Thursday, December 4, 2014

1204Y2K+14 Seasons Greetings

What a rush! With the big feast behind us, we move into the last month of 2014. Once again the clouds filled the night sky at the Hill for the monthly November event. There were several nights last month the night sky was filled with clouds and not stars. As the year comes to a close, we can look forward as winter begins on December 21. The earth still moves and when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the sun.

We are starting this month with too many nights and days that have overcast skies! At least we may get some rain from this. I am sure there will be several clear nights this month, to see your favorite constellation!

Mission 42/43 to the ISS began on November 23rd. The Orion Test Launch was scrubbed December 4th. Rescheduled for Friday December 5, Good Luck Orion!

There may be a comet sighting around Christmas: A small telescope is all you need to see Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Discovered just a few months ago by Terry Lovejoy in Australia, the green comet is brightening to naked-eye visibility as it moves into northern skies this holiday season.
It is brightening faster than experts predicted. Originally the comet was supposed to reach naked-eye visibility in January or February 2015. It may be crossing that threshold now. Reports from the southern hemisphere put the brightness of the comet at magnitude +6.0, similar to the dimmest stars the human eye can see. On the nights around Christmas, "Comet Q2," as some are calling it, will glide just south of Sirius, the Dog Star. These finder charts from Sky and Telescope can help you find it. Better yet, if that cylindrical object is a GOTO telescope, just plug in the comet's coordinates.

Our winter solstice, December 21 @ 5:03 am CST is the darkest day of the year when the Sun reaches its most southern point in the sky at local noon. After this date, the days start getting "longer," i.e., the amount of daylight begins to increase.
Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can't wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather.
The word solstice comes from the Latin words for "sun" and "to stand still.” In the Northern Hemisphere, as summer advances to winter, the points on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets advance southward each day; the high point in the Sun’s daily path across the sky, which occurs at local noon, also moves southward each day. At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward. However, a few days before and after the winter solstice, the change is so slight that the Sun’s path seems to stay the same, or stand still. The Sun is directly overhead at "high-noon" on Winter Solstice at the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn. In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice days are the days with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year.
Our Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December solstice.
The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the sun.

Monday, November 3, 2014

11Y2K+14 November Sky Notes

This month.....
Darker Skies ahead should bring sharper stars into view during night sky observing. Have a look at old M31. I can still find it with my binoculars, the spotting scope and the trusty DOB! It is still there in Andromeda! There is always the double cluster near by. I continue to spot and list sightings of the ISS and Iridium Flares too. The planet Jupiter is in Gemini and is up way after it gets dark around 10. Still better in the per dawn hours. Look for the bright planet near the moon pre dawn on November 14. Mars will float above Sagittarius after sunset in the SW on November 7th. The folks up on the TPML hill have had a few events but all were too cloudy! Clouds seem to be King this season? Looking forward to some rain and much cooler nights and days this month.....

Nov 17 - Leonids Meteor Shower Peak

The Leonids: November 16/17th and 17/18th, the meteor shower occurs near to the time of new Moon, so its light will not hinder our view, but the less good news is that the meteor shower is much weaker this year. Look after midnight as our hemisphere is facing the stream of cometary debris. The dust particles that are swept up by the Earth are released as Comet Temple-Tuttle rounds the Sun every 33 years. Although the Earth is somewhat posed out of the main clumps of cometary material from Comet 55P/Tuttle, the parent object of this debris, there is always a chance of an encounter with a secondary pocket of debris during any year. Most meteor scientists are expecting the peak for this year to be slightly before MIDNIGHT on November 17.

Friday, October 3, 2014

10Y2K+14 Enjoy the fall Sky…..

The plants and animals know time has changed before we do. Something in the air moves the color and the temperature begins to move to a more comfortable range. We did get some rain around the end of last month and the forecast looks good for this month too. The birds are starting to migrate, earth’s creatures prepare for the cold nights to come. Homestead habits begin to change for us who walk and live on this earth. I wait for that first nip of cold air from the North! The clouds begin to change the look of the sky. The night sky is a lot clearer; stars and planets are sharper. Our early morning observations, before dawn, we have spotted the Pleiades, Taurus, Orion and Jupiter

This month we have two events to look for in the sky: First, on Wednesday morning, Oct. 8th, not long before sunrise, the bright full Moon over North America will turn a lovely shade of celestial red. It's a lunar eclipse. Second, a solar eclipse in the afternoon of Oct. 21st. Observe the Planets when the sky is clear: Jupiter shines bright in the early morning hours. The October 21 - ORIONID meteors - A very, very good year for observing the famous Orionid Meteors, since the moon will be nearly new. 

These Constellations should be seen and observed this month: Sagittarius, Aquila, Pegasus, Delphinus, Sagitta, Cygnus and Lyra. Clear Skies………

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

09Y2K+14 Autumnal Equinox….Soon!

The Season changes on the 22nd at 9:29 PM, fall begins!

Our drought has lingered way too long! The Guadalupe River looks like a slow running wide stream! Trees are dying and vegetation thirsts for moisture! We need some rain! The heat of the day has trapped us inside far too long. Going out after dark to view the night sky is like opening an oven door! Relief (hopefully) will come, as the season changes this month. Viewing the night sky on clear nights has been often, but I do not stay out long. I confirm the constellations, the visible Planets, the brightest stars, an Iridium flare and the continuous long running ISS pass. We will be glad when cooler weather arrives! And we won’t mind some rain in between!

September Sights: Since the Sun steadily rises later we can catch the planets Venus and Jupiter the early morning sky. Venus is close to Leo star Regulus on September 5th. Jupiter is in Cancer and very close to M44. It is a slow move down toward Leo. At the end of the month, on the 26th in the evening, you can find Mars and Antares are very close together in SW sky. Saturn is too low in the west for me to view this month. Now is the time to start searching (Map) for the Andromeda Galaxy with the double cluster close by. All the bright stars from horizon to horizon. The Constellations Pegasus, Scorpius and Sagittarius are still in view. The Summer Triangle is high above us. The Group up at the Library Hill plans a viewing event Saturday September 13. Short term forecast calls for "Rain"!    Clear Skies……….

Saturday, August 2, 2014

08Y2K+14 Dog Days of Summer

The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun (heliacal rising), which is no longer true, owing to precession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a red dog in April to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813.

Indeed, our drought continues. Time for higher temperatures, could be hotter! Mercury has a temperature on the side of Mercury facing the Sun can reach 700 Kelvin, or 426 degrees Celsius. On the side facing away from the Sun – covered in shadow – dips down to 100 Kelvin, or -173 degrees Celsius.

From my weekly Astronomy Magazine Newsletter: The sky's two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, put on a spectacular show in mid-August. On August 18, Rarely do these luminaries come as close to each other in a nearly dark sky, which makes this predawn conjunction the month's top celestial event. As a bonus, the pair lies next to the wonderful Beehive star cluster (M44). Meanwhile, the evening stage features a nice show starring two lesser lights. Mars passes Saturn in late August, an occasion that provides a striking color contrast in addition to the normally stunning views of the ringed planet through a telescope. And the overnight hours belong to the distant ice giants, Uranus and Neptune. The latter planet reaches opposition and peak visibility this month, but both are easy to find through binoculars.

The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks August 12/13....moonlight may wash out all but the very bright streams of light!

Astronomy Club Note:  Since the group is holding Star Events at the TPML these days.  They have set up an new web site to gather more public interest. I added the new site to my Astronomy Links List.

News to consider:
Scientists discover vast methane plumes escaping from Arctic seafloor
Methane release likely caused mystery crateron Yamal peninsula
This subject remains controversial among hunters and anglers


Monday, July 7, 2014


Warm Summer Season......

The continent had its first Hurricane! Arthur roared along the eastern coast and went to land in North Carolina July the fourth. Strong enough to cause problems to the population. Our area had the yearly rush of river pirates floating down our creeks and streams over the holiday. We had some rain, but not enough. The heat is on these summer days. The nights start late to look at stars, way past ten! But summer brings Scorpius and Sagittarius, somewhat low in my sky. With lots of clusters and nebulas to view in binoculars or scopes.

Saturn, in Libra, is now in the south-east, still high in the sky after dark in my backyard. The rings, currently at an angle of 21 degrees to the line of sight, will continue to open out until May 2017. The mighty Hercules still crossing the night sky. Two thirds of the way up the right hand side of the 4 stars that make up the "keystone" in the constellation Hercules is M13, the best globular cluster visible now in my backyard. The moon, Mars and Spica were close July 5. July 7 watch for Saturn near a somewhat fat moon. The end of this month on July 24 early in the morning we can view Venus, a crescent moon and Mercury. Look low in the east an hour before sunrise. Clear Skies……..

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June Y2K+14

Summer Months Ahead….Dark nights: we will not see stars until after 9pm!

May ended with some well needed showers on Memorial Day weekend. Not good for the picnickers, but good for this dry earth…….this helped green up the landscape and bring on the insects of summer.

Jump into June with the summer triangle: Altair, Vega and Deneb. Hercules runs across the sky holding M13. The Big Dipper hangs down by its handle high in the northwest. The middle star of its handle is Mizar. As the stars come out, look for Regulus in Leo near the right of the Moon.

After sunset find Mars near the moon on June 7, Spica near the moon on June 8. Look for Corvus winging its way below the moon. Search in Libra for Saturn in the south. Mars is in Virgo in the southeast. The red planet is fading this month. Venus is the bright Morning Star this month, low in the east. On June 24 Venus is very close to the moon about an hour before sunrise look for the Pleiades close by.
The solstice heralds the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. In 2014, the solstice falls on Saturday June 21 at 6:51 A.M. EDT.

Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet’s semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (sun) that it orbits. Earth’s maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23° 26′. This happens twice each year, at which times the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or the south pole. The summer solstice occurs during a hemisphere’s summer.

Monday, May 5, 2014

May Y2K+14

We March into May with a few unexpected cool clear nights. We started off with star watching and catching Saturn, Mars and craters on the Moon. Look in Gemini for Jupiter, as this large planet dims and goes away by the end of the Month in the west. Saturn is at opposition May 10.  Mars will be Stationary May 21.  Let’s hope the Starry Nights continue as the nights get shorter and days will get warmer this month of May. Watch for the Eta Aquarid Meteors on May 5-6.  

A NEW METEOR SHOWER, The May Camelopardalids: May 24th could be a big day for meteor astronomy. That's when Earth is expected to pass through a cloud of debris from comet 209P/LINEAR, producing a never-before-seen meteor shower. Meteor rates could exceed 200 per hour, and some forecasters have even mentioned the possibility of a meteor storm.
The best time to look is during the hours between 6:00 and 08:00 Universal Time on May 24th or between 1 and 3 o'clock in the morning Central Daylight Time. "We expect these meteors to radiate from a point in Camelopardalis, also known as 'the giraffe', a faint constellation near the North Star,"  Get the
full story from Science@NASA
Clear Skies!    But, we are hoping for some rain this month!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April Y2K+14 A Month of Clouds

April is a month for fooling around in the earth below. It is well into spring and there is lots to do, spring cleaning in the shop and the closets. Move out the telescopes and give them a once over for the next time we have a clear sky.  Looks like the month's event at the TPML will be "Cloudy", again!

Events to Skywatch this month:

 A couple of rocks floating above…..Ceres and Vesta in 2014.

 An Eclipse of the Moon April 14, late into the early morning sky of April 15. Great, if you like an all nighter to watch this from start to finish!

 Jupiter is in Gemini and sets after midnight

 Saturn is in Libra in the pre- dawn hours

 Mars is red and bright, closest to earth on April 8 in Virgo

 The Lyrid Meteor shower peaks April 22

Saturday, March 8, 2014

March Y2K+14, a month of change

March did come like a Lion.....
Cold North winds as winter hangs on, with up and down temperatures...
Mostly cloudy skies have kept the scopes in doors....
The folks on the hill at TPML and this Skywatcher have not had a good night viewing in months. As I write this month's events, the clouds are thickening. I did see the moon one night behind a veil of clouds. March is a month of change! Our time changes March 9, when we loose a good hours sleep!
The Season changes on March 20th, Spring starts 11:57 am CDT.
It just so happens we had to change our computer Win 7. XP is pretty much dust in the wind. Times they are a changing!

In our March night sky the constellations to view are:

Look for Venus and Saturn in the early morning hours before dawn
View Jupiter and those moons as the evening darkens.
And always hope for Clear Skies!

Monday, February 3, 2014

February...VI More Weeks of Winter

Let's start this short month with the number XLVIII. This ends the Season of Pro Football.for the year. And GH day, 2/2/2014, did have a our Sun shining on that creature in Pennsylvania. It just so happens that there are six more weeks until Spring anyway!

Another number to remember is LXXXVIII, the number of Constellations that move across our sky.
This month, the major Constellations are: Orion, Taurus, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Lepus, Auriga and Leo.

The Planet to view in the evening is bright Jupiter
The Planets to find in the morning are Venus and Saturn

We have had cloudy skies so far the first 2 days of this month.....Clear Skies!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


A New Year and my backyard Sky is still full of Stars! The City is growning and there is a lot more light pollution that dims some areas in the low sky around my backyard. My schedule has changed a bit and I will not be able to make the monthly meetings and I have cut back on the Events on the Hill at the TPML. That said, I still will follow the constellations as they move across my Portal to the Universe.

Last night I viewd the Moon, Jupiter and the Orion Constellation. The Moon is getting bigger and the stars that make shapes are getting dimmer. But we are enjoying some Clear Nights for a change! Saturn is visible in the early hours before sunrise.
This month brings lots of great shapes and bright stars in the night Sky.
Here is this month's Events listed by date I picked up from the Net:

01- The extremely thin crescent 12-15 hour old Moon will present a challenge for North American viewers low to the west at dusk.

03- Quadrantid meteors peak with a ZHR=120 at ~05:00 UT, best seen from the Atlantic region. Favorable in 2014, with the Moon a 2 day old waxing crescent.

04- Earth reaches perihelion at 12:00 UT, 147.1 million kilometres from the Sun.

04- Mars passes 1.3’ from the +11.5th magnitude galaxy NGC 4684.

05- Jupiter reaches opposition for 2014 and shines at magnitude -2.7.

10- A Possible meteor shower due to dust from the Comet (formerly known as) ISON over the next few days?

11- Venus reaches inferior conjunction between the Sun and the Earth, shining at -4th magnitude. It may be just possible to spot it five degrees north of the solar limb from high northern latitudes.

13- Moon reaches its farthest northern declination for 2014 a 19.4 degrees.

16- The most distant Full Moon, and visually smallest Full Moon of 2014 occurs, with the Moon reaching Full within two hours of apogee. MiniMoon!

25- The Moon occults Saturn for the South Pacific at ~13:58 UT.

27- The Moon reaches its farthest southern declination for 2014, at -19.3 degrees.

30- A Black Moon occurs, as reckoned as the second New Moon in a month with two.

31- Mercury reaches a favorable elongation, shining at magnitude -0.9, 18.4 degrees east of the Sun.