Monday, December 9, 2013

Frosty Nights this Week

Viewing the Stars and Planets in a scope this week from the backyard will be cold, so bundle up! The end of the week brings a meteor shower. Get away from city lights and head for the country. Keep warm and look up! We are going into the wave of Christmas shopping time warp. Full speed ahead and watch for turbulent Gravity drops and all the asteroids coming at you in the parking lots!

The Planet Venus (magnitude –4.9) is the brilliant "Evening Star" in the southwest during and after dusk. It's shining at its brightest for the year, and it doesn't set until more than an hour after dark. In a telescope, Venus has waned to a crescent about 25% lit and has enlarged to about 42 arcseconds tall, as it swings toward us around the Sun.

For early morning viewing you can target Mars (magnitude 1.2, in the head of Virgo) rises around 1 a.m. By dawn it's very high in the south. In a telescope Mars is still tiny and gibbous, 5.8 arcseconds wide.

The Planet Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Libra) is low in the southeast as dawn begins to brighten. Look for it then far to the lower left of Mars and Spica, and far lower right of brighter Arcturus.

Monday, is the First-quarter Moon (exact at 10:12 a.m. EST). This evening the Moon shines just under the dim Circlet of Pisces below the Great Square of Pegasus.

Note: Our night skies may be filled with clouds this weekend!

Friday, The Geminid meteor shower should be at its peak tonight, from 9 or 10 p.m. until dawn Saturday morning. The best viewing time is after your local moonset: in the hour before the beginning of morning twilight on the 14th. But bright meteors will show even through the moonlight earlier. This year's shower begins to peak just after midnight Thursday (the early-morning hours of Friday) and lasts through dawn. Then it's back Friday night into the predawn hours of Saturday. Falling stars should be visible beginning mid-to-late evening and ending at dawn both nights. The Geminids "are specks of debris from 3200 Phaethon, which is not a comet, as you might expect, but an asteroid," says Rick Kline with the Planetary Imaging Facility at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

The moon is in its waxing phase and will be gibbous (more than half full) and up most of the night, so its light will compete with fainter meteors. Good luck this year from your backyard.

Friday, November 15, 2013

November: A Comet; Meteor Shower

We have been busy this month! Getting out to the porch to view has been difficult this month. Even in clear conditions, November has been lost in searching for the comet ISON. We have spent several early morning hours searching and scanning the lower horizon! Our problem is the horizon! Just too many trees, so we track the icy rock on line. COMET ISON UPDATE: Reports of naked-eye sightings of Comet ISON are coming in from around the world. Experienced observers put the comet's magntitude at +5.5 on Nov. 16th. This means it is now fully 10 times brighter than it was only three days ago before the outburst. To the naked eye, ISON appears as a faint smudge of pale green light low in the pre-dawn sky. The view through a telescope is more dramatic. The comet's tail has become a riotous crowd of gaseous streamers stretching more than 3.5 degrees across the sky.

Monitoring is encouraged. Comet ISON rises in the east just before the sun. Amateur astronomers, if you have a GOTO telescope, enter these coordinates. Dates of special interest include Nov. 17th and 18th when the comet will pass the bright star Spica, making ISON extra-easy to find. Sky maps: Nov. 15, 16, 17, 18,19.

I’m going to miss the monthly meeting and the next TPML Hilltop Event. The clouds may put an end to any viewing at this month’s event!

This will be another year missing the great meteor shower of the past, always hoping for another “Storm”, like we witnessed in 98. In fact, the 2013 Leonid meteor shower, scheduled to peak overnight Saturday night and early Sunday morning (Nov. 16 and 17), are likely to be a major disappointment, partly because of the expected lack of any significant activity, but mainly because of the moon which unfortunately will be full, flooding the sky with its bright light. Those turn-of-the-century Leonid showers — and their accompanying hype — are still remembered by many, but it is important to note that any suggestion of a spectacular Leonid display this year is, to put it mildly, overly optimistic. [Amazing Leonid Meteor Shower Photos by Stargazers] The Leonids are named for the constellation Leo, the Lion—the point in the sky where many of the meteors seem to originate.

The meteors are caused by the Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which sweeps through the inner solar system every 33.3 years. Each time the comet passes closest to the sun it leaves a "river of rubble" in its wake; a dense trail of dusty debris. A meteor storm becomes possible if the Earth were to score a direct hit on a fresh dust trail ejected by the comet over the past couple of centuries.

The 2013 Leonids are expected to show only low activity this year with 10 to maybe 20 meteors per hour at best. The "traditional" peak for the Leonids is scheduled for the predawn hours of Nov. 17 and the full moon will be not too far away, shining within the constellation Taurus, making observations very difficult.

Such meteor storms have indeed occurred with the famous November Leonids. For instance, in 1833 and 1966 meteor rates of tens of thousands per hour were observed. In more recent years, most notably 1999, 2001 and 2002, lesser Leonid displays of up to a few thousand meteors per hour took place.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cloudy This Week, Then Friday Night---Dark Skies

It is sad when we get cooler nights and the clouds hide the stars. But, we can use the rain! Most of this week’s forecast calls for cloudy skies with chance of rain. The last event at the TPML was held indoors, no scopes outside! As we move into a dark, last quarter moon week, we will have to wait for the weather to clear before putting a star in our eyepiece. Seems the end of the week may give us that chance!

Did you know, the large Jupiter Satellite Juno photographed the Earth? October was the return of Juno to our neighborhood before heading out to Jupiter with a slingshot maneuver.

When the sky clears Friday night: Comet ISON is below Mars, in the hind feet of Leo, before the first light of dawn, still a telescopic target at 9th or 10th magnitude. Use the finder chart for it in the November Sky & Telescope, page 50. Check for news atskypub.com/ISON.

Prepare for a weekend of comet bonanza

Monday, October 21, 2013

More cloudy nights this week

Another forecast for rain and cloudy nights the first and last part of the week. There are a couple of clear nights thrown in this week, but you have to put up with moon light! We will miss the ORIONID METEOR SHOWER Monday night! Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Monday, Oct. 21st, with about 20 meteors per hour. The best time to look is during the hours before local sunrise when the constellation Orion is high in the sky. [sky map]. Amateur photos of Orionds are available in the spaceweather.com gallery. Lunar interference will be a problem during the peak. All but the brightest Orionids will be wiped out by glare from the waning full Moon. Fortunately there are some bright ones.

Saturday is the Last-quarter Moon (exactly so at 7:40 p.m. EDT). The Moon rises around midnight or 1 a.m. local time tonight, in dim Cancer below Jupiter and Gemini. There is an event scheduled at the TPML hill top Saturday evening. Sky does not look good for using the scopes, but maybe?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Full Moon, Cloudy Skies

The forecast this week is Cloudy nights, with a chance of rain! This leaves us inside and not looking for the current constellations that dominate our night sky. I did see the quarter moon last Saturday night after coming home in late evening. A bright quarter moon between some clouds. The Stars are there, behind the clouds. This is the week the moon gets brighter. By Friday our moon is full. This October Hunter’s Moon becomes full 6:39 p.m. Friday evening, the 18th.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Three Planets and a Comet

With the first cold front through our area over the weekend, we may have a few good clear and cooler nights ahead this week. Mars is still visible before dawn. Venus is in sight after sunset and appears below the crescent moon this week. Put the cross hairs on this red planet and you might get a glimpse of Comet ISON! To find the comet use these Sky Maps from Spaceweather.com: Oct. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

In the evening this week look west for Venus after sunset. Wednesday lower right of the Moon during and after twilight. Just 3/4° above Venus is 2nd-magnitude star Delta Scorpii.

By the end of the week, Friday, the First-quarter Moon shines (exact at 7:02 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon, half lit, shines above the pouring Sagittarius Teapot in early evening.

If it is clear Friday, a chance to catch a Triple shadow transit on Jupiter. A rare case of three moons — Io, Europa, and Callisto — casting their tiny black shadows onto Jupiter at the same time happens late tonight, from 4:32 to 5:37 Universal Time October 12th (12:32 to 1:37 a.m. Saturday morning Eastern Daylight Time). Jupiter will be high and best placed for telescope users low in the east.

News from the Net:

Monday, September 30, 2013

New Moon This Week

After a good rain over the weekend we have a few clear sky nights forecast this week. With a new moon on the way, a few dark nights ahead too! Looking forward to cooler nights! Searching for Andromeda in the evening and maybe the comet ISON in the early moring hours.

In the eastern dawn Tuesday morning, look for the thin waning crescent Moon forming a triangle with Mars and Regulus. Best view: at least an hour before your local sunrise. We went out and viewed this part of our early morning sky. Easy to find Mars, and Jupiter and a crescent moon.

Thursday, Jupiter is up in the east by midnight or 1 a.m.

Friday is our New Moon (exact at 8:35 p.m. EDT).

News from the Net:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Last Quarter Moon in First Week of Fall

2013 autumnal equinox or the September equinox occurred at 4:44 p.m. EDT Sunday, when the Sun crossed the equator heading south for the season. Fall begins in the Northern Hemisphere. On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length – 12 hours – all over the world. This is the reason it's called an "equinox", derived from Latin, meaning "equal night". However, even if this is widely accepted, it isn't entirely true. In reality equinoxes don't have exactly 12 hours of daylight

The September equinox occurs the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year. On any other day of the year, the Earth's axis tilts a little away from or towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the Earth's axis tilts neither away from nor towards the Sun, like the illustration shows. For those looking for more daylight, a couple of dates to remember: Daylight Saving Time this year ends November 3. Daylight Saving Time 2014 begins on March 9, and the 2014 vernal equinox will take place at 12:57 p.m. EDT on March 20.

We do have several clear nights forecast this week. Sky chart shows constellations: Hercules, Cygnus, Lyra and Bootes in our line of sight for viewing.

Thursday is the Last-quarter Moon, tonight (exact at 11:55 p.m. EDT). The Moon rises around 11 or midnight local time, shining in the feet of Gemini. Jupiter is to its lower left, as shown below, and Orion is farther to its right.

Jupiter (magnitude –2.1, in central Gemini) rises around midnight or 1 a.m. and blazes high in the east-southeast by dawn. Left of it are Castor and Pollux.  JUNO is on the way to Jupiter and will do a slingshot around earth this October 9!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Full Moon, Cloudy Nights

Our forecast this week does not show any clear skies. We do need the rain!
Space.com writes that this Thursday's full moon carries the title of "Harvest Moon" for those living in the Northern Hemisphere. But what gives the special moon its name?

The moon officially turns full when it reaches the spot in the sky opposite (180degrees) from the sun. That moment will occur on Thursday (Sept. 19) at 7:13 a.m. EDT (1113 GMT).

Thursday's full moon is the one nearest to the September equinox this year, making it the Harvest Moon by the usual definition. Other definitions of the Harvest Moon, according to Guy Ottewell's Astronomical Calendar 2013, are the full moon on or after the date of the equinox, or the full moon in October.

Although we associate the Harvest Moon with autumn, this year's version is actually the last full moon of the summer season. In fact, it's this summer's fourth full moon, an oddity of sorts since most of the time there are only three full moons per season. Since this summer had four, the third full moon is designated as aBlue Moon, which was indeed the case last month. The 2013 Harvest Moon comes less than 3.5 days prior to the Autumnal Equinox, although a Harvest Moon can occur as early as Sept. 8 (as will be the case next year) or as late as Oct. 7 (as was the case in 1987).
On average, an October Harvest Moon happens once about every four years, although this figure can be deceptive. The last October Harvest Moon was in 2009, but the next won't occur until 2017. Conversely, after 2017, we need only wait three years (2020) for the next October Harvest Moon.

Wednesday, if it is clear, it’s a Full Moon tonight and tomorrow night (exactly full at 7:13 a.m. Thursday morning EDT). Saturn and Venus are in the west at twilight, Wednesday and Thursday evening.

News from the Net:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

LADEE to the Moon

So it seems like a month of Sundays since I posted! Blame it on the weather and some health problems…..Hopefully there is now order in this chaotic path within this universe.
September started with hot days in the first week! The evenings were mostly cloudy but Pegasus and Andromeda are slowly edging up the eastern horizon. The Swan is floating over head and Hercules is moving toward the western horizon. In this second week of our ninth month, Venus and the Moon will be together in the Sky on Sunday evening.

I do not see a favorable forecast to observe the night sky this week….. Cloudy nights ahead!

LADEE, short for "Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer," will circle the Moon for 100 days to assay the lunar atmosphere. Instruments onboard the spacecraft will look for signs of humidity, electrified dust, and atoms hopping across the lunar surface.
NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.
The LADEE spacecraft's modular common spacecraft bus, or body, is an innovative way of transitioning away from custom designs and toward multi-use designs and assembly-line production, which could drastically reduce the cost of spacecraft development, just as the Ford Model T did for automobiles. NASA's Ames Research Center designed, developed, built and tested the spacecraft.

News from the Net:


Monday, August 19, 2013

Bright Moon, Bright Star

With a bright moon at night, the stars are a fading memory…..this week we will have several clear nights to focus on any bright star and a full moon. There is a Bright nova in Delphinus. The nova discovered in Delphinus last Wednesday brightened to magnitude 4.4 in the next 48 hours. Delphinus is conveniently high in the evening sky. The nova is easy to see in binoculars, and it's visible to the naked eye if you have a dark sky. See Bright Nova in Delphinus, with a finder chart and a link to a continuously updated light curve. Several have captured this bright star since it lit up the sky!

In the early morning hours before sunrise we can still spot the planets Mars and Jupiter.

Tuesday is our Full Moon (exact at 9:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The Moon rises around sunset and shines in dim Aquarius after dark.

News from the Net:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fire in the Sky

I did go out several times this past weekend, but did not stay out long. The sky was not the clearest from my backyard. However several others in my area did go out and reported good seeing and the count was 20 meteors per hour. A lot of short fireballs among them. The clouds keep trying to close in the sky, but we did have several good clear nights.

This was from Spaceweather.com on Wednesday:  The Perseid meteor shower, which peaked on August 12-13 with as many as 120 meteors per hour, is slowly subsiding as Earth exits the debris stream of parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Sky watchers should nevertheless remain alert for meteors tonight between midnight and sunrise. It will take several days for the Perseid rate to drop to zero. [photo gallery]

Wednesday is our first quarter moon. The night sky will begin to get brighter with moonlight!

News about our nearest star: Something big is about to happen on the sun.  According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun's vast magnetic field is about to flip!

If it is clear in your backyard focus on the constellation Delphinus. A bright new Nova can be seen!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Planets and Fire in the Sky

In this second week of August, if your sky is clear, look for Venus and Saturn in the evening sky. Saturn (magnitude +0.7, in Virgo) glows in the southwest as twilight fades, with Spica 12° to its lower right. Venus (magnitude –3.9) shines brightly very low in the west in evening twilight. In a telescope Venus is still small (13 arcseconds) and gibbous (81% sunlit).

Jupiter, Mars and Mercury make up the three planets in the pre-dawn sky. Start watching for those Perseid meteors by late week, also in the pre-dawn sky! Hope for Clear Skies!

Sunday, The asteroid 3 Juno is brightest at opposition this week, glimmering at magnitude 9.0 at the Aquarius-Aquila border. Pick it up with your scope using the finder chart in the AugustSky & Telescope, page 51.

Tuesday, A binocular challenge: Spot Venus in twilight low in the west and then, using binoculars, see if you can detect the 4.0-magnitude star that it's closely passing. The star is Sigma Leonis, Leo's hind foot, just 0.6° above Venus depending on your time and location.

Our New Moon is at 4:51 p.m. Tuesday, Central Daylight Time.

Thursday, The Perseid meteor shower is ramping up! It should peak late this Sunday and Monday nights. See the Sky and Telescope article Get Ready for the 2013 Perseids.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mercury, Jupiter and Mars

We still have many cloudy nights forecast but, Darker skies this week brings the Last-quarter Moon Monday (exact at 1:43 p.m. EDT). The Moon rises around midnight Monday, shining below the stars of Aries. Look to its lower left for the Pleiades in the early morning hours. Get up early and start searching for the Aquarid meteors streaking across the sky. An hour before dawn, if the sky is clear in the ENE, you can find Jupiter and Mars in Gemini with the Crescent moon near by. You can find Mercury lower near the horizon. The Big Dipper is in the northwestern sky. It's left of Arcturus in the west in the evening. Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Virgo) still in the southwest just after dark, with Spica a bit to its lower right.

The Southern Delta Aquarid radiant, looking southeast at 2AM local from latitude 30 degrees north on the morning of July 30th.

News from the Net:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Full Moon, Cloudy Skies

Cloudy skies will keep the night sky covered from any stars in the upcoming week. The forecast does not look good. We are not hopeful to see any bright stars in the night sky until the end of the week, maybe! Monday night is the Full Moon (exact at 2:16 p.m. EDT in the afternoon). The Moon travels across the sky this night in western Capricornus. Keeping Scoprpius, Lyra, Hercules and the Planets on my to view list. July is becoming a very cloudy month....

Here are 6 events that you can observe this week... if the sky is clear!

The Group meeting was held last Thursday night. Small group that attended watched another DVD, this time on Super Novas. The alternate star gazing site at Canyon Falls was mentioned again. Might gather there in August for the next Meteor Shower, the Perseids!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Moon Grows Brighter

This week we will have to be aware of a brighter night Sky! HOT daytime temperatures as we move into the dog days of summer. I see no clear night sky forecast in the near future. The forecast calls for lots of cloudy nights this week. Maybe even some rain! We could use the rain! The moon starts filling the night sky with moonlight! But, we still can view the brightest stars, if the sky is Clear. Find the bright stars Vega and Antares. Planets Saturn in the evening and Jupiter near Mars in the early morning hours by next weekend. Venus (magnitude –3.9) shines brightly low in the west-northwest in evening twilight.

Monday is the First-quarter Moon (exact at 11:18 p.m. EDT). Look near the Moon Monday evening for Spica. Saturn is to their upper left. Think photo opportunity. If your sky is clear!

News from the Net:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July, still a bit Cloudy

We are getting a SE wind from the coast. This brings us more cloudy nights and warmer summer days. There is a chance of rain Monday? We could use the rain!

The second week of July brings a New Moon early Monday morning July 8 (exact at 3:14 a.m. on this date EDT). This week Venus will climb higher and get brighter. The Scorpion climbs a bit higher in the south and Lyra is up a bit higher in the east at dark. I’m already tired of the night starting at 10pm.

Last week it was harder to find time to observe with all the holiday activity, but when the fireworks went off the evening of July 4th, I did spot Antares,  Vega and Saturn in a cloudy sky. Waiting for Clear Skies!

Look for Jupiter and Mars in an early morning sky Monday, if the sky is clear, an hour before dawn.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Big Moon, Last Week in June

The largest full Moon of 2013 rises around sunset Saturday and shines all night. Tomorrow night it's almost as full and almost as large (for the longitudes of the Americas, since the Moon is exactly full at 7:32 a.m. Sunday morning EDT.) On both nights, though, this "supermoon" is only a trace larger than an average Moon: 7% wider.

The Moon will be big and bright Sunday night! Perigee (Close) sends the large super moon to brighten our night sky! Take a look, if the clouds stay away. And use a moon filter! By the end of this week we should have darker skies to view the stars without the moon. There is an interesting binocular field around Antares. Find the dim glow of the globular cluster M4. Also Rho Ophiuchi, the fine binocular triple star in the same field! It's the top star of a loop of five including Antares. The forecast calls for Clear skies Thursday? Lets hope we can put the scope on the keystone and M13 again. After that, go to the double star Albireo in the swan and then perhaps M5, floating nearby. Scan the Tea pot for lots more clusters and nebula! Saturn is still hovering near Virgo as it moves towards the west.

Into the Night, Dark and Deep
Miles to go before I sleep……Clear Skies!

News from the Net:
Is Pluto on the Horizon?
Dust in the wind
Curious Mars Panorama
Milky Way View
Venus

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Midsummer Night….Summer Solstice

It is that time year for the Summer Solstice. It occurs early next Friday Morning. In our Texas Summer night skies we will have many targets in the Tea Pot (Sagittarius) and Scorpius. These two constellations alone should keep me busy for a while this summer. The Planet Mercury is drawing closer to Venus as it fades in the twilight. They're 3.3° apart now and will be 2° from each other at their closest on the 19th.

Sunday is the First-quarter Moon (exact at 1:24 p.m. EDT). The Moon shines under the dim head of Virgo.

Tuesday, The Moon now shines just below the line between Spica and Saturn.

Thursday, Look lower left of the Moon at dusk, by almost two fists at arm's lengths, for orange-red Antares. Between them is the three-star row of the Head of Scorpius, nearly vertical.

This is Midsummer's Night, the shortest night of the year. The summer solstice is at 12:04 a.m. on the 21st CDT......... stay up and hug a tree…….

Next Saturday, The largest full Moon of 2014 rises around sunset and shines all night. On Sunday night it'll be almost as full and almost as large for the longitudes of the Americas. (The Moon is exactly full at 7:32 a.m. Sunday morning EDT.) In both cases, however, the "supermoon" is only a trace larger than an average Moon: 7% larger in diameter.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June, Summer Stars

The first named TS, Andrea came out of the gulf this past week. She went up and across Florida. Lots of rain and power outages as she moved up the coast.

..........We continue to have cloudy nights in the forecast……..

If it is clear where you are after dark you should look southeast for the orange-red star Antares. It's one of the two great red super-giants of the naked-eye sky; the other is Betelgeuse in winter. Look around and to the upper right of Antares these are otherwhite stars of upper Scorpius.

Our New Moon was Saturday, June 8 in the early sky (exact at 3:14 a.m. EDT). It is the dark of the moon and we still do not have a clear sky forecast!!!!

The Planet Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Libra) glows in the south during evening, with Spica 12° to its right. Look almost as far to Saturn's left or lower left for the star Alpha Librae

Next Saturday, the TPML plans to have a Moon Event. We will be one day shy of first quarter. Maybe the clouds with give us a break The Dome is gone, taken down for repair, but the pad is still there for use.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Song of June

Cloudy nights and humid days continue. No break in the weather system hanging over our sky!
It is the first week of June and the bright star Vega is coming up in the east. The Constellation Lyra, the harp, holds the “Ring Nebula” within it’s reach. These upper level lows are still causing lots of clouds for my night sky. Maybe there will be a chance to center the Hercules Cluster, Saturn and other deep sky objects in the eyepiece?

Next Saturday is the New Moon (exact at 3:14 a.m. on this date EDT). Perhaps we can catch a break in the clouds and get a clear dark night!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cloudy Nights in May

That latest Low weather system that crept down across Texas brought us a lot of rain the past week…very grateful! We need the rain. However, the clouds are keeping the stars hidden behind the clouds. Cloudy Skies again all this week! We are missing the planet show in the west. We will miss Saturn, Hercules cluster and other assorted deep sky objects.

The Last day in May, Friday is our Last-quarter Moon (exact at 2:58 p.m. EDT).

News from the Net:
ISS Expedition 36/37, Soyuz Crew sets record

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Scorpion and 3 Planets

The late spring season sky is bringing clouds and more cloudy nights this coming week! This forecast will make it difficult to view our sky and catch star light in our telescopes! We do have rain in the forecast towards the end of the week.

Late night viewing in our sky: Antares becomes visible very low in the southeast with other stars of Scorpius around it. The Constellation Scorpius is crawling above the horizon. This is the time of year when the longest of the 88 constellations, mostly-dim Hydra, snakes level after dark all way across the sky from its head in the west (between Regulus and Procyon) to its tail-tip in the southeast (under Saturn).

Tuesday night look for Spica near the Moon in Virgo

Friday evening Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury, low in the afterglow of sunset, are now officially a "trio": they fit within a 5° circle. The means you could just about cover them with a golf ball at arm's length. They'll fit together in the view of most binoculars.

This evening Venus and Mercury appear their closest together. But all three will fit in a circle just 2½° wide when they're grouped their tightest on Sunday.

Our Full Moon shines bright tonight (exact at 12:25 p.m. EDT tonight).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spring Moving into Summer

Arcturus, is high in the southeast and sometimes called the "Spring Star." Vega low in the northeast is called the "Summer Star." Look a third of the way from Arcturus down to Vega for the dim semicircle of Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, with its one brightish star Alphecca. Look two thirds of the way for the dim Keystone of Hercules.

Friday, Regulus and the Sickle of Leo shine above the first-quarter Moon this evening, as shown at right. The Moon is 1.3 light-seconds from Earth. Regulus is almost precisely 1 billion times farther at 42 light-years.

This week is forecast with lots of cloudy nights! Not much hope of seeing stars..........

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Starry, Starry Nights

We started the month of May with a few clear nights!

Star-Log Y2K+130503
Friday night I set up the LX90 and put it through the paces. I was getting ready for the Event at the TPML Saturday night. Alignment went OK, after I incorrectly put in the wrong date. I used Arcturus and Spica as alignment stars. The only two stars high enough above my tree line. I slewed to and centered M3 in my eyepiece until the ringed planet moved above the tree line. M3 (NGC 5272) is a dense globular cluster in Canes Venatici, 32,000 light-years from Earth. It is 18' in diameter, and at magnitude 6.3 is bright enough to be seen with binoculars. Seeing was good and the cluster was clear in the eyepiece. Finally observed Saturn! The planet was bright and the rings were sharp in the eyepiece. A small moon was just off to the right and Titan was a bit farther right.

Star-Log Y2K+130504 
The TPML event Saturday night: Sun set was at 8:12We set up near the outlet to the NE area of the Dome. Lots of Clouds came in and covered the sky at 8pm. We were not sure we would see stars! The group of visitors stayed in the Library longer as Ron gave a second presentation. By then, most of the clouds had broken and the sky did clear! Seeing was not the best.

This was another large group of visitors, 80+. The lines at the scopes were long and started about 9pm. The only thing I could find to target was the double star in Leo, Algieba. Discovered by William Herschel in 1782, Algieba is comprised of magnitude 2.4 and 3.6 stars currently separated by 4.6 arc-seconds. They form a slowly widening binary system with an orbital period estimated at between 5 and 6 centuries. Some could not see the separation but most did. This was not a colored star system in this night's sky. But it was a contrast in size and tight separation. There was a flash across the sky! Several observers spotted a bright meteor streaking across the sky above. The scope aligned with Sirius, then requested two that were behind trees, last one was Capella. The scope stayed with the double star for the full 2.6 hours. I tried to find M3 and M13 still behind trees. Friend Phil near Austin got a photo of M13 this weekend! After 10, Saturn did rise but the trees blocked my view…. I did get to view the ringed planet in an 8” DOB that was set up near the dome….We shut down and left a bit after 11pm.  I may have to rethink my telescope's position for future events at the TPML.

The New Moon is Thursday evening, exact at 7:28 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Saturn: May Dark Nights

The first week of May brings us a last quarter Moon and a better chance to view Saturn. However the first few nights will be covered with clouds again. The week’s end looks better, maybe? There is an Event set for the TPML site Saturday night and the skies might clear by then! Saturn is center target for the finder scopes: The planet reaches its peak when it lies opposite the Sun in our sky April 28, which means it rises near sunset and remains visible all night. At opposition, Saturn also shines brighter and appears larger through a telescope than at any other time of the year. "Saturn will look stunning through any size telescope near opposition," says Astronomy Senior Editor Richard Talcott. "The planet's rings are more open than they have been since 2006, so now is a great time to explore their structure. Through a telescope, Saturn’s disk spans 19" across its equator while its rings cover 43" and tilt 18° to our line of sight. “You’ll easily spot the Cassini Division that separates the outer A ring from the brighter B ring,” Talcott says. “And on nights with steady viewing conditions, you should even be able to spot the semitransparent C ring that lies closest to Saturn as well.”

The small but distinctive constellation Corvus, the Crow, is an icon of spring evenings (in the Northern Hemisphere). Look for its four-star quadrilateral in the south-southeast after dark, to the right of Saturn and Spica.

The three brightest stars of the May dusk are all zero magnitude: Capella in the northwest, Vega lower in the northeast, and Arcturus high in the east. (Jupiter, far lower left of Capella, is brighter but doesn't count.)

Thursday, Last-quarter Moon. The Moon, between dim Capricornus and Aquarius, rises around the middle of the night (far below Altair). By daybreak Friday morning it's high in the south.

Saturday after dark, we hope set up at the TPML site under dark skies. I plan to bring out the LX90.
Clear Skies....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meteor Shower, Bright Moon and Saturn

After a frosty, clear night this past Friday, the clouds may hide even the brightest stars this week! Spring brings lots of upper atmosphere changes. A chance of rain and another cold front mid week keeps the night sky cloudy. We will miss the meteor shower!  Maybe the night sky will be clear in your backyard?

Look for the Lyrid meteor shower to peak before dawn Monday morning. Most years it's quite weak, but there have been surprises. See the S&T article for the Lyrid Meteor Shower in 2013. The week is highlighted by the Lyrid meteor shower, which is expected to reach its peak the morning of Monday the 22nd. Though capable of greater numbers, it usually produces 10 to 20 meteors an hour. Seeming to emanate from the constellation Lyra (marked by bright Vega), the meteors are the flakings of the great Comet Thatcher of 1861, which visits the inner Solar System every 415 years or so. Look especially in the narrow window when the sky is dark just before dawn following Moonset.

This Thursday is the Full Moon. The "star" near the Moon all night is Saturn. Saturn (magnitude +0.1, in Libra) is nearing opposition. It glows low in the east-southeast as twilight fades, well to the lower left of Spica and farther lower right of brighter Arcturus. Saturn rises higher all evening and shines highest in the south around 1 a.m. daylight saving time. It's at opposition on the night of April 27th. So far, too many clouds or I have not been up later to view this planet.

The rings brighten for a few days around opposition due to the Seeliger effect: the solid particles of the rings preferentially reflect sunlight back in the direction it came from, more than Saturn's cloud tops do.

Note: Saturday night I attended a wedding reception at a Winery a few miles northwest of town. When the festivities ended, a bit after dark, I scanned the clear night sky and had a great view of Jupiter and Aldebaran in the west. Near by was Sirus and Orion, Betelgeuse was shining red that night!  I looked north and found the big dipper...arced to Arcturus, but did not find Saturn above the horizon, yet! This location would be a great site to set up our scopes!

News from the Net:
Kepler Discovers Smallest 'Habitable Zone' Planets
Zoom into the Moon with this Insanely High-Resolution Mosaic

Monday, April 15, 2013

Waiting for Saturn

It is time to observe the “Lord of the Rings”. This planet is taking its time rising above my tree line. Saturn is at magnitude +0.2, in Libra near Spica, below Arcturus. Saturn rises higher all evening. It shines highest in the south around 1 or 2 a.m. Our weather is influenced by Pacific fronts this week. Cloudy nights and a chance of rain are in the forecast this week. We might get a clear night or two at the end of the week. Then we have to contend with the Moonlight. Thursday, The Moon is exactly first quarter at 8:31 a.m. EDT in the morning, this will bring on lots of moonlight for the next two weeks. The Moon Thursday evening is in Cancer, inside the big, long triangle of Procyon, Pollux, and Regulus. If you have no clouds in your backyard, focus on the Terminator. Another Planet, Jupiter, is still a good target in the west at magnitude –2.1, in Taurus. The planet sets around 11 or midnight. Take time to count the number and positions of the moons before this Planet leaves the night sky.

Monday, April 8, 2013

April Constellations on the Horizon

This Week: Look for Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo and Virgo…Bootes

Look for Arcturus, the "Spring Star," shining brightly low in the east-northeast in twilight and higher in the east after dark. The constellation Bootes extends to its left. High to Arcturus's upper left is the Big Dipper. From bright Arcturus in the east, look lower right by about three fists at arm's length for Spica and, lower down as evening grows late, Saturn. To the right of Spica by a little more than a fist is the four-star quadrilateral of Corvus, the Crow.

The New Moon is up (exact at 5:35 a.m. EDT) early Wednesday morning. This means we still have a few more days with dark nights. Another cold front blowing in will give us a couple of clear nights, Thursday and Friday night..

Next Saturday look west in the evening: The thin crescent Moon floats between Aldebaran and the Pleiades in the west as twilight fades, with Jupiter above it.

News from the Net:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stargazing Event at the TPML

Star-Log Y2K+130406 
April 6, sunset @ the TPML Site. Sky was Clear, Seeing not the best

The ISS Expedition 35 made a pass around 8:40. High enough for all to see and wonder, are the six crew members looking down at us? I had the 10” Dob set up and on Jupiter… Crowd Line started at 8:30 and was non stop until 9:45. I pointed out Taurus, Aldebaran, Jupiter and the Seven Sisters. Also in the sky: Orion and the bright star Sirius. There were several comments on the position of Jupiter and moons as seen in other Scopes! Reversed!

Moons of Jupiter: C                        I     |J|         E G 

After about an hour into the observing, I lost the planet when it moved behind a huge tree. I tried to put the scope on the Orion nebula, but I was having difficulty with my physical position, so I did a little “Star Hopping” and swung over to Mizar. I also arced to Arcturus. I then swung the scope over to the “dog star”, Sirius. I was not able to split the double! I was able to view the Pleiades in my large binoculars. It was low and to the left of Jupiter at 10pm. I did find the Gemini twins. And saw the sickle in Leo that was above the tree in the east. Saturn did not rise until late, I never saw Spica above the trees. The crowd thinned and several late guests were still wanting to view the sky. The HST made a pass at 9:40 to the amazement,WOW, of many still there.

I had the laptop on and charts set up on the table with a red lamp. Larry, Bob, Jeff and Ron all had scopes up and running. There were several other additional Amateur Astronomers that came and set up scopes too. I believe nine scopes all together. Largest group to set up at the site, so far! A non-stop line kept me from visiting the other scopes. There were lots of questions while observing and several guests asked about the group and were interested in the night sky…we all enjoyed the event. Close to 100 visitors.  I still need to get a lighter weight, go-to scope for events…..Newtonian maybe?

The 11” Celestron was on and aligned in the dome, operated by two volunteers from the Library……

Started breaking down the scope at 10:15, Home by 11. Next Event at the TPML is the Astronomy Day Event April 20. Next Astronomy Star Gazing Event is the night of May 6.

Monday, April 1, 2013

More Clouds… No Fooling

Our cold fronts will make it bit cooler, but this mix brings on the Clouds! We have some chances of rain through the week. Next weekend looks good to see Stars, so far! The moon is in third quarter and the night sky is getting darker too. Last-quarter Moon is Tuesday night (exact at 12:37 a.m. Wednesday morning EDT).

Check out Orion brightly framed between Jupiter on its right and Sirius on its left. Start looking for Saturn: (magnitude +0.2, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast only about a half hour after the end of twilight now. Watch for it to make its appearance well to the lower left of Spica, and farther to the lower right of brighter Arcturus. Saturn shines highest in the south around 2 or 3 a.m.

Find yourself a good open horizon Thursday evening, Comet PanSTARRS is passing 2° west (lower right) of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31. They may appear about equally dim low in the northwest just as twilight is ending.

Dark skies with no moon at the end of the week. With clear skies, a good chance to observe Saturn!

News from the Net:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Leo in View

The constellation Leo is now in the south-eastern sky in the evening. One of the few constellations that genuinely resembles its name, it looks likes one of the Lions in Trafalger Square, with its main and head forming an arc (called the Sickle) to the upper right, with Regulus in the position of its right knee. Regulus is a blue-white star, five times bigger than the sun at a distance of 90 light years. It shines at magnitude 1.4. Algieba, which forms the base of the neck, is the second brightest star in Leo at magnitude 1.9. With a telescope it resolves into one of the most magnificent double stars in the sky - a pair of golden yellow stars! They orbit their common centre of gravity every 600 years. This lovely pair of orange giants are 170 light years away.

Leo also hosts two pairs of Messier galaxies which lie beneath its belly. The first pair lie about 9 degrees to the west of Regulus and comprise M95 (to the east) and M96. They are almost exactly at the same declination as Regulus so, using an equatorial mount, centre on Regulus, lock the declination axis and sweep towards the west 9 degrees. They are both close to 9th magnitude and may bee seen together with a telescope at low power or individually at higher powers. M65 is a type Sa spiral lying at a distance of 35 millin klight years and M66, considerably bigger than M65, is of type Sb. Type Sa spirals have large nuclei and very tightly wound spiral arms whilst as one moves through type Sb to Sc, the nucleus becomes smaller and the arms more open.

The second pair of galaxies, M95 and M96, lie a further 7 degrees to the west between the stars Upsilon and Iota Leonis. M95 is a barred spiral of type SBb. It lies at a distance of 38 million light years and is magnitude 9.7. M96, a type Sa galaxy, is slightly further away at 41 million light years, but a little brighter with a magnitude of 9.2. Both are members of the Leo I group of galaxies and are visible together with a telescope at low power.

There is a further ~9th magnitude galaxy in Leo which, surprisingly, is in neither the Messier or Caldwell catalogues. It lies a little below lambda Leonis and was discovered by William Herschel. No 2903 in the New General Catalogue, it is a beautiful type Sb galaxy which is seen at somewhat of an oblique angle. It lies at a distance of 20.5 million light years.

Note: this info was taken from the Jordell March Night Sky

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saturn at 11 PM, Mid-Week

Saturn rises around 10 p.m. local daylight time this week and appears highest in the south at 3 a.m. (This evening, the waning gibbous Moon serves as a guide when it rises nearly 40 minutes after the ringed planet.) Saturn shines at magnitude 0.3 and stands out against the relatively dim background stars of western Libra. If you target the beautiful world through a telescope, you’ll see its 19"-diameter disk surrounded by a ring system that spans 42" and tilts 19° to our line of sight.

Sunday, Look above the Moon this evening for Regulus. It's the bottom star of the Sickle of Leo.

Monday, Look northwest right after dark for W-shaped Cassiopeia standing on end. The brightest part of the W is on the bottom. Make time to find and observe the "Owl Cluster".

Tuesday, there is a Full Moon tonight (exact at 5:27 a.m. Wednesday morning EDT). The Moon this evening is far below Leo and above Spica and Corvus. With a bright moon, our night sky grows dim,  much harder to see the lesser stars in my night sky.

Thursday, Once the Moon rises this evening, look upper right of it for Spica and lower left of it for Saturn. Saturn (magnitude +0.3, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast only about an hour after the end of twilight now. Watch for it to make its appearance well to the lower left of Spica, and farther to the lower right of brighter Arcturus. Saturn shines highest in the south around 3 a.m. daylight saving time — more or less between Spica to its right, and Delta Scorpii and than Antares farther to its lower left. Saturn will come to opposition on the night of April 27th.

At the end of this week, look west for Orion and Taurus. Jupiter is still anchored near Aldebaran high in the SW.

Note: We had our Group meeting last Thursday night. Several new Astronomy  folks attended.We viewed a video on the Big Bang and discussed the upcoming events at the TPML. Bad review on the that Celestron 6" Prodigy Scope! I started giving telescope operating training sessions with interested folks at the TPML.

News from the Net:
Extreme Telescopes, World Wide
Curiosity back to taking Vista Photos
Fireball in the Sky, East Coast
New Launch Site
The Planck Discovery Story
Universe is Older and Moving Slower
A Smoother Side to Mercury

Monday, March 18, 2013

All Things Equal

Spring is here…Officially, Wednesday at 6:02 in the morning. Equal day and equal night, as the sun moves across the equator heading north. Last night the Moon passed right between Jupiter and Aldebaran. It was very close and a very cool sight.

Tuesday is the first-quarter Moon (exact at 1:27 p.m. EDT). This evening the Moon shines between the feet of Gemini and the top of Orion's Club. Orion is moving into the SW sky. Look for the belt to go horizontal. This is a week of Moonlight, so check out the features on the moon as it goes full!

That Comet PanSTARRS is still in the evening sky. I missed it when I observed last week. However, I did see a thin crescent moon up close. Some observers noted they saw the comet with binoculars or a scope. Some observers indicated they could not find it last week. Many noted they are waiting for a different comet that will be seen in November! 

News from the Net:

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Comet and the New Moon

This is a week of Comet hunting in a darkened sky just after sunset. I have to go out to a place that has a better horizon. Just up the road at the church or the High School should work. After several cloudy damp nights, we are forecast with clear nights starting Monday! Gather up the gear and head out... we will see if PanSTARRS pans out to be a good visible Comet? If you live north of about latitude 35° N, the comet will climb a little higher into better view during the coming week or so as it fades. 

Monday is the New Moon (exact at 3:51 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). Swinging northward now, Comet PanSTARRS emerges above the western sunset horizon this week for skywatchers in the world's mid-northern latitudes. Look due west about 30 to 45 minutes after sunset. Bring binoculars; the comet is about magnitude +2 or +1.5 but is low in the twilight: a fuzzy star with a short upward tail. It should be at its brightest this week, since it's passing its closest to the Sun and is also barely past its closest to Earth (on March 5th). On March 12th through 14th, the crescent Moon will help point the way, as told below. After you find the comet Monday evening and it gets darker, using binoculars, look below Sirius by almost a binocular field-of-view for a dimly glowing patch among the stars. This is the open star cluster M41, 2,200 light-years away.

Tuesday, Look very low in the west about 30 minutes after sunset for the thin waxing crescent Moon, not much more than 24 hours old, as shown at right. As seen from North America, Comet PanSTARRS is now left of the Moon by two or three finger-widths at arm's length. It's a hazy "star" with a thin, upward pointing tail only about 1° long. Bring binoculars for a better view.

And think photo opportunity! Use a long or zoomed-out lens, and put your camera on a tripod because with a long lens in twilight, exposures won't be short. Experiment with a variety of exposures.

Wednesday, Comet PanSTARRS is now below the thickening crescent Moon 30 to 45 minutes after sunset, by about a fist-width at arm's length.

Thursday, The place to look for PanSTARRS now is two fists below the crescent Moon in twilight and perhaps a bit to the right.

I am hoping to catch a glimpse of this Comet this week! I will report at the end of the week…..

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Saturn and our early Spring

We seem to be in the clutches of an early spring this year. Transitional weather with warmer nights with cloudy days. Trees and plants are already in bloom.  Saturn the ancient Roman god of Fertility, especially of Agriculture seems to want this early spring as it rises in the East late in the evening. Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast around 10 or 11 p.m. Watch for it to come up well to the lower left of Spica and farther to the lower right of brighter Arcturus. Saturn shines highest in the south before the first light of dawn — more or less between Spica to its right and Antares farther to its lower left.

Keep an eye on the western sky just after dark for a comet at the end of the week. Swinging toward its March 10th closest approach to Sun, Comet PanSTARRS emerges above the western sunset horizon this week for observers at mid-northern latitudes. Bring binoculars or a wide-field telescope; it's unlikely to be brighter than about 2nd magnitude, not necessarily easy to spot low in twilight through thick air. Start looking March 7th. 

Jupiter is still in the SW this week: (bright at magnitude –2.3, in Taurus) comes into view high in the south-southwest after sunset and dominates the southwest to west later in the evening. Left of Jupiter is orange Aldebaran; farther to its lower right are the Pleiades. They all set in the west-northwest around midnight or 1 a.m.

Monday afternoon was the Last-quarter Moon (exact at 4:53 p.m. EST).

Don't foreget:  Daylight-Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday morning in most of North America. Set your Clocks to spring ahead an hour. Daylight saving time is also called summer time or daylight savings time. When DST is not observed, it is called standard time, normal time or winter time. We go back to Standard Time November 3 this year~ Once again we loose an hour of sleep!!

News from the Net:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Event at the TPML

March 2 at sunset @ the TPML Site
SkyLog Y2K+130302

The ISS made a pass around 7:33, but was low...I did not see it.
I had the 4” Celestron set up and on Jupiter… hard to hold in scope without help……it was straight up. Crowd Line started at 7:30 and was non stop until 8:45.
 I pointed out Taurus, Aldebaran, Jupiter and the Seven Sisters.

Moons of Jupiter: C                      I |J|        E G
There was a transit with moon Io that started at 9, after the crowd had already gone

Saturn did not rise until 9pm, I never saw Spica above the trees

I also looked at the Orion area, looking to find the Great Nebula, . I found the double cluster with the binoculars. I had the laptop on and charts set up on the table with a red lamp. Larry, Bob and Ron all had scopes up and running. Non-stop line kept me from visiting the other scopes.

The 11” Celestron was on and aligned in the dome. It was chilly at nine when we broke down the scopes. When we closed down, Larry said he had problems with alignment and could not run his scope…….
Started breaking down the scope at 8:50, Home by 9:40. Need to set up the Orion scope next time…..try and set up a Binocular Table……

Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Night Sky Moves into March

Leo and Virgo in the East

Taurus and Orion move South West

With spring less than a month away, Orion is starting to tip over toward the southwest fairly early in the evening now. Look for Jupiter in Taurus higher in the SW. Saturn rises in Virgo just before midnight now.

Monday, Full Moon this evening (exactly full at 3:26 p.m. EST). The Moon is south of Leo.

If the clouds break in your backyard this week, steer toward the Pleiades and then check out the features on the moon when it is full. 

Note: we had the monthly Group meeting and set the dates for the rest of the year at the TPML:
We are hoping for clear nights on the following Event Dates:
March 2     
April 6      
May 4
June 15      MOON Event
July           NO EVENT  Scheduled
Aug           NO EVENT Scheduled
Sept. 14     MOON Event
Oct. 26      
Nov. 23     
Dec. 28      

Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Planets, Bright Moon

OK we might have one night this week that will be clear! If it is clear in your backyard, you can still observe: The Moon > Sunday was at first-quarter and was to the right of Jupiter just after dark. Both these items in the sky set around 1 or 2 a.m.

Jupiter (bright at magnitude –2.4, in Taurus) is moving west but still a good target along with all those good things nearby. It dominates the high south at dusk and the southwest later. To its left is orange Aldebaran; to its right are the Pleiades. This whole group sets around 1 or 2 a.m. local time the Pleiades, Aldebaran in Taurus.

Saturn: (magnitude +0.5, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast around 11 or midnight, well to the lower left of Spica. By the beginning of dawn Saturn is highest in the south — more or less between Spica, 18° to its right, and Antares farther to its lower left. Saturn is 4½° northwest of the wide double star Alpha Librae.

In a telescope Saturn's rings are tilted 19.3° from edge-on, their most open of the year (by just a trace).

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Moon, Planets and an Asteroid

We start this week to view the stars under dark skies and a beginning of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Snake. Sunday, was our New Moon; exact at 1:20 a.m. CST. These days feel like spring may be early! But we are still under a winter constellation sky.

Next Friday is the Close flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14. This gymnasium-sized asteroid will miss Earth by just 18,000 miles (28,500 km) around 19:25 Universal Time today. It will then be as bright as 8th magnitude, moving across the stars by 0.8° per minute — and it will be in nighttime view from easternmost Europe (in late evening) across Asia to Australia (before dawn on the 16th local date).By its visibility in North America it will be down to 11th to 13th magnitude, receding into the distance near the Little Dipper. See the S&T article Asteroid 2012 DA14 to Zip Past Earth, with detailed telescopic finding instructions.

Two Planets dominate the night sky:  Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Taurus) dominates the high south sky in early evening and the southwest later. To its left is orange Aldebaran; to its right are the Pleiades. This whole group sets around 2 a.m.

Saturn (magnitude +0.5, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast around midnight, well to the lower left of Spica. By the beginning of dawn Saturn is highest in the south — more or less between Spica, far to its right, and Antares farther to its lower left.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dark Moon, Cloudy Sky

Sunday the moon went third quarter, so darker skies ahead. However the forecast for the week calls for some damp days ahead. We may not get that much rain, but the sky will be cloudy this week. Last Saturday night’s TPML event was cancelled. The forecast was partly cloudy with 40% cloud coverage. However, the report from the site was clear skies Saturday night. Larry had to make the NO GO call, based on the forecast information.

This week’s highlights, if your backyard is clear: With the Moon gone from the evening sky, this week is a fine time to look for the zodiacal light at a clear, dark site. Look west at the end of twilight for a dim pyramid of light. It will be tilted left to align along the constellations of the zodiac. So it points toward toward Jupiter. What you're seeing is sunlit interplanetary dust — comet and asteroid debris — orbiting the Sun near the plane of the solar system.

Saturn highlights the early morning sky. The ringed Planet (magnitude +0.5, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast around midnight or 1 a.m. local time. By the beginning of dawn it's at its highest in the south — more or less between Spica, far to its right, and Antares farther to its lower left. Saturn's rings are tilted 19° from edge on, the widest they've appeared in seven years.

Look South for Jupiter: (magnitude –2.5, in Taurus) dominates the high south in early evening, and the southwest later. To its left is orange Aldebaran; to its right are the Pleiades. The whole group sets around 2 or 3 a.m. In a telescope, Jupiter is shrinking (from 43 to 42 arcseconds wide this week) as Earth pulls farther ahead of it in our faster orbit around the Sun.

Orion is center stage late evenings: Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star on his shoulder, and it’s likely to supernova anytime. The three stars across Orion’s middle. Just beneath them the Orion Nebula. It’s about 1,500 light-years away from us and it just blazes with hot clouds of gas and dust that are forming stars.

Comet PanSTARRS update. The incoming comet that we hoped would make a fine showing in March has been weakening. It may not even reach naked-eye visibility, what with its low altitude in evening twilight.

Monday, January 28, 2013

This Week's Event

Our Forecast for the week is mostly cloudy….again! But, we might get a chance for a couple of clear nights at the end of the week. Looking for Canopus? In one of the many interesting coincidences that devoted skywatchers know about, Canopus  lies almost due south of Sirius: by 36°.

Thursday Evening might be clear for the EventJupiter's moon Io  crosses Jupiter's face from 6:59 to 10:09 p.m. CST. Io's tiny black shadow follows behind across Jupiter  from 9:10 p.m. to 11:21 a.m. CST. Meanwhile, Jupiter's Great Red Spot (actually pale orange-tan) crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:07 p.m. CST.   Dark nights ahead.....

News from the Net:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Orion after dark

We did get some clear nights through last weekend with the main targets after sunset:
The Planet Jupiter in Taurus near the red star Aldebaran.
The Pleiades and the Constellation Orion are slowly rising higher each night.
The close conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter was the headline for viewing Monday night. We did go out and see it! They did look Close. It was a stunning view, as the moonlight hid the Pleiades from view.  This week, Orion is slowly rising higher from the horizon.  Saturn is in view after 2 AM, if you stay up that late to observer and the sky stays clear this week. Look for the ringed Planet in Virgo, if it is clear in your backyard.  The moon continues to brighten until Full Moon, in Cancer, Saturday evening (exact at 10:38 p.m. CST).

News from the Net: