Watching the moon from St Michael’s Tower on Glastonbury Tor. Click for larger Image Ben Birchall/PA via deskarati.com
If you have noticed the moon looks a little larger than usual you are not alone. This morning it was looking pretty big here. This is the third perigee-moon or supermoon in a row. The moon will be full on 09 Sept 2014 at 01:38 UT (21:38 ET 08 Sept on the US East Coast).
I think I will have clear skies for a change! Yes, I am pleased.
I am also fairly well positioned for the partial lunar eclipse coming on 23 Oct 2014. Europe will miss out on this one. Here’s a (PDF) map from the US Naval Observatory.
NASA’s JPL gives us “What’s Up for September 2014″
One of the nice things about this time of year is the clearing skies. I mean really clear skies, cooler temperatures and stable “seeing” kind of clear. If you have a telescope you probably know exactly what I mean.
We have a few nice pairings of stars / planets / moon. These pairings are especially nice for casual viewing and interesting conversation with those friends who might not otherwise notice and I find they almost always will look.
I don’t always get the best view of the zodiacal light right here because of the hills to my east but I can see it. If I’m on the road at the right time I can drive to a good location and stop long enough to let my eyes acclimate some and sip my coffee or tea for a short time and appreciate the view. Yes, I know coffee / tea doesn’t help the process, but it does make it more enjoyable.
My favorite meteor shower of the year is here, actually it will peak 12 to 13 August. We are usually treated to a great show thanks to the debris from comet Swift-Tuttle. I’ve seen activity in the hundreds of meteors per hour in the past.
This year we have the Supermoon so skies will be pretty bright, if I have good clear skies I’ll be out looking anyway, who knows perhaps a fireball will happen by – I’d see that! Too bad it is going to rain on me and to think I arraigned the next two days off from work and everything.
Here’s hoping YOU have better luck and if nothing else you can see the moon!
Mars and Saturn are very bright, a chance to see a couple of comets and maybe a new meteor shower.
May is going to be fun; need to get rid of the clouds!
Video from JPL
The flare of 29 March from SDO. Click for larger. Image: SDO/NASA via SpaceRef
A pretty nice flare was emitted on 29 March 2014. The flare is an X-1 flare, think of the X class as the largest sized/intensity group of flares, other groups are named: M, C, B and A in decreasing size. The number adds a scale within the group. The X-1 is a smaller of the X group where an X-9 would be a monster flare. It would go something like this (in increasing size/intensity): M-7, M-8, M-9, X-1, X-2 and so on. Think of how earthquakes are scaled, it’s quite similar.
So this is a bigger flare, and by 02 April there should be a nice display of the Aurora at high latitudes (both poles) and possibly a sighting at mid-latitudes (where I am). Keep an eye to the sky if they are clear.
It is possible to have radio blackouts but not any the average person will notice. Ham radio operators might note a little degradation at HF frequencies.
The flare also caused some coronal dimming. The SDO captured a (really fast) video of the effect and Dean Pesnell posted it and a description at the SDO blog. Very cool!
If you’ve noticed Mars being especially bright (for Mars), you would be correct. If you’ve NOT noticed Mars being especially bright it would be a good time to have a look if you are out and about.
On 8 April 2014 Mars will be at opposition and six days later it will be at it’s closest to us. Don’t expect it to be bigger than the full moon this time around.
Four total lunar eclipses in a row occurring at six-month intervals is a Tetrad. Lucky sky-watchers in the US are going to be treated to a tetrad of lunar eclipses starting on 15 April 2014.
As the neighbor kid says: “sweet”.
If you happen to be up at 0605 UTC (20 March 2014) and many will, you can watch the 72 km (45 mile) wide asteroid 163 Erigone eclipse the star Regulus.
The visibility will occur for people in a narrow swath in the north eastern portion of the US and into Ontario Canada. See below:
Ground track of 163 Erigone via the Creative Commons
Tthe vast majority of us will not be able to stand outside and see it, HOWEVER we will be able to WATCH IT LIVE AT Slooh.
The Geminids meteor shower is upon us; perhaps you’ve seen a few already. The peak of the shower is the 13th and 14th and I would like to suggest you look before dawn on Saturday.
The radiant of the shower, that area where the meteors seem to emanate from, is not surprisingly the constellation of Gemini. The above image is a finders map for the northern hemisphere and if you click it you will get one for the southern hemisphere, both come from Gary Kronk’s excellent site: Meteor Showers Online.
The meteor rate can be anywhere between 50 and 100 meteors an hour and normally would provide a nice show. This year we have a moon that will be nearly full (~91%) and the brightness could limit visibility. Still it’s worth a look, I’m for sure going to be out there. I think I should have a pretty good sky to look at despite an approaching storm system. I would guess anyways, temps are supposed to be in the range of minus 15 to minus 20 degrees C so skies should be clear.
ISON moving through Virgo. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery
I’ve been having a lot of bad luck with ISON observations. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen anything other than clouds in the sky. Oh sure there were two or three mornings with semi-clear sky conditions but even then ISON happened to be covered. Right now it is a magnitude 5.24, probably a decent binocular object.
I will keep watching and you should too because ISON should be starting to brighten quickly and could be a naked eye object in just days to a week. Don’t miss out!
Here is a screenshot from Stellarium for 18 November 2013 at 05:30 and at 45 deg north latitude, you might find it useful for a guide. Note: Higher latitudes will see objects lower in the sky and vice versa.
Here are the specific coordinates: RA/Dec 13h43m19 sec/ 12o53’26”
If you use the screenshot ISON will appear higher in the sky with respect to the stars on days preceding 18 November and lower in the sky and subsequent days.
As a bonus Mercury is approaching its Western Elongation and will reach it on 18 November, so if you have a good look at the eastern horizon you will get a chance to see it. If you can I say: lucky you! I have a mountain range in the way. When was the last time you saw Mercury? Seeing Mercury in the east is worth getting up for all by itself!
Here is the caption released with the ISON image above:
Comet ISON shines in this five-minute exposure taken at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Nov. 8 at 5:40 a.m. EST. The image has a field of view of roughly 1.5 degrees by 1 degree and was captured using a color CCD camera attached to a 14″ telescope located at Marshall. At the time of this picture, Comet ISON was 97 million miles from Earth, heading toward a close encounter with the sun on Nov. 28. Located in the constellation of Virgo, it is now visible in a good pair of binoculars.