jump to navigation

Venus and the Beehive August 30, 2017

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

If you happen to be up around 6 AM local time the next few mornings (August 31 – September 2, 2017) grab a pair of binoculars. Venus skims past one of my favorite open clusters in the pre-dawn hours.

Look east, between the Big Dipper and Orion, just below Gemini. You won’t be able to miss Venus. It’ll even shine through light cloud cover! If it’s clear, point your binoculars that way and you’ll see the Beehive cluster, so called because it sort of looks like a bee skep tipped on its side with the bees buzzing around it (a skep is the round, woven grass type of beehive.) It’s a fairly bright cluster, so even a small pair of binoculars will do. You probably won’t want to haul out the telescope for this because you need a 2º field of view, which most telescopes won’t do.

If you live in really dark skies, plop a camera down on a tripod and try taking a 1 – 2 second exposure. Longer will capture more stars, but overexpose Venus.

Here’s a chart looking east at 6 AM on August 31 from Ann Arbor:

31Aug0600E

Advertisements

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

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

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

Transit of Mercury May 9 2016 May 6, 2016

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

Phil Plait posted a very nice guide to the transit. It includes a long list of available webcasts, in case it’s cloudy or night where you are.

The highlights:

You’ll need magnification. DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT APPROPRIATE FILTERS.

The transit runs 11:12 – 18:39 UT, or about 7:12 AM to 2:39 PM Ann Arbor time.

If you’re in SE Michigan, here’s a list of places you can go to observe the transit.

View all the naked eye planets at dawn January 20, 2016

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

The return of Mercury to the morning skies means all the naked eye planets are visible at dawn now. We have a couple weeks’ worth of great morning observing coming up, which might make you glad for late sunrises.

Start with January 24th. At 7 AM, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the Moon spread out across the entire sky.

24Jan0700_z

The sky at 7 AM on January 24

The 25th marks the day of least span. From Mercury to Jupiter will cover only 112º 3′ that day, or about 2/3 of the sky from southeast to southwest.

By the 28th, the planets will have spread out to 112º 40’ (not a noticeable change to most of us), but the Moon will be inside that span. It’ll be right next to bright Jupiter, so if you like taking pictures, it’s a good opportunity.

28Jan0700_z

The sky at 7 AM on January 28. Jupiter and the Moon make a good pair.

The Moon tends to overwhelm the other planets, but if you like conjunctions, look for the Moon and:  Spica on the 30th; Mars on February 1; Saturn on the 3rd; and Venus and Mercury on the 6th.

If your goal is a glimpse of illusive Mercury, take your binoculars out on February 4th, when Mercury is more than 5 1/2° above the southeast horizon at 7 AM. That’s about the same as holding 3 fingers at arm’s length, so a clear horizon is a must.  It’ll be up 10° by 7:30, but by then it will also be very bright out. 

04Feb0700_SE_me

Mercury is farthest from the horizon at 7 AM on February 4th.

On February 6, head out with the binoculars again and use Venus to find Mercury and an old crescent Moon. 

06Feb0700_SE

Bright Venus can guide you to an old Moon and Mercury on Feb. 6th.

Mercury, the fleet footed messenger, and Venus, goddess of love, will be at their closest on February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day. May he speed your messages to the one you love.