April 18, 2014

AstroEvent(s): A Conjunction, a Perihelion, a Meteor Shower & an Eclipse…

A Partial Solar Eclipse seen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. (Photo by Author).

   2011 is here; let the astronomy events begin! And a what a busy first week of January it is; right out the gate, we have no less than four significant events to talk about; [Read more...]

Astro-Event: A Difficult Occultation.

Looking west from Tampa, Fl at about 5:40PM EST. (Created in Starry Night). 

   This week, interesting planetary goings-on are afoot low in the western dusk skies, if you have the patience to observe them. On the evening of Monday, December 6th, visual athletes will want to try and spot an extremely thin crescent Moon occult a fading planet Mars. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: A Very Old Moon Pairs with Venus.

As viewed from North America the moring of Novenebr 5th. (Created by the author in Starry Night).

As viewed from North America the morning of November 5th. (Created by the author in Starry Night).

 

     This week’s astronomy challenge ties in two potential visual challenges: sighting a very slender crescent Moon and a daylight occultation of Venus. A grouping of the next two brightest objects in the sky after the Sun is always a treat; the challenge comes from the fact that the celestial pairing will be very close to a brightening dawn horizon. Venus just passed inferior conjunction on October 28th; it will sport a 2% illuminated crescent about 60” seconds in size at magnitude -4.2. The Moon, meanwhile, will be about 1% illuminated and reaches New on November 6th at 04:52 Universal Time. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Bright Dawn Comet.

 

Created with NASA/JPL Ephemeris generator).

Created with NASA/JPL Ephemeris generator).

 

   The dawn skies of October hold a special treat; a possible bright morning comet. 103/P Hartley 2 approaches perihelion on October 28, 2010. Earlier in the month sees it beginning its long dive through dawn skies. Northern hemisphere viewers will have the best view, as the comet passes through the constellations Cassiopeia, Perseus, Auriga, and Gemini in the month of October. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Challenging Dawn Conjunction.

Saturn & Mercury on closest approach. (Created by the Author with Starry Night).

Saturn & Mercury on closest approach. (Created by the Author with Starry Night).

 

   Set your alarm clocks; one of the closest but most challenging planetary pairings of the year happens this week in the early dawn skies. Mercury and Saturn will be within 1° degree of arc separation the morning of October 8th. Saturn is fresh from superior conjunction behind the Sun, and Mercury is currently undergoing a dawn apparition. Both will fit well in a binocular field of view or a low power eyepiece. The pairing will rise about 45 minutes prior to local sunrise, which for middle northern latitudes will occur around 7:45 AM local. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: Will Comet McNaught Perform?

The Path of Comet McNaught through the 1st half of June. (Created by the Author in Starry Night & Paint).

The Path of Comet McNaught through the 1st half of June. (Created by the Author in Starry Night & Paint).

 

   During the month of June, keep your eye out for a pre-dawn visitor that may be the naked eye comet of the year. Comet McNaught C/2009 R1 starts the month out June 1st at about +8 magnitude near the star Beta Andromedae, and through the course of the month, skirts the constellations of Andromeda, Perseus, and Auriga. Views will get better starting June 4th, as the Moon passes Last Quarter on its way to New June 12th. The daily apparent motion of the comet will cause it to move semi-parallel to the horizon, never straying above 20° degrees elevation for mid-northern latitude observers about an hour before sunrise. [Read more...]

17.08.09: A Ramadan Moon.

New Moon w/Venus Earlier this Year. (Photo by Author).

New Moon w/Venus Earlier this Year. (Photo by Author).

Slender New crescent Moons are always a fun and interesting challenge to spot…but this week’s crescent Moon is special. For the astronomy challenge of the week, I give you a Ramadan Moon. The Muslim calendar is one of several that are lunar based, meaning that it follows a cycle of complete phases of the Moon through one synodic month, which is 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes and 3 seconds long, respectively. This means that any given lunar calendar falls about 10-12 days per year out of sync with the Gregorian solar based one. Ramadan, (“or Ramazan,” as its known in Turkey) begins at sunset with the sighting of the Hilal or crescent New Moon and is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. [Read more...]

Event of the Week: 20.07.09: A VERY long solar eclipse!!!

Total Solar Eclipse Path. (Credit: NASA/Fred Espenak).

Total Solar Eclipse Path. (Credit: NASA/Fred Espenak).

The astronomical event of the year is about to take center stage this Wednesday. A total eclipse of the Sun, the longest possible for a VERY long time! Those lucky enough to have secured a ticket or live along the Pacific/Southeast Asia corridor will see an eclipse of a duration of up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds, near the maximum 7 minutes and 31 seconds possible. This is a consequence of the Earth passing aphelion a few weeks ago (read: a visually small Sun) and the a large New Moon very near perihelion (remember the year’s smallest Full Moon a few weeks back?) [Read more...]