Archive for the ‘Moon’ Category
Eclipse Of The Moon April 2013
On the April 25th 2013 there will be a partial eclipse of the Moon, the first of three lunar eclipses in 2013. It will be seen from The UK and Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia and will look similar to the above image taken by @Jochta of @ReadingAS. The darkening will be at the top of the Moon not the bottom as seen in the image. Read the rest of this entry »
If you have clear skies, this spectacle will almost be impossible to miss after the Sun has set.
See the below diagram for positions of the crescent moon, Venus and Jupiter – They will be an awesome sight!
2012 is here, and the world shows no sign of ending as the heavens spin on their appointed rounds high overhead. But the diligent observer may be rewarded with several unique an spurious sights, both natural and manmade…
1st up is everyone’s favorite meteor shower named after an obsolete constellation; the Quadrantids peak the morning of January 4th in what is the first large meteor shower of the year. The peak is very swift, only lasting about 12 hours or so and is centered this year on 2:00 AM EST/7:00 AM UTC. This favors the U.S. East Coast in 2012, as the 79% waxing gibbous Moon will set around 2AM local the morning of the 4th for observers in mid-northern latitudes. The radiant of the shower lies at a declination of 52° degrees north at the junction of the modern constellations of Draco, Bootes and Hercules, and thus activity may be visible pre-midnite local, although the setting of the Moon and the rising of the radiant will raise sighting prospects considerably. Expect swift-moving meteors headed outward from the radiant above the handle of the Big Dipper to appear anywhere in the sky. The Quadrantids have been known since the early 1800’s, but there has been much conjecture as to the source parent body. Astronomer Fred Whipple noted in 1963 that the stream bears some resemblance to the Delta Aquarids, and that the orbital path has undergone alterations by the planet Jupiter in the last few thousand years. In 2003, SETI researcher Peter Jenniskens proposed that the source may be then recently discovered asteroid 2003 EH1, which has been tentatively linked to Comet C/1490 Y1, which approached Earth at a distance of 0.52 Astronomical Units on January 12th 1491. Be sure to keep an eye out for Quadrantids on these chilly January mornings, as we commemorate Quadrans Muralis, a constellation that is no longer! Read the rest of this entry »
As 2011 is drawing to a close, the festive season is here and many of us are winding down and looking forward to the holidays. But this is a great time to look ahead to 2012 and pencil into our calendar and diaries the top astronomical events we don’t want to miss next year.
So what top wonders should we expect to see and what will 2012 bring? Read the rest of this entry »
Meteors streaking across the sky are an amazing sight. Every time I see a meteor is a thrilling moment.
I’m not a professional astronomer or even a specialized expert. I’ve just been watching the skies for meteors and showing others how to spot them for a long time. I particularly enjoy helping people who have never seen a meteor before experience their first sighting. My greatest success is watching the Perseid Meteor shower together with my kids while we were camping in the mountains together. It is an emotional memory that we’ll share all our lives.
Watching meteors is special because it truly takes no special equipment whatsoever. Telescopes or cameras just restrict your field of view – for best viewing simply lie back and enjoy the sky in front of your own eyes.
Meteorwatch itself is special for a lot of reasons. It is a world-wide event of professional and amateur astronomers getting together to share the heaven’s most showy display of the year. It’s an opportunity to collect real data that may be useful for astronomers to work with to increase our understanding of space. For me, meteorwatch is a chance to share my excitement with others who have never seen the beauty of a meteor flashing overhead.
Our goal for meteorwatch is to increase the odds for everyone to find meteors. Meteorwatch occurs August 12 through August 14 to correspond with the Perseid Meteor shower. The Perseids are a predictable shower that comes every year. In fact, meteors from the Perseids have been observed for about 2000 years already! The meteors are frequent and fairly bright, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to spot one if you go out prepared.
The first step of being prepared is that you need to find the darkest place you can find, as far away as possible from lights that will disrupt your night vision. If the moon is out while you’re observing, try to block it as best as you can with trees or a hill so you don’t look at it and ruin your night vision. If your night vision does get disrupted, you will not be able to see the dimmer meteors at all, so keep your eyes up and don’t pull out your phone to tweet every few minutes.
It’s true that Perseid meteors will likely come at between one and two meteors every minute, but you won’t be able to see that many because most of them are dim and washed out by city lights. The darker it is, the more meteors you will see! When I’m in a reasonably dark area near the outskirts of my city I’m happy to see one meteor every five minutes or so. If you can’t get out of the city, you may have to wait longer because you will only see the brightest meteors. There are plenty of sightings from the heart of cities, so it’s not impossible, just more difficult. It’s certainly worth an attempt if you can find a park without lights or some other dark area near you.
The second step is to make sure that you’re comfortable while waiting. A good chair that supports your neck while you look up is helpful. Even though the Perseids occur during summer, the nights can get quite chilly so dress warmly and bring something warm to drink.
The third step is to keep it an enjoyable outing. Some people like to go out alone and listen to music while waiting. That’s great too, but I usually tell first-timers to go out in groups. I especially encourage people to take their kids out. Young eyes may see phantom meteors at first, but once they get the hang of it they’ll spot meteors too dim for you or I to spot any more. Kids are fantastic at spotting meteors and it encourages them to be interested in the world around them. Besides, who wouldn’t appreciate a late night out once in a while?
The most frequent question I get asked year after year has been, “Where should I look in the sky to see the meteors?” In the past I’ve tried to describe how to find the constellation Perseus, but it’s rather unnecessary. Accustom your eyes to the dark, and after you’ve seen three or four meteors you should be able to figure out where Perseus is in the sky all on your own! It’s most important to look up, be relaxed and patient, and the meteors will dazzle in front of you as long as you are willing to watch.
Unfortunately, we don’t all get clear skies. Some of us are clouded out and have no chance at spotting meteors above us, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Follow the #meteorwatch hashtag on twitter for tips, pictures, radio observing and to share your experiences with other enthusiasts around the world. Go to www.meteorwatch.org for news and information and be sure to follow twitter.com/VirtualAstro for fantastic coverage of the Perseid Meteor shower direct from his Astrobunker.
Mark Zaugg is an amateur astronomer and enthusiast who particularly enjoys introducing people to the excitement of seeing a meteor in person. You can find him at twitter.com/Zarquil
A classic summer astronomical standby may be in trouble this year, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking. That’s right, we’re talking about the Perseids, that “old faithful” of meteor showers which sees northern hemisphere residents getting bundled up to camp out under the summer stars every mid-August.
Some of our earliest astronomical memories come from watching this very shower under the dark northern Maine skies of our 1970’s childhood… yes, the Perseids are public crowd-pleaser and even an occasional Yahoo-trending fave that can even knock the likes of Brittany & friends down to the number 2 slot for a 12 hour period… so, what’s this news of the Perseids being “troubled?” They haven’t been threatened by irate pop stars, have they?
Unfortunately, this year’s menace is a more inviolate force; the Full Moon. Yes, this year’s Perseid meteor shower peaks the morning of August 13th, mere hours before the Moon reaches Full status on the same day at 14:57EDT/18:57UTC. Instead of the usual respectable zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of around 100 meteors per hour, observers can only expect to see a paltry few of the very brightest fireballs…
But all is not lost. With a little planning, a few factors can work in YOUR favor this year. Keep in mind that the Perseids have a very broad peak, and the radiant near the head of the constellation Perseus lies above the horizon all night for observers north of 32° latitude. Plus, this month’s Full Moon (known as a Sturgeon Moon) has a southerly declination of about -11° degrees; your best bet for catching Perseids this year may lie with watching several mornings prior, in the window of time between the setting of the waxing gibbous Moon and the beginning of local twilight… and yes, you CAN still watch a meteor shower during a Full Moon and see an occasional Perseid.
Generally speaking, the farther north in latitude you are located, the more likely you’ll be able to take advantage of these twin factors. Finding as dark a site as possible and putting something physically between yourself and the bright Moon is the key. A building or a hill makes an excellent “Moon-block.” Perseids are swift movers with an atmospheric entry velocity of about 61 km/sec.
The meteors are tiny grain-like debris shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle, and the shower occurs as the Earth intersects the path of the comet every mid-August. The Perseids are also famously known as the “Tears of Saint Lawrence” who was martyred on August 10th, and are probably the most well known of all meteor showers because of their annual dependability and their timely occurrence with the northern hemisphere summer vacation and holiday season.
Historic ZHR rates have always hovered around 60, but the past several years have seen an enhanced ZHR of +100. This shower is also infamous for sparking “Meteor Shower of the Millennium!” headlines annually, Although I have yet to see the same occur this year… a shower that MAY be a contender for said headline is the Giacobinids (or do you say Draconid?) meteors in early October 2011, an obscure shower that may dazzle this year… more on this to come in October.
Wonder what that the above graphic has to do with anything astronomical? You are looking at what is known as a nomogram, a graphical device that is a neat way to show interrelationships between factors. (Hey, how do you spend your weekend?) The graphic above was adapted from a nomogram featured in the November 2002 issue of Sky & Telescope; it shows the interrelationship between the two biggest factors that affect the zenithal hourly rate; namely, the radiant’s elevation above the horizon, and the limiting magnitude of your sky. (For a way “math-y-ier” dissertation on nomograms and the ZHR, click here).
This device will be your indispensible friend and secret weapon as you plot your meteor observing adventures for this or any shower. The ZHR is a theoretical limit; it assumes that you have absolutely perfect skies with a radiant directly overhead and an unwavering 360°degree view. Unrealistic, right? Well, it’s something to strive for. As you can see after playing around with the graphic a bit, the biggest killer of how many meteors you’ll see is how dark a sky you are under.
Even when the Perseid radiant is half way (45° degrees) in altitude towards the zenith, a limiting magnitude of +4 (as is typical around a Full Moon) means you’ll see roughly 10% of the zenithal hourly rate, i.e. 6-10 meteors per hour instead of 60-100. Yes, light pollution, both natural and manmade, is a real meteor shower buzz-kill. And keep in mind, other factors can conspire to lower that rate even further, such as obstructions on the horizon and the fact that a sole observer can only cover a limited swath of the sky visually. Still, the sight of a well placed fireball can be unforgettable and just plain pure magic to witness.
I am the dead albatross on your boat.
I am the peacock feather in the house.
I am horseshoe carelessly nailed upside down so all the good luck falls out down a grid.
If you ever see me coming to stand next to you at a star party, meteor shower, or eclipse, you have permission to make the cross sign with your fingers and run backwards as fast as you can.
That’s because, for my 33 and a half years of sky gazing, I have managed to cause cloudy skies and inclement weather at every single major event I have attended.
Just for the record, I’m a keen amateur astronomer without a telescope. I follow as many Twitter astro accounts as I can, avidly retweeting the latest data from Cassini, and following lonely Mars landers as they bump across rusty rocks. I cried the first time I saw the ISS, and as a child, I used to stand in the garden with a compass, straining hard to see the northern lights. I never did.
My bad luck began in earnest when I went to Cornwall for the eclipse. A boyfriend and I spent a small fortune hiring out a dank, uncomfortable cottage in the middle of nowhere. I was so excited that I woke up at 6.30am every morning, causing us to be grey faced and exhausted for the whole pitiful ‘holiday.’ And of course, on the big day, there was 100% cloud cover and it was so cold we had to wear gloves.
One night, me and the chap were out in Sefton Park, Liverpool, admiring a wonderful conjunction of several planets dancing around a new moon like fairy lights. Flushed with happiness, we went in and congratulated ourselves for figuring out how to use a planisphere. Next morning we were mortified to find out aurora had been visible ten minutes after we went in.
And indeed, only last week, I was photographing some incredible clouds where I live in Bristol, only to be told a short while later that even more aurora had decided to shimmy their way on to the sky’s stage while I had my back turned.
I travelled to America last year, and on my first night, I was so jetlagged that I shut the blind to keep out an incredibly bright moon. Mr Moon was very cross at my ignorance, and proceeded to turn bright red with rage, causing me to miss a spectacular lunar eclipse.
But the thing I have had the LEAST luck with…is meteor showers. I have stood out in back gardens and dark fields trying to catch a glimpse of these fleeting sky streaks at least three times a year from the age of 15. And guess what? Except for ONE Leonid I saw, cutting through soupy orange cloud two years ago, I have not had ANY luck. Truly disheartening.
That is, if you forget about last year. I was in Portland, on the west coast of America. Through a set of remarkable coincidences, which really do make me wonder if we are being pulled through our lives by twinkling cosmic threads, I ended up meeting some wonderful people who shared my love of all things that require tipping your chin up to 90 degrees to observe.
They took me out to a pitch-black nature reserve, bundled up with blankets and deckchairs, as bullfrogs boomed in the blackness, and baby racoons cavorted in the undergrowth.
On that magical, starry, starry night, we counted several hundred Perseids, each one causing me to gasp and grip the arm of my chair. One of the most memorable experiences of my life and one I long to repeat.
So. Will I be turning my head skywards for the Perseids this year? Of course I will. But judging from past form, I’d say, chances are, Bristol is not going to enjoy clear skies. I just seem to have that unfortunate effect on the sky over my head.
So if there are any astronomers in the Bristol area hoping for a good viewing, you may want to drive me out of town with planks and pitchforks. Either that, or take a trip to Inverness.
Follow me for further antics on twitter, I am @RadioVicky
These sites are ideal for all kinds of stargazing any time of the year and are set in some of the most beautiful locations in the country
The seven best National Trust sites for star gazing and see the wonders of the night sky are:
- Black Down in Sussex – Get closer to the stars on the highest point in the South Downs, just over a mile from the town of Haslemere.
Download the guide for Black Down
- Teign Valley in Devon – Discover the stars at this Trust property within Dartmoor National Park and close to Castle Drogo.
Download the guide for Teign Valley
- Penbryn Beach in Wales – Beautiful, unspoilt mile-long beach on the Ceredigion coast in west Wales, great for a bit of star gazing and a late night paddle.
Download the guide for Penbryn Beach
- Stonehenge Landscape in Wiltshire – Step back in time and discover the ancient skies of Salisbury Plain’s chalk downlands, home to the impressive prehistoric stone monument.
Download the guide for Stonehenge Landscape
- Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire – Close to historic Ely, the wild landscape of the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve offers dark skies and a wealth of nocturnal wildlife to listen out for.
Download the guide for Wicken Fen
- Mam Tor in Derbyshire – Escape the bright city lights of Sheffield and experience the peace and tranquillity of Mam Tor’s dark skies in the Peak District.
Download the guide for Mam Tor
- Friar’s Crag in Cumbria – Surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of the Lake District, Friar’s Crag in Keswick juts out into the spectacular lake of Derwentwater; a restful place to contemplate the world above us.
Download the guide for Friar’s Crag
More information about all of these sites is available by visiting: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/darkskies and enjoy stargazing and meteorwatch at these fabulous locations.
Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th of August 2011
From Thursday 11th to Saturday 13th of August 2011 @VirtualAstro on Twitter with the help of The National Trust, Universe Today, Royal Astronomical Society and many more, will be holding a Twitter Meteorwatch for the Perseid Meteor Shower.
Everyone is welcome to join in, whether they are an astronomer, have a slight interest in the night sky or just wonder?
As well as looking up, enjoying the night sky with us and seeing meteors, maybe for the first time? You will have the opportunity to contribute for fun with images and online, or to Science if you wish, by tweeting and seeing your results on a map, or by submitting Observing Forms if you are a more serious observer.
Use the hash tag: #Meteorwatch and get involved, ask questions, do some science, follow the event and enjoy the wonders of the night sky with us. Images and other information will be tweeted as it happens. Live!
Join in on Twitter, Facebook and Google+
The highlight of the summer meteor showers: The Perseids reach maximum around the 12th/ 13th of August and may put on a display of approximately 80 to 100 meteors per hour under ideal viewing conditions.
Conditions this year aren’t ideal due to there being a full moon, but the brighter meteors will be seen. Let’s hope the skies stay clear.
Perseid meteors are often bright with persistent trails which can linger for a while after the meteor has burned up. Further information on the Perseid meteor shower and how to view it, can be found here.
While you are looking for meteors, there will be other objects to look out for such as the Planet Jupiter late in the evening, the Milky Way, Summer Triangle, manmade Satellites and more.
The Twitter Meteorwatch will start at 21.00 BST on the 11th of August and will continue through to the evening of the 13th. Amateur and professional astronomers and stargazers from the US and other countries are invited to join in and take over from the UK, when the sun comes up here, helping make the event run continuously and be truly international.
Watch the awesome new trailer here….