Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jupiter Exits, Saturn in FOV

In the sky above, Spring Sails into April with Virgo, bringing Saturn into view! In the earth below it's time to plant, scythe the weeds and grass; hope for the night skies to clear for a little observing . But the Clouds keep moving in with this season of change. I did get a chance to observe two nights last week before the stars and planets were hidden behind the fog of moisture.

Time is running out on Jupiter as he falls lower in the west. The fifth planet is visible in the west just after sunset, in twilight the wandering star has moved into the turbulence of the horizon. So forget about putting this star in your FOV. By May, he moves to close to the Sun and takes his trip into the underworld.

Mars (magnitude –0.7) shines bright fire-orange under the belly of Leo. Regulus is 5° to Mars's right in the evening, and Gamma Leonis is 7° above it. Mars is shining higher in the evening sky now. It's highest in the south by around 10 or 11 p.m. daylight-saving time.

Saturn is the Wandering Star to observe in April!
As you may know, Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system with a beautiful majestic ring system that is made of particles of dust, ice and rocks. This is the perfect time of the year to view Saturn as it is gliding across the sky alongside the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo, Spica. April 15th is the best time to see Saturn as it is at opposition so it is closest to earth and fully illuminated by the sun. Saturn (magnitude +0.3, in Virgo) rises around the end of twilight and glows highest in the south around 1 or 2 a.m. Shining nearly 6° to Saturn's right is Spica, about half as bright at magnitude +1.0 and bluer. In a telescope Saturn's rings are tilted 14° from our line of sight.

Our Full Moon is Friday (exact at 3:19 p.m. EDT). This evening the Moon shines in the east with Spica a little to its left and Saturn farther left — a pretty lineup, as shown here. Farther to the Moon's right, look for the four-star pattern of Corvus, the Crow.

Venus magnitude –4.5, skims the little Pleiades star cluster this week. It's closest to the Pleiades' center on April 3rd. Binoculars help show the delicate stars behind Venus's bright glare.

News from the Net:
Shaking Up Theories Of Earth’s Formation
Postcards From Saturn
Hubble Gets Best Look Yet At Messier 9
Did Water or Lava Carve the Outflow Channels on Mars?
Huge ‘Tornado’ on the Sun
Video: 20-Ton Cargo Freighter Arrives at Space Station
Apollo 11′s Rocket Engines Found on the Bottom of the Ocean
Astronomers Discover Ancient Planetary System
Billions of Habitable Worlds Likely in the Milky Way
Was This Ancient Monolith a Stone Age Astronomy Tool?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stars in Last Week of March

It will be another week of gathering clouds that will cover my night sky. Before the clouds moved in last night, I did see Orion, sinking fast in the west. No sign of Jupiter or Venus. They are now behind my western tree line. Mars was high and easy to spot in Leo. The Sky was not the best on this spring night! With the season change well under way, it is getting warmer with more chances of rain. I see NO CLEAR NIGHTS forecast this week.

If you observe with binoculars you're probably well acquainted with the big Beehive Cluster, M44 in Cancer, very high in the evening this month. Early this week, as night comes on, look for the little Pleiades cluster to the lower right of the Moon and above Venus. Left of the Moon shines orange Aldebaran, with the stars of the Hyades around it. The Moon and Venus, the two brightest celestial objects after the Sun, appear paired up in the west Monday evening.

Friday is the First-quarter Moon (exact at 3:41 p.m. EDT). The Moon shines in the legs of Gemini, below Pollux and Castor and high above sinking Betelgeuse.

News from the Net:
Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast – March 26 to April 1, 2012
Orion Crew Capsule Targeted for 2014 Leap to High Orbit
Twister on Mars: The Movie
Photo Treat: Enceladus, Titan and Saturn’s Rings
Can NASA’s Planetary Science Budget Be Saved?
First Ever Geologic Map of Io: 425 Volcanoes, No Craters
Two Moons In Passing
VISTA View Is Chock Full Of Galaxies
Clouds Get in the Way on Mars
Recent Solar Storms Pumped 26 billion Kilowatts of Energy into Earth’s Atmosphere
Robotics Refueling Research Scores Huge Leap at Space Station

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Navigate the Spring Constellations

The Group met last Thursday and seven of us discussed a variety of skywatching topics. The next TPL event is set for April 28 to coincide the Astronomy Day Events. A Telescope review has been planned at the TPL for April 4. These folks will be busy as some plan to attend the Texas Star Party, also in April. We have just past the Ides of March; the sky moves into the spring constellations. With another round of Cloudy damp nights forecast, our sky will be covered most nights and we will miss a lot of this week’s events. Maybe I will get a few clear nights? But here is next week’s Constellations in clear skies…..

Ursa Major, Bootes, Virgo, Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices, Leo, Leo Minor, Lynx, Cancer, Hydra, Sextans, Corvus, Crater

Saturday, Jupiter and Venus have separated a bit to appear nearly 5° apart now — still a head-turning spectacle in the west at dusk!

Sunday night look south for brilliant Sirius. It's the bottom point of the Winter Triangle. The triangle's other corners are Procyon to Sirius's upper left, and Betelgeuse to Sirius's upper right (a corner of Orion). Compared to the Summer Triangle, the Winter Triangle is brighter, more colorful, and equilateral!

Monday, Spring begins (in the Northern Hemisphere) tonight. The equinox comes at 1:14 a.m.
Tuesday morning EDT, 10:14 p.m. Monday evening PDT, when the Sun crosses the equator on its way north. The Sun rises and sets almost due east and west, and day and night are about equally long. In the Southern Hemisphere, winter begins. Tuesday, The dim Little Dipper juts to the right from Polaris (its handle-end) during evening hours. The much brighter Big Dipper curls over high above it, "dumping water" into it. Orion declines in the southwest after dark with his Belt roughly horizontal. Orion's Belt is slightly curved. Welcome to pre-telescopic astronomy.

Wednesday, With the Moon out of the sky, now's a fine time to shoot for some challenge objects

Thursday, New Moon (exact at 10:37 a.m. EDT). If it is clear, find Mars in the Eastern sky and locate the Beehive cluster.

Friday,Look low in the west about a half hour after sunset, below Venus and Jupiter and perhaps a little right, for the very thin crescent Moon in the bright twilight — as shown at bottom-right here.

Next Saturday, Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent Moon now form a bent line in the west as twilight fades, as shown here. As darkness deepens, look above Venus for the Pleiades.

News from the Net:
Astrophotos: Venus and Jupiter Conjunction
See the Latest Jaw-Dropping Aurora Views from the ISS
One Ring Zero and NASA Soak You In Space Awesomeness
Go On a Grand Tour of the Moon
Ride a Shuttle Booster to the Edge of Space and Back
Watch 4.5 Billion Years of the Moon’s Evolution in 2.5 Minutes

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good News...A Clear Night

We did have several nights with some damp cloudy skies, the front pushed through, then the Sun brought us a few Clear Nights. For two nights in a row I was able to observe Jupiter and Venus, Orion, the Pleiades, and Mars... WOW! It has been a while, but the night sky turned clear and seeing was excellent! And here is other good news, all systems are up and running with the PC...again! Am going through cyberspace with light speed with no turbulance. Those kinks giving me problems are gone for the time being.... Maybe it was those recent sun spots that were causing interference?

Here's the latest News from the Net:
Huge Coronal Hole Is Sending Solar Wind Our Way
Jupiter’s Jet Streams Get Thrown Off Course
Venus-Jupiter Conjunction, March 15th, 2012
Next Chinese Mission Might Include Some Women
Why Does the “Man in the Moon” Face Earth?
Valuable Space Rock Crashes Into Oslo Cabin
Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast – March 12-18, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dark Nights Ahead

Winter came back this weekend! Forecast Chilly, Cloudy, Damp days and nights. We did get some rain! But the Sun is forecast to come back Sunday/Monday…..This coming (warmer) week we have a chance to observe in a dark sky, if the clouds stay away! My system is going Dark this week. I am still having PC problems. Some viral cyberspace creature has infected my system. I can get to some websites but not others....Strange!! The IT team has worked on the system, but they now say I need a clean scrub. HAL needs a total shut down but should be operating correctly by St Pats day? In a telescope Mars (magnitude –1.1, in Leo) is still 13.8 or 13.9 arc-seconds wide, the largest it will appear until 2014. Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Virgo) rises in the east around 9 or 10 p.m. and shines highest in the south around 3 a.m. In a telescope Saturn's rings are tilted 15° from our line of sight, their most open since 2007

Saturday, The waning gibbous Moon forms a nice triangle with Saturn and Spica, once they're well up by 10 or 11 p.m. Daylight-saving time begins (for most of North America) at 2 a.m.

Sunday morning. Clocks "spring ahead" 1 hour

Monday, With the Moon gone from the evening sky, Venus and Jupiter are now almost at their closest together, appearing 3.1° apart this evening. Watch their orientation change drastically from day to day now that they're so close.

Tuesday, Venus and Jupiter appear closest together tonight: 3.0°.

Wednesday, Last-quarter Moon (exact at 9:25 p.m. EDT on this date). The Moon rises around the middle of the night. As dawn begins Thursday morning it's above the Teapot of Sagittarius.

Friday, Jupiter and Venus have separated a bit to appear 4.0° apart now — still a head-turning spectacle during and after twilight!

News from the Net:
Astrophoto: Stunning Detailed Look at the Whirlpool Galaxy by John Chumack
Radar Prototype Begins Tracking Down Space Junk
Giant Sunspot Seen Through Dusty Skies
Twin NASA Science Probes Start Lunar Gravity Mapping
A Close-up Look at the Massive Solar Storm that Shook the Sun
Best Views Yet of Historic Apollo Landing Sites
Huge Dust Devil on Mars Captured in Action
Dawn gets Big Science Boost at Best Vesta Mapping AltitudeSun Releases a Powerful X5 Flare

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chaos and the Red Planet

Chaos in my Universe this past week? Too many factors at light speed led to a collision course in cyberspace. The anti-virus software I use is due to expire and there was a conflict in getting to the company on line! Finally after several hours running scans and sweeps for unknown creatures lurking in my computer's black hole, order was restored to my universe. Surfing in the Event Horizon is exhausting! I needed a SciFi movie or two to charge my memory banks. Internet problems aside, I also had to deal with a delay from my out of state med supplier. And guess what?, we loose an hour of sleep at the end of the week! Daylight - Saving Time begins again next Sunday! Clouds are still in the forecast in the middle of the week! March is coming in like a lion, but we can still see Red this week. As for this weekend, if it clears off, I will be out looking at the Angry Red Planet. Looking forward to observing the Night Sky in a few clear nights this next week:

Monday, Mars is at its closest to Earth for this apparition: 100.8 million km (62.6 million miles). Mars appears 13.9 arcseconds wide, compared to the 24″ or 25″ it reaches during its closet swing-bys. The last time that happened was in 2003; the next will be in 2018.

Tuesday, The nearly full Moon hangs to the right of Regulus this evening, as shown here. Mars shines to their lower left.

Wednesday, Mars shines left of the full Moon this evening, as shown here; both are at or near opposition. (The Moon is exactly full at 4:39 a.m. Thursday morning EST.) Look west for Jupiter and Venus tonight.

Saturday, The waning gibbous Moon forms a nice triangle with Saturn and Spica once they're well up by 10 or 11 p.m.

Daylight-saving time begins (for most of North America) at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Clocks spring forward 1 hour.

News from the Net:
Hubble Spots Mysterious Dark Matter ‘Core’
Is There Life on Earth?
Night Sky Guide: March 2012
Star Trails as Seen From Space
Excellent Exoplanet Visualization: The Kepler Orrery II
Will Asteroid 2011 AG5 Hit Earth in 2040?
NASA’s New Video, Voiced by Optimus Prime
Astronomers See Stars Changing Right Before Their Eyes in Orion Nebula