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.