November 18, 2017

Astro-Event: A September Occultation Bonanza.

Jupiter & the Moon the morning of September 8th as seen from Central Florida.

(All graphics unless otherwise noted where created by the author using Starry Night).

I love the term occultation. Use it around the astronomically uninitiated, and it just confirms every suspicion they’ve ever had that you’re REALLY a secret astrologer, further confusing the pseudoscience with astronomy in their minds. I sometimes think that even many astronomers feel a bit odd using the term, as it hints at astronomy’s astrological roots before it became a respectable science. [Read more...]

AstroEvent(s): Of Occultations & Daytime Stars.

Mekbuda Occultation from Tampa, Florida. (Created by Author in Starry Night). 

This week brings with it an interesting double-double header. First up is a challenge that comes to us via the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada … sure, you’ve seen Venus near the daytime Moon, and perhaps you’ve caught Jupiter low at opposition just prior to the setting of the Sun… but did you know that it’s possible to catch some of the brightest stars while the Sun is still above the horizon? Right around the first full week of April is a good time to give this a try; your assigned quarry is Sirius in the pre-dusk, and Vega in the post-dawn. Both of these stars are in the negative magnitude range and might just be visible from a pristine site with good seeing. In the case of Vega, a fun project would be to acquire it before sunrise and follow it into the daytime skies either visually or with an equatorial tracking telescope. Sirius, although brighter at magnitude -1.5 may be tougher; in this instance, finding the star in relation to a nearby landmark a day prior at dusk and then trying to acquire it before local sunset may work. I once successfully caught Jupiter in the daytime in this fashion, near opposition from the arming-end of runaway in Kuwait back in 1998. Good luck, and we’ll be attempting this feat of visual athletics right along with you!

But wait, there’s more… this week also sees the waxing crescent Moon pass through some interesting star fields in the constellations Taurus and Gemini. The result is a series of interesting stellar occultations; 1st, on the evening of April 7th, the Moon skims the Hyades cluster and occults Upsilon and Kappa Tauri for viewers in western North America. Kappa is of particular interest as it is a very close (0.1”) double. Even if you aren’t in the target zone, the crescent Moon+Hyades= a good photo op. Three days later, we US east coasters get a shot with an occultation of Zeta Geminorum, otherwise known as Mekbuda. This is another bright star around magnitude +4.0. Mekbuda is also a Cepheid variable with a period of 10.2 days, one of the brightest in the sky. Watching this star wink out and then reappear should be a good replay of last month’s Mu Geminorum occultation… the action for the US East Coast centers around ingress at 9:21 PM EDT and an egress of 10:35PM. The occultation extends up to a graze line cutting across the Canadian Maritimes… good luck, and watch this space for a video after-action clip if successful!      

The astro-term for this week is Transparency. In terms of astronomy, transparency is the ability for light to pass unhindered through the atmosphere. Pollution, dust, and aerosols all act to scatter light and dim objects. You can have clear skies, but poor, washed out transparency. Generally, the higher and drier you are, the better transparency will be, as evidenced by a deep blue daytime sky and an inky black nighttime sky. This is also an all important factor in success in daytime star-spotting as discussed above.  Transparency is rated 1 to 10, with 10 being the absolute best, and is closely tied with seeing, or the resolution ability based on atmospheric turbulence. I’ve had clear skies and decent transparency after a storm front, only to have poor seeing as the convective cells rolled before my eyepiece!   

February 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

The Moon, the ISS, & Jupiter… Van Gogh would be proud! (Photo by Author).

The shortest month of the year is upon us. The month of February brings with it some curious moon alignments, a possible shuttle launch, and some rip roarin’ good Sci-Fi;

Coming to a Sky near You: February 1st kicks off with Jupiter’s moons arranged in 1-2-3-4 visual order. The 3rd sees a good occultation of a bright star by asteroid Irmintraud for the central Florida peninsula (re: Astroguyz HQ), and the 8th sees Saturn’s moons in order. [Read more...]

December 2010: Life in the Astroblogosphere.

  

Last month’s “old school” Blue Moon…(Photo by Author).

    We’re back… December 2010 sees us here at Astroguyz wrapping up our 3-year plus quest for an online science teaching degree and a return to full-bore content creation.  And none too soon, as December is generally our busiest (and most intriguing!) month of the year… [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...]

Astro-Event: An Occultation of Venus.

(Created by the Author in Starry Night).

 

   Occultations are one of the few split-second events in the field of observational astronomy. Unlike most spectacles which may take longer than the average human life span, (the orbits of many double stars comes to mind!) An occultation of a star or planet can occur with abrupt swiftness. Such an event can serve as a calibration, a precise measurement in time and space of size and position. [Read more...]

August 2010: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

 Summer Lightning as seen from Astroguyz HQ. (Photo by Author).

   Summer lightning as seen from Astroguyz HQ. (Photo by Author). 

   The sultry days of summer are now upon us, in what’s usually the last of the traditional northern hemisphere summer months. You can almost feel the darkness beginning its slow creep back into our daily lives. Although we continue to operate in “stripped down mode” new Astroguyz content will  still continue to be generated on a bi-weekly basis. Here’s what you can expect coming to an astro-blog near you; [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.

 

Astro Event: A Very Close Dawn Conjunction.

 

Jupiter & Uranus at Appulse! (Created in Starry Night & Paint).

Jupiter & Uranus at Appulse! (Created in Starry Night & Paint).

 

 

    Tomorrow morning has something worth getting up for; one of the closest planetary conjunctions of the year. Specifically, the planets Jupiter and Uranus sit about 26’ arc minutes apart, as seen through binoculars. Both will also fit nicely in a low power telescopic field for the next week or so. Jupiter has been very much in the news as of late, as it first became suddenly “one striped” a few weeks ago and was recently smacked again by an impactor. When we first caught wind of this, our first instinct was hoax, such as the “Mars is the closest this August in 50,000 years!” email that circulates every summer. But it does indeed appear that another impactor has struck the giant world, on the same calendar date and discovered by the same observer! We’ve definitely received a lesson in Jupiters’ role as a cosmic vacuum cleaner as of late, although no true impact scar has yet to reveal itself. It’s also worth noting that the impact longitude will be on the planet’s central meridian at 4:21 EDT tomorrow the 8th as well, another reason to check out Jupiter. The impact video that circulated revealed the hit to be right at the longitude of the missing Southern Equatorial Belt. Uranus will be slightly fainter than a typical Galilean moon and display a grayish green disk. The pair rises around 3AM local and a waning crescent Moon will be nearby. Fun fact: did you know that Galileo missed the opportunity to discover another outer world, Neptune, during a close conjunction? He even drew its position change next to Jupiter in his notebook! Probably the reason that he didn’t make the intuitive leap was because no one at the time supposed that there should be any undiscovered planets!

The Astro-Word for this week is Appulse. This is another term that points back to astronomy’s hoary roots with astrology. We say an object (usually two planets or a planet and the Moon) are at appulse on their closest apparent approach. Of course, this is only line of sight from our vantage point; in reality, objects such as Jupiter and Uranus are millions of miles apart. The term appulse has sort of fallen to the wayside in favor of its synonym, conjunction, but it certainly doesn’t raise the eyebrows like another related mystical sounding term, occultation. I’m just glad that professional astronomers no longer have to subsidize their income by casting horoscopes for kings, as they did in times of yore!

May 2010: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

 

(Photo by Author).

(Photo by Author).

The awesome dawn launch last month of STS-131, as seen from Astoguyz HQ…Can you spot the SRB?

 

   May brings ultimate news to the Astroguyz camp, with the selection for yet a second NASAtweetup, this time to the final launch of the shuttle Atlantis! Expect us “to be all STS-132, all the time” as we track events leading up to and during the launch. With that in mind posts will be noticeably space shuttle oriented, so be forewarned. So without further digression, here’s what you can expect from an Astroguyz soapbox coming to a viewing device of your electronic choosing…  

Coming to a Sky near You: You’ve heard of em’, but have you ever tried spotting a quasar yourself? This month, we show you what it takes to cross this elusive class of objects off of your life list. And of course, we’ll keep you abreast of the latest STS/ISS sightings, as the pair couples and uncouples in low Earth orbit. For those fortunate to be positioned from northern Africa through Southeast Asia, the 2 day old Moon will occult Venus on the 16th. The rest of us will see a close conjunction of the pair. On the lunar surface, we explore Aristarchus, a crater home to the most recorded Transient Lunar Phenomena. On the final day of the month, the Moon once again meets up with S Scorpii in an interesting occultation of the close binary star. On that same date, we’ll point you towards an offbeat reader submitted event; Jupiter’s moons positioned in 1,2,3,4 order. Our own Moon will reach New on the 14th and Full phase on the 27th

This Month in Science: Did we mention that we’ll be attending the NASA STS-132 Tweetup? Expect you-are-there tweet-reporting, videos, deep ponderous thoughts, and a full length after-action post. For those who didn’t get picked (hey, this was us more often than not!) we’ll give you a complete guide to off-site observing, good for both manned and unmanned launches both out of the KSC and the Cape. We also resume our exposé on Great Orbiting Observatories, this month delving into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. And speaking of UV, we review the UV flashlight from INova, and why you need one of these curious devices…

This Month in Science Fiction: This month, we take advantage of the spring publishing lull to work through some of our backlog. Expect a review of Solis by A.A. Attanasio, a book that we can’t believe let sit on our shelves all these years before finally cracking. We also review what’s rapidly become our favorite in Sci-Fi podcasting, the Drabblecast. In the hot-off-the-press-department, our advance copy of Dervish House by Ian MacDonald, soon to be released by Pyr just hit our doorstep and we’ve delved headlong into this tale of a futuristic Istanbul.

Launches in May: What with all this talk of adventure in a time of NASAtweetups, you might get the impression that STS-132 launches on May 14th at 2:19 P.M. EDT! This mission will be deploying the Russian-built Mini Research Module to be attached to the Zarya Module, as well as carrying further maintenance supplies and spare parts to the ISS. The flight is also notable as it is more than likely the last flight of the shuttle Atlantis, unless it launches in the very unlikely event of a rescue op during the final two missions. Astroguyz will be on hand to witness the final flight of Atlantis as she rides into orbit one last time. About a week prior, Falcon 9 will launch out of the Cape on May 8th at 11 AM EDT, on the qualifying flight of Space Xs Dragon spacecraft. This flight test is crucial to demonstrate that private companies can indeed fill in the gap left by the termination of the shuttle program and take up the duty of unmanned resupply of the ISS. Another interesting launch of note occurs on May 17th at 5:44 PM EDT, when Japan’s Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter departs Tanegashima Space Center for a journey to the cloud-shrouded world.  Follow these latest mission updates courtesy of SpaceFlightNow.

Astro Bloopers: Alright. This month’s snafu is spaceflight related, and the offense was committed twice in the past month by two separate organizations, both of which should have known better! The problem occurred with a common misconception of the Kennedy Space Center versus Cape Canaveral; both tend to be interchanged by the media, but are in fact separate installations! KSC is the launch site for manned missions such as the Shuttle and the Apollo missions; the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is the home of unmanned satellite and deep space probe launches. NOVA recently got the two exactly wrong in a recent otherwise outstanding episode, and then CNN bumped the lunacy up a notch during Obama’s visit to the Space Coast, referring to the KSC as the Kennedy Space Station! And they complain about us upstart blogs…what are they, missing a science reporter?

This Month in Astro-History: On May14th, 1973 Skylab was launched. The first manned space station for the United States, Skylab utilized left over Apollo hardware to cobble the station together and saw its first crew of three opening it for business on May 25th of the same year. Two more crews followed until abandonment in early 1974. Astronauts conducted several science experiments while in space, including solar observations and microgravity experiments. Ideas to eventually reoccupy Skylab when the Shuttle came online in the 80’s never materialized. Skylab re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere amid much media craziness on July 11th, 1979.  

Astro Quote of the Month: “Everything really is made from one fire, the fire of all the stars. In that furious light, the stars forge the elements, strew them into the black void, and then stand around and watch the frantic atoms huddling together in the cold limits, sharing their small heat and enormous dreams.”

Solis, A.A. Attanasio.

Event: Mars passes the Beehive.

 

The path of Mars over the coming week. (Created in Starry Night & Paint).

The path of Mars over the coming week. (Created in Starry Night & Paint).

  

    This week offers a two-fer, an easy to spot naked eye conjunction of two very different objects and a difficult to observe occultation. 1st up is a close pairing of the planet Mars and M44, the Beehive Cluster. From the 13th of April until the 20th, both will be grouped in a visual circle less than 2° arc degrees in diameter, an easy target for both camera lens or binocs. Mars will be at closest apparent approach on the evening of the 16th. Both ride high near the zenith in the dusk skies for northern hemisphere viewers, making for an easy photo op. Of course, Mars is a scant 3 odd light minutes away; M44 is at an estimated distance of 577 light years. Also known as Praesepe, the Manger, this cluster in the heart of the constellation Cancer has been known since ancient times. Proper motion studies suggest that this open cluster may share its origins with the V-shaped Hyades in the constellation Taurus; about 1010 members of this group have been identified, including 11 white dwarfs.

Up for a challenge? On the evening of the 15th, the 3 day old crescent Moon will occult the close spectroscopic binary star Mu (µ) Arietis.  The action occurs around 3:00 UT (on the 16th) and favors viewers on the North American west coast. Unfortunately, the event does not occur under the most favorable circumstances; the Moon will be a thin crescent, the star is +6 magnitude, and the entire event will be low in the dusk skies. Still, we’d love to hear from anyone who successfully witnessed this difficult to observe event!      

The astro-word for the week is Messier Object. Back in 1771, French astronomer Charles Messier got tired of misidentifying faint little fuzzies he came across in the night sky in his quest for comets and decided to compose a catalog of these objects. The original published list contained 45 objects and Messier later expanded it to 103. The current tally stands at 110, although the list contains a few dubious entries. The catalog was the first list of deep sky objects, and has since spurred countless “Messier Marathons” common in spring. Morphologically, the catalog contains open & globular clusters, planetary nebulae, emission nebulae and galaxies. Of course, Messier had no inkling what these objects truly were when he cataloged them. It’s somewhat odd that such un-comet like objects as M44 and the Pleiades made this list, but say, the Double Cluster on the Perseus-Cassiopeia border did not. And of course, there was a whole menagerie southern sky objects yet to be categorized. That would have to wait for the Herschel dynasty of astronomers, and their expanded New General Catalog!

Astro-Event: An Asteroid Occults a Bright Star.

Anastasia occ

The path of 824 Anastasia the morning of April 6th. (Created in Google Earth).

One of the best occultations of a bright star occurs this week for observers along a line from western Canada down the U.S. west coast. At around 10:00 UT, on the morning of April 6th, 14th magnitude asteroid 824 Anastasia will occult, or pass in front of, the bright +2.5 magnitude star Zeta Ophiuchi for up to 8.6 seconds. This is a rare event in that the occulted star will be visible with the naked eye! Stellar occultations give us the rare opportunity to profile the shape of an asteroid; if enough folks are lined up along the graze line and make and submit accurate observations, a chord map of the “shadow” of the asteroid can be plotted. Binary asteroids have even been discovered by amateur astronomers using this method! Anyway, if you’re located anywhere along the predicted path and the sky is clear, don’t miss this rare event! [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Close Binary Occultation.

Occultation as seen from Albany, New York at about 3 AM Local. (Created in Starry Night).

Occultation as seen from Albany, New York at about 3 AM Local. (Created in Starry Night).

 

 Astronomical occultations are always fun to catch. Unlike other astronomical events that often happen over glacial time scales, occultations happen with abrupt swiftness. And besides just being plain cool, occultations can produce real scientific value, data that you can contribute to from your own backyard… and there’s no bigger occulting body in the night sky than our own Moon. This week, I’d like to bring to your attention a fairly bright and interesting star that is currently undergoing a series of lunar occultations this year; Sigma Scorpii. This star shines at magnitude +2.9 in the heart of the constellation Scorpius and is itself a close binary difficult to separate with a telescope. This star is also known as Al Niyat, or Arabic for the “Shield of the Heart,” possibly referring to its visual proximity to brilliant Antares. Sigma Sco is itself a complex system, with a 9th magnitude companion about 20” distant. [Read more...]

Astro-Event:The Vernal Equinox.

Clouds & Sky 110

Watch for that rising/setting equinox Sun! (Credit: Art Explosion).

     Batten down the hatches; spring is here in a most astronomical way. The vernal equinox occurs this Saturday, March 20th at 17:32 Universal Time; expect uniform amounts of sunshine and darkness worldwide as well as a Sun rising directly due east and setting due west. The spring equinox is also used in the reckoning of Easter; this year’s Paschal or Easter Full Moon falls on March 29th and the proceeding Sunday and Easter falls on April 4th. This year, Eastern Orthodox Easter also falls on the same date; The Orthodox church uses the older Julian calendar and hence the two don’t always coincide. In fact, this year’s date is the earliest that an Eastern Orthodox Easter can fall. [Read more...]

14.03.10-Record Lightning Storm Spotted by Cassini.

The shadow of Titan as viewed by Cassini. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute).

The shadow of Titan as viewed by Cassini. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute).

 

Saturn is turning out to be a very electrified place. Last year, NASA’s Cassini orbiter spied a massive storm that broke the solar system record; beginning in January 2009, this storm raged on for 7 ½ months, the longest recorded. This marks the ninth storm on Saturn thus recorded; these behemoths tend to be around 1,900 miles in size. It’s been known since the initial Voyager flybys of the ringed world in the 1970’s that an ionization differential of x100 exists in favor of the daytime side of Saturn over its night side, but routine observations by Cassini are revealing what a turbulent world Saturn really is. Cassini utilizes its antennae aboard its Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument to analyze the powerful radio emissions.   Tantalizingly, the storms almost always originate in a region known as “Storm Alley” at latitude 35° south. The reason for this isn’t entirely clear. Scientists also took advantage of a passage of Cassini behind Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, to confirm the source of these radio emissions. Surely enough, when Titan occulted the body of Saturn, the emissions disappeared, only to return when Saturn came back into view. This was yet another proof that Saturn is still an active and mysterious place.

Event of the Week: A New England Occultation.

Lunar occultations are always cool events; now you see a star or planet, now you don’t. The way they “wink in” and “wink out” with an improbable abruptness reminds us of the colossal velocity of the Moon about our planet. But beyond being just plain cool, they also still have scientific value; close double stars have been discovered this way, as they “wink out” in a step wise fashion. If enough observers are placed along the graze line, an accurate profile of the limb of the Moon can even be ascertained.

[Read more...]

12 Very Special Events for the Century.

“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!

-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!

-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!

Antares Occultation; a Semi-Success.

Just a quick mention that we were successful in viewing the Antares occultation by the Moon from Astroguyz’ HQ here in Hudson, Florida. Alas, no sighting of a greenish tinged Antares B (or the planet Krypton…) was recorded. However, the ingress made for a cool video…