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:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Night Sky behind the Clouds

It was cloudy last week and another cold front came in Saturday evening. It is colder and more clouds will be masking the night sky this week, as the moon goes to first quarter this Friday. We may even see a dusting of sleet and snow mid week! I did see Jupiter, Aldebaran and Orion Sunday Night before the clouds rolled back in! If the sky is clear over your backyard, watch for these events this week:

Asteroids Ceres and Vesta reached opposition and peak visibility in December, but they remain 7th-magnitude objects and show up easily through binoculars against the background stars of Taurus the Bull. Ceres appears a couple of degrees southwest of the 2nd-magnitude star Beta (β) Tauri. Vesta stands about 2° north of 1st-magnitude Aldebaran.

Observe the far off Planets Neptune and Uranus: Monday the Eighth Planet, Neptune is 6° North of the crescent moon. Wednesday the Seventh Planet, Uranus is 5° North of the Crescent moon. Binoculars or small telescope should help locate these distant gas giants.

Planets a bit easier to see this week: The brightest point of light in the evening sky this week is magnitude –2.6 Jupiter. The planet lies more than halfway to the zenith as darkness falls and reaches its peak in the southern sky around 8:30 p.m. local time. Jupiter spends the evening just above the Hyades star cluster and somewhat farther below the Pleiades (M45) in the constellation Taurus the Bull. If you point a telescope at Jupiter, its 45"-diameter disk will show lots of atmospheric detail. Venus rises about an hour before the Sun this week and appears as a brilliant object low in the southeast some 30 minutes later. Earth’s neighbor shines at magnitude –3.9 and is easily the brightest celestial object in the predawn sky. The planet is nearing the end of its long morning apparition, however, and will disappear from view within a month. Saturn rises around 1:30 a.m. local time this week and appears conspicuous in the south by the time twilight begins. It shines at magnitude 0.6 among the considerably dimmer background stars of western Libra. If you target Saturn through a telescope, you’ll see a 17"-diameter disk surrounded by a ring system that spans 38" and tilts 19° to our line of sight.

Spot this Constellation in your SE night sky: One of the sky’s most familiar constellations rules January’s sky from dusk until near dawn. Orion the Hunter appears conspicuous in the southeast after darkness falls and climbs highest in the south around 10 p.m. local time. It then stands about halfway to the zenith from mid-northern latitudes. The night sky’s brightest star, Sirius, trails about an hour behind Orion.

News from the Net:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Three Planets This Week

The first half of this week will be cloudy with chances of rain. We need the rain! By Thursday, we should have a clear night sky to view Venus and Saturn in the morning and Jupiter in the evening. Three Planets headline this week. Venus (magnitude –3.9) appears lower in the dawn each morning. Look for it above the southeast horizon about 45 minutes before sunrise. Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast around 2 a.m. local time. Saturn's rings are tilted 19°. Jupiter (magnitude –2.7, in Taurus) is the first "star" to come out in the eastern sky after sundown. It climbs to dominate the high southeastern sky after dark, with orange Aldebaran below it and the Pleiades above it. You can find Orion nearby.

Monday morning much farther lower left of the Moon, Venus rises. Higher in the south is Saturn.

Thursday morning, Venus shines near the hairline crescent Moon very low in the southeast . Look to their upper right for Antares.

Friday, our Moon is new (exact at 1:44 p.m. CST). After sunset the Great Square of Pegasus is 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) to low in the west (Pegasus's nose).

News from the Net:
Curiosity tidies up a bit on Mars
Phantom of the Opera-Neutron Star
Frozen Hydrocarbons in Titan's Lakes
Habitable ExoMoons
Kepler finds another exoplanet candidate
Planetary systems in sun like stars
Volcanoes viewed from the ISS
Curiosity at Yellow Knife Bay, will drill at Snake River

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cloudy Skies the first week of 2013

We cannot catch a break. The current forecast calls for clouds each night for the first week of 2013.
We have damp, cold, cloudy nights and days. But for those who have clear skies, here are a few items to consider viewing this week:

The annual Quadrantid meteor shower, caused by debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, will peak on Thursday, Jan. 3rd.

Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Taurus) is the first "star" to come out in the eastern sky after sundown. It climbs to dominate the high southeastern sky later the evening, with orange Aldebaran 5° below it and the Pleiades nearly twice as far above it.

Saturn (magnitude +0.7, in Libra) rises in the east-southeast around 2 or 3 a.m. local time. By the beginning of dawn it's fairly high in the southeast.. Saturn's rings are tilted 19° to our line of sight.

The two leading asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, are still in good binocular range at magnitudes 7.1 and 6.9, respectively. Vesta is near Jupiter and Aldebaran, and Ceres is between the horns of Taurus not far away.

Friday is the Last-quarter Moon, tonight at 9:58 p.m. CST. The Moon, between Corvus and the head of Virgo, rises around 11 or midnight.

I am looking forward to another year of discovery and exploration in the Cosmos. Happy New Year and Clear Skies in 2013!

News from the Net: