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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


   
   
   

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.

October Moon at Ascending Node = Partial Solar Eclipse

23oct-ascending-node   On Thursday October 23rd our Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.
At about the time of the node crossing the new Moon will pass between the Earth and the Sun, causing a partial solar eclipse that will be visible during the late afternoon hours across much of the continental United States. The eclipse path will start off the coast of eastern Siberia, follow an eastward path across parts of Canada, and then travel south across the United States. Since the eclipse will happen in the afternoon in the time zones across the United States, it may be in progress as the Sun sets for some locations. So 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.

Sun Not in Scorpio (aka Scorpius) Today

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Coincidentally according to the pseudoscience of astrology on 23 October the Sun should be crossing the western boundary of Scorpio as it “enters” that constellation. In reality the Sun is still within the constellation of Virgo the Maiden.


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.

Twins Drop Kick the Moon!

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Early Tuesday morning, October 14th, the waning gibbous Moon will be rising near the feet of the celestial tag-team, the Gemini Twins, Pollux and Castor. Within the field of view of binoculars, (about 7o), from the Moon, is the open star cluster M-35. This open star cluster is estimated to be 2800 light years away. With its apparent size of nearly one-half degree and its overall apparent magnitude of 5 allows M-35 to be just visible to the unaided eye in dark enough skies.

m35-bino-ani   With the use of binoculars M-35 begins to be seen as more than a fuzzy patch of light, however through a low power telescope eyepiece M-35 resolves into a nice somewhat close grouping of stars.
   Caveat Astronomer! Since the nearly last quarter Moon is close to M-35 it is not unreasonable to assume that moonlight will brighten the sky enough to dim out many of the stars in M-35. If that proves to be the case wait a few more days until the Moon has moved far enough east to no longer interfere.

   
   
   

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.

Bull Ahead With the Moon!

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Saturday evening October 11th the 18 day old waning gibbous Moon is within 3o from the reddish star Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran is also the brightest star in the open star cluster the Hyades, one of two open star clusters in this constellation. The second one is the Pleiades, or the 7 Sisters as it more commonly is known.

oct11-bino   With a pair of 7×50 binoculars the Moon, the stars of the v-shaped Hyades, and Aldebaran all easily fit within the field of view.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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.