May 28, 2017

The Top Astronomy Events For 2012.

Comet Lovejoy from the ISS! (Credit: NASA).

It’s here, the most vaunted astronomical post of the year; what’s happening in the sky in 2012! Just think; while your well-meaning but astronomically oblivious friends/co-workers/relatives fear the coming Mayan prophecy, YOU can be hip and “in the know” on upcoming astronomical events in 2012! (Hint; the end of the world is NOT one of them!) [Read more...]

June 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

Awaiting darkness… (Photo by Author).

June is “hump month” here at Astroguyz HQ, as we approach the solstice, hurricane and thunderstorm season begins, and we slowly begin to start taking back the darkness. Now’s the time to overhaul that scope, align those mirrors, and await the return of dark skies. Here’s a brief look what’s up and coming from ye ole’ Astroguyz; [Read more...]

16.02.11: The Tyche Files.

The realm of the outer solar system; here be hypothetical worlds? (Credit: NASA).

Something kept floating around our astro-radar yesterday as we busily wrote about comet flybys, launches, and wacky space weather. Titles like “New Solar System Planet!” and “Solar Companion Found!” kept making a spurious appearance from unverified sources. [Read more...]

27.01.11: A Surge of Sungrazers.

A January 2010 sungrazer. (Credit: ESA/SOHO).

A curious event closed out the year 2010. From December 13th to the 22nd, astronomers studying the Sun noticed an unprecedented upswing in the number of sun diving comets. In fact, researchers spied no less than 25 comets in ten days, a record rate. The data comes from the European Space Agencies (ESA) Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) which has stared at the sun since its launch in 1996. [Read more...]

Review: The Transits of Venus by William Sheehan & John Westfall.

Out from Prometheus Books!
Out from Prometheus Books!

In less than a year’s time, an event will happen that none of us will live to see again; a transit across the face of the Sun by the planet Venus. In this regard, this week’s review of the book The Transits of Venus by William Sheehan and John Westfall looks at the history of this rare phenomenon. Published in 2004 by Prometheus Books, this work serves as essential reading covering the history, understanding, and what to expect when viewing a transit of Venus. These rare spectacles occur in eight year pairs spaced over longer 121.5 to 105.5 year intervals; [Read more...]

Flashback: Remembering the Great Comet of 1910.

The "other" comet in 1910...(Credit: Lowell Observatory).
The “other” comet in 1910…(Credit: Lowell Observatory).
1910 was a heady year both in astronomy and the world at large. The nationalism that would lead to World War I was still fermenting in Europe; the radio was the hot new IPod of the age, and silent movies were yet to be replaced by “talkies” over a decade away. In astronomy, astrophotography was in its infancy, and Edwin Hubble  had yet to make his landmark discovery that would expand our known universe beyond our own Milky Way galaxy… and the public and scientists alike eagerly awaited the close perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet in April. [Read more...]

Review: 2012 the Movie.

We were warned, indeed...

We were warned, indeed...

Okay, we asked for it. As promised, we managed to see the flick 2012 on opening day and are, well, read on. We decided to attempt to judge this disaster flick against other disaster flicks, which granted, may be a strike in and of itself. [Read more...]

2012: Don’t Believe the Hype.

We've been here before...classic cartoon depicting a planet busting comet!

We've been here before...classic cartoon depicting a planet-busting comet!

I was recently at a waiting room the other day, when the secretary noticed that I had brought a copy of Death From the Skies! to “kill” time. “Is that stuff true?” she asked. I mentioned that yes, sooner or later, a killer space rock may well have our species collective name on it. I knew what was coming next. “I mean, I like saw this documentary on the Discovery channel about how the world is supposed to end in 2012…”

Every generation enjoys its own Apocalypse, and for better or worse, 2012 is ours. [Read more...]

Nov09:Life in the Astro blog-o-sphere.

Atlantis creeps towards launch. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett).

Atlantis creeps towards launch. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett).

Coming to a November Sky near you: This month’s big sky-buzz will be the Leonids meteors peaking the morning of November 17th. Although this will be an off year for the shower, the Leonids always deserve some close scrutiny because of their outburst track record. Also, the Moon is New on the 16th, and thus safely out of the “obstruction” zone. There is some buzz in the online meteor forums that there may be some older, not very well recorded debris trails lurking out there, so keep watching your local dawn sky on those early mid-November mornings. The Full Moon occurs the night of the 2nd, and is always a pretty naked eye sight. Casting our eyes farther out into the local universe, watch this space for pieces on such deep sky wonders as M31, Gamma Arietis, and a little known gem called Omicron Eridanus!

This Month in Science: On the 24th of this month Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published 150 years ago. Of course, this demotion of man in the biological scheme of things pissed off some folks to no end, but hey, the truth hurts sometimes. Speaking of which, its time again this year for the Australian Skeptics annual Bent Spoon Award, given at their annual meeting held on the 28-29th in Brisbane. Be sure to watch the action on their site and keep an eye on current contenders! Farther down under, NASA’s Operation: Ice Bridge continues their bone-chilling mission of mapping the Antarctic ice flow. Don’t forget, it’s going towards austral summer down there! We’ve been having a great time following them via ye’ ole Twitter… closer to home, we here at Astroguyz will expose all you REALLY need to know about 2012 (as if you can’t get enough!) and look at a real-time human extinction event posed by Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) and what could be done about it…bring on the destruction!

This Months’ buzz in Sci-Fi: Starship: Flagship, the latest in the swashbuckling series by Mike Resnick, is due out this December and available for pre-order this month…also watch for our review of City Without End, by Kay Kenyon. On a semi-sad note, the box office sci-fi smash this Veteran’s Day is gearing up to be…you guessed it; 2012. three more years to go…. even Y2K only had a 6-month or so run! Hopefully, we at Astroguyz will at least be pleasantly surprised if the movie isn’t a dud… we still think that if the world did end in 2012, humanity would be getting off easy! On a more serious note, in a recent episode of the new season of the Big Bang Theory, Shelton was….WRONG! Can the universe survive the paradox?

Launches for November: The Shuttle Atlantis is sitting on launch pad 39B for STS-129 on the 16th; this will be Atlantis’s 2nd to last flight into space. Other notables include launch of the ESA, Soil Moisture and Salinity satellite on the 2nd out of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, and testing of the SpaceX Falcon automated resupply craft for the ISS on the 29th. Check Spaceflight now for updates.

Astro-Blooper of the Month: Re-watching the earlier seasons of NUM3ERS, I caught a goof that deserves further scrutiny. There’s a point when Larry the astrophysicist is departing for the International Space Station. He then gives his girlfriend Megan a Celestron telescope, so she can “See me as I pass overhead…” Yes, you can photograph the ISS with a telescope, but it is a swift moving target! Larry could be forgiven because, after all, he is a theorist, but NUMB3Rs is a class show, and I won’t let it off of the hook that easily! It was also an excellent, but missed opportunity to teach some hands on science…many folks don’t realize that you can see the ISS with the naked eye! A much better gift (and free!) would have been to install Orbitron, complete with ISS alarm, on Megan’s laptop!

This Month in Astro-History: On November 19th, 1969, Apollo 12 landed on the Moon. Of course, no one remembers the 2nd lunar landing, but astronauts Alan Bean and crew performed a pinpoint landing next to the Surveyor spacecraft in the Ocean of Storms, and did some real science, to boot. Their Saturn V was also struck by lightening on takeoff, (launch restrictions were looser in those days) and there was no guarantee that the pyro technics that fired the chute on re-entry were not damaged, until they in fact were safely home!

Quote of the Month: “If doom isn’t impending, it’s out there, somewhere.”

-Andy Rooney

12 Very Special Events for the Century.

The Moon posed to occult Mars & Mercury in 2056! (Credit: Stellarium).

The Moon poised to occult Mars & Mercury in 2056! (Credit: Stellarium).

“Bizarreness” is part of our business in astronomy. We always get the top billing with the “how big, how far, how bright” records, but one thing that is hard to quantify is just how unique certain events are. Here, I present you a quick list, a baker’s dozen of astronomical oddities that are worth setting your alarm clock for in the coming century in chronological order. A sort of Astroguyz to-do list for the coming century!

-January 15th 2010: The Longest Annular Eclipse Until 3043: Coming right up after the new year is what’s billed as the longest annular eclipse of the millennium. An annular eclipse occurs when the New Moon is near apogee and the Earth is near perigee, and hence the angular diameter of the Moon is too small to fully cover the Sun. This is a direct consequence of the longest totality of this past summer, in which the situation was reversed. “Annularity” lasts for a whopping 11 minutes and 8 seconds, and the entire event spans an area from the horn of Africa to China. This eclipse is part of saros series 141.

-October 8th, 2011: A possible Draconid Outburst?: The Leonids aren’t the only shower prone to storm level outbursts. The Draconids, also known as the Giacobinids, are a little known shower that peaks around Oct 8-10th of every year and generally is of little notice to all but the most avid meteor observers. It has been prone to outbursts, most notably in the years 1998, 1985, 1933, (33′ must have been a good year for meteors!) and 1946, when the ZHR peaked at 10,000! Another date worth noting is 2018, when the debris trail we’re predicted to pass through is very close to the 1946 storm trail. The Draconids hail from comet Giabobini-Zinner.

-June 6th, 2012: A Transit of Venus: The second transit of Venus for this century and pretty much the last one for anyone currently alive (unless they perfect that putting-our-brains-in-cyborgs thing) occurs on this date. This transit favors the Pacific rim, with North America getting a sunset transit and central Asia receiving a sunrise one. Most likely, the world won’t end on this date. The next transit won’t occur for another 105 years!

Ganymede: New Horizons shows its stuff during a swing by of Jupiter. (Credit; NASA/JPL).

Ganymede: New Horizons shows its stuff during a swing by of Jupiter. (Credit; NASA/JPL).

-July 14th 2015: The New Horizons Pluto Flyby: We include this as the sole mission oriented event because its the last semi-planet to be recon’d by mankind. Launched in 2006, New Horizons completed a gravitational swing-by assist of Jupiter in 2007 and is now the fastest object ever launched by mankind, and will whiz through the Pluto-Charon system on July 14th, 2015 at 14km per second. After this date, those blurry Hubble images of Pluto will be forever replaced by real pictures! What surprises await us in the denizens of the frigid outer solar system? More moons? A ring? An alien etched “Astroguyz” logo? And will the “is Pluto a Planet?” debate once again rear its ugly head?

-August 21st, 2017: A North American Eclipse: Total eclipses seem to avoid North America, Japan and Europe like the plague and hang out in places like Djibouti and Outer Mongolia. The dry spell ends in 2017, bringing an eclipse for the suburban masses. Do you live in or near Markanda, Illinois? Then you will have the distinct privilege to host two eclipses in the span of seven years, as another eclipse passes over on April 8th, 2024! expect the population of 419 to expand exponentially…(Howard Johnsons take note…)

-April 13th, 2029: The Flyby of Apophis: Will the world end on a Friday the 13th? The asteroid 99942 Apophis will indeed whiz by the Earth on such a date, within the realm of the geosynchronous satellites. Apophis carries with it the distinction of being the first, and so far the only asteroid to reach a “4” rating on the Torino scale for a short time back in 2004. Will it hit that tiny 600 meter key hole for an impact in 2036? Vegas odds are 1 in 45,000 against…viewing for the pass will favor Europe and Africa, where Apophis will appear as a swiftly moving star. Will we have the gumption by then to launch a manned mission to scope it out?

- November 19th, 2034 A Leonid Storm: I should be collecting social security just in time for this one…a meteor storm can be the event of a lifetime. The Leonids have always been a surefire bet; usually a lackluster shower of around ten meteors an hour, this stream is prone to well documented bursts in access of 1,000 ZHR every 33 years or so. The 1998 storm was still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! The years leading up to 2034…(i.e., 2030-2033) should merit your early AM attention around this date, as the peak “storm” may arrive a year early or late!

A tight grouping of classical planets! (Credit: Stellarium).

A tight grouping of classical planets! (Credit: Stellarium).

-September 8th 2040: A Tight Planetary Group: This evening in 2040 brings a very special view; all of the naked eye classical planets plus the waxing crescent Moon in a 9.3 degree grouping! This the tightest assemblage of these worlds visually this century!

-October 1st, 2044: An Occultation of Regulus by Venus! Naked eye occultations of planets by bright stars happen maybe a few times a century, and this is one of the best. If you find yourself in Eastern Asia or the western U.S., be sure to check this out!

-February 13th, 2056: The Moon occults Mercury & Mars at the same time. OK, now for the truly bizarre. Sure, you’ve seen the Moon occult planets and bright stars; this happens a few times a year from any given locale…but how often does the Moon occult two planets at the same time? This very event, it turns out, it rarer than a total solar eclipse during a Metallica concert… rare enough to only occur once or twice a millennium. This rarest-of-the-rare will occur over western North America in daytime afternoon skies. Venus and Jupiter will be close by.

-November 22nd 2065 Venus Occults Jupiter. Live in Panama? You just might catch a planet occulting a planet on this not so far off date. The apparent diameters of the two worlds will be 10” and 29”, respectively. The rest of the world will see a very close conjunction. For you history buffs, this is the first planet-planet occultation since 1818, also featuring Venus and Jupiter!

-August 11th, 2079: Mercury Occults Mars. This is rare, in that the worlds involved are tiny and thus generally miss each other in their apparent paths. This time the Middle East is favored to view this rare event; Mercury and Mars will be at a diameter of 5” arc seconds each and the rest of the world will again see an extremely close conjunction in the dawn skies…will we be cyber-Tweeting in our sleep by then?

-December 31st, 2099: The Aliens Invade & Become our Masters… OK, maybe they’ll be tired of the bad press they get in cheesy Sci-Fi movies and this will happen long before then…

So there you have it, twelve reasons to look up at the night sky throughout the 21st century. This list is by no means exhaustive; its just a quick pic of our faves. If your favorite, I’m-selling-my-house-and-moving-to-Panama-just-to-see-it event didn’t make the cut, drop us a line! For further astro-nerdiness, I invite you to peek at the outstanding Ultimate Almanac, as well as the wiki on planetary occultations. Its gonna be a wacky century…perhaps some budding 3-year old junior Carl Sagan out there just might live to be the first to collect them all!

Don't miss the 2012 transit of Venus! (Credit: Jan Herold under Creative Commons).

Don't miss the 2012 transit of Venus! (Credit: Jan Herold under Creative Commons).

Death by Superflare?

An enormous sunspot group in 2001 that produced the largest flare seen in 25 years! (Credit: NASA/ESA/SOHO).

An enormous sunspot group in 2001 that produced the largest flare seen in 25 years! (Credit: NASA/ESA/SOHO).

A close runner-up in the pantheon of cosmic catastrophes is a killer flare courtesy of our Sun. While this may not be as lethal as a giant space rock, its also much more likely over the span of our short lifetimes. But what is the exact potential hazard posed by this threat? What has happened in the past? And what can be done about it? [Read more...]

End of the Century by Chris Roberson

Out Now from Pyr Books!

Out Now from Pyr Books!

Few remember, or care to think about how silly they acted, during those halcyon days that were Y2K… End of the Century by Chris Roberson commemorates this saga with a unique fantasy tale. Out this past February courtesy of Pyr books, this is a complex weave that will keep you guessing until the final end link up of the plot.

[Read more...]