Send Your Name to Mars

   As the next mission to the planet Mars progresses toward a July 2020 launch NASA has invited the public to send your name onboard the Mars 2020 Rover.
Use this link to go directly to the send your name website.

   
   
   

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Give Mom a Diamond

   About an hour after local sunset, on Mother’s Day May 12th, go outside and face south and look for the 8-day old waxing gibbous Moon to be near the star Regulus. Then look for the bluish-white colored star Spica.
   Spica, a star in Virgo the Harvest Maiden, marks the lower corner of an *asterism known as ‘the Diamond of Virgo’. To see the asterism look up to the left from Spica for the reddish star Arcturus in the kite-shaped constellation Bootes the Herdsman. Then look nearly straight up, the zenith, for the dimmest of the diamond stars, Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs. Then look down to the right for the star Denebola, the tail of Leo the Lion.
   Look toward the western horizon for a reddish star, actually the ‘Red Planet’ Mars.

*An asterism is a group of stars forming a recognizable pattern using stars within a constellation or by combining stars from more than one constellation. For example, the Big and Little Dipper are asterisms.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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A Tale of Two Phases

   Over the next couple of weeks the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, will be above the eastern horizon in the hour or two before the Sun rises. Given its much brighter apparent magnitude (-3.92) Venus will be more noticeable. However Mercury (0.03) is only a few degrees away, down to the left as they both rise. This graphic shows the two planets (sizes greatly enlarged for the graphic) and their respective orbital paths. Both planets are moving eastward toward the Sun and will eventually catch up with and move to the opposite side of the Sun, behind the Sun as we view from Earth to their respective superior conjunction.

   As these two planet orbit toward the Sun they pass through phase changes much like our Moon. Currently both planets are waxing gibbous but as they move into superior conjunction they will be at full phase. But unlike our Moon at full phase the inner planets are not visible at their respective full phase. When they do reappear on the east side of the Sun they will be again at gibbous phase, and will be following the Sun across the sky, setting after the Sun as an ‘evening planet’.

   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Sun Not in Taurus

April 19th  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Taurus the Bull on Saturday April 20th. When in fact the actual position of the Sun on the 19th is within the boundary of the constellation of Aries the Ram, as this graphic shows. Actually the Sun had just entered Aries the day before on April 19th.

   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.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Yuri’s Night 2019

yuri   April 12th 1961 Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave the surface of the Earth and orbit our planet. Coincidentally 20 years later, on the same date in 1981 the United States launched its first space shuttle, the Columbia.
   However April 12th is a date for celebrating the accomplishments of the Russian space program and the cosmonaut who became the first to orbit the Earth. So, on April 12th people around the world will take part in local events in what is known as Yuri’s Night. Use the link to the Yuri’s Night web site to learn more about this event and to see if there is a Yuri’s Night event in your area.

yuri   8 years ago during the 50th anniversary I had an opportunity to work with a group of musicians (Dark Matter) in producing a series of videos about the solar system and our home planet that were then projected as full-dome videos on a Planetarium dome ceiling. Accompanying the videos were two musicians playing their respective instruments (Flute and Clarinet) along with electronic notes, live sampling of their music, and sounds of the interior of a spacecraft. Below is a version of that performance that was entered into a worldwide contest – placed in the top five by the way.
   Please excuse the quality of the video graphics – a result of my video abilities and state of video editing capabilities ‘way back then’.


   
   
   

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Mars and Two Open Clusters

   Monday evening April 1st the planet Mars was within about 3o from the open star cluster the Pleiades and about 8-9o from the open star cluster the Hyades. These two open star clusters are part of the constellation Taurus the Bull with the v-shaped Hyades and its reddish star Aldebaran making up the Bull’s face, and the ‘small dipper-shaped’ Pleiades are located along the Bull’s shoulder.

   From mythology it has been told that Orion and Taurus are engaged in a battle. Orion with a shield held up against the charging bull, and the anger of the bull indicated by its red eye, the star Aldebaran.

   
   
   

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Moon – Venus, Mercury, Neptune – Triple Conjunction

   Tuesday April 2nd the 27-day old thin waning crescent Moon will join three planets, Mercury, Venus, and Neptune in a triple conjunction. All four will be grouped within an area about 8-10o across. This separation is slightly more than the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
   The group of planets and our Moon have an interesting range of apparent magnitudes. The waning crescent Moon is -9.8, Venus -3.9, Mercury 0.82, and Neptune 7.95.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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