“Upstate NY Stargazing In December” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The latest article in the series, “Upstate NY Stargazing in December: Geminid meteor shower, another Supermoon,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com.

The discussion is fairly Taurus-centric this month, and very much localized to that part of the sky with the Geminids, Supermoon, and Aldebaran occultation occurring all mid-month. This month also includes more event announcements for several NY astronomy clubs with posted December observing sessions, which reportedly worked out (too?) well for Baltimore Woods attendance.

Direct Link: newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/2016/12/…_meteor_shower_another_supermoon.html

Direct Link: syracuse.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2016/12/…_meteor_shower_another_supermoon.html

The Learn A Constellation section also includes one of my all-time favorite images. Among the many treasures in the Lascaux Cave paintings is one that very, very much looks like a simple constellation map of Orion’s Belt, the Pleiades, and the Hyades, with the Hyades superimposed on a drawing of a bull with extra-long horns – all a perfect match for that part of the sky.

Time may never tell if we can track down the descendants of the artist as they migrated through southern Europe and into the Middle East and North Africa, carrying the story of the great Bull in the Sky with them that ultimately became our constellation Taurus. The story of people and animals in the sky may not be in our distant folklore, but it did make its way into our DNA in the way that we see such pictures where none actually exist (better to be safe than sorry when that bump on the savanna turns out to be more toothy than the usual mount of dirt).

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Caption: No bull – a Lascaux painting marking the location of an ancient Taurus, c.a. 15,500 B.C. Click for a larger view.

Bob Piekiel Hosts Observing Sessions At Baltimore Woods (And More!) – 2017 Observing Schedule

This event list will be added to as the year progresses. Check back often!

I’m pleased to have obtained the official schedule for Bob Piekiel’s growing observing and lecture programs for the 2017 season and have added them to the CNYO Calendar. For those who have not had the pleasure of hearing one of his lectures, attending one of his observing sessions, or reading one of his many books on scope optics (or loading the CD containing the massive Celestron: The Early Years), Bob Piekiel is not only an excellent guide but likely the most knowledgeable equipment and operation guru in Central New York.

Notes On Baltimore Woods Sessions:

The Baltimore Woods events calendar is updated monthly. As such, I’ve no direct links to the sessions below. Therefore, as the event date nears, see the official Calendar Page for more information and any updates on the event.

Also…

* Registration for these events are required. Low registration may cause programs to be canceled.
* $5 for members, $15/family; $8 for nonmembers, $25/family.
* To Register By Email: info@baltimorewoods.org
* To Register By Phone: (315) 673-1350

Baltimore Woods:

* January 20 (Fri.)/21 (Sat. weather alternate), 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Winter Skies at their finest, and great views of a large, crescent Venus. No other area of the sky contains as many bright stars, clusters, and nebulae as the area surrounding the winter constellation Orion!

* February 10 (Fri.)/No weather backup, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

A penumbral eclipse of the moon. This is kind of an odd-ball program, as most penumbral lunar eclipses go unnoticed. The moon passes through the earth’s partial shadow and turns a bit of a dim brown color. Interesting to see IF you know what you’re looking at (plus winter skies, but the faint objects will be obscured by the moon).

* February 18 (Sat.)/19 (Sun. weather alternate), 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Solar viewing program, plus great daytime views of Venus and the moon.

* March 3 (Fri.)/4 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Goodbye to winter skies, Maybe still a peek at Venus, and Jupiter will be rising in the east.

* March 31 (Fri.)/April 1 (Sat. weather alternate), 6:00-9:00 p.m.

This is our best chance to see the elusive planet Mercury, plus Jupiter will be rising as Mercury will be setting. Spring skies will be replacing the Winter constellations.

Green Lakes:

* January 14 (Sat.)/15 (Sun. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

Come view our nearest star, the sun, close up in special telescopes that give interesting views of solar flares, eruptions, and sunspots. At the parking lot behind the main office building.

* February 17 (Fri.)/18 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Come see the winter skies at their finest! The area around the constellation of Orion has more bright stars, nebulae, and clusters than any other part of the sky. At the parking lot behind the main office.

NASA Space Place – Dimming Stars, Erupting Plasma, And Beautiful Nebulae

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in November, 2016.

By Marcus Woo

2013february2_spaceplaceBoasting intricate patterns and translucent colors, planetary nebulae are among the most beautiful sights in the universe. How they got their shapes is complicated, but astronomers think they’ve solved part of the mystery—with giant blobs of plasma shooting through space at half a million miles per hour.

Planetary nebulae are shells of gas and dust blown off from a dying, giant star. Most nebulae aren’t spherical, but can have multiple lobes extending from opposite sides—possibly generated by powerful jets erupting from the star.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers discovered blobs of plasma that could form some of these lobes. “We’re quite excited about this,” says Raghvendra Sahai, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Nobody has really been able to come up with a good argument for why we have multipolar nebulae.”

Sahai and his team discovered blobs launching from a red giant star 1,200 light years away, called V Hydrae. The plasma is 17,000 degrees Fahrenheit and spans 40 astronomical units—roughly the distance between the sun and Pluto. The blobs don’t erupt continuously, but once every 8.5 years.

The launching pad of these blobs, the researchers propose, is a smaller, unseen star orbiting V Hydrae. The highly elliptical orbit brings the companion star through the outer layers of the red giant at closest approach. The companion’s gravity pulls plasma from the red giant. The material settles into a disk as it spirals into the companion star, whose magnetic field channels the plasma out from its poles, hurling it into space. This happens once per orbit—every 8.5 years—at closest approach.

When the red giant exhausts its fuel, it will shrink and get very hot, producing ultraviolet radiation that will excite the shell of gas blown off from it in the past. This shell, with cavities carved in it by the cannon-balls that continue to be launched every 8.5 years, will thus become visible as a beautiful bipolar or multipolar planetary nebula.

The astronomers also discovered that the companion’s disk appears to wobble, flinging the cannonballs in one direction during one orbit, and a slightly different one in the next. As a result, every other orbit, the flying blobs block starlight from the red giant, which explains why V Hydrae dims every 17 years. For decades, amateur astronomers have been monitoring this variability, making V Hydrae one of the most well-studied stars.

Because the star fires plasma in the same few directions repeatedly, the blobs would create multiple lobes in the nebula—and a pretty sight for future astronomers.

If you’d like to teach kids about how our sun compares to other stars, please visit the NASA Space Place: spaceplace.nasa.gov/sun-compare/en/

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Caption: This four-panel graphic illustrates how the binary-star system V Hydrae is launching balls of plasma into space. Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScI.

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!