Sunrise Sunday-No Comet?

   3 December:The last word on the comet – the nucleus has apparently fragmented and after perihelion all that appeared to be left was a dust cloud which looks like it was dissapating as this series of videos show.

ison1dec   1 December: Comet ISON may have been broken apart by the close perihelion and might be, as they say, ‘No mas‘. Initial reports suggest that the nucleus of the comet, the solid mass, has come apart. The last images from the SOHO satellite show what appear to be fragments and a cloud of dust trailing behind and around it. If there are any remnants there may be a chance that the debris as a group reflects enough sunlight to be visible.
   Click here to go to the NASA SOHO website for more information about Comet ISON.

Click on picture to see it screen size.

Click on picture to see it screen size.

   Saturday 30 November: Since Comet ISON or at least part of it survived perihelion (see my updated update) I figured that 2 days after perihelion the comet’s tail may be poking above the horizon. So I loaded my stuff and Tyler in the truck and drove east on 50 Highway then south on 7 Highway then east on Old 150 Highway. At a high spot in the road with a good view to the east and southeast across a plowed field I pulled over and parked. Using 10×50 binoculars and a Celestron Astroscan telescope I scanned the horizon until around 6:30, and a much more noticeably brighter sky. No comet or tail spotted but a good look at a lot of things from planets, nebulae, star clusters, the Milky Way. Sigh!! And of course Tyler having a blast running and sniffing.
   So I loaded back up and went home where I took a few pictures from the back deck – Jupiter and the Twin Stars; a ‘new Moon in an old Moon’s arms’; and the mnemonic ‘Follow the Arc to Arcturus…’ (not enough lens width to include ‘speed to Spica”.
   Tomorrow if the sky is clear I’ll set up in the same place and take pictures from that location.

   
   
   
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.

Sun Enters Ophiuchus Today

ophiuchus   Today, 29 November, the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion and into the constellation of Ophiuchus the Healer. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

ophiuchus-scorpion   Ophiuchus is the 13th constellation of the zodiac (Astronomical) but does not appear in the astrological zodiac nor in the astrology column found in many newspapers. A constellation of either zodiac is defined the same way using the ecliptic path. If the ecliptic passes through a constellation boundary then that constellation is a zodiac constellation. In the graphics I use the ecliptic path clearly crosses across the boundary for the constellation Ophiuchus the Healer.

   Ophiuchus is described in a mythology story as a healer. In one story following a mortal fight between Orion and Scorpius the Scorpion Ophiuchus kills the scorpion by stepping on it; extracts the venom from the scorpion; and then uses it to bring Orion back to life.
cadeuces   In Ophiuchus’s hands he is holding a long snake, the 2-part constellation of Serpens – Serpens Cauda (tail of the snake) and Serpens Caput (head of the snake). There are many stories about Ophiuchus and the snake including one where this is the origin of the symbol for medicine, the caduceus. However the caduceus is used primarily in the United States as the symbol for medicine, and is depicted as 2 snakes wrapped around a staff with wings. rodIf there is a connection with a medical symbol then it should be with the Rod of Asclepius, a staff with one snake.
   
   
   
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.

Comet ISON Update-Updated x2

ison1dec   1 December:The end of a comet? According to blog posts from the NASA SOHO web site Comet ISON has faded considerably and there may be nothing left but pieces of the nucleus and dust.

   29 November: Comet ISON has survived perihelion and should become visible as the second animated graphic below shows. However how bright or what it will look like we will know about in a couple of days.
   This animated graphic directly below is made from images taken by the SOHO satellite’s coronagraph, a telescope with an occulting disk at the front end to ‘eclipse’, block, the Sun. In this graphic the dark disk represents the occulting disk and the white circle is the disk of the Sun. Comet ISON appears from the right side and as it becomes blocked by the occulting disk the tail of the comet is still visible. After perihelion the comet reappears on the other side of the Sun with a more fan-shaped tail.’
   This graphic comes from the Space Weather website. Click here for more information about a coronagraph.

comet-ison

Click on graphic to see an animated full size version.

Click on graphic to see an animated full size version.

   28 November, at 23 UT (5 pm CST) Comet ISON will reach perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun. If the comet survives ‘swinging’ around the Sun and passing within less than 1 million miles from the Sun it will reappear on the Earth side of the Sun. From perihelion onward the comet will be outbound from the inner solar system and by 26 December will be at its closest to Earth – approximately 0.426 AU (63,728,693 km or 39,599,174 miles)

   Superstitious? The banner graphic at the top of the page shows Comet ISON as may appear on Friday 13 December. If my software is simulating the view correctly then the comet on that date will still be showing a tail reaching to Gemma, the ‘crown jewel’ in Corona Borealis the Northern Crown, and Comet ISON should be between 5th and 6th magnitude. At that magnitude range the comet will be visible to the naked-eye under dark skies and with optical assistance should be a great sight.

Click here to view or download the animated graphic from the Huffington Post page on Google+.

   
   
   
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.

Saturn – Mercury Conjunction

26nov-ani   Before sunrise Tuesday morning, 26 November, the planets Mercury and Saturn will be rising around 30 minutes or so before the Sun. The two planets will be less than 1 degree from each other. If you are able to follow these two planets for the next 2-3 days you will see that they quickly move apart. Both planets are moving eastward however Mercury, as the innermost planet, orbits around the Sun considerably faster than Saturn. This animated graphic is set to 1 frame per day and starts with the 25th and ends on the 28th. The 2nd magnitude star Zubenelgenubi in Libra the Scales is about 1-2 degrees from the two planets.

26nov   Click on thumbnail to see a ‘dream’ view before sunrise on the 26th.

   
   
   
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.

Sun Enters Scorpius Today

nov23   Today, 23 November, the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Libra the Scales and into the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   What is particularly interesting about comparing the Astronomical position of the Sun with the astrological position of the Sun is how the two differ. This is especially noticeable as the Sun only spends 7 days within the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion which is considerably less than what the astrological calendar shows. Today the Sun moves into the boundaries of the scorpion, but over the next week the Sun will traverse the ‘panhandle’ of Scorpius and enter the boundaries of Ophiuchus the Healer as this animated graphic shows.

   An added ‘bonus’ is that my simulation also includes Comet ISON. The full size animated graphic is set to 1 frame per day starting on 22 November and ending on 2 December.

   
   
   
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.

Sun Not in Sagittarius Today

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer today, 22 November. When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is within the boundary of the constellation of Libra the Scales, as this graphic shows.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and an another blog discussing the effects of precession.

   
   
   
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.

November Apogee Moon

nov-apogee-moon   Our Moon orbits around the Sun with the Earth and from our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle Earth each month. The Moon also has a slightly elliptical-shaped orbit allowing for the Moon to have a furthest (apogee) and closest (perigee) distance from the Earth each month.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   This month the 19 days old waning gibbous Moon reaches apogee today, 22 November at 10 UT (4 am CST), and will more or less be at a distance of 31.79 Earth diameters (405,093 km or 251,713 miles).

   
   
   
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.

Daytime Sighting of Jupiter

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   This coming Friday morning, 22 November, the 19.25 days old waning gibbous Moon will be around 5-7 degrees from the planet Jupiter as both are setting in the west. This places the two within the viewing field of 7×50 binoculars as the banner graphic at the top of the page illustrates.
   Use the Moon as a guide to locate Jupiter either with or without binoculars and then use a technique called averted vision to see Jupiter. Averted vision or peripheral vision is done by looking at an object, like Jupiter, not directly but rather by turning your head slightly so that Jupiter is seen from the corner of your eye. That part of your eye is more sensitive to light, and many astronomers use this technique for seeing fainter objects. What seems to work best is to turn your head so that the object moves toward your nose. As a right-handed person I would turn my head slightly to the right while lefties would turn their head to the left. In the southern hemisphere this works best if you are upside down. (just kidding!!)

   
   
   
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.

Morning Closeness-Conjunction Style

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Before sunrise this Monday morning, 18 November, there will be several areas of interest to view, all of which have something in common – a celestial object appearing close to another celestial object. This graphic is a somewhat distorted view of the sky above the horizon stretching from the southwest to nearly the eastern horizon and shows the sky at 630 am CST.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   In the west and setting is the waning gibbous Moon about 3-4 degrees from the reddish star Aldebaran one the eyes of Taurus the Bull. The reflected light from the just past full Moon will drown out many of the stars near Aldebaran, the stars of the open star cluster the Hyades.
   This graphic is a simulated view of the pair through 7×50 binoculars at 630 am CST.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Over the eastern horizon you can easily see the bluish-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Less than 2 degrees down to the left from Spica is Comet ISON. Spica, with an apparent magnitude of nearly 1.0, far outshines Comet ISON which by this morning may have reached 4th to 5th magnitude.
   This graphic is a simulated view of the pair through 7×50 binoculars at 630 am CST.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   A little lower, closer to the horizon, is another close pair of celestial objects. This is the planet Mercury and Comet Encke. As with Spica and Comet ISON there is a sharp contrast in the apparent magnitudes of Mercury and Comet Encke. Mercury which currently is at greatest western elongation shines at around -0.5 magnitude, while Comet Encke is between 4th and 5th magnitudes. Both are separated by less than 2 fegrees.
   This graphic is a simulated view of the pair through 7×50 binoculars at 630 am CST.

   
   
   
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.

Comet ISON Simulator

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Here is a really neat interactive online Comet ISON simulator showing the path of Comet ISON from a space view of the inner solar system, and an Earth view – a Planetarium-like view of the horizon and starry sky where the comet is located. The simulator has a timeline along the bottom that highlights various points along the comet’s path including when it is predicted to become naked-eye visible.

Click on picture by Damian Peach to see it full size.

   The comet has brightened considerably as it approaches perihelion in less than two weeks. Here is a beautiful picture of the comet from yesterday by Damian Peach.

   Thanks to Universe Today and editor Fraiser Cain for the heads up on this Comet ISON addition to the online Solar System Scope simulator.

   
   
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.