Author Archives: Damian Allis

NASA Night Sky Notes for February 2019: Hexagon At Night, Quartet In The Morning

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. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting by the Night Sky Network in February, 2019.

By David Prosper

The stars that make up the Winter Hexagon asterism are some of the brightest in the night sky and February evenings are a great time to enjoy their sparkly splendor. The Winter Hexagon is so large in size that the six stars that make up its points are also the brightest members of six different constellations, making the Hexagon a great starting point for learning the winter sky. Find the Hexagon by looking southeast after sunset and finding the bright red star that forms the “left shoulder” of the constellation Orion: Betelgeuse. You can think of Betelgeuse as the center of a large irregular clock, with the Winter Hexagon stars as the clock’s hour numbers. Move diagonally across Orion to spot its “right foot,” the bright star Rigel. Now move clockwise from Rigel to the brightest star in the night sky: Sirius in Canis Major. Continue ticking along clockwise to Procyon in Canis Minor and then towards Pollux, the brighter of the Gemini twins. Keep moving around the circuit to find Capella in Auriga, and finish at orange Aldebaran, the “eye” of the V-shaped face of Taurus the Bull.

Two naked-eye planets are visible in the evening sky this month. As red Mars moves across Pisces, NASA’s InSight Mission is readying its suite of geological instruments designed to study the Martian interior. InSight and the rest of humanity’s robotic Martian emissaries will soon be joined by the Mars 2020 rover. The SUV-sized robot is slated to launch next year on a mission to study the possibility of past life on the red planet. A conjunction between Mars and Uranus on February 13 will be a treat for telescopic observers. Mars will pass a little over a degree away from Uranus and larger magnifications will allow comparisons between the small red disc of dusty Mars with the smaller and much more distant blue-green disc of ice giant Uranus.

Speedy Mercury has a good showing this month and makes its highest appearance in the evening on February 27; spot it above the western horizon at sunset. An unobstructed western view and binoculars will greatly help in catching Mercury against the glow of evening twilight.

The morning planets put on quite a show in February. Look for the bright planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn above the eastern horizon all month, at times forming a neat lineup. A crescent Moon makes a stunning addition on the mornings of February 1-2, and again on the 28th. Watch over the course of the month as Venus travels from its position above Jupiter to below dimmer Saturn. Venus and Saturn will be in close conjunction on the 18th; see if you can fit both planets into the same telescopic field of view.  A telescope reveals the brilliant thin crescent phase of Venus waxing into a wide gibbous phase as the planet passes around the other side of our Sun. The Night Sky Network has a simple activity that helps explain the nature of both Venus and Mercury’s phases at bit.ly/venusphases

You can catch up on all of NASA’s current and future missions at nasa.gov

The stars of the Winter Hexagon
Image created with help from Stellarium

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

Bob Piekiel Updates – New eBook Formats And A Meade 16″ LX-200 Classic Available

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

Two updates from CNY’s (and Baltimore Woods’) best observing host, Bob Piekiel.

1. His Book Collection Now In eBook Format

Bob has published a number of excellent books for the committed scope owner over the years and has now brought them into the tablet age with eBook versions of all of his texts. Screen readers and international purchasers worried about shipping fees rejoice!

To see the collection and purchase books/ebooks, please see www.cnyo.org/books-by-robert-piekiel/ or send an email to piekielrl_at_netzero.net

2. Now For Sale – Meade 16″ LX-200 Classic w/Custom Optics, Tripod, Trailer And Wedge

A behemoth that has dazzled the vision of many a CNY public viewing member!

The mentioned Meade 16″ LX-200 Classic (right) from an autumn Baltimore Woods session.

Bob is selling a rare and classic Meade telescope in the CNY area. He also has an ad for the scope on the cloudynights.com website.

I am reluctantly offering for sale my Meade 16″ LX200 custom classic. Due to back problems, I can no longer easily set it up (Even with the requisite helper – it’s a two-man job). I purchased this from Meade enthusiast and spokesperson Bobby Lindsey. According to him, it was one of the first few they produced, and the opticians worked extra long and hard on the optics to make it perform much better than “normal” so it could be used to promote the scope (Jack Newton supposedly got one of the others in this batch). I have no way to prove this, but star-tests are excellent, showing almost no SA and very smooth optical surfaces.

It comes with the standard super-giant tripod, a CUSTOM wedge that I had a foundry make, plus a trailer, as seen in the photos. It comes with an 80mm finder (NOT the 50mm mounted on the scope), and also a custom R&P screw-on focuser (It does have some image-shift, the only problem I can find with it. No eyepieces or diagonal.

You must pick it up, or hire / send someone to get it, as I cannot ship it. No exceptions!

$8000. Paypal only, please.

https://www.cloudynights.com/classifieds/item/162572-meade-16-lx-200-classic-wcustom-optics-tripod-trailer-and-wedge/

nPAE – Precision Astro Engineering Astrophotography Competition

Greetings, fellow astrophiles – the following made its way into our email inbox recently. For interested parties, details are below:

Northern Hemisphere Objects

For our next competition we are asking you to show us your favourite Northern Hemisphere object. Send us your best astrophotography images for a chance to win £300 (~$400)

1st Prize: £300 or $400 cash
2nd Prize: Theia90 Diagonal
3rd Prize: £50 nPAE discount voucher

The competition is free to enter and open to all budding astro photographers and group entries are also welcome. The closing date for submission is 31st March 2019 with the winner announced May 1st. So get set up, snapping, stacking and processing! Photos can be of any Northern Hemisphere astro object. Participants can enter a maximum of 2 photos and the images must be new, taken specifically for the competition.

Submit your entries by copying and pasting the following information into an email and send it to competition@npae.net

  • Your name
  • Title of your Astro photo
  • Equipment used
  • Imaging Target
  • Digital processing methods employed (if any)
  • I confirm that the submitted image was taken specifically for the purpose of this competition.
  • Delete as appropriate: I consent to nPAE sending me information about future nPAE products and services / I do not consent to nPAE sending me information about future nPAE products and services

The winner will be announced on the 1st May 2019. Full details, terms and conditions can be found here.