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.

On the 4th Night

              Happy   4th of   July!!                     

jul4-aphelion   Friday 4 July is not only the day we in the United States of America celebrate our country’s Independence Day, it is also the day that the Earth reaches aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun. For the record we are closest to the Sun, perihelion, around the beginning of January.
   So despite the summer heat, humidity, and a late sunset there will be more in the skies this 4th than just fireworks.
 At around sunset look low toward the western horizon for 3 stars arranged in a short diagonal line. No it is not Orion’s Belt. The one on the lower left side is the planet Jupiter near the Gemini Twin stars.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

 The nearly first quarter Moon is over the southwestern horizon and is just to the west (right) from the planet Mars and the bluish-white star Spica.
 Both Mars and Spica are close enough so that they fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
 Look left from this pair and higher above the southern horizon for the planet Saturn, one of 4 planets in our solar system with rings.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   If your viewing area is under dark enough skies, away from the light-polluted metropolitan area, then look toward the eastern horizon for the glow of the Milky Way as it rises. The teapot shape asterism for Sagittarius is above the southern horizon throughout this month and if the Milky Way is visible it looks like steam rising from the teapot’s spot. This graphic shows the location of Dwarf Planet Pluto. Pluto is also at opposition. Opposition for an outer planet is an arrangement of objects like a full Moon in that at opposition an outer planet is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.
   While it is too dim to see with the unaided eye or even binoculars it is a neat idea to think about what Pluto looks like. I say this (actually write) because around this time next year NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft will be flying past Pluto sending back our first truly good look at this very distant solar system object.

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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 Pisces Today

11 March 2014

11 March 2014

   Today Tuesday 11 March at 11 pm CDT, (12 March 4 UT), the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer and into the constellation of Pisces the Fishes. 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.
   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 Aquarius Today

The view from Earth.

The view from Earth.

   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer today, 19 January at 10 pm CST (20 January 4 UT). When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is within the boundary of the constellation of Capricornus the Sea Goat, as this graphic shows. Actually the Sun had just entered Capricornus 2 hours earlier.

   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

Uranus at Opposition

Click on graphic to see full size

Click on graphic to see full size.

   While just saying this, “Uranus is at opposition” would certainly be the butt of many jokes, this seventh planet from the Sun, a gas giant nonetheless, has reached the point in its orbit around the Sun where it is at what is called opposition. Picture the arrangement of the Sun, Earth, and the full Moon, and this is the arrangement for an outer planet such as Uranus when it is at opposition. At opposition the outer planet rises at local sunset time and sets at local sunrise time and so is visible the entire length of night.
Click on graphic for help in finding Uranus.

Click on graphic for help in finding Uranus.

   Uranus has a magnitude that is just under 6 meaning that is at the edge of naked-eye visibility. However to see Uranus without any optical assistance would require extremely dark skies and some seriously good eyesight. With binoculars and telescopes this 7th planet from the Sun is visible as a pale greenish dot. Over time it is possible to follow its relatively slow motion as it moves past the stars in the background. Currently Uranus is within the boundaries of Picses the Fishes and below the ‘Square of Pegasus’. If you can find the ‘square’ use Alpheratz and Algenib as pointers to aim your binoculars or telescope toward Uranus. Uranus takes approximately 83 Earth years to orbit the Sun so each year it moves between 4-5 degrees, or about 0.01 degree each day. Not exactly jettin’ along! The point is that it will essentially stay in the same location relative to the surrounding brighter stars for next few months allowing for many observations of Uranus.

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

Not Really – Or Really??

tyson   I found this on Facebook this morning and was surprised not only by what I consider misinformation but also that is supposdly from Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a respected and well liked Science entertainment personality.
   For a clarification the sun does not have enough mass to explode, I guess as in a supernova event. And there is not a companion star losing mass to the surface of the Sun which would lead to a nova event. So while I guess this is an entertaining notion I think it would have made more sense to suggest that if somehow the Sun were to switch off we would not know for 8 minutes or so because at the speed of light it takes about 8 minutes for light from the Sun to reach the Earth. At the end of the 8 minutes it would get dark!
   What I am not too sure about is describing gravity as having speed. I would think that since gravity is universal it is always there – everywhere – not traveling between objects as light or other radiation does. We are able to measure the rate of acceleration due to gravity between objects but is that the same as a speed of gravity?

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

Preview July Issue of Qué tal

voki   As the subject line states, the July preview issue of Qué tal in the Current Skies is now online and available at this temporary web address: http://currentsky.com/2013/jul13/index.html
   It will be at its regular web address in a few days.

   Thank you for your support and encouragement.
   Clear Skies…
   Bob Riddle

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