NSTA @ Nashville


   I’m in Nashville Tennessee for the next several days at the NSTA national conference. Planets and stars will still be in the skies but not as easy to see from downtown Nashville as it is where I live. On the morning of April 1st the waning waning crescent Moon will be within a few degrees from Dwarf Planet Pluto. Too dim to be seen without a large telescope it is, nonetheless, a neat idea that when you look toward the Moon you are also looking in the direction of Pluto. It’s out there!
   And here is a sequence of graphics showing the pre-sunrise morning sky at 5:30 am EDT for each day during the conference, and one night view on April 1st showing Jupiter. Both Pluto and the Moon are located just above and to the left from the handle of the teapot asterism for Sagittarius the Archer.

   
   
   

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 Twins

   At approximately 9:30 p.m. CDT this evening, 24 April, the ISS, International Space Station, flew over the midwest, and my home. The path took the ISS from the feet of the Gemini twins past the twin star Pollux. From the Twins the ISS flew through Cancer and then headed south toward the horizon where I lost sight of it because of the trees behind my house.
   The image sequence in the slideshow are a series of 2.5 second exposures and the streak of light in each picture is the light trail from the ISS. The last three pictures are as the ISS went behind trees.

moon-crop   The near full Moon and the bluish-white star Spica (Virgo) were toward the southeastern horizon but low enough to still be behind some of the trees.
   Click on the image to see the Moon and Spica.
   
   
   
   
   
   

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      Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Watch This If You Are Still Here

   Well, assuming that the world has not ended you may be interested in watching a video produced by the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 2012: Mayan Prophecies discusses the Mayan calendar and the real reason we should learn from the Mayans.
   Click here to learn about other videos and educational products.

   
   
   
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Citizen Scientists

   Yesterday morning I once again took part in the annual Meet the Science Mentor event hosted by Science Pioneers on the UMKC campus. This is a gathering of scientists from many areas of expertise meeting and talking with students in grades 4 to 12 who are working on or planning a Science Fair project. Usually I ‘work’ alone but yesterday I had a partner, an Aerospace Engineering major from the University of Kansas in Lawrence KS.
   Among the discussions we had, especially for the youngest students doing Science Fair for the first time, were to suggest that they look into doing a Citizen Science project as their introduction to doing a Science Fair project. Basically a Citizen Science project is one in which the participants do something with the data from the project they are helping. For example there are projects where the participants catalog lunar craters by shape, or one in which the spectra of stars are studied. Some projects, like the SETI@Home project, install a small program on a home computer. The program works in the background as it downloads packets of data, analyzes the data, and returns its analysis all while your computer is on.

   To get involved with Citizen Projects go to the SciStarter web site. This is probably the best web site collection of the many types of Citizen Science projects out there. So get involved!

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

New National Monument – Chimney Rock

    This past week President Obama designated Chimney Rock, a rock formation in southern Colorado, as a national monument.
    Chimney Rock is a sandstone formation consisting of two side-by-side pillars or towers that are coincidentally arranged such that at certain times the rising Moon is framed by the two towers. These certain times occur for a 2-3 year period centered on an 18.61 year cycle that is called the ‘Major Lunar Standstill‘. The Moon, like the Sun, rises and sets at different positions along the horizon throughout the year. For the Moon this repetitive cycle culminates with the Moon rising at its furthest north position which places it between the two Chimney Rock towers for a couple of days each month. The most recent cycle of lunar standstills ended in 2007 meaning that the next cycle of lunar standstills will not be until 2022.

Interestingly there are other chimney rocks:
Chimney Rock Park, North Carolina
Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Nebraska