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