December 12, 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...]

24.05.11: Throwing Exo-Planets into “The Blender.”

Artists’ conception of the Kepler-10 system. (Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL/CALTech).

On Monday, scientists unveiled a powerful new technique to quickly validate transiting exoplanets. The method, known as the “Blender,” combines data gathered for both the Kepler and Spitzer Space Telescopes in an effort to identify tiny transiting exo-worlds that would otherwise go unnoticed by ground-based instruments. [Read more...]

AstroEvent: 4x Planets, 1xMoon, and a 12° FOV!

Looking eastward May 1st about 30 minutes before sunrise. (Created by the Author using Starry Night).

Where have all the planets gone? Four of the five classical naked eye planets are about to reveal themselves this week in a splendid fashion. As Venus sinks morning by morning towards the horizon, expect Jupiter, Mars and Mercury to emerge low in the dawn sky. The action culminates the weekend of April 30th-May 1st, when the waning crescent Moon approaches the grouping… use brilliant Venus as a visual “anchor” to guide your eyes to the fainter planets. On what date will you be able to spot each planet from your location? [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Close Planetary Pairing +A Springtime Meteor Shower.

Looking eastward the morning of April 19th with a 5 degree FOV. (Created by the Author in Starry Night).

Where have all the planets gone? Well, with the exception of Saturn, they’ve all been hiding in the direction of the Sun. That’s all beginning to change this week, however, as Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter slip into the dawn sky to join Venus in what will turn into a splendid early morning multi-planet conjunction in early May. [Read more...]

03.04.11: Alien or Aeolian?

The humble terrestrial sand dune…(Credit: Art Explosion).

This sunny Sunday morning, we’d like to point you towards an astro-video that floated through our cyber-transom. We’ve recently discovered the SETI Talks series on YouTube, and have become a hooked subscriber. These weekly talks feature a broad range of astronomers and researchers and are a fascinating look at cutting edge science as expressed by the scientists that are doing the research. [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...]

17.03.11- Mercury: At Last!

Brave New World: Mercury as seen from Messenger during 2nd flyby departure.

 (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington) 

Tonight marks a pivotal moment in solar system exploration. At 12:45 AM UTC on March 18th, NASA’s Mercury Messenger spacecraft will burn its engines for approximately 15 minutes to enter an elliptical orbit around the planet Mercury. Since its launch from Cape Canaveral on August 3rd, 2004, Messenger has flown by the Earth once and Venus twice for a gravitational assist, swung by the innermost world three times, sampled the near solar environment, searched for Vulcanoids, and even done a wide field pan for any tiny Mercury moonlets that may have been missed. [Read more...]

March 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

Ahhhh, the Ides of March are upon us. Spring is the thing, as we approach equal daylight in all lands north to south. The month of March brings with it an early onset back to Daylight Savings Time for yet another eight months, a season for Messier marathoning, Mercury spotting, and more. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s on our radar this month at Astroguyz HQ:

Coming to a Sky Near You: The first week of March we feature the ternary star Beta Monocerotis. We’ll also look at what it takes to complete a Messier Marathon. Asteroid 72 Feronia completes a stellar occultation on 9th, followed by a lunar occultation of Mu Geminorum on the 13th. A rare Proxigean Spring tide and the largest Full Moon of the Year occur on 18th, followed by the Vernal Equinox marking the beginning of spring on the 20th. Another good stellar occultation by asteroid 224 Oceana occurs on the 20th, and planet Mercury makes its best evening elongation 22nd. Finally, we cap off the month with a very close Venus-Neptune 9’ conjunction on the 27th.

 This Month in Science: All eyes are on space exploration and research as Planetary Science decadal survey is planned for release sometime in March. The Orange Blossom star party, Central Florida’s premiere astro-get together occurs March 2nd-6th. Also, March continues to be a month of inner world exploration as NASA’s Messenger spacecraft enters orbit around Mercury 18th just days before the best evening apparition mentioned above. On the review radar, we look at Discoverers of the Universe and A Professor, A President, & a Meteor. Good times!

This Month in Science Fiction: This month in science fiction (we still spell it “Sci-Fi!”) we’ll take a look at Dwarf Stars 2010, with some of last year’s best in Sci-Fi short poetry. We’re also furiously reading The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, the exciting Steampunk follow up to The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack. Also out from Pyr Books, don’t forget to snag a copy of the newly released (and recently reviewed on this site) work, the Cowboy Angels. The Big Bang Theory, every science nerds favorite show about science nerds in the wild, has recently been picked up for three more seasons… and the BIG news for those of us that live in our laptops is that the show is FINALLY available to watch online!

Launches in March: Space Shuttle Discovery is in space one final time, and will land back at the Kennedy Space center March 7th. Meanwhile, Endeavour is back “at the ranch” beginning preparation for its April launch with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. A pair of classified payloads will also break the surly bonds this month, with the follow up flight of the Air Force’s super secret X-37B space plane from Cape Canaveral Air Station on the 4th & a ULA classified launch on 11th, also from CCAS. The European Space Agency launches an Ariane 5 Yahsat 1A with the Intelsat New Dawn on 29th, and over in the world of cosmodromes, a Soyuz TMA-21 manned launch to the ISS out of Baikonur occurs 29th, & a Proton rocket with SES 3 and Kazsat 2 also departs out of Baikonur on March 31st. As this goes to cyber-press, we have no word about the delayed launch of Glory, which is to occur “sometime in March…” Follow us @astroguyz on Twitter for all the space flight updates, astro-events, and other rambling astro-musings!

Astro Bloopers: Much terrible cyber-ink astronomy has come from the whole 13th zodiacal sign non-troversy that began earlier this year. Some of the true baddies have been the idea that astronomers somehow recently discovered Ophiuchus in 2009! Then there is the long diatribe of a certain astrologer who tried to extricate herself realm from reality with a long discussion on the tropical versus the sidereal year; it’s almost as painful for an astronomer to watch as an old Space: 1999 rerun.  

This Month in Astro-History: On March 24th, 1930 Pluto was officially named after a suggestion from Mrs. Venetia Burney Phair when she was aged 11. Mrs. Phair only recently passed away in 2009, and an outstanding documentary entitled Naming Pluto was recently made by director Ginita Jimenez about her life. It’s definitely worth searching out!

Astro Quote of the Month: “However long we live, life is short, so I work… and however important man becomes, he is nothing compared to the stars. There are secrets, dear sister, and it is for us to reveal them.”

-Caroline Herschel.

Photo image of M45 by Author.

AstroEvent(s): A Week of Moons, Tri-Conjunctions, & Lunar Features!

Venus, Vesta, & Pluto in a 5 degree field of view. (Created by Author in Starry Night).

This week offers a grab bag of unique events, far from the humdrum wide conjunctions and difficult to see pairings. The action starts on February 8th with a rare chance to see Saturn’s moons in 1 -8 order. This occurs in a narrow window from 19:01-19:38 UT, and thus favors the Asian Far East. The planet currently rises around 11PM local, and a majority of the moons should still be in order from your corresponding latitude. [Read more...]

Review: Wonders in the Sky.

Authors Note: Yes, this week’s review touches on UFO’s in the form of unexplained aerial phenomena. We thought long and hard about reviewing this book when it arrived on our doorstep, and decided it does have merit from a historical astronomical perspective.  

Out from Tarcher Penguin Books.

Delving into the world of archeo-astronomy is always a fascinating exercise for the desktop/arm chair observer. Sifting through piles of old observations and tales from skies of yore always makes one wonder; what did they see? Is there any basis to the old myths and legends in astronomical fact? [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Mutual Western Elongation.

January 8th, about a half hour before sunrise looking west from Tampa, Florida. (Created by the Author in Starry Night).   

One of the more unique events of 2011 occurs this weekend. The interior planets of Mercury and Venus both reach greatest western elongation within 24 hours of each other in the dawn skies. First, Venus reaches an elongation of 47° from the Sun on Saturday, January 8th at about 16:00UT/11:00 EST. Then, about 23.6 hours later, Mercury reaches the height of its morning apparition 23° west of the Sun. [Read more...]

11.12.10: The “Quasi-Moon” of Venus.

The curious orbit of 2002 VE68. (Created with JPL’s Ephemeris Generator).

   Up until about the mid-19th century, astronomers reported spurious sightings of a moon near our sister world, Venus. These sightings were copious enough to even warrant a name, Neith. Today, most of these observations have gone the way of the Vulcan’s and second Moon of Earth sightings as curiosities, chalked up to background stars or internal reflections in antique optics. Venus has no moon… but an interesting asteroid may vie for the next closest thing.

[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...]

Astro event: A Close Planetary Conjunction.

Mars & venus at closest conjunction. (Created by Author in Starry Night).

Mars & venus at closest conjunction. (Created by Author in Starry Night).

 

   The dusk planetary action continues this week with a close conjunction of the planets Mars and Venus. Our two nearest planetary neighbors in space have been playing a game of apparent cat and mouse in the dusk skies, approaching each other within two degrees of arc July 31st, receding, and then approaching again. Closest approach is around August 19th, when both planets are within 1° 45’ of each other as seen from our Earthly vantage point. This is one of the better planetary conjunctions of the year, and a good study in comparative planetary characteristics and orbital mechanics. [Read more...]

Astro-Event: Venus at Greatest Elongation.

Venus earlier this year as seen from Astroguyz HQ. (Photo by Author).

Venus earlier this year as seen from Astroguyz HQ. (Photo by Author).

 

   Our nearest planetary neighbor is about to put on a brilliant dusk showing. The planet Venus reaches greatest elongation, or its maximum separation from the Sun as observed from the Earth on August 19th. From there, it will begin a long dive towards inferior conjunction with the Sun on October 28th, slendering in phase from half-lit to crescent and increasing in angular size as it does so. Venus is now the brightest object high in the west at dusk. Tonight on August 13th, a nice grouping of Venus, Mars, Saturn and the three day old Moon occurs after sunset. [Read more...]

Astro-Challenge: See Saturn’s Moons in 1 to 7 Order.

Saturn's moons on July 31st. (Created by the Author in Starry Night).

Saturn's moons on July 31st. (Created by the Author in Starry Night).

 

    This week’s challenge may also give you a unique photographic opportunity. On the evening of July 31st (my birthday!) Saturn’s moons will be in 1 to 7 order. This will occur from 6:45 to 11:15 Universal Time, and favor viewers in Australia and the Far East. Later in the evening over North America, only speedy Mimas and Enceladus will be out of order… now is the time to brush up on and perhaps nab some of those hard to spot moons; in descending magnitude, difficulty, and order number (#)  they are: [Read more...]

Imaging Satellites: A Low-Tech Method.

We here at Astroguyz have been working for some time on an interesting technique for capturing photographs of satellites, and by popular demand, we wanted to give a brief rundown at how we were ultimately successful. Go out star-gazing on any clear night, and it’s only a matter of minutes before you’ll notice a star or two that slide silently by. [Read more...]