Uranus at Eastern Quadrature – 2019

   Thursday January 23rd the position of the planet Uranus with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called eastern quadrature. Uranus is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions of the Earth, the Sun, and Uranus – or any outer planet. At this position Uranus follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Uranus rises after the Sun and sets after the Sun.

   So, where is Uranus? Look over the southwestern horizon after sunset for the stars making up the constellation of Aries the Ram. In particular look for the brighter star Hamal. About 11-12o down to the left from Hamal is the outer ringed planet Uranus.

   With a 5.78 apparent magnitude Uranus is just bright enough to be seen with binoculars as perhaps a very small dot. In the graphic I have enlarged the planet to make it more easy to see. Uranus is at about the naked-eye limit of visibility (6th magnitude)so it would take extremely dark skies to see it without optical assistance. Off to the right and lower are the four stars making up the familiar “Square of Pegasus” asterism.

   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

Visualize the Ecliptic

Above the Terrestrial Planets this Month

   Once in a while the planets are arranged such that they are spread across the sky. The planets are not lined up in a straight line outward from the Sun but rather are arranged along the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun and the respective orbit of each planet is inclined from the ecliptic. And this is one of those times when it is easier to visualize the ecliptic. (see graphics below) Click here to read a previous posting about the ecliptic and planet inclination.

   As the animated graphic is showing the terrestrial planets are not arranged in a straight line. This graphic shows the solar system out to Neptune and from this perspective the planets are obviously not in a straight line.


   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

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’.


   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

International Observe the Moon Night

   Saturday October 20th is International Observe the Moon Night. That evening the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises around 5 pm local time and will be over the southeast horizon during the evening hours. Joining the Moon are several planets – all located to the west, right, from the Moon. Early, shortly after sunset the inner planet Mercury will be just above the western horizon. Moving east from Mercury is Jupiter, then Saturn, then Mars. The planet Neptune is only a few degrees above the Moon but because of the Moon’s reflected light Neptune will not be visible.

   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

2017 Summer Solstice on Mars

A Martian Year

A Martian Year – at One Earth Month Intervals

   Monday November 20th is the summer solstice on the planet Mars as the planet transitions from spring to summer during its 684 Earth day orbit around the Sun. Seasons on Mars are marked by the planet’s heliocentric longitude coordinates using the position of Mars along its orbit around the Sun. Each seasonal start/ending point is 90 degrees apart, but because of its elliptical-shaped orbit each Martian season is of varying lengths.

   I’m not exactly sure why this particular date is used but by international agreement astronomers have selected 11 April, 1955 as 0 degrees for year 1 of this Martian calendar. What this means is that on Monday November 20th, Earth time, it is the start of summer for year 34 using the aforementioned calendar system.

Year 34
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — May 05 2017
90 degrees — Summer solstice — November 20 2017
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — May 20 2018
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — October 16 2018

Year 35
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — March 23 2019
90 degrees — Summer solstice — October 08 2019
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — April 08 2020
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — September 02 2020

Year 36
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — February 07 2021
90 degrees — Summer solstice — August 25 2021
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — February 24 2022
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — July 21 2022

Learn a little (or a lot) more about the exploration of Mars at the NASA Journey to Mars web site.

   
   
   

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.

Teacher Eclipse Pictures

   Here is a collection of pictures and comments from Science Teacher members of the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) who viewed the August 21st total solar eclipse from different locations across the United States of America. The State where the picture(s) was/were taken is abbreviated to be part of the picture name – so you could scroll down to the bottom of the picture to see that.
   The caption below a picture starts the sequence of pictures from each teacher. Clicking on any picture will open it into a slide show where you can move forward or backward through the various pictures.
   From Ryan Westberry: Here’s a video I made after watching the totality in Wyoming at Green River Lakes just off the center line. I sent my drone up really high to capture the landscape while also filming our reactions on the surface- and set it all to music.
I did edit the language in the beginning of totality (overcome by that moment) but there are some “Oh S^*t” toward the end that need to be known if anyone plans on showing it. (I’m not promoting that.) I’m just wanting to share in the emotion (I was literally shaking and had tears of joy) and magnitude of watching the event and the love of the science. 🙂

   Here is one of the 360o videos I made while the school yard was filling up with families and the students.

   If you are wondering what do with any eclipse glasses perhaps donate them to the Eclipse Glasses Donation Program – organized by Astronomers Without Borders.

   
   
   

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.

August Moon at 2nd Apogee

   For the second time this month our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Wednesday August 30th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.69 Earth diameters (404,308 km or 251,225 miles) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee the 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises during mid-afternoon and is about 7o from Saturn and around 10o degrees from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as the above graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

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