive Black Holes Choke Star Formation
Orion Capsule Embarks on Cross Country Public Tour

Monday, January 23, 2012

Stars beneath the Dragon’s Breath

The first day of the Chinese New Year – Year of the Dragon… begins at midnight on January 23, 2012. Unstable and unusual weather patterns for this time of year! It continues to be a strange month/week, weather wise. Small fronts make it cold then the coast winds blow back warmer air, bringing clouds that cover the stars at night!

Bright Orion stands upright at its highest in the south around 8 or 9 p.m. this week. Orion's top left corner is fire-colored Betelgeuse, one of the stars of the equilateral Winter Triangle. The other two are Procyon, about two fist-widths at arm's length lower left of Betelgeuse, and bright Sirius, a similar distance below Betelgeuse.

If the clouds break, you can find Venus and a Crescent Moon dancing close this week. Jupiter is still Center Stage, with the four moons stage left and stage right.

News from the Net:
Can Solar Flares Hurt Astronauts?
Opportunity arrives at Greeley Haven – 5th Winter Haven Worksite on Mars
NOAA: Largest Solar Radiation Storm Since 2005 Now in Progress
NASA Finds 2011 is Ninth-Warmest Year on Record

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An Old Nebula in a Bull's Eye

A Binocular Highlight this week and not too hard to find, it is the Crab Nebula. M1 in Taurus looks like a small amoeba in my telescope! This diffuse little glow is near the dimmer of Taurus's two horn tips. At magnitude 8.4 it needs a dark sky if you're using a small instrument! This week we can still enjoy the sights of Orion's Belt and Sword in a telescope. With the weather turning warmer this week, more clouds will roll in, giving us only one or two nights of clear skies. Forecast says Tuesday and Wednesday night will be clear! Last Saturday night’s event at the TPL site was another success. Larry reports that several telescopes from the Group were working the sky with a large group of stargazers attending.

It’s a Last-quarter Moon late Sunday night (exact at 4:08 a.m. on the 16th EST). The Moon rises around midnight local time tonight, with Spica a little above it and Saturn farther to its left.
Wednesday, As dawn begins to brighten Thursday morning, look southeast for the waning crescent Moon with Antares to its lower right — an early preview of a landmark star of summer evenings.

News from the Net:
A Wrinkled Moon
Why Does Sirius Twinkle?
Astrophoto: Venus Above Kendal Castle
Citizen Scientist Project Finds Thousands of ‘Star Bubbles’
A Space Moonrise (and the PromISSe of a New Future)
Supernova Primo – Out To Far Frontiers
India has Red Planet Fever
Doomed Phobos-Grunt Mars Mission Destructively Plunges to Earth
Strait of Hormuz Shot from the International Space Station – World Strategic Flashpoint
Scientists Still Searching for the Beagle 2 Crash Site on Mars

Monday, January 9, 2012

The First Full Moon of Y2K+12 and Stargazing.

A Full Moon starts this week’s night Sky,(exact at 2:30 a.m. Monday morning EST). The Moon is in Gemini, with Castor and Pollux to its left in the evening and Orion farther to its right. Since we're still near the winter solstice, the full Moon passes almost overhead in the middle of the night (as seen from mid-northern latitudes). The weather here is unstable! Warm, then Cold! A Pacific system moving through us brings more Clouds and a chance of rain. We have a good chance for Startgazing on one clear night sky this week. The end of the week, the Group will try to set up at the TPL for another Event. Clouds are forecast, but maybe that will change? Take a note on a few items to view in this week’s night sky. Hope for Clear Skies:

In early evening at this time of year, the Great Square of Pegasus balances on one corner high in the west. The vast Andromeda-Pegasus constellation complex runs all the way from near the zenith (Andromeda's foot) down through the Great Square (Pegasus's body) almost to the western horizon (Pegasus's nose). We can look for Faint Neptune (magnitude 7.9) is 1.3° north (upper right) of Venus — which is 60,000 times brighter at magnitude –4.0. The Red Planet, Mars shines above the waning Moon before and during dawn Saturday morning. If it is clear next Saturday night, The tight telescopic double star Gamma (γ) Virginis shines above the waning Moon before and during dawn Sunday morning. Brighter Mars glows to the star's right, and Saturn is less far to the star's left.

News from the Net:
The Contributor to SN 2011fe
Solar Powered Dragon gets Wings for Station Soar
Tranquillityite – Moon Mineral Found In Western Australia
Exomoons? Kepler‘s On The Hunt
A Solar Flare of Many Colors
Dazzling Photos of the International Space Station Crossing the Moon!
Suburu Telescope Captures Hidden Planets In Stellar Dust Ring
Why Pluto is No Longer a PlanetMore “Hollowed Ground” on Mercury

Monday, January 2, 2012

Starry Starry Nights Y2K+12

This week brings Falling Stars and a bright moon. A chance to view favorites Jupiter and Orion in my night sky. Venus is still anchored near the Moon as the week moves into our first weekend. The Quadrantid meteor shower bursts across our sky this week. This should be a fine year for one of the best, but least observed, annual meteor showers. The Quadrantids should be most active in the early morning hours of Wednesday the 4th. The Moon sets around 3 a.m. local time then, leaving the sky dark until the first light of dawn around 6. The ISS makes several appearances this week through Friday night. Check the page for NB area at Heavens Above.com. If it is cloudy over your back yard, the Bowl Games are on this week. College Football is coming to a close!

Some events for the rest of the week:
Wednesday, The waxing gibbous Moon shines near the Pleiades tonight. Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:08 p.m. EST. Earth is at perihelion, its closest to the Sun for the year (just one part in 30 closer than at aphelion in July).

Thursday, The bright Moon is between the Pleiades and Aldebaran.

Friday, The Moon tonight shines between the horns of Taurus. The horn tip stars are Beta Tauri, to the Moon's left in early evening for North America, and Zeta Tauri (slightly fainter), to the Moon's lower left.

News from the Net:
Space Station Crew Anticipating SpaceX Dragon’s Arrival
The Sun Blows Off a Little Steam
Nebula of Many Names Revealed in Beautiful New Image
NASA Provides Live All-Sky Video Feed for Quadrantid Meteor Shower
Dusty Plasma From Enceladus Might Affect Saturn’s Magnetosphere
What Can You See in the Night Sky in January 2012?