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……