Tag Archives: Mercury

NASA Night Sky Notes for November 2018: The Dance of the Planets

Poster’s Note 1: After many years of providing wonderful and easily understandable content to astronomers and astronomy clubs around the world, NASA Space Place has handed over the monthly article distribution to the NASA Night Sky Network. Same excellent writing (and familiar writers for the moment), now to be known as “Night Sky Notes.”

Poster’s Note 2: 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 November, 2018.

By Jane Houston Jones and David Prosper

November’s crisp autumn skies bring great views of our planetary neighbors. The Moon pairs up with Saturn and Mars in the evenings, and mornings feature eye-catching arrangements with dazzling Venus. Stargazers wanting a challenge can observe a notable opposition by asteroid 3 Juno on the 17th and watch for a few bright Leonid meteors.

Red Mars gleams high in the southern sky after sunset. Saturn sits westward in the constellation Sagittarius. A young crescent Moon passes near Saturn on the 10th and 11th. On the 15th a first quarter Moon skims by Mars, coming within 1 degree of the planet. The red planet receives a new visitor on November 26th, when NASA’s InSight mission lands and begins its investigation of the planet’s interior. News briefings and commentary will be streamed live at: bit.ly/landsafe

Two bright planets hang low over the western horizon after sunset as November begins: Jupiter and Mercury. They may be hard to see, but binoculars and an unobstructed western horizon will help determined observers spot them right after sunset. Both disappear into the Sun’s glare by mid-month.

Early risers are treated to brilliant Venus sparkling in the eastern sky before dawn, easily outshining everything except the Sun and Moon. On November 6th, find a location with clear view of the eastern horizon to spot Venus next to a thin crescent Moon, making a triangle with the bright star Spica. The following mornings watch Venus move up towards Spica, coming within two degrees of the star by the second full week of November. Venus will be up three hours before sunrise by month’s end – a huge change in just weeks! Telescopic observers are treated to a large, 61” wide, yet razor-thin crescent at November’s beginning, shrinking to 41” across by the end of the month as its crescent waxes.

Observers looking for a challenge can hunt asteroid 3 Juno, so named because it was the third asteroid discovered. Juno travels through the constellation Eridanus and rises in the east after sunset. On November 17th, Juno is at opposition and shines at magnitude 7.4, its brightest showing since 1983! Look for Juno near the 4.7 magnitude double star 32 Eridani in the nights leading up to opposition. It is bright enough to spot through binoculars, but still appears as a star-like point of light. If you aren’t sure if you have identified Juno, try sketching or photographing its star field, then return to the same area over the next several days to spot its movement.

The Leonids are expected to peak on the night of the 17th through the morning of the 18th. This meteor shower has brought “meteor storms” as recently as 2002, but a storm is not expected this year. All but the brightest meteors will be drowned out by a waxing gibbous Moon.

Stay warm and enjoy this month’s dance of the planets!

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

With articles, activities and games NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov to explore space and Earth science!

Caption: This finder chart shows the path of the asteroid 3 Juno as it glides past 32 Eridani in November 2018. The asteroid’s position is highlighted for selected dates, including its opposition on the 17th. Image created in Stellarium for NASA Night Sky Network.

About The NASA Night Sky Network

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!

NASA Space Place – A Trip Through the Milky Way

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 September, 2018.

By Jane Houston Jones and Jessica Stoller-Conrad

2013february2_spaceplaceFeeling like you missed out on planning a last vacation of summer? Don’t worry—you can still take a late summertime road trip along the Milky Way!

The waning days of summer are upon us, and that means the Sun is setting earlier now. These earlier sunsets reveal a starry sky bisected by the Milky Way. Want to see this view of our home galaxy? Head out to your favorite dark sky getaway or to the darkest city park or urban open space you can find.

While you’re out there waiting for a peek at the Milky Way, you’ll also have a great view of the planets in our solar system. Keep an eye out right after sunset and you can catch a look at Venus. If you have binoculars or a telescope, you’ll see Venus’s phase change dramatically during September—from nearly half phase to a larger, thinner crescent.

Jupiter, Saturn and reddish Mars are next in the sky, as they continue their brilliant appearances this month. To see them, look southwest after sunset. If you’re in a dark sky and you look above and below Saturn, you can’t miss the summer Milky Way spanning the sky from southwest to northeast.

You can also use the summer constellations to help you trace a path across the Milky Way. For example, there’s Sagittarius, where stars and some brighter clumps appear as steam from a teapot. Then there is Aquila, where the Eagle’s bright Star Altair combined with Cygnus’s Deneb and Lyra’s Vega mark what’s called the “summer triangle.” The familiar W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia completes the constellation trail through the summer Milky Way. Binoculars will reveal double stars, clusters and nebulae all along the Milky Way.

Between Sept. 12 and 20, watch the Moon pass from near Venus, above Jupiter, to the left of Saturn and finally above Mars!

This month, both Neptune and brighter Uranus can also be spotted with some help from a telescope. To see them, look in the southeastern sky at 1 a.m. or later. If you stay awake, you can also find Mercury just above Earth’s eastern horizon shortly before sunrise. Use the Moon as a guide on Sept. 7 and 8.

Although there are no major meteor showers in September, cometary dust appears in another late summer sight, the morning zodiacal light. Zodiacal light looks like a cone of soft light in the night sky. It is produced when sunlight is scattered by dust in our solar system. Try looking for it in the east right before sunrise on the moonless mornings of Sept. 8 through Sept 23.

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

Caption: This illustration shows how the summer constellations trace a path across the Milky Way. To get the best views, head out to the darkest sky you can find. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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!

Bob Piekiel Hosts Observing Sessions At Baltimore Woods (And More!) – 2018 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 2018 season. 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 19 (Fri.)/20 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Winter skies at their finest, The area surrounding the constellation Orion has more bright stars and deep-sky clusters than any other section of the sky. Still good views of Uranus.

* February 16 (Fri.)/17 (Sat. weather alternate), 5:30-8:30 p.m.

This is a good chance to see the elusive planet Mercury, right after sunset, plus the area surrounding Orion, one of the brightest in the sky. We have to start early to catch Mercury. We might still get a good view of Uranus.

* February 24 (Sat.)/25 (Sun. weather alternate), 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Solar viewing program – see our nearest star with specially-equipped solar telescopes, showing sunspots, flares, and eruptions.

* March 16 (Fri.)/17 (Sat. weather alternate), 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Goodbye to winter skies, but still great views of Orion. Maybe a few Lyrid meteors as well.

* April 13 (Fri.)/14 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Hello to Spring skies. Watch as the seasons change both on the ground and the starry night. Orion will be setting, and being replaced by Leo the lion.

* May 11 (Fri.)/12 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00-10:00 p.m.

Spring skies will be in full view, plus Jupiter is at opposition, meaning it will be its closest, biggest, and brightest for the entire year. Venus will also be visible at the start of the program.

* June 22 (Fri.)/23 (Sat. weather alternate), 9:00-11:00 p.m.

It gets dark late this time of year so our best viewing targets will be bright planets and the moon. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn will be visible. When it gets dark we will begin to see some of the southern Milky Way.

* July 20 (Fri.)/21 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00-11:00 p.m.

PLANETS! Venus, Jupiter, Mars (which will be at its biggest, brightest, and closest until 2035!), Saturn, and possibly a quick glimpse of Mercury at the start of the program. Plus, a good view of the first-quarter moon, and then the southern Milky Way as the moon sets and the sky gets dark.

* August 12 (Sun.)/13 (Mon. weather alternate), 8:30-11:00 p.m.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, one of the year’s finest, the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune! There is no moon in the sky so we will have fabulous views of the summer skies and southern Milky Way. Bring a lawn chair to sit and watch for meteors.

* August 25 (Sat.)/26 (Sun. weather alternate), 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Solar program – See our nearest star close-up with special telescopes that reveal flares, sunspots, magnetic storms, and granulation.

* September 7 (Fri.)/8 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00-10:00 p.m.

Still a good view of the lingering summer skies, and the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune!

Green Lakes:

* May 18 (Fri.)/19 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00-10:00 p.m.

Spring skies will be in full view, plus Jupiter is at opposition, meaning will be its closest, biggest, and brightest for the entire year. Venus will also be visible at the start of the program.

* July 7 (Sat.), 7:00 p.m.

Telescope Workshop! Tentatively at the reserve shelter, but check with Green Lakes the day of to make sure they don’t move the location depending on the weather.

* July 13 (Fri.)/14 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:00-10:00 p.m.

This is the best view of 5 planets we will get for the summer: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, plus great views of the Milky Way when it gets dark.

* August 6 (Mon.), 7:30-9:00 p.m.

A special additional “telescope workshop” is being hosted due to popular request/demand at the well-attended July 13th event!

* August 17 (Fri.)/18 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:00-10:00 p.m.

The 1st-quarter moon is visible,plus and still great views of the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and maybe a peak at Uranus and Neptune. We will also have great views of the heart of our Milky Way galaxy and the many bright clusters and nebulae visible there.

* September 28 (Fri.)/29 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:00-9:30 p.m.

Still a good view of the lingering summer skies, and the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune!

Chittenango Falls:

* June 15 (Fri.)/16 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Bob Piekiel Returns To Chittenango Falls! Meet at the ball field by the main upper parking lot. It gets dark late this time of year so our best viewing targets will be bright planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. We’ll also get to see a skinny crescent moon at the start of the program. When it gets dark we will begin to see some of the southern Milky Way.

Marcellus Library:

* August 14 (Tues.)/15 (Wed. weather-alternate), 7:30-9ish p.m.

This summer we will have a view of all bright major planets in the evening sky at once, and Mars making its closest approach to earth until 2035. The moon will also be visible, along with Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn.

Clark Reservation:

Awaiting 2018 scheduling.