December 10, 2018

Astro-Event(s): Scoping out the Outer Solar System Action.

All Hail the Harvest Moon!

(Photo by Author).

It’s great to have bright planets lined up in the dusk sky. With the start of school star party season, it gives us diligent ‘scope operators something bright to aim at, even from the most light-polluted of school basketball courts. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: An Arctic Partial Solar Eclipse.

(Credit: Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA’s GSFC).

Are you a frustrated astronomer “North of the 60°”? Are you tired of hearing about the dark sky exploits by friends in the lower 48 while you are immersed in the astro-hell of never-ending daylight? Trust me, we’ve been there; we spent 4 years living in North Pole, Alaska just outside Fairbanks, [Read more...]

Astro Event of the Week: The Heliacal Rising of Sirius.

August is traditionally a real roaster for the northern hemisphere. This month usually sees the onset of what’s known as the Dog Days of summer… but did you know that this term has an actual astronomical tie-in? We’re talking about the dawn appearance of the Dog Star, Sirius.  The ancient Egyptians knew this star as the dog-headed god Anubis, and the first sightings of Sirius preceded that most important of calendar dates in their world; the flooding of the life-giving Nile.

[Read more...]

20.04.10: Hubble Smashes KBO record.

The Hubble Space Telescope has shattered yet another record; the smallest Kuiper Belt Object yet recorded. But the discovery came not from the telescope’s main optical array, but an unlikely source; its Fine Guidance Sensors. These star trackers point the HST and sample target stars 40 times a second. Using an innovative technique, a team led by Hike Schlichting sifted through 4.5 years of data to find a single 0.3 second in duration event. This is estimated to be a tiny KBO inclined about 14° degrees to the solar ecliptic. At an estimated 975 meters across and 6.8 billion kilometers distant, this object stands as the tiniest distant object ever detected. The Kuiper belt is a ring of icy material extending just beyond the orbit of Neptune out to about 55 astronomical units. At an estimated +35 magnitude in brightness, this icy body is far too small for even Hubble to see. The object was inferred indirectly by what’s known as a stellar occultation. This discovery also highlights the utility of pouring over the backlog of astronomical data generated by such platforms as Hubble. What other discoveries lay hidden it that thar’ data?

29.9.9: Can you Spot the Cave in Copernicus?

I’ve got a unique challenge for you, as you brush up on your lunar geography in anticipation for next weeks’ LCROSS impact. Next time you’re viewing the waxing gibbous Moon with your friends, amaze them (or make them think your totally crazy) by issuing the off-handed remark; “Did you know that there is a ‘cave’ in the crater Copernicus? The “cave” in question is, of course, an optical illusion. Its interesting to note, however, that in the pre-Apollo era, would-be Selenographers were faced with a lunar landscape that was much less straight forward. This first came to our attention while reading a February 2003 article in Sky & Telescope written by Steven O’Meara. The cave itself rests on the northern inner lip of the crater and is elusive unless caught at the precise sun-angle of 10.7 degrees above the local lunar horizon. This generally occurs around 10-12 days of age, and I encourage you to take a look early this week. [Read more...]

Astro-Event of the Week: October 13th-19th 2008. Spot the Zodiacal Light!

   This week’s challenge is an elusive one. With the ecliptic at a high morning angle and the autumnal equinox behind us, now is a good time to attempt to spot the zodiacal light . Look to the east, about an hour or so before local sunrise. [Read more...]

Astro-event for September 22rd-29th, 2008; An Autumnal Equinox.

Brace yourselves; the Northern Hemisphere is headed towards Fall!

I know, an equinox may not be the sexiest thing to observe, but its onset has deep significance for those positioned in the northern hemisphere. [Read more...]

Astro-Event of the Week, June 17th-24th 2008

   The Summer Solstice is upon us: time to set those sun dials…  This week marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, a yearly event in which the sun pauses at its farthest passage north as seen from the Earth and begins its long trek south. This is not a spectacular observational event, and the summer solstice  itself only marks a specific moment: June 20th, 2008 at 07:59PM, EDT. What makes this event special is that in 2008, it occurs extremely early, in fact, the earliest since 1896. [Read more...]