Monday, April 9, 2012

April 2012

Hopefully April showers will not ruin our chances of good sky watching this month!

The moon this month was full on the 6th. We should have a new moon again by the 21st.

So far as sunspots go, infamous spot 1429 and now 1450 have calmed down and no longer are a threat. 1429 had been tracked on the far side of the sun for the last month.

Looking for a meteor shower? The Lyrids will be this month on the evening of the 21-22. The Lyrids originate from detritus left by comet C/Thatcher. As the moon will just be new, we should have nice dark skies to watch the show.

Want something a little more challenging to target this month? Why not try spotting M44, the beehive cluster in Cancer. M44 is a good, open cluster for mid-range scopes. In ancient Greek mythology, Cancer the crab along with Hydra the water snake both fought the hero Hercules and lost after an epic battle.

Spica will be an excellent star target this month in Virgo. Always glittering, try to see if you can spot the planet Saturn close by as it rises this month. Regulus and the planet Mars will also be rather close together, too, by the way. While we are at it, Venus will be with the Pleiades, so there is more than enough to look for.

If you have any questions about these subjects or any other subjects in astronomy, join us on the 3rd Tuesday night of each month for our Astronomy Series from 7:00-8:30pm in the Wetherbee Planetarium at Thronateeska Heritage Center.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February 2012

     Well, the weather has not really been cooperating with us much here in southwest Georgia. Sometimes we can sky watch, some times we cannot. For the times the sky is clear, though, see if you can catch a glimpse of some of these things.
     The moon will be full on the 7th and new by the 21st, so there will be better sky watching towards the end of the month.
     The sun gave us quite a few powerful flares in January. This may continue through February.
     There are no regular meteor showers in February, although you may still catch a random “falling star” or two.
     One of the best constellations to observe this month is Gemini, the twins. Start by finding Orion, then look for two bright stars up and to the left. Only two deep space objects reside here: the open cluster M35 and NGC 2392, the “Eskimo” nebula.
     Most of the stars in Gemini are very faint, but Castor and Pollux are noticeably bright. Pollux is a K0III orange sub-giant that is only 33 light years away. It is a beta star, but is actually brighter than the alpha star. Castor, on the other hand, is actually several stars. This binary system has 6 stars all orbiting each other, and the two brightest stars (A1V/A2Vn) are both A class dwarves.
     Some other notable objects that were discovered in Gemini are Uranus and Pluto. You would need a pretty high-powered telescope to see them, however. The sky this month is dominated by the two brightest objects in the sky besides the sun and moon: Venus and Jupiter. Venus is setting now around 10:00pm, and Jupiter is starting this month in conjunction with the moon and Pisces. Also look for Mars rising just after 10:00pm close on the heels of Leo the lion.
     If you have any questions about these or any other subjects in astronomy, join us on the 3rd Tuesday night of each month for our Astronomy Series in the Wetherbee Planetarium at Thronateeska Heritage Center.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January 2012

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to a wonderful new year full of great skywatching.
The year kicks off with a full moon on the 9th and a new moon by the 23rd.
If you want to try sunspotting, big spot 1389 is still harboring m class energy, but it’s just now starting to decay.
So far as meteors go, the year began with the Quadrantids meteor shower in the wee hours of the morning on the 4th. They originated around the constellation Bootes and towards Polaris in the north, but actually originated from Comet 2003 EH1. NASA estimated a show of 60-200 per hour, but the average was about 100 spotted per hour.
If you plan on going to the southern hemisphere sometime this month, try to catch of glimpse of comet Lovejoy. It is putting on a fantastic display. This is the same comet that made a death-defying pass around the sun and survived.
For constellations, Orion is by far the easiest one to see in the northern hemisphere at this time. You can gaze at a super red giant or young, hot, blue stars. Best of all is the great Orion nebula. This is one of our galaxy’s best stellar nurseries. New stars are being born there every day. At 1500 light years away, it is the only nebula you can see with the naked eye.
If you are in to planet hunting, try to catch Jupiter in conjunction with the moon in the constellation Pisces. Mars will also be visible as it rises just before midnight, and the Venus will be visible just after the sun in Capricorn.
If you have any questions about these subjects or any other subjects in astronomy, be sure to visit the planetarium on the third Tuesday of every month from 7:00-8:30pm for the Astronomy Series.