Tag Archives: Aldebaran

NASA Night Sky Notes for December 2018: Observe Apollo 8’s Lunar Milestones

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 December, 2018.

By David Prosper

December marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission, when humans first orbited the Moon in a triumph of human engineering. The mission may be most famous for “Earthrise,” the iconic photograph of Earth suspended over the rugged lunar surface. “Earthrise” inspired the imaginations of people around the world and remains one of the most famous photos ever taken. This month also brings a great potential display of the Geminids and a close approach by Comet 46P/Wirtanen.

You can take note of Apollo 8’s mission milestones while observing the Moon this month. Watch the nearly full Moon rise just before sunset on December 21, exactly 50 years after Apollo 8 launched; it will be near the bright orange star Aldebaran in Taurus. The following evenings watch it pass over the top of Orion and on through Gemini; on those days five decades earlier, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders sped towards the Moon in their fully crewed command module. Notice how the Moon rises later each evening, and how its phase wanes from full on Dec 22 to gibbous through the rest of the week. Can you imagine what phase Earth would appear as if you were standing on the Moon, looking back? The three brave astronauts spent 20 sleepless hours in orbit around the Moon, starting on Dec 24, 1968. During those ten orbits they became the first humans to see with their own eyes both the far side of the Moon and an Earthrise! The crew telecast a holiday message on December 25 to a record number of Earthbound viewers as they orbited over the lifeless lunar terrain; “Good night, good luck, a merry Christmas and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.” 50 years later, spot the Moon on these holiday evenings as it travels through Cancer and Leo. Just two days later the astronauts splashed down into the Pacific Ocean after achieving all the mission’s test objectives, paving the way for another giant leap in space exploration the following year.

The Geminids, an excellent annual meteor shower, peaks the evening of December 13 through the morning of the 14th. They get their chance to truly shine after a waxing crescent Moon sets around 10:30 pm on the 13th. Expert Geminid observers can spot around 100 meteors per hour under ideal conditions. You’ll spot quite a few meteors by avoiding bad weather and light pollution if you can, and of course make sure to bundle up and take frequent warming breaks. The Geminids have an unusual origin compared to most meteor showers, which generally spring from icy comets. The tiny particles Earth passes through these evenings come from a strange “rock comet” named asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This dusty asteroid experiences faint outbursts of fine particles of rock instead of ice.

You can also look for comet 46P/Wirtanen while you’re out meteor watching. Its closest approach to Earth brings it within 7.1 million miles of us on December 16. That’s 30 times the average Earth-Moon distance! While passing near enough to rank as the 10th closest cometary approach in modern times, there is no danger of this object striking our planet. Cometary brightness is hard to predict, and while there is a chance comet 46P/Wirtanen may flare up to naked eye visibility, it will likely remain visible only via binoculars or telescopes. You’ll be able to see for yourself how much 46P/Wirtanen actually brightens. Some of the best nights to hunt for it will be December 15 and 16 as it passes between two prominent star clusters in Taurus: the Pleiades and the V-shaped Hyades. Happy hunting!

Catch up on all of NASA’s past, current, and future missions at nasa.gov.

Caption: Earthrise, 1968. Note the phase of Earth as seen from the Moon. Nearside lunar observers see Earth go through a complete set of phases. However, only orbiting astronauts witness Earthrises; for stationary lunar observers, Earth barely moves at all. Why is that? Credit: Bill Anders/NASA

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5 March 2017 Aldebaran Grazing Occultation – Combined Videos On vimeo.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The following came across my email not to long ago from Brad Timerson of ASRAS and the IOTA, featuring the combined efforts of a number of members from the North York Astronomical Association. Five videos of the Aldebaran occultation this past March (posted about on the CNYO website HERE) were aligned and combined by vimeo contributor Andreas Gada into an amazing sequence that shows just how different the occultation looked even for six groups of observers lined up on the same road way up in Mississauga, Ontario.

Direct link to the vimeo: Aldebaran Grazing Occultation March 5, 2017 Combined Videos

Aldebaran Grazing Occultation March 5, 2017 Combined Videos from Andreas Gada on Vimeo.

Video Description: On March 5, 2017 a grazing occultation of Aldebaran occurred. To observe and image this event the North York Astronomical Association organized an outing to Mississauga Ontario. Ten people set up their equipment on Lionhead Golf Road. This movie combines the videos obtained to create a stereophonic visual account of this dynamic event.

Andreas also put together a video combining his own recording station with light curve data from Brad. That video, “Aldebaran Grazing Occultation March 5, 2017,” can be found at: vimeo.com/209855792.

Aldebaran Grazing Occultation March 5, 2017 from Andreas Gada on Vimeo.

The event page itself can be found at:
asteroidoccultation.com/observations/AldebaranGraze_05March2017/

Observing Announcement: Spectacular Grazing Occultation Of Aldebaran On 4 March 2017

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The following came in from Brad Timerson of ASRAS and the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA). We had a few posts back in 2014 about an occultation of the star Regulus by asteroid Erigone (on what turned out to be an overcast March 20th. For information about the event and the observing process, see the original CNYO occultation post.

Local observing path for the lunar occultation of Aldebaran on March 4th.

Folks in Rochester and between Syracuse and Binghamton are ideally placed to not only observe the occultation, but also to take data to provide to the IOTA. Information about the occultation, including links to how you can help with the observations, is provided in Brad’s original email below:

I want to alert the membership about this great opportunity (if the weather cooperates!) of seeing a lunar grazing occultation involving a bright star, Aldebaran, along the northern edge of the nearly first quarter moon on the evening of March 4, 2017. In small telescopes, it should be a spectacular sight.

IOTA (International Occultation and Timing Assoc.) has prepared a webpage outlining this event. If you scroll down the page, you will find a section for the Rochester area with a couple of static maps as well as a Google Map for the area. Graze events are dependent on distance from the predicted graze limit as well elevation above sea level. So, the Google Map has been created for the elevation in the Rochester area. (100 feet either way makes little difference)

Main webpage for event: occultations.org/aldebaran/2017march/

Direct link to Google map for approximate elevation in Rochester area: occultations.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/500ft.htm

Zoom in to see path through your area. Set the line A to a value of +0.2 km (enter value in box and then press “Click here”). Set line B to –0.1 km. This will produce 2 gray lines, one just north and one just south of the green line. These 2 lines (with the green line in the middle) will mark the best locations for an observing site.

A grazing informational image from the IOTA page.

Based on recent grazes, it appears that you will want to be exactly on the green line shown on the Google map or just barely south of it to see the maximum number of events. Many of the events will be gradual or partial (the star not completely disappearing) because Aldebaran is a large star and at the moon’s distance, won’t be completely covered for some locations.

I plan on observing the graze from a store parking lot (after getting permission) along Rt. 96 near Clifton Springs, NY. Anyone near this area is welcome to join me. I will have more details on my location as the date approaches. I will be videotaping the event using a special camera and video time inserter so that important details of the lunar limb and, possibly, the star, can be determined.

Profile maps of the Aldebaran occultation from the IOTA page.

Central graze time for the Rochester area is 11:17:57 pm on the 4th. You’ll want to be setup well ahead of this time with a clear western horizon. The moon will be about 18° above the horizon. You may see events occur for up to a minute before and after this central graze time. Below is a profile of the lunar limb showing the predicted graze limit as well as a dotted line at about 0.2 km south of the limit. The gray bar graph at the left shows the number of events that can be expected to occur. Time is along the bottom with 11:17:57 pm centered.

Please email me individually (btimerson [_at symbol_] rochester.rr.com) if you’d like information about a specific site along the graze path. Include the latitude, longitude, and elevation of your site taken from Google Earth of the Google map. Also, any other questions you might have can be directed my way.

Here are links to the pages summarizing observations made at the last two grazes. Many observations have YouTube videos available so you can see what to expect.

* www.asteroidoccultation.com/observations/AldebaranGraze_29July2016/
* www.asteroidoccultation.com/observations/AldebaranGraze_19October2016/

Brad Timerson
Newark, NY