May 25, 2019

Astro-Event of the Week; March 9th-15th; A Transit of Titan.

 

 

This week’s astro event is a special one. Anyone who has been tracking the planet Saturn as of late knows that the ring plane is nearly edge on. One consequence of this is a series of rare transits are underway, and one of the best occurs this week. Saturn’s largest moon, Titan will transit Saturn’s disk for viewers in North American longitudes westward in the early AM hours of Thursday, March 12th, 2009.

The farther west you are, the higher in the sky it will be. Folks on the eastern seaboard (such as Astroguyz HQ). Should assure you have a clear western horizon, as Saturn will be descending into the weeds. Action begins around 6 AM EDT, and by 6:30, a tiny shadow should be seen, along with the body of Titan just nicking the disk. A telescope of at least 4″ aperture is required for this one, and don’t be afraid to crank up the magnification! Titan is certainly the easiest Saturnian moon to spot in transit, and these events are considerably more difficult than Jovian moon transits. Six Titanian transits occur this year during our passage through the ring plane, and another series will not begin for another 14 years.

This weeks’ astro term of the week is cryovolcanism. On frigid Moons such as Titan, volcanoes spew primarily water and ammonia ice! Cassini has found good evidence for pancake shaped domes, most likely powered by radioactive decay plus flexing of Titan’s core by nearby Saturn. A bizarre place, indeed!

 

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