jump to navigation

Mars Opposition 2016 May 18, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Galileoscope, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

On May 22, Mars will be at opposition. That means it’ll be opposite the Sun in the sky, so Mars rises as the Sun sets, and is out all night. It also means that Mars is relatively close to us. In fact, closest approach will fall on May 30. So don’t forget to take your binoculars or telescope on your Memorial day camp out!

25May2300SE_Mars

Looking southeast at 11PM on May 25. Saturn is also in Scorpion now.

One particularly nice aspect of the opposition is that Mars is in Scorpio. If you’re familiar with Scorpio, you know the brightest star goes by the name Antares. Ares is the Greek equivalent of Mars, so the name Anti-Ares, really means something like “opposed to Mars”, which most people interpret as “rival of Mars”. Personally, I like to think of it as “this is a star, as opposed to the planet Mars”, or more simply, “not Mars”. Usually, when Mars passes through Scorpio, you kind of need that reminder – the two objects look awfully similar, especially naked eye. During opposition however, there’s no mistaking the two. Antares is a poor rival, and definitely not Mars.

The Moon will be full on the 21, and passes through Scorpio the next two nights, so those aren’t the best days for comparing the star and planet. By the 24th it has moved out of the immediate area, and by the 30th you’ll have Moon-free observing most of the night.

As long as you’ve got your ‘scope or binoculars out, be sure to check out Saturn too. It’s headed for opposition on June 3. Hopefully I’ll have time to post about that at the end of the month.

 

Advertisements

Partial Solar Eclipse Observing October 16, 2014

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Galileoscope, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

There’s only a week left to get ready for the partial solar eclipse! Since it is only a partial, there is never a moment when it will be safe to look at the sun without proper protection.

It’s so important, I’ll say it again:

DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE UNFILTERED SUN.

Got a small ‘scope and want a way to view the sun safely with it? How about building a sun funnel! Get the directions for a sun funnel from the transit of Venus site.

Don’t have the patience for that much effort? Projection screens are simpler, but you’ll have to keep an eye on your telescope to make sure nobody tries to actually look through it. In fact, I don’t recommend using this method at star parties or public events. Most non-astronomers don’t know how to tell the difference between a filtered and unfiltered telescope. Even if you make the tripod short and project onto the ground, that just makes it perfect for a curious four-year-old. However, for yourself or an older audience, this is a very quick and easy way to observe the sun. The simplest version of this this is a white piece of paper on a clipboard, held in front of the eyepiece. If you’re going to use a projection screen, make sure you have real glass eyepieces. Nothing like having eyepiece go up in smoke halfway through the eclipse. If you are using a Galileoscope, you probably shouldn’t use the eyepiece that came with it.

This screen is mounted on a dowel, which is zip-tied to the telescope. I've still had kids try to squeeze their head in against the dowel.

This screen is mounted on a dowel, which is zip-tied to the telescope. I’ve still had kids try to squeeze their head in against the dowel.

No telescope? You can do the projection with a pair of binoculars to. Again, keep a close eye to make sure no one actually looks through the binoculars.

If you have no optics whatsoever, you can still watch the eclipse. Just poke a hole in a piece of paper and project the image onto the ground or another piece of paper.  This isn’t a great way of looking for small features like sunspots, but it will certainly show off of eclipse. For that matter, so will the shadow of a leafy tree.

A solar eclipse viewed using leaf shadows. Click for original image and more information.

Build a Sun Funnel | Venustransit May 14, 2012

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Galileoscope, MichiganAstro.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

Build a Sun Funnel | Venustransit.

Got a small telescope and want to SAFELY observe the transit of Venus? Build a Sun Funnel!

If your small telescope happens to be a Galileoscope (or another ‘scope with plastic lenses) you’ll want to check out this page first: http://galileoscope.org/observing-activity-guides/observing-the-sun-safely/

Not only is the Sun Funnel a safe way to observe the Sun, it can also show the Sun off to several people at once, so it’s also ideal for public events and star parties (hey, the Sun is a star!)

Morning planets March 30, 2011

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Galileoscope, MichiganAstro.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

I just wanted to do a quick post to highlight some upcoming observing opportunities.

First up, tomorrow morning (March 31) the waning crescent moon will be very close to Venus in the pre-dawn sky. Venus is getting low, so the Moon can be a big help if you have trouble finding it.

Venus continues to hang out in the morning skies for April, but the fun comes at the end of the month. In the last few days of the month, Venus is joined by Mercury, Mars and Jupiter. Keep a special eye out on the mornings of April 29 for the apogee cresent moon (one of the smallest of the year) and on April 30, when an old moon joins the planets in a tight cluster.  It’ll be twilight for all of this, so you’ll need a pair of binoculars or a small ‘scope for everything except the Moon and Venus.

The end of May brings one of the best aspects of Mercury all year.  May 30 should be especially nice with Jupiter, Mars, the old moon, Venus and Mercury all spread out in a line.

Of course all these nice morning planets carries a downside. The only thing out in the evening is Saturn. Of course that is my favorite planet to watch with my Galileoscope!