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Archive for the ‘Solar System’ Category

Wave of Saturn LIVE

Slooh Celebrates the Wave of Saturn

Wave at Saturn – At the exact time the Cassini spacecraft is snapping pics of Earth, Slooh will be snapping images of Saturn – live and in true color – with live broadcast team.

Don’t miss this historic live event tonight at 10.27pm BST (UK Time) (21:27 UTC) and don’t forget to say cheese!

Wave Of Saturn

Credit NASA

Here is a chart to help you find Saturn tonight

Saturn Wave

Fossils Found on Mars

Fossils Found on Mars

Fossil on Mars Credit: VirtualAstro

Amazing Discovery – Fossil found on Mars

For a bit of fun

 

Top Astronomy Events Coming Up in 2012

Stargazing Credit: http://twitter.com/VirtualAstro

 

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.

2012 is going to be a great year for astronomy observing, with some rare and exciting things taking place and a good outlook with some of the regular annual events.

So what top wonders should we expect to see and what will 2012 bring? Read the rest of this entry »

Auroras Over the UK and North America

AURORA UPDATE! New Auroral oval predictions for the UK and North America! We are definitely going to see Aurora tonight

Europe Aurora Oval Prediction Credit: alaska.edu

A strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm is in progress following the impact of a coronal mass ejection (CME) at approximately 12:15 UT on Sept. 26th. The Goddard Space Weather Lab reports a “strong compression of Earth’s magnetosphere. Simulations indicate that solar wind plasma [has penetrated] close to geosynchronous orbit starting at 13:00UT.” Geosynchronous satellites could therefore be directly exposed to solar wind plasma and magnetic fields. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for aurors after nightfall. (Credit: Spaceweather.com)

The best time to try and spot Aurora (The Northern lights) is around midnight, but this could be soon er or later.

You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see the show (if it happens from your location) just your eyes.

Find a dark spot away from street lights and other light sources and look North. You should see Aurora very close to the horizon or higher, depending on your location, current conditions and intensity of the geomagnetic storm.

Good luck.

Predicted Auroras Over North America Credit: alaska.edu

The Great Perseid Meteorwatch

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.

This event follows on from the popular Twitter Meteorwatch held in August and December of 2009 and 2010 “Meteorwatch 2009″

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….

 

Last Years Solstice Sunset – Will It Be As Good This Year?

Summer Solstice Sunset

I took this image of the Solstice Sunset near my home in the UK last year, it was an amazing experience watching the sun sink below the horizon on the longest day.

Will we be lucky enough to be able to witness this wonder again this year and see some more great images?

The Equation of Time

Originally posted on Dark Sky Diary by Steve Owens (@darkskyman on twitter)

Today, 13 June, is one of only four days in the year when the time as read on a sundial will be exactly correct.

Sundials usually tell the time using the shadow of the gnomon as cast by the Sun. This is possible as the Sun appears to move across the sky at an approximately constant speed, and so the shadow of the gnomon also moves at an approximately constant speed. The inconstancy of the Sun’s apparent motion in the sky – and therefore of the gnomon’s shadow on a sundial – is the subject of this article, and is calculated using the Equation of Time.

If you look at the shadow of a sundial’s gnomon it will fall onto a curve of numbers, along hour lines indicating local solar time. This is not equal to the official clock time until three important corrections are made:

Please read the rest of this article on Dark Sky Diary

Total Lunar Eclipse 15 June 2011

Originally posted on Dark Sky Diary by Steve Owens (@darkskyman on twitter)

The first total eclipse of the Moon of 2011 occurs this Wednesday evening, 15 June 2011, and it will be the longest lunar eclipse in over a decade. However the views from the UK (and Europe) will be constrained by the fact that the Moon will be below the horizon for much of the eclipse, and will rise fully eclipsed, or in some cases even coming out of eclipse. It’s still worth having a look though: just try to find somewhere with a very low and clear SE horizon, as this will be the direction in which the Moon will rise, and it will be in eclipse only while it is VERY low (only a few degrees above the horizon).

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon, in its orbit around the Earth, passes into the Earth’s shadow, as cast by the Sun. You might imagine that this would happen once every lunar orbit, or once a month. That it does not is due to the fact that the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is tilted by around 5 degrees compared with the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. So in most orbits the Moon passes above or below the Earth’s shadow.

Please read the rest of this article on Dark Sky Diary

The Moon Illusion

Originally posted on Dark Sky Diary by Sreve Owens @Darkskyman

I’ll make a prediction: on or around 19 March, when the so-called “Supermoon” occurs, at its closest approach to Earth in two decades, people will indeed report that the Moon looks much bigger than normal. But it won’t really be much bigger in the sky at all. It’s all in our heads!

 

"Wow, the Moon's even bigger than that tree!"

You’ve probably all seen it before, a huge Full Moon sitting on the horizon. Time and again I have had people ask me why the Moon is so much bigger some times than others, and the answer is: it isn’t, really.

The Moon orbits the Earth in an elliptical orbit, meaning that it is not always the same distance from the Earth. The closest the Moon ever gets to Earth (called apogee) is 364,000km, and the furthest is ever gets (perigee) is around 406,000km (these figures vary, and in fact this Full Moon on 19 March 2011 will see a slightly closer approach of 357,000km).

So the percentage difference in distance between the average perigee and the average apogee is ~10%. That is, if the Full Moon occurs at perigee it can be up to 10% closer (and therefore larger) than if it occurred at apogee.

This is quite a significant difference, and so it is worth pointing out that the Moon does appear to be different sizes at different times throughout the year.

But that’s NOT what causes the Moon to look huge on the horizon. Such a measly 10% difference in size cannot account for the fact that people describe the Moon as “huge” when they see it low on the horizon.

What’s really causing the Moon to look huge on such occasions is the circuitry in your brain. It’s an optical illusion, so well known that it has its own name: the Moon Illusion.

If you measure the angular size of the Full Moon in the sky it varies between 36 arc minutes (0.6 degrees) at perigee, and 30 arc minutes (0.5 degrees) at apogee, but this difference will occur within a number of lunar orbits (months), not over the course of the night as the Moon rises. In fact if you measure the angular size of the Full Moon just after it rises, when it’s near the horizon, and then again hours later once it’s high in the sky, these two numbers are identical: it doesn’t change size at all.

So why does your brain think it has? There’s no clear consensus on this, but the two most reasonable explanations are as follows:

1. When the Moon is low on the horizon there are lots of objects (hills, houses, trees etc) against which you can compare its size. When it’s high in the sky it’s there in isolation. This might create something akin to the Ebbinghaus Illusion, where identically sized objects appear to be different sizes when placed in different surroundings.

Ebbinghaus Illusion 

Ebbinghaus Illusion – the two orange circles are exactly the same size

2. When seen against nearer foreground objects which we know to be far away from us, our brain thinks something like this: “wow, that Moon is even further than those trees, and they’re really far away. And despite how far away it is, it still looks pretty big. That must mean the Moon is huge!”.

These two factors combine to fool our brains into “seeing” a larger Moon when it’s near the horizon compared with when its overhead, even when our eyes – and our instruments – see it as exactly the same size.

Supermoon Nonsense

Originally posted on Dark Sky Diary by Steve Owens @darkskyman

There seems to be a growing excitement about the “Supermoon” that is due to occur on 19 March 2011, when the Moon will be at its closest to Earth in this orbit, and closer than it has been at any time since 1992.

Moon

Moon – not Super

The Moon orbits the Earth in an elliptical orbit, i.e. it is not perfectly circular, and so in each orbit there is a closest approach, called “perigee” and a furthest approach, called “apogee”.

At this month’s perigee the Moon will be 356,577km away from Earth, and will indeed be at its closest in almost 20 years. But how close is it compared with other perigees?

Let’s start by comparing it to the Moon’s average distance from the Earth, which is ~385,000km. This perigee will be ~8% closer to the Earth than average. OK, that’s a bit closer, but not significantly so.

What about comparing it to the Moon’s average perigee distance, which is ~364,000km. So this “Supermoon” will be ~2% closer to the Earth than it is most months at perigee. Wow!

So what will this mean to you? Nothing at all. The Moon will be a few percent bigger in the sky, but your eye won’t really be able to tell the difference. It will also be a few percent brighter, but your eye will compensate for this too, so altogether this “Supermoon” will look exactly the same as it always does when it’s full.

As to all of those soothsayers claiming that there will be earthquakes and tidal waves. There very well might be, but they’ll be nothing at all to do with the Moon.

UPDATE: I predict that lots of people will report having seen a huge Moon on or around 19 March