Observe The Moon – Tonight!

Tonight is International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) and it looks like I will have clear skies!



InOMN is an annual event dedicated to get people to ‘look up’ and take notice or our nearest neighbor. I’m looking forward to this. It’s a great excuse to spend a good bit of time looking at some of the features of the moon and there is a lot to see.

Nice thing is you don’t need anything other than your eyes to take part and if you have a pair of binoculars you raise the bar a lot. PLUS, the moon is about half full so features along the terminator (the light/dark boundary) stand out wonderfully AND (yes there’s more) the moon will be “up” before it gets dark so it is a great opportunity to get the kids out and looking too.

I get side tracked a lot so I find it helpful to go out with a plan for viewing. I like to read up on my targets to make the best use of my time and if I have company (especially kids) they get more out of it too.and one of the better tools for this is a program I’ve linked before: The Virtual Moon Atlas. It’s free and works great.

I think I’ll use my ETX-70 tonight, I can easily move it around to get away from trees (which could be an issue with the big scope).

All I need to do is find my older sunglasses. Sunglasses? Yes! The moon is so bright under magnification it’s actually difficult to look at for longer periods of time.

My main target for tonight? Craters around the south pole, a crater called Shomberger in particular (Long: 24.69 W / Lat: 76.64 S). Seems like a good match for my ETX.

Another target isn’t a crater at all, it’s a mountain. Mons Piton is a  ~ 2,250 meter mountain feature rising out of the Mar Imbrium (Long 0.92 West / Lat: 40.72 N). While I’m in the area I’ll see how many of the Cassini family of craters I can make out.

Visit “The Moon” here The Nine Planets for some great info.

Have a look if you can!

Get Ready for ISON!

Skies are supposed to be good so I’m going to try and get a look at ISON this weekend!!

If you missed the Soyuz launch yesterday you can catch the replay on the previous post. The launch occurs at 12 minutes into the video.

You can see the Soyuz docking here.


Mini-jet in Saturn’s Ring

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Mini-jet in Saturn F ring, click for a zoomed in version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here’s a Cassini image of a “mini-jet” in the F ring of Saturn. The mini-jets are thought to be caused by low-speed collisions of material in the F ring and this causes dusty material from the ring.

The mini-jets are sometimes called exotic trails (actually what I’ve always called them), to learn more about them have a look here.

This image is from the “dark side” of the rings, that is below the ring plane by about 48 degrees from a distance of about 1.4 million km (841,000 miles) on June 20, 2013.

Here’s a link to the original image at the Cassini page at JPL.

See the newly launched Cygnus Spacecraft in flight:

Do you want to see the Cygnus spacecraft in flight? You can go to Heaven’s Above PLUS(!) you can see if you will be able to observe the Juno spacecraft flyby of Earth on its way to Jupiter and of course the ISS sightings and other spacecraft.

For those who downloaded Stellarium from a few posts back you can set that up for the appropriate time and really narrow down where to look. I’ve been doing that lately with the morning passes of the ISS and it works very well.

BTW: You will need to configure Heaven’s Above. It’s easy and safe, I’ve been registered for nearly 10 years and NEVER got any unwanted email, hmmm, to be honest no email at all. So don’t worry about such things.

Nova Delphini 2013

Nova Delphini 2013 on August 16, 2013 Image: Andrew Dumont

Nova Delphini 2013 on August 16, 2013 Image: Andrew Dumont

A new “star” popped up late last week.  I didn’t get an opportunity to take a look until night before last. I was glad I did too!

First things first, this Nova was discovered by Koichi Itagaki (Teppo-cho, Yamagata, Japan), reported by S. Nakano (Sumoto, Japan) on August 14, 2013. Initially it was pretty bright at a mag. 6.8. By the time I got skies it was in the mag 4.5 range.

The moon isn’t helping because it is washing Nova Delphini out a little but this is still a BINOCULAR target! I’ve seen it in both the scope and binoculars.

If you have fair skies you can take a look (provided you can see the stars Deneb and Vega in the northern hemisphere). I’ve included telescope coordinates for those with telescopes.

If you don’t have a scope or don’t have the faintest idea how to use the one you might have access to other than set it up and point it. Here’s how to find it:

Two methods:

The first is how I found it with binoculars you can refer to a finders chart, and by the way the location marked is only approximate however the coordinates are correct.

Find Vega / Find Deneb both are easy and bright, now find Altair. Draw a line from Altair (the moon works too) to Deneb look along that line until you are across from Vega. It is the bright spot apart from those larger stars.

Another way is to to use a compass and orient yourself at:

Azimuth = 105°17′  and
Altitude 59°25′ .

That will put you right near it.

I did not get a camera on it due to less than desirable atmospheric sky conditions and a barn fire about a mile away (no animals were hurt) puring out smoke, but my brother Andrew, despite his own very milky skies did and the image above is his. Thanks bro!

Here is a very nice image from Efrain Morales via Flickr taken on August 16, 2013.

Like I said the moon is bothering things some, but if you get a chance try taking a look.

The Perseids!

The radiant for the Perseids.  Click for a expanded chart you can use to locate the constellation Perseus.  Credit: thenineplanets.org

The radiant for the Perseids. Click for a expanded chart you can use to locate the constellation Perseus. Credit: thenineplanets.org

One of the best meteor showers of the year is about to reach its peak. The Perseids is a shower not to be missed.

Meteor showers, in a nutshell, come from the debris trail of comets. As a comet moves through its orbit, it can shed bits of debris for various reasons from dust size on up. In particular when a comet gets close enough to the sun for it to warm slightly and become “active” and the volatiles and dust are streamed away creating the familiar comet tail from the comet tail. What remains is a rather persistent trail of debris. We see meteor showers when the Earth passes through these debris trails.

Not all debris trails are created equal in the amount of debris they contain as you might expect, nor does the Earth always hit the debris trail fully. Therefore some showers are better than others and sometimes a particular shower can vary from year to year.

A couple more things, meteor showers are generally named for the area they seem to come or radiate from (or near), hence the term “the radiant”.

We should define the terms meteor and meteorites. We get a little sloppy and use the two interchangeably, a meteor makes the streak we can see (aka falling star) and a meteorite is a meteor that makes it to the ground. By the way a meteoroid is the little (or big) chunk of iron or rock orbiting around in space. Don’t worry that much about it though not many will ‘call you out’ on it, I certainly won’t.

So the progression is: A meteoroid hits the atmosphere and creates a bright streak and becomes a meteor, most burn up, those that don’t and survive to the ground is a meteorite.

Continue reading

The Perseids are Coming!


Arguably one of, if not the finest showers of the year even aside from the fireballs and when one of them comes along, the wow factor goes way up. Bonus city!

I’ll have more on the shower itself in a few days. For now this shower is perfect for that camping trip you keep putting off. I think this is going to be a good year too, the moon will set at 10:38 local time and it’s only about a third full so it shouldn’t be much of an issue. The weather would be the only concern.

If you have never seen a meteor shower before, I mean other than a few “shooting stars”  by accident, this is THE one to see!

Me? If I have the weather you just know I’m going to take the 13th off!  I am going to be situated in one of those lawn chairs you can pretty much turn into a cot. Oh yeah, nice and comfortable (that’s the key) I’m SO ready.



If you are awake and happen by here AND have clear skies – go outside and look towards your north or south depending on your hemisphere.  We are in the midst of a very nice display of the Aurora.

Too many clouds for me to see anything.

Super Moon


Edit: No moon for me.  Rain instead despite the forecast. I have to say, I like the weather guy on the news station I watch, he adds tidbits like the super moon, bright ISS passes etc.  So I’ll give him a pass.  That and the only bit of the state getting rain, an east to west swath about 40 k / 25 miles wide and maybe 75 miles long, located on top of my area.

I also just found out the B&I Lions play the Rebels next week.

Good questions, good answers.

The moon is quite striking, I got to do some looking at it last night. Scratched my sunglasses in the process bumping into the lens of the scope. They are still usable and yes it was worth it;  if you’ve spent much time looking at the moon through a scope you know what I’m talking about. Take a few minutes and give it a good look if you can.

This makes sense if you watch the video: Want to know what some of my favorite LRO images are? Boulder tracks. LOL.

Having a good day, started the day off watching the British and Irish Lions kick some Australian booty in Rugby. Oh sure it was a close score (21 – 23) but quite a few of the Wallabies were carried off the pitch. They play each other on the next two Saturday’s too I believe, good times.

Now I’m off to finish building my new ultra-light fishing rod, I want to test it out tomorrow. YAY!


gamma Delphinids Tonight

The map above shows the worldwide possible visibility for the gamma Delphinid shower. Greener color is better.  Credit: Geert Barentsen, International Meteor Organization via NASA

The map above shows the worldwide possible visibility for the gamma Delphinid shower. Greener color is better. Credit: Geert Barentsen, International Meteor Organization via NASA

If you live in the shaded area depticted in the map above you might be lucky enough to see a rather rare meteor shower called gamma Delphinids. gamma Delphinus being the radiant hence the name.

Or not. Let me explain, on June 11, 1930 a flurry of meteor activity was seen in Maryland and reported by three observers from the American Meteor Society. The whole shower lasted only 30 minutes. No other reports of meteors are recorded for that night – anywhere. Why? I can’t say for sure, one thing could be there was a full moon (99.5 percent illumination) that night in so it was bright reducing visiblity. Another factor could be June 11, 1930 was on a Wednesday, considering the finacial turmoil going on, the people with jobs were meaning to keep them and were more worried about keeping them and not staying up watching the sky and the ones out of work had more to focus on. No matter, but it is easy to see why doubt has been cast that the shower occurred at all.

Peter Jenniskens a Dutch and US astronomer and a senior research scientist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and at NASA Ames Research Center and also an expert on meteor showers suggests the shower was indeed real and might be repeated 83 years later to the day, that’s tonight/tomorrow morning.

I’d be out there looking if it were not for the fact I have copious amounts of rain moving in (50 to 75 mm) so there is NO chance for me. If I were, I’d make myself comfortable in a reclining chair, looking to the East as the constellation Delpinids rises about 22:30 EDT and it is due East at 23:30 EDT not far above the horizon. The key word is comfort especially since this may or may not actually happen, but if it does and I could see it – cool! Oh and just for the record, the constellation Delphinus is within a few degrees of where it was 83 years ago so who knows?

I’d also probably put my camera out in a very dark location with no chance of a light flashing by and open the shutter and leave it for a suitable amount of time (like the whole time I’m out there) on a tripod (I’m just gloating because I found it LOL).

Here is a decriptive article by Robert Lunsford at the American Metor Society.

The AMS has a finders chart but sometimes it doesn’t show up for some reason, so here it is (credit: AMS via The Watchers) just in case.

What about Twitter?  Check out this NASA page for even more about the shower and Chat details.

Good Luck!!