December 18, 2017

AstroEvent: Scouting out a Dusk Comet.

Discovery image of 2012 F1 (LINEAR)

(Credit: the Remanzacco Observatory).

2012 S1 (ISON)2011 L4 PanSTARRS… 2013 is already ramping up to be a great year for astronomy, with the promise of no less than two bright comets. This year came in with the surprise survival of Comet C/2011 W3 Lovejoy past the Sun and saw two decent binocular comets in Garradd C/2009 P1 and a surprise outburst recently of Comet 168P/Hergenrother last month. These icy visitors are fickle beasts, and any comet that rises above +10 magnitude officially piques our interest.

[Read more...]

Astro-Challenge: Haunting the “Ghost Double.”

The “Ghost of Gamma…” (Created by the Author in Starry Night).

Sometimes, the new and the unexpected lies just inside the field of view of the familiar. This week, we’d like to turn your attention to a hidden double star in the field of a star party favorite.  Halloween means sidewalk astronomy season, as we show off the delights of the universe to high-fructose corn syrup-filled suburbanites. Hey, it’s wonderful that a pagan Cross Quarter tie-in holiday (as in a celebration approximately midway between the equinox and the solstice) gets some play in this day and age. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: The Red Planet Meets the “Anti-Mars.”

All hail the “Anti-Mars!”

No less than two astro-events mark the passage of Astronomy Day on October 20th, a day so cool, we repeat it twice! The other Astronomy Day on the calendar for 2012 was on April 28th. (Hey, the sky changes, y’know?)

First up, the planet Mars meets the bright star Antares (a.k.a. Alpha Scorpii), passing just over 3° degrees to its north on the 20th. Mars has added an appreciably different look to the constellation since passing into Scorpius and sliding by Delta Scorpii on October 10th. Coincidentally, now is a good time to compare Mars and its astronomical antithesis. [Read more...]

The Scarlet Hues of TX Piscium.

U Camelopardalis, a carbon star with the same fate as TX Piscium.

(Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble).

Oh, pretty! Is a frequent exclamation surrounding that rarity of celestial beasts, the carbon star. Fans of this space will recall our exploits tracking down such favorites as Hind’s Crimson Star, UU Aurigae, and V Hydrae. These ruddy stars come as a welcome surprise in the often monotone universe and can serve as a star party “secret weapon” when every other ‘scope is pointed at Albireo. This week, we’ll look at just such a treat that is well placed for fall viewing for the northern hemisphere. And October is an ideal time to look for it, as Mercury, Mars, and Saturn huddle low in the dusk, Jupiter hasn’t yet reached its evening prime time, and Venus remains high in the dawn. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: A Spectacular Dawn Appulse.

Venus versus Regulus: the view on October 3rd.

(All simulations created by the Author in Starry Night).

It’s a question we have posed before, worthy of a sequel to Arthur Upgreen’s alternate astronomy book Many Skies; what would Venus look like if it had a moon? As a kid, I remember a science book on the solar system looking back at the Earth-Moon system from Venus, assuming that you could get above the cloud tops. At greatest elongation, Earth’s Moon would be 9’ arc minutes from the planet’s -3.6 magnitude disk this month and would itself shine at +0.5 magnitude… what a view that would be! [Read more...]

Astro-Events: An Opposition and an Occultation!

Looking west from Astroguyz HQ Oct 27th at sunset. (Created by the Author using Starry Night & Paint).

This week marks the return of the King of the Planets to evening skies, as well as a close lunar-planetary grouping for well placed observers and a chance to spy an unusual asteroid. [Read more...]

18.10.11: All Hail the Necronomicon!

Invading planet Earth this weekend!

In the Saint Petersburg, Florida area this weekend? Let me turn you on to one of Tampa Bay’s premiere events; the Necronomicon, a convention of all things science fiction, fantasy and horror which celebrates its 30th anniversary in a ‘fest of all things wacky and weird. This year, Hugo award winning author Ben Bova (Millennium, Out of the Sun, and the Grand Tour series) will be the guest of honor, and the ‘Con will feature piles o’ panels, events, and a unique masquerade ball known as the Necronomi-Prom… [Read more...]

Astro-Events: Of Comets and Meteor Showers.

Locating the Orionid radiant; (Photo/graphic by Author).

Early October saw one for the record books, as the obscure Draconid meteors put on a show for northern hemisphere observers topping a zenithal hourly rate of 338 ±15 per hour centered on October 8th, 20:04 UT. While not quite approaching storm levels, that’s the most impressive showing we’ve had from any meteor shower yet this century… the Draconids may produce once again in October 2018, and then we’ll have to wait ‘til the early 2030’s for the Leonids to ramp up again… incidentally, the Leonids, Draconids and the long defunct Andromedids are some of the only meteor showers that have historically approached storm intensity, usually informally defined as a ZHR ?1,000. [Read more...]

16.10.11: Tales of a Tiny Moon.

A Distant Hunter’s Moon! (Photo by Author).

We thought we’d take this brief weekend moment to share with you the recent fruits of our astro-labor. As good fans and followers of this space know, last Tuesday’s Hunter’s Moon also marked the visually smallest of the year, as Full phase was reached only hours before apogee. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: A possible Draconid Outburst?

Path of the Earth through the Giacobinid streams. (Graphic by Author).

A total wild car meteor shower may be just around the bend. The Draconid meteor shower is usually obscure even on a good year, with rates in the 5-10 per hour doldrums. This peak usually occurs on or around October 8th, and passes with nary a notice. This shower has, however, been prone to sporadic outbursts of storm level intensity. 2011 might just be one of those years. [Read more...]

October 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

A recent personnal 1st; an ISS Solar Transit!

(Photo by Author).

October is one of our favorite months, crowned as it is by a holiday that sees suburbanites re-enact pagan ancient Cross-Quarter festivities. We’re talking Halloween, Samhain, All Hallows Eve, whatever your household preference. Now is a good time to roll out the ‘scope, put on some H.G. Wells War of the Worlds rebroadcasting, and show the neighborhood hob-goblins the wonders of the night sky. What follows is a rundown of the witchery that we’re brewing up here at Astroguyz HQ;

Coming to a Sky Near You: Comet C/2010 X1 Elenin was to break naked eye visibility this month as it climbs through the constellation Leo in the 1st part of October, but of course now all bets are off since the comet disintegrated last month into tinier fragments. (No, Bruce Willis wasn’t the cause). Elenin will safely pass 0.23 AU from the Earth on October 16th, and reach a northerly declination in the dawn skies of +30.9 degrees on October 28th. The surprise wild card event, however, *may* be the peak of the Draconid meteors on the 8th. Also sometimes known as the Giacobinids, this usually obscure shower generally rates nary a second thought most years but has been known for storm level outbursts of over a 1,000 meteors per hour or more. There is some buzz in the meteor modeling community that 2011 may be just such a year…but those rates may be diminished by the Moon reaching Full on the 11th, which is also visually smallest Full Moon of the Year. On the 21st, the Orionid Meteors peak, a less dazzling but more dependable shower with a ZHR=20-30. On the 29th asteroid 1036 Ganymed (largest Amor asteroid) reaches opposition at magnitude +8 after a series of stellar occultations in the Cassiopeia-Perseus-Andromeda region. Finally, on the 28th occultation of Mercury by the 2 day old Moon occurs low in the dusk for Australian and New Zealand viewers, (The rest of us will just see a close conjunction), and on the 29th, the planet Jupiter reaches opposition.

This Month in Science: This month, we dig into some our favorite reads as we review Magick, Mayhem, & Mavericks, a look at the messy history of the realm that is physical science. Also this month we look at Falling to Earth, the biography of an Apollo 15 astronaut, and review Science Illustrated, a bi-monthly science magazine. Another gem has hit our inbox in the form of Miss Leavitt’s Stars, a fascinating biography of astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Finally, the star party is on at Starkey Park in New Port Richey on the 22nd, although we “may” be missing in action that night because of the following…

This Month in Science Fiction: The Necronomicon, Central Florida’s premiere science fiction convention, occurs on October 21-23 in Saint Petersburg Florida, and yours truly will be a humble member on a panel or three. Come out, dress like a Klingon, join the fun, and peek through our telescopes. We’ll be setting up for both solar and night-time viewing, and its sure to be more fun than a barrel of Ewoks! Also, in our we’ve-been-towing-it-around-for-years-and-now-we’re-finally-reading-it file, we’ll be reviewing  Alpha Centauri by William Barton and Michael Capobianco. Hot off the pre-release press we’re also furiously reading Hearts of Smoke and Steam, Book 2 of the Society of Steam series due out in November from Pyr Books!

Launches in October: This month, all eyes will be on the Russian Soyuz and the hoped for “Return to Space” after their loss of an unmanned Progress vehicle this summer. Not that the pressure is on, or anything…the first Soyuz mission to watch is the Galileo IOV aboard the 1st Soyuz launch out of Kourou French Guiana on the 20th. This will be followed by a Delta 2 launch with the NASA-NPP spacecraft plus accompanying Tweetup out of Vandenberg AFB 25th. Also on tap is a Proton with the Glonass satellite out of Baikonur 25th. To Be Determined launches to watch include a manned Soyuz to headed to the ISS, a Proton with ViaSat 1, Soyuz with Globalstar, and Zenit rocket carrying 3SLB/Intelsat 18, all from Baikonur. Follow us @Astroguyz on Twitter for all the updates!

Astro-Atta-Boy: We finally caught Clash of the Titans, the 2010 remake, not the cheesy 1980’s take on the mythological tale that depicts a bunch of miniatures flying around. Say what you will about this adaption of the Perseus myth from Greek mythology, it does have a pretty good depiction of a total solar eclipse as part of the plot line, probably one of the best on screen we’ve seen since the film Lady Hawke, and way better than Mel Gibson’s eclipse in Apocalypto. Do I sense a blog post on eclipses in film and fiction in the works?

Astro Bloopers: Alright, when the rumors hit the cyber-sphere that George Lucas was once again tweaking the Star Wars saga for Blu-Ray release, we thought to ourselves; could it be that he’s finally going to correct the hoary old “parsec” error from episode IV: A New Hope? After all, it is kind of an embarrassing thing for such a seasoned sky-pilot as Han Solo to say… but alas, it wasn’t to be. No sooner than we made light mention of the possibility, than the self-appointed trolls that guard the flame of all that is Lucas attempted to defend the quip with several ill-conceived ad hominem attacks. Sorry guys, we may not know every world and creature in the Star Wars pantheon, but we do know science. A parsec is a measure of distance, and saying that “it made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs…” is a nonsensical statement, akin to “I went from here to New York in 12 miles…” and what’s more, a parsec is an Earth-based measure of distance, hardly fitting for a “galaxy far, far away…” George really missed his chance on this one…

Astro Quote of the Month: “I have seen the dark universe yawning where the black planets roll without aim; where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge, luster, or name.”

-HP Lovecraft, Nemesis, 1918

 

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...]