Celestial Navigator – July 2015

JULY MOON PHASES

Wednesday, July 8, 4:24 p.m. EDT  Last Quarter Moon

The Last Quarter Moon rises around 1:30 a.m. and sets around 1:30 p.m. It is most easily seen just after sunrise in the southern sky.

Wednesday, July 15, 9:24 p.m. EDT  New Moon

The moon is not visible on the date of New Moon because it is too close to the sun, but can be seen low in the east as a narrow crescent a morning or two before, just before sunrise. It is visible low in the west an evening or two after New Moon.

Friday, July 24, 12:04 a.m. EDT  First Quarter Moon

The First Quarter Moon rises around 1:15 p.m. and sets around 12:30 a.m. It dominates the evening sky.

Second Full Moon, July 2015

Friday, July 31, 6:43 a.m. EDT  Full Moon

This is the second Full Moon in July, what is sometimes called a “Blue Moon.” It rises around sunset and sets around sunrise; this is the only night in the month when the moon is in the sky all night long. The rest of the month, the moon spends at least some time in the daytime sky.

JULY PLANETS

Uranus and the Moon

Wednesday/Thursday, July 8/9, dawn

The moon will be close to Uranus just before sunrise. In the lands surrounding the Indian Ocean, the moon will actually occult Uranus.

Venus at greatest brilliancy

Thursday, July 9, dusk

Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy at magnitude –4.7.

Aldebaran and the Moon

Sunday, July 12, sunrise

The waning crescent moon will pass close to the bright red star Aldebaran low in morning twilight. The moon will occult Aldebaran as seen from eastern Russia, northern Japan, Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and Iceland.

Venus and the Moon

Saturday, July 18, dusk

The moon will be close to Venus just after sunset. Venus will appear in binoculars as a tiny crescent just north of the crescent moon. The moon will occult Venus as seen from New Guinea, northeastern Australia, Melanesia, and French Polynesia.

Ceres at opposition

Saturday, July 25, 4 a.m. EDT

Ceres, the largest asteroid or smallest dwarf planet, will be in opposition to the sun. At magnitude 7.5, it will be located right on the border between Sagittarius and Microscopium, just south of Capricornus.

Planets

Mercury is well placed in the eastern sky at dawn for the first half of the month for observers in the Southern Hemisphere.

Venus shines high in the western sky after sunset, reaching its greatest brilliancy from the sun on July 9.

Mars is too close to the sun to be visible.

Jupiter is low in the western evening sky all month, close to Venus on the 1st and 31st of the month.

Saturn is well placed in Libra in the evening sky.

Uranus rises near midnight in Pisces.

Neptune rises in the late evening in the constellation Aquarius.

Celestial Navigator – May 2015

The night sky tonight and on any clear night offers an ever-changing display of fascinating objects you can see, from stars and constellations to bright planets, often the moon, and sometimes special events like meteor showers. Observing the night sky can be done with no special equipment, although a sky map can be very useful, and a good beginner telescope or binoculars will enhance some experiences and bring some otherwise invisible objects into view. You can also use astronomy accessories to make your observing easier. Below, find out what’s up in the night sky for the month of May.

Monday, May 18, 12:13 a.m. EDT New Moon

The moon is not visible on the date of New Moon because it is too close to the sun, but can be seen low in the east as a narrow crescent a morning or two before, just before sunrise. It is visible low in the west an evening or two after New Moon.

Monday, May 25, 1:19 p.m. EDT First Quarter Moon

The First Quarter Moon rises around 1 p.m. and sets around 2:15 a.m. It dominates the evening sky.

Thursday, May 17, evening twilight

This is the best evening apparition of Mercury this year for observers in the northern hemisphere. Use Venus to help you locate it. Mercury is most easily located by sweeping with binoculars, but once you’ve located it, you should be able to see it with your unaided eyes.

Wednesday, May 20, 8:06–8:35 p.m. EDT.  Double shadow transit on Jupiter

The shadows of Io and Ganymede will be on opposite limbs of Jupiter, while the moons Io and Callisto will be central on the disk.

jupiters moons

Friday, May 22, 10 p.m. EDT Saturn at opposition

Saturn will be in opposition to the sun. Note how most of Saturn’s moons are in the same plane as the rings, except for Iapetus, whose orbit is tilted 8.3 degrees. At opposition, Iapetus is close to maximum elongation towards the west, while Titan is close to maximum elongation towards the east.

Wednesday, May 27, 10:01 p.m.–12:18 a.m. EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter

The shadow of Io chases the shadow of Ganymede across the face of Jupiter, catching up with it and passing it at 11:48 p.m. EDT. The Great Red Spot will also cross Jupiter’s disk during this period.

Planets

Mercury is well placed for northern hemisphere observers in the evening twilight sky for the first three weeks of May.

Venus shines high in the western sky after sunset.

Mars moves from Aries to Taurus on May 3, too close to the sun to be visible.

Jupiter is well placed in the evening sky all month.

Saturn is just north of Scorpius’ “claws.” At opposition on May 22, it is visible all night.

Uranus rises just before the sun in Pisces.

Neptune is in the eastern morning sky in the constellation Aquarius.

Skywatching Terms

  • Asterism: A noteworthy or striking pattern of stars within a larger constellation.
  • Degrees (measuring the sky): The sky is 360 degrees all the way around, which means roughly 180 degrees from horizon to horizon. It’s easy to measure distances between objects: Your fist on an outstretched arm covers about 10 degrees of sky.
  • Visual Magnitude: This is the astronomer’s scale for measuring the brightness of objects in the sky. The dimmest object visible in the night sky under perfectly dark conditions is about magnitude 6.5. Brighter stars are magnitude 2 or 1. The brightest objects get negative numbers. Venus can be as bright as magnitude minus 4.9. The full moon is minus 12.7 and the sun is minus 26.8.
  • Terminator: The boundary on the moon between sunlight and shadow.
  • Zenith: The point in the sky directly overhead.

Night Sky Observing Tips

  • Adjust to the dark: If you wish to observe faint objects, such as meteors or dim stars, give your eyes at least 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness.
  • Light Pollution: Even from a big city, one can see the moon, a handful of bright stars and sometimes the brightest planets. But to fully enjoy the heavens — especially a meteor shower, the constellations, or to see the amazing swath across the sky that represents our view toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy — rural areas are best for night sky viewing. If you’re stuck in a city or suburban area, a building can be used to block ambient light (or moonlight) to help reveal fainter objects. If you’re in the suburbs, simply turning off outdoor lights can help.
  • Prepare for skywatching: If you plan to be out for more than a few minutes, and it’s not a warm summer evening, dress warmer than you think necessary. An hour of observing a winter meteor shower can chill you to the bone. A blanket or lounge chair will prove much more comfortable than standing or sitting in a chair and craning your neck to see overhead.
  • Daytime skywatching: When Venus is visible (that is, not in front of or behind the sun) it can often be spotted during the day. But you’ll need to know where to look. A sky map is helpful. When the sun has large sunspots, they can be seen without a telescope. However, it’s unsafe to look at the sun without protective eyewear. See our video

 

Celestial Navigator – November 2014

There are few things more enjoyable during a night in camp than staring at the night sky. Now you can be a celestial expert and dazzle your camp mates with your night sky knowledge. There’s lots going in the November night sky, so grab your telescope and your tent and get out there!

  • November – Rosetta Comet Landing. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is scheduled to release its Philae lander some time in November. Philae will attempt to land on the surface of a comet known as 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The lander is named after Philae island in the Nile river, where an obelisk was found that was used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics along with the famous Rosetta Stone. The Philae lander will spend about a week studying the comet. It will send back images from the surface and try to determine what the comet is made of.
  • November 5, 6 – South Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains from Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 5. Unfortunately the full moon this year will block out all but the brightest meteors. Those with patience may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 6 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 22:23 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter’s Moon.
  • November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing an average of up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waning crescent moon will not be much of a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 22 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 12:32 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

excerpts from seasky.org

 

Celestial Navigator – October 2014

There are few things more enjoyable during a night in camp than staring at the night sky. Now you can be a celestial expert and dazzle your camp mates with your night sky knowledge. There’s lots going in the September night sky, so grab your telescope and your tent and get out there!

Here is something to think about – even in the vastness of the American West, the glow from cities has become so bright that places with truly dark skies at night are becoming an endangered species. In the continental US, experts predict that in a decade, there will be just three areas where the sky will be dark enough to see the Milky Way clearly, the Arizona Republic reports. One area covers part of eastern Oregon and western Idaho, another includes parts of Nevada and western Utah, a third takes in parts of northern Arizona and southern Utah-and the latter two are in danger from the bright lights of Las Vegas and Phoenix, which can be seen for more than 200 miles. Take time to look up now and then, and especially this month – lots to see in the October night sky!

October 4 – Astronomy Day Part 2. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium.
October 7 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
October 8 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 10:51 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon.
October 8 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, eastern Asia, and Australia.
October 8, 9 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th. Unfortunately the glare from the full moon this year will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you may be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 22, 23 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. This will be an excellent year for the Orionids because there will be no moon to interfere with the show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 23 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 21:57 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
October 23 – Partial Solar Eclipse. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Sun, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun’s reflection. The partial eclipse will be visible throughout most of North and Central America.

Celestial Navigator by PahaQue April 2014

There are few things more enjoyable at night in camp than staring at the fire and the night sky.  Now you can be an astrological expert and dazzle your camp mates with your night sky knowledge.  There’s lots going in this April, including a meteor shower, a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse!  So grab your telescope and your tent and get out there!images (18)

  • April 8 – Mars at Opposition. The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Mars. A medium-sized telescope will allow you to see some of the dark details on the planet’s orange surface. You may even be able to see one or both of the bright white polar ice caps.
  • April 15 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 07:42 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon and the Growing Moon.
  • April 15 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, and Australia.
  • April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The second quarter moon will be a slight problem this year, blocking the less bright meteors from view. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • April 29 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 06:14 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • April 29 – Annular Solar Eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse. The path of the eclipse will begin off the coast of South Africa and move across Antarctica and into the east coast of Australia.

CELESTIAL NAVIGATOR from PahaQue

CELESTIAL NAVIGATOR from PahaQue

There are few things more enjoyable at night in camp than staring at the fire and the night sky.  Now you can be an astrological expert and dazzle your camp mates with your night sky knowledge.  Here’s what is happening in March:

  • March 1 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 08:00 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • March 16 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 17:08 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This moon has also been known as the Full Crow Moon, the Full Crust Moon, and the Full Sap Moon.
  • March 20 – March Equinox. The March equinox occurs at 16:57 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • March 20 – Occultation of Regulus. An extremely rare event will take place on the morning of Thursday, March 20. An asteroid known as 163 Erigone will pass in front of the bright star Regulus in the constellation of Leo, causing the star to disappear. This event will be visible along a 45-mile-wide path and is predicted to begin at 2:07 a.m. EDT. The asteroid’s shadow will move on a southeast-to-northwest path that will extend from New York City to Oswego in New York State and continue northwest into Ontario, Canada. For those in the center of this path, the star will remain invisible for 12 seconds.
  • March 30 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:45 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
 excerpt from seasky.org