Mars and the Lagoon Nebula

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   From my northern mid-latitude backyard this time of the year the Milky Way arcs nearly overhead stretching from north to south. Above my southern horizon is not only a view toward the center of the galaxy, it is also a view toward one of the most scenic parts of the Milky Way. In the sky just above the handle of the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius are several ‘deep sky’ objects visible to the unaided eye and binoculars.
   Over the next several days the planet Mars will be moving through this area and passing within 1-2o from the Lagoon Nebula. The waxing Moon will also be passing through this area as well.
   In the slideshow below watch a small red dot, Mars, to be moving from west to east (right to left) as each day passes.

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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Venus is Superior During Moon and Saturn Conjunction

25oct-bino   Saturday evening, October 25th the thin 2 day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 2o from the planet Saturn as they both set over the western horizon. The two should make for interesting contrast in both pictures and through binoculars. With binoculars you have a view of the sky that at this time of the evening will show you more than your eyes would be able to see.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   As this graphic shows the reddish stars of Arcturus and Antares are on either side of the Moon and Saturn. Further to the east and just above the pour spout of teapot-shaped asterism using stars from the constellation Sagittarius is the planet Mars. Through binoculars it may be possible to find some of the nebula and star clusters along the Milky Way above and around Mars.

25sep-venus-sup_conjunc    Also on Saturday the inner planet Venus will have moved into superior conjunction – on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. Venus will reappear on the east side of the Sun later next month and start becoming visible in the evening skies over the western horizon.

   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Solar Eclipse Breaks Through!

IMG_5269-1920x1280   The Weather was not favorable across western Missouri today. It started with rain this morning followed by completely overcast skies – but with the storm system moving eastward there was hope that the clouds would also move eastward. The clouds did move eastward, but very slowly.
IMG_5286-1920x1280   So there I was in the parking lot behind the Science/Technology building with 7 students looking at a cloudy sky. After about 30 minutes into the eclipse event we went in to watch it online. Just before 6 pm the skies were showing areas of blue sky, so we went outside and were rewarded with seeing the eclipse from mid-eclipse to nearly sunset – about every 5 minutes as a a break in the clouds would drift across the Sun and Moon.
   The large sunspot I had been following for the past few days shows up in some of the pictures. For the record I did not use a solar filter – just very fast shutter speeds and small aperture settings!

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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Eclipse Countdown!

   Tomorrow, Thursday October 23rd, there will be a solar eclipse visible across much of North america including the continental United States. For the U.S. the eclipse starts during mid to late afternoon and is in progress at sunset. The further west the higher above the horizon will be the Sun and Moon and much if not all of the eclipse will be seen. From Kansas City Missouri the eclipse will reach a maximum of about 50% and will be setting during mid-eclipse.
   Check the time of your local sunset and then use the online eclipse-time calculator from NASA to find the timing of the eclipse for your location.
solar-eclipse-ani   Alternately use the Eclipse Calculator at the Time and Date web site. Click here to see the times for Kansas City, MO – or to enter the name of your city.
   What will add to the eclipse viewing is the extremely large sunspot that should still be visible tomorrow during the time of the eclipse. I’ve been observing this sunspot since it appeared several days ago. And the large sunspot has been really interesting. I know that the Sun rotates but watching how much this large sunspot has moved in over the last few days is pretty cool. Today the sunspot look liked it was starting to break apart.

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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Mars Gets Dusted!

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Sunday October 19th Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) will pass the planet by Mars as the comet heads inbound toward the Sun and perihelion. At the closest, 7 UT (2 am CDT), the comet comes within less than 100,000 miles (160,000 km) of Mars, and as the comet passes by Mars the comet’s dusty tail will sweep across the planet.
   Both are visible over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time and are situated near the spout of the teapot-shaped asterism in Sagittarius and embedded deep in the ‘heart’ of the Milky Way.

8" Schmidt Cassegrain: 25 mm eyepiece

8″ Schmidt Cassegrain: 25 mm eyepiece

   While the comet is not bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye it will be bright enough to be seen with telescopes as small as those with an 8″ (205 mm) mirrors. This graphic shows a simulated view of the comet (greatly exaggerated) and Mars as the two would appear looking through a 25mm eyepiece on an 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

   Read more about the comet and see some animations in a previous post.

   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

October Apogee Moon

18oct-apogee    Our Moon orbits around the Sun with the Earth and from our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However in reality the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   This thin 24.5-day old waning crescent Moon shows about 25% of its disk and rises before sunrise local time. The Moon will be easily noticed as it is midway between Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) and the star Regulus (magnitude 1.34). With binoculars look for 3rd magnitude Omicron Leonis to be less than half a degree from the upper cusp of the Moon.
   The waning crescent Moon reaches apogee this month on Saturday October 18th at 1 am CDT (6 UT). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.74 Earth diameters (404,897 km or 251,591 miles) from the Earth.

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Moon Gets Pinched!

m44-50mm   Early Friday morning October 17th the waning crescent Moon will be in the claws of Cancer the Crab, at least figurtively. Nearby, about 7o, is the open star cluster, M-44, or as it sometimes is called, the Beehive Cluster. This small compact star cluster contains several hundred stars packed into an apparent size of about 1.2o, and shining at 4th magnitude. Visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch of light it resolves nicely with lower power wide-field eyepieces. This graphic simulates the view through an 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a 50 mm eyepiece.

Click on animated graphic to see it full size. (1920x971)

Click on animated graphic to see it full size. (1920×971)

   Looking down toward the horizon from the Moon is the planet Jupiter and further toward the horizon is the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. This region of the sky is interesting in that the winter constellations are off to the west while the stars of spring are just rising – yet it is the fall season (at least in the northern hemisphere). The result of Earth revolution and the shifting of stars and constellations westward giving rise (in the east of course) to seasonal stars and constellations.

   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.