November 18, 2017

Your Chance to see the “Moons”(?) of Venus!

Two degree FOV on January 13th… north is up.

(Created by the Author in Starry Night).

The planet Venus is going through some pretty fancy sky maneuvering this year. Starting off low to the south in dusk skies, it is about to shoot dramatically to high northerly declinations later this spring, and then dip down to a climatic transit of the Sun on June 5th-6th this summer. [Read more...]

Astro-Challenge: Spotting Triton.

Triton as seen from Voyager 2. (Credit: NASA/JPL).

This week’s Astro-Challenge is definitely for the “been there, done that” crowd, a hunt that will put that gia-normous light bucket you’ve got sitting in your backyard to good use. August 22nd, the planet Neptune reaches opposition. And yes, we know you’ve spotted the grey-blue world at magnitude +7.9 with no problem, but have you ever seen its elusive moon, Triton? Now is a good time to try and check this fascinating moon off of your “life list.”

[Read more...]

AstroEvent: The Return of Saturn 2011.

Saturn as imaged March 19th, 2004 by the author.

 Two of unique planetary events are on our astro-radar this week. The first is an extremely close conjunction between brilliant Venus and faint Neptune on the morning of March 27th. At a mere 9’ minutes separation at 0100 UT, this will be one of the closest planetary conjunctions of the year. [Read more...]

Review: Voyager by Stephen J. Pyne.

Out July 23rd from Viking Press!

Out July 23rd from Viking Press!

 

   Ours may be an age of discovery like no other. This week, we look at Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery, by Stephen J. Pyne, out July 26th, 2010 from Viking Press. This fascinating work delves into the Voyager series of spacecraft missions from a unique perspective, juxtaposing it as a symbol of the third great age of exploration and drawing historical parallels and contrasts with past great expeditions of discovery. [Read more...]

Astro-Challenge: Spot Neptune in its Original Discovery Position!

Neptune on July 17th, 2010. (Created by Author with Microsoft's WWT).

Neptune on the Aquarius-Capricornus border on July 17th, 2010. (Created by Author with Microsoft's WWT).

 

     In this week’s astro-event, we challenge you, the sky watching public, to view the planet Neptune as it was first seen on the night of its discovery on September 23, 1846. On that evening, astronomer Johann Galle turned the Berlin Observatories’ 9-inch refractor on a position given to him by French mathematician Urbain Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, and the solar system hasn’t been the same since. The discovery of Neptune was a triumph for predictive mathematics and a good test of Newtonian mechanics in a celestial format. [Read more...]

July 2010: Life in the Astro-blogosphere.

The Return of... Stove Pipe Scope! (Photo by Author).
The Return of… Stove Pipe Scope! (Photo by Author).

 

   (Editor’s Note: As of July 1st, we are ramping down our output and limiting ourselves to the AstroEvent & Review of the Week in our quest to wrap up our science teaching degree. Don’t worry; we’re still in new content mode, just throttling back a bit. You can also get up to date astro-news and musings via following us at @Astroguyz on Twitter!)

July holds several interesting astronomical events; although the Earth approaches aphelion this month, you’d never know it at Astroguyz HQ what with the sultry jungle-like conditions. What follows is a brief rundown of what you can expect to see this month at an Astroguyz blog near you;

Coming to a Sky Near You: Our home world (well, mine anyway) Earth starts off the month at aphelion, or its farthest point from the Sun on July 6th.  But the big ticket event is the total solar eclipse over the South Pacific on July 11th. This month, we’ll also show you how to sight Neptune in its original discovery position, as well as cover the occultations of the stars S Scorpii and E Arietis by the Moon on July 21st and 7th, respectively. In the realm of events of the strange and curious, the planet Saturn will be very near the galaxy NGC 4073 on the 25th and its moons will be in order on my birthday, the 31st. 

This Month in Science: Probably the most anticipated event this month will be the Rosetta spacecraft’s flyby of asteroid Lutetia on July 10th. On this site we will also review of the Transits of Venus by William Sheehan & John Westfall… can you believe that we’re now less than one year out from the final transit of Venus in our lifetimes? Also, we take a look at Microsoft’s entry into online planetary software with the WWT Telescope. Also, we take a look at Astronomy Magazines, both newsstand and virtual.  

This Month in Science Fiction: As reviewed here last month, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald comes out from Pyr Books on July 6th. In the retro-category we review 5o Science Fiction Short Stories… also expect a sneak peek at The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder out from Pyr books in September.

Launches in July: First up is a July 9th launch of the first satellite of the Space Based Surveillance System aboard a Minotaur 4 out of Vandenberg AFB. The next day on July 10th, EchoStar 15 launches out of Baikonur. This is followed by a July 27/28 Cartosat 2B out of Satish Dhawan Space Center in India, and the month ends with the July 30th launch of AEHF 1 aboard an Atlas V out of Cape Canaveral. Follow the latest launch changes and updates at SpaceFlightNow.

Astro Bloopers: A science related blooper came our way recently via the otherwise excellent forensic anthropology drama Bones, Season 1 Ep 9. The key case kept stating that the 1500 year old skeleton dated from the Iron Age… granted, the smelting of iron began in different cultures at different times, but the Iron Age for northern Europe generally predates the fall of the Roman Empire… this puts the idea of an Iron Age skeleton from circa 500 A.D. on very questionable ground.  

This Month in Astro-History: July 26th, 1963: Sycom 2, the first geosynchronous satellite was launched; pay per view hasn’t been the same since.

Astro Quote of the Month: “It’s all coming together, and politicians are starting to notice. I call it a growing coalition between the tree huggers, the do-gooders, the sodbusters, the cheap hawks, the evangelicals, the utility share holders, the Mom and Pop drivers, and Willie Nelson.”

          - R. James Woolsey, Former Director of the CIA on the new environmentalists.

 

20.04.10: Hubble Smashes KBO record.

 

(Credit: "Drink Beer!").

(Credit: "Drink Beer!").

 The Structure of the Kuiper Belt.

   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?

12 Amazing Moments in Science.

 
Edwin Hubble in the archetypical Astronomer Pose! (Credit: NASA Quest).
Edwin Hubble in the archetypal astronomer pose! (Credit: NASA Quest).

 

   Let it be known that this post did indeed start with 12… whenever someone mentions the most exalted achievements of mankind, the topic usually comes around to science. Along with our art and music, we’re the only animals that will know of that routinely apply the scientific method to the universe around us. And yet, some scientific discoveries weren’t supposed to be made, and their advent catapulted us years ahead of our time, or at least had the potential to do so, if only they had been recognized. What follows is a list of surreptitious, un-authorized, or just plain awesome discoveries that gave us some key insight into the nature of reality. Just like in the Wizard of Oz, most scientists work for their entire lives just to get a brief glimpse of the man behind the curtain. Anyway, we tried to be as fair as possible and include examples from a cross-section of scientific disciplines; we also tried to include the rare but true tales alongside the ones everybody knows. If your fave didn’t make the cut, let us know; there’s certainly cyber-space for a part II! Thanks also to those intrepid readers who sent in their suggestions; you rock, as always…    [Read more...]

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...]

AstroEvent of the Week: 04.20.09: A Morning of Moons and Meteors!

There are two reasons to set your alarm this week; one is the annual Lyrid meteor shower, and the second is the lunar/planetary action in the dawn sky. First, the shower. The Lyrids break the lull we’ve had in meteor showers for a few months; this showers’ radiant is located in the constellation Lyra near the star Vega (of Contact fame!) and can be expected to produce about 10 meteors per hour around the mornings of April 22nd.

[Read more...]

AstroEvent of the Week:29th-September 5th, 2008: Spot Neptune!

Now, to spot a planet that was first located mathimatically.

Now that the Moon is out of the sky this week, it’s a good time to add the outer most gas giant to your “been there, done that” list! First spotted in 1846 by Johann Galle & Heinrich D’Arrest, Neptune’s position was first deduced by the French Mathematician Le Verrier, who himself hated the “grittiness” of rank and file observational astronomy. [Read more...]