July 27, 2017

Astro-Event(s): A Solstice, a Meteor Shower and a Bizarre Transit.

The Winter Solstice… here comes the Sun!

(Credit: Art Explosion).

T’was the night before Christmas, and no doubt dreams of high tech astro-gear is dancing thru the head of many a star stricken astronomer out there. But while you’re awaiting those astro-gifts, the universe marches on. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: The Geminids Round Out 2011.

2011 has been quite a year, both terrestrial and otherwise. This week sees the last of the big scheduled astronomical happenings of the year in the form of the Geminid meteor shower. This shower is one of the yearly standbys along with the Perseids that are always sure to produce. The Geminids have a long peak centered on the morning of December 14th when an idealized Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour may be seen. Problems will arise, however, from an 82% illuminated waning gibbous Moon in the adjacent constellation of Cancer. Rising roughly around 10PM local on the night of the peak, this makes for the worst possible Moon phase as it’ll be high and bright in the early AM hours, just as the meteor shower is getting into high gear. But as always, I wouldn’t let that stop you from looking! To use a rough sports analogy, you’ll see zero meteors if you do not try.

Moon path and position on the 14th. (Created by author is Starry Night & Paint).

This shower is also unique in that its source isn’t a comet, but an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon. The first asteroid discovered by a spacecraft, namely the Infrared Astronomical Satellite in 1983, there’s a fair amount of conjecture as to exactly what 3200 Phaethon is; is it a true Palladian-type asteroid or an inactive comet nucleus? [Read more...]

The Solstice Eclipse: An Update

AWESOME!!! (All images and video by Author).

This is just a brief update: the solstice lunar eclipse was one for the record books, a bright Danjon “L4″ and easily visible thoughout totality. A coppery red, this was one of the brightest on record for this seasoned observer… expect a more through after action report in this space later today… more pics can also be seen here at our shinny new Flickr account. Now… sleep!

…a brief nap and the astronomer’s friend, coffee, has brought with it some more processed results, including the stop motion/live footage above and the processed stills below. For those interested, I shot with a JVC Digicam afocally through the 8″SCT, while shooting stills with a piggybacked 800-1600 DSLR. The rig worked out pretty good, all in all; having WWV radio call out time signals in the background was a huge help, as I just let the video run while shooting stills at the top of each minute.

Also, our Twitter “danjon count” was a huge success, with a clean sweep for a Danjon number of L4, the brightest eclipse possible… the power of crowd sourcing in action!

AstroEvent: A Solstice Eclipse!

  

Luna entering the Earth’s shadow during the Total Eclipse of May 15th, 2003 (Photo by Author).

   One of the final astronomical events of the year for 2010 is also one of the biggest. On the night of December 20th-21st, the Moon will undergo a total lunar eclipse. This eclipse will be visible in its entirety for North American observers and at sunrise for European South American observers and sunset for observers in Australia and the Far East. First Umbral contact will begin at 06:32 UTC, and totality will last 73 minutes from 7:40 to 8:53 UTC with greatest eclipse at 8:18 UTC. [Read more...]

Astro Event of the Week: December 22nd-28th, 2008: A Christmas Meteor Storm?

Ursids.

Ursid Radiant. (Credit: Meteor showers online). 

   The Ursids are the meteor shower that you’re not watching, but should be. A lesser shower, it typically produces around less than 10 meteors per hour right around Christmas time. This year, however, there may be two reasons to give the Ursids notice; one is that the Moon is a waning crescent, and presents less interference than its ill placed Full version during the Geminids early this month, and second, its progenitor, Comet 8P Tuttle, made a close (0.25 AU!) pass by the Earth on January 2nd of this year… could an Ursid outburst be in the offing? Reports of up to 100 meteors are not unheard of from this shower. Its peak is the night of the 22nd/23rd but of course, watching on either side of these dates may produce some surprises. Merry Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice, or what ever your holiday may be and keep an eye out for this elusive shower!

   The astro-term of the week is circumpolar. In astronomy, an object is circumpolar if it stays above your local horizon 24-7. At the Earth’s equator, nothing is circumpolar; at the North and South Pole, everything is. At only a few degrees from the rotational North Pole, the radiant of the Ursid meteor shower is circumpolar for observers in the northern hemisphere.    

Astro Event of the Week; November 3rd-9th: A Taurid Outburst?

Most years, the Taurid meteor shower doesn’t merit a second look; this minor shower radiating from the constellation Taurus the bull usually generates a maximum rate of less than five meteors per hour.

[Read more...]