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Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Meteor Shower from Comet Hartley 2?

There is the possibility that Comet Hartley 2, now putting on a good show for observers, may become the source of a new mini-meteor shower that might be observed the night of Tues.-Weds., November 2-3. See here: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/27oct_hartleyids/
The dark skies around Mitzpe Ramon would be a good place to watch for it, while doing some general observing as well.

Update (11/15/2010) - No new shower was seen this year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dual Shadow Transit of Europa and Ganymede on Oct. 30/31

An unusual double transit of Jupiter's moons, Europa and Ganymede, will occur on the night of Oct. 30/31, starting at 00:15 UT. (Sunday, Oct. 31, 2:15am, IST) The black shadow of both Europa and Ganymede will be visible on the planet at the same time, while Europa itself will also be visible as a bright dot transiting the disk of the planet.


This will occur on Sunday morning, October 31 at 2:15AM, Israel Standard Time (IST). We hope to be out observing. Come on down and join us!

Predicted times for transits: http://www.curtrenz.com/1680f.html

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gobsmacked by Jupiter

Last night we had a little family star party at the Alpaca Farm parking lot, a nice dark site only a 5 minute drive from our house. As I got out of the car and looked up, I became very excited. There was this bright light in the sky I had never seen before. It was so bright it seemed like a rent in the fabric of heaven. Then it started moving. I yelled for people to get out of the car and look at this incredible...I didn't know what. My daughter got out of the car and started yelling, "What is it? What is it? It's changing color!" and indeed it had started twinkling red, green, white. Then the heaven started reeling above. I had to look down to steady myself.

What was this?

It was Jupiter, so bright and so strange in the clear, dark sky that it had become unrecognizable.

We had been gobsmacked by Jupiter, the King of Planets!

Jupiter is brighter and closer to earth now than it has been for some 50 years. You don't even need a telescope to enjoy it. Wait for a clear night with no moonlight or obscuring haze in the sky, find a dark site (if you can), and just look up. If you're lucky, you too will be gobsmacked by Jupiter.

Poster credit: Azhy Hasan
  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Astronomy Photo of the Week - The Best Photo of Jupiter's Great Red Spot Ever Taken

Jupiter reached opposition on September 20th, coming closer to the earth, 368 million miles away, than at any time since 1963. It will not come this close again until 2022. The varying distances at opposition have to do with the fact that Jupiter has an elliptical orbit, which makes its distance at opposition vary. Since Jupiter is at perihelion, its nearest distance to the sun, in March 2011, that makes this apparition particularly close.

In early October Jupiter shines at magnitude ~-2.8 in the eastern sky, just after sunset and is visible all night. Just as nothing beats aperture for fine telescopic views, nothing beats being close to an object for naked eye views. The Voyager I probe was just around 1,149,000 miles from Jupiter when it took this photo of the Great Red Spot on March 4, 1979. That's 320 times closer than the earth was this past September.

This photo is a mosaic compiled and processed by Björn Jónsson.


The Great Red Spot of Jupiter. Photo by the Voyager spacecraft. Processing by Bjorn Jonsson. The Great Red Spot is a giant anti-cyclonic storm (high pressure area rotating counter-clockwise), akin to a hurricane on earth. It is so large that 3 earths could fit within its boundaries and has persisted over 400 years.
  



Solar Sidewalk Observing Today - Fail

I wanted to try a daylight astronomy outreach session from the Cafeneto today, observing the sun in white light with my Baader solar filter on the 80mm Brandon refractor. So after diligently setting everything up I trucked over to the 'neto, set up my scope, only to find myself skunked by a completely spotless disk.

The sun isn't very interesting in white light with no sun spots, so I packed things up and retired for the afternoon. This has been a very slow start to the new solar cycle, with the sun showing many days without spots. Perhaps I will have to get a hydrogen-alpha filter to spice things up on these slow, spotless days.

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