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Venus brightest around February 16 | EarthSky.org February 16, 2017

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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If it’s clear where you are this evening (or the next several evenings really), look high in the west about half an hour after sunset. That incredibly bright point of light you see is not a star, it’s Venus! If you happen to have a small telescope or good pair of binoculars, take a look at it. You’ll see it’s actually a crescent!

As long as you’ve got your telescope/binoculars out, be sure to check out the little red point nearby. That’s Mars. In fact, it’s pretty much a full Mars. How can two planets be so close in the sky and so different in appearance? Because one of them is nearby, almost between us and the Sun, while the other is far away, with the Sun in between.

For more on Venus, check out this story from Earth-Sky:


Venus is brighter around February 16-17, 2017 than at any other time during its ongoing, approximate, 9.6-month reign in the evening sky.

Source: Venus brightest around February 16 | EarthSky.org

Types of Telescopes – Tips for Buying Your First Telescope November 28, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy.
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It’s that time of year again, when many people consider buying a telescope, either for themselves or others. As always, I’m going to stick with my favorite piece of advice: consider binoculars. You can get a good pair for relatively little money, even if you add a tripod and mounting bracket. And if you discover you aren’t the type of person who wants to go outside at 3 AM for an occultation after all, you can can still take them with you to the game on Saturday.

If you still want a telescope (or you’ve already determined you ARE the type of person who gets up at 3 AM for an occultation), here is some advice from Sky & Telescope.

While there are hundreds of types of telescopes, there is only one that’ll be your first one. Use this guide to help you choose a telescope perfect for you

Source: Types of Telescopes – Tips for Buying Your First Telescope

Change… November 9, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy.
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There are things we cannot change, no matter how much we want to: race, gender identity, partner preferences, other people.

There are things we can change: appearances, the way we treat other people, the way we react to other people. 

Be the person you want to be around. Be the person you want as a neighbor. Be the person your friends need you to be. Be the person you want this society to be made of. Because some things can change. 

Summer 2016 meteors July 26, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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It’s meteor shower season, and The summer meteor showers are ramping up!

The Delta Aquariids are in progress now. Although the peak is expected to fall on July 28, this is a long, slow shower, worth watching for at least a week after the peak. Don’t expect to see a lot of meteors though. Even at its peak there are only 10 – 20 meteors per hour (or about 5 minutes between meteors.) The radiant is highest at around 3 AM this time of year, so that would be the best time to observe if it weren’t for the waning Moon in the last week of July. Going out around 1:30 – 2:30 on the 28th gives a good combination of reasonably high radiant and a low Moon.

While you’re out looking for delta Aquarius, watch for Perseids too. Luckily, Perseus isn’t far from Aquarius. Check out this story from EarthSky on how to tell them apart.

While the Perseids don’t peak until August 11 or 12, you should already be able to spot a few. The real show should be the early morning of August 12, and continue through the morning of the 13th and maybe the morning of the 14th. Some experts think this could be a spectacular year, with rates of 200 per hour at the peak (that’s about 3 meteors per minute!) Better still, a waxing moon means dark skies most of the early morning hours. The best time to view will be around 3 – 5AM, when the Moon has set, Perseus is high, and twilight hasn’t really started yet. Here is a map for 4:30 AM on August 11 with both radiants marked.