Friday, February 20, 2015

Venus, Mars and Moon Triple Conjunction

Weather permitting, observers in Israel will have the opporunity to see a beautiful triple conjunction of Venus, Mars and the new crescent moon of Adar on Friday evening, February 20, at dusk. The three celestical bodies will then be within half a degree of each other in the western sky. Half a degree is the diameter of the full moon in the sky. Such close approaches make for very memorable and beautiful displays. Of course, these celestial bodies only appear close together as they align in our line of sight in the sky. The moon is about 230,000 miles away, Mars about 142 million miles away, while Venus is 67 million miles away.

The next night, Saturday February 21, the crescent moon will have moved to the upper left of Venus and Mars, but the two planets will remain impressively close together for the rest of the month. See if you can distinguish them by color. Venus is creamy white, Mars a pale red.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Photographic Finder Chart for Comet Lovejoy

Here's a nice photographic finder chart for Comet Lovejoy through January 19.

Comet Lovejoy, Hyades, Pleiades, Astronomy Israel
Comet Lovejoy is currently passing close to the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters, easy to find through most of the night.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Comet Lovejoy as Seen from Mitzpe Ramon on 1-12-15

I made an attempt to photograph Comet Lovejoy last night from Mitzpe Ramon. While it was quite easy and bright in my 10x30 binoculars and telescopes, this photo barely captures it as a smudge. In my 5" APO refractor it had a bright tiny nucleus, a large fuzzy coma, and a very short stubby tail, all slightly greenish in color. It should remain easily visible in binoculars and telescopes through January.

Comet Lovejoy, Pleiades, Hyades, Mitzpe Ramon, Astronomy Israel
Comet Lovejoy can just barely be seen immediately to the left of its label.

Mercury and Venus Set Beside the Dome of the Weiss Observatory in Mitzpe Ramon

Venus Mercury Weiss Observatory Mitzpe Ramon
Venus, upper left, and mercury set next to the dome of the Weiss Observatory in Mitzpe Ramon, Israel.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Venus and Mercury Close Together in Mid-January Sky

Venus and Mercury are putting on a nice show in the mid-January sky. The two planets are quite close together just as the sun sets in mid-January. Venus is to the upper left while Mercury is just below to the right. The two are a pretty sight. Dim Mars appears as the reddish object far above and left of Venus. Here in one g are the three closest planets to earth.

Mercury and Venus are always seen in the dusk or dawn sky since they orbit the sun interior to the earth, hence we are always looking in the direction of the sun when we observe them. Mercury is by far the most elusive of the twilight pair since it is closest to the sun and id usually lost in the suns glare. Go out the next few nights and see Venus and Mercury together. Mercury is so elusive that even Copernicus was said to never have observed it himself.

Mercury Venus Mars evening sky
How to locate Mercury, Venus and Mars in the evening sky of mid-January 2015.
Mercury Venus Mitzpe Ramon
My own attempt to capture Venus (upper left) and Mercury as they set over a desert landscape in Mitzpe Ramon.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Murmurs of Earth

One of the most moving and beautiful astronomy and space books of all time was Carl Sagan's "Murmurs of Earth", an account of the Voyager 1 space mission and the gold record that was attached to signal to anyone who might find it eons in the future that WE WERE HERE. This gold record had symbols impressed upon it that would convey who had made it and where they lived. The record itself had tracks that were audio recordings of sounds from our planet. Yes, it was an audio analogue record, basically an LP pressed out of gold. It just goes to show how much technology has changed in the last 50 years. There were no images or videos on it, at the time (September 5, 1977) a technology beyond what was then capable.

Voyager 1 has now left the confines of our solar system and travels in interstellar space, much as Elvis has left the room, the first and only Earthling-made object to have achieved that distinction. But it lives on, still sending data back to us, long after it was to have ceased operating. Now you can listen to the tracks on the gold record, courtesy of the World Wide Web. How ironic that the first voice on it is of the hidden Nazi, Kurt Waldheim, at the time Secretary-General of the UN. Message to future aliens: If you came looking for us and we weren't here, it was because of what institutions like the UN became and what men like Kurt Waldheim were - mass murderers posing as guardians of humanity. Tell us , Oh Aliens, are you as barbaric as some of us were or have you solved that problem? Well....assuming you are there to listen.

Voayager 1's Golden Record tracks
Tracks from the golden record sent on Voyager 1 (September 5, 1977) to explore the outer planets of the solar system. The record had sounds from planet earth and images of earthlings and our location impressed in the disk, in case it might be picked up by aliens eons into the future.


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