December 16, 2018

25.05.11: Catching Moon Shadows.

Two each shadows on the Jovian cloud tops. (Photo by Author).

This morning, the astro-news turns towards our very own personal exploits at the eyepiece. That’s why we all blog in the end, right? To keep a sort of diary of our experience in this magnificent universe and so forth? I awoke at 5 AM EDT to begin gear load-out and setup. This is what folks who don’t have an observatory typically do; an hour or so of lugging, prepping, and aligning only to find out that clouds are rolling in or the batteries are dying, or the scope is fogging up, or a million other things that send us headed back indoors. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: Catch Jupiter’s Moons in 1-2-3-4 order.

Recently I’d caught something at a star party that’s worth looking out for; Jupiter’s moons in 1-2-3-4 order. This event happens 3 to 4 times a month, and is always a good teaching moment to name and explain the four Galilean moons.

[Read more...]

AstroEvent: A 2xJovian Moon Transit.

One of the first things that Galileo noticed with his primitive telescope was the moons of Jupiter. This ‘solar system in miniature’ fascinated him, as he watched and recorded the changes in position presented by these four moons night to night. Even today, watching these changes can be a fun endeavor, and is a view available to even the smallest telescopes. This week, I challenge you to try and view a double transit of the Galilean moons.

[Read more...]

Astro-Challenge: See the Galilean Moons in 1,2,3,4 Order.

Astronomy is chock full of alignments, synchronizations, and oddities that happen on variable cycles. This week, I’d like to point you towards one of those gee-whiz occurrences that happens early Friday morning. On May 28th, 2010, you’ll have the opportunity to view Jupiter’s classical four Galilean Moons in one-through-four order, all positioned on one side of the planet. This would also make for an interesting “family portrait” of the set. Jupiter is in dawn skies, currently rising about 4 hours prior to the Sun. The window of time is short; the moons are only in this arrangement from 06:33 UT until 07:50 UT, and “Jupiter-rise” for folks in the US Eastern time zone only occurs at about 0:700 UT (about 3 AM EDT local). Hence, only folks positioned in the Eastern and Atlantic time zones will have a shot at catching this alignment under dark skies.

[Read more...]

Review: 2010: The Year we Make Contact.

This week, we here at Astroguyz are going retro with our review. Way back in my pre-historic high school days (like, 1984), my friend and I went to see 2010: The Year We Make Contact in our local theater. At the time, the actual year seemed unimaginably distant, a far future that we would never actually, well, live in… Well, 2010 is now here. So jJust how well does the movie stack up to reality? Of course, 2010 was the hugely successful sequel to Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which dealt with space travel, artificial and alien intelligence, and the next step in human evolution. The concept was based loosely on the Clarke original short story The Sentinel, and the concept was that an alien intelligence played a hand in human evolution and had placed artifact(s) in the solar system that we would only discover when we were sophisticated enough to find them. Similar themes are further developed in Clarke’s outstanding Childhood’s End. In 2010, the film picks up nine years after the original mission of Discovery One, as a joint US and Soviet expedition is sent to salvage the site. The Jupiter system had yet to be reconnoitered by the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft when 2001 was made; 2010, however, incorporated images and data that by the 80’s were known.  The first movie also departed from the book, in that the final action sequence originally revolved around Saturn and its bizarre moon, Iapetus; the book 2010 centers, like the movie, around the Jovian system; the movie leaves out, however, the side plot of the Chinese landing on Europa.

The joint crew of the Alexei Leonov dock with Discovery, which is now coated with sulfur and spinning lazily above the surface of Io. 2010 is much more politically charged than 2001; it, like Ben Bova’s Millennium and Larry Niven’s Footfall are very much a product of the end of the Cold War era and seem somewhat dated by today’s standards. It’s as if the world expected the Cold War standoff to be a natural state of affairs, ad infinitum. A cool nod to Clarke and Kubrick to this effect can be briefly seen in the flick, as both are depicted on a Time magazine news cover!

Of course, we’ve yet to reach Jupiter via manned spaceflight, or get back out of Low Earth Orbit, for that matter. We do have a continuous manned presence in space via the International Space Station, but the now defunct TWA has yet to offer commercial flights to the Moon. Of course, some things have come to pass; the average IPad now dwarfs the intelligence of HAL9000, and nearly everything is made of plastic… in fact, it’s amusing to see the scene with Dr Heywood Floyd on the beach, with what looks to be a mini Apple IIE as what was envisioned as the ultimate in computing portability…. and of course, 2010, like most science fiction, totally missed cell phones, the Internet and the rise of Twitter which was just around the corner.  (Interesting side note: pay special close attention to the video monitors in both movies; 2001 made use of flat screen projection, while 2010 saw a reversion back to CRTs!)

Of course, both flicks predicted the rise of “video-phones” which we now have via webcams… like much technology; however, this didn’t take into account the human factor. People like the perceived anonymity that phones, cars, and comment boxes such as those that grace this site provide them; most only converse via teleconferencing when only absolutely necessary.

The film climaxes with an extraordinary event; the collapse of Jupiter to form a new sun in our solar system. Of course, whatever super-advanced intelligence performed this feat didn’t do it for our benefit, although it does avert a super power confrontation. As per consultations for 2001 with Dr Carl Sagan, alien intelligence is implied, but never seen. This saves both flicks from a perceived campiness that plagues much of Sci-Fi. “I was glad to see that some of my suggestions were taken to heart,” Carl was quoted in saying upon review of 2001. While stunning, just how a relatively low mass object such as Jupiter could sustain a fusion reaction even after ignition isn’t addressed, but I doubt the Europans care as they are now suddenly the mystery aliens’ favorite sons…

Do catch 2010 if you haven’t had an opportunity to do so; it’s currently up for instant viewing on Netflix. And to see how the drama ultimately plays out, be sure to read Clarke’s two additional novels in the saga, 2061 and the somewhat anti-climatic 3001. The future is may be now, as the calendar reads 2010… any Vegas odds on when we’ll make contact?

3.8.9: Jupiter Occults a Bright Star.

Lots has been afoot in the Jovian system as of late. As you train that 10” Dobsonian on the ever evolving black spot gracing Jupiter’s cloud tops, I turn your attention to another unique event about to occur tonight; the occultation of a bright star by the large gas giant. The star is 45 Capricorni, which is currently crossing our line of sight with Jupiter. At about sixth magnitude, it will masquerade as a Galilean satellite over the coming days.The actual occultation begins at 23:00 Universal Time (UT) on August 3rd and lasts until 1:00 UT on the 4th. Europe, Africa, the Canadian Maritimes and extreme northern New England will be well placed to see this rare occultation; the remainder of the Americas will see 45 Cap rise with Jupiter at about 9 P.M. local. An occultation of a bright star by a planet is rare because planets are intrinsically small targets in terms of visual diameter, and stars that they can occult are constrained to those along the path of the ecliptic. Speaking of which, the four large moons of Jupiter are also currently under going a fascinating series of mutual eclipses as we transit their respective orbital planes; check out the link above for more info, and watch the occultation of 45 Cap if you get a chance. Some things to watch out for; does the star “wink in, wink out” in a step wise fashion, or fade gradually in and out? You could be seeing evidence of Jupiter’s atmosphere refracting the starlight; or perhaps this is glimpse 45 Cap’s binary companion! Also known as HIP 107302, this star is also listed as a close spectroscopic double. This will also be the brightest star that Jupiter has occulted since 1952.

[Read more...]

Astro-Event of the Week: September 2nd-8th 2008; A Double Shadow Transit!

The Jovian system of moons is a place where things happen. Shadow transits are probably the most dramatic event to be seen in this “mini solar system.” It’s definitely cool to watch the inky black dot shadow of a moon sliding silently above the cloud tops of Jupiter.

[Read more...]