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.

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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.
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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