FD 2014

   Happy New Year to all. For those who are wondering FD 2014 is a command used in the Turtle Graphics language of the Logo programming language – circa mid-1980’s or so. FD is the ‘forward’ command and whatever number that follows is how many steps (pixels) the turtle would move on the screen. My use of it here was a familiar New Year greeting for Logo users back then. Anyway, this has been a decent year despite everything there were actually good things that happened during this past year. And I hope that whatever one’s situation happens to be that 2014 will be a forward year rather than whatever a backward year is.
2013year-data map   Thank you all for reading my posts. How many you ask? Well at the risk of tooting my own horn (toot-toot) this past year I wrote 225 new posts and Bob’s-Spaces had 39,294 page views, with the best day reaching 2,709 views. Since last January 1 there have been 42,203 blocked spams! Click on the map graphic to see a world map showing where Bob’s-Spaces was not read. The white or uncolored places)

I offer the following as a not too serious way to ease into the New Year.

   Here is an example of Logo using the idea of recursion (repeating the same thing) for a New Year’s resolution:
To Live
Inhale
Exhale
To Live

So, where would you park the Space Shuttle??

The consequences of a Black Hole.

   Tomorrow, New Year’s Day, includes a New Moon: So as a way to ‘ring’ in the new year and hopefully not offend anyone, you will find below some of the Moon cartoons I have collected over the years and more than likely used in my classes! Apparently I was into cows at one point!!

new year

   
   
   
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 Opposes Neptune

mars-neptune-opp   And Uranus is at eastern quadrature. So what does that mean?
   Mars opposes Neptune in the sense that each planet is 180 degrees from the other and using their heliocentric coordinates Mars is at approximately 155o while Neptune is at approximately 334o. This is called heliocentric opposition as the two planets are on opposite sides of the Sun. When two planets are in heliocentric opposition and separetd by 180o one planet will be in the morning skies, Mars, while the other is in the evening skies, Neptune.

uranus-e.quad   The outer planet Uranus is at eastern quadrature today meaning that using the Earth, Sun, and Uranus the three form a right angle with Uranus 90o from the Earth and Sun. This places Uranus on the eastern side of the Earth as the Earth rotates. Whenever an outer planet is at or near eastern quadrature that planet or planets is to the east of the Sun and this places them in the evening or night skies.
   
   
   
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.

Mercury at Superior Conjunction

mercury-ani   Today or late last night depending on your time zone at 6 UT (Midnight CST) the innermost planet Mercury reached what is called superior conjunction. at this position the planet Mercury is on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. From superior conjunction the planet Mercury will continue moving eastward and will become visible as an evening planet during January.

   
   
   
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.

ISS and the Kids

iss-labeled-ani   This evening despite the low temperature the sky was clear, for a change, and after checking to see if there were any ISS flyovers and finding one about an hour after sunset I made my plans. This particular flyover would start at 6:12 pm CST as the ISS appeared above the northwestern horizon. It’s 6-minute path was toward the southeast and at its maximum altitude it would be around 45 degrees. From my Astronomy software I noted that its path would take the ISS past the North Star and then past Capella and the 3 ‘Kid’ stars in Auriga. From there it would angle down toward the southeastern horizon. Before fading from view the ISS passed near the reddish star Aldebaran in the v-shaped open star cluster the Hyades.
issdec26-ani   I was set up on my back deck so I knew it would be a minute or so at least before I could see the ISS over my roof. I had my camera set for 2-second shutter speeds, the ISO was set to 3200, and the aperture set to f4.5. As the ISS came into view I started hitting the shutter release as soon as each image was captured resulting in a series of streaks as the picture above shows.

Click on picture to see it screen-size.

Click on picture to see it screen-size.

   This picture is a composite of 19 separate pictures all taken with the same camera settings during approximately a 1-2 minute time span as the ISS traversed this part of the sky. I use a freeware software program called DeepSkyStacker to make images like this one. There is some blurring of the stars due to not using a tracking guide with my camera – to keep it aimed at the same part of the sky as the Earth rotates.

   Click here to read about and see additional pictures of the ISS and Iridium flares.

   
   
   
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 on the Move

dec27-30-ani   Over the next few mornings the Moon in its waning crescent phases will have passed by the star bluish-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden, the planet Saturn on the 28th and 29th, and by the end of the month the very thin waning crescent Moon will be near the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.
   The path that the Moon follows easteard more or less parallels the ecliptic. As the Moon moves each day it will pass by, sometimes very closely, stars and or planets that are situated along or near the ecliptic. This animated graphic shows the sky at 6:30 am CST (1230 UT) for several days. The ecliptic has been added to show the Moon’s path and the celestial objects near the ecliptic.

7x50 Binoculars View

7×50 Binoculars View.

   Use binoculars or a low-power eyepiece to view the conjunctions. On the morning of 28 December the Moon will be within 1-2 degrees from one of the stars in Libra the Scales, Zubenelgenubi – a great name to use in Scrabble! On historic maps of the constellations this star, now alpha Librae or the brightest star in Libra, was known as the lower or southern pincer of the Scorpion. Zubenelgenubi is believed to be a binary or double star, separated enough such that both stars should be seen using binoculars. Zubenelgenubi has an apparent magnitude of 2.75 while its companion star, alpha1 Librae has an apparent magnitude of around 5.

   
   
   
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.

Christmas 2013

Earth globe Christmas ornament on tree   My posts are read from many countries, different time zones, opposite hemispheres, and hopefully even from orbit. So whatever your holiday of preference, or when it is celebrated, at this time I want to say happy holidays to all and a cosmic sized thank you for your support and especially for following my posts.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   The morning skies on 25 December will present a neat panorama stretching from west to east including planets, bright stars, and the last quarter Moon. In the west is Jupiter forming a triangle shape with the ‘twin stars’ of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. Above the southern horizon is Regulus in Leo the Lion. Further east is the last quarter Moon a few degrees from the planet Mars. Close to Mars is the 2nd magnitude star Porrima in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Further to the east and closer to the horizon is the planet Saturn. Can you picture a line connecting all of these planets, stars, and the Moon? If so you are picturing the ecliptic – the Earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere.

ecliptic-ani   Most know of the ecliptic as the Sun’s apparent eastward path against the background of stars. In fact the ecliptic is the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun. The 8 planets and our Moon are all located within a few degrees of the ecliptic while Small Solar System Bodies like comets, and many of the Dwarf Planets follow orbits around the Sun that are inclined away from the ecliptic by more degrees than the planets and our Moon.

   
   
   
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.

Earthrise

Apollo 8 Mission flight animation

Apollo 8 Flight Path: Earth-Moon-Earth

   On today’s date, 23 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission entered lunar orbit following a 3-day flight that started with lift-off on 21 December.
Lunar Orbits

Lunar Orbits

After entering lunar orbit the 3-man crew orbited the Moon 10 times over a period of 20 hours. It was during the 4th orbit on 24 December, due to a combination of things, that brought the Earth rising above the lunar horizon into view through two of the view ports on the Apollo 8 spacecraft, leaving us with a remarkable and historic picture known as Earthrise.

   Use these links to see the two animated graphics above full size: Mission Flight Path Lunar Orbital Insertion.

See this picture full size.   Click here to see images and videos from the Apollo missions at the Apollo Image Gallery.

Splashdown!

Splashdown!

   The video (22 min) below is from NASA and contains highlights of the Apollo 8 mission from lift-off through lunar orbits to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Click here to go to the Moving Video Archive to download a copy of the video in different formats and sizes.
   
   
   

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This video doesn’t exist

   
   
   
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 Capricorn Today

The view from Earth.

The view from Earth.

   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Capricorn the Sea Goat today, 21 December. When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is within the boundary of the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer, as this graphic shows.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in 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.Sun Not In

December Solstice 2013

sagittarius-dec21   On Saturday, 21 December, at 11:11 CST (17:11 UT) the Sun will have reached its southernmost distance (in degrees of latitude and/or declination) from the Earth’s surface and celestial equator. Using Geographical coordinates the Sun is over the Tropic of Capricorn at a latitude of 23.5o South. Using Astronomical coordinates the Sun is -23.5o South (declination) and 18Hours RA (right ascension).

December Solstice
seasons   In its annual trek around the Sun the Earth reaches certain orbital positions that define the beginning and end for each of our four seasons. In either hemisphere, northern or southern, we learn these as the spring equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox, and winter solstice. However the seasons are reversed or the opposite for each hemisphere. Winter in the northern hemisphere, for example, starts when summer in the southern hemisphere begins, and so on. This gives rise to the idea that it may be more practical to simply refer to these dates by the month that it occurs in. So for example rather than saying this is the “winter solstice” and then specifying which hemisphere you are referring to folks in either hemisphere would know which solstice, equinox, and or season it is by simply stating the name of the month for that event, i.e., December Solstice, March Equinox, June Solstice, September Equinox.

Along the Ecliptic
   How are the dates for these changes of seasons selected? As the Earth revolves around the Sun the Sun appears to move eastward against the stars in the background, regardless of the hemisphere. The apparent path the Sun follows is known as the ecliptic and in reality it is the orbit of the Earth superimposed on the stars in the background. seasons on ecliptic-aniAs a rule the starry sky is referred to as the celestial sphere, an imaginary sphere surrounding the Earth on which the ecliptic, stars, planets, and our Moon are located. The Earth’s equator and lines of latitude and longitude are likewise superimposed on the celestial sphere. This is a system similar to the use of latitude and longitude on the Earth’s surface that allows for the positioning or plotting of celestial objects including stars, galaxies, and closer to home the location of the Sun and orbiting planets.

   With regard to the Sun there are specific locations along the ecliptic that mark the change of seasons that correspond to geographic locations on the Earth’s surface. In the northern hemisphere we traditionally say that the Winter Solstice (change to December Solstice) (first day of winter) occurs when the Sun is south of the equator over the Tropic of Capricorn. The Spring Equinox (change to March Equinox) (first day of spring) is when the Sun is over the Earth’s equator. The first day of summer or the Summer Solstice (change to June Solstice) is when the Sun is north of the equator and is over the Tropic of Cancer. And finally when the Sun is back over the Earth’s equator it is the Autumn Equinox (change to September Equinox) and the start of autumn.

Mid-day Sun at 40oNorth

Mid-day Sun at 40oNorth

   These dates are more precisely determined by when the Sun has reached a specific astronomical coordinate on the celestial sphere. However without knowing the calendar date or astronomical position one can easily determine this date by observing the Sun’s apparent daily path regularly.
   In the northern hemisphere on the first day of winter during December the Sun will be south of the equator and will follow the shortest apparent path from east to west. It will rise in the southeast at its furthest south point from due east and set in the southwest at its furthest south point from due west. Midway between rising and setting the Sun will be at its lowest mid-day point above the southern horizon. In contrast it is the start of summer in the southern hemisphere during December. From those latitudes the Sun will follow its longest apparent path from east to west. The Sun will rise in the southeast at its furthest south point from due east and set in the southwest at its furthest south point from due west. Midway between rising and setting the Sun in the southern hemisphere would be at its highest mid-day point above the northern horizon.

The View From South of the Equator
   Keep in mind that these observations are based on the direction one typically faces to view the apparent path of the Sun follows between rising and setting. This direction is always toward or relative to the Earth’s equator and is centered mid-way between due east and due west. It is also latitude-dependent in that the length of daylight and night varies with latitude – more hours of daylight close to the equator where the Sun’s apparent path takes it higher above the horizon and subsequently giving more time above the horizon. Moving away from the equator the Sun’s apparent path doesn’t take it as high above the horizon and thus less daylight time. Nonetheless those in the northern hemisphere face toward south while those in the southern hemisphere face toward north. Remember – the Sun and all other celestial objects always rise in the east!

   
   
   
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 and Jupiter – 2 Parts

Click on picture to see it full screen size.

Click on picture to see it full screen size.

   I posted yesterday about a Moon-Jupiter conjunction this morning, and as usual figuring that for me the sky would be overcast. However last night when I went outside with Tyler the rising Moon and Jupiter were sort of visible behind some trees and some clouds as the banner graphic at the top of the page shows. So I grabbed my camera, tripod, and binoculars and despite some clouds managed to get some
Click on picture to see it full screen size.

Click on picture to see it full screen size.

interesting pictures of the Moon, Jupiter, and Orion as they rose behind the trees to my east. This picture is a series of 6 pictures taken within a span of about 2 minutes. The pictures were then stacked using the Star Trails software which in turn brightened the resulting picture as well as showing slight star trails.
That was part 1.

Click on picture to see it full screen size.

Click on picture to see it full screen size.

   This morning Tyler and I went outside, as usual, and even with some thicker clouds the Moon, Jupiter and the ‘twin stars’ Pollux and Castor were visible in the west. With clouds the Moon seems to become overexposed and blurred regardless of my camera settings however Jupiter and the twin stars were visible.
And that was “the rest of the story.”

   
   
   
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.