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).

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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.

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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.

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