August 2015 Urban Observing August 1, 2015Posted by aquillam in Astronomy.
Tags: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, urban observing, Venus
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August is known as the month of meteor showers. The Perseids and the best known and the best shower in August, and should peak on the 13th this year. That means you should observe sometime between midnight and 5 AM on the morning of the 13th and/or 14th. There are a few other meteor showers too, but they aren’t as big, so I think I’ll leave that for another post so I can get this one finished before the 1st!
Mercury peeks out of the evening twilight this month. on the fist it sets 35 minutes after the Sun so you’ll have to work to find it. By mid month it’ll hang out nearly an hour after the Sun sets. It reaches aphelion on August 29, and greatest eastern elongation on Sept. 3, so it really doesn’t get farther from the Sun than this! It’s still a tiny planet in twilight though, so binoculars or a small ’scope are very helpful. Look for a Jupiter-Mercury conjunction on August 6, and for Mercury with a young crescent Moon on the 16th.
Mars is for morning observers this month. A very old Moon will be near it on August 12, but it’ll be tough to spot without binoculars. It crosses M44 on Aug 19, but you’ll need a ‘scope to pull the cluster out of the twilight.
Globular star clusters
Tags: exoplanet, space missions
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It’s been 20 years since the first confirmed exoplanet discovery. Now, nearly 2000 are known, mostly thanks to the Kepler space telescope.
Get the latest update Wednesday July 23, 2015 at noon EDT:
New Horizons on NASA TV July 9, 2015Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Science.
Tags: New Horizons, Pluto, space exploration, space missions
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If you’re a space exploration enthusiast, things are very exciting right now. We are getting our first real look at Pluto and those distant, peculiar worlds.
If you’d like to follow the coverage live on NASA TV, here’s the latest plan (excepted from an email from the media relations office)
Tuesday, July 14
7:30 to 8 a.m. – Arrival at Pluto Countdown Program; live on NASA TV
At approximately 7:49 a.m., New Horizons is scheduled to be as close as the spacecraft will get to Pluto, approximately 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) above the surface, after a journey of more than nine years and three billion miles. For much of the day, New Horizons will be out of communication with mission control as it gathers data about Pluto and its moons.
The moment of closest approach will be marked during the live NASA TV broadcast that includes a countdown and discussion of what’s expected next as New Horizons makes its way past Pluto and potentially dangerous debris.
8 to 9 a.m. – Media briefing, image release; live on NASA TV
NASA TV will share the suspenseful moments of this historic event with the public and museums around the world. The New Horizons spacecraft will send a preprogrammed signal after the closest approach. The mission team on Earth should receive the signal by about 9:02 p.m. When New Horizons “phones home,” there will be a celebration of its successful flyby and the anticipation of data to come in the days and months ahead.
9:30 to 10 p.m. – Media Briefing: New Horizons Health and Mission Status; live on NASA TV
Release of close-up images of Pluto’s surface and moons, along with initial science team reactions.
Other ways to follow and engage:
The public can follow the path of the spacecraft in coming days in real time with a visualization of the actual trajectory data, using NASA’s online Eyes on Pluto.
For more information on the New Horizons mission, including fact sheets, schedules, video and images, visit:
July 2015 Urban Observing July 6, 2015Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
Tags: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, urban observing, Venus
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Aphelion (ap-HE-lee-on) occurs on July 6 at 19:41 UT (3:41 EDT). That’s the point in the orbit where a Earth is farthest from the Sun.
The first full moon of July occurs on July 2 at 2:20 UT (that’s 11:20 on July 1 here in Ann Arbor). The second is on July 31 at 10:43 UT (or 6:43 AM EDT). The popular definition of “blue moon” is the second full moon in a month, and that makes the July 31 moon a blue moon. Another (older) definition is the third of four full moons in a season. Since summer started on June 21, the full moons of July are actually the first and second full moons of summer, and there are only 3 full moons this season.
The Delta Aquariids bring to an end the quietest months for meteor watchers. Unfortunatly, they should peak on the 28 – 29, just before the second full moon of the month. Start looking for them in the pre dawn skies about a week before that, after the Moon has set. That means looking for them between 2 – 4 AM local time from July 21 – 26. For the peak and a few days around it, your bet bet will be around 3 -5 to avoid as much moonlight as possible and the morning twilight. After the peak, the waining moon is impossible to avoid, and the Moon passes through Aquarius on August 2. The radiant will be highest around 3 – 4 AM both weeks.
is a morning planet at the start of the month. It will be difficult to spot, but if you’re up for a challenge and have a pair of binoculars, look for Mercury, Mars, and an old Moon half an hour before sunrise on July 14. It disappears into the glare of the Sun not long after, but look for it’s return to the evening skies in August!
is spectacular in the west all month. A waning crescent, it is getting ever closer to us, which means bigger and brighter too. By the end of the month, you should be able to tell it’s a crescent with just a small pair of binoculars. Here are a couple images to help you compare size (both simulate a 15″ field of view.)
emerges from the glare of the Sun this month. It is less than half a degree from Mercury on the 16th! Unfortunately for most of us, you’ll have to be up before the Sun to see it.
After the conjunction with Venus on June 30, Jupiter works his way slowly to the east, winding up in a conjunction with Mercury and Regulus around August 6. Look for Venus, Jupiter and a young moon together on July 18.
It’s a great month for observing Saturn. It is high in the south at 10 PM, but getting farther from us all the time. The quarter moon passes by it on July 25 – 26.
July snuck up on me, so I don’t have any deep sky stuff prepared. Maybe I’ll get a few things posted as the month progresses. In the meantime, I’ll just throw a couple things out there. ‘Tis the season for Albireo, a maize & blue binary in Cygnus. Not far from M13, a globular cluster in Hercules, which is a naked eye object in dark skies. Compact planetary nebula M57 sits between the two stars at the bottom of the harp in Lyra. It’s smaller size helps it stand out against a pretty bright sky in a small ‘scope.