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Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby johobbit » Jul 28, 2014 9:33 am

Ahh, fireballs are awesome! Very cool link, stargazer. Puddleglum, I read this article on SpaceWeather, so possibly you saw some early Perseids. But, from that link, even more likely are the Southern Delta Aquariids, which are at hand, and are apparently "rich enough in fireballs to merit attention". :) We have thick cloud cover here for a few days now, I'm outa 'luck' until that clears.

All the best with the Google Sky Map app, aileth!
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Jul 28, 2014 9:48 am

Ah, Puddleglum, your comments here and in the Camping thread make me eager for those crisp autumn days and nights that are on the way, with stars shining over the campfire and the Milky Way lighting up the sky.

Very cool about your fireball sighting too!

Jo mentioned the Southern Delta Aquariids, which are a small but bright shower (and have even gotten some attention on the Weather Channel, with a video report from Sky and Telescope's J. Kelly Beatty. The Moon phase for that shower was more favorable than it will be for the Perseids in a couple weeks (when a near-full moon will light things up for most of the night).

I also went out this weekend to stargaze, though my view was hampered by city lights. Saturday evening I noticed Mars, now between Spica and Saturn, in the southwest. I walked a few blocks to the south, where I have a limited view of downtown Minneapolis, to watch the finale fireworks for a local summer festival, the Aquatennial. Just to the upper left of the man-made show was nature's show - lightning illuminating clouds in the distance. It was quite pretty.

About half an hour later I returned outside to see a magnitude -7.5 Iridium flare and was surprised to see the sky was now rapidly clouding over. The flare was visible through a small gap in the clouds.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Aug 09, 2014 6:57 pm

Mid-August is the time to watch for the Perseid meteors, one of the year's most reliable showers, producing up to 100 meteors per hour under excellent conditions.

This year, however, will not be ideal. The moon is just past full for the shower's peak at around 0 hours UTC August 13 (early evening August 12 in North America). It will wash out a lot of the meteors, but the bright ones may still shine through. Read more here.

Early-morning risers may want to keep a close eye on bright Venus, low in the sky in twilight. Jupiter will rise up to meet it, passing closest on August 18, but the pair is worth watching before and after that date.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Aug 16, 2014 11:51 am

I stumbled out of bed this morning around 0530 to catch the solar system's 2 brightest planets rather close together. Venus and Jupiter are about 2 degrees apart now but will be very close Monday morning. But from my northern latitude they are quite low in the morning twilight and don't get very high before the sun blots them out. And this morning the clouds were rapidly moving in, so I caught them only briefly before the overcast came.

Read more about this close conjunction here.

In the evening sky, Mars and Saturn will be close together next week.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby johobbit » Aug 16, 2014 4:23 pm

stargazer wrote:About half an hour later I returned outside to see a magnitude -7.5 Iridium flare and was surprised to see the sky was now rapidly clouding over. The flare was visible through a small gap in the clouds.

Very cool! It's fun in a different way when that happens—seeing a flare through a gap.

We have had so much cloud cover that there was no chance of seeing the Perseids in our area. I think this is the first summer in quite awhile I have not been out watching. But, yes, that just-past full moon would have whited out the sky even if it was clear.

As our weather is clearing later tomorrow, I hope to arise early Monday morning to see the Venus/Jupiter conjunction. Thanks for the link, 'gazer. :) And good to hear you managed to see them, albeit briefly.

/edit near 7 a.m. EDT Monday: Success for viewing Jupiter and Venus—beautiful! I will post more details later. :)
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby johobbit » Aug 19, 2014 9:13 am

I walked out of the house at 5:45 yesterday morning, when the first hint of dawn was in the lower sky. Only a couple of short blocks away I rounded the corner and looked up in awe. There they were in all their glory—Venus and Jupiter! Higher than I thought. Clouds were supposed to have dominated the early morning sky, but those obstructions were nowhere to be seen. What a treat! I wish I had brought my binoculars, but I dashed out of the house too quickly and forgot 'em. :P

Then I went on a long walk in the very fresh air, so periodically I'd catch a glimpse of them again between the trees. Pretty, pretty.

I'm glad you saw them on Saturday morning, 'gazer.
:)
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Aug 19, 2014 11:46 am

Sounds like a very pleasant morning, jo! Glad you got to see them at their closest.

It was overcast here yesterday. There is good news though, Venus and Jupiter will meet again in less than a year, this time conveniently placed for those of us who aren't morning people. ;))

On June 30, 2015, they will be separated by only 20", about the same as this time, and even in almost the same constellation (eastern Cancer/western Leo), but in the evening instead.

The ISS has been passing overhead during recent evenings as well, and I've been dodging clouds and haze to see it the past week or so. Last night I was fortunate enough to see 2 consecutive passes, one during strong twilight and the next about 90 minutes later.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Sep 11, 2014 1:19 pm

You may have heard about yesterday's big solar flare which may have been pointed directly at the earth. Now keep an eye to the sky for possible auroras (northern or southern lights), especially if you live above latitude 45 degrees or so.

It is expected to arrive at 1200 GMT Friday (0700 US CDT), so check it out if your skies are clear the next couple nights. Read more here, and spaceweather.com will likely have updates.

Meanwhile, we've just passed this year's Harvest Moon, and October's Hunter's Moon will feature the year's second total lunar eclipse. More details to come...
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Oct 06, 2014 12:17 pm

The year's second total lunar eclipse is coming this week! It's centered on the Pacific side of the earth, so western North America will see parts of it early on the morning of Wednesday, October 8, while the very eastern parts of Australia and Russia will see parts of it early on the evening of the 8th. Places like New Zealand, Alaska, and Hawaii will see all of it.

A visibility map, along with contact times and what to expect, is shown here. (Here in central North America, the moon will set while still partially eclipsed).

Just as Mars was near the moon during last April's event, this eclipse also has a nearby planet - but unless you have a dark sky with minimal light pollution, you'll probably need binoculars. Uranus will be about 1 degree from the moon. A finder chart and more details are in that same article.

At the moment, clear skies are forecast here for Wednesday night.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby fantasia » Oct 07, 2014 5:06 pm

I'm trying to stock up on as much sleep as I can before Monday (baby coming then, if not sooner ;)) ). Still... it WOULD be cool to see another blood moon. I'll have to think about whether I want to get up at 5am to see it or not. ;)
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby coracle » Oct 08, 2014 1:35 am

I just took a photo of the moon at 9.30 local time (GMT+13 hrs).
Still looks nice and normal. I really need to get to bed, been up too late in last two nights. If the cat wakes me in the night I will try to go out for a new photo and look.
“Not all of us can choose what we give up. The things we love are taken or are never ours at all. If we’re lucky, life is defined not by what we let go, but what we let in: friendship and kind words, frailty and hope.”

From 'Call The Midwife', S9 Ep2
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Oct 08, 2014 12:29 pm

Were you able to see it later, Auntie?

Skies cleared around dusk here and it was a perfect autumn evening (around 43F/6C as totality began). I'm a night person though, and it almost would have been easier to stay up all night rather than get up at 4am. ;))

This eclipse seemed darker to me than last April's. By the time totality ended, the moon was sinking into the trees to the west and the sky was quite bright with the coming day.

A highlight was seeing the dim planet Uranus less than 1 degree from the moon (in binoculars) - especially since I live in a well-lit large urban area. I also had to dodge the trees and local lighting as the moon sank lower in the sky as totality progressed.

Eclipses almost always come in pairs, and this one's partner is a partial solar eclipse on October 23, with a similar area of visibility over the eastern Pacific and western North America.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby fantasia » Oct 08, 2014 4:29 pm

I happened to be up at about 4:20am or so, very briefly, and took a peek at the moon. I would say it was halfway eclipsed at the time? But I was so exhausted I went straight back to bed. :P So I did not see the blood moon this time around but several of my friends' pictures looked pretty impressive. :)

Isn't there another one coming up soon? This spring?
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Oct 10, 2014 12:37 pm

You're right, fantasia. The next total lunar eclipse (third in this series of 4) comes next April 4. However, it's another pre-dawn event like this one, with the moon setting during the eclipse for those of us in central North America. Also, totality only lasts 4 minutes 43 seconds (compared to 59 minutes for the one we just had).

The last eclipse in this tetrad comes in September and favors the areas around the Atlantic Ocean. Totality will last 72 minutes.

The partial solar eclipse later this month is the last one for North America until the spectacular total eclipse of August 2017, which will cross the continental US coast to coast (the last eclipse to do this was in 1918).
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby Puddleglum » Oct 10, 2014 8:20 pm

Had a chance to see some of the eclipse when I first got up. But I had to get my morning chores done, so I was not able to look again until I was on the way to work. By the time I was in the parking lot the man-in-the-moon had grown a white crown.
Perhaps next April will offer me some better opportunity. Or I could just get to bed at an earlier time.
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Re: Astronomy: Adventures in Stargazing

Postby stargazer » Oct 20, 2014 9:55 am

Glad you got to see some of the eclipse, fantasia and Puddleglum.

This Thursday offers a partial solar eclipse for western North America and much of the Pacific basin. Check out details here. As that article mentions, resist any temptation to look directly at the sun. Pinhole projection or #14 welder's glasses are a safe way to watch - and if the trees still have leaves where you live, try looking in their shadows for little crescents on the ground (the spaces between the leaves act as multiple pinhole projectors).
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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